Twin Cylinders [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.]

Twin Cylinders

Some minds are only fake machines
That run on tommyrot:
They sound like eights or V-sixteens
And fire on all they’ve got —
On every dope that comes to hand,
And mostly bally-hoo.
While they who farm the Western land
Can only spark on two
Wheat and wool and interchangeable,
So when she misses on the wheat they always have the wool.

When bored with crowded streets and slums
And all the commonplace,
The tourist from the city comes
To seek the open space:
He longs to sample green delights
In nature’s far retreat;
They drive him round to see the sights
And talk of wool and wheat.
Wool and wheat: they never miss a beat;
And when he’s tired of talking wool, they let him have the wheat.

In humdrum cycles through the years
The pistons lift and drop;
It’s mark and crutch and cull and shear
And sow and strip the crop.
When wool is up the wheat is down
And unredeemable.
The banker’s vital smile or frown
Depends on wheat and wool.
Wheat and wool! So set the throttle full,
And if he drags upon the wheat, then switch him on to wool.

But do not think that debt and woe
Are featured in this song,
That toil is all these good folks know —
That’s altogether wrong.
The race-dance and the Show-time ball
Come round with bliss replete,
They back the damsel round the hall
And talk of wool and wheat.
Wool and wheat! She’s chatty and petite,
And if she doesn’t spark on wool they try her on the wheat.

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

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