Possum [poem by C. J. Dennis]

[Editor: This poem by C. J. Dennis was published in Doreen (1917).]

Possum

Jist ’ere it gripped me, on a sudden, like a red-’ot knife.
I wus diggin’ in the garden, talkin’ pleasant to me wife,
When it got me good an’ solid, an’ I fetches out a yell,
An’ curses soft down in me neck, an’ breathes ’ard fer a spell.
Then, when I tries to straighten up, it stabs me ten times worse.
I thinks per’aps I’m dyin’, an’ chokes back a reel ’ot curse.

“I’ve worked too fast,” I tells Doreen. “Me backbone’s runnin’ ’ot.
I’m sick! I’ve got — Oo, ’oly wars! I dunno wot I’ve got!
Jist ’ere — Don’t touch! — jist round back ’ere, a blazin’ little pain.
Is clawin’ up me spinal cord an’ slidin’ down again.”
“You come inside,” she sez. “Per’aps it’s stoopin’ in the sun.
Does it ’urt much?” I sez, “Oh, no; I’m ’avin’ lots o’ fun.”

Then, cooin’ to me, woman-like, she pilots me inside.
It stabs me every step I takes; I thort I would ’a’ died.
“There now,” she sez. “Men can’t stand pain, it’s alwus understood.”
“Stand pain?” I ’owls. Then, Jumpin’ Jakes! It gits me reely good!
So I gets to bed in sections, fer it give me beans to bend,
An’ shuts me eyes, an’ groans again, an’ jist waits fer the end.

“Now, you lie still,” she orders me, “until I think wot’s best.
Per’aps ’ot bran, or poultices. You jist lie still, an’ rest,”
Rest? ’Oly Gosh! I clinched me teeth, an’ clawed the bloomin’ bunk;
Fer a red-’ot poker jabbed me ev’ry time I much as wunk.
I couldn’t corf, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t git me breath.
“Look after Bill,” I tells Doreen. “I feels that . . . this is . . . death.”

“Death, fiddlesticks,” she laughs at me. “You jist turn over now.”
I ’owls, “’Ere! Don’t you touch me, or there’ll be a blazin’ row!
I want to die jist as I am.” She sez, “Now, Bill, ’ave sense.
This ’as to go on while it’s ’ot.” I groans, “I’ve no defence.”
An’ so she ’as ’er way wiv me. An’, tho’ I’m suff’rin’ bad,
I couldn’t ’elp but noticin’ the gentle touch she ’ad.

That ev’nin’, when the doctor come, sez ’e, “Ah! ’Urtin’ much?
Where is the trouble?” I sez, “Where you ain’t allowed to touch!”
’E mauls an’ prods me while I ’owls to beat the bloomin’ band.
Gawbli’me! I’d ’a’ cracked ’im if I’d strength to lift me ’and.
“Discribe yer symtims now,” sez ’e. I fills meself wiv wind,
An’ slung ’im out a catalog while ’e jist stood an’ grinned.

“Ar, bar!” ’e sez. “Sciatiker! Oh, we’ll soon ’ave yeh well.”
“Sciatiker?” sez I. “Yer sure yeh don’t mean Jumpin’ ’Ell?
It ain’t no privit devil wiv a little jagged knife?”
“Tut, tut,” ’e grins. “You’ll soon be right. I leaves yeh to yer wife.”
I looks at ’er, she smiles at me, an’ when I seen that smile:
“Aw, poultices!” I groans. An’ she injoys it all the while!

But I’m marri’d to a woman; an’, I gives yeh my straight tip,
It makes a man feel glad uv it when sickness gits a grip.
’Er looks is full uv tenderness, ’er ways is full uv love,
An’ ’er touch is like a blessin’ as she gently bends above.
’Er speech is firm, but motherin’; ’er manners strict, but mild:
Yer ’er ’usban’, an’ ’er patient, an’ ’er little orphin child.

When yer marri’d to a woman an’ yer feelin’ well an’ right;
When yer frame is full uv ginger an’ yer mouth is full uv skite,
Then yeh tork about the “missus” in an ’orf’and sort uv way;
She’s ’andy in the ’ouse if she don’t ’ave too much to say.
But when Ole Man Sciatiker, ’e does yeh up reel neat,
Then she’s yer own reel mate, she is, an’ all yer ’ands an’ feet.

An’ so Doreen, she nurses me while I lie there an’ grouch;
Fer I’m snarky when I tumble that it ain’t me dyin’ couch.
I barks at ’er, an’ snarls at ’er, an’ orders ’er about,
An’ nearly wears the feet orf ’er wiv trottin’ in an’ out.
An’ while Ole Man Sciatiker, ’e ’as me in ’is sway
Doreen, she jist gives in to me — an’ alwus gits ’er way.

Three solid days I ’as uv it, an’ then the pain lets out.
I’m feelin’ fit fer graft again, an’ wants to git about.
It’s then she lets me see ’er ’and, an’ orders, “You stay there
Until yeh gits yer ’ealth an’ strength to sit up in a chair.”
“But there’s that stove-wood,” I begins. Sez she, “Now, don’t you fret.
I’m very sparin’ wiv it, an’ there’s tons an’ tons there yet.”

Tell yeh straight; I got to like it. It’s a crook thing to confess,
But to ’ave ’er fussin’ round me give me chunks uv ’appiness.
So I gits out in the garden wiv an arm-chair an’ a rug,
An’ I comes the floppin’ invaleed, an’ makes meself reel snug.
I droops me eyes an’ ’angs me ’ands, an’ looks dead crook an’ ill;
An’ wriggles ev’ry time she sez, “Wot would yeh like now, Bill?”

An’ then, one day, I ’ears the axe down there be’ind the ’ouse;
An’ I sees meself a loafer, an’ me conscience starts to rouse.
I ’eaves me frame out uv the chair, an’ wanders down the yard.
She’s beltin’ at a knotty log, an’ beltin’ good an’ ’ard.
I grabs the axe. “Give up,” I sez. “I ain’t no shattered wreck.
This ’ere’s my job.” An’ then, Gawstruth! I gits it in the neck!

“Am I yer wife?” she asks me straight. “Why can’t yeh trust me, Bill?
Am I not fit to see to things when you are weak an’ ill?”
I tries to say I’m possumin’, an’ reely well an’ strong;
But ev’ry time I starts to tork she’s got me in the wrong.
“Yeh can’t deceive me, Bill,” she sez. “Yer ’ealth is fur frum good.
Yeh jist can’t trust yer wife to chop a little bit uv wood!

“Yeh got to come out in the cold,” she sez, “wivout yer wraps.
An’ now I’ll ’ave yeh on me ’ands fer days wiv a relapse!”
“I been pretending,” I ixplains. She sez, “Am I yer wife?
Yet sooner than yeh’d trust to me yeh go an’ risk yer life.”
Well, I’m marri’d to a woman, an’ — it might seem sort uv meek —
I goes back into bed again . . . an’ ’ates it . . . fer a week!

THE END.



Source:
C. J. Dennis, Doreen, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1917, pages 18-24

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