Ingham Daily Press

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Herbert River poetry: ‘Through Sheahan’s eyes’

Inspired by ‘Songs from the Canefields’, by Dan Sheahan (1882-1977).

Through Sheahan’s eyes

I wasn’t even living when they chopped the forest down. 

I grew up on an island on the outskirts of a town. But since I moved to Gowrie, and this came as a surprise, I’ve lived this valley’s histr’y – as I see through Danny’s eyes. 

I drove in through the sugar cane and I had no idea, a poet from this valley wrote the song ‘Pub with no beer’. I learned about the story and of Gordon Parsons’ lies, and though I never lived it – now I see through Danny’s eyes. 

And never before Danny when I read of toil and war, had I burst into laughter, now of that you can be sure. Yet Sarah Jones’s egg was put in Digger Dan’s supplies, and how it helped us win the war – I see through Danny’s eyes.

But what most makes me tingle when I think of life before, is when I read in verse that Abergowrie is no more. The saddest lamentation tells of how this forest dies. A homage to its warriors – I see through Danny’s eyes.

The platypus and mullet and the blackest darting bream, reflect beneath the waters as the light plays on the stream. With Digger Martin, Danny sits and smokes and laughs and cries. This vision of two Gowrie men – I see through Danny’s eyes. 

The folk ride in on horseback and it takes them all the day, to reach the Herbert River crossing, which they call Midway. They stop at Sheahan’s overnight, then with the birds they rise, and plod into the rainforest – I see through Danny’s eyes. 

The cattlemen are riding with light hand upon the rein, deep in the valley forest we will never see again. A packhorse ferries parcels that are treasured as a prize. And how the bush folk welcome it – I see through Danny’s eyes. 

Today I rip through cane fields and I cross a modern bridge. It takes me 30-minutes and I head straight to the fridge, to crack a chilly tinny, then I look out and surmise, the spirit of this forest lives – I see through Danny’s eyes. 

It’s me now writing stories in this valley that inspires, of mountains running east to west and nature’s humming choirs. And someday if my grandkids sing beneath these southern skies, they might see things as I saw them – and see through my own eyes.

Sheahan’s Road is in the Herbert River Valley in Hinchinbrook Shire, North Qld, Australia.

This idea for this poem came after hearing bush poet Bob Pacey perform ‘Through Danny’s eyes’, a verse by F. Hart about a blind boy who sees through his brother’s eyes. This performance can be viewed on Bob’s page ‘Bush Poetry with a Passion’:

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