We were stopped in traffic when I saw them.
They were so still I believed they were stone;
a dozen or more, solid, cornered by that thick, white mist,
carefully arranged, waiting without moving,
heads down, eyes down, silent, gazing at the ground.
Carefully carved and placed, just so, for me,
that difficult morning in the mist.
We inched forward, rigidly staring,
with gritted teeth, grasping, tail lights glowing.
I looked again, still they were there, unchanged, uninterested.
At last, we moved. I looked back. To…what? For…what?
And saw nothing.
They’d gone, taken by mist and quiet.
That Old Dog We Met
was a farm dog, we heard,
his Boss now dead, the farm sold, his new life here in town.
That old dog we met saw through us to his other world –
far horizons, pastures unfolding, hills rolling,
muscles taut, heart revving fast, nerves a-twang,
running the herd wherever directed –
‘Run ‘em hard, Blue, keep ‘em in line, bring ‘em here, take ‘em there’
That old dog we met heard only his Boss,
kept to himself while we talked town talk,
stayed dignified, within himself.
He’d been the big wheel, they said, on the farm,
always the first to the work, a diamond among dogs.
He knew the calls, the tricks, the shape of the day,
which paddock, which season, which ewe to watch for,
the big and small, he knew it all.
That old dog we met was the king in his world, feared among sheep,
avoided by chooks, respected by pigs and bulls and neighbours –
‘Got a good one, there, Harry, a reg’lar king’. And he was.
That old dog we met paid us no heed – for what did we know of
skies and light and clouds and fences never ending?
What did we know of driving the herd,
the long day’s work – just him and the Boss –
the glad day’s end, the quick command and onto the tray,
and driving home, the wind in his ears, balanced,
barking his song to the world, the wind on his tongue,
riding like a king should ride, feeling like a king should feel?
‘C’mon, Blue’, they said, and tugged his lead and that old dog padded on.
But he was not with them and not with us.
David Lander lives and works in Hobart, Tasmania. During the 1980’s his poetry appeared in The Australian, Poetry Australia, Tirra Lirra, Peninsula Writing and Overland, Otolith, Elephant, Bluepepper, Blue Nib, Literary Heist, Black Renaissance Noire and Wagon. His articles and reviews have appeared in Theatre Quarterly, Centre Stage and State of the Arts; journalism has appeared in The Age and the Herald Sun, and a personal column, ‘David Lander’s Smalls’, in The Age. His re-tellings of folk tales were published by Nelson, 1989. In 2012, David received the degree of Master of Contemporary Arts (Theatre) from the University of Tasmania. Along with poetry, he is working on a theatre script about cronyism in a small island State.