In 1989 after 20 hectic months working in the Beehive as an education aide I needed a holiday. I took Anne to Italy where she had never been before for what basically was an art tour. Christmas we spent in a hotel high on the hills overlooking Lake Como – blue sky except for the spreading of jet trails, below the rippling lake and in the distant north the snow-clad Alps. Not far away was the spot were Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci were executed. The subsequent display of their strung-up bodies in Milan service station pictured frequently at the end of the war. Obviously such was the strong reaction from my adults that the image was fixed in my mind. The event signaled to them that the European war was over and that justice had triumphed – a good ending for a modern morality play. So not surprisingly I used the image in a poem.
In winning their war my adults counselled certitude,
though perilous the outcome from those massive fieldguns
until strung up to view was a mistress & her Mussolini.
My stepfather, who'd slogged from Cairo to Trieste
swore fluent, & rolled his own only as a soldier could & should
& his wife, my mother,
anxiously signed me up for the third form.
Being small -
35 the roll -
'your son won't come to any harm',
& “Sticky”Arnold strolled out to the clustered strangers
suggesting they leave untouched this uncounted one.
Despite my plea(s),
they gave me the neglect of a horse trough dribble,
the other new boys received a headfirst dunking
in front of the admiring girls.
Inside - at a test, unthinking, I got them all right
someone said "skite",
& for revenge
at lunchtime caught & bowled me spin first ball,
whereupon I went out to field cicadas on the boundary
It describes my first day at secondary school – Akaroa District High.
WORDS with Douglas McLennan
14 hours ago