Poem

Maxine Beneba Clarke
something sure

              sit down here now baby,

              stop that fidgeting

 

listen big,

and understand

 

mama’s gotta school you

                 ’bout something sure

’fore you grow into a man

 

now,

     hannah clarke, she died today

 

we don’t know her from soap,

                                           it’s true

 

she the one in the papers:

whose ex burn her up

       as she driving the kids to school

 

(yeh, he pour petrol on three little ones –

and kill them angels too)

 

 

    hurts my heart to think on it,

so baby, mama needs to know:

 

that a good man,

              the man you’ll grow to be,

 

           can lead a bad man home

 

 

d’you know to say

              nah, don’t do that mate

       or

              that’s not fucken right,

you heard her, take your hand off her shoulder

and how ’bout you and i call it a night

 

 

i know you’re young,

 

              and i taught you well

how decent folk behave

 

but if the time comes,

 

every woman is your mama,

              when it come to saving

 

 

like if she on the street

and he smell like trouble:

       getting right up close

and in her face

 

or some colleague in the lunch room’s saying

                that damn bitch took my babies

 

if his veins all popping, fists all clenched

and his eyes are still as death

 

will you call it out,

or call it in now, baby,

              trust your gut,

and use your head

 

 

we women mostly got each other’s backs

              but sometimes busy, just surviving

set up against the acid throwers

hands-gripped-round-throats

locked doors, and petrol fires

 

and every two minutes

the state is called

to deal with

         domestic violence

 

but a boy like you

                       could grow

to make a difference

 

 

                      if you try

 

 

like if he say

              i’m gonna make her pay

 

a man like you

could remind him

 

about the time the twins were born

when he came in late;

              could not stop smiling

 

saying

      man, her back was arched in agony

but she wasn’t screaming ay:

just got our bubs here safely

shit, i won’t forget today

 

 

see, hannah and them kids

    died brutal

 

we don’t know ’em all

                            from soap

 

but it aches my soul to muse on it

    so babe, your mama needs to know

 

that a good man,

exactly the man you’ll be,

 

 

                   will lead a bad man home 

Maxine Beneba Clarke
is The Saturday Paper’s poet laureate, and the author of The Hate Race and Foreign Soil. She is a winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry.

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