Making Home [poem by John O’Brien]

[Editor: This poem by John O’Brien was published in Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, 1921.]

Making Home

No, you don’t quite get the meaning when the fun is at its height
With the neighbours at the breakfast, and the world is warm and bright;
And it doesn’t come upon you when you’re driving to the train;
What with wrastling with the luggage, you’ve no time to feel the pain,
But it grips you like a footpad, making home,
And you feel the sun will never drive the dark away again,
Making home.

Yes, you go in with the rest to see your married girl away;
There’s a mopy feeling round you, and you’ve nothing much to say;
So you crack a joke to mend things, but you make them worse instead.
Yet the loving words in hundreds are a-running through your head,
Welling from a heart that’s melting, making home,
Interrupted by the stabbing of that wretched thing you said,
Making home.

When the women start a-crying, just to show how glad they feel,
And you rouse upon “herself” a bit to keep the tears to heel,
It’s a lot of silly business, and the whole thing gets you beat;
So before you realize it, you are climbing to the seat
Of your buggy, with the missus, making home,
And the old horse clouts the metal with his heavy awkward feet,
Making home.

You get glimpses through the timber of the lights a-sliding by,
You can see the red reflection palpitating in the sky;
You can hear the easy puffing as she swings into her stride,
And you feel a sort of pigmy in a world that’s cold and wide,
With the wise old stars above you, making home,
While you’ve got a notion someone is a-sobbing by your side,
Making home.

Then the past shows up before you every ghost you thought had fled,
Everything you did unkindly, every peevish word you said;
And the poor old woman, battling with the tears that blind and ache,
She’s been showering love around her all for someone else’s sake,
And it starts your mind a-wondering, making home,
Whether what you’ve been attending was a wedding or a wake,
Making home.

So you pull up at the stable, take the harness off the horse,
Hit your shins against a bucket — well, it does no good, of course.
There’s a gloom around the kitchen where the banquet still is spread,
And the cat upon the rocking-chair is sleeping like the dead,
While the ghosts come leering at you, and you’re home,
And “herself” she lights the candle, and she goes straight off to bed,
When you’re home.

But you don’t feel much like sleeping with the throbbing in your brain,
And your heart is on a journey vagabonding with a train;
So you peel the choking collar off, and get out in the cool,
Where you light your pipe and smoke upon the old verandah stool,
Thinking matters slowly over when you’re home,
Winding back the skein that somehow’s got entangled on the spool,
When you’re home.

Here’s the little home you started when your hopes were all aglow;
Them’s the currajongs you planted five-and-thirty year ago;
This here sixty-acre paddock was the first you called your own;
That there clearing was a forest, with the timber overgrown.
So you start a-recollecting, when you’re home.
Five-and-thirty years have flitted, and you don’t know where they’ve flown,
When you’re home.

Here you’ve been along to-night to see the married girl away,
And you rocked her in her cradle — well, it seems but yesterday;
And “herself” you thought she looked so old, and bent and worn with care —
Five-and-thirty slaving winters pile the snows on heart and hair —
And you find that you’re an old man, making Home;
And the mile-posts on the road have got behind you unaware,
Making Home.

There were joys your heart was craving, but you never gathered them;
Fragrant buds that yearned to blossom, but you hacked them from the stem;
Hearts of children, erring sometimes — ah, but golden through and through,
Beating back to where you led them, big with love of home and you!
Now you see them in the distance, making Home,
Like the three red lights you watched to-night receding from your view,
Making home.

So you sit with eyes wide open, seeing where you’ve been the fool,
Wise with wisdom born of sorrow, smoking, thinking in the cool,
Reckoning him God’s new apostle who is busy being kind,
Hearing angel voices chant it in the music of the Wind —
Chastened, lonely, and so weary; making Home,
Praying God to pardon what you’ve been because your eyes were blind,
Making Home.



Published in:
John O’Brien. Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1921

Editor’s notes:
mopy = to be gloomy or apathetic
wrastling = wrestling

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