Reflections In A Broken Mirror

Image Attribution: Wikimedia Commons:  Screenshot from Shoes (1916) featuring actress Mary MacLaren, directed by Lois Weber.


I married Alexander when I was nineteen

Just after leaving school

It was the Great Depression and we had little money

We brought three sons into the world

So a career outside the home

Was unthinkable for me

I was a prisoner of domesticity

Cooking on a fuel stove

Washing in a fire-heated copper

Sweeping constantly with a straw broom

And caring for those children

It all kept me very busy

My duty in life

Necessity mothered by convention

As the years passed

I found my head began to stay bent over

I had a slight curvature of the spine

Hands were calloused

And my back tended to ache often

The boys are gone now

Adrift in the wide world of business enterprise

Alex is gone too

Died a decade ago a year after he retired

I live alone

Not rich enough to pay for aged care

I’m a good cook

As my boys used to say

But my heart is not in that these days

What is the point of a gourmet meal when you are alone?

I’m content with sandwiches

No career to look back on either

No landmarks of high professional interest

To break the present boredom

I was merely a housewife

I am still, and there is no release

As I move towards my time to rest in peace


I walk by others through the night

Listening for cries of pain

Always ready to help the desperate

In their struggle to survive

Day work is harder

More disasters tend to happen then

And routines never cease

Temperatures taken

Blood pressure recorded

Cleaning up the mess of the incontinent

Dressing wounds

Changing bandages

Attending intravenous antibiotics

There is never peace when you are on duty

And when you are home

The troubles of others stay in your mind

Especially if someone has died

We nurses are never rich

The burden of health funding is a political fantasy

Still it’s a profession

The university course designers tell us

With traditions dating back

Past time immemorial

And so we diligently practise our calling

Holding hands with the needy

Lifting the immobilised with cheery encouragement

Struggling with overburdened schedules

Mourning the deceased

Sometimes things are almost too much

As the number of patients exceeds the resources

Yet we struggle on

Tending our troubled sisters and brothers

Whatever their age

Not angels perhaps when each day ends

But kept on task by Heaven above

Because we have found fellow humans to love

Garbage Man

Garbage was my business

Way back in time

Before motorised waste wagons

Not a glamorous career

I was always so dirty

Doing the job

Lifting the tins and bags onto my shoulder

Was filthy, back breaking work

My status in society too

Was extremely low

When asked about my profession

I would always act as if I didn’t hear

And find a way to change the subject

Some people were kind though

Would greet me if we met

With at least a smile

Mrs Smythe of Verity Street

Who lived in a small cottage with a thatched roof

Would always leave a present

On her garbage tin lid at Christmas

Some other people

Did seem grateful for the hard work I did

But to most

I was a low-class embarrassment 

They were glad to see leave their premises

I’m ninety-two now

And I’m glad my days as a garbage man are over

If still in that calling

I would be known as a waste manager

Ah yes, such are the foibles of Public Relations

For thirty-seven years I collected garbage

Slaving away to help my fellow humans

Keep their homes clean

Things were different in my day

The waste-makers were not so keen

Today it’s far easier to see where they have been


When I was a boy of twelve

I climbed a tree

It was a gentle, friendly thing

That tree

Smooth bark, many branches

A blue gum, eucalyptus globulus

The kind you see in lots of paintings

Leaves almost piquant

When you give yourself a taste

When I swung myself from branch to branch

I noticed flower buds in places 

As I rose, the world changed

The higher I went the further I could see

And the more important I felt

Suddenly I was a prince admiring his domain

A master with a universe expanding as I rose

I disturbed a Black Friday,

As I threw an arm around a higher branch

The cicada made a loud drumming noise 

And flew away alarmed

As I rose, a wider view of the bush unfolded

Then I caught sight of a bush bees nest

It was nestled where a branch joined the main trunk

Easily avoided as I rose to a koala height

From where I could see the horizon

How can I explain the triumph of that climb?

A feeling of great power came over me

I drank in the views with wonder

A Monarch butterfly danced on the air around me

And then rose even higher than my lofty position

Leaving me slightly envious

Thus my climb ended

I let myself come down eventually

Now I am old yet that memory lingers so clearly

But alas a sigh proceeds through my lips

For the tree is now wood chips

Past Glory

I was a star once

Fast as lightning on the football field

Even though I was only nine stone seven

Rugby League was my game

Saturday was my glory day

All teams used to play on that one day

With the Match Of The Day

On the Sydney Cricket Ground

Newtown was my team

Blue Bags was our invented name

To match our jerseys

By our deeds we gave a kind of respectability

To an underprivileged suburb

The game was faster in those days

Before they changed the rules to make players

Pound each other to death

Excitement then was in the air more often 

As you had more space to run and score a try

Amidst a rising spectator roar

Players were not rich in that halcyon time

Not corporate robots rivalling each other for increased pay

Losing then was not a crime

As it was a game not a business

Television was not the prying eye it is today

Great deeds just happened

And had to live on

In the minds of those who saw them

That is why the fans of the present don’t know me

I am just a name in the ageing record books

No statue as I wasn’t top of the class

I can’t run any more either

I walk with a limp

And have to take many pills after breakfast

But I was a man of my time

And my memory of those games is still sublime


It’s no fun being persona non grata

Shut off from the world

Treated like a virus

In a pandemic

You get so lonely

With only yourself as company

You with your awareness of the follies around you…

That is what happened to me

A long time ago now

I stumbled onto the crime of an influential person

Published the truth

And was treated as a leper by an individual with power


To become a convenient scapegoat

An ogre

Classified by true villains as worthy of blame

A handy target for secretly guilty others

So I was cast into bleak isolation

Strongly maligned

And pushed aside to be left all, all alone

With only friends on the net to keep me company

I lingered through a purgatory of pain

And endured the burden of abuse

What was my future?

Where did I go from there?

Painful questions with no easy answer

And yet there is always hope in the darkest of times!

Twenty years of exclusion with me shunned, rejected, shut out

Unjustly scorned

With never a trace of pity

Have passed now into the chasm of time

While today I still have a voice

To tell my story

The inconvenient truth about true demons

And for me a gentle triumph still to have survived


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