Poets speaking up to Adani – Michael Farrell

 

Hamlet In The Mind Of A Country Schoolteacher

 

‘Adani killed my father’

 

These words were in Adam’s head when he woke up, but

he was unable to remember any dream they were part of

 

It was still daylight: he’d been having a nap

between class and the performance, starting at eight

 

He walked to the theatre, thinking about the play, went

inside: it was filthy; and a smell of gas from the

leaky radiator

 

He’d arrived early so he sat up the back, thinking to move

closer when others began to arrive

 

Hamlet’s problem, he thought, was that the only truths he

had to express were ones that no one, least of all himself

wanted to hear

 

Last time he’d been here was for a school production of A

Midsummer Night’s Dream; he populated the empty stage

with kids crawling over the set, and each other, in green

 

It emphasised an ecological theme, according to the

program, written by Nadia, the drama teacher: each of the

children’s different roles complemented the others’

 

Yet to Adam (I am an English teacher after all, he said to

himself in an aside), the children seemed more like an

alphabet than an ecosystem: forming different

letters and words as they moved across the stage, and up

and down different levels of the forest, by vine

 

He’d lost concentration and forgot about the plot; he was

still vague about it – unlike tonight’s play, which he knew

pretty well, and which would be performed by a touring

professional company of recognisable actors

 

The blue shadow reminded him of his father (a ghost

rehearsing in the town theatre this bright summer evening?)

 

No: there was no sign of the cast; could it be gas, and in

any case his father was still alive, and not a miner

but an accountant?

 

What could he or Hamlet do, to stop the earth spinning to

perdition?

 

Pear trees grew, tree ferns too, rainforests with child-sized

snakes in them forming S’s and I’s and L’s: be careful in

the quiet

 

Nadia sat next to him, but was already looking at her

phone, so he didn’t zone in, only relatively, taking in his

surroundings

 

Yes, he had chosen the worst seat for comfort and view

so he could take that on as a martyr – he’d meant to move

but now he’d have to explain to Nadia; he was sure there

were mice droppings on the floor

 

He remembered being at the pub the day before, listening

to the pear farmers arguing about the Fortinbras mine, and

the likely effect on them, and their remedy for anger: a

night’s spotlighting

 

They sounded straight out of Aristotle, or rather like the

version of catharsis argued against by Aristotle’s critics

 

He spotted one or two of them now, looking and smelling

better than they did at the pub, except the pub was a

posher venue by far

 

The poster had suggested they were in for a sexy night of

TV stars half-clad and mournful, sponsored by a bank that

must be trying to look good, too

 

The sponsorship gave Adam a bad feeling, but he thought

that on the whole, he had to side with thinking, and a play

about thinking – however compromising the night

or how it ended (unseasonable weather predicted)

 

You are the English teacher, after all, as Nadia had said

in the staffroom that afternoon

 

 

Michael Farrell

 

‘Hamlet In The Mind Of A Country Schoolteacher’ was joint winner of the Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Prize 2017

 

 

Photos in collage from: CSIRO CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

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