States of Poetry Series Two - Victoria | 'Farmer's Wife' by Brendan Ryan

Cracks in the clay, locusts flittering over bleached stalks
old couches in the herringbone, ribbons of bird shit down the walls.

She married into the district, thin as a whisper
a woman who was summoned to the front rows at Mass.

Each day the wind passes, paddocks of rye grass sway.
She smiled through luncheons, gatherings

made the small talk that fertilised a district.
This year’s heifers watching from the shade of a sugar gum.

Like a rumour she slipped round her kitchen
school forms for children, his phone calls after tea.

Hoof prints shadowing a cattle trough
green algae choking the creek.

A hard doer, priests warmed to him talking a district,
a footy club, the cranky bugger who got things done.

Cypress tree shadows, muddy corner cut by the tanker
rusted car bonnets I rode down the mountain with her sons.

Nerves in her family, shadows beneath her eyes.
He bought up land, kept his neighbours at a distance.

Cow shit splattered driveway, sheets of corrugated iron
curling from a pigsty, capeweed encircling a dead calf.

A wife who dressed for his municipal heights, who toasted
his occasions, who stood on the edge of his name in the paper.

A man who couldn’t stop clearing his throat. Their children scattered
like birds that don’t know where to return.

They found her in the shower. The parting statement
of a farmer’s wife echoing round a district.

Brendan Ryan

Brendan Ryan

Brendan Ryan

Brendan Ryan grew up on a dairy farm at Panmure in Victoria. His poetry, reviews, and essays have been published in literary journals and newspapers. He has had poems published in The Best Australian Poems series (Black Inc). His second collection of poetry, A Paddock in his Head, was shortlisted for the 2008 ACT Poetry Prize. His most recent collection of poetry, Travelling Through the Family (Hunter Publishers), was published in 2012 and was shortlisted for the 2014 Victorian Premier’s Awards. He lives in Geelong, where he teaches English at a secondary college.

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