The Restorer’s Tale

© Shelley Hansen

Winner, 2019 Dunedoo Written Bush Poetry Competition, Dunedoo NSW

The vista swept down to the valley
cut through by a cold mountain creek,
as Paterson’s curse spread its purple
to underline each craggy peak.
The butcher birds carolled a chorus,
and swooped from the eucalypt trees,
while faintly the scent of the wattle
came wafting to me on the breeze.

The gates of the homestead were open.
I turned at the crest of the hill.
My senses were filled with the sunlight
as time in that garden stood still.
The air was alive with the whispers
of lovers who laughed and who wept.
I moved as in sleepwalking silence,
unwilling to tread where they slept.

I’d come to collect a commission –
a loveseat, once striped red and blue,
upholstered, but now sadly threadbare,
and split, so its wadding spilled through.
New owners had found it in pieces
and thought it might look rather quaint
updated to “shabby chic” finish
with pretty pink roses and paint.

I came very close to admitting
defeat as I tried to restore
this piece – for it seemed beyond saving
and bringing to beauty once more …
until, from the folds of the fabric,
a chain with a locket fell out.
Its gold bore the tarnish of ages –
a treasure, I knew, beyond doubt.

Releasing the clasp, somewhat breathless,
I opened its face to reveal
two images – sepia, faded,
yet somehow, still vibrant and real.
A handsome young man, a fine lady
stared solemnly, meeting my gaze.
Their headwear proclaimed “Federation”,
recalling more elegant days.

Who were they?  My mind wove a story
with gossamer threads of romance –
perhaps a forbidden liaison
that died without having a chance –
or maybe a sweet celebration,
a cherished affair of the heart,
uniting two families’ fortunes
by vows “until death us do part”.

I wondered if they were together
through life’s changing pathway of years;
or were they soon parted by sorrow –
bereaved in a valley of tears?
Perhaps he had lost her in childbirth,
or maybe on some foreign shore
he lies in the ranks of the fallen –
a sacrifice offered to “War”.

How long had the locket been missing?
Did one of them lose it and try
to search, but unfound, it lay hidden –
forgotten, as years filtered by?
Perhaps it was placed here on purpose
to age like a fortified wine,
awaiting the touch of a stranger
with wayfaring eyes, such as mine.

I could not imagine the answers
to questions that burdened my heart,
and so with renewed resolution
I set about making a start.
And now, facing skywards through windows
that frame a white loveseat’s cocoon,
a tarnished gold locket lies open.
Together, they gaze at the moon.

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