Pension Day

Every second Wednesday,
pension day,
the money never stretches
to the end of the cycle.

St Vinnies hampers take the edge off –
there’ll be enough baked beans,
soap and toilet paper
for the kids,
but you’re not worrying about that,
are you?

Those hampers are missing
the essentials
to get you through
each day.

Johnno got busted with drugs on his plot
so the weed on the cheap’s dried right up.

Chopchop is cheaper than smokes from the shops
but still puts a dint in the dole.

4 litre goonies – they’re big and they’re cheap
and they drown most things for a day (maybe two)

but the funds don’t stretch to a non-stop supply
when there’s 13 days between payments.

Today is pension day,
enough money for
the essentials,
and throw in a carton of long necks
or a bottle of rum –
don’t mind the missus
she’s always whingin’

seems likes more than 24 hours in pension day,
starts early,
but not before midday –
any earlier and your mates would call you a drunk,

first stop
second stop
third stop
Shorty’s place
for some puff
fourth stop
home, to settle in for some serious
no time for eating,

always ending too late
for the wife and kids
and you!

Pension day,
punching day.


Definitions of Australianisms (for my bloggy friends from the North):

St Vinnies:  St Vincent de Paul charity
Busted :  arrested
Weed:  marijuana
chopchop: untaxed/illegal tobacco straight from the farmer
dole: unemployment benefit
pension day:  pay day for those on the unemployment benefits, old age and disability pension
goonie: large cask of wine in a cardboard box (tastes like a cardboard box!)
long necks: large bottles of beer
bottlo: liquor outlet/bottle shop
puff: marijuana

38 thoughts on “Pension Day

  1. Question? I was wondering if I need to add more details to this poem – sometimes I think have a tendency to skirt around the issue and omit the concrete details. What do you think? Do we need an example of the violence near the end?


    Man from Mungo
    Ain’t just a can of beer
    With an orstalian tattoo
    In the middle of his brow

    On rainbow snakes
    Tjukurpa rises strange wombats
    Effervescent oil of midnight
    Which make elusive
    All pension dreams

    Bushrangers of the open law
    Don’t need someone
    To write ten canoes on the sand
    The wild sea washes Bells Beach
    Everytime didgeridoos are singing
    And the recipe of the pension
    Still stays the same for all
    That’s why we are going

      1. i am french, i used once to have an australian visa but on the way to darwin i stopped in flores island, indonesia ^^
        i also was a big fan of some aussie and kiwi stuff like, for instance (randomly): the saints, radio birdman, the screaming tribesmen, once were warriors, peter weir, surf and some other things.
        i also remember some famous philosophic aussie sentences we used to practice with some friends::

        ” as i thought you were here
        i bought a lot of beer
        as you were not
        i drank the lot”


        “drink, get drunk, fall down, no problem”

      1. well, it’s not up to me to find the answer^^, it’s up to you, all is in the lyrics, just select what you want^^
        i don’t know the album, but this one is a great song.

  3. Great poem … dark, disturbing and true, just like the promise of so many alcoholic drinks.

    The detail you include is perfect – the best kind of poems say just enough I think! 🙂

  4. Us cold arse people up here in Canada call some of those items by the same name Gabrielle! Your poem has somehow brilliantly nailed the cyclical up and down of pension poverty. It kills souls and shatters dreams and feeds crime and suffering. I know, I lived it as a kid. Thank you for always writing such relevant and socially important stories and I say stories, because that is precisely what you work is and you do it with finesse. 🙂

  5. Note: The term ‘Punching Day’ is not made up by me – sadly it is a common phrase used by community agencies, police, members of the general public – because the alcohol and drug related domestic violence increases so dramatically on pension day in Australia.

    1. Yes, cough, cough (could have made it a bit more colourful – haha – wonder where the phrase ‘getting on the piss’ came from) – did you see you are 22 on the ‘Top 50 Australian Writing Blogs’ Graham – congrats (I’ve moved to 37 since it was revised, but unfortunately gingatao has disappeared).

  6. I did not realise how “Straylin” it was, until I read the thoughtfully provided glossary below. I took it for granted the meaning was bleedin’ obvious. Would be interesting to see it rewritten in other countrys’ vernacular.

    Great poem Gabrielle

    1. Haha – I think ‘bleedin obvious’ might be a cockney phrase – we did inherit a lot of those when the convicts were shipped over to Strayla Jane. If anyone wants to translate my poem that would be interesting 😉

  7. So, so sad… what a dreadful way to exist and a vicious circle with no promise of escape. I really like your writing Gabrielle. You have expressed the feeling so well.

  8. You got it in one with this poem, Gabe. That is just the way it is. One thing I really like about your work is the empathy you express for the disadvantaged. You really understand their lot and I think it adds a depth to your writing that is quite powerful. At any tick of the clock that could be me queuing up on pension day. It is nice to know that someone like you might care about my fate.

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