[A drunk cadet had hit them]

By Susan Hampton b. 1949 Susan Hampton
A drunk cadet had hit them on a bad bend near the river,
two broken necks. On the notice-board there’s an A4 page
with a blurred digital photo of Beck laughing, leaning
into her friends in a nightclub and below that, writing:
We Love You Beck – from Kristin, Colette and Mandy.
 
I sit like an automaton in the big lounge room
my back teeth snapping against each other,
rocks in my gut. That night we watch on an iMac
a video of Beck, an eight minute film Colette
had taken on her phone.
 
Two of the men are crying. Kristin and Mandy are numb.
I move to the noticeboard, reading anything:
‘Live-in nanny required Balmain 5 min from city’
‘Experience life on an outback station help mustering
mobs of 2000 animals on horseback or quadbike’.
 
Near me two women are whispering. Talking
about their first-ever girlfriend. One says,
Other people are always either versions or not-versions
of her. Fourteen, it’s an age to break your heart. You know
nothing. On the edge of knowing too much.
 
I lean forward, my head on the foyer koala.
Voices travel to me from distant realms:
I hear again the singer’s plea for his wife.
Blurred from too much experience
I prowl around the leaflet racks, groaning.
 
Late that night on the vinyl lounges the people remaining
are Kristin and me, alone. My eyes are swollen,
my ears still buzzing from the headphones at work.
We talk over Beck till no more can be said.
Now Kristin begins to tell her own story
 
how her uncle had his boat down the back
of their block, and one day 
he said he wanted to show her something,
took her down the lantana path to the boat,
something she might like, he said –
 
Kristin was raped at times twice a day
or sometimes not for a week
and sometimes after it he gave her pocket
money once a twenty dollar bill which down
the gully later she tore into thin red strips and buried.
 
Back at the house her mother
bashed her for lying about the uncle,
who was her brother, and who had loaned them
the deposit on the house where Kristin and Odette
her sister were fortunate enough to live.
 
When Kristin grew up, her mother apologised to her.
The uncle was still alive. He had sent her a
Christmas card this year. She sat on the lounge,
looking down at her runners, her mouth closed.
Behind her the stereogram and Elvis, a silent witness.
 
The uncle had said she was a rude girl, she should
keep quiet about their secret otherwise
he’d give her little sister a taste of the same.
Kristin was quiet from then on. The reason she was
telling me now, her hand on my arm
 
was that last week she’d had a call from Odette
who was living in London.
The uncle during those primary
school years had done the same to her, tricked her
the same way, used the same words.
 
I feel the weight of my empty useless arms.
But later I hold her – hug her goodnight.
She touches my shoulder. I was convinced, she says,
I was saving my sister.
My head clatters: Virgin, May I help you?
 
Back in the Furies’ bunk-room it’s beauty night,
they’re whisking egg whites for a face mask …
After they’ve done each other they sit me on the bed
and paint my face with their fingers
the egg white sets quickly and they tell me not to smile.
 
I dream of Alecto’s iron tower and bloody clothes –
then I’m on TV being interviewed: So, the oldest Fury –
and who is your god? I am asked – I once served Artemis, I say.
And before that? – Athena, I say – Anath, Isis.
I do not mention Dionysis or the Thracian women.

Susan Hampton, ‘Extract from The Kindly Ones: "The others shower and go to bed’ text from The Kindly Ones, Five Islands Press, 2005; audio from The Kindly Ones, Audio CD, River Road Press, 2007: by permission of River Road Press and the poet. Copyright © 2005, 2007 by Susan Hampton.

Source: The Kindly Ones (Five Islands Press, 2005)

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Poet Susan Hampton b. 1949

POET’S REGION Australia and Pacific

Subjects Living, Death, Sorrow & Grieving, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Friends & Enemies, Greek & Roman Mythology

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Susan  Hampton

Biography

Susan Hampton, a freelance editor, teacher, and writer, was born in Inverell, New South Wales, Australia. She attended New Castle Teacher’s College, the University of Newcastle, Macquarie University, and the University of Sydney. She writes short stories and poetry, and her collections include Costumes (1981), which contains poems and short stories; the verse novella White Dog Sonnets: A Novel (1987); the prose and poetry book . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Death, Sorrow & Grieving, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Friends & Enemies, Greek & Roman Mythology

POET’S REGION Australia and Pacific

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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