Claire Albrecht is writing her PhD in Poetry at the University of Newcastle. Her poems appear in Cordite Poetry Review, Overland Literary Journal, Plumwood Mountain, The Suburban Review, the Australian Poetry Anthology and elsewhere, and she is the 2019 Emerging Writers Fellow at the State Library Victoria. Her manuscript sediment was shortlisted for the 2018 Subbed In chapbook prize, and the poem ‘mindfulness’ won the Secret Spaces prize. Her debut chapbook pinky swear launched in 2018. Claire runs the monthly Cuplet Poetry Night in Newcastle.
The hard work is starting to pay off!
my husband and I follow the 49/51 percent rule and
enjoyed the view. I panicked, kept pushing the time
back, and now I am at work 1 hour and 15 minutes early.
I don’t have time to work
using the search words ‘women in science’, I completed
40 hours of work in 4 days (you make your client
mashed potato and leave the skin on. your client
throws a microwave at you)
my commute today – variety is the spice of life.
a rather narrow way of viewing how people make
a living. try saying you ‘get to go to work’.
it’s a damn miracle
you got one job, larry. one job. some people will never know
how much thought and care I put into (go to work, or stay
in the bath and keep topping up the aspirin?) this is in
the bathroom stalls.
unfortunately with both of us doing shift work
we haven’t been able to catch up for his
biggest challenge so far? getting the printer to work.
you gotta be shitting me.
*found poem from my social media feed
Sarah Attfield is a poet from a working-class background. Her writing focuses on the lived experiences of working-class people (both in London, where she grew up and in Australia where she lives). She teaches creative writing in the School of Communication at UTS. She is the co-editor of the Journal of Working-Class Studies.
Who owns the view?
You don’t want our community centres –
bingo playing old dears
eating Rich Tea or
sticky carpet pubs
where pints are sipped and darts still chucked
with men outside on chairs
righting all the wrongs of the world
youth clubs teaching kids to
turn the grime into bpm
You don’t want our mosques
knock-off handbags down the market
dogs with muscles
cars cruising with bass turned up
You used to hurry past
(or never set foot)
living like that
all Harry Brown to you
hoods in underpasses
But now you want our views
high-rise living is suddenly a thing
with murals on street corners
cafés not caffs
boutique art in railway arches
artisan bread made by hand!
(that’s what we just call cooking)
And if there’s any of us left
don’t expect a welcome
She rolls her eyes when he isn’t looking
nods politely when he is
he points out the bleeding obvious –
she’s in the middle of doing
exactly what he tells her to do
she knows how to keep the counter clean
weigh measure fold
smile thank pack
ignore the comments about her
hair breasts skirt trousers face
lack of smile
suppress the need to pee
get a drink
agree to stay back
lift too much
not be cheeky
she is there to serve
the dickheads who ogle
the entitled who demand
and sometimes, the people just like her
who smile and roll their eyes on her behalf
she can laugh with workmates
avoid the boss
make up names for those customers
if she’s lucky she’ll get more hours
Beth Spencer’s books include Vagabondage (UWAP), How to Conceive of a Girl (Random House) and most recently, Never Too Late (PressPress). She writes fiction, poetry, essays and writing for radio and performance. She has won a number of awards, including the Carmel Bird Digital Literary Award in 2018 for her short fiction collection The Age of Fibs, now a Spineless Wonders ebook. She lives on the Central Coast NSW. www.bethspencer.com
Eating the rich
The first time I went to a restaurant was
the local Chinese place for Dad’s birthday.
We ordered steak and eggs and chips,
except for my brother who shocked us all
by ordering these strange things
called dim sims. When they arrived
we watched, a little horrified,
as he poured a dark thin
sauce in his bowl and ate them.
I’m not sure what I expected might happen.
The second time I went to a restaurant
was the new Pizza Hut at Ringwood.
Once again it was Dad’s birthday.
This time it was my sister
who assured us that yes, that’s right
we all eat off the same plate!
She also showed us the proper way
to bite into the slice then pull it out away
so the mozzarella cheese
made a long gooey satisfying river.
The third time (Dad’s birthday again)
was a French Restaurant in Mitcham.
Chosen out of the phone book
and the only one open on a weeknight.
We had fun passing forks full of rich
sauce-coated dishes across the table – try this!
(whoops, a big glob plopped into an unused
wine glass — no worries, the waiter whipped it
away without a single word) and we laughed
and talked at the tops of our voices.
Then the bill came.
We grabbed a quick look
before Dad picked it up.
The whole table went silent.
Dad’s eyebrows shot up, but he didn’t say a word.
Just pulled out his wallet and (lucky it was pay day)
placed way more money on the table
than at fifteen I could earn in a week.
The next year we went Bowling
and had fish and chips.
Erin Shiel has poems published in Meanjin, Cordite and Australian Love Poems. In 2018 she was shortlisted for the University of Canberra VC Poetry Prize. She is writing her first collection.
Grace Bros Miranda Fair Lighting Department
In my childhood home, three bedrooms
and the lounge room had chandeliers.
Not purchased in bulk from the coffers
of a French Noble, once lowered on feast
nights and lit by servants scurrying
before the guests arrived to drink claret,
eat suckling pig. Not made by Venetian artisans
blowing bulbs by mouth, twirling rods
in hot ovens until glass dripped like amber
sap. Our chandeliers were bought one by one
with five dollars saved from each pay week
for the best part of the year
I turned seven. Chandeliers need flock
wallpaper to accentuate their luxury
so my father spent weekends lining up
the patterns of one strip with the next.
Some of the houses of the brickies
he worked with were lined with Opera
House carpet, Regent Hotel tiles. Our
chandeliers were bought from Grace Bros
Miranda Fair lighting department.
On Thursday night or Saturday morning
we’d visit that hot cave glittering
not with seams of gold quartz crystal
or glow worms, but with chandeliers
(and their poorer, colonial style cousins
destined for country kitchens).
A thousand price tags dangled above our heads.
*After visual artist, Nicholas Folland, The Door is Open, 2007 at Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. See image online at http:www.nicholasfolland.com.au/page23.htm
My mother, balancing
On the ﬁrst day of my mother’s ﬁrst job the boss
sent her out at lunchtime to order a toasted ice cream
sandwich. All the men in suits thought it was funny
when she came back with the sandwich dripping
through the paper bag onto her white gloves.
At her second job she got married and they held
a farewell party. But I don’t want to leave, she said.
They thought that was odd. My mother’s work was at a desk
with a large accounting machine with so many keys.
It had its own rhythm that I never understood. Cha Cha Cha.
She was always racking her brain for a missing invoice payment
of $36.20. At her third job she was allowed to work even though
she was married. When I was born they delivered the accounting
machine to her house so that she could ﬁnd the numbers
that weren’t quite right while I slept to the Cha Cha Cha.
She had rubber thimbles on her thumbs so she could flick faster
through the papers looking for that number that wasn’t right.
She made friends at work. They shared recipes and diets
and stories about their children putting plasticine in their ears.
They paid each other’s children 50 cents on school holidays
so they could keep them quiet and bring them to the office
to ﬁle or organise rubber bands. In the lunch hour they rushed off
to the supermarket to shop for dinner or school lunches.
…. Mince…. Oranges…. Bread…. Milk….
My mother’s job was before work too. She would dust the house,
put a casserole in the crock pot and hang the washing on the line,
cracking in the wind. The cold singlets would ﬂap in her face
as she said her prayers. She said it was the only time she had to pray.
The magpies and the cat hung around her feet until they were fed.
At her fourth job in the furniture factory, when she did overtime
she asked for cash but received diamonds and shares in uranium
mines instead. She sold them quickly to pay for my school
uniforms. When she lost weight she admired herself in the window
of her ofﬁce causing trouble on the factory ﬂoor below as the workers
stopped making chairs to whistle. She walked over the sewerage pipe
at the Botany wetlands to save on bus fares. I remember lying in bed
watching her do her hair for work, still a bit sleepy and loving her
scent swishing by my bed. Twist, twist, twist it up into a beehive.
Tweed skirt, twin set. Perfect for the ofﬁce that is air-conditioned
for men in suits. At her ﬁfth job my mother paid doctors’ wages
and minded kids with disabilities so their mothers could have a break
and go to the hairdresser. She still managed to balance the books.
When she retired, the women she taught to balance books came
to visit her. There were funerals of the women who had taught her.
She found that missing $36.20 in the shower. In her mind she saw it,
in the wrong month. The credits and debits fell into place
and she felt easier. But that was just one part of the rhythm restored.
There was the mortgage too, the school fees, the meal planning,
the lunches for my father, the trolley shopping, the jibes from tuckshop
mothers about her latch key child. The day off when the child was sick.
The saving for the trip to see the in laws she had never met. The shiny
bloke in the ofﬁce who made sleazy comments. The boss who kept
a second set of books. Her father’s angina tablet prescription, clutching
at her heart. Her mother who needed help choosing carpet… Cha Cha Cha…
Joseph (known to some as Butch) is a Western Sydney based poet and visual media artist, born to Filipino immigrants. He enjoys doing laundry, long walks through Kmart, and late nights at Mr. Crackles in Darlinghurst. His practice explores the varied experiences of the Filipino diaspora in Australia. His works have been published in UNSWeetened Literary Journal, UTS Writers’ Anthology, and the Australian Poetry Anthology. Joseph’s favourite word is pie.
I remember Ate Maria, waking me up for school, I’d get ready, go to the corner shop
and get Dad the paper, pack my lunch and walk down to Torres.
I remember coming home, exhausted, but there was always a meal on the table,
and Manang would bring over her kids and we’d study together.
I remember on Sundays, we’d all rush out of church to get home for the family breakfast
every Lolo, Lola, Tito, Tita, Ate, Kuya, Pamangkin, Ninong, Ninang, Kapatid – we
were all there.
I remember meeting up with my barkada, we were the street’s breakdance crew,Enzo
would bring the linoleum and Jek would carry the boombox – we’d battle with
groups from the other streets at the rotunda where there was a basketball court.
I remember when Jepoy first got a colour TV – the entire street would gather round his
house, sit in his lounge room, peer through his windows.
I remember Aling Alice and the Sari Sari store she has at the front of her house – it
was the street’s centre – the easiest place to meet and you could get nearly
anything you ever needed there.
I remember Gagalangin, the safe side of the most dangerous, densely populated district
of Manila – Tondo. Smokey Mountain was on the other side. My Kuya Bino was
the gangsta of our area.
I remember Manila, crowded, busy, beautiful – cleaner that it is now.
I remember leaving the house I was born in, the last time I saw the stove where I’d greet
Mom each day, the last time I touched the floor where I’d slept each night, the
last time I closed the door.
Bronwyn Lovell’s poetry has featured in Best Australian Poems, Meanjin, Southerly, Cordite, Antipodes, Rabbit, Verity La, and Strange Horizons. She has won the Arts Queensland Val Vallis Award and the Adrien Abbott Poetry Poetry Prize. She has been shortlisted for the Judith Wright, Fair Australia, Newcastle, Montreal, and Bridport Prizes.
You and I can both get jobs
and finally see what it means to be living
— “Fast Car”, Tracy Chapman
I trade time for dollars at the minimum
wage exchange. I wipe tables instead
of writing poems. I am well versed
in the cycle of reheating and eating
frozen meals in the windowless staff
room. I know my worth in hourly
increments. I have purchased property
with my body. I have a small patch
of grass the bank lets me mow. I live
within my fence, make my garden
pretty, iron my uniform to hang an
empty effigy to my hollow shape.
I am paying the bank off for a metal
box in which I cart myself across
suburbs pumping noxious gas exhaust
on my way to the shopping centre
where I serve the fried flesh of dead
animals to pigs who don’t think they
are animals. I scrape the waste from
their plates into the trash to be shipped
out to stink up some other place
where garbage piles like body bags.
I want to do the real work — I want
to write the world anew but that’s
not what companies pay me to do.
I am the overqualified unskilled.
I am the doctoral student you drive
-thru, that see-through counter chick.
Sometimes I wonder what lipstick,
wig, tit tassels and a spray tan might
do. How much could I make? What
would it strip from me and could I
break even, pay my way out? What’s
a small heart-sink for cash in hand?
I see how it happens — an overdue
power bill, medication for the cat,
funding cuts, no penalty rates, my
savings account stripped bare.
There isn’t a woman in my lineage
who hasn’t earned her keep.
Stripper me does not differ greatly
from strapped me. She’s just a girl
trying to make some money. She’s
simply more practical: writes off
fish-net stockings and pole-dancing
classes on her tax. It wouldn’t take
much — full body wax, theatre-thick
foundation, waterproof mascara
and a spine. The girls in International
House do it. Call them Asian beauties
or student slaves. Call me by my name
badge, ‘Love’, or something else entirely.
Aiden Heung is a native Chinese poet, born and raised on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau; he holds an MA in literature from Tongji University in Shanghai where he currently works and lives. His poems in English are published or forthcoming in many online and offline magazines, most notably Literary Shanghai, The Shanghai Literary Review, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, New English Review, A Shanghai Poetry Zine, Aesthetic Apostle among many others. He is an avid reader. He can be found at Aiden-Heung.com or www.twitter.com/aidenheung
The face I’ve put on for almost twelve hours is in terrible
need of repair. I take off my face and rinse it
in the sink scrub it cleanse it smear on some lotion
and hang it in the cool air to dry. I look in the mirror –
blank gaze of a man staring like a black bird before winter
who’s forgotten the migration routes.
Time urges everything into a mound
of dirty underpants in the hamper. The only
thing worthy of preservation is the face. It
should be charming again tomorrow when I use
it in the office, and I should be happy as one who can
easily fit in and leave no trace of recognition. You don’t
Angela Costi has four poetry collections: Dinted Halos (Hit&Miss Publications, 2003), Prayers for the Wicked (Floodtide Audio and Text, 2005), Honey and Salt (Five Islands Press, 2007) and Lost in Mid-Verse (Owl Publishing, 2014). Her full-length play, Shimmer, has been remounted at several South Australian secondary colleges, 2016-17.
Her poetry, essays and reviews have been published in Australia and overseas, including Hecate, Southerly, LINQ, Meanjin, Tattoo Highway, Alternative Law Journal and Peril. In 2009-10, with funding from the Australia Council for the Arts, she travelled to Japan to work on an international collaboration involving her poetry and the Stringraphy Ensemble. Her essay about this collaboration, and performance text, A Nest of Cinnamon, are published in Cordite, 2009 and 2013.
The Weed Eaters
Flower beds, veggie patches, nature strips, paved courtyards
you are all under attack, the weeds have arrived in droves
deep-rooting themselves in your clay-based soil
they pretend friendship but you know they are here to compete.
I search for my tools of decapitation and with my trusty glove
begin the ritual of tearing them out, they may sting, they may weep,
they may resist the tug, but I have no sympathy for their resilience
despite their appeal to my heritage of peasant foraging and eating.
Baba with his weak knees and ailing joints continues the ritual
of picking them selectively from his yard of green excess,
with his large plastic bag, seductive swing in his grip,
each nettle, thistle, dandelion, creeper and clover are his.
He offers me their contents as the world’s source of wisdom
but regrets with a ragged look not knowing how to cook them like
‘your mother’. I stare at them and can’t see the scripture
or verse of Cyprus yet promise to keep them safe in my fridge.
At night, I can hear her robed in her silence opening the fridge.
I know what she’s up to, feeding her hunger for nostalgia,
she has them cooking in my non-stick pan, then slides them
onto two plates, squeezes the lemon liberally, drizzles the oil.
Paused in the hallway, I almost return to my bed, but
her bitterness seeps in and I long for the horta of childhood.
Mama is waiting. We eat as one, ravenous for what was.
The Good Citizens of Melbourne
Trams are the good citizens of Melbourne… There are nearly 700 trams on Melbourne streets. Looking after them takes a lot of men: cleaners, overhaulers, tradesmen of all sorts…
—Citizen Tram, a 1960s film by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board
Sitting next to my young mother is Deena, her sister
with eyes men fall into.
She’s older and focused on
getting them to work,
making sure they don’t miss
stop 20. Facing her
but almost falling into her lap is Thelema, her cousin
with arms and legs that don’t stop talking:
did you hear about Effie? Yes, you know her…
she’s the one with the glass eye,
the one that works the zipper machine…
She’s fifteen, younger than me – she looks fifty.
She has a proxenia,
he’s at least thirty,
her parents want to get rid of her
because of the zeemia
with the gelato shop boy.
With a slight lean of her head
away from the window
Effie shouldn’t be forced,
it’s criminal, her parents are vavaree!
Then my mother, who is a mere fifteen herself
says: Maybe she’s better off,
who wants to be sklavee
for the rich man
and his needle and thread machine?
Deena, Thelema, Young Mum are
a trio of handbags, lunch boxes,
orange, apricot, lavender skirts,
shirts with wide white collars
showing neck bones, smiles
of modest pink lipstick,
earrings that clasp the ear tight,
knees protruding with pent up
bursts of freedom as they speak
in a flurry of Cypriot-Greek
on the busy tram
heading to a factory
where young women
before stop 20,
turns his mouth into a fist:
on this tram we speak English
if you keep up with your gibberish
you can get off at the next stop!
The language hovers over their heads
like a thought cloud of orexee,
sending them down into a well
where there are no windows to see
the plum trees, the magpies, the milk bars…
Each day they caught that tram
they renewed their vow
Carolyn Gerrish is a Sydney poet. She has published five collections of poetry. The most recent The View from the Moon (Island Press, 2011). She enjoys performing her work and is currently working on her sixth collection.
at my new apartment block (circa 1935)
in the suburb where everything has
happened & is set to begin again there’s
only three flats (plus mine) & no one watches
T.V. (reception unavailable in the building)
Bin Night is an urban mystery Sorry
she says from behind her chained door
I think it’s Tuesday then again it could
be Wednesday & how effective are your
phone and internet connections? a nest
of fraying wires above the unlockable
letterboxes in the lobby
where a scissored gesture from a jaded
prankster could render you perennially
Mark Anthony Cayanan is from the Philippines. They obtained an MFA from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and are a PhD candidate at the University of Adelaide. Among their publications are the poetry books Narcissus (Ateneo de Manila UP, 2011) and Except you enthrall me (U of the Philippines P, 2013). Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Foglifter, The Spectacle, Dreginald, NightBlock, Crab Orchard Review, Cordite, and Lana Turner. A recipient of fellowships to Civitella Ranieri and Villa Sarkia, they teach literature and creative
writing at the Ateneo de Manila University.
Who gets off backpack heavy with sweaty clothes tired but ready to supply their name
at the front desk one of the unremarkable many
who before this was seat 27A kept asking for gin and ginger ale from a flight
attendant who during her stopover hired a catamaran for the day to go snorkelling
four days later a passenger will grow livid when she can’t give him his order
whiskey on the rocks no ice and who upon entering a cab that smells of
grease and farts will crack open a window
the driver snickering as the streets even out into oiled anonymity and the midnight
DJ on the radio harangues a heartbroken caller who’ll take his dead heart with him
to work and while in line for the train overhear a girl telling her friend about her
sister a performance artist who used to snap
pigeons’ necks on stage she’s since quit her imagination limited to feats of
borrowed depravity now she’s one of the 1.6 million of her kind in the country
working five days a week 11 hours a day she sweats
shallots and ginger in a pot that spans two burners and adds among other death
sentences two pounds of butter the invitation to hunger
wafts across the street toward a bank with a guard who has no history of violent
behaviour but who’ll six years from now
hold a gun to his wife’s temple five straight days without sleep
today his wife applies Subtil Crème
to a customer’s cheeks using an angled brush that’s more than her daily
salary a customer who hums a song from the jeepney a college student who’ll decide
to spend her allowance on tickets to the Ultra Lotto Jackpot P1.18 billion
the body once mastered must have no need
for food she bums cigarettes off her best friend his phone constantly vibrating
who just wants one thing grows impatient
with those who refuse to send dick pics
wind rattling the windows of the empty classroom