by Jenni Nixon
doctors pumped her head full of electricity without an anaesthetic when the demons came would wait in line at seventeen knowing what lay ahead my mother gentle artistic as a teenager won prizes for her drawings published in newspapers she marries young family’s aim was for her to ‘settle down’ has two children before the age of twenty-one to escape the control of a drunk bully retreats further when the demons won her ceramic biscuit barrel vase from the pottery factory is in the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences vases dishes ramekins and ashtrays some hand-painted with Indigenous Art motifs small round white plastic framed dried flower arrangements sold to David Jones cheap imports and copies from Japan flood the market soon bankrupt in the ‘60’s they sell off stock ceramic Dutch boy and girl salt-and-pepper shakers sold door to door and mentioned in Parliament an outrage in Canberra apparently toward the end her drawings and unfinished paintings are scattered in scrunched lumps on the carpet or turned toward the wall still she laughs has the lady in from next door share a few cold beers walks the block exercise at the pool continues to visit the hospital for ‘a little rest’ respite from depressive swings and mania medicated as the nurses fuss she enjoys her time ‘away’ for years my mother wrote weekly letters enclosed small money orders sums hidden from ‘the old man’ she encourages me to stay alive ‘things will get better soon’ after she died I receive four ramekins with her hand-painted stolen Aboriginal Art stylized stick-figure blacks with spears boomerangs kangaroo emu and goannas my anger and grief so overwhelms me I smash them to pieces
In the 50’s suburban mums and dads bought Australiana ceramics to collect and connect with the outback (Country) and often displayed them behind glass in wooden cabinets. My mother’s Jemba factory sold directly to stores and competed with Martin Boyd pottery. Both featured stylized Indigenous subjects. The plagiarism infuriated me. After smashing the ramekins I have made some amends by buying two small vases from eBay as memories surface. I can feel her presence when I hold them. Remember her paintbrush, a small swish of colour as story lines appear.
Jenni Nixon is a Sydney writer and performance poet with readings at diverse venues from town halls, writers’ festivals, in bookshops, pubs, and radio. Poetry collections include swimming underground published byGinninderra Press (2015) café boogie published by Interactive Press (2004). Widely anthologised recent poetry appears in Cordite, Southerly, Rochford Street Press, Not Very Quiet, and I Protest Ginninderra Press (2020). Musings During a Time of Pandemic World anthology Kistrech Kenya.