! The Loved Stranger - Poem by Michael Shepherd
I remembered I'd promised my Aunt Adele before she died
that I'd get in touch with her family in Oz
just to put matters to rest, since they'd not spoken for years
since she upped and went off with this Pom
and left the family without its clever high-earner...
I wasn't looking forward to it with all that bad blood -
'Enough for a vampire's transfusion' said my uncle, the culprit -
but a promise is a promise. I had Auntie's old phone book;
worked out the time here that would be Sunday afternoon in Oz.
The voice was open, strong, friendly - I guessed I'd hit
that great moment when they'd had the barbie,
the few beers after the few beers,
the guests had just gone off
and the washing-up could wait until after a beer...
He was really glad I'd phoned -
he'd been away from the family most of his life, one reason and another -
so we didn't have much to try to piece together
which was probably a good thing, could've been
a pretty forced, stilted conversation -
so we got chatting about one thing and another,
our different lifestyles, our families -
and you know how it is, strangers on a train and all that,
got quite carried away, about how much we enjoyed life,
loved our wives and families, wouldn't change a thing,
what life had taught us - almost anything, everything really
like we were old friends who hadn't met up for years..
It was quite late on in the conversation, when we were working out
if we couldn't fix up a family visit, and he'd said,
no, they'd never lived in Adelaide (after which city
Aunt was proudly named - 'greatest city on earth' they said,
not having travelled further than Sydney -)
when I realised I'd phoned the wrong number; but
felt good and he too I guess.
So I had to choose the moment
to laugh and say hey this is an expensive call,
talk to the wife and call you back, Jacko...
I've never known my family so bloody merry
as when the story got around.
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