Michael Aiken is a four-time recipient of a unique and delightful child, and the founder, owner and servant-in-chief of Garden Lounge Creative Space, Sydney’s only specialist poetry shop and licenced café. His first poetry collection, A Vicious Example (Grand Parade 2014) was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize, the Mary Gilmore Prize and an Australian Book Design Award. His second book, the verse novel Satan Repentant (UWAP 2018) was commissioned by Australian Book Review for their inaugural Laureate’s Fellowship, as selected and mentored by David Malouf. His most recent poetry collection is The Little Book of Sunlight and Maggots (UWAP 2019).
Artemis, the moon, and a handball: nightscape
Playing with the moon
blue in my shadow
while you, my little guy
smile about slugs, treetops,
old school or new,
proper service during King’s Revenge…
Practicing your Spongebob voice
mein kinderlein, lÖcken
running on the field again
There are no accidents
Said the turtle to the panda
Said the panda to the giant panda
Said the child to the man
and the man realises
he is a man
and the child goes on
realising nothing, realising little
Nothing will come of nothing
a serpent consuming its tail
like it, a queen
the people talking
the Odyssey on its journey through space
family all put to sleep, the world
all gone to sleep
the world all gone…
Steps into water
There are no accidents
You’re a great dad
I’ll be your mirror
Now the glass is absolute
Nathanael O’Reilly is an Irish-Australian residing in Texas. His books include (Un)belonging (Recent Work Press, 2020); BLUE (above/ground press, 2020); Preparations for Departure (UWAP, 2017), named a Book of the Year in Australian Book Review; Cult (Ginninderra Press, 2016); Distance (Ginninderra Press, 2015); Suburban Exile (Picaro Press, 2011); and Symptoms of Homesickness (Picaro Press, 2010). More than 200 of his poems have appeared in journals and anthologies published in thirteen countries, including Antipodes, Anthropocene, Backstory, Cordite, fourW, FourXFour, Headstuff, Marathon, Mascara, Postcolonial Text, Skylight 47, Snorkel, Strukturiss, Transnational Literature, Westerly and The Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology 2017.
From Ballarat to Brisbane
After Joe Brainard
I remember falling out of a pine tree
at number 2 Waller Avenue in Ballarat
I remember my eyes puffing up
after playing in waist-high grass
on the vacant block down the street
and the pretty nurse sticking
a needle in my bum at the hospital
I remember riding a black horse
sixteen hands high while wearing red
gumboots and red corduroy jeans
I remember burning my tongue
with tomato soup at recess
in the shelter shed
at Redan Primary School
I remember the neighbour’s German Shepherd
nipping at my arse when I scaled the fence
after retrieving a tennis ball from their backyard
I remember riding my red bike
into a puddle beside Lake Wendouree
sinking in mud up to my handlebars
I remember carving my initials
into a branch high up inside
the eucalyptus tree with a pocketknife
I remember breaking my mate’s thumb
while taking a mark playing footy
on the oval at lunchtime in grade one
I remember moving from Ballarat to Brisbane
when I was six – leaving behind my mates
and everything I’d ever known
I remember standing in the dirt driveway
of 50 Larbonya Crescent, Capalaba
on New Year’s Day thinking It’s 1980!
I remember my mate Ian finding a wallet
stuffed with eight fifty-dollar notes
at the shopping centre and buying
a dozen cinnamon doughnuts
I remember playing barefoot
lunchtime rugby and red rover
ripping uniforms and skinning knees
I remember the headmaster
summoning me to his office
giving me six of the best
for playing outside in the rain
Paul Dawson’s first book of poems, Imagining Winter (IP, 2006), won the national IP Picks Best Poetry award in 2006, and his work has been anthologised in Contemporary Asian Australian Poets (Puncher & Wattmann, 2013) and Harbour City Poems: Sydney in Verse 1888-2008 (Puncher & Wattmann, 2009). His poetry and fiction appear in journals such as Meanjin, Southerly, Westerly, Island, Overland, Cordite Poetry Review, Peril Magazine, Australian Poetry Journal and The Sydney Morning Herald. Paul is currently an Associate Professor in the School of the Arts and Media at the University of New South Wales.
Thanks for the poems, Covid-19
Here’s me, face-masked in a supermarket
swamped by white people, who are
angry all over again about the yellow peril
now an invisible airborne enemy speaking in tongues
through the inscrutable hospital-blue fabric
that obscures my features, that signals its silent intent
while I peer at the shelves, ensconced in the conch-shell
of my mask – until the bald, wobbly-eyed face of a
Woolworth’s worker appears suddenly beside me
and barks: ‘Social distancing still applies in here!’
Oh sorry, what was I doing? SOCIAL DISTANCING
STILL APPLIES IN HERE he repeats, as if I can’t hear
as if English escapes me, as if this is groundhog day
as if his words were a talisman to keep the threat at bay.
Yes, I say, but I don’t know what I was doing?
And then, from behind, a woman’s voice chimes in
to explain that she had complained because I
was blocking her path, now averting her gaze
as she swerves her trolley past, and I am left
with my own trapped breath, watching the worker
move on to stack shelves within hugging distance
of a white couple, within a whisper of their faces
as they contemplate trays of beef mince. I refrain
from repeating his talisman back to him
because really I want to scream it hysterically in his face
because I take it personally, because I’m not from, and have
never been, to China, because I know that’s the wrong response
and maybe this had nothing to do with race anyway
and why the fuck did I wear this mask in the first place?
And I can’t help but think of Pauline Hanson, circa the turn of the millennium
and all the incidents like this, which I thought had been eradicated
as if the trope of Asian contagion that lay dormant
while Islamic terrorism helped fashion Hanson’s comeback
has now been revived in a virulent new strain
that cannot be warded off by hoarding toilet paper
for this behaviour is every bit as Australian
as our coming together to battle the bushfires
that tear across the nation, and to be Asian-Australian
in a pandemic is – like hoarding – to be suddenly
un-Australian, where one minor encounter can unmask
the searing loss of belonging, the sense of
impotence, the persistent second-guessing
of one’s own thoughts, that typically present
as asymptomatic on all those inscrutable faces.
Vasilka Pateras is a Melbourne-based poet and emerging writer whose work is published in n-SCRIBE, Mediterranean Poetry, The Blue Nib and Poetry on the Move. She regularly reads as part of the Melbourne Spoken Word community.
The curve of my spine
with the clarinet’s call
I am in its grip
pure majestic phrasing
a gentle hop step of feet
if there was a verse this would be it
if there was a curse it would be my love
for the life of notes that gather as we gather
in the oro
a step in unison
a circle’s embrace
this is our protest
of release in the rattle and clack of
I wipe the sweat from my brow
the clarinet’s hold
into the unknown
frayed across new and old worlds
trying to pick up the lost stitch
in this I am found
Melbourne how do I love you?
industry, billboards stream
flat grey basalt plains of the west
into freeway channels
of fast fast fast
how do I love you
true wog wogness of north
Veni vidi vici
market square of Preston
from the ravages of war
to tamed lions, eagles
lemon trees lemon scented
fruit of dislocation
how do I love you
endless endless suburbs of east
Metricon, Glenville and anon
faux Provincial, Federation, Bungalow Californian
the home beautiful of
low maintenance thinking
to the row row of hedge groves
how do I love you
foreign beige of aspen
dales and vales
lap of bay
against the hush hush hush
how do I love you
oh Yarra, smell of brown
the glass sheen of Maribyrnong,
canals of Elwood
concreted Moonee Ponds creek
do I dare dip my feet?
how do I love you
oh big city heart
playground of successive elites
huddled laneways of mystery
artisanal, literary, labyrinths
cannibalised by capital
that cannot been seen
once crane adorned
now pandemic forlorn
oh Kulin Nation
people, country, language
with stories of legend and lore
I hail the cries for restitution
of what was
and is yours yours yours
1. Translations from Macedonian:
pusteno – to release/let go/set free
oro – folk dance
Gemma Parker is a poet and teacher at the University of Adelaide. Her work has been published in Award Winning Australian Writing, Writ Review, LiNQ, Typishly, Tokyo Poetry Journal and Transnational Literature (forthcoming). She is a PhD Candidate with the JM Coetzee Centre for creative practice. Her PhD project is a creative exploration of themes associated with Nietzschean nihilism, configured as hybrid-genre prose-poetic fragments. She was the 2015 winner of the Shoalhaven Literary Award for Poetry. She lives in Adelaide with her husband Guillaume and their two children.
Studies in Moonlight
The sparkle on hickory or white-oak leaves seemingly wet with
moonlight strikes one to the heart. One suddenly misses the capital,
longing for a friend who could share the moment.
– Yoshida Kenkō (c.1283-1350)
I don’t even know
what a hickory leaf
looks like. I yearn
to write poems about moonlight,
the wet darkness, solitude.
Far from the light-noise of cities,
to write in a place of true night,
in the medicinal north.
To compose more
than opportunistic poems
about the marginalia of life.
Doesn’t one also miss
the rush of loneliness,
and long for distance
from every capital?
Samia Goudie is a Queer Bundjalung woman currently living on Ngunnawal country. She has published widely both as an academic working in health and the arts, and as a film and digital story maker. Samia is a member of Canberra based UsMob writers and FNAWN, First Nations Australian writers network. She has received an AFC mentor award for a short award winning film US Deadly mob and has had four documentaries screened and toured at festivals. Her various digital story projects are available on line and archived with the state library Old and FNQ’S Indigenous knowledge centres. Samia received a Fulbright fellowship in 2006 based around research in creative practices using digital story telling as a method to archive oral stories using new media and as a curative healing practice in First Nations communities dealing with intergenerational trauma. She has had multi media/word/installations and exhibitions of visual art and poetry at various locations including the Wollongong gallery, M16 gallery Canberra, ‘Territories’ at Laboratory of Arts and Media (LAM/LETA) University of Paris. Her multimedia/artwork has been is held in private collections nationally and internationally.
Samia has been publishing poetry and short stories more frequently over the last several years and has works published in the Southerly, IWP Iowa press, Wakefield press, Norton and Norton, 3CCmedia journal, Aiatsis Press, Too Deadly: Our Voice, Our way Our business (Us Mob Writers anthology), Giant Steps (2019) and What We Carry (2020), Recent Work Press and Routledge press. More recently she was highly commended for her submission to the Varuna First Nations Fellowship which gives access and support to Varuna’s residential writing space in the Blue Mountains. She has also won support and runner up with the Boundless Indigenous Writers Mentorships, supported by the NSW Writers centre and Text publishers, which matched her with Melissa Lucashenko as a mentor for her current work in progress, which is a novel.
Won’t fit in The box
Don’t fit, won’t fit, can’t fit
Believe me I tried
Even the box rejected me
There must be something wrong
I contorted, twisted
My shape, my voice
My hair, my hands,
You even tried to alter my soul
I was never enough
Even when you medicate me,
debate about me,
Aint nothing wrong
with my voice, my hands, MY shape
My gender, my colour
who I am
I am large and round
have limbs bound with the roots of trees
I can touch the sky
Why would I give any of that up?
To fit in your box
There is fear haunting us in shadows
Now walking amongst us in full sunlight
My friend, tells me,
In her community nearly all the Elders lie dead.
There is fear haunting us in shadows
All those Stories gone
All the language lost
Who will teach the young?
Was it like this
When the tall ships sailed in?
Fear grips my broken heart
And now like the last cruel blow
her 11-year-old niece
There is fear haunting us in shadows
She attends funerals everyday
They drive hours to stand in long lines
hoping today they can get a Vaccine
Instead of body bags
She asks for prayers
Please pray for us
She always ends her posts,
It’s raining here
I’m so far across the southern sky
Across the wide ocean
a dark afternoon
On a good day
I spend time outside under open sky
Seeking solace where none seems possible
There is fear haunting us in shadows
I choose to turn towards the sun
Miigwech means loosely, thank you, in Anishinaabemowin also known as Ojibwa. However, it has also a tone that conveys respect and request, recognition and integrity. Gratitude.
Marcelo Svirsky is a Senior Lecturer at the School for Humanities and Social Inquiry, University of Wollongong. He researches on questions of social transformation and subjectivity, decolonisation, settler-colonial societies and political -activism. He focuses on Palestine/Israel, and addresses these topics by drawing on continental European philosophy – particularly the works of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Giorgio Agamben and Michel Foucault. He has published several articles in the journals Cultural Politics, Subjectivity, Intercultural Education, Deleuze Studies, and Settler Colonial Studies among others, and various books and edited collections: Deleuze and Political Activism (Edinburgh University Press, 2010); Arab-Jewish Activism in Israel-Palestine (Ashgate, 2012); Agamben and Colonialism with Simone Bignall (Edinburgh University Press, 2012); Collaborative Struggles in Australia and Israel-Palestine (2014); After Israel: Towards Cultural Transformation (Zed Books, 2014), and together with Ronnen Ben-Arie – From Shared Life to Co-Resistance in Historic Palestine (Rowman & Littlefield International 2017).
Grown to provide
And for no other task,
That was the might,
Of those roses
On a shared soil,
Just, and no more than,
To service life as roses
And when the spells changed,
Forced by trade,
It was made barren.
Barren of a vile craving,
That sent you without regret,
Making the land a castle,
By giving harvest a name.
Of your tears and cries, barren,
Of your pain,
Barren, until your return…
‘Roses of Sharon’, refers to a field of roses in the Plain of Sharon in Palestine (Ottoman times). The photograph 1900-1905 was part of a collection that was initiated and published by Underwood and Underwood and was accompanied by the book Traveling in The Holy Land through the Stereoscope, written by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut. This photograph, was presented in March 2017 as part of the exhibition ‘Time Machine: Stereoscopic Views from Palestine, 1900’, at Brown University (US) and curated by Ariella Azoulay and Issam Nassar.
Josie/Jocelyn Deane is a writer/student at the University of Melbourne. Their work has appeared in Cordite
, Australian Poetry Journal
, among others. In 2021 they were one of the recipients of the Queensland Poetry Festival Ekphrasis award. They live on unceded Wurundjeri land.
News of Animals/Nature is healing
The waters of Venice are clear,
almost. There aren’t any sudden swans
or dolphins out of the blue,
the elephants do not get drunk
in tea-fields cleared of the social
distancing efforts of the redoubtable
Yunan workers. It not even
the same photo of the same
elephants, curled up like content
deer in Nara prefecture, Tokyo, without
their vinegar/grain crackers
from tourists, inquire after safe
food in the metro, empty
malls, galleries of “Western” art, disinterested as
that one doe in a cathedral, or that one
dog meme, sitting in a flaming cockpit bottom text I Have
No Idea What I’m Doing, going
viral, haphazardly. Nature
is recolonising Venice, says the owner
of the Venice Hilton. “The water
is so blue and pure”, she says. “Nature
has no name, only what is given”. You’re still
in quarantine, buses are still trickling
over your window, you look at your arm, primate
hairs poking through sunburn.
Gay Jesus as You
I like gay Jesus almost as much
as I like you. I like the water
congealing in his side, clear trans-
-substantiation, from a cop’s spear
as much as I like you. The touch
enflames, the matter
-of-fact saying now things will be
different: your body will not be
that of your forebears. I like
the orange pips with gay Jesus’
face inside, conch shells
on the shores of Galilee whispering Christ
is come to the thirsting ear as much as
I like you. I like the hole he made
of his rib-cage, a beautiful before-after
mastectomy photo, of his hands like
a glory-hole almost as much as I
like you. I like the time passing and time
to come, time hiding like the devil
in a stratum of chalk/sandstone,
the outline of an Ichthyosaur or
bird-dinosaur, saying Christ this is
a long time to yourself… as much
as I like you. I like the generations
of spiders you hate— the parallel
church of our gay, eight legged lord
they form— that saw gay human Jesus
saying nothing in their language
going back to cocooning their food
as much as I like you. I like the sense
of a gay beginning and ending, the word
split, tentatively as much as I
Paul Collis is a Barkindji person. He was born in Bourke, in far north/west NSW. His early life was informed by Barkindji and Kunya and Murawarri, and Wongamara and Nyempa story tellers and artists. Paul grew hearing traditional stories of Aboriginal culture and Law. He earned a Doctorate at University Canberra in 2015. His first novel, Dancing Home, won the 2017 David Uniopon Award for a previously unpublished work by an Indigenous author, and the 2019 ACT Book of the year Award. Nightmares Run Like Mercury his first poetry collection is published by Recent Studies Press in 2021. Paul lives in Canberra and teaches occasionally at University of Canberra.
(26th January) – Mend That !
I’m too black to be Blue…
too black I am, to be true Blue Aussie, like you.
I’m not like Johnno and Crew,
too black I am, to be that Blue.
so no happy birthday, Australia,
Oi, Oi, Oi,
Situation In Sydney…
“Na. Not doin’ that. Not goin’ to rehab”.
And then, there’s that silence. You know?
Denial in silence.
(her skinny little body, a tremble. her eyes fill with shame and pain)
I search her face for a sign, for one little memory, of her.
She knows what I’m looking for.
Eye’s overflow. “I’m sorry, Uncle”.
I think of Christmas morns in PJ’s, and her, lost beneath a mountain of wrapping papers.
Laughter with smiley faces.
Tears of joy as seven bells rang out loud.
Everywhere the Christmas bells.
Think . . .First day at school and new uniform,
slowly turn into first cigarettes and later to boyfriend kisses.
Movie dates and birthday cakes,
and she slowly slips away into a grown-up world.
For a moment, for just a moment, she’s back – that shiny face little kid
back with me, for a second.
I searched the city for a bed in a Rehab.
But all the beds were taken.
All the doors turned closed.
Despair. Now everywhere despair.
They’re all buried out there,
near Fred’s grave. All in a line. We lovingly called them ‘The Black Sisters’.
The Nuns built a small little place for the dying, named it Bethlehem…old drunks and cancers from grog boys and old girls went there and were nursed by these beautiful Nuns until they passed on.
They were dearly respected and loved by us Murrdie people in Bourke…The Black Sisters were Ours.
Most of the Nuns worked the rest of their life and died in Service at Bourke.
An Aboriginal man suicided in front of their Altar one night after being jilted by his lover (a married woman).
Duncan’s suicide announced the end of the Nun’s service in Bourke.
When I was back home there 3 years ago, I ran into some of the Blacks Sisters at the Bakery, early one morning before going to Brewarrina. “Lovely to see you Sister’s” I happily said.
“Lovely to see you, Brother” one Nun spoke, as they all held their hands in prayer position and bowed to me.
“I think you Sisters are all Barkindji now, hey! Its so good to see you again. Will you be here long?”
“Not long. Ha ha…Not Barkindji, ha ha.” The speaking Nun joked.
“Just a short visit, this time.” she finished.
“All us Aboriginal people…. we all love you, Sisters” I said and began to wipe tears from my eyes.
“As we all love You,” Sister concluded.
I waved goodbye.
I walked to the car; it was already a hot day, revved up the air con and we drove the dusty road to Bre. I began thinking of kindness and love acts.
The next day was my last one in Bourke that trip. I went to the Cemetery to say goodbye to my deceased relatives. I noticed fresh prayer papers at the graves of the Black Sisters. I realised that it must have been one of the purposes of the Nun’s visit, all the way from India again was to pay their respects to their Black Sisters.
Emerging Writers Festival 2020
At the 2020 Emerging Writers’ Festival, our special projects editor, Jo Langdon edited emerging author, Dani Netherclift’s prose poem, a reflection on life in the pandemic, “Haunted Autumn E/merge, is an exploratory video performance of Dani’s work and other featured writers, produced by Pip Gryllis from the Emerging Writer’s Festival.
Varuna Mascara Fellowship
We were delighted to partner with Varuna in 2019 for a Varuna Mascara Western Sydney Writers Fellowship which offered a one week, all expenses paid residency at Varuna, a publishing consultancy worth $800 & and a manuscript appraisal with Giramondo Press. This is an innovative and prestigious opportunity for a Western Sydney Writer currently working on a poetry, fiction, or creative non-fiction manuscript.
We would like to congratulate all the shortlisted writers; the manuscripts were of an excellent standard. As judges we considered quality and originality of writing. Our thanks to Varuna, the Writer’s House and Create NSW for this opportunity for Mascara to support excellent writing.
Jessie Tu “Field Notes on Language and Voicelessness”
Adele Dumont “Elsewhere”
Dave Drayton “The Poetranslator”
Shannon Anima “The Running Game”
Jessica Seaborn “Tommy Brewer”
Karina Ko lives in Sydney where she graduated in Law and in Arts. Her parents came from Hong Kong. She is working on a collection of short stories.
Judges Comments: We were impressed with Karina Ko’s original voice, tackling awkward, often political topics like class, ethnicity and queerness with a surreal and surprising imagination.