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Dead father's voice comes home


Finding a voice — An actor's song
(i.m. Stuart Graham Pearce, killed as a test pilot on 6 August 1976)
For his son Guy upon hearing his father's voice 36 years later.


Suddenly the navigator, bound to his chair,
Produces the promotion,
A testament to the Nomad aeroplane.

Dad: I think it's a very good Short Take Off and Landing aircraft. On our performance work that we've done so far, all the indications are that the aircraft is performing as good as, and in some areas better than the original estimates were. For example, on our short take off and landings we're achieving something like 20 per cent better than the estimates.

Interviewe: What does it handle like in the air?

Dad: I think you could call it a pilot's aeroplane; it's got very light responsive controls, you get a very good view from the aircraft, there's plenty of power available in the engines when you require it.

Interviewer — What were your worst conditions you flew under?

Dad: (smiles) Oh, I think coming up to Canberra were probably the worst. We came through some pretty atrocious thunderstorm weather where the turbulence was fairly severe and we had plenty of rain and hail, but ah, we managed to come out the other end quite unscathed.

It really is, I think, a delightful aircraft to fly even in those conditions.


When now the nomadic voice
____rises from the dust,
____makes beams,
____comes home,
then we know that the spirits
____do not wander for ever

And I hear that voice,
____part of my past,
____gone, but not forgotten,
____part of my changing,
______treble to tenor
________to saxophone,
____part of my growing,
____part of my cadence and pitch,
____part of my singing,
the music of my soul

Pilotless in the flight-path
I made a place, a cockpit,
____to call my own,
I built horizons,

____from desert to city,
____from bush to suburb,
____from Melbourne to New York,
____from Geelong to Los Angeles,
____from reflections to mirrors,
____from memories to mementoes

I built my own horizons,
I gave to the earth,
____planting after planting,
____hoping and hoping
seeds would take.

We know they did
______as we cheered and clapped,
____best for you to go on hoping
for that gives the flowers
________their colour,
________their scent,
________their sunlight,
all for us to relish.

'It is tiring being someone else.'
Empathy is exhausting,
____for now there is completeness.
and love has come home to roost.

'He's a model,'
______says the lady in the bookshop.
'The more he tastes success,
The more humble he becomes.'

You have your voice
all right
and for that, in that,
we all rejoice.

Give praise for the ways
of your days
you have given
by your own choice.

The soliloquy of the soul
____is the hardest to make,
but make it we must.

and the flesh will sweat
____sweet in the doing,
follicle fantasies
____daily uprisings.


(i.m. Jimmy Little)

We all pray for a voice
a voice that is our own
so even the gods can know us
one by one
a voice that speaks and sings
a voice that can listen and be quiet
a voice that joins other voices

the skies are all ears
hear all the songs, the poems, the prayers
the songs that hang in the clouds
and fall season after season
rain on the red earth desert flowering
spring seedtime     summer blossoms
autumn fruits   winter rest

a favoured wind, a gentle spirit
he travels through it all
the chorus listens in wonder and love
in joy and in reverence
that the earth can give up such ripeness

through the red gums and waters of Barmah
throats are filling with sounds
seeded years and years and years ago.

We will hear him again and again
the gentle spirit has bequeathed his voice 

Peter GebhardtPeter Gebhardt is a retired school principal and judge. His most recent book is Black and White Onyx: New and Selected Poems 1988-2011.

Topic tags: new australian poems, Peter Gebhardt



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Existing comments

Peter Gebhardt's poem about Stuart Pearce brought many memories rushing back. Stuart flew to Wagga to inspect my father's cattle-handling equipment based on the 'Frank Say' cattle-crush he had invented. We were very impressed by this test-pilot for the Nomad aircraft and he was so taken with Dad's equipment that there was talk of future possible investments. However 1974 saw the collapse of the Australian beef-industry an, in August, the highest Murrumbidgee flood in 141 years which ruined our factory and home five kilometres east of Wagga. Dad died of a broken heart in the form of a stroke three months later which knocked out his swallowing capacity. After he demanded the tubes be withdrawn he lasted just two days and was dead at 66. Two bishops, fourteen piests and 1100 people overflowing from St Michael's cathedral saw him off. We closed the factory early in 1975, I was appointed principal of Holy Family, Lindfield and my mother and I moved to Chatswood in early 1976. Thirty-six years later, in happy retirement, I am able to, among many other pleasant tasks, read 'Eureka St' Thank you, Peter GERARD SAY http://gerardsay.info

Gerard Say | 10 October 2012  

Loved these 2 Gebhardt poems. He's getting better and better, as his selected poems, Black and White Onyx, shows, including the poems about aboriginal Australia.

john jacobs | 12 October 2012  

I read Gerard Say’s comment about Stuart Pearce traveling to have a look at some cattle handling equipment and I can remember when my father (Bruce Fawcett) traveled with Stuart in his plane to look at some cattle handling equipment, maybe this was that same trip that Gerard is talking about? I’m pretty sure my dad and Stuart each bought the same bit of equipment for both their farms. I grew up on a farm in Yarrawalla, central Victoria and Stuart owned a ‘hobby farm’ just down the road from us so my dad used to take care of their farm when Stuart was back home in Geelong. Stuart used to bring his family up on weekends and I remember Guy taking us for rides on his motorbike and they had a go cart as well. I was only young, about 6 years old but I still remember Stuart taking us up in his plane. Their home on the farm had an in ground swimming pool as well which was pretty special (for a 6 year old). I can remember dad being told of Stuart’s death and one of my brother’s middle name is Stuart in honour of him.

Darren Fawcett | 26 April 2021  

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