A Bush Christmas – Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis

The sun burns hotly thro’ the gums 

As down the road old Rogan comes 

The hatter from the lonely hut 

Beside the track to Woollybutt. 

He likes to spend his Christmas with us here. 

He says a man gets sort of strange 

Living alone without a change, 

Gets sort of settled in his way; 

And so he comes each Christmas day 

To share a bite of tucker and a beer. 
Dad and the boys have nought to do, 

Except a stray odd job or two. 

Along the fence or in the yard, 

‘It ain’t a day for workin’ hard.’ 

Says Dad. ‘One day a year don’t matter much.’ 

And then dishevelled, hot and red, 

Mum, thro’ the doorway puts her head 

And says, ‘This Christmas cooking, My! 

The sun’s near fit for cooking by.’ 

Upon her word she never did see such. 
Your fault,’ says Dad, ‘you know it is. 

Plum puddin’! on a day like this, 

And roasted turkeys! Spare me days, 

I can’t get over women’s ways. 

In climates such as this the thing’s all wrong. 

A bit of cold corned beef an’ bread 

Would do us very well instead.’ 

Then Rogan said, ‘You’re right; it’s hot. 

It makes a feller drink a lot.’ 

And Dad gets up and says, ‘Well, come along.’ 
The dinner’s served – full bite and sup. 

‘Come on,’ says Mum, ‘Now all sit up.’ 

The meal takes on a festive air; 

And even father eats his share 

And passes up his plate to have some more. 

He laughs and says it’s Christmas time, 

‘That’s cookin’, Mum. The stuffin’s prime.’ 

But Rogan pauses once to praise, 

Then eats as tho’ he’d starved for days. 

And pitches turkey bones outside the door. 
The sun burns hotly thro’ the gums, 

The chirping of the locusts comes 

Across the paddocks, parched and grey. 

‘Whew!’ wheezes Father. ‘What a day!’ 

And sheds his vest. For coats no man had need. 

Then Rogan shoves his plate aside 

And sighs, as sated men have sighed, 

At many boards in many climes 

On many other Christmas times. 

‘By gum!’ he says, ‘That was a slap-up feed!’ 
Then, with his black pipe well alight, 

Old Rogan brings the kids delight 

By telling o’er again his yarns 

Of Christmas tide ‘mid English barns 

When he was, long ago, a farmer’s boy. 

His old eyes glisten as he sees 

Half glimpses of old memories, 

Of whitened fields and winter snows, 

And yuletide logs and mistletoes, 

And all that half-forgotten, hallowed joy. 
The children listen, mouths agape, 

And see a land with no escape 

Fro biting cold and snow and frost 

A land to all earth’s brightness lost, 

A strange and freakish Christmas land to them. 

But Rogan, with his dim old eyes 

Grown far away and strangely wise 

Talks on; and pauses but to ask 

‘Ain’t there a dropp more in that cask?’ 

And father nods; but Mother says ‘Ahem!’ 
The sun slants redly thro’ the gums 

As quietly the evening comes, 

And Rogan gets his old grey mare, 

That matches well his own grey hair, 

And rides away into the setting sun. 

‘Ah, well,’ says Dad. ‘I got to say 

I never spent a lazier day. 

We ought to get that top fence wired.’ 

‘My!’ sighs poor Mum. ‘But I am tired! 

An’ all that washing up still to be done.’