© Catherine Lee
Winner, 2022 Themed Section — Oracles of the Bush, Tenterfield, NSW.
I sought her in my fantasies, elusive though she seemed—
my need for her consumed me in my thoughts and when I dreamed—
pursued her down dim passageways of endless sluggish nights,
then woke, my mind in fever at her out of reach delights.
She glowed with dappled colour, and she stirred my very soul—
desiring her alluring warmth, possession was my goal.
I chased so many rainbows through those hot and dusty plains,
while longing for her oozed like searing lava through my veins.
Her very name enchanted me and whispered in my ears;
it’s called to many others through the passing of the years.
The Eastern Asians thought she was an anchor stone of hope,
while Europeans viewed her as a rock with potent scope.
Arabians alleged she harboured magic from above.
Mark Anthony desired one for the object of his love.
Exceptional Opalus, jewel of deities and kings,
believed possessed of mystic force — all craved the luck she brings.
She’s been here since the dawn of time, not always understood,
displaying earthly beauty under superstition’s hood.
When mighty Zeus defeated Titans, victory complete,
it’s said his tears of joy transformed to opals at his feet.
In India the rainbow goddess, sought by ardent squads
of suitors, changed herself to opal just to flee those gods,
while ancient Greeks assumed she brought the prophet’s mystic flair
for divination, wisdom, and a knowledge great and rare.
Elizabethans prized her brilliance, so-called fate and charm;
her flashing hues seduced them with her power to disarm.
Adorning royal breasts and in demand for diadems,
The Bard dubbed her a miracle, the ‘Queen of all the Gems’.
The Aztecs mined Opalus many years ago, it seems.
In Kenya and America, men chased their rainbow dreams.
But it was in Australia where the splendour of this stone
shone brightest, with the fiercest presence man had ever known.
She hid among the desert plains and ridges, teasing all,
remote yet charismatic — we responded to her call.
For here in this vast reddened land is where she blazes best,
the finest quality reserved for those who pass the test.
Containing regal amethyst, the ruby’s blood-red grace,
the emerald of ocean depths, the turquoise of its face,
her pigments glisten, glitter with the blending of the light
as if containing every gem — she makes a splendid sight!
Her elegance belies her strength, for she’s as hard as jade,
creating fascination with each lustrous mood and shade.
She’s crystal, milky white and pure, or rare and glossy black—
in every guise astonishing, a visual attack.
She had her share of doubters and unfairly bore the blame
for illnesses, misfortune, death, but still she overcame.
Illuminated deep within there’s none that can compare
for stirring hearts and passions, birthing legends everywhere.
I sweated for my opals like a demon given rein,
fought graziers and ratters, worked through endless hours of pain.
I mined for her with shafts and tunnels deep within the ground,
then puddled in frustration, watched that drum rotating round.
With faith and struggle, chance and guts I bore the tiresome drudge
while sifting all the nobbies from that dense and filthy sludge,
subjected them to grinding wheel above the safety tray—
a final sand and polish and they took my breath away!
My native mates still say she’s from the great Creator’s tread.
They call her Rainbow Serpent — tales of mystery are spread.
Well I’m not sure if all that’s true, but when I saw her shine,
her beauty struck with potent force, I had to make her mine.
The spark was lit and fire ignited, nothing else sufficed—
in finding and possessing her I’ve surely sacrificed.
I tracked my pot of gold and resolutely crossed the bridge
to find my rainbow’s end beneath the earth at Lightning Ridge.
For men and women everywhere she’s stood the test of time,
and many seek her radiance, refulgent and sublime.
She captivates, attracts with her superiority,
a coveted possession for her luminosity.
Our countrymen revere her, boast of plentiful supply,
acknowledge her unequalled glory no-one can deny.
She stands a cherished symbol, reputation justified—
our talisman, our treasure, and a source of utmost pride.
NB: A puddler is a large mesh-lined drum attached to a motor which rotates and turns clay into sludge as water is pumped into the drum. The sludge escapes through the mesh, leaving only the hard pieces — stones and 'opal nobbies' are captured in the mesh.
A ratter is an opal thief.
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