Night watch ... dead quiet ... big skies
but they’re not my friendly skies.
I always thought the sky would be the same,
you’d have the same old mates blinking down
and the moon riding high across his great paddock
or doing his rounds of the night camp,
just poking around, small,
not disturbing anything.
Night noises in the desert
remind me somehow of the sounds of home –
the old mopoke down by the dam,
the poddy tied up behind the shed
wanting his breakfast.
The other day a wagtail started up
long before dawn ...
The other day?
God, it must be nearly a year
since I heard that wagtail.
Wish I could hear the little blighter now.
I’d like see those big open skies again
reaching clear out to the horizon,
just one more time.
Watch the storms come up from the west,
real storms not dust storms,
and in the still of night
know I was home.
Rain ... and more rain ... send her down huey!
But just not here in this godforsaken bog.
If I never see another leech it’ll be too soon.
It never stops, the rain,
and the mud never goes away.
You spend your days wishing it would,
hoping there’s a quiet space somewhere
before the drip drip drip gets into your head
and the suck and pull of the mud beneath your boots
sends you crazy mad with jungle fever.
Can’t see the stars
but it’s good to know they’re up there
every night, the cross and the milky way,
a little reminder that you’re still alive,
telling you you’re nearly home mate.
Thinking about home, I get to hearing
kids laughing, dogs barking, the quiet bush at night,
even rain belting down on a corrugated roof.
But this is the jungle, not the bush,
and this rain is not the healing rain of home.
It can be quiet here though, sometimes too quiet.
You strain your ears thinking you hear something,
something you shouldn’t have,
something you’d rather not ...
by then it’s usually too late.
I was closer to home in the desert.
© Judy Bandidt
[A 2nd AIF soldier, posted first to Tobruk and El Alamein, then transferred to fight the Japanese in the jungles of Borneo and Bougainville, wrote in his diary, 'I was closer to home in the desert.' His words, homesick beyond description, full of yearning for the simple sights and sounds, even the silence, of life back on the farm, inspired me to write this poem.]