Autumn Notes 111

The ruler of this blog disqualified the title of my previous post. I’d proposed “Autumn Notes -III”, but the blogmeistress ruled that out. ‘It’s a book review, Dad, it’s nothing to do with autumn. You’ll confuse people if you call it that.’

I disagreed.

She insisted.

I demurred.

She overruled.

So here we ago again. I’m writing this in autumn. Brown leaves are falling, the air is chilling, malicious winds lash the streets. What’s more, I’m in the autumn of my days. And today when I visited my aunt I glimpsed Winter.

My mother-in-law is a beauty. At 91 years she dresses like my daughters and she’s still admired as a beauty. Her name’s Helen. As in Troy. Ma-in-Law Helen remarked to me once,   ‘Your Aunty B was the most beautiful bride I ever saw’. On a separate occasion Aunty B said to me ‘Your mother in law was the most beautiful bride I ever saw.’

I’ve seen wedding photos of them both and I can’t disagree with either of them.

Today I visited Aunty B. Family news had filtered through the dark: B isn’t doing well. I found her sleeping in her room, surrounded by her daughters and her doctor-granddaughter. I saw her, I saw that same face, beautiful still. I thought of Aunty B’s life of battles, of her buoyancy and grace, her good cheer. I remember how she took this bewildered country boy under her wing on lonely visits to Melbourne. Now Aunty opened an eye. Was that a smile? Her hand opened to my touch, the grip strong. My last surviving aunt opened her mouth to speak. No words. The eye closed and she slept. Like Hemingway’s Old Man (of the Sea), did she dream?

It’s not yet Winter but it’s coming.

Australia Day in Doomadgee

Doomadgee, we write it

In our orthography

When really –

It should be – Dumat’ji

 

No flag raising here

No speech or ceremony

On Australia Day

In Doomadgee

 

The river runs warm

Kiddies swim and swarm

On Australia Day

In Doomadgee

 

Blackfellas bashing

(It’s the national fashion)

On Australia Eve

Here in Doomadgee

 

Broken hand, broken

Jaw, cut faces and more:

That’s Australia Day

In Doomadgee.

 

Adam Goodes

Too far away

This Australia Day

From Doomadgee

 

A busy day this

Australia Day –

Hordes in the wards

In Doomadgee

 

We plaster and we suture

Like there is no future:

Future no feature of Australia Day,

Not here, no way, in Doomadgee

 

The end of Australia Day –

Quietness falls

In hospital halls

Of Doomadgee

 

But short the respite –

Quick! Elder sick!

Dying on Australia night?

Dying here – in Doomadgee?

 

Quiet, quiet, his voice, his breath –

Small his smile at the threshold of death –

Good night Australia:

System failure in Doomadgee

 

Beside him, quiet woman – or girl –

His guard and ward in this world

Trembles, facing an Australian day

Without him in Doomadgee.

 

He slips away from his teeming kin

Who hold their tears and keening in;

A dreadful peace on Australia Day

And quiet, this night in Doomadgee.