In Sherwood Forest I jogged past Major Oak,
no merry men, great boughs scaffolded,
ancient wood in intensive care.
Old England suffering during the Miners’ Strike,
I walked in coal smoke waft twice a week
to the library, to teach people down on luck to read.
The woman in charge of volunteers – me –
seemed disapproving of attempted lame jokes,
my soap opera twang posing in that warm refuge.
After locking up we headed in the same direction,
me towards my flat, her to the bus stop,
a detour, where we waited in the cold.
The pubs emptying on those unemployed streets,
I pictured her being harassed by resentful yobs
so resisted her discomfited protests
sensing a decent soul who put others first,
at home, a husband, children, a light in their window.
She knew someone waited for me, too.
Brash was an English word for Australians,
accurate when applied to me in those days
sparking our soporific group, etching her frown.
When I bought one-way airfares
before we ran out of funds, subsided, etherised there,
she said I’d be missed, warmth glowing in her words.
Ian C. Smith’s work has appeared in Australian Poetry Journal, Cream City Review, New Contrast, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Stony Thursday Book, Two-Thirds North, and Westerly. His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide). He lives in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, Australia.