The primary school shares the same sky
as the railway workshops;
has concrete air raid shelters,
useless now, since we beat Japan;
a green football field, clay
where boys play marbles, in season,
girls skip; six bare classrooms,
nasty Ė better to hold on;
kids who are roughs or waifs,
all of us in cheap clothing,
some with runny noses and bare feet,
and my father as head-teacher.
Itís 1946, this is
Randwick near Wellington; out
of bounds, beyond the stop-bank,
the riverís forcing its way past fast.
Here nothing happens, slowly, till
Father does some fundraising Ė
a projector comes, rare and fragile.
He learns how to make it work.
No one else is allowed near.
None of us young ones have ever
seen anything on any screen;
weíre agog for Charlie Chaplin.
Children and parents come one night
to fatherís classroom. From home
Mumís lent him a white sheet; he fixes
it up straight, I switch off the light,
whirring begins, the sheet brightens.
Flickering black and white humans
stalk the sheet. Something is happening.
A man climbs on a diving board,
trots out, dives, splashes, vanishes.
Father flicks a switch, time freezes; flicks
again, feet first the diver rises,
curves back up onto the board.
All of us squeal with pleasure.
The eveningís films, all short,
are never better than when Father,
powerful and popular,
flicks that switch, the image freezes,
time halts, reverses, pauses,
moves forward again, taking us
all with it along, along.
Going home in Dadís Austin Seven,
dreaming new powers, camera
projector and screen, a rapt crowd,
the river pulsing under the night sky.
A log like a floating man sweeps past fast,
vanishes. My camera eye strains and fails.
8 October 2008
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