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Ruined Cottages

Cottage - Macedon

after the painting by Frederick McCUBBIN (undated)

This was the pile of stones you used to see

but rarely now. A chimney; a wild pear

seeded from the original; a free

flowering briar tangling here and there

from the one she planted by the window

waiting for spring to come in. Now winters

have their way and flakes of porcelain show

up after rain - all that remains of her

fine English tea-set, incomplete. But it

marked a civility she clung to

then, in the slab-built hut, he only meant

to be temporary. First and last made do.

How often she saw thin blue chimney smoke

trail into trees, her endless hours of work.

Jeff Guess


near Parachilna, Flinders Ranges

Salt bush carpets the front room

and at night only the wind's tongue

in the crumbling chimney.

The woman who polished the step

and swept the yard is buried

unmarked where her broom stopped.

Her husband drank himself blind years ago

on drought, heat, and flies.

Only she remained and kept up the ritual

of keeping things at bay.

Turned her back on the futility of the ranges

that blew up dark clouds each afternoon

with the delusion of rain

that sank in her heart with dust.

Jeff Guess

©Jeff Guess 2017

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