‘Anyone for a drink?’

Issue NineIssue Nine PoetryPoetry

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by Angela Costi

 

– 1965, Regatta Hotel, QLD

 

Rosalie and Merle clasped their ‘cold ones’,

forced their smiles, relaxed their chained

ankles – a little, pretended to ignore

the brewing of outrage and fear.

Their beer had a balanced, bold flavour

with a hint of bitterness,

it wasn’t that weak mix of spirit

confined to the Ladies’ Lounge.

 

The law arrived that hot day,

blue uniforms sweating and quibbling

about batons and saws,

retreating and re-entering

with troups of specialist authority

endeavouring to remember

the exact section of what Act?

 

It wasn’t easy for Merle to discipline

the tremor rifling her body

when the ‘bag-man’

who carried the system in his back pocket

breathed a threat in her ear,

but she was married to her vision

of woman and man speaking

about their day at the office

together, at the bar,

clinking their glasses

to thoughts of work and life entwined.

 

Pauses of thought

bought the women more drinks,

and a chance to shift

the spaces

between public and private,

gender and sex,

culture and custom.

 

When the hammer came down

like a judgement

to smash the chain’s padlock,

two women were free

to speak to wives, mothers, daughters…

waiting on pub verandas

for their blokes to finish

shouting their mates.