When Sally gave me my latest word prompts, I wrote a very silly poem about ‘ox’ rhyming with ‘fox’ and ‘box’ but how you can’t rhyme ‘oxen’ with ‘foxen’ or ‘boxen’ — but then I put that poem aside. Because the one I’m posting below was brewing, and I liked the idea of it more (even though it wasn’t written yet!). ‘Ox’ had reminded me about Judith Wright’s poem ‘Bullocky’. I’d first read that years ago, at highschool, and really loved it. So then I decided to write something from a bullock’s point of view.
This team of oxen,
under relentless Australian sun
we pull —
leaders at the front, polers at the back, near the wagon.
Two by two we move
by dry creek beds,
two by two
along dusty tracks
and the bullockies crack their whips.
The bullockies shout curses
because of the flies, or the ridged track
worn too far one way or the other —
mustn’t tip the wagon-load of wool and wheat,
At night the bullockies
squat by flickering firelight, under starred skies
and leave us to find feed,
leave us to drift, to dream.
What are a bullock’s dreams?
I dream of green grasses,
and freedom —
walking without another shoulder yoked to mine.
(Rebecca Newman, 2014. All rights reserved.)