The theme this week for the JVG Radio Method is “JOE“. Given what is happening up the bush this week, the fires and the aftermath of the fire, it made for an interesting poem.

By the way there is a benefit concert at the Lomond on the 22nd on February, I will be one of the people donating their time and songs to help raise some money for the people affected by the fires.

Click here for today’s poem [audio:JVG_Poem20090215.mp3]

Ed Bates is on slide today.


“You sure you’re nineteen?” the foreman quipped as he plucked me out of the crowd
I grunted in the affirmative as deep as my sixteen years allowed

The sixth of seven to be chosen that day, from a gathering of fifty or so
For a day’s work unloading freight trains – the seventh was “Peppermint” Joe

We did what was asked, bum’s up, head’s down, as good as full timers we reckoned
The next day we fronted at 6am the foreman took us first and second

It wasn’t that much of a compliment when you saw the old drunkards we beat
Days turned to weeks and weeks into months working A shed at Spencer Street

“Peppermint” Joe wasn’t much of a talker – but when he spoke he meant every word
Somewhere upward of forty, wiry and fit, dogged – not easily deterred

His nickname a legacy of his army days – Townsville, where he did a stint
From the moment he woke till his head hit the pillow he’d be sucking a Triple X Mint

One Friday we were sent to the Dynon Road sheds and left to unload on our own
Eight hundred cases of Metaxa Brandy – like two dogs put in charge of a bone

A couple of bottles had smashed in transit and the contents formed a pool on the floor
“Peppermint” reasoned if two had been broken they wouldn’t be missing one more

Lunchtime we dined at the rear of the shed on brandy and salt and vinegar chips
Joe seemed delighted with such a fine repast and the spirit loosened his lips

“My parents” he said “Were gold prospectors but their take barely covered the bills”
“When I came along they moved to East Gippsland where dad found work in the mills”

“I was about to start school in 39 when the fires raced through our town”
“I remember the fear on my mother’s face – but mostly I remember the sound”

“That sound still wakes me all these years on, like nothing I’ve heard ever since”
Joe picked up the bottle and took one last swig and went back to chewing his mints

That’s the last I saw of “Peppermint” Joe – that brandy proved my last load
I went in search of a middle class job and he went back on the road

There are thousands of people whose paths you cross then forget once you go separate ways
After years lost to memory, Joe come back to mind with the heartbreak of recent days

Television deadens as well as informs with it’s diet of tragedy
The starving, we evict by remote control so as not to ruin our tea

We’ve become immune to the endless plagues, earthquakes famine and war
But this time disaster has made us the news and it’s way to close to ignore

I looked north from the top of Red Bluff Cliffs and watched smoke and clouds intertwine
The same wind so mercilessly driving the flames was drying my clothes on the line

I can’t comprehend the horrors they faced and their pain is not mine to bear
We can never erase their memories and loss but at least we can show them we care

Lives lost, lives shattered, irreversibly changed, in a heart beat, none can rescind
There stands you – and there stands I – at the whim of a fickle wind

© Copyright 2009 Ian Bland

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