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North Western Pub

Where pallid ghosts of stockmen sit upon the empty chairs –
Elusive wraiths of memory and smoke,
While hopeless mortal men find solace from their earthly cares,
As at the bar in solitude they soak.

Just as it was one hundred years ago, perhaps some paint
Applied, but now is peeling off the walls,
And in the air and from the dusty floor the yellowed taint
Of ancient sweat upon the senses falls.

The dust haze hangs in tiny specks suspended in the light,
Where sunlight streams through windows seldom clean,
And as the sun goes down the shades of fast-approaching night
Lend dreariness and pallor to the scene.

Here time stood still as elsewhere changed for better or for worse,
Each day a play, as weary plots repeat.
A theatre’s stage not altered, as the drinkers sit and curse
The drought, the flood, the fires, the burning heat.

Here Kidman’s men, come overland with cattle, sat abreast,
A brief respite – for soon the track to face,
And could a summons call them from the bush graves where they rest,
They’d notice not a difference in the place.

In the North West, you may one day chance on a battered shack;
A leaning wreck beside a rutted street.
Survivor of the roaring days that swept the great outback;
A refuge from the searing summer’s heat.

Push through the batwing doors into the old Australia past,
Where of our modern times is not a trace,
And try to there imagine all the dead departed cast,
The ones long gone, whose spirits haunt this place.

The stockmen, and the miners in their ceaseless golden quest,
The bullock drivers with their plodding slaves,
The men and women pioneers who opened up the west,
Now on the rolling plains rest in their graves.

So have a beer, and toast those sturdy battlers long dead:
The folk who drank here at this ancient bar;
For though, like us, they had their faults, in truth it must be said –
Their steely grit exceeded ours by far.

– D.N. O’Brien

{I wrote this some years ago – don’t think I have posted it before}