2 Poems from Finding Jesse of Newnes by Linda Adair

Finding Jesse of Newnes – an industrial ghost town on unceded Wiradjuri and Dharug lands: an exhibition by Linda Adair.

Wander on paper grounds

Glyph upon the page
sutured to my heart
time ruptures
here on the edge of the Wollemi wilderness
as if I saw you for the first time.

As endless rains wash out dirt roads
I armchair travel armed with bare facts
through books and ‘Histories’
then I recognise you aged eight
a formal photograph to capture the big day
when a permanent schoolhouse was completed.

By now 25 children remain in Newnes
275 children less than when it was in a tent or shanty
hundreds of workers and their families have fled
this shaded and scarred “also-ran town”
after the grand failure of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation
& The General Strike of 1917.

Arranged in front of the new timber building
seated at the centre of the group you gaze out
motherless someone cares for you
below immaculate hair
your eyes watch bemused
the corner of your lip tilts down
ever so slightly as if by an act of will you almost smile.

This moment is golden
you were not sent to a ‘home for babies’
after your mother and newborn sister died.
This is where you were before you lived in Redfern
you never spoke about that young woman’s life
nor claimed ancestry to the oldest living culture on Earth
because the only safe choice for you was assimilation.

If love was blood, you could have been my mother
and I the little girl you never had
but by then you had become Jessica —
glamorous and generous to a fault.


(Clematis aristata – the climber that gave the valley its name)

The Wolgan Valley
enclosed by high cliff walls
a green, bottle hollow
invaded by Europeans
to graze cattle and sheep.

Our wild west story
untold and unconsidered
damage that meant
a carelessly thrown cigarette
made a river burn.

Newnes is a parable
of fossil fuel dependency
a myopic example

of one dirty product
the world no longer wanted.
(Sound familiar? Sound like coal?)

Before 1825
wolga vine grew lushly
in this safe valley
where traditional owners
could shelter from the Bathurst Wars

The Wiradjuri’s pathway in
renamed “Donkey Steps”
as livestock took hold
trampling the rich valley floor
for the ‘Lord of Capertee’.

Now ghostly ruins
of over-capitalised folly
by a media baron of his day
only relics of greed
remain of your childhood world.

Finding Jesse of Newnes – an industrial ghost town on unceded Wiradjuri and Dharug lands: an exhibition by Linda Adair.


Linda Adair is a (re)emerging artist (having stopped art making as worklife and family took up her time) and is a poet, writer and a publisher of Rochford Press, and co-editor of the online Rochford Street Review. Her debut poetry collection The Unintended Consequences of the Shattering was published in 2020 by Melbourne Poets Union and her work has been the anthologised in the following collections: To End All Wars, Messages from The Embers, Poetry for the Planet, Pure Slush Volume 25 and the Volume on Work. She has been published in various online and print journals, both in Australia and internationally. She has read her poems at festivals, conferences and venues around the country and has been a featured poet in Cuplet, Newcastle, Live Poets at Don Banks, and will be reading in Poetry at the Pub in Newcastle in late October.


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