The dummy’s arm
My Blood’s Country: In the Footsteps of Judith Wright
by Fiona Capp
Allen & Unwin, $27.99 pb, 217 pp, 9781741754872
Late in My Blood’s Country, Fiona Capp describes a dream that Meredith McKinney had after the death of her mother, Judith Wright, poet, activist, and the subject of Capp’s book. In the dream, McKinney is at Calanthe, the Queensland home where she lived with her mother and father, philosopher Jack McKinney. A literary festival is under way. In the front room of the house, the study where Wright wrote her poems, scholars are giving papers about her work. McKinney, aware that her reactions are being scrutinised, is careful to react generously. The group moves from room to room, into the more private spaces of the home, Meredith feeling compelled all the while to be gracious in the face of this invasion. An exhibition in her parents’ bedroom centres on a life-size wax dummy of Wright, said to be wearing her clothes, though actually wearing something McKinney recognises as part of an old curtain. As she notices more mistakes in the display, one of the dummy’s arms falls off, and it is suddenly clear that the dummy is in fact her mother’s corpse.