Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Don't Forget to Water them Geraniums
I get lost a lot. It’s an affliction but sometimes it pays off. Like one of the times I gave a workshop in Gunning and came home via Gundaroo, turning the 72k drive into a 154k trip. People don’t know how I did it – go the way I did that is - but I will find a way without even trying. It was a beautiful drive up and down dale along winding dirt roads with magnificent gums ranging the blue sky. Of course I had no idea where I was or where I would end up or whether I would ever be found again.

I told myself to stay calm. The day was perfect for an off the beaten track drive, there was still plenty of daylight and I had loads of petrol. I almost always have a full tank in preparation for such moments. I was relieved when I found myself in Gundaroo as at least I knew roughly where that was on the map of things and that it was somewhere in cooee of Yass (35k from home). There must’ve been a sign to Yass - or maybe it was a sign to a town in the opposite direction - but I know I took a turn which was as it turned out in more or less the right direction, albeit along more worryingly windy dirt roads. It occurred to me I could be following a river. It felt like it. There were high embankments. There could be a river down there I frequently thought.

Eventually I came to flat bare paddocks and a small lonely house. There was a t-section just ahead, no signs and my brain was in a bigger than ever road-challenged tizz. Nothing for it. I would have to stop and ask. I got out of the car and was almost blown off my feet. By the look of the landscape this wind was relentless. There was not a lick of green. The sheep in the next paddock were the same colour as the eaten down dry grass, the same colour as the dead thistles. Drought. The only other sign of life was a row of geraniums planted in front of the porch and held up by chicken wire. It was a welcoming splash of red. Still, as I walked up the steps all the terrible murder scenes I had ever seen on television flashed before me. I thought of the very large body-size freezers that farmers often have for their bulk home-kills and wondered just what bodies might be in there. More than beef and lamb.

I hesitated. Nothing for it. Knock knock. Relief when a very pleasant gentleman in his Sunday-best under work overalls answered and gave un-begrudging directions. It happens a lot he told me. See! I’m not the only one. I had no idea where he was telling me to go but luckily he demonstrated with his hand snaking this way and that. I remember strict instructions not to turn a particular way and I didn’t (I’m not that bad). Apparently I was very soon going to connect with the expressway but you could’ve fooled me. I was sure I was still in the wilderness then suddenly there I was up and out and on the expressway and in familiar territory. It was a small miracle.

That was a long time ago now but those bloody geraniums have haunted me. What’s that Henry Lawson (?) story about the worn out woman in her slab hut with the dirt floor who lay down on her bed one day and died? The last thing she said to her child was, ‘Don’t forget to water them geraniums.’ Eventually I scratched at a poem. Decided it was a small poem. Scratched some more. Worked at it. Left it alone for a long time. Dragged it out again this year. Some poems just take a while.

Today it was published on The Wonder Book of Poetry. It’s called Wind (funny that) and you can read it here.
Writers’ tip: Don’t be afraid to get lost – you might find a poem.

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