Change and Smokes

By | 1 September 2023

The one time Janis Joplin went straight, she went all the way home to Port Arthur, her parents and stenography school. No speed, no booze, no singing. Her mother sewed a wedding dress. Janis scraped her hair back into a neat bun. Her hand shook whenever she smoked a cigarette.

At 16, I’d go out in Mum’s old suede coat with the faux-fur collar. I’d smoke Marlboro Reds—the brand Janis held in the picture I cut from Rolling Stone. A $5 semi-permanent through my hair, I’d swig cheap vodka cause I couldn’t stomach Southern Comfort. Sitting on the kerb, I’d sing ‘Trouble in Mind’—the version where you can hear a typewriter in the background, bashing like a drummer who can’t find the beat.

After high school my skin turned translucent like sausage casing. It took two weeks then I was raw and pink. I tried to go about my life but it was difficult when I looked like a carcass hanging in the meatworks. 55

My grandad worked in the Gladstone meatworks. When he enlisted, the army gave him a glass cyanide pill to break between his teeth if the enemy captured him. They never did so he brought the pill home and hid it under the floorboards. When he went into care and we sold his house, I forgot to look for it.


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