10 Mary Street

In “10 Mary Street” the emphasis is on another aspect of allegiances, of
loyalties, of belonging. Here “belonging” is to the Sydney suburb, Strathfield,
where the poet’s family settled after their time in the Parkes Migrant Camp. It
is the place Skryznecki spent most of his childhood and all his adolescence. If he
“belongs” anywhere it is here. Instead, in the poem’s powerful closing image,
Strathfield represents an incomplete belonging:
Naturalized more
Than a decade ago
We became citizens of the soil
That was feeding us—
Inheritors of a key
That will open no house
When this one is pulled down.
It is this temporary quality, rather than the kinds of conflict Maalouf refers to,
that we see here. To the Skryzneckis every belonging, except the ones the parents
began with, seems somehow unreal. The parents tend plants “like adopted
children”, that simile stressing the lack of a real sense of belonging. Only by
keeping “pre-war Europe alive/With photographs and letters” and by eating
and drinking what they grew up with do they find any sense of belonging, but it
is not a belonging to their present surroundings, though outwardly they conform
and “assimiliate”. The son, however, has known little else and observes every
detail of his environment with a clear, even loving, eye, revelling “like a hungry
bird” in the garden’s strawberries and peas. Yet the house is doomed, the garden
has now gone, and in a telling aside the poet mentions that “The whole
block/Has been gazetted for industry.”