Earworms of Road to Gundagai and Qantas advertising
make something snort within my gut, and retch
in that cultural cringing way you get in piazzas of Naples
when you hear the accent cut through air like chemtrails on blue sky,
Barbecue sauce for the pizza, mate? Or when in Turkish towns
a grieving young man takes umbrage at history and sings, loud
and tuneless, that other Waltzing Matilda, about being shot
to hell, and camera-clad blokes take him aside and say
Not on mate and the young man cries
about his great-grandad, though the Turkish guide is gracious.
Long-time apologia for whiteness and no apology
to this invaded land of my birth and its beginning peoples,
only three of them at school. My friend Tarnie became
one helluva basketballer and she works in welfare now,
one was that boy who kissed me then left town with his parents
and played footy like a boss. But one ended up in gaol for murder
where she made art exhibits about loss for civic buildings,
as though that would make it all ok. They gave me something I saw again
in Alice and the Kimberley, Katherine and Adelaide, and Awabakal land
where I first heard a true name given. But I don’t know them.
My contemporaries were Guidos and Vitos
Marias and Annas and not so milky-white
I wasn’t a Karen or a Sharon or a Deborah or a Susan
like the other freckled girls with plaits of honeyed straw,
I was between those places of belonging and rack off,
familiar and foreign, native and alien, fitting in
and odd as a wrongfooted shoe. It’s not where I began.
If you ask a chemist in New Farm or a nail artist in Hawthorne
or a bank teller in Cottesloe or a tourist on the Opera House steps,
they’d likely say I look the part; I sound like I’m at home.
If you ask me, here, now, I’d say, but without aplomb,
Yeah, it’s my country—but it’s not where I’m from.