Live Encounters Poetry & Writing June 2021
Lorraine Gibson is a Scottish-Australian anthropologist, writer, painter and neophyte poet. Her work is published internationally in journals, books and magazines. This includes her book ‘We Don’t Do Dots: Aboriginal Art and Culture in Wilcannia New South Wales’, 2013. Sean Kingston Press: UK.
Summer comes banging like brass. Scorching westerlies strum
invisible fingers across a sweep of palms in a frantic concerto.
A scrum of white explodes above the casuarinas – bands of
punk rock cockatoos flick their yellow hairdo’s — raucous
scrawking making everything seem hotter. I step outside.
Sweat creases slick behind my knees, pools in nascent mid-
life folds, maps unwanted patterns on my shirt. This country
that I love three-quarters of each year is telling me ‘you’re
not from here’. Hard-won suntans of my younger migrant years
curse my Celtic skin with bills from dermatologists. Reminders
that I am Made in Scotland. And yet for decades I have
treasured life alongside crumbling golden sand-stone cliffs,
brash lorikeets, honeyed grevilleas and lemon scented gums:
longer than I lived alongside pines and snows and hibernating
hedgehogs in my youth — my childhood island home.
Now home is here in Mungo Man and Dorothea’s country
beside my Aussie children, my partner and my cats. And yet
each time I hear the koel calling out the light of summer dawn
I wonder, do her offspring nurtured graciously in their adopted
home ever feel — just sometimes — they do not quite belong.
Pawn Shops and Other Stories
It was a Monday morning when I stopped soaring
over the rainbow with Judy. The day my Mother
took my records to the shop with three brass balls.
She often took small artifacts of mine along for
short trips on a double-decker bus. ‘Just far enough
away’ she said, ‘so her next door won’t know’. Next
my little Dansette record-player (red and cream)
received its one-way trip. It gained the usual bright
blue ticket, ten Embassy tipped cigarettes and one
small jar of jam. This was, she said, ‘a fair exchange’.
My birthday camera fared better: it raised an amber
bottle of ‘the very best of spirits’ and four ‘singles’
from Jassal at the corner shop (he threw four matches in).
My older sister found a hidey hole to store her tiny
farm yard figurines. A game of cat and mouse ensued.
I learned quite quickly trouble doesn’t always melt
like lemon drops — no matter the altitude. I learned
at the flick of a fraudster’s wrist recycled coins could
keep us warm all winter. I learned imagination is essential
to survival, like scraping ‘please let me be beautiful’ into
window frost — a fingernail appeal that seemed important
at the time. Sometimes retrieving things and people isn’t
possible. I could not redeem my Mother’s boyfriend Duncan.
He took his smoker’s phlegm and blood and left us all for
T.B. land. Despite ‘please let him come home safe’ written
in my window’s condensation, there was no lullaby no bright
blue sky. There was no bright blue ticket that I could swap for him.
Note: ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ lyrics by Yip Harburg (1946).
Certain shops in Glasgow, Scotland, used to sell individual cigarettes
‘singles’ to smokers who could not afford the smallest available pack of five.