The Parish of St Mel’s [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.]

The Parish of St Mel’s

Beyond the vague wheel-tortured track
The wandering mailman knows,
Away outback and further back
And still outback it goes.

It’s on the map with boundaries pat —
The sure official touch —
A line that goes from this to that
And connotes shires and such,
And longitude and latitude;
But commonsense and guess,
The rainfall and the roving mood
Have fixed its true address:

The fencer’s camp, the shearing shed,
The furthest trapper’s tent,
Where human souls by fortune led
Dry rot in banishment,
The straggling holdings scattered round,
Drought-scourged, unhelped, decayed,
Where strong brave men selected ground
And braver men have stayed.

The names of all of these you’ll meet,
From babe to patriarch,
Hard written on the census sheet
With dash and question mark.
And many cherished names display
A note recorded there:
“Have left the parish”, “Gone away” —
No inkling why or where.

You’ll meet them scattered through the land,
The young, the keen, the best,
To grasp the chance with open hand
They never got Out West.



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

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