The Bush

The bush theme must have struck a chord with me. Perhaps because I grew up on the outskirts of a small country town, where the rural green of the dairy farms merged seamlesslessly with the bush landscape. Or perhaps because I was culturally conditioned to – after all, the bush has an iconic place in Australian culture and thought. Ironically, perhaps, when you consider that over 68% of us live in the major cities and, indeed, 89% of us live urban lifestyles. Ironically, too, when you think that many Australians feel drawn to moving closer to nature, but at the same time do their very best to make sure it stays more than arm’s distance away. The very thing that beckons them is the thing they are afraid of.

Still, I connect the bush with the hushed hum of insects on a warm summer’s day, the laughter of children splashing in the creek, the humusy scent of the quiet earth in the shady undergrowth, catching freshwater bream in the rain with my grandfather, sitting huddled around a campfire on a chilly night in the hills.

So the bush theme stayed with me, and often was a theme we had to deal with in class. These poems are ones I wrote as homework tasks when I was about 14 or 15, I think. My teacher, a humourless, straight-backed, buxom middle-aged nun who had just started at the school, called me to her when she was handing them back and asked me if I had written them on my own. At the time I was naively and self-indulgently flattered, thinking she’d said that to highlight her praise. Her manner soon put paid to my pride, and when I finally understood that she had actually accused me of cheating and lying, I was devastated. Here is the first.

Invisible Beauty

Silent beauty reaches out
To grasp our hearts with awe,
An untouched world awaits us –
Open the hidden door.

Proud gums in modest splendour
Raise their branches high,
Stretch limbs majestic, slender,
Towards the crystal sky.

Soft winds wander gently
In shadows far below
Or whisper high in tree-tops
Words we’ll never know.

Bell-bird calls ring distant,
Sweet notes; shrill voices clear.
Small creatures scurry swiftly
From hidden places near.

Far-off sounds – gurgling creek;
Kookaburra’s laugh; kangaroo’s feet –

Murmer softly to the trees,
Those stoic silent sentinels
Of secrets kept so well.

Silent sentinel

You can see that I was still very much fond of the challenge of making the words fit my chosen metre and rhyme scheme. Unfortunately I couldn’t make the last stanza match the rhyme scheme before the bridge without shattering the link between the last two lines, which I didn’t want to do. Still, I think it works. Yet, take a look at this one – here I decided to break out of that pattern. NB: “Refuses knowledge/ of his destructive ways” has been changed to “Refuses to acknowledge/ his destructive ways.


Her beauty lies
Still new,
Yet, is from ancient times.
Simple beauty;
Burning desert,
Cool, shady bush,
As yet unmarred
By man’s mad modern ways.
She is still young.
Her mysterious past
Lies shrouded
by mists
of time.
They who shared
Her hidden past,
An equally mysterious people,
Had lived
In harmony with her
For centuries.
Tribes roamed
Her rugged terrain,
Shared her ills,
Drought, flood, hurricane.
The people,
the land.
Mysteries of old.
Man today
Refuses to acknowledge
his destructive ways.
He kills the beauty –
Covers his eyes.
An artificial world.
Concrete pinnacles,
Tar-smothered land.
He will learn –
But too late.


That 15-year-old had romantic and noble sentiments.


© Cate Kimberley and Word and Affect, 2012


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