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Ballad of Away

Twilight time arrives so soon though my domicile has lasted long enough for acclimatisation, collar up in this chill, walking past a low-ceilinged pub’s glow near the market square where game hung earlier, mulling over my insatiable need for genealogical research that transports me to a British past, those hard times for my ancestral twigs I can see, when a ballad drifting out from the good cheer pierces me.

The melody ‘Bonnie Wood O’Craigilea’ I hear as ‘Waltzing Matilda’, plus the weight of so many days away, recalls the streets, scenes, sounds and smells of my Melbourne youth, drowsy scented beer garden, faint staccato drone of a radio race-caller, an easy-going vulgar camaraderie, freeing a butterfly of yearning, my eyes prickling, king-hit by a tune that once accompanied emigrant grief.

Banjo Paterson’s lyrics to a centuries-old Scottish refrain invoke childhood; my first work, young love, the remembered past opening out like welcoming arms, staying with me; byways roamed on foot with my dog, by bike, behind the wheel. In a reverie of what once was, needing to be in two places oceans apart becomes a paradox without solution.

Rocked recently by crushed eucalyptus leaves wafting with news from an envelope, almost choking up in laughing company, intellect wobbled by love, I am astonished. Money, determination, needles flickering towards empty, I repel thoughts of the Travel Shop’s special on one-way flights. Who can ever know when they might return to a place etched in their mind? Distance, and an old wistful air, unman me, hard traveller’s heart melting in memory’s scorcher.

Ian C Smith's work has appeared in, Antipodes, Australian Book Review, Australian Poetry Journal,  Critical Survey, Prole, The Stony Thursday Book, & Two-Thirds North.  His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide).  He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island, Tasmania.