The Old Bull


On the edge of town
in a paddock summer brown
the old bull stands alone
watching the cars whiz by
with their coats shining, their horns
honking silly tunes, their eyes intense, glaring,
part of a brightly coloured herd roaming
freely to everywhere and anywhere at faster speed
than ever the old bull had.

The old bull drinks at the rusted watertank.
He blinks his bloodshot eyes.
He swishes his tail at the blowflies.
He grunts, snorts, watches a while
the young herd of bullocks
futureless in the paddocks
on the edge of town
near the brick units and the new Rest Home.

Neither happy nor sad
the old bull just being and standing
like a piece of used furniture
old oak ready to whiten in the sun
old oak, old bull
pride of the farm
of the farmer who grew old
who said, I’ll subdivide
the farm on the edge of town
and the old bull and I will stand side by side,
he in his paddock
I in my unit of brick
watching the herd of traffic.

from The Goose Bath (Vintage, 2006), and in Storms Will Tell: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2008), © Janet Frame Literary Trust 2006, 2008, used by permission of The Wylie Agency (UK) Ltd.

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