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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 10, Number 4, December 2016

Barbara A. Taylor
Mountain Top, New South Wales, Australia

The Lost Ladies

Through a granite archway into the farmyard square: pungency of rain-splashed cattle, fresh manure, barking dogs, and aggressive geese. Milking times were action-packed. I quickly learned how to pull, squeeze an udder, totally immersed in the sound of each squirt as they hit a metal bucket.

flick of a switch
purity spills
through plastic . . .
I find myself

I loved its old stone barns stacked high with straw bales; the smell of chaff in stables, the long double-sided byre, wafts from silo; that worn out tack-house where grain bins and bagged potatoes were kept dry, safe from rodent invaders. School holidays here were happy. I was easily entertained, fascinated by sounds of squealing piglets and flashy cockerels. So much to do! Collecting warm hens’ eggs, my favorite daily chore. Then again, tractor rides with milk crates and herding cattle in early morning Irish mists seemed the most adventuresome.

the robotic squelch
of heavy beasts . . .
bringing them in
I learn the provenance
of our food

The solid Georgian home had large formal rooms—a drawing room, a lounge room, a dining room, six bedrooms, sewing room, several bathrooms, a cobwebbed attic, cozy eat-in kitchen with Aga cooker, and a scullery for laundry work. Buttons and bells were once used to summon servants. Always, a line of muddy boots in the corner, and a much dinged brass coalscuttle, full at the ready. My maiden aunts baked several times a day. Their kitchen oozed comfort food, provided sustenance for each hard day’s labor. The front porch led into a magnificent hallway, high ceilings, chandeliers, and a scroll-patterned wrought iron staircase. Sliding down it, I’d pass tiered framed photographs hanging on the wall: portraits, family gatherings of distinguished people I never knew, perhaps never will. Now, I want to know more. Who was that beside my grandmother? Was she my great grandmother? What were the occasions? Who were they? I fear I’ve left it far too late, can only hope that someday someone somewhere will care.

stormy night
lightning strikes
the spiral staircase
generations in sepia
still keep watch

Editor's Note: The tanka "stormy night" was first published in Eucalypt #17, December 2014.



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