Special Ipswich 150 Award – Open Age
The Woman at Number 12
by Mary McCarthy
North Ipswich, Qld
I am an old lady now, some four score and sixteen years
who has a tale to tell through a mist of tears
and the haunting toll of a distant bell.
I arrived here long ago, the virgin bride of a sturdy young miner,
bare chested and dusty he wrested the Company’s coal while I
without a dowry endeavoured to give him my whole.
In 1915 he answered the call and died without purpose
on a foreign and merciless strand,
I too battled, I battled to understand.
My memories of melancholy and regret trailed behind me
as did my widow’s charcoal veil.
I wafted above the deep black stains of the coal, coal, coal,
the all prevailing ebony abyss. I sought his sole, I sought his kiss.
Would there ever be an end to my travail?
Post War and the Depression I experienced poverty,
and foolishly accepted the succour of anyone who might
ease my pain.
Shamefully I became used and abused,
regardless of my pitiful resolve the struggle was all in vain.
My skin became thickened, toxic and wrinkled, my vision
blurred through offending glass, opaque and crinkled.
I had aged by then but was determined to limp on,
always hoping for a brighter day and a newer way.
Then came a youngish woman who cast an appraising eye
over me. She observed my wounds and state of degradation,
tut tutted and expressed sympathy. Then to my immense surprise
she claimed me as her own, and commenced my restoration.
She was my veritable salvation.
Now, approaching my one hundredth year I happily wear a new bonnet,
my skin has been healed and my vision is once again clear.
Who am I? I am the woman at number twelve. I am the widow
of a long lost miner whom I once held so very dear.
I am a survivor who beat no retreat, I am living history, I am heritage,
I am a very old house.
I am the Duchess of Liverpool Street.