One morning he focused his sight on a range
where a column of smoke caught his eye.
The scrub was alight and engulfing the trees
and the wild winds forced flames t’wards the sky.
The old man sought shelter away from its wrath
in the bowels of a cave and gave prayer.
Though thick choking smoke and the blistering heat
had him gasping and choking for air.
The danger now gone he walked out from the cave
and the vision he met at its mouth
was one of stark contrast, the landscape lay bare,
and the fire front raced further south.
The old man now ragged and wilting in strength
knew the fire had dealt him a blow,
but urged his grey down the steep slope of the ridge
where the ironbarks grew down below.
His pathway lay blocked by a large fallen limb
and beneath it there laid a charred frame,
not human in structure, but that of a horse,
though it caused him to stop all the same.
The singed hide was chestnut and that of a mare.
Yes, the quarry he’d sought for so long.
Then anger gave way and tears welled in his eyes
and a magpie burst forth into song.
For lying beside her obscured by her frame,
lay the bones of his daughter’s lost son.
The old iron bark recompensed him that day,
but the old man sensed no one had won.
He laid the boy’s bones in the packsaddle bags
and the horse showed approval and neighed.
And a calm inner peace now pervaded the man;
he’d fulfilled both the vows he had made.
It has always been in the back of my mind to write a sequel to Banjo Paterson’s poem
Lost. I have always felt that the old man would never have any peace of mind until he
found the boy’s bones and lay them to rest next to his mother. The sequence of events
which led up to fulfilling the vow evolved as I wrote the poem. I hope it does something