December

                            By Martin Haley

Ithaca Pool
Ithaca Baths 1943 (SLQ Neg 157643) 

The day of the Midsummer Solstice.

We speed along by the Ithaca Baths.

A heat wave rages.

People of all sorts, shapes and sizes crowd in and about the little rectangular pool.

Says five-year-old daughter, Anne:

“Dad, they look to be about as many as the soldier crabs at Sandgate at low-tide.”

 

                                     Martin Haley

 

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First things first

 

In China these things happened long ago:

The patient of a doctor died, and so

Conceiving he had been unskilfully

Treated, his kinsmen seized good Doctor See.

Intending to inflict due punishment,

They tied him to a post the night and went

Within their homes, and soon were fast asleep.

The doctor's fingers plied each knotted heap

That bound him to the stake, and getting free,

He made away as nimble as could be.

Swimming a flooded river swift and wide,

He safely hid about the countryside;

Then found his son at length (on reaching home)

In study of some therapeautic tome.

Quoth he: "My son, be not so much in haste

Over mere books.  Your zeal may run to waste.

A doctor must not pine in studies dim:

The most important thing is, Learn to Swim."

 

                                                       Martin Haley

 

Next poem by Martin Haley

 

  

Red Hill 1940

Daily as down the suburb's slope I walk
To school that claims a teacher's utter soulRed Hill, 1929
For seven timeless hours at a stretch,
I who have lived my best in country places
Look longingly upon the further hills
The hills behind the Gap where Coottha ends.
Yes, beautiful they laze in morning sunlight
A deepest rural blue . . . A wire-fine road,
Two dairy clearings drought-brown with midwinter,
A farm house (a white speck at ten miles' distance) –
These modify the thick-massed trees' dominion,
And in their lofty lonely siege recall
Another way of life and other days
And youth and unclosed possibilities
I am back again
Living a moment in the glad times past,
Melting a moment in the midst of tears;
Only a moment, then perforce recall
Our transience: how even in the country
None realise the happy mean for living.
Life lies not
In cantering quick, crafty ponies bare-back
Along the bush tracks of sun-dappled joy;
Lies not in swimming in deep, crystal creeks.
In city and country alike a boy may dream
And for a few swift careless years enjoy,
But everywhere responsibility comes –
The long upholding of the heavy world –
The wear and tear and tears of sickness, labour,
The painful carrying of the daily cross –
The Way divinely appointed for Redemption.
What calls in the Gap's beauty there, is heaven –
The sheet delight unfixable on earth.
Meantime, having no wings, material or immaterial, I walk
Daily a suburb's slope a little while;
And for the coolness of the creeks in summer,
The quietude of the scrubs, perennial pleasure
Of bird-brisk paddocks, here may I perceive
The variegation of the well-cared gardens.
Here frequent glows the silky oak and frequent
The stubborn wattle man cannot dispossess.
Night shows the miracle of the stars and moon;
The boobooks answer still towards Rosalie.
And, though they lack the grandeur of Flaxton's orchards,
Desired deeply in the past and unachieved,
Two orange trees are lamped with gold-ripe fruit
Attainable in our little home-back-yard
Where every day the kookaburra comes.

                                            Martin Haley

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