Poem on Hi Spirits blogsite
In October (2008) Andrew Burke asked several fellow Western Australian poets, including Andrew Lansdown, to provide a poem-with-comments for his blogsite, Hi Spirits (http://hispirits.blogspot.com/). Andrew L sent Andrew B the poem “Finishing Up”, which Andrew B (confusing, isn’t it!) posted on 22 September 2008. The poem and brief explanatory comments are posted below:
Nightfall … and I am still here
in the school at the prison farm.
My children will be at the table, filling
their mouths with food and chatter.
And the littlest one will be asking
her mother, “Where is Daddy?”
I am where my resignation
has led me. My roguish students
are in the compound, locked up
for the night. Except for the sentries
the guards are gone. I am alone,
finishing up. Did I miss someone
when I said goodbye? Does it matter?
We have been good to one another,
these bad men and I. I try not
to think I will never see them again.
I am alone. I look out the window.
The forest is in silhouette.
On the lawn, almost dissolved
in the dusk, a young kangaroo
hunches on its haunches to graze.
It was not there a moment ago and
in a moment when I open the door
it will not be there again.
Although “Finishing Up” was published for the first time in Quadrant magazine in March this year , it is a poem that I began writing in 1987. At the time, I didn’t feel the poem was good enough to publish and I couldn’t work out how to make it good enough. However, I did feel it had “something” and so I kept it in a file with other “almost” poems. I came back to it last year  and substantially revised it into its present form. And I am pleased with it now.
The gist of the poem is clear from the text of the poem. But a few specific details may be of interest. I was at the time the education officer-in-charge of the education centre at Barton’s Mill Prison Farm. The farm held minimum security male prisoners and was located near Pickering Brook in Western Australia. I had been granted leave without pay for a year in order to write a book on the Swan waterways with the painter Donald Green. The poem picks up on my mood as I stayed late to pack up my things on the last day at the prison.
© Andrew Lansdown