Old Man Artist - Poem by Anthony Burge
Old man artist on a hospital gurney
Rattling lungs tell of life’s hard journey
Old man Vincent gasping for air, rattling bones distant stare
Bubbling babbling lungs full of slough
Old man artist Vincent Can Cough
Riverbank Pandanus hangs limp offering shade
Stripped bark and crushed ochre scattered tools of his trade
Does the tannin stained water that flows fast the river
Note his absence on the bank where the spear grass now shivers
Does the red ochre dust that now settles on history
Care where it lands or ponder the mystery
Does the snake that now skates across his Pandanus mat
Recognise the impression where his bony frame sat
Where are his brothers, daughters, mother and sons?
Once one of many of his tribe now but one
Where’s his kinfolk, his tribe his ‘Saltwater’ people
Place of worship his land with the clouds as his steeple
Doctors stand around and jargon above him
I can’t help but wonder where’s those who have loved him
Chocolate brown eyes opened wide knowing fear
Assumes the position on one leg leant on spear
Woomera cocked hunting his dreaming
Chants wailing song only he knows the meaning
If he loses his battle will his song die with him?
Will his art talk the talk or his story walk with him?
Full moons yellow path shone through hospital pane
Draws Vincent home like a moth to the flame
Gargling, gurgling lungs full of gravel
Barefoot on the wind twixt the trees he must travel
To his land where river snakes to the sea
Where his vessel can berth and his soul can drift free
Old man Vincent fought the good fight
Now hunting he goes into starry night.
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