Class Portrait

Image supplied by author.

Class Portrait


Eight or nine, assigned to the front end of the first row,
uniform grey shorts and shirts
and gingham for the girls.
Cross legged, a compact darker boy
surrounded by freckled Amazons
with names like, Turner, Smith, and Brown.

My sense of the vertical:
the way the gritty asphalt is unsurprisingly Asian
and the sky something else.
The way the Amazons are untouchable.

I looked up
from a sketchbook hidden in my lap.
I was caught scratching my name into the desk.

I know I can’t hide from the sunburnt ones,
or try to draw a pony like Wendy Miller’s.
I’m faking a smile, passing, badly.

A faint whiff of glue.
All I want now is the Airfix kit
for the Spitfire Mark IV
or the General Yamato.

Perhaps that day something was learned,
something no one in that school had taught,
like how to make airplane wings
look a bit more level than before.

At some point before or after the shutter went click
I must’ve wanted to belong in their
selective order, stand in the top row.
But not then. A cloudy developer fluid

catches that eternal day in a silver halide print
that parents order in multiples
so a copy can emerge in a Facebook reunion group
50 years later. The day as black and white

and as grey as that,
in the only medium the world can see us in.

Adam Aitken

Author: Adam Aitken

Adam Aitken is a poet, memoirist, academic and editor (with Kim Cheng Boey and Michelle Cahill) of Contemporary Asian Australian Poets (Puncher & Wattmann 2013). Born in London in 1960 to an Anglo-Australian father and a Thai mother, Adam spent his childhood in South-east Asia, before migrating to Australia where he graduated from the University of Sydney in 1982. He was a co-editor of the poetry magazine P76, and for a time was associate poetry editor for Heat magazine. He published his first collection, Letter to Marco Polo, in 1985. His most recent books of poetry are Tonto’s Revenge, (Tinfish Press, Hawai’i) and Eighth Habitation, which was shortlisted for the Adelaide Festival Award. His work appears in the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature, Jacket2, Southerly, and in Life Writing. His book Eighth Habitation was shortlisted for the John Bray Award, and he was the Visiting Writer in Residence for Fall Semester, 2010 at the University of Hawaii. Adam first worked with The Red Room Company, writing the poem 'Costumes' for the Occasional Poetry project in 2007. In 2012 he was resident at the Australia Council’s Keesing Studio, Paris. His latest work is a memoir One Hundred Letters Home (Vagabond Press 2016). He currently researches reflective academic writing at the University of Technology Sydney.

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