December 2023

Still Standing

Good Samaritan Sister Marie Casamento’s entry Still Standing was highly commended in The Good Oil 2023 Writers’ Award, which has the aim of supporting and encouraging emerging and published writers.

Still Standing

The house still stands
in the same street,
in the same town!
It’s there, I know it.
Google Earth confirmed it.
It’s there,
half way down the hill
beside the bus stop.
Yes, that’s correct, ‘Half way down the hill beside the bus stop.’

The front door stands, still shuttered
keeping all within,
inside the house, safe and warm.
‘Open the door.
It’s heavy, mind,
you might catch your heels
as it shudders shut fast,’
so fast the jarring opens memories,
memories … deep down memories …

‘Look, there’s the dint in the plaster
still visible on the hall wall,
not twelve inches off the floor.
‘She’s there … ssh …
I’m sure of it.
There, a tiny girl
rocking back and forth beside the door.
Back and forth,
yes, she’s there. See her?’

Her tears roll down her cheeks.
A wailing catches in her throat.
Back and forth;
Back and forth she rocks.
Footsteps sound
tap tapping towards the door.
The man stops, bends down
and hugs her tight.
The silent lady keeps walking, staring out into the night.

The child
Grabs at his trousered leg
desperately trying to stop him leaving,
a statement, a cry catches
unintelligibly in her throat,
falling mutely in the silent, still hallway.
Once again the door shudders shut.
The bus screeches as it collects
the man and the silent lady, coated against the cold.

In her mind the tape plays.
Back and forth
tapping not on the plastered wall;
tapping night after night
in a stream of dreams
inside her tiny head,
implanting a pattern,
a frieze frozen in time,
to be replayed, repeatedly in reality.

Many houses have stood
since that time.
Many times front doors have shuddered
shut the memories.
Some homes have had open back doors,
where the greenness of the outside,
was brought inside,
to festoon the hall-stands
and vestibules, in welcoming warmth.

It would seem
today, in her senior years,
there had been as many shuttered doors
as there had been silent pauses in conversations.
That house long ago
had had laughter ringing out;
music round the piano;
and greening apple trees,
smelling of warm jam.

The back door was where the cat sat.
The fruit trees were where the child sat,
with a good book and a juicy apple.

Today she wanders freely
among ancient trees, gum strewn river banks, and
wide open empty paddocks,
wondering whilst wandering in silence,
if her quest now, would always be, as it was then;
back and forth, forever playing in and on her mind.

The small child raises her beret’d head
to plead silently with the adults far above her.
She had wanted so much to attend the Christmas Carols at the lake.
She, and her guardians, had only gone a block from her house,
when the words finally came;
tumbling out, tripping over themselves, as they escaped
into the cold night air.
‘I want to go home,
Oh please take me home?’

Many houses,
over many, many years
with heavy shuddering front doors,
and greeting open back doors,
have stood by her;
creating a ‘home’ to contain her,
shelter her,
grow her,
form her in the common, simple, way of life.

Many times she had run up,
skipped and tripped up
freesia strewn sideways,
mesmerised by brain loaded dreams to be lived,
and entered by the back door.
They were heady times of unlived anticipation,
yet to be born into reality,
and she had drunk deep
of their promise.

Today she is glad.
Today she is sad
as she looks back
over many years
of tripping lightly through back doors
and sitting with others,
feet dangling off splintering verandahs, not hers,
listening silently as others explored with her the
shuddering shuttered front doors of their own lives.

Today she is thankful,
for today she has the time,
to sit with the homeless,
the dispirited, the mentally ill,
and the ones dispossessed of a home or a homeland,
close friend or kin.
And join her petitions to others, crying together in one voice.
‘Oh please we want to go home, oh please take us home!’


Marie Casamento

Good Samaritan Sister Marie Casamento has ministered as a teacher, principal and art psychotherapist. Today, as in the past, she endeavours to live the maxim “to attend with a listening heart”. As a resident of Wivenhoe Village, near Camden in NSW, her aim is to be neighbour to all she meets. She enjoys drawing, writing and observing nature.

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