Once upon a time in Australia

by John Boland

(for Helen)

There was nothing strange
about that overnight stop
in Singleton, New South Wales,

a wagon-train ride from Sydney,
where you and Warren welcomed
two pilgrims from the far country,

except it was a one-horse town
no-one had heard of, and except,
after a night of drenching rain,

the street was parched as Laramie,
and except on the hotel’s frame balcony,
where gunfighters should have slouched,

waiting for a man to step off a train,
backpackers drowsed in the faint sun
of a new morning, and except, of course,

we were a long, long way from home
and, somewhere in that stolen moment,
all too aware that you were even longer.

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