Mutton Bird Man

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‘Come girlies and fellas, as quick as you can
this mutton bird oil will give you a shine,
a real humdinger — see the bird on front?
Here’s a free try for the first in line.’
At his post on Main Beach, the sun spat on his tan,
treacle and boot polish rubbed into wood —
Mahogany Man in a white tennis hat.

‘There’s a brave girlie, now just stand still
while I rub it down here and over the hill!
See her skin glisten? She’ll be brown as a bun,’
said the prancing old spruiker, his calves like hams,
as his muscles in motion played darts with the sun.

‘It’s a Surfer’s Paradise, but hell for the girl
with flesh like white pudding; come give it a whirl.
For ten shillings and sixpence you’ll shine like silk,
you’ll be sweet and brown as a rum and milk.’

I wonder what happened to the Mutton Bird Man
who smacked birds on the head with a great big stick?
In the gloom of the evening on the Mutton Bird isle
those birds would gather without much style
with their stumpy wings and fatty breasts
digging burrows on the sandhills’ crests …

Sleep little birdies, I’m sure he’s gone
to that Great Big Beach where justice is done,
stumping the dunes on his withered pegs,
surrounded by ‘girlies’ no longer fresh,
their skin like the frills on overfried eggs.

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