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How Violence Made a Real Mother-of-a-Mother of Me

Kathleen Mary Fallon

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Early in 1999 I heard that SBS Independent was putting together a program called Sorry Stories, about inter-racial relations and Indigenous Australia, ‘to coincide with the Olympics’. I’d been working for years on this type of material, and I thought I could write something for such a program. I rang Debbie Lee at SBSi and pitched my idea to her. She was very enthusiastic and supportive and I submitted a proposal to the Board.

I call myself an accidental scriptwriter, because never would I have had the hubris (nor the desire, really) to write a film. My idea was that I write four half-hour monologues along the lines of Alan Bennett. I’d written monologues in a play I was trying (unsuccessfully) to get produced and thought I could develop these fairly quickly. (How naive can you be?) The play is based on my experiences as the foster mother of a disabled Torres Strait Islander boy over a thirty-year period, so I’ve seen a bit of inter-racial relations and how we treat disability in Oz. It’s a pretty tough play with a very provocative title, Buy-back: Three Boongs in the Kitchen. I’d actually been trying to get a production of the play up, ‘to coincide with the Olympics’.

A number of artistic directors, theatre professionals, etc read it during ’98 and ’99 with a view to possible production, and any number said words to the effect, ‘you’ll never get it up in the Olympic year’. I thought this was outrageous and it spurred me on to do just that. I wanted to do something, anything, to counter the jingoism and the oppressive and offensive hype around the official Olympic Cultural Festival. My idea was to hire a daggy Scouts/School of Arts Hall in the Shadow of the Stadium, and mount a rough, hard-hitting workshop-production. I almost got it up too, through funding from Playworks and private sources, but there was a palpable atmosphere of fear of the consequences, and a couple of key people dipped out when it came to the crunch. It didn’t happen, but it fed into the idea of doing something ‘to coincide with the Olympics’ and then I heard about the Sorry Stories.

In late 1999, SBSi commissioned me to write four half-hour monologues under the title of Call Me ‘Mum’. (A bit late for the Olympics, but never mind.) Over the years, as the writing and the concept developed, the brief changed from monologues into an eighty-minute feature film. Shooting started in April 2005, and it is expected to be screened on SBS later this year. Margot Nash is directing, Andrew de Groot is DOP, David Bridie is the composer and sound designer, and Michael McMahon from Big and Little Films is the producer. With the help of terrific script editors such as Alison Tilson, Tony Ayres and Margot Nash, I’ve managed to write a real feature film, despite myself, and I’m very excited about it.




1. Hélène Cixous, Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), p. 9.   Writing, in its noblest function, is the attempt to unerase, to unearth, to find the primitive picture again, ours, the one that frightens us. Strangely, it concerns a scene ... Those who have been in contact with this opening door perceived it in the theatrical form of a scene. Why a scene? Why is it a scene? Why will it become the scene of the crime? Because we are the audience of this scene: we are not in the scene; when we go to the theatre we are not on the stage. We are witnesses to an extraordinary scene whose secret is on the other side. We are not the ones who have the secret. It's the pictorial scene. (1)  


  There are scenes - theatrical, operatic, filmic and televisual. There are spectacles - tableaux and a diorama to be witnessed and which I witness. There are playscripts - scenarios, screenplays, librettos to be written and which I write. I refuse to remain a witness. I write myself into and out of these scenes. But no matter how much I write, rewrite, revise, edit, unless the scribbling never ceases, unless I keep scratching-away-scratching-away I fall back, passive, defeated, overwhelmed by my insistence on participation in the scenes. I am forced to watch while ...  


(i am forced to watch while a child is tortured)


  Years ago I read a blurb about a book called The Basement by Kate Millett. I tried to order it but it was out of print. I finally got hold of it on inter-library loan. I settled into it in my still bedroom. I read it in one sitting.  


(i can finally stop holding my breath)


2. Kate Millett, The Basement: Meditations on a Human Sacrifice (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979), Frontispiece.

  On 26 October 1965, in Indianapolis, Indiana, the starved body of a sixteen-year-old girl named Sylvia Likens was found ... The beatings and abuse Sylvia suffered over the summer had increased so much by September that the last weeks of her life were spent as a captive in the basement of the house. Gertrude Baniszewski was indicted for the murder, together with three of her teenage children and two neighborhood boys ... (2)  


  Because I was Sylvia Likens. She was me. She was sixteen. I had been. She was the terror at the back of the cave, she was what "happens" to girls. Or can. Or might ... she was tied up in a basement the last weeks of her life and through the most unspeakable tortures. But it says here that before that she was still free, under whatever psychological duress and intimidation, but still free to come and go ... there was the pastor to appeal to, relatives, neighbours, social workers ... and she did not tell them ...  




Call Me ‘Mum' - Television script




Black and white. A train tunnel entrance cut out of the side of a hill. Silhouetted in profile against this gaping black cakehole of a tunnel stands a teenaged girl, Kate. She is dressed in an old-fashioned school uniform. White blouse. Navy blue pleated skirt. Blue tie. Black stockings, navy blue gloves, cream panama straw hat.

Close up of her gold-initialed Globite school suitcase as she carefully puts it down beside her.

What is wrong with this picture?

She is standing at the very edge and end of the railway platform. She is waiting for something.

What is she waiting for?

She is waiting for the train. Yes. She is waiting for the train to come hurtling out of that big, black cakehole.

Close-up of her face in profile. She is looking down at the track directly in front of her.

There really is something wrong with this picture.


Black and white. A woman's hand covers the teenaged girl's face. The hand furiously bashes the girl's head against a lounge room wall.

When the hand is removed the semi-conscious girl slides down the wall like a cartoon character. This reveals a large black blood smear where her head has been bashed against the wall. It is in the shape of a tunnel.


Black and white. The patch of railway track the girl is looking down at. The sound of a train hurtling through a tunnel increases in volume.

Shot of the girl looking down at the track.

Shot of the track as the train rushes over it.

The girl has not jumped but, across the track where her body would have fallen, the outline of where the body fell has been painted. The girl looks down at this outline.

Full body shot of her standing on the platform but she has been replaced by the blank outline. The space that waits.



(‘you have died many times,' said the psychiatrist who was neither
Hindu nor Buddhist.)




  When I clapped eyes on Warren sobbing as he stumbled down the corridor of Cherrymead Home, when I saw the state he was in, when I heard him screaming, it was the screaming I'd never allowed myself. When I heard him whimpering and crying, it was the whimpering and crying I'd never allowed myself. I knew there was someone else down here in this basement place.  



INTERIOR                    LOUNGEROOM                     EVENING

Kate downs another whiskey. Her face is disfigured by a blood-red left eye in which all the capillaries have burst.


nothing in my life has made me human ... only you Wassa Boy, Warren, Mr Smile-on-the-Dial ... save you, save myself ... save you ... run ... save myself ... as fast as you can .... save you ... you can't catch me ... save myself ...

a hostage situation ... pushing Warren along in front of me ... proof proof proof ... of something ... nothing's ever been fixed ... I-don't-know-how ... my mother used to say and say and say ... a writer couldn't have wished for a better mother... avalanches of verbal abuse, an impressively inventive word world of linguistic terror ... (she mimics her mother) and-another-thing-I-don't-know-
should-feel-for-her-daughter ... as-soon-as-you-could-walk-you-ran-
ran-away-from-me ... as-soon-as-you-could-talk-you-just-looked-up-

you see, I had to fix something ... something had to be fixed

save one person, save the world

it hasn't worked ... I've fixed nothing

not living a life... hemorrhaging a life






Kate, the white foster mother of a Torres Strait Islander boy, rehearses meeting and telling his birth mother, Flo, the story of how she came to foster her son.


... good evening 'Mum' ... edit ... 'Flo' ... edit ... 'Mum' ... I can't call you that ... why do you want me to? ... it sounds ridiculous ... I don't even know what to call her ... you're looking well ... nice weather ... love your colourful Islander frock ... oh and here's your long lost son who I've been keeping warm for fourteen years ... see what a good job I've done, looks better than when you last saw him doesn't he ... edit, edit ... listen to that whiteness rising in me ... jesus ... all these years with Wassa and I talk to his mother like that ... listen to that stiff-backed, purse-lipped social-worker in this soul of mine ... so nice and bright and white and violent ... will nothing ever stop me resorting to that bitter spirit ... it's the cloth I'm cut from ... all that girlie popcorn pink scabbing the map of world empire ... my birthright ... good-morning Mrs Flo ... so you just let the department take your sick baby and that was that ... edit! fucking edit! ... listen to that ... a voice like a balled fist .... it's just plain meanness in me ... 'The Protectors wife will be serving afternoon tea on the lawn ... you wouldn't dare touch a white woman' ...

what happened on Thursday Island Flo? ... Warren was in such a bad way when he came south to Cherrymead ... how did he get that bad? ... was it meningitis? was it iatrogenic? ... that nice name for nice big doctor fuck-up with lots and lots of nice wrong drugs ...

Flo, one day I'd like to be able to sit, calmly and quietly, and tell someone the blank, simple, raw facts ... tell someone who'll sit calmly and quietly and listen ... tell someone who's eyes wouldn't glaze over and start in with the Holes-in-the- Welfare-Net-Have-You-Told-Someone-in-Authority scenario ... or, my personal favourite, the You're-a-Credit-to-Your-Race version ... because I keep forgetting everything Flo ... everything simply falls out of my head leaving just a blank outline ... the shape that waits ... is that what it was like for you too, Flo? ... he was still screaming when he arrived at Cherrymead Flo ... was he screaming when he left you?... Matron read the file, 'Black, blind and profoundly retarded. Deranged. Dangerous.' 'A wolf boy. The Wildman of Borneo. No, seriously, no one will be safe when he gets his hormones. They always regress, revert, ' she said. 'Wouldn't you think someone would have had the kindness to well ... put him out of his misery? '

I was nineteen ... I didn't know how to, then ... and I didn't know how to leave people to their fate, didn't know how to debrief and just go home into my own life at the end of a shift, didn't realize that some people get routinely chucked away with the garbage, didn't know that it was ‘professional’ to watch them free falling through those fucking holes in the wholly holy welfare net like it was an extreme sporting event, didn't know how to watch the trained and educated dispensing the benefits of their training and education ... fostering Warren was spitting in their blind eyes ...

one Sunday ... an old couple ... Christians ... turned up at Cherrymead to take Mr Smile-on-His-Dial (that's what us nurses called him) out for a drive ... halla-bloody-loolya! ... and they turned up the next Sunday too... so, on the third Sunday, when the Christians didn't show, I went to Matron and asked her if they were going to foster Warren because the Decrepits (as us nurses called them) were his last hope ... he was turning five in a few weeks time and they were going to send him to the Garbage Dump (that's what us nurses used to call Woodbrook, the big state instution out in the sticks on the edge of town) ... 'No!' she said ... and I can still see her badly permed red head bent over the Roster... she didn't even look up ... 'No!' she said ... they're getting a dog instead.' ...


Black and white. Teenaged Kate, in her school uniform, has her back to the lounge room wall. A woman's hands, her mother's, holds Kate by the shirt front and across her face. The hands are bashing Kate's head against a wall. Toylike, Kate's head bounces backwards and forwards.

Kate turns the left side of her face to the camera. She looks out at us with her left eye. The white of this eye is blood red. All the capillaries have burst. She turns back to face whoever is bashing her.

INTERIOR                    LOUNGEROOM                     EVENING


something really hard and cold bunched up inside me like a balled fist and just said, 'No' 'No. No. No. No.'



('nononononononononononononononononono,’ Herme sang)



to all the violence smashing down around him ... all the violence possible in the world was just crashing down on him ... and that's when I learnt to fight violence with violence ... when I became the monster you reckon I am today Wassa ... it's true, I don't feel anything anymore ... but I feel what you're feeling like a phantom limb Warren

all that violence is still crashing down on us ... it has never stopped



(‘runrunrunrunrunrunrunrunrun,’ Herme sang)




(i am forced to watch while a child is being tortured)



a dream run

I've left him in the frozen food section of the supermarket

I'll collect him if he's still there when I go shopping next week

He's been in an accident and lies bleeding in the gutter

I'll pick him up if he's still there tomorrow

He's at the dentist having his teeth extracted

He's in terrible pain but he doesn't make a sound, doesn't complain, keeps smiling



(that's kids for ya)



They've forgotten the anaesthetic

I find an old shoebox in the rubbish. I open it to find it's full of amputee, deformed and sick children. He's there in a wheel chair smiling up at me. The diabetes has taken hold and he's had his legs amputated. Then I realize all the kids are Black. I wish I hadn't found the box. I want to throw it back.




('it's ok Aunty Katie,’ he says 'it doesn't hurt, don't worry' and he keeps smiling up at me

that's kids for ya)




It's a scene in a James Bond movie. I'm being chased by savage dogs. They leap at my throat. They want to tear it out. I've seen too much and they know I will talk.

I'm the Roadrunner

running across a steel bridge

running across a stone bridge

running across a wooden bridge

running across a bamboo bridge

running across a rope bridge

Then I look down. Uh! Oh! Thin air.
































All anyone ever asks is, 'Why?' Why on earth would anyone take that on? (Meaning him. Meaning a child. Meaning Warren. Meaning Wassa Boy. Meaning Mr Smile-on-His-Dial.)

EXTERIOR                  COUNTRY ROAD                       NIGHT

An old truck drives through the bush, along a dirt road. Following it, in the yellow headlights, we see water pouring down from a load of dirt in the back. It's as if the earth itself is weeping, copiously. (The truck's number plate reads 'PAYDIRT'.)






Buy-back: Three Boongs in the Kitchen - Playscript

Rhoda: There is a mob of Blacks living between the gloss finish exterior Dulux enamel and the Taubmans interior satin finish of the walls of my home. What do they want? There is a mob of Blacks living in the dark under my sanded and Estapoled floorboards. Why are they here?

What are the newspapers under the lino not saying?

There is a mob of Blacks living between my Miracoil mattress and my bed springs. What are they waiting for? There are Black voices between the stations on the radio. What are they saying just out of earshot? There are Black voices whistling in the white noise between the tracks on the CD. What are they whistling about just out of earshot? There are Black faces flickering in the static between the TV channels. What are they showing me standing in the blind spot of my rear-vision mirror as I drive away as fast as I can.

Sometimes I almost hear the heart of Australia beating. There must be a heart, somewhere, but it's just out of earshot.




3. Walter Benjamin, Illuminations (London: Fontana Press, 1968), p. 247.   The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognised and is never seen again. (3)  



I had a series of dreams that were powerfully theatrical. One of the first featured the diorama of the 'black' family in the Tasmanian Museum and the Hobart Theatre Royal (the oldest theatre in Australia). The three heads of the 'black' mother, father and child appeared in this dream on the dark and empty stage of the Theatre Royal. (This theatre is ornately decorated with painted cherubs, floral festoons and the heads of great male composers and writers from the Western tradition.) The three heads, on the empty and dark stage, opened their mouths and began to speak but my fear woke me before they could say anything and I have spent years listening, studying, trying to find out what they might have said.


4. Anthony Kubiak, Stages of Terror: Terorism, Ideology, and Coercion as Theatre History (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1991), p. 4.

  Theatre is not merely a means by which social behaviour is engineered, it is the site of violence, the locus of terror's emergence as myth, law, religion, economy, gender, class, or race, either in the theatre, or in culture as a theatricality that paradoxically precedes culture. (4)  



It was within a theatricality I began to be able to speak; in a theatricality the situation took on a Gestalt, a shape; a complete picture emerged. I began to write. (Rhoda. Kate. Warren. Herme. Hermame.) No, that's not entirely true. The voices I'd been harbouring all my life began speaking volumes, not the little bleats and yelps and phrases that come in dreams or in off-guard moments, but glossolalic, insistent, the volume way up, all stations on at once. I was trying to hear what the black mouths were saying but the white voices drowned out any hope of hearing them. I punched everything into the computer under file name Three Boongs in the Kitchen. All I knew was the end of Act 2, my father calling my foster son a 'boong'. This called itself the 'boong moment'. The moment when my white guilt turned to a burning shame, when I realised that I too very well knew that word in all its vile and shameful connotations. It was the word.

‘For every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably ... to articulate this past historically means to ... seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger.’ (5) It is my contention that the moment the word 'boong' is heard in white Australia, in all its horrific connotations and with all its ramifications, is such a 'moment'.

When I told Warren that I was calling the play Three Boongs in the Kitchen, he groaned and said, 'Oh! You better be careful using that "k" word. Bathroom, loungeroom, anything but not the "k" word.' Then later he said, 'It hurts me, that "b" word hurts me like hell inside.'

Tropical tour - a holiday destination - 1

I went to Thursday Island. I went into the heart of my guilt, my fear, my confusion: my whiteness. Entered the blind-spot of the Oz psyche. Courted that cultural schizophrenia. Refused the pat answers, sloganeering headlines, catchphrases. I had no language.

I didn't know where else to go. There was no one else to ask Rhoda's question, Kate's question about Warren, 'What was the illness made him halt and blind, a sucker for the healing hands of Jesus? Made him available, available for anyone, even a fuck-up like me, to lay their healing white hands upon?' I knew no one on T.I. but I had my story, Warren's story, our story. I was taking the story back. I was terrified of the(ir) hatred and the(ir) contempt and the(ir) anger I thought I'd see in all those black faces when I told the story.

INTERIOR                    LOUNGEROOM                     EVENING

Warren puts on his sunglasses as he remembers telling his story in an interview on Some Current Affair Programme.





I made em laugh and I made em cry when I told em my story. Kate calls me a great big Christmas hamper when I do that.



  He sits back remembering how good it felt to be the star, the centre of attention. He remembers the laughter and crying of the interviewer and the applause of the audience around him. He speaks as if he's still on camera.  


That interviewer - but really he was the man sitting across from me - called the Sixty Minute Man - asked me how I learnt to play didgeridoo from me grandfather sitting out in Woodbrook under a big Cool Bar tree eating Bushman's Tuckerpbag and that Sixty Minute Man asked me how I felt about being stolen and he really really listened and got really upset when I told him about that white woman coming and stealing me from my tribe who lived in Cherrymead who didn't want me and threw me in the garbage tip because I was handicapped and he asked me if I ever escaped and I told him about how I always kept running and running away from that gubba to get back to my tribe and she chased me and chased me through the rain and cold and I was just running and running and crying to get back to my mother he asked me if I remembered my tribe all sitting together and singing and dancing around the camp fire and I told him about how I could see us all sitting together and laughing and singing and dancing the hoola hoola around the camp fire and he was really interested when I told him about how that foster mother tried to make me wash myself all the time and clean my teeth and use deodorant and stuff because she hates the way black people smell and she wants to make me white like her he said that was called similar relationsist genderslide so it's got a name there and she yells at me all the time and takes all the money the government gives her but it's supposed to be for me and she doesn't even feed me - much.


  He takes his sunglasses off and pauses. Remembering the reality of the actual cast and crew screening and how upset Kate and him both were. He almost realises the reality of the situation.  



Kate was really upset when I said that - because she makes really good spaghetti bolognaise.

That Sixty Minute Man told me it was a film I was in but really, when Kate saw it, she cried and said it wasn't a film, it was a doctored-mentality.





  On T.I. I read ‘No Ordinary Judgment’  

6. Nonie Sharp, Stars of Tagai: The Torres Strait Islanders (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1993), p. 9.   The essence of Miriam life was and continues to be the creation and re-creation of symmetry or balance through exchanges: within a face-to-face community the exchange of people, things, symbolic meanings, of what I lack and you, my neighbour have ... (6)  

7. Nonie Sharp, No Ordinary Judgement: Mabo, The Murray Islanders Land Case (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press), p. 7.  

This manifests itself for the Islanders as when Passi (the eldest brother of the Mabo plaintiff Reverend Dave Passi) said to the young Eddie Mabo when he set off in search of the knowledge that "white culture" had to offer. 'It's important for the benefit of this island and your people that whatever you do outside, don't forget to bring that idea back to Murray.’ (7)




On Thursday Island I began to hear what those black voices were saying. I had to bring Warren back, had to bring the story back. In a reciprocal culture it is the asymmetry of the non-reciprocal that is evil. Warren had gone. His story had gone. He had to come back. His story had to come back.

I want to take Buy-back: Three Boongs in the Kitchen back one day. (Ephraim Bani, a Mabuiag elder, gave me an Islander name for it, Aiwail: we are together.) Torres Strait gets SBS. Call Me "Mum" will return the story.

While I was on T.I. a surprising conversation went something like this

'Is he grateful to you for bringing him up, for all you've done for him?' asked an elder I got talking to in the Federal Hotel.

'No! Should he be? He says I stole him. He hates me. Everyone says I stole him. I'm part of the problem, an instrument in assimilationist genocide.'

'That's not the way we see it. Ilan pasin in Islander adoption you're his mother. We call you Mum.'

This was years after I'd found his family, years after his mother first said, 'Call me "Mum". You are my son’s mother so we'll call you Mum. Come up next Christmas and we'll put on a big kupmarie for you.' Years after I'd probably insulted her and the family by not going up for Christmas - just sending Warren (and I never could bring myself to call her Mum). Years after she'd died.

Warren hated it that they called me 'Mum'. He couldn't understand it any more than I could. He'd never called me mummummymother himself. I never wanted him to. I never wanted to barge in and claim that spurious maternity. Always Aunty Rhoda, Rhoda or, on official socialworker, school visit occasions, 'my mother'. He always kept his full, birth name too.

Missionary position - 1

The dramaturg said, 'You haven't shown Kate's terrible fear as she takes him to meet his mother, his family. Where's her terror that they'll take away her precious only son?' (The dramaturg was the one with the 'precious only son'.)


8. Cixous, Three Steps, p. 13.   As soon as I say my, as soon as I say my daughter, my brother, I am verging on a form of murder, as soon as I forget to unceasingly recognise the other's difference. You may come to know your son, your sister, your daughter well after thirty, forty, or fifty years of life, and yet during those thirty or forty years you haven't known this person who was so close. You kept him or her in the realm of the dead. (8)  



Missionary position - 2

The well-known Artistic Director of Tear One, the State Theatre Company, said that I'd unfortunately missed the opportunity in my playscript 'of giving the audience an empathy experience with the heartwarming story of a white woman's love, commitment and dedication in dealing with the heartrending story of a disabled, black son.'






Rhoda: Why should I have been so shy of my own mother?

You'd go into town every Friday and in the afternoon after school, I'd hide behind that old paling fence on the corner and wait for you to come home. I can still see you, walking along the footpath by the railway line. Walking towards me along Acacia Avenue, head held so high it seemed to touch the yellow blossoms smothering the Acacia trees. So elegant, so beautiful. In your gray gabardine suite and yellow guipure lace blouse embroidered with yellow seed pearls. Coming towards me in your hat and gloves and black, suede stilettos. Seeing you made me feel funny, over-excited, shy; like waiting for your first date or something. Stage-fright. I could never sustain the suspense and before you saw me I'd run home and wait on our fence. Legs dangling. Nonchalant. 'Hello!' I knew you were going to crumple onto the lounge as soon as you walked in, and pull off your shoes. I knew I'd peep around the dining room door and watch the pain on your face as you rubbed your corns, your carbuncles, your ingrown toe nails, your ruined insteps, your varicose veins.

For years I wrote under the nom-de-plume the feathered plume nibbeak pen of a bird of paradise quill of a name to do fine copperplate crinkly pubic hair writing all over everything with in the name of my mother's mother who loved me and who is the only person I've ever liste(ne)d to one word they were saying I wrote under that name until Warren turned 18 because, if there had been one whiff of my being a lesbian, one whiff, the social workers would have come straight to the door and taken him away. So, after he turned 18 I could publish under my own name. That's when I went to my mother and told her that I was about to come out as a lesbian in a novel to be published shortly.

And now I can say this because I've changed my name by deed-poll. (No animals have been harmed in the filming of this filming.) What would La-in-the-name-of-the-Father Cancancan say about a woman who changes her sir-name to that of her s/mother's mother so her smother won't be socially embarrassed by her publishing a book about her lesbian sexuality? She said, 'Well-you-go-right-ahead-
besmirch-either-your-father's-or-my-name-until-you-until-I-brought- you-into-this-world-which-went-on-well-enough-without-you-and-will- again-after-you've-gone-you-think-parading-that-sick-boy-around-is- proof-of-something-?-as-if-People-can't-see-right-


the name returned

gift-giving back the name

bestowed at birth

as a sign of





  What would La-in-the-name-of-the-Father Cancancan say about that gift of un-naming, de-naming, re-naming?  



(changed my name to make that mummydaddything love me changed my name as proofproofproof

i carried this new nameproof back to them and they cried 'Why ? Why in-the -name-of -God would you be ashamed of your own name? ')



  Now I can say this to anyone who'll listen. Hermame says, 'I'm praying for you'. Herme says, 'You're preying on me. Desist! I warn you! Your maternity has always been something with sly eyes and a quickflick tongue, something that chews and swallows; some slumbering thing that throbs away in the abasement dark, alert for any movement.' so don't move don't even breathe  


(don't smell the stink down here nobody knows we are down here so there will never be help no one will ever help me nobody knows because i don't tell anyone for all i know this is where everyone silently lives)



cane toad scenario

Hiding under the house in the dark a fat black cane toad between me and the door alert for any movement.

I return again and again to the abasement, the abasement of the house, the basement of basementDavid (my brother’s name) and basementRosemary (my sister’s name) West (semicircular family). I am fascinated with that basement. (And with the way I twist facts to fit.) It causes excitement in my nether regions. As I said before, I know that basement.

I am a murdered

If you have read this far you should know before you read farther and implicate yourself that I am a murdered. You will think you know who is dead and why. That is all I can say without incriminating myself. In the safety of brackets and as cringed as 10 point italic, I'll tell you this much.




(shortly after i killed off Theodolite, the father, in the playscript Buy-back: Three Boongs in the Kitchen my father died. And i prayed: (slow).

Pincerprayer - 1

Dear God

i’d advise you to pluck out my father's soul with tongs.)



  Now I say, outside the brackets and in 14 point bold for all to see my shame, my crime, my survival. Now I say knowing it will be so, knowing the blunt instrumentality of premeditated illocutionary power works as well as a curse. If you read this my mother is also dead. I say I wish you would die. I'll be glad when you're dead. Once you've said this and meant it you can say anything. Nothing scares me. I have lost everything and nothing scares me because nothing means anything to me I am free, empty, orphaned, alone. I have survived. I have won. I have that winning feeling. I can hear those gold coins tumbling. I can hear that little winning tune.  





Pincerprayer - 2

Dear God

I'd advise you to pick up my mother's soul with tongs.

I have survived and, whatever my motives, so has Warren. ('Show me a motive and I'll show you an underhand,' I once heard some smart-arse say.) Warren lives the bachelor life in a pleasant flat in an inner city suburb. I hardly ever catch him at home when I ring, he's always out and about working part-time in a sheltered workshop, playing his music at live gigs or busking or making CDs, helping his friends. Last time I saw him I told him about the playscript, the TV script, told him it was about mothers and families and race. He said, 'You might like to take out your notebook and write this down. This can be the end of your programme. You have the guy who is me saying this. He should just say real straight and quiet into the camera. "It's family if they help ya; it's not family if they hurt ya and that's the end of the matter as far as I'm concerned." '

He led me into a terror and I have escaped that terror partly through writing my way out. I have tried to describe this trajectory for you because what I desperately need is a witness for this as well. Now that you have implicated yourself by reading thus far. You can choose to ignore what I have told you, to find me as repulsive as I find myself, to go to the cops, to pretend it's just lunacy, just a fictive set-up to fill a few pages of an obscure enterprise for academic promotion brownie-points, fulfilling DETYA requirements for peer reviewed publication. If you've read to the end of this there you have it.





  'Perhaps I was a bit quick with my fists at times, a bit slap happy but when you have children of your own you'll understand' is all the apology I'm ever likely to get (and that was given under duress).  


  a lesson in art appreciation in our house (ART THOU APPRECIATIVE?)  



HERMAME got herself into a good comfortable swing-grip position on the redplush-upholstered French-polished dining room chair and bent herme down

over her lap

the 'Chip Off the Old Block' print of the tiny son hands behind his back, standing fearful before the old bearded military garbed father riding crop in hand loomed down from above HERMAME’S right shoulder and 'The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe' grinning as she pushed her finger into a screaming child's mouth loomed down from above her left

HERMAME pulled up herme’s school uniform and began applying the hairbrush screaming ’youwillapologise youwillapologise

before I'm through with youmygirl'

the semicircular family screamed 'make her Mame make her'

herme did what she always did she withdrew first from her self then from her body she did what she always did she made her body go hard and blank

... I am wood I am metal ...

so it hurt it didn't hurt she set her jaw made her self rigid

and she didn't make a sound not a peep

her pride prepared her to die

HERMAME kept whacking away


the semicircular family screamed on

HERMAME becoming inventive threw the brush away and pulled

herme's pants down

as soon as the hot damp palms made contact herme felt something so new so

frightening she re-entered her body she became fleshfleshflesh

HERMAME got more ferocious the semicircle came in closer chanted louder

HERMAME'S hand became a mechanical thing

up/down/up/down/up/down pounding patterning printing polishing

plundering stapling stitching herme imagined she was some fine fabric being

ferociously pinned again and again by the merciless one-eyed needle of the old

Singer sewing machine at the mercy of HERMAME ‘S frantic treadling

...I am air ...

she came to on the cold floor alone in the house

(the family had gone to Pizza Hut for dinner)

she dragged herself into her bedroom and crawled into bed

the next day all was peace and harmony over breakfast the storm having

passed it was as usual never mentioned ... herme felt light, calm, purged she

knew she was the martyr the saviour she knew just how deep the love and

need went even if they didn't say so the mild eyes the lowered voices the tiny

oblique acts of consideration-more -than- kindness showed her

but this new thing had come into the scenario this new excitement,

... I am fine fabric ... I am air ... I flap about everywhere ...

upping the whole tone of the proceeding a notch or two something more was

now at stake but she couldn't put a name to it for a couple of decades

this new excitement in her mother's hands under her mothers hands

in the voices and faces of the semicircular family was SEX

so brutalising

so nothing

so everything

once this has happened to you once you have broken too/too/t/a/b/o/o

once you have been

bent over and broken back you can do anything say anything,

go anywhere, be anything, you are forever slightly beside yourself and noone

and nothing can ever quite touch you, only the application of the belt the

brush the naked hand and the air you become so easily so airily is full of




  It's not hard to see where I got my serious sense of threatricality? Melodramatic. Operatic. Soapie. Hermame. She was the writer/director/dramaturg/auteur/ star. She wanted a cast and an audience and audience participation. She got this impossibility with Herme. She also got more than she bargained for. When Herme stopped writing prose, fiction; stopped being alone in her head, she started to write and speak - monologues. Then dialogue had much the same effect as colour TV after black and white, as Redon, in his later years, going from charcoal to colour; stepped into a vivid, peopled world.  





Assembled, and viewed from a distance, snapshots of all these scenes, scenarios, tableaux, dioramas, make a portrait of my face. There's something really creepy about it. It's a cheap shot at some kind of unified identity. But it's a false promise, a glib solution. It's so forced, so aesthetically unappealing. I rip up the portrait. Littered, the fragments make an ugly and confused abstract.

But if I...

1/ hold my gaze and then slowly move away from these fragments

2/ look through them at my own shadow

3/ a picture will suddenly emerge



  Reprinted with permission from Maggie Kirkman, JaneMaree Maher and Kay Torney Souter (eds.), The Fertile Imagination: Narratives of Reproduction (Melbourne: Meridian, 2002).  

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© Kathleen Mary Fallon and Rouge 2005. Cannot be reprinted without permission of the author and editors.
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