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Cattle escaped and ate all the cabbages

PICTURE: Jan Dean (left) and the roses image (right) that accompanied the poem as printed in FemAsia Magazine, 2019

Ashes of Roses
by Jan Dean
Not a hop, step and jump, but a stumble
from the gravel road, when a stubbed toe
leads the way to a giant leap
since the house was on the low side of the street
approached by descending steps, flanked
by rose bushes in terraces. Too busy
back in the 1960s, I wouldn’t contemplate
such a feat, but in retrospect, imagine
I could have taken flight, a magic carpet ride
minus carpet, skirting our tiny house
tinier outhouse, quarter acre block
unfinished back fence, track, scrub
and wound up in Winding Creek
or if luck held, I’d float further
to the slopes of Munibung Hill
where a farmer kept cattle that escaped
one night and ate all the cabbages
they didn’t trample, just when our patch
was at its peak for harvest.
As this is conjecture, I should chastise
the cows for disturbing
our agricultural endeavours.
The suburb was semi-rural
and we toyed with self-sufficiency
before we knew its meaning.
The two-bedroom doll’s house, quaint
despite rose-covered carpet and chintz curtains
not my taste, but too expensive
for newly-weds to replace, lulled us
into thinking we were there for it
for we were childless and had so much to learn.
Earlier on the enchanted ride I may have noticed
one for whom we’d searched in vain
our Pekinese pup, Tiki
with her sad, almost-human face
under the grapevine
and intervened
in time to save her from the tick.

Published in FemAsia Magazine – Embrace your uniqueness / Asian Women’s Journal – 25 April 2019.

About Jan Dean

Jan Dean’s poems have been published in Best Australian Poetry and The Best Australian Poems and have won various prizes in local and national competitions. She taught Visual Arts for 35 years and, having retired from teaching, now focuses on ‘playing with art forms through writing’. She lives in Cardiff, NSW, and is currently Vice President of the Hunter Region Fellowship of Australian Writers.  Jan Dean is published in Shuffle (Spineless Wonders) as 2019 Hunter category winner of the Joanne burns Award. The forthcoming collection is Intermittent Angels (Girls on KeyPress). Current poems appear in Verity La and Not Very Quiet. Poetry credits include three Newcastle Poetry Prize anthologies.

MMM … Issue 39, August – September 2023