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Harry in Uniform 1943. Oil on Emma Louise Pratt.

Look Up Kathie – Spoken Word Performance

 

This monologue was performed by Sarah Knight at Whitespace Gallery in Auckland New Zealand in 2010.


Kathie is sitting, reclining, trying to rest. It’s raining.

And this rain, when will it stop?

This terrific heat,

The baby doesn’t seem to mind one little bit.

Last night as I gave her bottle she put her hands up to hold it.

Little by little I took my hand away and there she was holding it by herself.

All grown up at 8.5 months.

She will leave me.
I’ve been watching her go since the moment she was born.

Meanwhile, I’m melting,
Very successful at doing nothing.

The air, thick, a hanging wet that seems to leave itself like a film on my lungs.

And the sweat nestling in every fold of my skin.

Rest Kathie! You must rest!

Easily said in this heat!

The Fijians are such amiable people you know,

And such wonderful singers…beautiful harmonies.

The American boys taught them “you are my sunshine”

I hear it now and then, Fijian boys walking along singing….

{hums a few bars to herself}

Never heard the Indians sing though.

The boys said they could never trust the Indians on Viti Levu .

Was never proved of course.

They always turned their radios off when Americans approached.

Mind you, the GI boys did nothing to endear themselves to anyone here.

I once heard they cut a little indian boy’s top knot off just to see his reaction.

Oh I can hardly lift my arms today and the walls start to come in sticky and close.

I sometimes put the radio on.

Whenever I hear “American Patrol “ (it was Syd’s camp radio favourite). I imagine Harry and the boys on Guadalcanal

…and how they used to listen to the radio…

They loved to listen to Tokyo Rose despite themselves.

Haunting them nightly in her crackling English broadcasts,

Between Cole Porter or Dinah Shore she’d drop a comment on movements of non existent troops and positions of ships,

She was meant to play with their minds.

It was a kind of game to second guess her, to not be rattled by her.

A way to while away the boredom I suppose .

I can imagine Harry there the camp radio on,

crouching over his cards in the sticky tent,

rain dripping from every rope,

“you’re six bob and up eight”

I’m betting on a pair of fives, up another eight bob”

In the sand, not far off there’d be signs and warnings of mines,

in the jungle, abandoned Japanese bivouacs and fox holes,

plane wreckage and assault and landcraft rusting on the beaches,

And that dense, malevolent thing,

The jungle.

On a still day –one couldn’t move through it silently, legendary for the vines ready to tangle your feet ,

Yet it was so forgiving of the snipers, silent and still in trees waiting to pick men off.

Or the alternative was the rain that would slash down,

drowning out all noise with its own roar.

And men could take refuge in that noise.

While the ground turned into mud around them.

And the water washed the unclaimed corpses.

Guadalcanal was a mythical place by 1943.

And into the boredom and the waiting would be duty.

Out there flying over the islands.

How beautiful it would have seemed from above I can imagine only from having come in the flying boat to Fiji, but the sparkling water, the hundreds of palm trees along the white ribbons of beaches like little stars.

{lying back, looking up}

Ah, the stars.

Nightly the boys would lie in their tents on their litters under the mosquito nets listening for the drone of the lone bomber coming over from Rabaul.

“Old Tojo’s a comin’.”

They’d listen to the sound of the engines,

try and guess the type of plane,

– a Dinah? A Betty?

Everyone was familiar to the sounds of a plane that wasn’t one of theirs.

Like the P38 would make a tremendous roar on take off and then it had a whistle that the Japs would call the whistling death.

Out there is the dark there was this metallic whine in the drone of an engine that they’d hear.

It was no American plane.

On the really quiet nights you could even hear the whizzing popping sound.

One pop, two pops, three pops… the sounds of the bomb fuses being armed.

“Tojo’s shuvelin em out the plane” the Americans would say.

“Take cover fellas”.

The bombs are coming.

{A pause, drifting, a few bars of Night and Day hummed or absently sung.}

Harry heard that sung by the natives there in the Solomons.

Beautiful voices….

{Somehow like she’s reluctantly coming down to earth and resigned}

I know what’s happening.

I’ve been with the symptoms long enough.

I try to rest as much as I can.

They say that with good food and rest one can cure oneself at home.

Windows open! Fresh crisp air!

Now Kathie! Today you are allowed to sit up.

Today you are allowed to knit.

Don’t tire yourself Kathie!

Today you are allowed to get out of bed.

Meal times one two! one two! one two!

“Take cover fellas, Tojo’s comin’ over.”

And here, climbing inside the mosquito nets, the long airless nights.

Up there everything is different.

It’s exhilarating,

Angels up boys! Up we go!

To see the jungle falling away

The jungle that tightens around your ankles,

Pulling you down.

Little poppet will be awake soon,

Caroline will bring her in. She is simply splendid with her.

Don’t go away from me just yet.

There are times when I just can’t let her go.

I want to feel her soft hair, her warm head under my chin

Her rounded cheek just a little while longer.

{Looking out a window and slowly rising to go}

Ah, the rain has stopped,

We’ll see we can’t get some washing to dry.

{Exit.}

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About the author Emma Louise Pratt

Emma Louise Pratt studied at Ilam School of Fine Art, Canterbury University, New Zealand. She has been the runner up in the Molly Morpeth Canaday Award (2005), and a finalist in the Norsewear Award (2007) in New Zealand and finalist in the Focus Abengoa International Painting Prize, Spain in 2014. Emma is known for her landscape based work where she explores specific landscapes that convey significance to her either for their historical or personal importance, serving as they always have, as a personal travel map.

All posts by Emma Louise Pratt →

One Comment

  1. Reblogged this on Progress and commented:

    I thought I’d add the work from the show “Look Up kathie” to this post.

    Reply

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