On Mount Franklin

On the mountain-top, before the coming of snow,
The everlastings starred the tufty grass,
Stiff-skirted ballerinas, brisk evzones,
Prim yellow courtiers with their ruffs of white.
You gathered some, explaining how they last.

Standing on the roof-ridge of the visible earth
Seventy miles southward to Kosciusko
North, West, and East the ranges’ rolling surf
We owned a world alone with everlastings.

Voices come first, then climbing steps, then three,
Man, woman, boy. We stand, smile, share the world.
The man leans on a stick, offers a fag,
A dry sardonic Geordie, had migrated
After the war, agrees it’s a good country,
‘There’s room, good money, suits the wife and kid,
We’ve no complaints. But I had the Aussies on
One night, arguing at the construction camp,
Up in the Snowies. Every race on earth,
A right United Nations – we’d the lot –
I says out loud, The Aussies are all right,
There’s nothing wrong, I says, with the Australians,
Excepting for the white ones. You’d’ve laughed.
I ducked for cover while they worked it out.
The wife here she’s from Germany.’

    She spoke
Of separate worlds, her parents in the East
‘We visited with their grandson. They are well,
They have enough. But oh it’s like a prison,
Walls, fences, guards. Here we have air to breathe,
Here is our home.’

    The boy jigs restless, tugs,
Kicks a loose stone. They nod, move on, leave us
In late sun on the mountain with everlastings
Flowering before the coming of the snow.

Poems of Australia