Sunday, January 15, 2017

Nathanael O'Reilly #3 As He Lies Dying

This is a new draft of a poem I posted on Project 366 in early December. I have restructured the poem, cut a line and a few phrases, plus changed some diction.

As He Lies Dying

In another hemisphere, across half a continent
and an ocean, my grandfather lies dying.
I am unable to hold his hand, kiss his forehead,
share a longneck of Carlton Draught, say

Remember when your bull
almost gored me at Timboon?
I should have listened to you
and stayed on the tractor.

My daughter loves the painting
of the gallah you gave her
last time we visited, before
we had to put you in the home.

The Jerilderie Letter
is pure Irish bush poetry.

I often think about the taste
of the molasses you gave
me from the bucket
in the dairy after milking.

You never told me your favourite
Slim Dusty song. I never cared
that I didn’t catch any fish
when you took me fishing
at Logan’s beach. I just wanted
to watch you cast out beyond
the breaking waves, reel in whiting
after whiting as if they were waiting
for you to bring them home.

I always admired the way
you broke the necks
of the kittens we found
in the hessian sack
beside the rubbish bin
in the beach car park.

You were stoic in your mercy,
quick and pragmatic, silent,
but I saw the tear before
you erased it with the back
of your sun-damaged hand.


  1. It’s great and yet it seems like something’s missing, like it’ s not really finished , at least to my understanding and the way I read the poem! I read it a few times actually, and I don’t see why the “The Jerilderie Letter/is pure Irish bush poetry.” is placed as a fourth stanza, to me it could have been a really nice ending … (sorry if I got it all wrong...)

  2. Beatrice, thanks for your feedback. I thought of the stanzas as a series of comments I would make to my grandfather if I could, so the order is not that important. The part about the Jerilderie Letter might seem random to many readers, but it's important to me in regards to my relationship with me grandfather. I don't think it would be a satisfactory final stanza, but it could be moved ...

  3. I think you should explain to Beatrice about the Jerilderie letters, Nat

  4. I think this is a really important poem to write and for me it all pretty well works except the last stanza is not quite doing the trick ... you need the tear and the sun damaged hand

    but I don't think you need stoic, mercy or pragmatic - or not all of them anyway -- if you can get the reader to work these things out then you have a stronger poem i m o

  5. I quite like that surplus, excess of affect in the last stanza. It provides a contrast with the subtle gesture. I'd keep it intact.