after the painting by Russell Drysdale
Last night I dreamt I was a bairn again
back home in a Perthshire garden,
mouth open to catch snowflakes.
I woke before I could taste them.
It was dawn and already the sun
was torching the trees. I lifted the sack
and looked out; no green shoots cracking
the parched earth, just red desert,
his bike propped on the gum tree,
my washing line – trousers, short pants,
grey nappies. In the distance blue hills.
My man planted firm as a pitchfork,
all skin and bone, right hand
in trouser pocket, nonchalant.
At his side the wee laddie.
Now I sit, legs apart, on the kerosene can,
behind me the lassie, legs astride, barefoot
next to the water-butt.
My hands, big and brown now,
cradle the baby. There is nothing
to feed us here if the rains don’t come;
all we have are a hut, a patch of earth,
and this bonny bairn
newly lifted from the water bowl.