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1.7k · Sep 2018
A bush childhood
John Wiley Sep 2018
It's gone.
I've checked.
I know.

But then,
it never was
much.

Made mostly of scraps;
A rough frame of old bush lumber;
Walls of flattened fuel cans
and lime coated hessian;
A roof of corrugated iron,
battered and rusting.

Scorched by searing summer heat;
Blasted by dust storms;
Chilled by winter frost.

Insubstantial
against the vastness of desert
that stretched in every direction
from the tiny bush town.

But it was home.
Within its walls
were love and care.
At its table
were sustenance and conversation.

For three years
we lived there
when I was a boy.

I'd rise early
and sit on the edge
of the gibber plain
with our dog
watching the sunrise.

One morning
I heard
the jangling of hobbled camels
returning to town
from a night
in the desert.

On another,
there were herds of cattle,
walked in from
an outlying station
for drafting and yarding,
then transport southward
in a train
hauled by a small steam engine.

At the stock-yard
we'd pretend to be cowboys,
prodding the cattle in the loading race
with sticks,
revelling in the dust and noise,
caring little for their terror
or their destination.

One day we hiked
out past the stock cemetery,
of carcasses leering sightless,
scavenged by crows.
We trudged
to the red sand hills,
then back to the rail-line
for a ride home
with the fettlers.

We went barefoot often -
foot-soles like leather
from the searing sand.
In the heat of the day
we'd pause in the scant shadow of a bush,
to choose the next meagre patch of shade,
then run like the wind
to roll on our backs,
waving scorched feet
in the air.

It's still all there in my memory.
Every few years
I take the old track north,
just to check,
to experience again,
to remember.

Other than the vastness of the desert,
it all seems smaller now -
one tiny settlement
within the compass
of an unbroken horizon.

The old house
is just a memory.

It's gone.
I've checked.
I know.

But then,
it never was
much.
546 · Feb 2019
Stuck
John Wiley Feb 2019
I want to write a poem
but the words won't come.

I want to sing an aria
but I can't raise a hum.

I want to play a sonata
but I can't even strum.

I want to achieve so much
but, right now, I just feel numb.
This is a light-hearted response to writers' block, written some time ago. I've been too busy doing too much else. It is time I got back to "Hello Poetry".
493 · Oct 2020
BLACKBIRD
John Wiley Oct 2020
From dawn to dusk
you sit in our tree
filling the air
with sweet melody.

Why this tree, this house,
this street, this town?
Blessed with such song,
dare I be cast down?
I am really not good at writing rhyming poetry but keep pushing myself to try.
This does not do justice to the beauty of the song of our resident blackbird.
461 · Sep 2020
Change
John Wiley Sep 2020
The breeze is fretful today,
typical of early Spring,
sunburst from drifting clouds,
and I sit musing
of winter gone,
hot summer days to come,
red dust stirring on the wind,
the dry land baking in the sun.
403 · May 2019
Apara
John Wiley May 2019
Around
behind the range
is Apara,
a place
of rocks
and reeds
and tall river gums,
different
from the red
spinifex covered plain.

Nyaratja
took us there
one day -
showed us
the deep
dark spring
in the reeds
where Wanampi
the creative water serpent
lived.

Told us a story -
ancient
yet living,
timeless
yet dated -
for life
moves on,
cultures change,
develop,
decay.

Nearby
an ancient tree
bears a blaze
cut by explorers
years ago.
A rock face
bears scratchings
by pioneers
watering livestock
at the sacred site.

And so
the sacred
is profaned,
the stories
are forgotten,
the songs
go unsung,
progress
prevails,
something dies.
Apara is a beautiful place in the Musgrave Ranges south of Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Central Australia. This poem is from my memory bank of lving in the area almost fifty years ago.
385 · Feb 2019
WAITING IN LINE
John Wiley Feb 2019
The smell
from the wine-making
lies a memory
on the crisp July air.

Straight rows
of leafless vines
march parallel
over the hill.

A heap of
pomace
awaits its future
as compost.

Oak aging barrels
lie racked
end to end
row on row.

Pallets
of bottles
neatly stacked
await delivery.

Vintage
on vintage
full of promise
waiting in line.
This grew from a winter visit to an Adelaide Hills (South Australia) winery.
Most of the wineries in this area do the whole process from grape growing through to cellar door sales.  Some specialise in degustations of their wines with locally grown foods.
299 · Jan 2020
BUSHFIRES
John Wiley Jan 2020
They’ve come early this year,
before the start of summer.

Hot dry days
for hot dry weeks
leave bush and grasslands
tinder dry -
at flashpoint.

A faulty vehicle exhaust?
A stray piece of broken glass?
A smouldering cigarette ****?
An arsonist or pyromaniac?
A lightning strike in a dry thunderstorm?
A forgotten electrical connection?
So many ways to start a bushfire.

A  spark
becomes a flame
becomes a fire
becomes a bushfire
becomes a holocaust.

Homes,
businesses,
infrastructure,
livestock,
pets,
h­uman lives,
whole townships,
our precious bushland,
our wildlife and flora,
endangered species …
all at risk -
all under threat.

And yet,
human spirit prevails.
Communities unite in mutual support.
Firefighters - many as volunteers -
sacrifice home comforts,  families and income
for days on end.
Others provide food, safe havens,
funds and resources.
Under threat we hold together
and so we survive.

Hot dry days
for hot dry weeks
leave bush and grasslands
tinder dry -
at flashpoint.

Summer is still young.
The worst is yet to come.
We must survive.
Much of Australia is currently experiencing early and extreme summer weather with the worst bushfires on record.
285 · Jul 2020
Remembrance
John Wiley Jul 2020
We buried an old friend yesterday,
in the midst of virus restrictions.
It was outside,
just a few of us,
around the grave,
rugged up against the winter wind,
each maintaining distance,
no touching,
no handshakes,
no embraces,
just being together
to acknowledge our shared loss
and celebrate a life well lived.

A son, the only child,
had been allowed to cross
a closed state border.
Others could just observe
by live streaming.
When all was done
we lingered awhile
to renew acquaintances
and reminisce,
but then
were moved along
by grave diggers with
a yellow tractor
and a load of earth.
Over the years I have been involved in many funerals but will especially remember this one.
254 · Sep 2018
Old Mail Road
John Wiley Sep 2018
Drive slow or you’ll miss it
There’s an old campfire,
no marker, no sign-post,
just an old truck tyre.

Forty long miles of plain
with little change,
some low hills on the horizon
with a gap in the range.

You wind through that gap.
Drop well back through the gears.
You’re on rocks now, a creek bed
that’s been dry for years.

More miles to a boundary fence,
a windmill, a gate,
a stockyard, some cattle,
a homestead, a mate.
I'm not greatly into rhyming verse - admire it in others rather than write it myself. Every now and then I make myself try. This poem is about a bush track my father used to speak of when I was a boy. Over the years I have travelled it many times.
196 · Aug 2018
First Flight
John Wiley Aug 2018
This morning
I watched a young sparrow take its first flight.
Venturing from the nest it sat tentatively on a nearby ledge.
while its mother fluttered encouragingly around it,
gently clasping  its back feathers, fluttering her wings
and  then swooping off into the air
before returning to flutter and encourage again.

At last it happened.
The young bird hopped from the ledge,
fell briefly,
then fluttered its wings,  
flew,
and was gone,
a nestling no longer.

I felt privileged.
In a lifetime of watching,
I could not remember
witnessing
a first flight
before.

Wondering too
at how we had fluttered around our own young,
encouraging their first steps
and eventually the leap of faith
to fly, to soar, to glide ,
as the beautiful adults they have become.
195 · Feb 2019
LAURA IN SUMMER
John Wiley Feb 2019
A small town nestles
on the plain behind the range;
our rural escape.

The surrounding farms
lie baking in summer heat
after the harvest.

A rocky river
meanders towards the coast
but now summer dry.
This is a cluster of haiku to help me get started writing again. I often find the structure of haiku helpful when I'm stuck. Laura is a small town in the Southern Flinders Ranges some 200 kms north of Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia.
156 · Dec 2019
Advent 2019
John Wiley Dec 2019
Sunshine...
  a gentle breeze...
    birdsong.

Golden paddocks
  harvested or waiting.
The drone of a distant header.
The revving of a grain truck
  passing through town.

The nearby creek
  dried to a string of puddles;
    rain both a hope and a memory.

Christmas cheer an anticipation;
  preparations for the festive season -
    presents mailed to distant family,
      an annual letter to friends.

The sure anticipation of a new year
  and summer -
     hot
      dry
        dusty.
Maybe the relief of a thunder storm.
  Almost certainly bush-fires.

So life goes on ...
  Individual lives come and go;
      but life itself goes on.
At this time of the year in our part of the world one treasures a day like today ahead of the scorching summer that will surely arrive any day now.
155 · Jun 2020
An avian blessing
John Wiley Jun 2020
The first time I saw one
I was walking by the creek,
a mere glimpse
in a path-side shrub –
black and white with a flash of yellow –
there for a moment ...
then gone.

Now it seems
I see them everywhere -
in our garden
or on bush-land walks,
flitting between plants
or hanging from a bloom,
sipping nectar
or devouring some minute insect.

But still
the sense of privilege remains,
an avian blessing,
a glimpse of life –
black and white with a flash of yellow –
there for a moment ...
then gone.
The New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) is a small Australian bird - quite common but sometimes hard to spot because of its highly energetic, flitting behaviour.
151 · May 2019
Purlapa
John Wiley May 2019
Nyaratja was short
and close to stout
by the standards
of local males.

He was
a happy man,
always smiling,
often laughing.

Some piranpa
just considered him
a likeable and
helpful clown.

One night
I was invited
to attend
a purlapa.

The singing
and dancing
went on
all night.

Just on dawn
the singers
became
more excited.

Out of the dawn
two figures appeared
dancing -
… advance …
… pause …
… stamp …
… turn to face …
… turn to front …
… advance …

Now lit
by the rising sun,
the dancers towered closer,
under enormous headdresses -
… advance …
… pause …
… stamp …
… turn to face …
… turn to front …
… advance …

A scream went up
from the women
and children,
then ritual flight.

Singing ceased abruptly,
for quiet conversation,
as the dancers
were disrobed.

Headdresses were removed,
sacred items dispatched
to the sacred valley
behind the nearby hill.

Nyaratja was one of the dancers,
a towering primordial hunter -
a man of significance
in his own culture.
"Purlapa" is a dance of Aboriginal people of northern and central Australia.
"Piranpa" are non-Aboriginal "whitefellas".
"Nyaratja" means "this one". I use it rather than a real name, in respect for privacy of the individual and because of the custom of changing names  whenever someone with the same name dies.
140 · Aug 2020
THE SCAR
John Wiley Aug 2020
The old church was a wreck,
just bush timbers
and lime washed bags
with a few sheets of iron on the roof.

The only person
we ever saw there
was a drunk
with delirium tremens.

Karaknya and I
went there one day,
cut a mark on our thighs
with some broken bottle,
exchanged blood
and rubbed in red desert dust
up above where it would be seen –
our secret.

The mark has faded
over the years
but is still there.

Our lives
took us different ways,
to different places
and we lost each other.

I had always meant
to renew the friendship
some day – sometime,
but somehow never did,
even after I found where Karaknya was.

Perhaps I was afraid of what I might find
or just unwilling to take the risk.

Whatever,
Karaknya has gone now.
Just the scar
and the memory
remain.
134 · Jul 2019
Winter Drought
John Wiley Jul 2019
Winter did not come that year
with a storm,
or rain, or even wind;
just an invasive,
chilling cold.

The sun shone
but, somehow,
its rays were all light,
no warmth at all.

Clouds rolled in from the south-west
but then moved on eastward
without the desperately needed rain.

Frost preceded each new dawn  
and, when it was too dry,
the dreaded "black frost",
leaving gardens
and even hardy roadside natives
dead, burnt black.

Water pipes froze overnight
and burst,  
flooding  homes,
and overtaxing local plumbers
who just could not cope.

We all froze,  
but then,
in our north facing sun room, behind the glass,
there was afternoon warmth;
in a well cooked meal with a glass of red wine,  
there was nourishment;
by a cozy wood fire with a good book,
there was comfort and friendship;
in bed, snuggled under an eiderdown quilt,
there was rest and refreshment.

The freeze will stop.
The rain will come.
We all will survive.

This winter drought
will be followed by the excitement of spring,
and the heat and dry of summer,
and the promise of autumn,
and then winter again.

Who knows when,
but it will rain.

We will survive.
131 · Sep 2020
THE BUSH TRACK NORTH
John Wiley Sep 2020
The bush track north still calls
with its endless gibber plains
and bull-dust,
punctuated by the occasional ridge
of red sand hills,
or a dry creek bed,
or rock outcrop,
or a desert mountain range,
thousands of years old
from before human habitation.

I’ve known and loved
the inland desert country
all my life it seems,
though interspersed
with periods of
rural and urban living.

For some time now,
I’ve said the age of eighty
would be my last bush trip.
This was to have been the year,
but plans change.
“Covid” has intervened
with closed state borders
and travel restrictions.

I was preparing “Henry”,
my trusted off-road vehicle,
for the opening of state borders,
when a brain seizure occurred,
from an invasive melanoma.
Successful neurosurgery
and now other treatment
has followed.
I am blessed, still here,
treasuring every moment
of the life that I have left.

“Henry” has a new owner,
who has fallen in love with him.
He will still go bush,
but no more bush travel for me;
(no driving at all for some months, if ever).
The bush track north must ripen to
a rich and treasured memory.
Some recent happenings in my life appear to have silenced my muse. I need to address the situation by writing about it and apologise for imposing this on you. Hopefully this will nudge my muse back into life.
130 · Apr 2019
Mount Remarkable
John Wiley Apr 2019
It isn't the highest peak in the range
but somehow it has a presence -
an outline against the sky,
that distinguishes it
from the other hills.

You see it from miles away,
on the horizon
of the surrounding plateau,
with its farmland, brown or green,
according to season.

First glimpses are fleeting,
almost mystical,
but coming closer, it dominates -
dark faced and steep sided,
almost lowering.

A small town
nestles
at its foot,
forever subject
to its late afternoon shade.

The approaching road
seems confronted
with an impassable barrier,
until a sudden turn northwards
follows the range.

Any wonder
that an early explorer
charted its presence
and named it
Mount Remarkable.

One day in a far off city
I caught a cab at the airport
and, in the Australian way,
sat in the front
and talked to the driver.

He told me
how he had once
driven across the continent
and remembered this little town
at the foot of a mountain.

He was tired
and had rested overnight
at an hotel where he received
warm hospitality and friendship,
but had forgotten the name.

“Melrose”, I replied
“At the foot of Mount Remarkable.
I drove through there on my way south this morning.”
He was overjoyed and went home, happily,
to tell his wife.
113 · Apr 14
INUKSHUKS
John Wiley Apr 14
They stand alone
in vast tundra landscapes,
signposts, boundary markers,
custodians of sacred space –
as they have been for thousands of years.

And yet today
they have become popular,
perhaps cheapened –
something to make by a roadway
or on a stony beach,
sometimes to promote a function or locality.

We have two inukshuks in our front garden,
reminders of Canadian visits and friends,
but also for their historic message -
here is where we are, this is our space
and it is sacred to us.
We have had a lifelong, special interest in Canada, visiting there a number of times and accumulating wonderful Canadian friends and memories. Over several trips, we have driven the whole distance from Vancouver to Nova Scotia - something that most Canadians have not done. Sadly, age and the current global situation mean that we will not go there again.
113 · Dec 2019
Our dog "Bwana"
John Wiley Dec 2019
He was a stray before we met.
It was at an animal haven.
We had not had a pet for some years
and for whatever reason
had decided perhaps it was time again.

On a visit to the city
we followed the whim
and found ourselves
strolling between cages
of deserted dogs -
large and small,
barking and silent,
confronting and withdrawn …

And then
there was "Bwana",
establishing eye contact,
standing up at the gate
on his hind legs,
barking invitingly …
"Take me! Take me please!
I'm the one you want."

We went for a walk together,
bonding immediately.
Yes, he was the one,
but there were formalities to be fixed,
dog requisites to be bought,
a home prepared.
Unwillingly he returned to his cage,
with words of reassurance from us
that we had decided
and would return.

Next day
we took him back with us
to the country town where we lived.
We had been briefed that
our new dog was believed
to be partly Basenji
and might be a bit demanding -
a fencer and a wanderer.

In recognition of his genetics
and personality
we named him "Bwana" -
Swahili for "Master" -
and so it was
and has been
for a doggy lifetime
since.

We are all older now …
nearly time for parting.
Bwana sleeps most of the time
except for his insistence
on regular morning and afternoon walks,
albeit much shorter
than they used to be.

But the time will come.
We will all know when.
I'll take him to the vet
and hold him close
while he goes to sleep
for the last time -
hoping that my own ending
might be as easy
and surrounded
with such love.

But then …
I am human …
not a dog …
no one's pet.
We had that trip to the vet last week, a few days before Christmas and ahead of the "heat wave" conditions we are now having here in Australia. The poem is from my collection and was written a year or two ago.
112 · Feb 15
RUSS
John Wiley Feb 15
He was short and lean,
a small man,
station hand and bush jockey.
I’ve known him since childhood
when he was in the children’s home
where my parents worked.

At fourteen
he returned to the bush
to work with his father,
also a station hand,
out on the desert plains
where holdings are large,
measured in thousands of square kilometers.

We never deliberately kept contact,
just crossed paths
when he was “down south”
or I was “out bush”.

Eventually he retired
to a small bush town,
established to service
the highway
across the centre of Australia
from south to north.

I’d see him there when in the bush,
in the bar of the roadhouse.
Sometimes we’d have a beer together,
others I’d just watch him,
sitting on a stool
at the end of the bar,
surrounded by the young stockhands
in town for a break.

But he’s gone now.
Sickness came and eventually death.
They buried him in the country he loved,
out by the cattle yards and race track –
a patch of red dust,
a simple wooden cross,
a low stone wall,
a vase and a whiskey bottle, both empty.

I’ve visited him there
and remembered.
"Stations"/"Ranches" and more - making my way around differences between American and Australian terminology.
106 · Oct 2020
SOLITUDE
John Wiley Oct 2020
As a young boy,
I would rise early
and sit with our dog,
watching the sun rise
over the vast desert plain
that surrounded our tiny bush town.

I remember
the jangling hobbles of camels
returning from a night in the desert.

I remember
how I treasured
the solitude.

For some years in my prime
I worked in the bush,
traveling alone on miles of tracks.

I remember
the fine edge of risk,
and the knowledge
that things could go wrong.

I remember
how I treasured
the solitude.

As an old man
I sometimes stand
near our country home
and watch the sun set.

And I treasure
the solitude.
102 · Sep 2020
Old Mac
John Wiley Sep 2020
Lean,
a shock of greying hair,
eyes as clear as the mid-day sun,
a hand so steady
that he could smoke a cigarette
down to its ****, unstubbed.
“Old Mac”.

I had known of him
since childhood,
when my father had
told us of
this legendary Scotsman
he had met out bush.

Some twenty years later,
back in the bush myself,
Mac was still there,
true to my father’s description.
“Old Mac”.

Engaged initially
to care for indigenous groups
at risk from atomic testing,
he had continued on
as consultant, adviser, friend,
to the old men of the desert.

Sometimes you would hear
that he was coming –
sometimes not.
Mostly he would just appear
out of the desert,
stay for a few days
and then move on.

At times,
he would visit for a meal,
but never to stay,
always sleeping
in the back of his truck –
his “boudoir”.

Eventually
retirement came, and death -
with plans for
Mac’s ashes to be scattered
by a bush cleric,
in the land where
he had lived and worked for so long .

But fate
or perhaps Mac
prevailed.
A shoe-box of ashes,
an elusive cleric,
a rugged bush vehicle,
and a rough bush track
found  Mac
scattering himself -
“Old Mac”.
95 · Sep 2020
HARRY
John Wiley Sep 2020
Harry was a gentleman street-sweeper
whom I knew years ago
when just a young man -
Harry Hollerhead.
He was a small man
with large hands
and a large nose,
that I had often seen
his large wife kiss
and pat affectionately.

With his large hard broom
and yellow wheel-barrow
Harry kept the streets
of the city immaculate,
while also greeting passers-by
with such warmth and friendship
as if the streets were his –
which, in a way, they were.

It was some decades later
that an artist friend
exhibited for sale
a sketch he had made
as a young man –
a street sweeper who had captivated him
with his charm and style.

Instantly I recognised him,
Harry – Harry Hollerhead.

Harry has long gone now
but his portrait
still hangs on my wall,
a reminder of
what matters in life
and how we respect
and relate to others.
93 · Oct 1
THE OLD SADDLERY
John Wiley Oct 1
It sits on a corner
in our little town -
old,
built of local stone
with an ornate parapet
embellished with a horse head
and the original ownership
“J F Roennfeldt –
Saddle, Harness and Collar Maker”.

On nearby tree trunks
one can find hitching rings,
from days when horses
were the main means of transport.

But times have changed.
Someone lives in the old saddlery now
with plans for a delicatessen
and coffee shop nearby.
The neigh of horses
has been replaced
by the thrum
of passing motor traffic.

Years ago
the parapet sign
was covered
with a new coat of paint
and seemingly forgotten
until a new owner
found and restored it.

It is old
and faded again now.
I wonder ...
88 · Jan 4
First Night
John Wiley Jan 4
She wore a dress
of “Everglaze” cotton that night,
white with a discreet pattern
of tiny green roses.
I remember it still.

We walked along the beach
and across the causeway
to a rocky island
where we sat
above the pounding waves
of the Southern Ocean.

We were volunteers
at a children’s summer vacation program
and really knew nothing
about each other,
so we just sat and talked,
sharing our two
quite different pasts;
no touching or cuddling.
just talk.

At the end of the program I inquired
“Would you like to meet again?”
and she agreed –
so here we are,
sixty one years later;
two lives so richly shared,
through so many experiences,
and in so many places;
so many memories,
so many friends
and our own wonderful family.

How fortunate we have been.
85 · May 2020
OLD GUM TREE
John Wiley May 2020
Old gum
by a dry creek bed,
so long I’ve known you
and yet I haven’t -
can’t.

How can I know
of the ancient people,
custodians of our land,
gathered in your shade,
to sing the timeless songs,
share the timeless dreaming?

How can I know,
with the early explorers,
the challenge – fear –
of an unknown land,
its vastness beyond experience,
challenges beyond belief?

How can I know
the hope
of the early settlers,
lured by good seasons
then destroyed
by drought?

Old gum
by the old dry creek bed,
I have rested in your shade,
wondered at your knowledge
and am indeed blessed.
Gum trees are quite special to many Australians including myself.
This poem is to a particular old gum by a dry creek bed in the Flinders Ranges that I have known and reflected on for many years.
78 · May 2020
Summer Rain
John Wiley May 2020
At last,
out of the heat,
dust
and fires,
rain came.

Not a lot;
just enough
to lay the dust,
freshen the air,
lift spirits.

A passing entertainment
rather than
a resolution
of the summer drought
gripping the land.

A few forks of lightning
in the western sky,
a rumbling of thunder
overhead,
then the downpour.

Refreshing rain,
drumming on the roof,
flooding the gutters
and clearing the air.
Welcome visitor.

But then it was gone,
eastward over the hills
to spread its joy
elsewhere,
to others.

Until autumn,
the dry would return,
the dust stir,
the fires rekindle.
Summer.
I live in a Mediterranean climate with generally hot, dry summers.
75 · May 2020
A Walk Remembered
John Wiley May 2020
I took the clifftop walk that day
high above the beach,
walking slowly,
carefully,
leaning against the blast
of a storm
howling in from the sea.

Standing in the lee of a rock,
looking out to sea,
I saw them,
gliding,
wheeling,
harnessing the wind,
seagulls riding a tempest.

Later,
down in a cove,
sheltered from the gale,
I trudged
through sand,
stepping around rocks
of ancient ripples engraved in stone.
This is a revision of a poem written some years ago, just after the experience it describes.
60 · Apr 2020
Two days and a night
John Wiley Apr 2020
“Two days and a night”
they used to say,
from the city down south
to our little bush town
in the desert;
early Thursday morning
to late Friday night –
“Two days and a night”.

A long, slow train –
passengers and freight,
hauled by panting steam
through suburbs,
then farmland,
then desert –
“Two days and a night”.

Tiny bush towns -
some getting stops
for mail and supplies,
maybe for a passenger,
but more often for water
to keep up the steam –
“Two days and a night”.

Every so often
a ramshackle pub
provided short respite -
a quick, cold beer,
then a frenzied gallop
as the train whistled off –
“Two days and a night”.

In our little bush town
on a Friday night
we children would wait
outside for the light
of the approaching train –
****** of our week –
“Two days and a night”.
Back in the late 1940s I lived at Oodnadatta in the Australian bush. Our main link to the outside world was the legendary "Ghan" train that linked the capital city, Adelaide, to Alice Springs in Central Australia.
55 · Mar 14
OLD BIKER
John Wiley Mar 14
He was old and lean,
even rangy,
perhaps a little demented,
and rode an old pushbike
around our little, country town.
Some called him our
“geriatric biker”.
Few really knew him.

When he died
I was asked
to conduct the funeral.
I invited a friend, a “local”,
to research his eulogy.

She unearthed
old photographs of a proud man,
wearing a ten gallon hat,
sitting tall in the saddle
on a station horse.
Our geriatric biker
had managed
some of the largest stations
in Australia.

We took him
to our bush cemetery
on the hill behind the town,
overlooking the seemingly endless
arid northern plain
where he had lived and worked.
By request of the family
he was buried
to the country song
“Leave Him In The Longyard”.
"Leave Him In The Longyard" is an Australian country and western song made famous by the late Slim Dusty.
54 · Aug 2020
MY LITTLE SISTER
John Wiley Aug 2020
My little sister, my twin,
You were beautiful they say,
perfect, but dead, still-born,
strangled by my navel string.

My mother grieved for you
all her life,
never knowing where you were;
perhaps a hospital incinerator,
perhaps an unmarked grave,
perhaps unacknowledged in the foot of a coffin.
They all happened back then.
We have searched but never found you.

You are on our parents’ headstone now,
a memory without a name,
but there, a treasured memory.

Me?
We have twin grandchildren,
girl and boy like us,
now young adults.
I take such joy in them
but grieve too
for what we might have known.

My little sister, my twin,
You were beautiful they say,
perfect, but dead, still-born,
and all my life
I feel that I have lived for us both.
50 · Jul 24
My First Bush School
John Wiley Jul 24
It was old
built of rough local stone,
mud and rough sawn
native pine.

There was a crack
down one corner
wide enough
to insert your hand.

No toilets
or running water,
just two foot tracks
over the hill
to the nearby creek,
one for girls
and one for boys.

A wobbly teacher’s desk,
a dozen or so
old student desks
and two chalk-boards
on easels
were the only furnishings.

It was winter –
dry, desert cold,
with morning frosts
and a freezing daytime wind.

For warmth
we’d feed a pine log
through the doorway
into the open fireplace
to feed a meagre fire,
our only source of warmth.

I keep a photograph of it still,
though the memory is so rich.
The chalkboard date is
24th April 1963,
although I had started there
three weeks earlier
on April Fools Day,
but it was no prank.
This was a place of learning,
and I was both teacher and a learner.
Mostly written for myself and our grandchildren, but why not share it.
48 · Jul 23
OLD SCHOOL RUIN
John Wiley Jul 23
It sits alone in the forest,
an old stone hearth and chimney –
no sound but the wind in the trees,
an occasional birdcall
and perhaps the drone
of a tractor
on a nearby farm.

And yet a memory
of such joy and liveliness –
young voices at play
or raised in song –
chanting “tables”,
sometimes squabbling,
always learning,
preparing for life
in a world yet unknown.
The old Wirrabara Forest school in the Southern Flinders Ranges of South Australia is commemorated by its restored fireplace and chimney. It was one of many "one teacher schools" that dotted the "bush".
47 · Jan 4
A Memory
John Wiley Jan 4
It was a tiny church
in the valley, by the creek;
a place for those who search,
a haven for the meek.
This quatrain has been sitting in my writing book for over a month now awaiting further inspiration that just won't seem to come. It is about the little church where we were married, located at Aldgate Valley in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia. It has now been sold and incorporated into an almost palatial residence on the site.
John Wiley Jan 4
WONDER

Such a small planet
in such a vast universe
with so much beauty.

DESPAIR

Such a small planet
in such a vast universe
with so much suffering.
Some forgotten Haiku discovered by chance in an old writing book today.
44 · Aug 6
DAVE
John Wiley Aug 6
He was a character
seemingly larger than life -
Dave –
a cattle-man,
tall and lean,
far seeing eyes,
broad brimmed hat
and a distinctive drawl.

A thousand square miles
of red sand,
spinifex,
desert oak
and mulga scrub
was his kingdom.

Some years before,
he had walked
a herd of cattle
twelve hundred miles
for nine months
to establish it.

We knew Dave
as neighbour,
fifty miles away,
not close
but always there
to provide support
or a talk
or coffee
along the track –
always a true bush friend.
Another memory from our years in "the bush".
38 · Apr 10
Pause
John Wiley Apr 10
Is my muse dead?
... or perhaps
just tired,
diverted,
rather than stimulated
by the happenings of life?

Once
poetry seemed to be
everywhere
but now ...
What has changed?

Nothing really my friend.
Nothing that you
can’t overcome
if you truly want to.

Stop.
Calm yourself.
Reflect.
Look.
Listen.
Feel.
It is still there.
You will hear it speak again,
if you truly want to.
This is written out of some frustration but as an expression of hope and intent.

— The End —