What d’ya Think?
by Neil Creighton

“So what d’ya think of the West?”

He hadn’t yet learned the right reply to that.
He was just thirteen.
Every day the unrelenting heat was a hammer blow.
The sandy land stretched to low hills.
The only water was the mirage
shimmering in the distant haze.

How could he say that 4000 kilometers away
on the east coast
the sea poured through a narrow entrance
to form a lake of islands and inlets,
rocky promontories, little cave-filled foreshores,
choppy water filled with striking tailor
and his young life had been filled with
tree houses, forts and cubbies,
splashing and plunging in the cool water,
his eye feasting all day on the changing blue
that he had taken entirely for granted.

So he hesitated, looked down, said

“It’s good.”

“Right then. Welcome to this school.
We hope that you will enjoy your time in the West.”

Too little, too late.
He’d seen the narrowing of eyes,
lips drawn just a little tighter,
the offence too quickly taken.
Months later, on a cold wintry morning,
he would pay for that hesitation,
the implication that where he came from
may have been better.

Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!

On the fifth stroke the cane broke clean in half.
His hands grew purple welts.
He tucked them under his arm pits
To warm them and soften the pain.

He was unbowed.
Girls fluttered around him.
The welts were external badges of honour.
Internally he now knew about insecure parochialism
and the abuse of power

so three years later,
when on a windy, rain-swept day,
after another long move with his gypsy family,
he arrived in Melbourne
knowing what to say to the inevitable question–

“So, what d’ya think of Melbourne?”

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, far left, with my family just before our move to Western Australia.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My Dad was in the Royal Australian Air Force so we moved a lot. In 1960 we left Lake Macquarie, on the east coast of Australia and moved across the continent to Western Australia. The poem documents a real experience of mine, although I choose to write it in the third person. Three years later we moved again, this time to another east coast state.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Neil Creighton lives in a small village northwest of Sydney, Australia. His work as a teacher of English and Drama brought him into close contact with thousands of young lives, most happy and triumphant but too many tragically filled with neglect. It made him intensely aware of how opportunity is so unequally proportioned and his work often reflects strong interest in social justice. He has had poems published in The Second Genesis: An Anthology of Contemporary World Poetry, Prosopisia, and other online journals. He is a contributing editor at Verse Virtual, and blogs at Wind of Flowers. Poems by Neil Creighton.