The time had come to scatter my father's ashes. Murray West was my father's name. He was a horse trainer before he died, a well known and much liked one before he became ill. He died a year ago, and Sunday was just after his birthday and the one year anniversary of his death. I met with my mum on the day and we caught up with me brother Greg at the back track at Globe Derby Park, the main harness racing track in South Australia.
The plan was to scatter Dad's ashes at the finish line on the main track. My older brother Jeff, who died nearly 18 years ago has his memorial stone at the finish line in the rose garden just across from the finish line. Jeff had been my father's horse driver, driving many horses to victory.
So we gathered together and did the deed. I knew I was going to write a poem in honour of this occasion, and I was thinking about the theme of my weekly writing group. The theme was 'Recovery'.
I was busy for the rest of the day, but my subconscious kept turning over what we'd done, and the writing theme. I began writing the poem on Tuesday, I had a first draft. I wasn't ready to let anyone else see the poem at that stage.
Then I decided I would work on it some more on Thursday, after I had written a totally different poem with the theme of 'Recovery'. That poem came to me yesterday morning as I was lying in bed and enjoying the feeling of being safe there. So I got up, fixed breakfast and wrote my 'Recovery' poem. I read my 'Recovery' poem last night, and everyone liked it. I liked it too, and was satisfied I had hit the theme well. The group shared some deep and meaningful words last night, a handful of fine poems indeed.
Then I opened up my poem I'd written for Dad, and worked on a second draft, tinkering with lines and words. I was happy with that poem, it felt good to me, and I knew I had to share it with my mother, who I go and visit most Fridays. This morning I polished up the poem, and I was finally happy that it said the things I needed to say. I went and saw Mum and gave her the poem to read and to keep.
I watched Mum as she read, seeing her face as she reacted to the words. She finished reading, and I asked if she was OK with me putting the poem 'out there' for other people to read. I felt I had to ask her permission first, it wouldn't have been fair to her otherwise. She said she was OK with that.
So that's the story behind this poem. It's a story of poetry, grief, harness racing, family and caring for loved ones. It's a story I give to the world. So here is that poem.
The final race
Crow’s mournful cry heralds the beginning
of my journey. The road I travel is a slaughterhouse
in grey - avian corpses sad prey to car’s
supremacy. These thoughts travel with me
to Dad’s memorial destination. Contact made,
we three, his spouse and his offspring, approach
the place, ashes in hand, plan decided –
finish line a suitable place. The youngest
does the deed, releasing the final remains
of our father, my mother’s spouse. Breeze aids
the scattering, and I remember other times, times
when the finish line brought us joy, and I finally
feel a kind of joyful serenity. Remaining ash
is spread near our dead brother’s place, their
oldest son, and we can all imagine Jeff and Dad,
communing and celebrating former times –
horses, races and glorious wins. We shared
these things as a family, now we can remember
it again and embrace a final peace.