Poetry: John Cooper

John Cooper
Gone Are the Days
 
Gone are the days when the teams would pull,
The Cockie’s grain and the Squatter's wool,
On wagons mostly made of wood,
Which of the test of time have stood,
Over the hot and dusty plain,
Into the town to meet the train.
 
Gone are the days when the Droving man,
With shaded eyes would the stock route scan,
Looking ahead of the moving mob,
And trying his best to do his job,
Trying to get the stock all through,
To pastures green and grasses new.
 
Gone are the days when the paddle boats,
Would carry the wool and wheat and oats,
From along the rivers Darling and Murray,
In the days when there was no need to hurry,
Back in the days of horse and steam,
When a man had time to sit and dream.
 
Gone are the days when the shearer made,
His living with a hand-held blade,
Working all day in the sweat and heat,
Ever trying the Ringer to beat,
In the hope for himself to make a name,
And perhaps to gain a little fame.

Gone are the days of the milking bails,
When cows were milked by hand in pails,
With the separator that by hand was turned,
So that the Dairy Farmer a living earned,
With hours long and much hard work,
From which the farmer would never shirk
 
Gone are the days when the steel axe cut,
The timber for the Squatters hut,
And stripped the bark to make the roof,
Which served to make it water proof,
And adze that formed fence rails of wood,
That for over a hundred years have stood.
 
Gone are the days when the bullock teams,
Huge loads would pull over hills and streams,
Pushed by the Teamster with whip of raw-hide,
And language that would make the Devil abide,
He'd crack his whip and oh he'd swear,
With words that would the air just tear.
 Gone are the days when the ships of sail,
Would carry to us the Royal Mail,
With Seamen who'd battle the wind and wave,
And who often went to a watery grave,
These were men with nerves of steel,
Who performed their tasks with gusto and zeal.
 
Gone are the days of my Father's time,
When with pick and shovel he worked a mine,
And for six pence a ton, chaff he cut,
And with trap he battled the rabbit glut,
He took his turn with tin hat and gun,
To prevent this country from being overrun.
 
Gone are the days that we read about,
Achievements that we should never flout.
Gone are those days of the Pioneer,
Of times that we should never jeer.
Gone are those days of the early years,
When this country was built with blood, sweat and tears.
***
 

I wrote the following poem in 1980, at that time Malcolm Frazer was the Australian Prime Minister.
 
Life Wasn’t Meant to be Easy
1980 

He stood there standing straight and tall,
Addressing the crowd in the local hall,
He talked of things, of this and that,
Then made a statement that left them flat,
"Life wasn't meant to be easy."
 
He drives around in a big flash car,
He drinks his scotch from a well-stocked bar,
He travels here, he travels there,
And he always goes by VIP air,
"Life wasn't meant to be easy".
 
He has property that's measured by mile,
All of which is very fertile,
With many head of fancy livestock,
Which graze around his prime rural block,
"Life wasn't meant to be easy".
 
He isn't a man that I'd call friend,
And I sometimes think that he's around the bend,
When the decisions he makes become known,
He's about as popular as a sheep that's fly blown,
"Life wasn't meant to be easy".
 
He doesn't do any manual work,
Or do the job of an office clerk,
He doesn’t milk cows, or drive a truck,
Or have to clean out the cow yard muck,
"Life wasn't meant to be easy".
 Well, you may ask, "What does he do"?
This big tall chap in suit of blue
Well, I don't know, and that's the problem,
 Because you see this man is our P.M.,
 "Life wasn't meant to be easy"
***

The following poems were all written this year, 2023.
In May 2022 my wife of nearly 66 years passed away. In the succeeding month there has been periods of loneliness and I penned this poem in an attempt to express my feelings.
 
Loneliness
 
I have always enjoyed my own company,
Ever since I was a boy,
But since Vicky has passed away,
My life it has had no joy.
 
Life is now so lonely,
Me being all alone,
No one to share my bed with,
No one to share my home.

The days are so long,
And nights so much colder,
She is not there beside me,
Oh, how I long to hold her.
 
My children try to support me,
But they have lives of their own,
And grandchildren are even busier, 
Although they occasionally phone.
 
Oh, how I miss holding her hand,
As in our bed we lay,
And going to sleep with my arm around her,
Oh, for those times again I pray.

 I never thought that I would be so lonely,
That life, no future would hold,
That there would be nothing to look forward too,
Nothing, but a life so cold.
 
And sometimes I wish my life could end,
And put a closure to the pain of being alone,
For, what does the future offer me,
But a life of being on my own.
 
But then I look at what I have,
A few good friends and loving family,
A comfortable home to live in,
Even though it now looks manly. 
 
Slowly I am giving away the things, 
That are no longer needed,
Some ornaments, some flowery things,
To which my wants are exceeded. 
To granddaughters has gone your doll collection,
And so has the fancy bedspread,
They were received with much appreciation,
And now throughout the country are widespread.
 
Your jewelry shared and to family members went,
Some clothing was likewise distributed,
The balance to the op-shop was sent,
 Where it was appreciated and faithfully redistributed.
 
But there are somethings that I will always keep,
To remind me that you were once here,
Beside me all those many years,
Through laughter and through tears. 
 
There are photos hanging on the wall,
And an ornament or two,
Some things in china cabinets,
Many things that remind me of you.
 
Now although a lot of your things have gone,
Your wardrobes and drawers are all empty,
The memory of you will linger on,
To right back before we were both twenty.
 
And so when loneliness comes to visit me,
I bring the memory of you by my side,
Into my mind, and it will help me see,
That you will always be there as my guide.
***


Thirsty Work

Paddy was doing some voluntary work,
At the Catholic Church in town,
He was chipping weeds in the driveway,
After a couple of hours, he had most of them down.
 
When along came Father O’Riley,
A rotund and jovial sort of chap,
He said, “How you going there Paddy”
As the old digger lifted his cap.
 
“It’s hot and thirsty work this is”.
Was Paddy’s prompt reply,
As he wiped the sweat from upon his brow, 
And he looked up in the sky.

“Well, would you be liking a drink Paddy”,
The old Priest asked with a grin,
“Oh to be sure I surely would”,
Said Paddy rubbing his chin.
 
“Well come with me” the old Priest said.
So, Paddy dropped his hoe.
And off they went to the Presbytery, 
As fast as they could go.
 
The priest took a bunch of keys from his pocket,
And unlocked the Presbytery door,
“Here, Paddy sit yourself down on that chair,
I’ll see what I can find, so you will have a thirst no more”
 
And so, the Priest went to a small cupboard,
That was fixed upon the wall. 
And unlocked it with his bunch of keys,
And Paddy quietly thanked St Paul.
 
For in the cupboard Paddy did see,
A bottle and glasses there,
In anticipation he licked his lips,
And patted down his hair.

The Priest took two liquor glasses from their place,
And put them on the table,
Then grabbed the bottle and removed the cork,
And poured the liquid in each glass at which he was most able.
 
He handed Paddy a glass near full,
And said, “Here, Paddy try this drink,
I am sure that you will like it,
Tell me what you think.

Paddy sipped from the glass, 
Then down he drank it all,
A smile spread over his face,
Then he said with a sorta drawl.
 
Oh Father, that’s a mighty fine drop,
Please tell me what is it called,
“It’s Benedictine, Paddy”, the old Priest said.
As in his seat he sprawled.
 
“It is made by the Benedictine Monks in France,
To a recipe hundreds of years old,
 The ingredients of the recipe are secret,
Or that’s what I have been told.
 
“It sure is a nice drink”, said Paddy,
As he lifted the glass to get the last drop,
“Well would you be liking another?”,
Said Father O’Riley, removing the bottle stop.
 
“Oh, to be sure and begorra I surely would”
Said Paddy with a big grin,
 And he handed his glass back to the Priest,
Hoping that it would be again filled up to the brim.
 
Father O’Riley handed Paddy back his glass,
And it was as full as it could be,
Paddy took the glass in one hand,
And thought of kneeling on one knee. 
 
 But he didn't, he could not risk,
The chance of spilling a drop,
So he slowly drank the amber liquid down,
 And the smile on his face did not stop.
 
And when the glass was empty,
Paddy reflected for a while,
Then he lifted his eyes to heaven,
And he said with a smile.
 
“My God bless the Monks of St Benedictine. 
And into Heaven give them passes,
And may he curse those Protestant bastards,
Who made these tiny glasses?” 
***


Cleaning The Boss’s Boots

It was back in nineteen fifty-three,
Long after I had bounced on my mother’s knee,
I was then a boy of fifteen years,
And I suppose that life it had no fears.
 
I took a job in the State’s north west, 
A ‘Station Hand’ was my quest,
For I was tired of dairy cows,
A yearning for something different my mind aroused.
 
Wenna Station, was to where I went,
To where the next six months I spent,
It was a spread of five thousand acres big,
No rabbits, no burrs, just the occasional wild pig,
 
Sixty miles to the west of Moree,
On the Gwydir Highway a mile post you’ll see,
Near the Mehi River, adjoining the Stock Route,
Is Wenna’s road in, a sign post stands out.
 
It was real good country this station wide,
On horseback I would often ride,
Mustering Wenna’s five thousand sheep,
For a small wage, and my keep.
 
The day at about six thirty would start,
Frosty mornings, cold enough to break a boy’s heart,
Five cows I would have to find,
And bring them to their calves confined.
 
Then milk until two buckets full,
It was hard work and that’s no bull,
Then to the separator room, I would go,
So that cream and butter from the milk did flow.
 
Then it was time for a breakfast large,
For which the Boss’s wife was in charge,
She was a good cook, no doubt about that,
But it was in a little room, on my own, that I sat. 
 
For I was just a Station Hand,
From the homestead dining room, the help was banned,
But the meals were good, no doubt of it,
And I did enjoy the food there I’ll admit.
 
Then after breakfast to the back veranda I would go,
And there all lined up all in a row,
Were pairs of boots, with polish and brush,
That I would have to shine till flush. 
 
The boots would be there every day,
To clean and polish them was no child’s play,
For sometimes with mud they’d be caked,
It was stuck hard as if it had been baked.
 
Not only were there the boots of the boss to do, 
But those of his wife and daughter too,
For I was only a Station Hand,
And in those days, it was the way of the land.
 
After caked mud with pocket knife had been removed,
Then ample polish with brush was used,
To polish up and soften the leather,
I would brush and brush, hell for leather. 
 
The boots would then be as good as new,
With a shine that a face could be seen in too,
R M Williams was the brand, as I recall,
Only the best for the boss and all.
 
Then after that it was a full day’s work,
Treating fly-blown sheep, not a job for a clerk,
And fixing a fence that kangaroos had broken,
And mustering of which I have already spoken.
 
Now that was over seventy years ago,
And you had to do such things to make some dough,
But I doubt that in the world of today,
A Station Hand would have to clean boots to earn his pay.
 
For the world of today is a little bit different,
And today’s fifteen-year-old can be indifferent,
To the way things used to be,
And from hard work they are likely to flee.
***

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