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August 08, 2022

MJD - In memory of Myles Joseph Dunphy

the leather boots
are cracked and dry
hobnails rusting out
yet I half expected
you to arrive and pull them on
for day dawned
crisp, clear, autumnal
the dusty air
cleared by rain

in powerful flight
swans passed overhead
a pulsing arrowhead
cleaving the sky

just the kind of day
you enjoyed striding barelegged
through coastal heathland
brushing by stunted grass trees
and hakea
pack on your back
blackened billy can swinging
in your hand
your practised eye
picking the wallaby trail
holding grade on the rise

and we would have stopped
in a ferny gully
with a creek of sweet water
gurgling through rocks
on its way to the sea
get me some standing sticks lad
you’d say
and soon the smoke
would spiral to the sky

smell of burning gum leaves
wood crackling and flaring
until the billy bubbles and sings.

I see you lay out
bread, tomatoes, cheese
on the battered tin plate
open a can
can’t beat Hamper Brand Corned Beef
you’d say … solid meat

knife
worn to an arc with sharpening
carving out slices

help yourself
and you’d pour tannin-stained tea
into the chipped enamel mugs

this place puts me in mind
of the Kowmung trip in ‘34…

you’d spin us a yarn
to take us through lunch
reeling back the years of your life
to find that lithe young man
swag on back
rifle in hand
looking out over endless blue ranges

then
time to move on
you’d say
and we did
so many times
until you moved on
once and for all.

today I want you
to pull on those boots again
so I can follow
your swinging stride
holding back just far enough
to dodge the whiplash branches
sprung by your passing

I have no heart
to go by myself
into the sunlit spaces
robbed of the rhythmic crunch
of your boots
    your yarns
         your laughter.

By Dexter Dunphy (from Jaguar Heart: Poems, Wellington Lane Press, Neutral Bay, 2003)

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Australian Foundation for Wilderness Limited
ACN 001 112 143
ABN 84 001 112 143
Advocating as 'Wilderness Australia'
Formerly The Colong Foundation for Wilderness Ltd
Registered Office 10/154 Elizabeth Street Sydney NSW 2000
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