My Son Used to Have a Mother

A photograph of a stained glass window, in a pattern of tiny circles. Light is shining through the centre.
by Daisy Skerritt

Content warnings: imprisonment; drug administration and addiction; violence.

Beyond the window of the rattling train
Cattle grazed the thirsty hills
In search of greenery 
Lost to the burning rural sun.

It was six hours into the silent journey
When the weary eyed man 
Extended a calloused hand and a Mintie 
To the bright young woman, and began to speak

“My name is Charlie
And my son used to have a mother.
Well, he still does I guess.
But she’s not who she used to be.

Not since she got turned into a junkie
By the bloke with eyes like blood-stained glass.
He changed me too you know?
Sent me to prison, ‘e did.

Well, maybe I did that to myself.
But he was the one who made me see red
When one day I walk in me front door
And he’s sliding a needle into ‘er arm.

Red mist and a white rage rose
And I saw like my eyes were his eyes
 Blood on me carpet, spilling from his eye. 
Me own bloody hand holdin’ his needle
right there in his stained-glass eye.

Me son and his mother 
watched me and cried.
And I shouldn’t say this. 
I know I shouldn’t say this.
But I don’t regret it.
And I would do it again.


“I spent twelve days in Silverwater.
The prison, not the suburb.
You ever been there?
I was there twelve days.

I have BPD and ADHD.
Prison’s made to break people like me.
Spent twenty-two hours a day in the hole;
Two in the yard.

Caged all day,
Bashing and bashing and screaming, 
becoming the animal 
You all think I am.

They throw people like me in the hole
Then spit us out.
Which is why I don’t regret it.
And I would do it again.


“When me grandparents found out
That I was in Silverwater
They hired me one of them lawyers
Who can get you out of gaol
Even if you stabbed a bloke with a needle 
in his stained-glass eye.

They spent all their money on her,
Me grandparents did.
‘Self-defence’ she told the judge
And there I was standing out the front of Silverwater,
Ticket in me hand to get me back home to them
And to me son

Who’s spent twelve days
Without a father
And even longer
Without a mother
Because of the bloke with the stained-glass eyes
And what I done to ‘im.”

Charlie falls quiet, chews on his Mintie.
The hills appear browner
The cattle are raw-boned and spent
And egrets are stalking the crackling pasture. 

Still chewing Charlie speaks again
Of his son’s mother.
He says she’s in some hospital.
Cold turkey with the shakes. 

“Me son might never have a mother
At least not the one that he used to.
But I s’pose it’s not ‘er fault
and I s’pose it’s not Red Eye’s either.
When ya got a monkey on your back like that
It’s sure damn hard to come back. 

When I get home
I’m never going back.
And if I could be sure 
I’d never end up back in the hole,
I would do it again.
And again.”