Monday, March 12, 2007

The Weakness of Strength: Big Pat's Tale

Big Pat of Big Pat’s Creek

a sonnet
for John & Anne - and all my Irish Australian friends

Ahoy! dweller of these now Tamed Lands, share
my late-comer’s prayer
for one brave breaker, Big Patrick O’Hannigan,
mountain country man,
of those big whiskers, big tempers, big thirsts,
and an even bigger dare,
who was the Upper Yarra Goldfield’s first-n-last
wild viking Irishman!
Good on a risk! adventuring or fighting, trouble
making, drinking -
The same Big Pat who unearthed the first gold
at Hoddles Creek
and then drowned in his ‘rich’ self - maybe he was
losing something
sacred when he gave the strength of his name
to Big Pats Creek,
a Samson. Did he nurse a broken catholic heart
of remorse, regret?
in the bend down to depression? in those sick 1863
days after a bad thirst
had ended, taking rope to the high ridge pole of
the tent and debt
he shared with Peter ‘The Swede’ Petersen,
as if he was cursed,
on Emerald Diggings. He ended himself, age 37,
in that unearthly hole
he hadn’t strength to dig himself out of: Lord have
mercy on his soul.

10 June 2006 © Wayne David Knoll

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Collecting The Seed

Collecting The Seed - for my father
~ Set back in time Circa 1964

At an end of their market days
unsaleable late French-bean pods
stayed tall on their dwarf bushes.
Denied irrigation, they then dried
as the bean bushes died.

Varieties were animated with names:
Hawksbury Wonder, Brown Beauty, Windsor Longpod.
Like racehorses, the has-bean ladies wilted
as the crop-rows grew yellow and shed leaves,
as bean-roots rot-shrunk in unbroken autumn dry.

Then we’d go in like a benchmark with a Ferguson
tractor, its stay-barred, linkage-arm drawbar,
iron-pinned to tow parallel form, a farm-made,
lengthened truck-chassis of a trailer, with us
farm sons riding its boxed mudguards
in balance over the trucked axle wheel,
drawn like wild arts in unwritten symmetry.

Whoever was Dad’s old enough eight year old
son was put to the fundament seat-shape, then
planted behind the man-sized tractor-wheel,
to steer-straddle rows in reduction gear, us
older nascent-men walked, bent to remove rows
of beans plucked like hot goose feathers,
in our boy-arm’s stretch, wide as sons could
spare a hand. Each arm’s stretch in dried row,
became an embrace, each loved-moment’s bundle
a caress, rolled into a hoisted bale to make
a mobile bean-hay stack in a broad-handed stook.
Each armful was held, upswung, let go of, and touched
into the bonding as another hand-arch added to the whole,
till, a wild bran and grain pile, in the fertile slow-oven
of the raw trailer’s grist, yeast-floured to a brood-high
bean-loaf, in the warmth of our raising.

Up in the farmyard, spread wide as a dinner plate,
as man-boys knelt for rain-tank water from the tap,
a tarp laid on crushed gravel was forked full
as Saturday’s midday mutton roast, and served
with its single dish of yellowed bean bushes,
with a lip round its square rim to save spills.

Threshing was by boot and rubber cleats
of a tractor rear-wheel, as the slim Ferguson,
unhitched from its trailer, was kneaded over
- the gum-booted stomp of boys jumped aside
from this foreplay - to return to a kneading tread
over the bean-bush pile, -arcing up, on and in,
rounded, tilted, driven by fits and reversions,
cracking forward, crunching back and down,
bean-pods broke and crushed into a rousing
letting go, the crunch of release.

From these arid-returns of old watershed,
- cast-off scabrous chaff-shells of bean -
kidney-hearts of bean-seed fell through
in red-bright colours, gravitating to bottom,
like so many handfulable curvaceous spore
to floor below that bony stick and stem of death.

Then broken bean-bones were pitch-forked
sidelong onto the trailer for a bean-straw
mulch under walnut or other trees. What was left
was a fluid mess of beans and bean-chaff
that was tarp-edge-shaken in to a broad cone pile,
scooped up by buckets, and bagged, to be
stored out of autumn breaks in weather.

Soon, on a day when a stiff north wind
was up, Dad would carry bean bags
in their chaff to a headland on the hilltop,
and once again spread wide the tarp,
this time in a smaller square, and,
box-standing high as he could, he’d
bucket and pour this mess into the wind, so
the red-heavy seeds would drop like earth-hooks
with a built-in sinker, a blood of blessing,
winnowed, separate, kept in place till when,
to be stored for an other season, while
the crumbs of bean leaf and the bush-stem
of the chaff, went on, sidelong, freed, like
the infertile dross of souls without substance,
lifted up to go travel a while with the wind
till it fell apart, a fuzz of disintegrating.

Collecting the seed we were transporting sex,
translating something sublime in the transport
of sex we found the transports of something other.

Next year we wouldn’t have to buy!
We had our potency.

2003 © Wayne David Knoll

Shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize, 2005 Published in ‘Sunweight’ by the Hunter Valley Writers Centre, NSW, 2005

Monday, March 5, 2007

Lyrics from a New-Wrought Past

These pieces all owe their inspiration to history and the archives of true stories.

They may be based in the traditions and stories handed down to me from within my own family. They may be stories found in research of local knowledge, archival findings, or else be sourced in the classics, or ancient texts.