The ‘Orphanage’


I saw the big gates from the bus that took
us there. I went to ‘Dormitory’. For boys.
It was ‘the orphanage’, just me and Mum
at first, then my sister too, without Dad.
Mum worked there. I don’t know where,
or for how long. There was a matron in a blue
uniform. I hated her. She stood over me
while I tried to do shoelaces up. We had
to be neat. I left them tied and dragged the backs
of my shoes round each heel. I almost cried.
I couldn’t do the slip knot, just the granny.
The kids at ‘the orphanage’ were all really tough,
much tougher than any kids up the road. One gave
me his shanghai, he called a ‘ging’, made of wire
and rubber bands from a cut-up bike tube.
I put a very heavy stone in, pulled all the big
black laccas back. But I pulled it the wrong
way, and hit myself and went black with stars
and woke up like my head was just pain
and dizzy. They said I knocked myself out
on the spot. Mum was scared and we
left ‘the orphanage’, where she had worked.
We went back to Box Hill South and Dad.
And they were quieter then and always said
they did it ‘for the children’s sake’.

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