My cultural biography – poem by Tania Sheko

Somehow I manage to stand without falling

with all the other Australians

at the bottom of the world

or so the map says.

 

I shiver when you, at the top, are walking sleeveless through the park.

I shelter in air conditioned rooms, curtains drawn,

with my European trees burning before they get the chance to turn red

at the same time as you shovel snow and boast about snow days.

I want heat days.

 

In my early schooling I learned about convicts

farewelling England forever

to come to the place of my birth

which was not the birthplace of my parents.

 

My double life was week days a certain kind of world view

and weekends different in language and customs

but I questioned not

and kept the other life quiet.

I danced to Greensleeves in the asphalt playground;

on Saturdays I sang acapella in Russian and recited Pushkin.

 

Tic Tac Toe, here I go, where I land

I do not know.

What shall we do with a drunken sailor?

There’s a green oak-tree by the shores
Of the blue bay; on a gold chain,
The cat, learned in the fable stories,
Walks round the tree in ceaseless strain.

The textbook of my life is sewn together

from pages torn from books in libraries

at opposite ends of the world.

 

I ignore the footy on tv –

my country’s religion,

the races also,

but enjoy the public holiday.

I wonder about the words of my country’s anthem:

Australians all let us rejoice, For we are young and free;

We are not so young, surely,

We are old but some of us have only just arrived

and chosen to forget who lived here first.

 

I question also

For those who’ve come across the seas We’ve boundless plains to share…

 

Along with many others

I remark on the falsehood;

We sing what is not true

but should be.

 

I am Australian.

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