Sez She [poem by John O’Brien, 1954]

[Editor: This poem by John O’Brien was published in The Parish of St Mel’s and Other Verses, 1954.]

Sez She

For years herself and Mrs Bain
Had run the parish dance,
So asking them to act again
Seemed just a circumstance;
But, man, the peevish gub of her,
The smart and tart “hubbub” of her,
Spelt trouble in advance.

“Now tell me, Father John,” sez she
With battle in the eye
And over-stressed gentility —
Bad omen, by the by
“When dance or fête’s put on,” sez she,
“How’s it you pick upon,” sez she,
“Poor Mrs Bain and I?

“At every fête, bazaar and ball
We’ve been the volunteers,
Above there in the draughty hall
Right in it to our ears,
A-wrastlin’ with the pots,” sez she,
“As black as Hottentots,” sez she,
For five and twenty years.

“Sandwich-cuttin’, butt’rin’ bread,
A-trapsin’ wet or dry,
Collectin’ weeks and weeks ahead
From every Catholic; why,
As soon’s they spot the book,” sez she,
“They hates the very look,” sez she,
Of Mrs Bain and I.”

“It’s always into debt you are,
And killin’ is the strain.
They talk about you near and far
And all of them complain
And when we gets you out,” sez she,
“You turn around about,” sez she,
“And get in debt again.

“Well, this time we’ll be standin’ down,
Give someone else a show;
There’s that flash crowd just come to town,
Them Hortons there below —
They’ve high and mighty frien’s,” sez she,
“Among the upper ten,” sez she,
“Let that mob have a go.”

The Hortons did. Without a doubt
In fairness I must add,
It was the very best turn-out
The parish ever had.
New blood, new ways, new streamers spread —
It turned the permed romantic head
Of every lass — and lad.

“Now tell me, Father John,” sez she,
With slaughter in the eye
And devastating dignity
As I was passing by,
“The decency’s all gone,” sez she,
“What made you turn upon,” sez she,
“Poor Mrs Bain and I?

“We’ve run the fête, bazaar and ball
For five and twenty years
Above there in the public hall,
And through the jibes and jeers
We always stuck to you,” sez she,
“’Twas us that pulled you through,” sez she,
“But lately it appears

“That we’re not nearly good enough —
A bird of passage comes
With tons of cheek and bounce and bluff
And ‘skirril’ of pipes and drums,
And Old Hands, I declare,” sez she,
“We’re all left sittin’ there,” sez she
“A-twiddlin’ of the thumbs.

“Of course, we know you trim your sails,
We’re proud, to say the least,
To see among the silver-tails
Our pop’lar parish priest
Decked out with knobs and bells,” sez she,
“’Obnobbin’ with the swells,” sez she,
“The chairman at the feast.

“The people here are funny, though,
But mighty straight and just;
They like to give to them they know
And feel that they can trust;
And tell me who and what,” sez she,
“Are this conceited lot,” sez she
“Puffed up and fit to bust?

“Now lookat, Father John,” sez she,
And held me with the eye,
“Your fine new friends some day, you’ll see,
Will leave you high and dry,
And perhaps when they are gone,” sez she,
“You’ll deign to call upon,” sez she,
“Poor Mrs Bain and I:”



Published in:
John O’Brien. The Parish of St Mel’s and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1954

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