One who’d been my friendly Gran
was now mostly barred from me,
accomplishing her hard death
on that strange farm miles away.

My mother was nursing her
so we couldn’t be at home.
Dad had to stay out there, milking,
appearing sometimes, with his people,
all waiting for the past.

Hiding from the grief
this day, I dropped off a verandah
and started walking

barefoot through the paddocks
until the gravel road
gave me my home direction.

Cool dust of evening,
dark moved in from the road edges
and the sky trees, penciling
across the pale ahead.

Bare house lights slowly passed
far out beside me.
No car lights. No petrol.
It was the peak of war

but no one had taught me fear
of ghosts or burnout streaks
from the stars above my walking.

Canter, though, gathered behind
and came level. The rider
pulled me aloft by the wrist
Now where are you off

Back where a priest had just been
cursed out of the morning room,
I was hugged and laughed over
for the miles I’d covered.

Years later, it would come down
to me that Grannie’s death had
been hidden away, as cancer

still was then, a guilt in women.
One man was punched for asking
Did Emily have a growth?

Articles by Les Murray