Regent Theatres, Empire Halls

Our generation imitated what we saw
at matinees on Saturdays. In backyards
we dressed up like cowboys, Indians,
pretended to be every hero John Wayne
played, donned feather headdresses to star
as Crazy Horse or Pokohontas in battles
fought at Little Bighorn. We smoked
peace pipes, used groundsheets to make
tepees, built forts, conflated histories.
We knew of tribes called Cherokee,
Comanche, Sioux, and Navajo. Ignorant
of Australia’s recent past, we had never
heard of Koori or Wiradjiri, but Abo,
had currency in our schoolyard.

In country towns in New South Wales
the Greeks ran cafes, the Poles made shoes,
the Germans rose to be more successful
than the landed gentry. Their children
went to school with us ‘real Australians’.
A dark-skinned kid called Chocko said
he came from Pakistan. The Blackman
sisters reckoned they descended from
Kings and Queens in Tonga. Together
we learnt English history, paired up
and danced in Empire Halls. Puberty,
the ’67 referendum, land rights demon-
strations, saw Chocko and the Blackman
girls remake history, build an Embassy.

K A Nelson


K A Nelson is a Canberra poet who divides her time between work in the Northern Territory and study at the University of Canberra. Her poems have won prizes, been included in anthologies, and published widely. She has one collection, Inlandia (Recent Work Press 2018).

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