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
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.