In Pieces and Pots

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. 

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