Denisa Duran (b. 1980) is a Romanian poet, translator and cultural manager, author of four poetry books: the award-winning debut collection Pufos şi mechanic (Fluffy and Mechanical), Bucharest, 2003, was followed by the bilingual book Omul de unică folosință / Disposable People (translated into English by Florin Bican), published by Galway Print in Ireland (2009) and promoted during a reading tour in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Dublin; in 2012 she published Sunt încă tânără (I Am Still Young) – a selection of which was included in the anthology The Most Beautiful Poems from 2012; in December 2014 her new book came out, Dorm, dar stau cu tine (I Am Asleep, Yet Keep You Company), accompanied by illustrations. She signed her first three collections with her maiden name of Denisa Mirena Pişcu.
Selections of her poems have been included in several national and international anthologies and translated into: English, Czech, Bulgarian, German, Italian, Turkish, Arabic and Finnish.
|Amintirile atârnă în mine|
Amintirile atârnă în mine
ca nişte mere verzi
şi sub ţărână,
au spălat oasele
trag cu mâinile de pământ,
ca de-o pătură,
încercând să-i trezesc.
Oamenii se adună în jurul lui
mânca din mâna mea
Şi a murit.
Oamenii se adună în jurul lui
să nu se molipsească de moarte.
Am fost ieri pe la Europa
să împrumut o cană de ulei
pentru prăjit cartofi
(sunem mulţi şi mereu se termină uleiul
de parcă l-ar da cineva pe gât).
E drept, E. nu ştie
şi nici nu e treaba ei,
dar o părticică din uleiul pe datorie,
încleiat sau lucios,
eu îl pun la candelele aprinse
pentru morţii mei
şi ai săi.
|Memories Hang Inside Me
Memories hang inside me
as green apples
ridden with worms.
under the dirt,
in the earth,
have also washed clean
of my people.
I Level the Grave
I level the grave,
I pluck out the weeds,
I tug with my hands at the earth
as if it were a blanket,
attempting to shake them awake.
People Gather Around Him
would eat out of my hand
And he died.
People gather around him
lest they catch death.
The Lamps I Light Up
Yesterday I dashed over to Europe
to borrow some cooking oil
for frying potatoes
(there’s too many of us and we keep running out
as if someone were guzzling the stuff).
Truth be told, E. doesn’t know,
nor is it her business,
that I pour the tiniest portion
of the oil on loan,
be it rancid or fresh,
into the lamps I light up
for my dead
and for hers.
Jordie Albiston’s latest titles are XIII Poems (Rabbit Poet Series, 2013) and The Weekly Poem: 52 exercises in closed & open forms (Puncher & Wattmann, 2014). She lives in Melbourne.
Rb– Woodward was obsessed with blue tie office ceiling parking space all painted blue perhaps he did not know love love is there in the flame emission spectrum a brightness of
rubidus love-ly dark red & tomorrow evening just before 9 she will wind her way up to
Paisley Park for the Lebanese fireworks & hold to her lover & enjoy the burst of atomic time
shower the end-of-year sky love is forever almost his half-life thrice the age of the universe
scientia vincere tenebras
the storm last night was large & morning’s sea is Shut like a jaw
it leaves not even the heel of a shoe of anyone gone “home” for
some while we walk chaotica strewn all over the shore & scores
& scores of miniscule beings bereft of kith & kin a shag protects
what is left of a jut a bit of rock thrown up like joy from the very
floor of the world you know my emotions before I feel them you
know my definitions & gulls fly sullenly through the sky mirror-
ed there in the continental drift of your vapoury silvery eyes if I
break you open you will catch fire if I say the wrong thing say
it wronger if I just say nought nought nought but I don’t pick up
I don’t know the signs & where was I when all this was taught we
turn ourselves toward the wetlands & for some while we walk I
keep half an eye for a Lewin’s Rail in the tangled lignum & sea club-
rush but nothing nothing nothing no Baillon’s Crake working the
reeds or glasswort sedge or grass the storm last night was large
o where do they go when the wind blows faster than time? the
word is — & I like how it sounds but I don’t know what it means
don’t know if I know if it matters this morning & this is no time
for being a poet the pieces are here but nowhere to put them the
word is here — the kisses are here — but no mouths
Vinita, author of Words Not Spoken, is a Mumbai based, award winning poet and writer. Her poems have appeared in Asian Cha, Constellations, The Fox Chase Review, Pea River Journal, Open Road Review, Stockholm Literary Review, Poetry Pacific among others. She was nominated for the Best of the Net Awards 2011, awarded first prize in the Wordweavers Contest 2014, commendation prize in the All India Poetry Competition 2014 and won the 2014 Hour of Writes Contest twice. Her poem is one of the prize wining entries to be published in the British Council’s Museum Anthology 2014. Her current manuscript of poems has been accepted by the Finishing Line Press, Kentucky, USA and is due to be published this year. She has been widely interviewed by national and international journals. She can be reached at www.vinitawords.com
When at last we meet
do not say hello
That greeting for strangers…
We’ve shared too many moons on the palettes of our nights
When we meet
Leave the race behind. Face me
Stretch my lungs
Color my tongue
When we meet
Come undone like a knot in the wind
Me the shuddering threads
You the hunger for silk
When we meet
Make sure I die of love
Hello dear Reza,
How are you?
Are you in a good place?
Everyone is here and they are saying ‘hi’ to you.
I’m sure you remember Mustafa! He is saying to you, “Let’s play cards!”
Ali is saying, “Do you remember you would always get 6-6 whenever we played backgammon?”
Hussain is saying, “Do you remember whenever we played soccer, you would always be the goal keeper because you were tall?”
Behrouz is saying, “My mother goes to your mother every day and they cry together”. Hassan is saying, ” Forgive me, when you departed, there was a bit of displeasure between us”.
Reza! Do you know anything about Hamid Khazaei?
Are you together?
Please say ‘hi’ to him and say to him that we miss him.
Reza! It was hard to believe you had departed, we can’t believe it now either.
We would never think that they would kill the strong stocky Reza Barati, unjustly under a stroke with their hand. Reza, no court of law has been established for you yet!
Your murderers and their masters are walking freely and they are showing off, blocking the way your blood is beside.
Reza, I don’t know if you know what they have done to us in this year that you weren’t here. It’s been really hard. Reza, they shed the blood of those like you and Hamid Khazaei in the name of human rights and they did not even care.
Do you know what Scott Morrison said after your death? He said “the way to stop these deaths is to stop the boats”. It is shameful.
Reza, they are more ruthless that the dictators of our own countries. They kill people at once there, but here, they kill slowly and by torture. They killed Hamid ruthlessly as well. Maybe he’s told you himself or maybe his pride hasn’t let him tell you that, how they did treat him ruthlessly. He died slowly slowly in front of our eyes in less than a week.
Reza, this is end of the world, no one helps us. They completed their racist confrontation by killing you and Hamid to show how mean they are.
But you don’t know that great people amongst them in Australia honoured you after your death. We can remember in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and many other places. Thousands of people shed tears for you and they condemned their government and that is your actual court. You don’t know but thousands of kind people lit candles for you and sit in streets. They showed humanity has not died yet and the account of the Australian people is separate from their racist government. Today, we are hopeful in the aid of these people with their great souls to achieve our freedom.
You are closer to God there, so pray to God that we will be freed from this prison very soon. Reza, I know freedom was nothing more than a dream for you and Hamid, an unachievable dream that you did not achieve here but now you are completely free, so rest in peace!
Dear Reza, I don’t want to keep you busy for a long time, but you will be in our hearts and souls forever. If the tree of our freedom gives fruit, we will not forget the blood of you and Hamid by it.
We love you both!
Translated by Ali Parsaei
Hoa Pham is an author, playwright and psychologist. Her novella The Other Shore won the Viva La Novella prize in 2014. Her play Silence was selected as a text for VCE Drama in 2010 and has been performed at La Mama in Melbourne. It also toured throughout Victoria with the support of VicHealth. Hoa was awarded the Best Young Writer of the Year Award from the Sydney Morning Herald in 2001 for her novel Vixen. Hoa’s work has been published in numerous periodicals including HEAT, Griffith Review and TEXT Journal. She is also the founding editor of Peril Magazine of Asian Australian arts and culture.
Excerpts from The Other Shore
My name is Kim Nguyen. I’m sixteen years old and my secret middle name is from a poem that means ‘good heart’ in Vietnamese. I have kept many things I see and hear to myself. This protects me, being a plain ordinary schoolgirl in uniform, a white ao dâi that is impossible to keep clean. I do not show off at school, because the pressure of the student competition and the ritual picking on the weakest students by the teachers was too much for me. I learnt about competition on the first day of high school from my best friend, Lien, who told me not to get angry at the teachers’ jibes about me being the ugly sister. ‘They will be silent after they receive a gift,’ she told me. This was my first encounter with corruption—a corruption everyone expected.
In our house many people died, but all of Việt Nam bleeds ghosts from the wars. When I was growing up I would see other ghosts, like Americans, and would practise my English with them. Sometimes they would be wary, other times not. I have gradually learnt not to be afraid of strangers.
My family lived south of Hoan Kiem lake. When I closed my eyes at night I heard the steady whirr of traffic going by. Hà Nội only sleeps from midnight to four am. In the early morning old women like my grandmother would do tai chi on the shore of the green lake. At four am goods would be brought to the markets and to the noodle hawkers on the street. Then the traffic would ramp up and tourist touts and beggars would take to the lake, while the more affluent would lunch and eat ice cream.
In the middle of the lake is the One Temple Pagoda, fierce with a tiger guarding it, a constant reminder of King Le Loi and the legend of the turtle that carried his sword away.
To most people I am no one. To Bà, my grandmother, I was someone special that kept her secrets.
I was awake and dressed at four the next morning when the driver knocked on my door.
Huế was just beginning to wake up. The pho sellers were assembling their wares and the roads were almost empty. The dawn was mild and I was grateful for the thermos of tea that the driver thoughtfully provided us with.
It only took ten minutes of driving for us to reach the countryside outside Huế. Trees and greenery dominated and chickens ran across the road. I spotted a turn-off sign for Chùa Hương and knew we were close.
We came across the new highway suddenly in an open clearing. The road was newly asphalted and came to a halt at a large roped-off pit. Already two labourers were standing around, smoking. The driver parked and we got out, catching a glimpse of the pink dawn edging over the horizon.
Bác Phúc approached the workmen who straightened up and only surreptitiously glanced at me. ‘Are the novices from the temple here yet?’
One of the workmen shrugged.
Bác Phúc gestured to me. ‘Come have a look.’ He didn’t have to tell me to not touch anything.
‘The geomancer tells me that the discoloured soil here is decomposed bodies.’
I glanced into the pit. Mud and water oozed and I glimpsed shards of bone embedded in the sides of the pit.
‘Mass grave. Why did you bring a woman out here?’ one of the workmen said.
‘She’s a psychic. She’s part of the reburial team.’
The workmen’s eyes widened.. Then they nodded in understanding as the sound of a moped cut into the quiet of the dawn. Pulling up at the site was a brown-robed abbot and a novice robed in grey. The novice was holding onto ceramic pots, precariously bundled together, for the remains of the bones.
I bowed to the abbot, who smiled at me and Bác Phúc. ‘Thank you for coming,’ he said to us gently. ‘These disturbed souls have been troubling us greatly. We have been waiting for you.’
The novice set up incense on a little mound away from the pit. ‘I can assist you in finding the descendants of these men and women if they are from around here.’
The workmen holding small hand shovels bowed to the abbot, then jumped into the pit. Too soon I was presented with a shovel full of mud and earth from which shards of bone were poking out. I took off my gloves and gingerly reached out to touch the protruding bone.
A scream. A bolt of pain lanced through my insides. Then wailing. She had been abandoned, defiled, and murdered. Her family could not find her. They offered outdoor offerings to the lost souls but could not honour her at the altar.
‘She lived in the village not far from here. She was killed by Americans.’ I could not bring myself to say what had happened to her before her death. So I began describing the scenery around the village, the hills that backed her family’s farm and the closeness of Chùa Hương . She had three brothers and two sisters.
The abbot listened gravely to my babbling, then produced a notebook from a bag by his side. ‘I think I know which family this is,’ he said and motioned for the novice to bring over one of the reburial urns. The remains were put in the jar and the abbot murmured some instructions to the novice.
Bác Phúc watched approvingly and smiled at me for the first time. Putting a hand over my stomach from the phantom pains I tried to smile back, but instead found myself fighting tears.
Bác Phúc came over to my side with the thermos of tea. ‘Have a rest for a few minutes my dear, ‘ he said. Clumsily I walked away from the pit and sat on the car bonnet. I crossed my arms, hiding my head in my hands to conceal my shame from the men.
The hours passed by in a blur. I was hit by the pain and humiliation of death again and again. Bác Phúc began to work alongside me, his face stoic. He would squat down next to the remains, his face a frown, and close his eyes. Then he would tell the abbot what he saw.
With the help of the abbot we were able to identify nine people from nearby villages. Then I was presented with another mound of mud with bones protruding from the muck. I was reminded of the bones of a chicken after the slaughter as I braced myself for the impact of touching them.
The shock comes like a pistol shot to the back of the head. I am drenched in fear, standing in line, waiting. My mother stands next to me clutching my hand, sweating. I had been told to be quiet, and this time none of my cheekiness asserts itself; even the adults are quietly standing in the darkness down in the basement of the school.
Then a door opens and men in black come down the stairs with guns. With frightening efficiency they make us kneel on the concrete floor. A gun muzzle glints in the dim light and then a crack. My teacher Long falls forward. Someone screams.
Panic! . . . and Ma cowers to the ground, covering me with her body. More cracks and the smell of blood. Then a thunderclap in my ear. Mum goes limp above me and I am squashed under her weight. I wriggle and blinding pain shoots up my leg. Then I fall . . .
A child! The National Liberation Front had murdered families in cold blood, just like the Americans and the ARVN had. I recoiled from the knowledge. Opening my eyes I saw Bác Phúc looking at me with concern.
‘A child . . .’ I stammered.
‘Where did they come from?’ Bác Phúc asked, his stare fixed to my face.
‘South.’ The word was shaken out of me.
‘I see.’ Bác Phúc gestured at the workmen and the area of mud that the geomancer indicated was dug up and thrown to the side of the road. The abbot knelt by my side and I turned to him.
‘They aren’t honouring the dead . . . ’
The abbot looked at me with sorrowful large brown eyes. ‘These are Southern dead. Your colleagues are from the government.’
A chill ran down my spine as I realised the political implications of what I had seen. ‘They will still haunt the road . . .’ I murmured.
The abbot paused for a moment, then looked away. ‘In the eyes of the Buddha there are no political sides or ideology. We will look after them.’ He rose suddenly to his feet and Bác Phúc approached, indicating I should get back to work.
Fucking gooks. Never let a man sleep. Have to get out of this hellhole, stay alive for three more days then out of here. Never again.
‘American,’ I said. I wanted to sit down and cry and never get up again. The workmen heaped the soil and remains on the side of the road. The novice went away on his moped and came back with wooden boxes lined with red paper. The American remains were placed in the boxes and put in the back of our car.
‘The Americans like it when we can return remains to them,’ Bác Phúc said neutrally. The labourers returned to work and Bác Phúc clambered back into the pit.
Exhausted and covered with mud I sat down on the side of the road. I imagined I was covered with the bloody remains of the victims I had seen. Even the American was treated with more respect than the southern ers. It made no sense. Surely the souls from the south would haunt the road too?
Shivering, I unwillingly flashed to what I had seen of the American’s feelings. He had died slowly, suffering the same way our people had.
‘We will pray for them,’ the abbot said softly in my ear. I turned to the wise man standing impassively by my side. The novice had lit more incense and begun a quiet chant a few steps away from the open grave site. The sun had risen and the heat of the day was making itself felt. I glanced at Bác Phúc but his eyes were closed in trance talking to the geomancer about what he saw.
‘Politics keep men divided,’ the abbot said. ‘But we all suffer no matter which side we are on. After we die there are no distinctions. You are not like him. Your spirit is still young. If you need counsel please come to Chùa Hương and ask for me.’ The abbot left my side as if he had said nothing of import and returned to the pit.
Bác Phúc had identified more southern soldiers and the heap by the side of the road grew. I sipped a cup of tea, listening to the chant for the dead and then the sound of the bell from the novice. Its sound returned me to memories of my own temple in Hà Nội. A moment of peace came over me.
Then I began to cry for what I had lost.
(These excerpts are from page 1-2 and page 42-56 The Other Shore, Seizure, 2014)
Mary Branley is a poet, writer, musician and teacher based in Sligo, Ireland. She has two collections of poetry: A foot on the tide (Summer Palace Press, 2002) and Martin let me go (Summer Palace Press, 2009). She is also a recipient of a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship and bursaries from the Arts Council of Ireland and Sligo County Council
Rūmī’s Letters to Shams
Shams, we have yet to meet
but I check the temperature daily
in Tabriz wondering
if it is the cold or the heat
that will send you to me
the dark season or the light?
Perhaps the fluctuations of the dollar
will have a bearing
as on the flow of oil.
Every night the angels whisper
sweetly in my ear, saying
soon your love will come
through the open window,
the smell of night rain in her hair,
dew of morning kiss on her lips,
a full moon language
in each moon eye. Oh Shams
my heart is ready for your hands.
How unexpected it was
When the windows of the heart
Opened from the back like patio doors
And I entered the garden alone
Dazzled in sunlight, thick with birdsong
And the deafening fragrance of Shams
Whispers from everywhere
Stay in the garden, love from here.
Who knew the heart held such a secret?
Let me make a bed of words for you
with sheets as light as the fall of dew
on the curve of your breast
and rest your head on a swan’s wing.
When you burrow in
the mattress whispers back
a silken phrase, the scent of your name
in honey suckle breath.
Let me tattoo my love all over you
with the nib of June’s new moon
indelible ink of midnight’s summer blue
crazy words you’ve never heard before.
Let me wrap your sleep
in the mandolin trills of dawn
and you can fold your dreams up small
and slip them in loose change.
George Michelsen Foy has worked as a commercial fisherman, a magazine editor, and chief cream-puff transporter in a pastry factory in England. His latest novels are Mettle and The Art & Practice of Explosion (University Press of New England); a non-fiction book, Finding North: How navigation makes us human, will be published by Flatiron Press/Macmillan in 2016. His short fiction has appeared in Notre Dame Review, Monkeybicycle, American Literary Review, et al.: long-form essays in Harper’s, Rolling Stone, Men’s Journal, et al. He was awarded an NEA fellowship in fiction. He lives with his family in Southeastern Massachusetts and in New York City, where he teaches creative writing at NYU.
How wrong to walk the streets dressed how you dress and know those codfish eyes will follow you always, how wrong to know that voice with sharpened fricatives will slice a path to stop—hands pale as non-fat slap your thighs apart twist your head and depending on what you’ve done (and you’ve always done something) click chill around your wrists: and if you say no? And if you run or just move wrong? The voice that worms out, flattened by electrics and satellite, from your mom’s/ girl’s/ grannie’s/ dad’s cell phone will be a voice they do not know: that never said ‘Wait, I got a joke for you,’ nor ‘Happy birthday’ nor ‘Fuck you’ even: how wrong for someone they never met to say, ‘I’m sorry, but I must inform—
Tournan en Brie lies a little east and south of Paris. It was a quiet town when I was growing up. Nothing much had ever happened there. A minor lord or two bullied farmers from a tower. There was a church, two bakeries, two patisseries, a butcher shop, a pharmacy. Apart from wheat, the main crop was boredom. It was Kansas with good cheese. When my brother and I stayed in Tournan—we were there months at a time, visiting our grandmother, nothing to do but shoot gravel at each other with slingshots in the garden—we used to walk, with our parents, to watch cars hiss by on the highway running east and west. That was what passed for entertainment in Tournan. My grandmother called that highway la route des invasions, invasion road. She knew what she was talking about. The first time the Germans came from the East they killed her brothers, every one. Her husband’s only brother was also killed; he had come back from Australia to fight. Her husband, the town doctor, was gassed at the front. The gas braised his guts and he died shortly afterward, at home. Grandmère wore black, inside and out, for the rest of her life. She kept her husband’s surgery as it was the day he left for war, and raised their only child in a country of unrelenting loss. When the Germans returned, twenty-two years later, they billeted three officers in her house. Grandmère was pissed off. Not only had the bosches killed her husband and all the men in her family, they had given her son the excuse he needed to leave and not come back. Now she was expected to make their beds, sweep their floors and watch them brew coffee in her kitchen? They had real coffee, too, she said, a luxury in those days. All this was bad enough. What really made her sore was, these Nazi officers in their high conquerors’ boots would lie down on her mattresses, on the family’s lace bedspreads, without taking off their footwear. This was the last straw. Invasion and mayhem were one thing, but here was final proof the Germans were barbarians. So she joined the resistance. From then on she refused to acknowledge her lodgers. She declined to make their beds. She listened to the BBC in secret. And she sabotaged the coffeegrinder. This was a cruel blow. American B-17s were flattening factories—they would bomb Grandmère’s house toward war’s end—the maquis were blowing trains to kingdom come. And these three Wehrmacht captains were deprived of coffee. I still have her coffeegrinder, it still doesn’t work. I’ve tried to fix it many times and can’t figure out how she broke the thing. I suppose, as with most sabotage, all you need is sufficient rage.
Marion May Campbell is a Melbourne writer who currently teaches in Professional & Creative Writing at Deakin University. Her latest work of fiction is the short novel about failed revolutionaries konkretion (UWAP 2013). ‘Geometry & Geography’ is from a work-in-progress.
Geometry and Geography
Little sister is doing a maths assignment on the card table under the salty-louvred window in the Shoalwater Bay shack they are renting. There is the good feel of sand on linoleum underfoot. No one cares about housework here. One clean sweep is all. She’ll do the ten Euclid problems then get ready for Saturday arvo dancing classes — shave legs, shampoo hair to squeaky clean, since this is before conditioner, draw up silky stockings, trying not to ladder them with chewed fingernails, clipping each stocking with the rubberised suspender buttons, shimmy into the tight green and black hound’s tooth skirt and grey cashmere jumper. Slip into the patent leather shoes with the squashed heels. On the first floor Dancing Studio she and big sister will be lined up with the others, teased and bouffed and sprayed, along the studio wall for the boys, who’ll skid across the polished boards to choose their partners for the Pride of Erin. Will the tidal wave part around them, leaving them there? The word wallflower hovers. Oh the Red Sea dividing. Red is the blood that flows from me. Let the boy-wave not divide like the Red Sea around us, and leave us stranded like two cooling lumps of pumice stone. But let me not be chosen ahead of her. Then I’ll have to drag her sorrow, ball-and-chain. The mother has her hand cupped over the speaker of the receiver and says something to the blue-eyed grandmother, a tiny wrinkled and painted doll sunk in the depths of the cane armchair. Voice broken, the mother coughs. The big sister asks hoarse, What, what?
The scream comes from another world. With its savage ripping force it skins her. She sees herself blue, blood pulsing under the moon sheen, a skinned rabbit. That voice is a killer wind. She dares not look. She’s not where her big sister is. She cannot be. That space is always taken. She doesn’t know what her sister knows. She’ll never know what her sister knows. She rents the space of not knowing. I still rent the space of not knowing. The scream rends the space of not knowing.
There’s only the scream in the room, all the air’s stolen by it. It’s a tearing of the voice box and there’s no stop to it, like a line with arrows on either end, it might be infinite. It’s a destruction of wave harmonics.
The dead father is made alive out of myths.
When he’s two the dead father’s Enchanted Mother lets him take apart the Mantle Clock, Mainwheel, Mainspring, Wheel Train, gears serially undone, the whole Escapement: Escape Wheel, Pallet Fork, Balance Spring and Balance Wheel, until wall-to-wall, the lounge room floor is Time dismantled. Endless space now between the tick and the… At two mind you, the mother on the phone has said. The younger daughter thinks that to dismantle is not to mantle. Now that’s all he is: a photo of a uniformed moustached head on the mantle. The dead father is the first on his block to make a crystal radio set and he makes them for the neighbours as well. This is around 1927 in his twelfth year, common enough, since they were widespread, even in WWI. But it’s from these he gets hooked on microwaves and condensers. It’s not far to radar and beyond. Just waves big and small.
In this family they are good at making up genius boy children. The younger sister will have a boy child who speaks in clear crisp words at nine months and at ten months in telegraphic sentences — uzza icecweam as they glide past a Peters Ice Cream sign on a Deli. Maybe it’s because myths make magnetic spaces. Events are pulled to them. The grandmother says, Isn’t that a-mazing, as the Toyota Corolla glides under a freeway pedestrian overpass. Under the next pedestrian overpass from the elevated safety seat at the back the Baby Genius voice pronounces, Uzza mazing. With these enchanting boys it’s serial mazing.
The two sisters in the beach house enchant no one. They understand that they are girls. The space of the dead father draws the big sister, who remembers everything about him, indelibly out of her own life. Only the little sister can have her own life. She knows she can rent the father if she wants because he has retreated and she can make him over for herself and from faded bits and pieces she can borrow him when she wants.
From behind the dunes through the house the jade waves pound. The boom, the crack, the boom. And the gorgeous salt sea-weedy smell rises to fight that ripping scream. There’s been a fire, the mother says, re-cradling the receiver, threading the cord through her fingers, lighting a Capstan cigarette.
Little sister has just had her first period. It’s over now. Outside, away from them, she slips her undies off on the warm weathered boards of the front porch, safe behind the unpruned tee-tree hedge. The wood presses into her bare skin. Wood prints into her. Things press and impress and your body speaks back. The sun draws on her sex. She thinks it drawls. The sun drawls on me, speaks intense and slow. It works on me, like that stuff for wounds that pulls out the gunk, like what is it, like Magma Plasm. Her young sex milkily responds. What is this, what is this, it says. It is sweet salty liquid almond speech. The world drawls on you. You whisper back.
Even when mother sister grandmother are sucked into the black sinkhole of the telephone—there’s been a fire; it’s all gone—you can let the sun draw on your body. The sun pulls like a poultice. She reads her geography text. She has a state exam approaching. Study is the sun’s drawl, letter-by-letter, map-by-map. The sense of sun and the drawn Earth orbiting. Geography and geometry are what Egyptians did as part of sun worship — earth drawing and measuring. She reads Huddersfield and Halifax. She has her memory tricks. She gives her own names to them. Her body drawls back its slow language. Shuddersfield and Whollyflex. The industries. Smelting. The likelihood of what goes with what —where there’s coal, there’ll be smelting. Steel. Summat like that. Where there’s moock there’s brass, her grandma says her Scouse great grandma used to say. Coals to Newcastle. The weather, the climate and geography. Sun- struck daughter of a man who would’ve made it rain. The rainmaker father is dead and dead again.
So much later the Midlands and the North Country will carry their charge back to this scene. Oh the smelting. She will top the state in Geography.
Sooner she’ll learn the microclimates of a lover’s body. The quite non-tristes tropiques.
Now from the fibro shack perched on the low dune over the road the daggy burred Border Collie comes and sniffs her legs, licks the salt. What’s happening here, whatcha been up to, the moist nose reads her. Dusty Springfield is singing on the leather-clad transistor, I only want to be with you. The younger sister and the Border Collie are you for now, for Dusty’s voice.
The scream has died in the dunes. All their stuff was in the removalists’ storage shed. Is in another form. Chemical change is irreversible. But not for the younger sister. She can reverse. Most of it’s gone. They will be repeating in their broken voices over and over. Gone gone. She hates their voiced grief. She sees with satisfaction the great gothic span of twisted metal hangars above the ocean of ashes punctuated by small heaps of foul reeking globular nothing.
The mother’s voice is blank. What this means is — all the photos and pictures and furniture from when he was alive are gone. The scarf, the sister’s voice is a roar of stolen air, exiting. Like the scream of the bushfire. Maybe her sister is a fury. A fate. One of those Erinnyes. She had one thing that was the father’s — the Air Force scarf, not a uniform scarf, but in the deep grey blue wool, that someone, maybe one of those endless volunteers knitted for one of the NZAF boys, in thunder blue basket weave stitch. The bigger sister’s relic from the father gone — he to sea, now the scarf to fire. This burning of all his things, of the antiques he chose, the books he’d read or meant to read, incinerated in the cremation he never had. Of course the mother will not jump in the two-toned, olive and apple-green finned Morris Major Elite to inspect what remains, as the Storage Management invites her to do— the sprinklers saved some things, you are welcome to inspect, the mother says they said.
There’s never been a body to identify, so why would she run to contemplate the remnants of thingsthingsthings? The photos would’ve burnt first, she says, lighting another cigarette. No I couldn’t bear to rake through the wreckage. The older sister howls and howls until the younger one slinks off again to the dunes where the old Border Collie will follow her. They’ll sit together and watch the swollen body of the ocean roll and break. This loud grief will always upstage her, until she becomes a subtle actress, or so she thinks.
And the younger sister, callous, letting the sun milk her like crazy, sets her mind free to do geometry and geography, or daydream the German teacher taking her in her arms, meine schöne meine Liebe, or even the boys’ eyes lighting up as they skid across the dance floor to choose her. The ones with oily rock n roll quiffs, more than shiny Beatles’ mops, the rebel boys in tight black jeans and winklepickers are the ones she wills to notice her. She’ll tease her hair into the biggest beehive. Take that, Pride of Erin.
Rachael is a multifaceted artist engaged in writing, performance making and visual art. As a performer and vocalist, she has featured in major festivals across Australia and overseas. She has created puppet-based visual theatre for adults. Most recently she collaborated with poet Andy Jackson on Ambiguous Mirrors, a poetry/puppetry piece that toured Ireland in 2013. Rachael recently completed a Masters Degree in Theatre Performance examining anthropomorphism, transgression and puppetry. Her writing has appeared in Overland and Sleepers.
a dour Mary haunts every crevice
and chipped plaster saints congregate behind
muted windows panes
on lonely escarpments Jesus thrusts his ribs to the sky
while in the foothills stone cairns tilt and endure
in backstreets, archaeological digs yawn
disgorging dust and secrets
in the museum Clonycavan Man lies undisturbed
by the incoming tide of spectators
pooling humidity and chatter in their wake.
traveller, you pass as shadow across building and field
headstone and turnpike
you stumble on the perimeters
of this foreign history.
it all looks hauntingly familiar – and now
your own country feels like a cheap imposter
at sundown you watch the wheeling rooks
they float as flecks in a darkening sky, just as they have
every evening and will forever more
and you? where will you take refuge
so far from home?
I begin pre-dawn, before
the sun’s alchemy transforms the Morton Bay figs
into giant feng shui money trees of gold and citrine. An uncommon feeling
had stolen into my dreams.
I want to be at my desk, pencil in hand to capture the images
the metered words whispering and coiling beyond my tongue.
Pen won’t do.
Computer won’t do.
There is something that keystrokes can’t capture.
I sharpen my pencil and begin to write.
My hand is doula and letter
words are birthed naked defenceless like wild things caught
in a snare in the glare of scrutiny they string out
or jam up struggling
for a place on the page
for space in a line
for the chance to become part
of a whole
much bigger than themselves something
more metered than syllables something
as round as vowels
percussive than consonants, the something
on the landscape of my page that is something
more meaningful than nouns and something
more cohesive than syntax and so
much more than mere conjunctions but
the shuffling and writing and erasing reminds me instead that
my handwriting is gai kiah: the indecipherable scratching
of a chicken.
There is no beauty in gai kiah. This is not the hand that writes thank you
letters or the inscription in birthday cards.
I study the geography of my sentences,
the mountains and valleys between the letters,
the tails and rivers and streams that hook and bend
then I am reminded of a story my Thai kindergarten teacher
read to us about
the seven chickens who had flung themselves into a fire
in grief when their mother was killed and
fed to a wandering monk. Their souls cast out
onto the night sky became a cluster of stars. I cried.
When asked why I was crying I lied
and said I had a dog that died.
I didn’t know the Thai word for sad, you see.
I didn’t have a dog either.
But here’s the thing: I remember
this story because ก (gaaw) is the first letter in the Thai alphabet
and ก is for gai as
a is for apple.
I formed ก on the lines of my exercise book.
I erased my mistakes but
the eraser caught the edge of the paper.
Then I knew that the crumpled and corrugated ravines
of my page are testament to my farang-ness.
And so the ungainly row of กs
big, and small some missing their beaks legs splayed, stiff
ungainly and culturally crippled march
lost, jammed and shambling up and down
the papery spurs, through the miserable smears and over
the rubbery charcoal worms
of the erased dead and into
the history of me.