Preceded by tubas, and bass drums with legs,
the children of Gordon parade
up a tidy bush track. It is 1907. The virgins
are all dressed in white. The boys march behind,
with the flags of St George held aloft. On Empire Day,
all round the world, children, dressed up in the costumes
of who-they-must-be, must walk-dance their belonging.
In neat lines: but graceless, and glum. Just one more
unexplained thing that the adults require. As is the way
with old photographs, everything in it seems fragile:
the small timber hill-town, the gullies. Above all,
that old iconography: it’s not just that these minds
leaked elsewhere. The art of our constructs has swarmed.
The city this hill-town was drowned by’s an ocean of signage.
You gasp through its bright races, menaced by textual intent:
each clever bit of it trying to lever some coign
for the memory-fixers—anxiety, need; each crafted angle
sweet-talking its loyal response. A brain-tide of representations.
A rôle-fest for moderns: compliant, but graceless and glum.