Sister Ann

A poem by Edward Dyson

I'm lyin' in a narrow bed,
'N' starin' at a wall.
Where all is white my plastered head
Is whitest of it all.
My life is jist a whitewashed blank,
With flamin' spurts of pain.
I dunno who I've got to thank,
I've p'raps been trod on by a tank,
Or caught out in the rain
When skies were peltin' fish-plates, bricks 'n' lengths of bullock-chain.

I'm lyin' here, a sulky swine,
'N' hatin' of the bloke
Who's in the doss right next to mine
With 'arf his girders broke.
He never done no 'arm t me,
'N' he's pertickler ill;
But I have got him snouted, see,
'N' all old earth beside but she
Come with the chemist's swill,
'N' puts a kind, soft 'and on mine, 'n' all my nark is still.

She ain't a beaut, she's thirty two,
She scales eleven stone;
But, 'struth, I didn't think it true
There was such women grown!
She's nurse 'n' sister, mum 'n' dad,
'N' all that straight 'n' fine
In every girl I ever had.
When Gabr'el comes, 'n' all the glad
Young saints are tipped the sign,
You'll see this donah take her place, first angel in the line!

She's sweet 'n' cool, her touch is dew,
Wet lilies on yer brow.
(Jist 'ark et me what never knew
Of lilies up to now).
She fits your case in 'arf a wink,
'N' knows how, why, 'n' where.
If you are five days gone in drink,
N' hoverin' on perdition's brink,
It is her brother there.
God how pain will take a man, and He has spoke with her!

I dunno if she ever sleeps
Ten minutes at a stretch.
A dozen times a night she creeps
To soothe a screamin' wretch
Who has a tiger-headed Hun
A-gnawin' at his chest.
'N' when the long, 'ard flght is won,
'N' he is still 'n' nearly done,
She smiles down on his rest,
'N' minds me of a mother with a baby at her breast.

The curly kid we cuddled when
There was no splendid row
(It seemed a little matter then,
But feels so wondrous now).
It's part of her. She's Joan iv Ark,
Flo Nightingale, all fair
'N' dinkum dames who've made their mark
If she comes tip-toe in the dark,
We blighters feel her there.
The whole pack perks up like a bird, 'n' sorter takes the air.

She chats you in a 'Ighland botch;
But if our Sis saw fit
To pitch Hindoo instead of Scotch
I'd get the hang of it,
Because her heart it is that talks
What now is plain to me.
At war where bloody murder stalks,
'N' Nick his hottest samples hawks.
I have been given to see
What simple human kindness is, what brotherhood may be.

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