This tale was related to me by an old friend. Apparently it took place in Northern Queensland, but the names have been changed. My wife when she read the poem asked what eventually happened to Bart. My reply was, “No one really seemed to care. Sadly, there have been lots of Sarah’s in this life. To their memories. Sarah won the serious section for written verse at The Australian Bush Poetry Championships at Yarrawonga-Mulwala in 1999.
Head stockman for Ned Price her father worked on Magnet Downs;
a loner and a bushman who’d a phobia of towns.
He loved the isolation of the far north station runs,
while Sarah she played carer to his motherless three sons.
Year in, year out she kept his house, though yearned a female friend;
the long hot nights and lonesome days, they never seemed to end.
For sixteen years she played that role, her childhood passed her by,
instead of girlish laughter Sarah sought somewhere to cry.
Her clothes were men’s fare … shirt and pants … her hands were callused too;
oh how she longed to get away and live like townsfolk do.
She dreamed of dresses, dances and the company of friends,
but morning light would render all her dreams to dreary ends.
A stranger stopped to stay a while for Ned had found him work,
his ways were flash and carefree, while his smile was more a smirk.
He sensed the insecurity that plagued poor Sarah’s life,
then played upon her heartstrings, though his song was penned with strife.
So masterful the melodies, they stole sweet Sarah’s heart,
within the month she’d left with him; this man she called … her Bart.
For near nine months they lived as swells and tasted town delights,
till deep in debt and desperate they fled like frightened kites.
Bart headed for the Bloomfield, where he’d mined for tin before,
and home would be a shanty isolated from the law.
Exhausted and her child near due poor Sarah lived in dread
of life in isolation and the gloom which lay ahead.
She raised her first-born daughter by the Bloomfield’s Upper Arm
and Bart the artful lover … well … he’d lost his luring charm.
He’d fossick for their livelihood, which sometimes paid quite well,
but Bart would go on drunken sprees and leave them in that hell.
So often left with little food, bush tucker was their fare
until her demon reappeared. Complain? She did not dare.
She’d been the subject of his rage on more than one account,
so for her little daughter’s sake, this ploy was paramount.
Her lot was further burdened for within her womb there lay,
the miracle of life once more; a son now on his way.
‘Twas just another mouth to feed … was what filled Sarah’s head,
no sparkle filled this mother’s eyes; salt water welled instead.
Most fathers would be jubilant to have a new born son,
but love was some forsaken thing and Bart had room for none.
He often binged in China Camp for rum had claimed his brain,
while Sarah’s isolation slowly sent the girl insane.
Like feral creatures of the bush her infants roamed at will
and Sarah’s soul just pined away till slowly she grew ill.
‘Twas in the early part of June, the day she turned eighteen,
that drunken creature known as Bart returned upon the scene.
He found the shanty empty and devoid of human form,
the silence … like a deathly calm that comes before the storm.
From constant bingeing on the rum Bart thought his head would burst,
so staggered down towards the creek to quench his fiery thirst.
Then as he cupped its contents, which was cold and crystal clear,
Bart’s face became so ghostly white; his eyes were filled with fear.
For in its depths he saw three forms all pale and void of life;
the family he’d never known … his children and his wife.
He buried them beside its bank, then simply walked away
and where Bart went … well no one cared … not even to this day.
It seems poor Sarah lost her mind and did what she thought best;
she drowned her infants, then herself. She found eternal rest.
An old man just some months ago recalled this tale to me,
I know it made me cry a lot. Did it do that to thee?
And LORD … when it comes time to judge the living and the dead
please think of Sarah and her kids … you saw the life they led.
From the book Laughter and Tears from the Bush