POEM: Recollections of an Im・Emigrant (11.3.11)

Commissioned by Emily Wakeling / First published as part of  Compassionate Grounds: Ten Years on in Tohoku



Recollections of an Im・Emigrant (11.3.11)


Sister told tales of walking home

that night to find her cats,

then walking to Mother’s place

with her tabby and ginger in baskets,

much heavier, and with more life,

than my boxes full of unfinished scripts and poems

in repose in a building in Gladesville

with a tagline: storage solutions.

She walked along empty train tracks

in line with many others,

counting their steps.

One, two, one two, one two,

too long to remember sequences,

but it was nothing, she said,

compared to people who

ran from those waves.


The phone line didn’t work earlier,

when I was boarding my flight with artists and crew

at Canberra airport,

nor when we arrived at our hotel in Perth,

with a tagline: home away from home.

When the phone rang, it was from Sydney.

She heard on the news.

Were my people ok?

Instead of gratitude, I wanted to say,

this is not a headline,

my people are your people too, but I didn’t.

She must have heard it in my tone.

I am sorry.


When Sister’s voice finally reached me,

during a rehearsal lunch break,

I was pacing up and down the back corridor

of a grand old theatre with jarrah floors

with a tagline: enjoy the experience.

I pleaded her to leave while she can,

before an explosion of no return,

and stay with me

in Sydney, with Mother and cats.

People who can leave are all leaving town, she said,

but I need to stay, we are needed here.

The sound checks were starting.

One, two, one two, one two.



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