I woke to hear the house filled with a terrible noise – like somebody in agony. What was happening?
My siblings and I had been away from home for forty days whilst Father was in hospital. We had stayed with “Auntie”, who wasn’t really our aunt, and counted the days. We couldn’t wait for him to get well so we could all go home.
We lived in a small country town in Denmark where I attended Bækby Public School. Our house, on the main street, was a white two-storey building with a shop front where our tenant had a dairy. She had a flat upstairs where also my sister and I shared a bedroom. My sister had not returned home yet and I had the room to myself.
Whilst staying with Auntie, I had been wearing winter clothes , but now it was summer – the second of June, and the sun was shining. I found a light cotton dress. It was reasonably clean and I dressed quickly to go downstairs to find out what was going on.
I met the district nurse coming from Father’s bedroom. “There’s porridge in the kitchen,” she said. “And could you get your little brother up and dressed – send him outside to his brothers. You can then go to school. Your father has been taken ill during the night.”
I went to Father’s bedroom. He was making that noise. He must have been in shocking pain. I lifted my little brother out of his cot and dressed him, gave him breakfast and sent him outside to play as the nurse had told me. I then headed off to school, but with forebodings. This was only Father’s second day at home.
I was nine years old and in fourth grade. We were in the gym building for PE. It was there I received a message to come back to the school. Here the pastor’s wife and another woman waited in a taxi for me. We drove to where my older sister was staying. She was in bed with a cold.
We went to her bedroom. The pastor’s wife put me on her knees. It was then we received the devastating news that Father had suffered a heart attack and died. As mother had died barely three years before, we knew what death meant.
Later in the day, the pastor’s wife took me to see Father. He was lying on his bed with a sheet pulled right up over his head. She removed it enough to let me see his face. He was a bad colour, all yellowish and pale and there was cottonwool stuffed up his nostrils.
“He had a nosebleed,” she explained and pulled the sheet up to cover him again. “He’s with God now.”
After this she brought me across the street to our neighbours. I was to stay with them, I was told.
It was evening now but not dark. The suppertable was laid with the most delicious food such as I’d not seen in a long time. There was rationing due to the war, but our neighbours had a deli and were better off. I was hungry, had not eaten anything since breakfast, and stuffed myself. It was not good, for combined with the stress and emotions of the day it made me feel sick. A bucket was placed beside my bed into which I brought up my entire meal.
I didn’t go back to the public school again. It was now holiday time, and after that I was transferred to the Grammar School. We had become wards of the state and the headmaster of the Grammar School had been made our legal guardian. He ensured we all received a free education there.
We were six children in all. We lost the parents we loved and the home we had shared. But, perhaps because of this, our love for each other grew even stronger and, though we later scattered to the four corners of the world, that love has never ceased.
By Eva Harris
Well listen ladies, and I will tell
Of the sad, sad state in which we dwell
If looking for a cultured fellow
I’ve many tales of shock and sorrow-
In recent months I’ve looked online
For someone with whom to share my time
And let me tell you my lament
Of wasted hours vainly spent
In wading through the boors and clowns
The men on-show – it gets you down!
The downright scary, the awful frights
Enough to make you sleep well at night
Knowing you are on your own
Not wanting ever to leave your home
Let me tell you what I have seen
I’m being honest – not being mean –
Self – portraits taken where they look blind
Drunk, I mean, not the other kind,
Of spelling errors so bizarre.
Misspelling coffee, dinner and car,
Of thinly masked displays of lust
“I like ladies with a nice large bust”
Oh you can tell they’ve had a few
Then gone online to write their views –
“afeckshunate male who really likes
Fishin’ and campin and motor bikes”
And all of them are easy goin’
They like their beer ,-fishin, and boatin’
They do not read; they cannot spell
They consider foreign movies ‘hell’
They love their footy
They love dirt bikes
They love their “country ‘n western” – yikes!
Look, that’s all fine
Just not for me
I’m different and peculiar, see?
I’m looking for a different gent
Who’s mind is of a different bent
Who wouldn’t think his life was tame
If he never went to see a game
Who likes reading, writing, books and art
Who has a kind and gentle heart
So I’ll keep on, that much I know
I’ll give it yet another go
But meanwhile I’m not losing sleep
If my own company I keep
I live a really quite fine life
I have no wish to be a wife –
So off I dance to outings new
With wrinkles many, assets few
I do not know and don’t much care
Whatever that I do when there
I’m happy just to have a laugh
And walk my own distinctive path.
By Judy Johnson
I watch fireworks two streets away
spring the night of its entrapment
the way a magician springs
a waterfall of coloured flowers
from a black top-hat.
Don’t tell me nothing is as it was.
Distance closes and expands.
A million year eye-blink
calls the light of stars
to my reaching fingertips.
In the dark I am adult
and six years old
yearning for a space beyond
the scaffold of my bones.
In a year’s time when I am seven
an artery balloon will burst
inside my father’s heart.
Twelve months later
Neil Armstrong will take
his giant leap for mankind.
The second hand of the clock
holds each moment in suspension
just before, like a slingshot
it lets go.
The window’s four corners
are cardboard clips in an old album
holding in their freeze frame
that same photograph
the same clouds yawning
into black and silver rags
the same small footprint of a man
appearing on the ghostgum moon.