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Poetry

Auntie May, 1953

Twenty years ago last August

they had me running down the platform,

howling in that flannel dress,

those two from the ‘Protection' Board,

the woman with the narrow mouth,

the bloke there with his suit and glasses

who wished that he was somewhere else

and Jeanie screaming for me still,

not likely to let up till Sydney.

Talking here with Sharon now,

I often get a little jealous,

the way she's still got hers together

despite that white bloke shooting through.

Five of them all told, she has.

I try to tell her now and then

‘Go on back there to your kids.

Don't leave 'em with Janene

even if she is a "marvel".

You never know just when the Board

might come back snooping round.'

Today, she'll hang around till five

then wobble home at last.

My Jeanie would be twenty-four.

I wonder if I'd know her,

working for some stingy boss man

out there west of Bourke.

Or maybe, just like Sharon here,

she's got her little batch of five.

And be down drinking in the park?

They'd be my grandkids, eh?

Or then again the whiter side

she picked up from her dad

might just have let her jump the bar

to ‘high society',

house-with-lawn and man-with-job,

passing as Italian.

I'm sure we could've met again

if only I had really tried;

stood up to them gubba blokes

and kept on with me questions,

‘squeaky wheel will get the oil'

and all that sort of thing.

I'm pretty sure she can't forgive me,

letting her be dragged away

off into that half-arsed mission

way down there in Sydney.

Or maybe she won't want to know me,

drinking in the park,

her snow-white and la-di-da

and me here on the skids, she'd reckon.

My mob all call me Auntie May though.

I've done my bit. I've been around.

I've wiped the noses, dried the tears,

mothering my cousin's kids

and even cousins' cousins.

To them I'm still old Auntie May -

and they don't seem to care too much

if Auntie May might smell of grog

and cry a little now and then

with no real explanation.

‘What the trouble, Auntie May?'

They know I'd never try to hit them,

half crazy with a stick.

Auntie May is good for hugs,

especially when the going's rough.

I won't stay on too long today though.

I'm not a drinker really but...

I wouldn't want to leave them either.

They're all my family now.


From Griffith Review Edition 35: Surviving © Copyright Griffith University & the author.

Griffith Review