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Harlequin country

  • 16 November 2022
 Selected poems  

Harlequin country

Along the tree lined rural highway

past paddocks where canola gleams

so cars stop for golden photographs

past paddocks where sheep graze

then clumps of darker remnant eucalypts

distant hills wear dancing patches of colour.

We drive towards the winding Boorawa River

and the town of Boorawa

a working town in merino country

from early Irish immigrants.

The church conrasts local yellow sandstone with greenstone

and is unlocked even during this Woolfest Day

when thousands of visitors line the main street

of nineteenth century formal buildings

shops and post great war red brick houses.

There are few frills some iron lacework.

Bands pipe down the main street

one orange, one green then community  groups

with troupers in antique uniforms firing loud guns

followed by a flock of sheep and a float with shearers

fast and clean on electric clippers or blade.

A crowd watches kelpie working dogs train.

Lunch is nostalgic Guinness pie with chips.

Hijab wearing women sell sweet cakes at a stall.

Asian stalls offer savory plates.

The town wears patches that richly contrast.



Joy to the town

Early farms that grazed this Yorta Yorta country

drew in the bank and a chemist shop

that sold remedies for people, horses and cattle.

After gold was found nearby

Chiltern surged with shops, houses, official stone

and hotels to look after travellers

between Sydney and Melbourne on the gold road.

A sherry grapevine planted then still grows.

Now many live here but work in nearby large towns

midweek the main street is almost deserted.

This Christmas, coloured knitting brightens the town.

The butcher’s pig wears red and white.

Most poles on main street are clothed

with patterned red, green and white wraps.

At the crib the figures show many colours.

Paul Williamson is an Australian poet. He has published poems in Australia, UK, US, Canada and Japan. His has seven collections including  Edge of Southern Bright (Ginninderra Press, 2017) and A Hint of Eden (Ginninderra Press, 2021).  He contributed to and participated in the release of the Canberra/Nara Twin City tanka poetry volume in Nara, Japan in late 2018.