David Lewis Paget
The Ring & The Bottle - Poem by David Lewis Paget
They’d sat beneath the sweltering sun
For an hour, or maybe two,
Lost somewhere on the Birdsville Track
They didn’t know what to do.
‘Stay with the car, ’ said Derek Beech,
‘They’ll come and find us soon.’
‘Better we walk, ’ said Colleen Scott,
‘Til we find that last lagoon.’
They glared and bickered, and pursed their lips,
The battlelines were drawn,
He to stay with the crippled car,
She to go wandering on.
‘The temperature’s hitting fifty C
If you go, you won’t survive.’
‘Rather than dehydrate out here,
I want to get out alive! ’
They’d driven through Cooper’s Crossing
As the day was becoming dark,
He had been keen for pushing on
Though she had wanted to park.
The driver had the advantage, so
Their lights cut into the night,
In through the gibber country, where
The tracks crossed, left and right.
They’d entered the Stony Desert when
The first of the tyres blew,
They’d only taken a single spare,
She said, ‘That’s down to you! ’
It took an hour to change it
Trying to jack the car in the sand,
The jack would sink in the bulldust mix
So she had to lend a hand.
By morning they were completely lost
And the radiator boiled,
The lights had flashed all over the dash
And the motor suddenly stalled.
‘I can’t believe that we’re stuck out here, ’
She’d wailed, and punched his arm,
‘Why did I ever listen to you?
I should have stayed on the farm.’
‘Maybe you should, ’ said Derek Beech,
His temper beginning to show,
‘You’re not much good at the outback life,
Go back to your Auntie Flo! ’
‘That’s it, ’ she said, and she pulled the ring
He’d given her days before,
Flung it down in his lap, and watched
It bounce to the desert floor.
She took a bottle of water, then
Stomped off the way that they came,
‘If you get lost you will die out there
With only yourself to blame! ’
She took a short cut back to the track
They’d turned off, hours before,
And gradually drank the water, though
She knew that she needed more.
The endless dry and barren land
Had not seen rain for years,
The track wiped out by the drifting sand,
Colleen was soon in tears,
She stopped beneath a coolibah tree
Surviving on its own,
And rested there in the paltry shade
In the land of the great unknown.
While Derek sat in an agony
Of doubts, to cloud his mind,
Should he have gone along with her,
Or should he have stayed behind?
Some hours had passed before he rose
To place the ring on the car,
Along with a note, ‘I love you, girl,
But I don’t know where you are.’
He started to walk the way she’d gone,
The sun, it was going down,
He knew that hope was a step too far
As he walked along, and frowned,
If only he’d thought to call her name
Snapped out of his mute dismay,
He might have met her along the track,
Coming the other way.
They were only a hundred yards apart
When they passed like ships in the night,
And she had stumbled back to the car
When the sun put gloom to flight,
She found the note and she found the ring
And she placed it back on her hand,
Then sank beside their wreck of a car
And was covered by drifting sand.
While he was found, propped up by the tree
In the glare of the blazing sun,
His final thought of the way they’d fought
That never could be undone.
But love was there in the desert air
As she lay, the ring on her hand,
While he clung on to the bottle, she’d
Flung empty, down on the sand.
15 July 2013
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