Albert Wendt from the short story ‘In a Stone Castle in the South Seas’
‘I need to believe in the romantic myth of home – a place to belong to or die in – in order to stay alive/sane. Without roots … a writer will die slowly … being home keeps reaffirming that central fact of my existence that I am an outsider, permanently.’
Unpublished memoirs of my father L T Hack
Written in 1993-4 just before he passed away. I didn’t bother to read them even when he was proffering them to me on occasion. Five years after he passed away I did and found some very interesting stuff on a personal level, a goldmine of information despite occasional didacticism. ‘What a pity’ I think every time I read through them. Because I have questions galore and when he was alive and healthy he talked about the different Pacific islands he lived on, the people, the life, what he and my mother got up to, the work scene, the fishing, the personalities, the dancing, the everything! And I didn’t listen. I could not give a toss, neither could my brothers. It must have been a strange feeling for him to have accumulated so many memories, artefacts and a ton of photos all carefully stored, transported to and displayed at our many abodes and nobody listened.
Well I’m listening now and it is these memoirs and in particular his photos and slides that many of my poems have been inspired by. For example a poem came from a combination of events spanning forty years starting with his Pitcairn Island stay in 1945.
Recently while lying on my kitchen floor recovering from a sit-up I glanced up at a Pitcairn Island artefact of his on the wall (he worked on many Pacific Islands from the 40s to the 60s) and for the first time saw it was shaped like a heart. I’d never noticed this before. On it are the words ‘forget me not from Pitcairn’ I recall him telling me nearly forty years earlier, under the very infrequent influence of whisky, a story about a girl, virginity, something else (I pretended not to listen).
I dug out the Pitcairn chapter of his memoir and found her. A girl, a ‘dusky maiden’ skinny dipping, other stuff and discussions with her parents and then he left the Island for good! My father was a boy’s own adventurer type, straight as a die, so this liason must have been out of the ordinary as was the whiskied confession. I never heard anything about it again.
These memoirs continue to provide inspiration. In a way I have re-started and am continuing a conversation with my father as I have with my mother and some long-lost ancestors by researching for and putting together this poetry collection.