Fourteen Summers of Discontent

The photograph is one of June’s collages of a famous mural wall in New Town, overlaid by a girl on a swing.

I had to read it. Fourteen summers of discontent as the big sister came over me.

It was my first poetry festival. Mr Kidd, my English teacher had encouraged me to share some work.

The garden of faces looking back at me included: my short Mekeo Mum and tall Australian Dad, fellow poets looking kind of poetical, people who I assumed liked listening to poetry as well as a few of the town’s local English teachers.

The hall was large with high ceilings, it was the year 12 building of a college I would soon attend, but didn’t yet.

This was my public début. I had never shared my poetry beyond school assemblies before. I had tiny flip flops going on in my stomach, but oddly I felt as if they were giving me more strength.

I shuffled through the poems in front of me. The one that called out ‘read me first’ was a poem titled ‘So I broke the wall.’ It was about a recent fight with my Mum. Could I do it?

Could I read a rebel poem in front of all those people, especially my Mum, and reveal that the quiet studious girl, and recently elected prefect, had one day lost her temper; about her life with three annoying brothers who in her opinion never did their chores but always managed to get out of them and have the backing of Mum; and had gone and put a hole in her bedroom wall?

I daren’t look at Mum to begin with, but in that moment my mind was made up; it just had to be read.

The words welled up like a fire in my mouth and out came all the frustration of being a teenager who felt the world unjust, who felt her Mum and Dad should be fairer, and was sick of being a ‘little mum’.

I was a rebel with a refrain ‘And so I broke the wall.’

I became more confident with each refrain. My audience were with me – clapping me on, and laughing at the situation. I dared a look at my Mum and she seemed to be laughing too. Was she too with me? Was she in my shoes and not hers?

And in that instant I learnt that poetry is powerful, and a lot less annoying than having to replaster a wall.

This story has appeared at  ABC Open 500 words.


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