Poetry | Chermy

Westfield Chermy is one of our sacred sites / ehh gammin! / my grandparents came to Chermy in the early 50s / they had a house on Fee St / where my mother and her siblings grew up / they moved there after the two older children were born in Wacol / Mum was the second born in Fee St.

The shopping centre first opened in 1957 / Chermside Drive-in Shopping Centre / now it’s the largest single-level shopping centre in Australia / it expanded / and expanded / expanded / over years.

Mum remembers / an oval surrounded by bush / swimming pool in the middle.

On the weekends she and her brothers and sisters had the choice / go to the pool / or the cinema / The Dawn opened in 1928 / shut in 2005 / the last single-screen cinema in Brisbane.

Round Chermy everything’s changed / some parts unrecognisable / but the houses near Fee St / a pocket has stayed the same / the same old little houses.

On Fee St all the families’ kids played together / their names / Aunty will know.

The bush was all open / could walk to the bush through to Geebung and Aspley / to see friends / go to school / Geebung primary / all you had to worry about were snakes / never wore shoes.

 Geebung / camp / amongst the trees / and geebung groves / the roads are old roads.

Nanny’s warm arm / against mine / Mum and Nanny touching / by the bickie shop / next to the butcher’s / strong deadly women / ready to / take on Chermy at peak hour / on a Saturday morning.

Pride of knowing where every shop is / always notice a new one coming up / know the specials / keep the vouchers / push Nanny on the motor scooter / push Nanny along / save for Christmas / the decorations are different each year / push Nanny up the hill / tell your cousin you’re coming over / spend four hours looking for an outfit / go to Best&Less get some undies / Nanny always bought you Bonds / said those girls need the best / keep the docket / see if it fits.

Each year our bodies change / we get older in changing rooms / we try to fit into jeans and schools that know our black / mothers / just trying to fit in / Chermy is always home.

New swimmers / birthdays at the pool / the cinemas make us cry sometimes.

My mum will kill me true / if I don’t separate my recycling / before I leave the food court / my brother is up / playing pinball / he refuses to give me his tokens / and lollies / he will be saving them / for weeks.

Westfield sacred to us / women are the gatherers / make our houses safe / make our families safe / my mum, grandmother, Aunties took care of me good / I never had to worry about anything much / protected us when we were little / we were jahjams / now we can with greater ease / make our own mistakes.

Aunty buys me Belgian chocolates and Christmas cake every year / we buy stuff / we need stuff / we were starving when we walked up Meemar St / the hot grass / over the fence / Aunty made us sandwich / and cuppa / black / always black.

Carried over shelves / and into tills / by the tide / I have had buyer’s regret / and I have also experienced lust / for t-shirts / I will always remember / that never went on sale.

We get excited the flasher it gets / we are proud of our Chermy / there has been so much change / and we are weary.

Haven’t ever been inside Fee St / have just been carried into the stories / stood outside / since I was born.

Ask your Aunty / she’s the youngest / is your memory going? / that’s what your father says.

Best house on the street / sitting on the back steps / eating ice-cream / Hah! / and sitting on the windowsill eating an ice-block in the school holidays / long time ago!

The tree covers the house / now I don’t know where to go / now

Aunty says / couldn’t get me off the dunny / always reading Animorphs / one day I’ll see small circles in the sky / the aliens will arrive / in what’s left of the forest / a small bit of park / compared to what it was / kidspace / a cricket ground / the grass where we took Max to puppy pre-school and he got his certificate into dog adulthood / one day the aliens will arrive / I will show my new alien lover Westfield Chermside / tell her that it is sacred and it must not be harmed / that inside are shiny things / delicate pathways / like the slight slope up to Coles / with the warm popcorn scent / all the exits of Myer / I will show my new alien lover and she will understand / my love for Chermy / you haven’t lived life on earth until you’ve been to Harris Scarfe / and seen their prices on bras! / the brand Serena Williams likes / and met my family / my fam are pretty deadly / I want you to meet them / maybe at the Chinese restaurant / or has it closed / closing? / closed / and we’ll hold hands to / the bus interchange / catch the 333.

Chermy shopping centre is one of our sacred sites / gammin!

Called these days / a major suburb / a new cbd / the first Apple store / have you seen the new food court / we haven’t really started buying online.

We get excited the flasher it gets / we are proud of our Chermy / there has been so much change / and we are weary.

1867 / in the Gympie gold rush / settler-invaders got stuck going north / on way to the goldfields / found trouble in the creek / Downfall Creek.

The rain / don’t feel like rain / when you’re running from the car park / to the entrance / summer storms / sometimes cause puddles on the floor / Aunty tells me not to slip outside the book store / reminds me I’m wearing thongs / two sizes too big.

Water birds / always birds / still / follow the water / and large mobs of lorikeets get drunk / every night outside Chermy / like teenagers.

From the park / across from Aunty’s place / you can see the church / the Prince Charles Hospital / and the best sunsets.

I jogged here / I swam here / like Nanny and Mum and Aunty I also lived here / my place in Chermside / during uni / on Kingsmill St / opposite the library / they knocked my block down / to build high-rise / Aunty walks past / keeps an eye out for me.

Chermy is rising / going up in the world / rising.

At Downfall Creek the whitefellas are falling / falling / and we are rising / rising / to the air space / to the sky.

Ellen van Neerven

Ellen van Neerven is an award-winning writer, editor and educator of Mununjali Yugambeh and Dutch heritage with strong ancestral ties to south east Queensland. 'Chermy' appears in van Neerven's newly released second poetry collection Throat (UQP, 2020).

More by Ellen van Neerven ›

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  1. This is honestly one of the best things I’ve ever read. I grew up in Chermy too – I am proud of our Chermy xxx

  2. Great poem Ellen Van Neerven – my dad was in the army – we lived in army pre-fab houses in Wacol when I was little – then moved to Enoggera army base. Then when dad left the army I was in high school & we moved to West Chermside – I remember that shopping centre – mum still used to shop there after I left Brisbane. My gen never called it ‘Chermy’ – great poem, thanks.

  3. this was sooo beautiful!!!
    I grew up and went to school in Kedron. Chermy was THE PLACE to hang
    I love the line about lorekeets getting drunk like teenagers
    this made me remember how I got teased at school for wearing an animorphs t-shirt lol

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