© Jan Facey

Winner, 2021 Bronze Swagman Award for Written Bush Verse, Winton, Queensland.

The outback stock route’s scorching days
give way to evening’s cooler haze.
I’m sheltered by your drover’s hand
that’s cracked and dry.  You understand –
for I’m your campfire on the earth
where flickered sparks now light my birth!
I know you’re big and tough and strong
but tenderness now comes along.

You coax my nest of twigs to burn.
Each flame’s empowered to take its turn
and then begins to jump and leap
as I devour that gidgee heap.
I gather strength, yet feel beguiled.
You still protect me in the wild
expanses of those plains out west
where drovers rarely get a rest.

Some ominous, foreboding clouds
now cloak the skies – like blackened shrouds
and zig-zag lightning darts around.
This spooks the cattle on the ground!
Their restless moans pervade the air
and stockmen struggle in despair
to keep the herd all close and calm.
They need to keep them safe from harm.

I feel some teasing, dreaded rain-
drops falling on that dusty plain.
It’s what they need but I survive
by fighting back to keep alive.
In my defence I spit and hiss –
defy that deadly dampened kiss!
I kick out left and lunge to right
to keep my strong fire hot and bright.

But stormy clouds soon drift away.
I’m tougher now.  I’m here to stay!
The billy tea is on the boil
as men dispel their day of toil
and there’s contentment when they place
their oven in my warm embrace.
They’re all so hungry, yet they feel
great pleasure waiting for their meal. 

The men begin to tell their yarns
of bushrangers and snakes in barns
with poetry from by-gone days
while resting in my smoky haze.
They’re all so tired!  With aching bones
the end of day is full of moans.
It’s time for me to use my powers
to help them through the lonely hours.

I lure them in, then start to sway –
inviting them to end their day.
I flicker softly in the night
enthralling eyes that cannot fight.
With subtle hues of red and gold
my magnetism can unfold –
so leaning gently side to side
I take them from their tiring ride.

I weave my magic sultry dance
to put them in a sleepy trance,
to hypnotise and mesmerise –
yes, mesmerise their weary eyes.
They’re wrapped by night-time’s starry wall
as heavy eyelids start to fall
and when the moon begins to creep
then one by one, they fall asleep.

You’re tired but with your caring mind
you prod my embers.  Here you find
my spirit with its heartfelt beams –
your lullaby of campfire dreams.
I’ve kept you warm.  I’ve cooked your food
and soothed and eased your drowsy mood.
I’ve done the things you always ask –
I will not fail my final task!

Your home is distant.  I am here
and my objective’s very clear –
to rest your soul and then to keep
you comforted with calming sleep.
So, listen closely, for my sighs
will tantalise and hypnotise –
then once again I’ll mesmerise …
I’ll mes…mer…ise your wea…ry eyes.

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