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from the editor's desk

Randolph Stow

From our Archive: Randolph Stow

In remembrance of legendary Western Australian and Geraldton-born poet, Randolph Stow, we have gone back into our archives to share with readers three of his pieces: ‘Merry-Go-Round’ and ‘Country & Western’ from Westerly 55.2, and Midnite Songs: Three ‘New’ Poems from Westerly 57.1.

These poems are just a sample of what we’ll be releasing as part of the State Library of Western Australia’s new “Read This and Be Smarter” programme. Westerly will be bringing you quality fiction and poetry every week, so stay tuned to Westerly and to SLWA’s Facebook and Twitter.


‘Merry-GoRound’

This is the playground circumnavigation:
The leap in space and safe return to land,
Past sea and hills, boats, trees, familiar buildings,
Back to the port of one assisting hand.

Adventurers learn here; but do not venture
Yet from their circular continuous sweep
From start to start. Where going is home-turning
Nothing is lost, what’s won is all to keep.

The gulls stoop down, the big toy jerks and flies;
And time is tethered where its centre lies.

© The Estate of Randolph Stow 2010


‘Country & Western’

In the laundromat
Of Aztec, New Mexico
The cowboys launder
Their bow-legged jeans.

In the supermarket
Of Aztec, New Mexico
The Navajo ladies
Trolley their beans.

Their skirts are vast,
Their bobbysocks tiny;
On leather jerkins
Old coins are sewn.

In the Christmas air
Of Aztec, New Mexico
Drifts the spiced smoke
Of sweet piñon.

Gone with the snows on
The La Plata Mountains,
Gone with the wind
My tumbleweed years;

And cottonwood leaves
On the freezing river
Are arrows to springtime,
Foretaste of tears.

Christmas 2005
remembering
Christmas 1964

© The Estate of Randolph Stow 2010


‘Midnite Songs’

For Bill & Janet
the first to try out the story on children

Miss Laura Wellborn’s Song

If I were a Countess
I’d sit in a chair—
which, because of my bustle,
would be a bergère—
and embroider a cushion
and daydream and sing,
and ring for a footman
if I drop anything.

for strawberry-leaves go
with strawberries and cream:

and a ghastly old Earl
is but part of the scheme.

But as I am only
A grazier’s daughter
I’ll sit on a stool with
My lovage and water
And smile at young squatters
With hats two feet wide
And faces the colour
Of crocodile hide:

Knowing strawberry-leaves go
with strawberries and cream;
but a pastoralist’s daughter
has no time for dream.

Mrs Chiffle’s Song

Pumpkin scones and quandong tarts
wake a joy in housewives’ hearts.
Cape gooseberry jam and loquat pies
light the starts in ladies’ eyes.
When the jamwood blazes bright,
to bake, to bake is dames’ delight.

Umpteen leagues plus half a mile
lies the land called Quandong Isle.
There the gaudy pumpkin blows,
vanilla flower enchants the nose,
a hint of cloves is on the breeze
that haunts the glacé cherry trees.

Pumpkin scones and quandong tarts
wake a joy in housewives’ hearts.

In the gardens walled with marzipan
see the melons half the size of man.
Through groves of ginger-plant you stray:
hundreds-and-thousands pave your way.
The music of the bee-loud glade
in falls and founts of orangeade.

Cape gooseberry jam and loquat pies
light the starts in ladies’ eyes.

Here is a cot for thee and me,
Nestled beneath a nutmeg tree.
Its bricks are lamingtons, its tiles
are blade of mace in faultless files;
around the windows of each room
twice candied violets in full bloom.

When the jamwood blazes bright,
to bake, to bake is dames’ delight.

Trooper O’Grady’s Song

A boot-faced wife sat on the quay
fishing like mad for kedgeree.

She fished and fished from dawn till night
but never had a single bite.

The more she fished, the more she sat,
The more she wished she’d worn her hat.

She fished for fifty-eleven years.
For bait she used goannas’ ears.

There’s nothing, as you may have guessed,
That kedgeree so much detest.

When I am tired and sick of life,
I think about that boot-faced wife.

The more I think, the worse I seem.
Some people make me want to scream.


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