by Martin Christmas
Hearing Waltzing Matilda triggers question: What price a life? At 5 months young, a cancerous mole removed from nose, dry ice, no anesthetic. Cried for a week, mum said. At 8, a polio bout; knock knees; weak lungs; afraid of the dark; loud noises. Watched mum in a house-side drainage pit trying to commit suicide, my sister talked her out of it. At 12, mum took us kids to the UK for a ‘holiday’. She and dad got back together again in Adelaide, a compromise of sorts. Stuffed up education no end. Townsville, the UK, Adelaide in 18 months. At 17, high school teacher called me thick; not artistic; thrust into Book-keeping. The word ‘ dyslexic’ was not in use back then. For 7 years, worked in an accounting office. One Friday quit, walked out of ‘normal’ life. Funny thing, the same year outed thick, a poem made it to the school magazine setting the creative ball rolling, has never quit. Long story short. Life in the arts (theatre) plus 3 degrees, teaching, photography, poetry, editing poetry books. That’s thick? Billabong thinking again. Suicide was not an option. Maybe once or twice wanted to jump off the railings into the sea, who hasn’t? Since 8, asked the question, ‘Why?’ answered and moved on. As an adult, the daily mantra, ‘Think Positive, Act Positive’. Still have nightmares but always want to see what’s around the corner. I’m not thick.
Recently I ran a community visual and spoken word poetry workshop at Gawler, north of Adelaide. The main part of the workshop centred on a Disney music version of Waltzing Matilda (in true pub style). We all had a laugh. Then I read Waltzing Matilda by Andrew Barton Patterson (Banjo) (1864-1941 ). The original poem minus music is much darker and speaks of poverty, police brutality and suicide. All participants were deeply moved.
Martin Christmas is a poet, photographer, and theatre director with more than 100 productions to his credit. He has been published in several Australian anthologies, and overseas on-line literary magazines including Red River Review (the USA), as a Featured Poet; StepAway Magazine (the UK); and Bindweed (Ireland). He runs community poetry presentation workshops. His poetry books are Immediate Reflections, The Deeper Inner, D&M Between 2 Men (with Andrew Drake), and Random Adventures. He has an M.A. in Cultural Studies.