In Town

A poem by Edward Dyson

Out of work and out of money,out of friends that means, you bet,
Out of firewood, togs and tucker, out of everything but debt,
And I loathe the barren pavements, and the crowds a fellow meets,
And the maddening repetition of the suffocating streets.

With their stinks my soul is tainted, and the tang is on my tongue
Of that sour and smoky suburb and the push we’re thrown among,
And I sicken at the corners polished free of paint and mirk
By the shoulders of the men who’re always hanging round for work.

Home,good Lord! a three-roomed hovel ’twixt a puddle and a drain,
In harmonious connection on the left with Liver Lane,
Where a crippled man is dying, and a horde of children fight,
And a woman in the horrors howls remorsefully at night.

It has stables close behind it, and an ash-heap for a lawn,
And is furnished with the tickets of the things we have in pawn;
And all day the place is haunted by a melancholy crowd
Who beg everything or borrow, and to steal are not too proud.

Through the day come weary women, too, with famine-haunted eyes,
Hawking things that are not wanted,things that no one ever buys.
And I hate the prying neighbours, in their animal content,
And the devilish persistence of the man who wants the rent.

I, who cared for none, and faltered at no work a man might do,
Felt a fierce delight possess me when the trucks went surging through,
When the flood raced in the sluices, or the giant gums swung round
’Fore my axe, and flung their mighty limbs all mangled on the ground,

I who hewed and built and burrowed, and who asked no man to give
When a strong arm was excuse enough for venturing to live,
I am creeping by the gutters, with a simper and a smirk,
To the Fates in spats and toppers for the privilege of work.

Far away the hills are all aflame; the blossom golden fair
Streams up the gladdened ranges, and its scent is everywhere,
And the kiddies of the settlers on the creek are red and sweet,
Whilst my youngsters have the sallowness and savour of the street.

To escape these endless vaults of brick, and pitch a tent out back,
If I get a chance I’ll graft until my very sinews crack.
Meanwhile may all the angels up in Paradise look down
On a man of sin who died not, but was damned and sent to town.

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