By John Dickson, The Westsider Newspaper Poet Laureate and winner of the ‘highly recommended’ commendation in the Betty Olle Poetry Award 2018, proudly conducted by the Kyabram and District Bush Verse Group.

You’d never notice Bronchia

It’s a nothing little town

Overshadowed by a mountain

Underdressed in shades of brown

A river ran right through it

A measly little leak

Not stream, not brook, nor rivulet

More dampened ditch than creek


A stranger passed through Bronchia

This man of rocks and earth

Had met the council late at night

To tell them what they’re worth

‘This hill you turn your backs on

This hideous brown lump

Is a licence to print money

It hides a fortune in its hump.’


The stranger said ‘It’s magic,

This lumpy browny goo

It converts to light and power

And riches for the few

The few who know its value

And you could be that few

If you pay me for the secret

I’ll tell you what to do’


Mayor Seymour Plug had appetites

Always waiting to be fed

Whether at another’s table

Or in another’s bed

When he heard the stranger say this

The pig in him rose up

A way to sate his hunger

A constantly-filled cup


The council was just like him

Always looking to make hay

To maximise their incomes

In any slippery way

They grinned across the table

They allowed themselves a smirk

How good is lots of money

Without doing any work?


But the stranger had a coda

He warned of future tears

He signalled future problems

But it fell upon deaf ears

He said this clay was lethal

If too much of it was burned

But they’d already started spending

The money it could earn


And they paid him what he asked for

And they sent him on his way

They were drooling at the prospect

Of a permanent pay day

No-one heard his warnings

His cautions were ignored

These avaricious greedheads

Were measuring their hoard

Plug was in his element

The town was doing well

The villagers distracted

By a needy clientele

Greedy for their mountain

Of magic dirty dirt

The council thought it endless

And they mined it ‘til it hurt


From everywhere the cash poured in

And they filled up every truck

From this pile of wealth-in-waiting

This magic mucky muck

It smelt like it was dug from

The bottom of the grave

The scrapings off the sewer pipe

The guano from the cave

The council just ignored the fact

That the magic soil soiled

For the more it lined their pockets

The less they had to toil

Plug of course was first in line

And second through to ten

Taxing everything that moved

Then taxing it again


And then it was all over

The magic was all gone

When customers from everywhere

Discovered what goes wrong

When too much muck incinerates

It burns holes right through the sky

It fattens up the air we breathe

And we all begin to fry

The villagers had had enough

Of their council’s dirty snouts

Where trickledown was promised

There was nothing but a drought

Now the income stream had dried up

And they were left without a cent

It was time for Seymour Plug and Co

To tell them where it went


Plug could hear the townsfolk stir

But there was no way to explain

How the loss that they were feeling

Had become the council’s gain

Add to that the anger

Of those who bought the sludge

Never knowing what might happen

When they burned this deadly gudge


The council met in dead of night

Once more to hatch a plan

To escape the town with wealth intact

For every sticky-fingered man

But the mountain had its own ideas

And from its hacked-out side

It twisted, creaked and changed itself

Into a deadly muddy slide


The gudge poured down the mountain

And filled the river bed

It oozed and spewed and rumbled

Towards its destiny it sped

The council heard its mighty roar

But would not change objectives

To get out clean, their wealth intact

For this gluttonous collective


Town clerk Fop was first to go

Quickly drowned in goo

Dog catcher Barry Fudget

Went swiftly that way too

Then Wobbleman from drainage

Then Spinifex from parks

Then garbageman O’Blimey

Then Meter Peter carked


And that left greedy Seymour

Caught reaching for the door

Slowed by bags of readies

He had stashed beneath the floor

Refusing to let go of them

Plug was quickly overun

The goo that made them wealthy

Now brought them all undone


And that was it for Bronchials

Their town now too maligned

So they bought new homes in Poshton

With what the council left behind

The moral of this story

The lesson to be learned

Is beware of streams of riches

That you haven’t really earned.


© Verse and illustration
John Dickson 2019

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