The long, hot, dull day is nigh over,
And cut like the blade of a sword;
A red bar of sunshine is hanging
High on the white wall of the ward.
The woman from Mitchell’s is dozing,
The nurses have gone to their tea,
And Granny’s asleep in her corner –
The ward is for Alice and me.
We lean by the window together,
And watch the gaunt, grey shadows push
Long arms reaching east to the dead-house,
And south to the roll of the bush.
“Years ago – three last September –
They carried me here in the spring;
They said I should go ere the summer” –
She touches the band of my ring;
“I shall never wear one on my finger –
Not that it will matter for much!”
But she turns her bright head to the sundown,
And leans on the arm of her crutch.
So I talk of old days on the ranges,
And show her the snow-saddled peak
I climbed in a long-faded summer,
Till brightness comes back to her cheek;
And she laughs with an easy forgetting –
A light nature deepened by pain!
And slowly the last of the sunshine
Dies out on the bush-broken plain.
Will they carry her east to the dead-house
In the grey of some rain-ridden dawn?
And for some is it life to be buried?
And for some is it death to be born?
The sunset is red on her tresses,
That glitter like bubbles on wine,
As the wind blows them in from the window
Against the dull sable of mine.
And even out there in the dead-house –
As light draweth light to its fold –
I know a stray sunbeam would find them,
And nestle there – gold to the gold!
‘The Incurable,’ Bulletin 29 Nov 1902: 3. Lola. ML.
See also Verses 1905: 19-20.