Sarah Poulsen, Grade 12, Wagga Wagga High School
Excellence Award in the 'The Text Generation 2014' competition
As the woman walks toward the park bench, faded and crossed with scars of old wounds, her body begins to relax into a feeling of ease and trust. The humble body sitting on the end of the bench could pose no threat to her. As she sits down, the almost stranger turns to her, the muffled rustling of his tired clothing echoing his movements. His earthy scent blows across her face with the small breeze created as he begins to speak. 'Thank you for meeting me here,' he woman sits silently, the sun warming her skin but not her heart,'I know you must have wondered where I've been, who I am, but darlin' you've gotta know I'm sorry.'
Despite his soft and apologetic words, her heart was no more forgiving. Her body was racked with the wounds of his absence. An apology was not enough to heal those scars. She could feel her past sitting in her belly, snaking through her veins, building her. But even this construction, there was something hollow inside her. An empty cavern inside her chest.
The woman reaches into her bag and pulls out a small wooden figure, an immobilized turtle, carved with love and patience. An icon of her endurance. The man speaks again, 'I see you kept my turtle. I carved it for you when you were only little. To remind you that even if I swam away I'd always come back to be with you.'He lets out a breathy laugh, and the scent of hot earth falls across her face.
He looks down at her gentle face, her fragile fingers caressing the only thing he left her with, his slow turtle image. His heart beats against his honest rib cage as he opens his soul to her, attempting to heal the rift between them. 'Darlin', I know I hurt you, but I just couldn't make it stick. Everyday I saw your Mumma's belly growing, carrying you in her pouch, her kangaroo spirit, but I wasn't a part of it. Your family would hurt to look at me. Their soulless eyes. There wasn't any part of the earth in them. I wasn't a part of them,' he casts his eyes downwards, his explanations welling inside him, overcoming. 'But I've come back now, and that's what matters. I want to be a part of your life. I want you to know where you come from. I'm your father, I need you to forgive me.'
She sits on the bench quietly, feeling the whole world shift and change around her. Looking up at her father's face, she sees the similarities; the earth-brown skin, the full lips- her father's face reflected in her own. She held tight onto her turtle, it's small figure the only constant in her universe, expanding to include this new world, this new life. She pierces the silence, shattering the heartbreak sitting between them, with tears shimmering in her eyes, 'I know what's been missing. The other half of me. The Wiradjuri.'