Joan Small Poetry and Books


Poems by Dick Turner

(Joan Small's Dad)


Inland north from Port August to the Barkly Tableland,
From the eastern blue-gray mountains to the Murchison’s red sand,
The plains and hidden valleys throughout that vast terrain
Know the heavy heady perfume
Of Mulga after rain.

Then you huddle in scant shelter as the daylight turns to rust,
And the wind blasts jagged patterns in the blinding choking dust,
The storm swirls muddy torrents, thunder crashes in your brain,
Welcome then the soothing fragrance
Of mulga greeting rain.

The glorious inland sunrise paints morning over night,
The rainbow’s changing colour blends to sunshine golden bright,
The beauty of the inland, so intense it’s almost pain,
Then the freshly scented breezes
Tell of mulga soft with rain.

The spinifex is blooming in wide fields like golden wheat
And parakeelya spreading in the shadows lush and sweet,
Myriad eyes of black and scarlet, Sturt peas cover all the plain,
But the delicate aroma
Is of mulga green with rain.

The everlasting daisies form a carpet pink and white,
A fairyland of frosting, a vision of delight,
Ghost gums dance in mystic moonlight to a whispering refrain,
Yet the spirit of the inland
Lives in mulga after rain.

See the glory of the inland as you travel far and wide,
Blooming flowers in the deserts where the willy willies ride,
But the haunting living memory to bring you back again,
Is the breath of pure nostalgia
Born of mulga scented rain.

By Dick Turner - © Joan Small


Bill was carting for the squatters in the dry and dusty north
To make a living at the only trade he knew.
Where it’s hard and tough to travel over mud or dust or gravel
With a motor truck that’s not exactly new.

Bill cooled himself with visions of a foaming icy beer
On a day so hot the desert lizards fried.
He caught his breath and muttered as the engine shook and spluttered,
And with a final shudder coughed and died.

Bill cursed that stubborn engine as he laboured in the heat
And tried with all his skill to make it go.
With his head beneath the bonnet he was swearing out a sonnet
When a quiet voice behind him said, “Hello”.

Old Bill had learnt his language from the teamsters of his youth
When the muleteams and the donkeys felt the goad,
Where the camel chains they clattered and the bullocks were all spattered
With mud and slush or bulldust as they struggled with the load.

He described with full embellishment everything he’d tried.
“I've changed the plugs and cleaned the carburettor.
It’s not a faulty coil, and I’ve checked the sump for oil
But maybe you can think of something better.”

The quiet voice behind him continued unperturbed
And made a mild suggestion that perhaps he’d better pray.
Bill didn’t turn his head, but his ears and neck turned red.
He really did excel himself that day.

The dust clouds rose in visions of the battlers of the past,
As the last of the old masters let off steam.
The atmosphere turned blue with swear words old and new
That would have lifted any bullock team.

When he’d finished with the truck, and the dirty crook that sold it,
His visitor’s ancestry he related.
With words to shock a mule he called the man a fool,
Then turned, and saw the Bishop he’d berated.

In a Diocese that covered more than half a million miles,
The Bishop knew each mining town and station.
He traveled near and far in his battered old Ford car,
Respected by each tiny congregation.

“Your Holiness”, Bill stammered, and he stuttered and he blushed.
It seemed that there was nothing more to say.
He tried to make amends for he wanted to be friends,
And said, “Perhaps you’ll teach me how to pray".

A masterly oration followed on that invitation.
Exhortation from creation to temptation, expiation,
Tribulation, retribution, confession, absolution,
Inspiration, revelation and eventual salvation.

One could hear the church bells tolling in his final ringing challenge,
“Although it’s true all men are born to pain.
We know faith conquers all, however low you fall,
Gird up thy loins and go to work again.”

Bill tottered to his vehicle, though he seemed a trifle punchy,
The old truck sprang to life beneath his hand.
With a miracle occurring and the engine sweetly purring,
Bill swears the Bishop said, “Well I’ll be damned!”

By Dick Turner
© Joan Small


The swamps of Borroloola were dripping wet and dark,
And the noise of splash and grunting told of crocodile and shark.
The men slapped at mosquitoes as they cooked their lizard stew,
Just to sit and puff their 'baccy' was all they had to do.

For the Hatters and Hard Cases had nothing then to read,
Though you didn't hear them whinging - they were a hardy breed.
But when there came a ringer or a drover down the track,
The first things that they wanted were the papers from his pack.

They'd read those year old papers to catch up with the news,
And on long forgotten incidents would argue different views.
They'd search the ancient magazines from back to front again
To find the smallest articles to exercise the brain.

Till one day an ancient hatter gave out a sudden shout,
And said, "Youse blokes all listen", and he read the story out.
It was all about a millionaire in a land across the sea,
Who'd set up a foundation, whatever that could be.

But when they'd read they all agreed on what it meant to say;
This bloke was really paying to give libraries away,
To any town or city, the farther off the better.
And all you were required to do was simply write a letter.

One hard case said "That can't be true. He must be off his head".
A drover stuck his oar in with, "More likely he's long dead".
"Well, let's sit down and write to him", piped up the oldest hatter,
"And even if he's mad or dead, it doesn't really matter".

So they got them a new writing pad from the
old Ghan's scanty stock,
And wrote it on a tree stump, whilst sitting on a rock.
You may think it fantastic, but the tale they told was true,
And they wrote, and then re-wrote it. (They had nothing else to do.)

"This place is now the only port on this unfriendly shore,
You will not find another for a thousand miles or more."
Of course in their joint letter they dressed it up a bit,
With "No school for five hundred miles" and other things that hit.

They also sent an area map (to scale) where one could see
They really had some solid facts to back their anxious plea.
"Amongst all our population there is nothing here to read.
Please send us then a stock of books, and with your greatest speed."

And so some two years later (for all these things take time)
They got a complete library that didn't cost a dime.
For the men of that foundation swallowed bait, and line and hooks.
All indexed, packed and crated, they sent ten thousand books.

Ancient and Modern history, from Homer to today,
With books on building houses, and how ball games to play.
Encyclopaedias complete, classics and fiction too.
The whole of human knowledge was in that mighty brew.

The Hatters and Hard Cases, drovers, ringers and the Ghan
All grabbed and read those volumes, educated to a man.
Throughout Australia's whole wide north they gained a reputation,
The men of Borroloola were the best read in the nation.

The North is getting civilised, and now you'll find outback
Researchers and geologists camped out along the track.
There are men from Yale or Harvard, Cambridge or Oxford Don,
And doctors of philosophy who to the North have gone.

But when in their discussions their learning is all spent
A man from Borroloola decides the argument.
But now from Borroloola the library has gone
For roads and vandals have moved in, it's now a copper zone.

But still you sometimes meet them, for they travel back and forth
Those old men from Borroloola -

By Dick Turner
© Joan Small


The poppet legs upon the hill stand out in silhouette.
Stark black against the evening sky.
Red where the sun has set.

The gin wheel's fallen, broken.
Timber is rotten, dry.
The shaft is caving, crumbling,
With collar all awry.

Great heaps of useless mullock
Tell tales of mighty toil.
Its sweat and hope, despair and fear,
Mixed with the blackened spoil.

Tools useless, worn and rusted
Are scattered round about,
Like futile schemes and shattered dreams
Of lodes that petered out.

Only a heap of rubble
Left by those who came and went.
But those who know and feel, can see
A stately monument.

Other Poems by Dick Turner Still to Be Posted:

'The Furphy Farm Water Cart'

'It is Important Just to Be'


Dick Turner poet

Dick Turner
1913 - 1990

Joan Small's father

Dick Turner was an accountant who worked in several mning towns in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

While in Mt Isa, with his wife Evelyn he joined the Mt Isa Writers' Club, and wrote the poems on this page. which were published in the Writers' Club's Magazine, 'Plain Turkey'.

The poem, Nostalgia, was also read by Garry Ord on his Hospital Hour program (from 1966 - one of the most popular in Australia's history).

He published Dick Turner's poem in one of his books.

Ian McNamara, known as 'Macca' who still hosts 'Australia All Over' radio program on Sunday mornings (from 1985), also read Dick Turner's poem 'Nostalgia' on air.

Helensvale Writers' Group
Helensvale Writers Group - Joan Small3rd Thursday each month
Helensvale Library - ground floor meeting room
11.30 am to 1.30 pm


Contact Joan:

Poetry in Paradise
Poetry Club
Poetry in Paradise - Joan Small
3rd Sunday
each month
Southport Library meeting room
1 pm to 3.30 pm