It was 1980.

I was writer-in-residence at a university.

I had booked a meeting room

for the first reading of a play.

But three young men were dug in

deep with each other.

I became stiff and shrill.

— ‘Did you book this room?

I booked this room!’

They glanced at each other,

they gathered their materials together,

their ‘seminal’ texts re ‘the woman question’

they folded their hands and they stood.


Tears leapt out of my eyes like crazy diamonds.

I held my chin with the palm of one hand

so I wouldn’t judder.

Like, I can’t judder.

I am the writer-in-residence.


And tears leapt out of their eyes too,

the young crew of woken men,

as they walked

out into the bright air of a new world.

I often think of them, still.




On the Monday I miscarried.

On Wednesday my father died.

I had flown in.

I was sitting at the dining room table

on the Friday

telling my mother I was out of money

and the phone rang.

I had won a playwriting competition.

I was in the money.

Her eyes shone. My mother.

(Her magical child.)

(But it wasn’t stupid money.  

I have never won stupid money.

I would imagine that would

half ruin you,                                                             

stupid money would.)




                                    It was 1975.

                                    My first play. My first director.

                                    I had written myself up and out

                                    of everything. Of everything.

                                    He was coming round to finesse

                                    my play, my first play.

                                    He threw me onto the floor.

                                    I squeaked. I made a little squeak.

                                    He spread himself on top of me.

                                    Grinding and grinning.

                                    He said  — ‘I love the feeling

                                    of your breasts against my chest.’

                                    And I went off my head!

                                    It went blue, it went white, kaleidoscope.

                                    I ran in circles, limping and panting

                                    and although I thought I was screaming,

                                    I felt I was screaming, I probably wasn’t.




            It was 1983.

            I was strolling my big belly

            around my home town.

            I thought I might as well

            pop into the bank

            and pick up an entry form

            for the short story comp.

            As the teller handed it to me

            she asked with a pregnant smile

            — ‘Is it for your husband?’

            I didn’t shout —Three years ago

            I won the bloody thing!’

            No. I shuffled my big belly

            back out onto the street.

            Surely it is very bad for a child

            to feel such blind resentment

            hammering their mother’s heart.




I could go on. And on. And on.

I could go on and on and on.

And I will. But not just now.

Now I will sit still. Like this.


Overland’s Friday Features project is supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund. 

Jennifer Compton

Jennifer Compton lives in Melbourne. Her 11th book of poetry a moment, taken was published by Recent Work Press in 2021.

More by Jennifer Compton ›

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