Bush Music Club Songs, Tunes & Poetry competitions
I was thrilled to learn last night that I had won first prize in the poetry section of the Bush Music Club Song, Tunes & Poetry competition.
This is the first time I have entered. Indeed, I would not have been aware of its existence if Maggie Somerville, singer, mandolin player, and songwriter from Ringwood Folk Club, had not drawn it to my attention.
Congratulations, too, to Maggie, for winning the Tune section, as well as being runner-up in both the Song and Tune sections.
Here is my winning poem.
You talk of old Australia, with the flooding rain and drought;
Of the shearer, of the drover; of the cook, the rouseabout;
You talk of paddle steamer, or of bullock team and dray;
It’s the noisy, smoggy city where we congregate today.
You talk of red Australia, and the hulking Uluru;
Of the emu and the brolga, of the bounding kangaroo;
You talk of Kata Tjuta, like a buried monster’s spine.
It’s in the boutique restaurants we like to meet and dine.
You talk of white Australia, and the mountains capped with snow,
Where only hardy currawongs and wombats care to go;
Or hibernating possums fast asleep beneath a drift.
We like a bright skyscraper with a fast ascending lift.
You talk of blue Australia, with its narrow rim of sand,
Where breaching humpback whales provide performances so grand;
Whale sharks up at Ningaloo, or dolphins in the surf.
The bitumen and footpath offer more familiar turf.
You talk of green Australia, with the moss, the ferns, the trees;
The dew drops in the morning, and the cool and healing breeze;
The nesting cassowaries, or the stealthy thylacine,
But we prefer the steady purr of petrol-fuelled machine.
We don’t think of Australia as we make our busy way
Through the surging hordes and traffic of another hectic day.
“No room for sentiment,” we say, but all’s not as it seems.
Australia comes, with scented gums, and greets us in our dreams.
© Stephen Whiteside 07.11.2013
A pretty little possum with a black stripe down its back,
It darts throughout the forest tops through depths of darkest night.
It forages for sugars, grabbing insects for a snack,
Then slips back to its hollow with arrival of the light.
It was named ‘Leadbeater’s Possum’ for a past museum worker,
A famous taxidermist (little creatures he would stuff),
But the story of this possum is a genuine tear jerker.
Oh, life has not been easy for this precious ball of fluff.
It thrives, you see, on forests, but its habitat is narrow.
From Marysville to Baw Baw, thereabouts, denotes its range.
It’s Victoria’s state emblem so, in part, we push its barrow,
But we challenge without mercy its capacity for change.
For we chopped and hacked the forest lands that were its sole dominion.
We plundered and we butchered and we put it on the run.
We reached the point where scientists were of the broad opinion
It was done for. Then it re-emerged in 1961.
Though we scarcely did deserve it, we’d been granted a reprieve,
A chance to right a wrong, to mend the errors of our ways
But, alas, we mended nothing, so we’re forced once more to grieve,
And face the harsh reality that crime just never pays.
A crime? Am I mistaken? You can check the regulations
And the statutes in the law books on the dim and dusty shelves.
You will never find it mentioned, though you search through many nations.
It’s a crime against sweet Nature. It’s a crime against ourselves.
For it seems we’ve missed our moment. It would seem Leadbeater’s Possum
Is living now on borrowed time, it’s fate forever sealed.
We could have ceased all logging and allowed the beast to blossom,
But a vision such as this, alas, shall never be revealed.
Then let us throw the dice once more. The odds, it’s true, aren’t pretty.
Let us do at last what’s right, and put an end to crime.
The human soul needs more than just the bright lights of the city.
Let us let the forests stand, and leave the rest to time.
Who knows what magic beckons if we put aside our blunders,
If we down the screaming chainsaws and revert to Nature’s dance?
What panoply awaits us, what array of shining wonders?
Perhaps Leadbeater’s Possum, too, still has a fighting chance!
© Stephen Whiteside 26.07.11