of interest

We have often appreciated the wonderful poetry of Max Merckenschlager and it is a delight to be able to share with you his poem, Along the Murranji, which took first place in the written awards at the Australian National Bush Poetry Championships in Dunedoo NSW on 10th March 2007. It’s based on the true story of a youth who joined one of the last great droves along the famed northern Murranji Track.




©Max Merckenschlager

The stockman rolled a Tally-Ho and swiped it with his tongue,
then set alight the sagging weed as from his lips it hung.
And drifting through the smoke-trail came a thought that made him sigh
a mob of fifteen hundred, strung along the Murranji.

He touched his stained Akubra and the relic tilted back.
Again a youth of seventeen rode novice down the track,
to savour an experience that money couldn’t buy,
as peer of legends droving stock, along the Murranji.

A chocolate cloud engulfed him in the shadow of the herd,
and swarming flies –fairweather friends– all quit the dust they stirred.
The post had consolations and his spreading grin was wry,
’cause flankers were saluting him, along the Murranji!

He copped his share of green-hide jokes and handed out his own.
The team became his family - more kin than most he’d known.
They cheered his bloodied triumph when he shut the bully’s eye,
then halved his load to help him mend, along the Murranji.

That year he joined the rains were late and holes began to shrink.
Their team-boss ordered scouts ahead to find the herd a drink.
While cattle-horns hung earthwards every stockman watched the sky,
and cursed the Devil’s crucible, along the Murranji.

Their milling stock were restless from the noises of the night.
If spooked by sudden footfall, they could rush in terror’s flight.
So stockmen rode on red-alert till dawn and pondered why,
they’d signed themselves to Purgat’ry, along the Murranji.

And when the team had struggled through, with pockets fully cashed,
they headed for the nearest pub intent on “getting smashed”.
But under-aged exuberance would greet the morning dry.
The Law insisted manhood stopped, along the Murranji.

Those days have long departed when a mile of bullocks strung,
along the northern cattle-routes could make a man feel young.
Yet now and then a spark returns to wet a weary eye …
the vision of a willing kid, along the Murranji.