Colleen O'Grady (7th June 1941 / Glenelg, South Australia)
Driving through the land where the trees are flat,
And using my eyes to view this and that.
Derelict stone building up near a hill,
Rooflees, doorless, windowless sill.
One of several that dots the land,
Heritage of a people who once tilled the sand.
Noting even more during the sunny days,
Marvelling at the desolation as I gaze.
Near the coast winds make a fearsome sound,
Leaving behind trees that are bent to the ground.
A paddle in the ocean reveals a strong tow,
Certainly not suitable for swimming or a row.
On a walk my feet disturbed the rough little pebbles,
And disturbed the little birds singing in trebles.
Noticed a man's shoeprint in the gravelly sand,
Beside a dog's paw prints as it travelled the land,
First they were on the left up the hill of the track,
Then on the right travelling down coming back.
I spied a willy wagtail warbling with glee,
As he flitted from a fence post and then to a tree,
And a little grey wren sat on that same fence,
Before flying off into bush that was thick and dense.
The property of a farmer was a sight to behold,
Of grey-brown dry stubble with touches of gold.
Amazing electric fences were strung either side,
One wonders in this desolation what they had to hide.
What happened was the muse as I strolled along.
Why did this land empty? What went wrong?
What happened on this land well might I ask?
What took people away from a productive task?
Searching the archives and reading the books,
Seeking the answers and getting strange looks.
Then I found it and was sorely amazed,
At the tale I read of those far off days.
Dancing dervishes drove men to despair,
Whipped out the wheat and threw it in the air.
Dried up the creeks and the little river,
And drove the little housewife all of a-quiver.
Dust and sand were blown this way and that,
Driving the topsoil from this land that is flat.
Then thick, sultry thunder clouds hung in the air.
Alarming the people and causing a big scare.
Rain tumbled down turning the dust to mud,
And the river came down in a mighty big flood.
Water swept viciously to homestead doors,
Crept even further and covered ant-nest floors.
Washed out the crops, washed out the stock,
And washed out the land. Let nobody mock,
Sad and defeated settlers settled elsewhere,
And a sense of desolation hung in the air.
Buildings were abandoned including the old inn,
Churches were empty, itself a great sin.
Years rolled on as the hardy few stayed,
Increasing land holdings and a living just made.
Heritage was the land, tourism the way,
And people toiled together to make the land pay.
Tiny little village very neat and clean,
Struggling to survive where crowds seldom seen.
Surrounded by farming lands recently ploughed,
Speaks of the industrious good and loud.
Caravan Park at the bend of the highway,
Home to the residents prepared to stay.
As I wandered along in another morning walk,
Wishing that those gone could come and talk,
Tell me of their disappointments and feelings keen,
Could things have been different if a ‘might have been'?
Poet's Notes about The Poem
Comments about this poem (Greenough by Colleen O'Grady )
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