‘The One To Leave’ – A poem for John by Doug Jenner

The One To Leave (For John Dengate)
Doug Jenner, August 2013

Schooners of Coopers
and a golden afternoon before us,
aglow with beer and banter,
Dengate and I share cricket yarns,
and evidence in broken fingers.
In beery mind’s eye I picture the wiry John,
head in Kokoda with the Aussie militiamen,
blocking wooden answers
to questions fired down 22 yards,
organised for survival,
And sure of the ball to leave.

Now, in the pub
When he’s in free flow,
Timing strokes, punching lines
onto the comic sweet spot,
Middling them Mark Waugh-like
to the boundary fence,
He’s not just the life and soul,
He’s a whole party in one man,
And he sets the room aglow.
Even so, even then, he knows
Whether to play, or whether to let it go.

Sometimes, many schooners on,
adrift in poetry and song,
you think, quite suddenly,
like that bird that sits on water
and instantly isn’t there, he’s gone.
then quick, like the diving bird, he’s back,
In the beak a rhyme, a limerick,
a new-spun funny line.
And along with warmth, with humour that you feel,
You also sense a discipline
As strong as Kembla steel

Today, across the continents
came news that he was gone,
so comrades line those schooners up,
Australia toast your son!
For the gifts and the heart of Dengate
make that ceilidh roar,
Sing loud for one of our ‘valiant men
That we never shall see more.’
And when in quiet moments, you open your hearts to grieve,
Remember how much of his genius
Was knowing the one to leave.

Read at John’s wake by John’s brother Pete, recently performed by Doug at the 3rd Annual JD Get Together, August 2016.

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