Father’s Day

Supporters huddle

Under marble skies and crosses;

Whispering condolences

At another season passed


Erceg; Kozhinsky; Walley

Tombstone teamsheet;

Slav; Polak; Noongar

Half-back line for the ages


“Never knew when he was beaten

Remember that last quarter against….”

Claremont; drought; SS….

He’d faced down bigger men


Leaving our crowd

To sit with a solitary fan:

“You shoulda seen my Johnny in his day

The pace; the swerve; his smile”


“Who did he play for?”

Surveying the icons;

Scarves and season passes flutter

Outnumbering rosaries 10:1


Cobalt and sunshine dominate

Among flashes of priestly purple;

Who are these invaders

Whose black and white dogma intrudes?


Boat people or vestiges

Of the forgotten Swan River tribe,

That wandered these reaches

Before Satellite Boy


“He was the One

My one;

I’ve got his Medal at home

In my heart”


  1. mickey randall says

    Beautiful, haunting distillation. Echoes of Bruce Dawe, which is mighty praise! Thanks.

  2. This is magical Peter. I can’t profess to understand the exact meaning, but that doesn’t matter – I sense a deep, deep undertone which is extremely moving. Each time I re-read I get something new.

  3. Did you go to Sunday School PB?

    At my Sunday School I wasn’t game to ask the complex question: what happens when your sense of your father is mixed up with your sense of the Divine, and vice versa?

  4. Thanks gents. This was my first go at serious poetry. Have been reading Bruce Dawe’s wonderful “Sometimes Gladness” anthology and the death of Seamus Heaney inspired me to catch up with him. I have never read much poetry, and I love the way that it suggests rather than directs in the way that prose does. It leaves space for the reader’s experience and emotions.
    I was an Anglican Sunday School pupil and altar boy (unadulterated) until I was 16, but the poem didn’t intend to have any religious meaning.
    Sunday was the first anniversary of the Avenging Eagle’s father’s passing (he was the subject of the Kangaroos Elim Final book piece a week later). The date coinciding with Fathers Day made it a big emotional gathering at Midland Cemetery in the Swan Valley. He is the Erceg in the poem flanked by Poles and Noongars. It struck me that our memorial talk was like footy fans remembering great wins and star players of yesterday. Challenges met and unexpected triumphs.
    I tend to wander off and chat to other mourners when the Croatian gathering gets too much for my Anglican sensibility. It is a new part of the cemetery and headstones were sometimes clustered in lines of 3 like a footy team, with gaps between for the next draftees. Some headstones like ours had 20 people gathered, others just one or two mourners. The immigrant and indigenous cultures were mixed like in a footy team. People you would never talk to in the street, were all very respectful to their ancestor and their chance neighbours.
    Footy symbols have replaced religious iconography in the things we place on tombs for comfort on the journey. Scarves, season passes, club stickers. Mainly Eagles; some Dockers and a smattering of other clubs. One thing you don’t have to deal with in Victoria is the meaning of club colours. Is a black and white scarf the despised Collingwood or our WAFL club – the mighty Swan Districts of Naitanui, Embley, Yarran, Garlett and Hayden Bunton Jnr? Kiss it or spit on it?
    I talked to a lady on her own at her husband’s grave. There were Eagles colours so we started on footy. When I asked if her husband Johnny had played, the whole conversation and energy changed. Did he play!! He was a star for West Perth in the 50’s, and in describing how special, she was no longer a mourning 70 year old. She was a love smitten 21YO who couldn’t believe her good fortune. She was as smitten 2 years after his passing as on their first date. It reminded me of Bob Pratt’s wife talking about how good looking he was, in the wonderful piece that the Almanac published a while back. I thought the love and joy she still had was more precious than all the footy medals she would still have on the mantelpiece.
    I hope that telling the literal story enhances the feelings I was trying to convey in the poem.

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