Dorothy Hewett

(1923 - 2002 / Perth)

Once I Rode With Clancy


Once I rode with Clancy through the wet hills of Wickepin,
By Kunjin and Corrigin with moonlight on the roofs,
And the iron shone faint and ghostly on the lonely moonlit siding
And the salt earth rang like crystal underneath our flying hoofs.
O once I rode with Clancy when my white flesh was tender,
And my hair a golden cloud along the wind,
Among the hills of Wickepin, the dry salt plains of Corrigin,
Where all my Quaker forebears strove and sinned.
Their black hats went bobbing through the Kunjin churchyard,
With great rapacious noses, somber-eyed,
Ringbarked gums and planted pine trees, built a raw church
In a clearing, made it consecrated ground because they died.
From this seed I spring—the dour and sardonic Quaker men,
The women with hooked noses, baking bread,
Breeding, hymning, sowing, fencing off the stony earth,
That salts their bones for thanksgiving when they're dead.
It's a country full of old men, with thumbscrews on their hunger,
Their crosses leaning sideways in the scrub.
My cousins spit to windward, great noses blue with moonlight,
Their shoulders propping up the Kunjin pub.
O once I rode with Clancy through the wet hills of Wickepin,
By Kunjin and Corrigin with moonlight on the roofs,
And the iron shone faint and ghostly on the lonely, moonlit siding
And the salt earth rang like crystal underneath our flying hoofs.
And the old men rose muttering and cursed us from the graveyard
When they saw our wild white hoofs go flashing by,
For I ride with landless Clancy and their prayers are at my back,
They can shout out strings of curses on the sky.
By Wickepin, by Corrigin, by Kunjin's flinty hills,
On wild white hoofs that kindle into flame,
The river is my mirror, the wattle tree our roof,
Adrift across our bed like golden rain.
Let the old men clack and mutter, let their dead eyes run with rain.
I hear the crack of doom across the scrub,
For though I ride with Clancy there is much of me remains,
In that moonlit dust outside the Kunjin pub.
My golden hair has faded, my tender flesh is dark,
My voice has learned a wet and windy sigh
And I lean above the creekbed, catch my breath upon a ghost,
With a great rapacious nose and somber eye.

Submitted: Monday, August 25, 2014

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