(Renison Bell: West Coast, Tasmania)
Nicknamed “the dump” because the dregs
From convict times had fetched up there,
And too small to be termed a “town”,
Our village boasted no less than
Four idiots above the norm.
The first, called Kerry Dunne, a wild-
Eyed, uncoordinated boy,
Once cacked himself and washed his bum
Tadpoling with me at recess.
The second, “useless arrangement”,
To use my father’s term for me,
“Gab” shared the gelly pinched from mines,
Agreeing to stand further back
From rocks we hurled it at. In turn,
He saved, tied up the boots I dared
Not ask my younger brother to,
Lest parents, teachers, saw it as
A means to shame me madder still.
The third, “Bub” Sullivan, full-grown,
Not only had his laces, but
His mouth undone the day he fell
Down in the street and folk screamed “Fish
His tongue back or he’ll fuckin’ choke”.
I had to do this for the fourth,
My spastic cousin, after I,
At what I took as his request,
Had heaved and dragged to help him climb
Cot rails into another world,
Depsite my mother having placed
Him under a taboo, for fear
That if I played with him the wind
Would change and I’d become the fifth.
(After Chaim Soutine’s “Village Idiot”, Vienna)
One eye expressing fear and pain,
The whipped-dog cringe of more to come,
The other cosmic in its black-
Holed questioning kind of wonder at
The cruelty of existence, stare,
Till they are mine, compelling me
In recognition to respond:
My life’s not changed in sixty years,
Since spastic cousin Ian’s look,
With Kerry’s, “Gab’s” and “Bub’s”, “the dump’s”
More obvious loons, were mirrors I
Confirmed myself in, running from
Packs hunting difference down, and now
Viewed in Soutine, as on I flee,
Before new horrors overwhelm.
© Graeme Hetherington
Tasmanian Times Poetry Editor.
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