Adam Aitken

Adam Aitken’s fourth major book is Eighth Habitation. In 2010 he was Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Hawai’i Manoa. His work has appeared in The Australian’s Review of Books, Southerly, Heat, Poetry (Chicago), Jacket, Cha, and Drunken Boat. He teaches Creative Writing at the University of Technology, Sydney.


Imperial Days

‘ a sort of

irksome Larkin-land’

– Pam Brown


My father’s imperial days, he remembers those, the better hours. To be born British. How coloured/ful was that? Spring 1961, a run on galoshes. Naipaul’s grumpy prose: and there is only one course: flight. Flight to the greater disorder, the final emptiness. Wot, Balham? Let us say that he’s forgotten the episode with the sleeping pills. I am glad my mother was no Sylvia Plath. He forgot the presents and gifts not reciprocated (a pair of black French knickers). He can’t recall the affairs and counter affairs, the improbable survival of beauty, art, the house which leaked and the stink of my sour nappies. The boredom of housebound employment and unemployment. My mother reminds me. The well-wishers arriving, drenched at the door during a bus strike. Her favourite story: an Australian novelist who couldn’t light the boiler in a miners strike. Stuffed it with too much newspaper she said. I’ve read about the white-out of 1963, the killer fog of ’64. My father’s letters and nightmares of the dead and the imminence of mutually assured destruction. The scarce tropical flowers and fresh fruit. The deadliness of the chill and the butcher’s queue for the last pot roast. I remember the sawdust on the floor. She remembers the drunken au pair with the French lover. Or was it the French au pair with the drunk lover? The cardigan poets who ate her out of house and home. The unending party. My father dreamt of a pottery in Wales. My mother refused. The boredom of 65, the plaster-eating mould. The summer of love, they missed it.