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  Ian C Smith

His Motherís Letters


Itís the bottom desk drawer,

the heavy one, difficult to open,

to clean out, down near the floor.

Inside, letters from twenty years ago.

Her voice still triggers vexation,

the way she calls him `professorí

even though he has no such career,

because, he guesses, her life over,

she resents his late education.


He hesitates at the slight errors,

syntax, word usage or spelling

scarring this script written with her

always in mind for the central role.

She exerts her will by inflexion,

stakes claims according to guilt

or prejudice in the direction

of her own martyrís efforts

and the damnation of othersí.


He flies over past paradox.

His father was homosexual, she hints

Benny Hill style nudgenudge winkwink.

His fatherís `best friendí from army days

sulks, refuses to be best man

because he hasnít met the bride.

How can we know what to think?

Now his parents push their past

from the other side of the world.


They borrow a porterís hand truck

from Pascoe Vale railway station,

sweat, strain until a real truck stops.

A swearing digger, the kind

she scorned for their ignorance,

offers them and their chests a ride.

The boy must already be at school

surviving kookaburra old gum tree-ee

because he remembers nothing of this.


There is almost a poignant aspect,

a woman accused pleading for mercy,

about these letters written in response

to his probing questions she has numbered.

He asked her to tape her answers

but she couldnít cope with the machine

just as she couldnít come clean

about lifeís heavy bottom drawers,

their musty emanations.