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The Old Man from Malkala

Mike Walsh Avatar  Send Soup Mail  Block poet from commenting on your poetry

Below is the poem entitled The Old Man from Malkala which was written by poet Mike Walsh. Please feel free to comment on this poem. However, please remember, PoetrySoup is a place of encouragement and growth.

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The Old Man from Malkala

The old man died one October, 
in the humid build up time before the wet.
We went along to say goodbye, 
me, JD, Zoe, Fitah 
and the Mine Manager of the day.
We kept our work rig on 
to be respectful. 
He worked with us for a long time.
Sometimes you couldn't find him. 
He was out doing the things 
that saltwater bushmen do.
We used to try to frighten him 
with rubber snakes.
He would play the part, terrified.
You might run into him in the town 
on the mainland sometimes at R & R. 
Always lots of girls around him. 
Perhaps a beer, a little ceremony  
with a respected elder from Homeland.
When we arrived 
we were shown a place to sit. 
Someone brought us water. 
Blues music played out across the settlement.

Zoe went to the women and the crying.
We sat in the stringy bark shade 
and talked about the time when 
the big greenback turtle sank the old man's dinghy, 
the times how he would recount, 
how his eyes would grow rounder in the telling.

His accidental gentle humour.

Invited, we all went over to his house, 
with a big colourful mat outside his front door, 
with men, women and kids all around on the ground.
Then his front door opened. 
He came out in his coffin, 
carried by six young men. 
The bush went silent and nothing moved, 
only them.
They went to place him on the mat, 
but just before he touched the air was split. 
A wrenching grief song went up around us.
The young men took him back inside his house 
and this continued several times, 
each of us realising;
We did not want to let him go. 
This part was done and we went to sit again 
to watch his coffin lifted into the back of a truck.
Pausing every short while, 
two young women went ahead. 
They lit little fires of dry gum leaves beside the track 
and the truck waited at each tiny pyre 
until the smoke had faded.

The cortège moved along with purpose; 
We understood the measured pace. 
Then he was clear of his old home.
A solemn slow march proceeded 
by foot and vehicle through the bush 
to the Sacred Place.
In the smoky twilight 
they gently lowered him 
and they sang him 
into the sand hills above his beloved beach.

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  1. Date: 1/5/2014 9:17:00 PM
    Hi Mike, .... CONGRATULATIONS:) on having your poem featured on the soups HOME PAGE. A nice way in starting the year:)- Goodnight poet friend <3 =LINDA

    A   Avatar Poet Destroyer A
    Date: 1/6/2014 10:58:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Hi Mike, congratulations, and thank you for sharing the story... I see why it won...xox...Linda
    Walsh Avatar Mike Walsh
    Date: 1/6/2014 10:33:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Hey thanks Linda, don't get here often enough these days. This one won $200 in the Annual Margaret Reid Poetry Competition a few years back. And the dear "Old Man" owed me $50 when he sadly passed away....But I reckon he payed me back in spades. Saltwater Bushmen have awesome powers...smiles. Great to see you..Happy New Year. Mike
  1. Date: 9/23/2013 7:44:00 AM
    A well-written ,touching and vivid piece, Mike.

    Walsh Avatar Mike Walsh
    Date: 9/23/2013 8:44:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    So we experience.....and then we write...thanks N....M
  1. Date: 10/14/2012 10:58:00 AM
    Mike - read all of your posted poems today, a pleasurable feast indeed. Thanks for sharing your incredible talent, John

    Walsh Avatar Mike Walsh
    Date: 4/17/2013 5:15:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Thanks John. You are very kind. Don't visit often...I'll see what happens Cheers ...Mike
  1. Date: 6/25/2012 6:43:00 PM
    A gently worded tribute... the conversational nature of the piece puts this reader at the ceremony. I feel both the grief and the joy inherent in the celebration of life, death and beyond. Rich imagery... a magnificent poem. Best wishes, Keith

    Walsh Avatar Mike Walsh
    Date: 4/17/2013 5:14:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Been away for a while. Thanks Keith...M