Paul Fearne is a poet and philosopher working and residing in Melbourne, Australia. His poems have appeared in a number of journals including Westerly, Stylus, Unusual Work and verb-ate-him. His philosophical work has appeared in journals such as Consciousness Literature and the Arts. He is currently undertaking a PhD in Philosophy and LaTrobe University, and has completed a Master’s degree from the University of Melbourne.
A Dream of Coral
let the light of our hesitation bend around the moon
and clothe the sea in memories
let the sound of the morning
sweep this cloud of butterflies
into the uncertainty of tomorrow
there is a pause in the turning of the sky
it marks the sorrow the birds feel
that the winter has forgotten its home
and the snow is reticent to melt
a sea horse searches for its past
but the future is all it knows
and in time
it will become a dream of coral
and wander further
than it ever has before
The Regrets of Dragon Flies
a clothes line whirls in the breeze
sway pegged dreams
and the regrets of dragon flies
a rustling catches our ears
it is the litter of autumn
and the wandering of our fears
in a rain that has not fallen for a thousand years
the simplicity of our forgetting
curls in a gentle mist
and reminds us
that the last wish of a starfish
is all the dawn needs
to chase away the morning’s cobwebs
and their gentle intransigence
a nervous pride of clouds
(a fellowship that has never known a moments rest)
gather up our best intentions
and scatter them throughout the sea
and into the hopes of time
as she whispers the trembling names
of all those lost silences
that have kept us searching
searching for the dust of the night’s companionship
and the kind wisps of longing
that sleep in the ancient abbey
we once knew as our home
Sam is Melbourne based, obtaining her now defunct degree -Bachelor of Creative Arts (hons.) – at the University of Melbourne a fast-receding number of years ago. She runs SNAFU Theatre with her childhood friend and playwright May Jasper, and is only now learning how to dress seasonally.
in the end,
the house empty
of course i realised
that i had dreamt of you.
a forcibly empty house
me drying my dishwashed hands
and suddenly crying,
and i remember dreaming
of your small warm hand
how i had dreamt you into
how we had walked together
in the hot afternoon’s
you as silent and content,
as i thought you used to be.
in my kitchen,
patting water on my cheeks,
i saw the largeness of
my grief for you,
breathing, living on
and all the ways i
would continue to pay.
It is his endless
that hits first,
not buried beneath sheets
but encrusted to a chair
pouring milk into a bowl
slowly pushing the plunger down.
He is not expecting you
and that is his consolation.
Scraping him off,
touching the edge of the banister
you could very well not be there,
very well not be grinding yourself
It is four in the morning
when he gets home,
familiar through the sightless presence,
as leaning against templed hallways
he sees you, just,
a fluttering glimpse in a dimming eye
as his hands fumble
dumbly for switches and
pocket change, and he
doesn’t quite know who he is any more
when sudden light surprises the
reflection crouching in the bathroom.
Stained, searching through
mirrored gazes for eyes and
ears and the four small moles
that one day disappeared.
His body deflated into
The moon has beaten him tonight
standing by the window, and
whether he will finish in your bed
is a question you wont ask,
as lives past are discovered
in the floorboards
the house creaking
with unexpected scrutiny.
He does not know you are watching.
Mornings were made for nights like this
as sobs and breath
not your own
numb themselves into light.
He drinks four glasses of water
and remembers, finally, to close the fridge door.
In this half-light
he is a unicorn, almost,
pressing his body down in
bleak inspection of what is still there.
And only one thing he can say:
No body is this here
No body is this.
You go into a room, because the bedside lamp
is on. You don’t have to turn it off,
but you want to. You trip over
a bedsheet, but the whole time your
eyes are fixed on the lamp.
This is how M makes you feel.
You are so fixed on this idea, that
instead of seeing Brando’s tux shirt in
a Godfather poster, you think he’s
holding a soft drink container.
It takes several re-glimpses to
shatter that image.
What Came Between
by Patrick Cullen
Reviewed by MARIA FREIJ
Patrick Cullen’s first book, What Came Between, explores the life of three families in Laman Street, Newcastle in the aftermath of the 1989 earthquake, and following another incident with earth-shattering consequences for the community: the closing of the BHP steelworks ten years later. These life-changing incidents provide the framework for Cullen’s twelve interconnected stories, some of which have previously been published in Best Australian Stories, Sleepers Almanac, and Harvest. Cullen’s stories feature individuals at different stages in life and offer us an insight into the existence of very different characters, whose lives are, in one way or another, in a stage of turbulence, tragedy, or change. The earthquake becomes a trigger; cracks appear in the walls where no cracks used to be, or were they always present? The feeling of slippage runs like stormwater through the stories: involuntary childlessness, ageing, love, secrets, and guilt bob under the surface like the whale calf in Newcastle harbour, which, inevitably, is in for disaster when he crosses the surface. For the characters, the secrets and concerns continually approach the surface, but since what lies beneath will bring suffering if brought into the light, much remains necessarily and frustratingly suppressed.
Cullen’s characters are Carveresque in their working-class roots and minimalist depiction. Cullen eloquently balances the line between that which is spoken and that which must remain unsaid, showing great restraint in his narration. Newcastle features as a prominent character in the story as the city itself provides the ground upon which these characters have built their lives. When it is literally shattered, they lose their footing and their unravelling is inevitable:
Sarah got up, dragged a chair over beside the wardrobe, and reached up and ran her hand over the wall.
‘This wasn’t here before,’ she said, tracing her finger along a crack. ‘I’m sure it wasn’t.’
Paul stirred and looked up. ‘It’s always been there.’
‘Well, it’s opened up some more now. I’m sure of it.’ (p 7–8)
For Paul and Sarah, the earthquake is the beginning of a falling-apart in many ways. Just the one crack—and yet, a wealth of secrets trickle from the past into the present. Their childlessness, Paul’s previous life, and Sarah’s illness make for an intriguing depiction of the life of an ordinary yet extraordinary couple. Paul’s breakdown, though neatly restrained, means he takes time off work, his focus turned to repairing what the earthquake has shattered. As he retiles the bathroom, he is able to reconstruct the physical order of his and Sarah’s life. Still, the foundations he is trying to recreate will inevitably be affected by the lies he insists on telling his wife.
For Ray and Pam, as the closing of the steelworks leads to the suicide of an old friend, the unravelling of old lies creates a fear of loneliness and abandonment. The emotional turmoil is subtly depicted, yet the dialogue rings true: ‘Please don’t ever leave me,’ Ray says in the night, his face buried in his wife’s hair. When Ray falls ill and his estranged son returns from Sydney, some of the most human of emotions—guilt, fear, and pride—truly come to the fore, and the proud behaviour of both father and son yields to something more important as love, yet again, is proven stronger and more important.
For the young man whose grandmother, in her old age, moves from her house in Laman Street to stay with her daughter in the countryside, Newcastle is a new beginning. Indeed, his luggage is lighter than that of the street’s other inhabitants. When his young girlfriend falls pregnant, they start a new life together in the Laman Street home, and its previous owner, somewhat surprisingly and disappointingly, never features in the story again. This couple, representing the possibility of change and rejuvenation, seem less credible in actions and reactions; but this is perhaps because of the vigour with which these young people go about their existence and this, in turn, due to their youth. Still, because of the ease with which their troubles are resolved, these two characters appear least realistic: their relationship seems at threat, by the ominous owls in the attic if not by their innocence, but their love persists against the odds. It seems that in a time of chaos and uncertainty, love is still a force to be reckoned with.
Cullen’s characters’ lives are beautifully reflected in the movement around them: ‘Fruit bats crashed into the fig trees, and flapped and fought and fell away to do the same thing further along the street.’ (p 55) Cullen creates a fantastic ambience through the depiction of the city and his wonderful detail: the ‘small red figs pinballing about beneath their feet’ (p. 155) mirror the microcosm he has built, its characters at the mercy of the larger forces at hand: by the ocean, with its sprinkling of coal ships on the horizon, his characters grow apart, and come together. Cullen’s use of light and shade, in combination with the vulnerability of the characters towards the elements and nature: the earthquake, the tree roots growing into the pipes, along with these people’s love for each other and their instinct to defend their marriages, relationships, and lives make for a compelling and engaging narrative that resonates far beyond its last page.
Laksmi Pamuntjak is the author of two poetry collections, Ellipsis (one of The Herald UK’s Books of the Year 2005) and The Anagram; a treatise on violence and mythology entitled Perang, Langit dan Dua Perempuan (War, Heaven, and Two Women), and a collection of short stories, The Diary of R.S.: Musings on Art. Pamuntjak also translated and edited Goenawan Mohamad: Selected Poems and Goenawan Mohamad’s book of aphorisms under the title On God and Other Unfinished Things. She is also the co-founder of Aksara, a bilingual bookstore in Jakarta. Pamuntjak is currently at work on her first novel, The Blue Widow, about the historical memory of 1965. She has also recently been appointed a jury member of the Amsterdam-based Prince Claus Awards Committee.
Letters from Buru
— Dec. 1973
Today I think of you like this star in the sky. Something that twinkles and fades, but always appears at the point of forgetting.
I imagine you this weeping, pearly blue.
31 December 1973
The year is drawing to a close and I am, again, cushioned at the base of some tree, watching yet another ketoprak. The others are spread out, huddled in their own unprepossessing bunches. Extension cords from the giant speakers not far from where I am sitting snake through the grass all the way to the stage; wow, aren’t we using a lot of electricity today.
There is a gay feeling in the air. The place is suddenly an oasis of brilliant moonlit optimism suspended in a haze of laissez fare and we do not recognize ourselves. The sky is a canvas on which greedy gods are doodling. It may even be chilly but we are numbed to reality.
As I told you earlier, it’s been a rather compassionate year. There can be as many as two, sometimes three shows a year, and the repertoire ranges from shamelessly banal to determinedly different. But most of the time these ketopraks are quite tedious.
Most of the actors and musicians of tonight’s show came from Unit XIV Bantalareja. They’re a vain lot, I must add, always psyched up about themselves. They boast as many as half a dozen groups with a decidedly old Jakarta bent, one for lenong, one for orkes keroncong, one for irama Melayu—Bantala this, Bantala that, Bantala what’s-it. The motor is a group of Tangerang youth with a certain amount of bile about them, and a certain veiled disdain for the genteel sensibilities of the shadow puppet theatre, the wayang, so they can always be counted on for political fervour. They do stick to lifting only popular stories from Javanese history books, as they do now, but they really are not very imaginative. Short of ideological freedom, most of the stories are chosen for their anti-feudalism. It’s all about heroes and patriots. Great, mind-numbing stuff.
(Being the unit closest to Namlea, these Bantalareja guys also get to look forward most to the giggling coastal girls.)
Of course like all folk performances, the stories behind the screen are much more delicious, and for a few days during rehearsals fresh love was declared, new acts and allegiances were made, old friendships were broken. There is a sense of deepened reality to the air, precisely because laughter suspends disbelief. Such is the narcotic effect of art. But by tomorrow, all will be depleted and everybody will be slightly depressed.
It’s been a while since I’ve given food a thought. Every so often there will be “patients” coming to me with some minor grievance concerning the things they’ve eaten.
Most prisoners on rice field duty look forward to getting their extra protein from catching the orong-orong that comes out and floats haplessly in water after they crush the soil in it. There are kelabangs too, a kind of crab-like spider, and of course, the easiest of all—lizards. The kelabang releases a bluish substance when it comes in contact with fire so often this gives those who consume it the most debilitating case of the runs. One has to admire their valor: we’re as hardy as they come, they always say, don’t know what plagues us this time. Still. Some have managed to get so sick they need to be transferred to the hospital in Namlea, the port city of Buru.
Today a man was brought before me who had recently sought medication for kelabang poisoning. Only this time he was barely a man: it was clear that he’d been knocked about unconscious, with two stab wounds on his abdomen. I asked the people who’d brought him in what happened. They said he’d had diarrhea so severe that he had to—just absolutely had to—empty his bowels into the Wai Bini. Now there is an express rule in the penal colony that no one should empty their bowels into the river, because we rely on it for clean water. It is our only source.
So of course they beat him up. And I feel awful, because he had sought treatment from me, and yet he had obviously mistrusted it (or me) not to have taken the tablets I’d given him.
It just dawned upon me, darling. About waiting, I mean. When we talk about waiting, we do not talk about a few hours, days, even months. It’s about reaching a point where you occasionally dare to wait, such as when you pick up a pen and a sheet of paper, see the first smile of a recovering patient, or meet a visitor who tells you “It’s still better to have a home than no home at all.”
There is this man from Banten I visit from time to time. He believes I have a special power. When he first tried to point me to the fact, I dismissed him immediately. Don’t want to hear it, I said. I bet it’s something about my name. And if it is, then I already know about it. Don’t need a sage from black magic land to tell me that I will only die when I choose to. That yours, my love, will be the last face I see. But gradually I see what he means. There have been too many moments in which we as a collective would be beaten senseless for the error of another yet I have slowly come to realise that when it happens I do not feel any pain.
I don’t feel it during interrogation either, which is really a mere excuse for torture. They say physical pain always mimes death, and each time pain is inflicted upon the body, it is a kind of mock execution. I try to conjure these things in my mind almost to elicit the tonal sensation of pain, if there is indeed such a thing, but I can’t. I can see what it does to my body, the gashes, the long, angry streaks, the swollen pus, and I can see what it is all about, the power game, the naked show of brute force. But I can’t summon the feeling.
It is an idle hour, and I have acquired it through sly machinations. Darkness now.
My love. I have to take leave of you once more.
I’ve learned to love the ocean because unlike the mountains I rarely see it. I often think of boating out instead of being boated in. I imagine the tremendous reefs under the water, the anemones my blind friends tell me are glued on them like jeweled mouths. Colour and poison they say are two sides of the same coin.
Imagine, then: An island this precariously small, and yet one that refuses to be leveled down by anything – not even by the sweeping blue and fickle waves.
You learn so much from people who in different parts of their lives have agreed to live on the coast. The three villages nearest to us are full of them. They are Butonese, and therefore not from around here, but they are happiest at sea. Every day they say to themselves tomorrow we might live another day. They feel the slightest threat in the sky, detect the ocean’s panic. Yet they sleep noiselessly and rise early as though to race dawn to another beginning. I’d like to take you with me to live by the ocean, if only to remind me of this thought where happiness knows itself.
(excerpts from the manuscript The Blue Widow: A Novel)
Jennifer Wong was born in Hong Kong. She has participated in various poetry festivals and readings, including the Man International Literary Festival in Hong Kong. Her poems appeared in several poetry journals in Hong Kong and overseas, including Coffeehouse Poetry, Iota, Cha. Dim Sum, Aesthetica and Oxford Reader. Her debut poetry collection Summer Cicadas was published by Chameleon Press in 2006. She graduated in English from University College, Oxford University, and is currently doing a Master’s degree in creative writing at the University of East Anglia, UK.
Do not talk to trees.
They have deep squinting eyes.
Long stout necks sticking out.
Rough chafing leather.
In the warm house you feel them
Inhaling and exhaling, your old furniture
Or their harmless smiles
In your child’s picture books.
It’s hard to get lost in the woods
Without meaning to.
Do not talk to trees.
At night they dance in ballet shoes,
Tell secrets to one another,
Put on a ring,
Wisdom for every year.
Your dreams spilling
From bright red velvet?
When time feels
Free and right as memory foam.
A child puts his best things
Into his delicious pockets.
Curious and curious-er,
We poke and shove our fingers
Into every small crack or hole.
We dare to tilt
Order of anything;
Pluck cotton balls from dolls,
Turning them into clouds.
Remember how to play?
On our special occasion nights out
I enjoy her wonderful knack
For exuding grace
Carrying a toy-like satin pouch
Designed to hold a lipstick.
Her zealousness over the years
To build and expand her troop
Of uniform stilettos and pumps,
Arranging and re-arranging
Her proud kingdom,
Commands my highest respect.
Every time she drove
I longed for a built-in
TV in our mini cooper.
In the wee hours
I spent more time than necessary
Unpeeling onion skin shaping her legs, amused
But unimpressed by sheer vanity.
Drunk but not losing her wit, she teased me,
Patterned boxer shorts,
For flavours I kept
In my top left drawer.
Simon West was born in Melbourne where he teaches Italian at Monash University. His first collection, First Names, was published by Puncher and Wattmann in 2006. It was shortlisted for the NSW Premiers’ Prize 2007 and joint winner of the William Baylebridge Memorial Prize. In 2004 he held an Australian Young Poets Fellowship. He is also the author of The Selected Poetry of Guido Cavalcanti published by Troubadour Press, 2009.
To Wake In Someone Else’s Dream
To wake in someone else’s dream –
weather that warmed bare
arms and the inner arch of feet.
In a capital of lost provinces
to keep crossing avenues of flowering tiglio –
unmarked doors were just ajar
all the birds were facing south.
Lime trees, we reminded ourselves.
Lime tea at all hours.
And a flock of pigeons rose – no, click
of slats as old women drew their blinds.
And a heckle of car horns was heard – no,
bells from a distant church
recalled. And listen,
a blackbird, now, at dawn not evening.
You said, happy as a blackbird, and talked
as if at home. Still
they sing alone. Branches
were dark under summer leaves.
Not a whit less solid. Coated in lime.
We leaf before daylight from blackwood or ironbark
leaf on a pulse pressing as breath:
green vowels from blackwood.
They falter by nightfall. Their colour bleeds away.
We hope at the end of stuttering twigs: hard
won foliage. Even the lightest notes fall to ground.
In the thick of things there was eavesdropping,
there was sunlight sunk on events. Where we trailed
the forest there were pathways
to hold as a sound, and wing
and voice of startled bird.
We clasp single words.
We feel the rough shell of what has fled. An age
may slip from our hands.
We leaf before daybreak.
Our foliage is sparse. We leaf on an impulse
from blackwood or ironbark.
The mirror breaks and we find a way through.
Shards cling to our cheeks like cold water.
Blackbird song streams in a startled mind.
Courses rediscovered in spring.
A new vowel
fills our mouths.
Even the faintest ways lead.
In late spring
the grass grows fast in the mountains
a foot or two high and folds
to mark the passage of a child.
Followers even by night
by torchlight, somewhere
we have no word for
Silence keels, its slate roof sinks
Scattered voices ask of you.
All we have a certain liberty.
Arthur Leung was born and raised in Hong Kong. He regularly presents reading of his poetry and has had his poems published in anthologies such as Hong Kong U Writing and Fifty-Fifty, as well as in numerous magazines and journals including Smartish Pace, Yale Anglers’ Journal, Loch Raven Review, Existere, Paper Wasp, Bravado, Taj Mahal Review, Poetry Kanto, QLRS, Crannog Literary Magazine, Pulsar Poetry Magazine, Words-Myth, Magma Poetry and elsewhere. Leung has served as external editor for Yuan Yang and as guest poetry editor for Cha. He was a finalist for the 2007 Erskine J. Poetry Prize and a winner of the 2008 Edwin Morgan International Poetry Competition.
Kiss of the Moon
Drunk in its mild yellow, that silence
explodes like the first thunder in June.
My breaths swallowed by the curve of a body,
no name is fuller than the cheeks of the moon.
I taste the peach in your tongue, only feel
the words from your lips but never your eyes.
Heartbeats like summer frogs, knowing a touch
would return you to the soil of paradise.
Angler Fish Sashimi
(reinterpretation of a Chinese poem by P.K. Leung)
I come from the border between sea
and river, stage my performance art
in every winter, cordially invite
the audience to take part. I put a pair
of scissors beside me, you may choose
to cut away anything from my body.
I look at you, solitary lad,
your reckless cut of my gill. You angry
young man, a sharp cut on my skin.
I gaze at you, crazy old fellow,
you cut my stomach, ovary, and liver
that survives the winter, plump and juicy.
I give everything to you as you swallow.
You chew everything, understand
the taste of blood and know more of me.
I’m your magnificent caprice,
not an artist high above, bring
myself to your hands to manipulate
your boundless imagination.
I trust you’ll treat me well, without trust
how can we communicate, my art
take shape in the society?
You touch me and feel a heap
of flimsiness, or you can grasp my profile,
tell my truths and lies, a biased
favour for big mouth, strange face?
I sacrifice my best portion
to my best audience. You carry a part
of me, I become a part of you
and dissolve in a deeper, wider ocean.
Libby Hart’s first collection of poetry, Fresh News from the Arctic (Interactive Press, 2006) received the Anne Elder Award and was shortlisted for the Mary Gilmore Prize. She received an Australia Council for the Arts international skills and arts development studio residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig in Ireland. During this residency (2008) she wrote the book-length poem ‘This Floating World,’ which will be performed by Teresa Bell and Gavin Blatchford (2010). Publication of ‘This Floating World’ is forthcoming.
The very thought of you
You’re the face I’m seeking
each time I think of love
and my yearning covers
all the miles I’ve travelled tonight.
I’m alone, but I’m cuddling up to the thought of you,
of your fingers that come to me as if ghosts
inside a memory so crystalline.
I’m rounding my passion,
curving it to your meaning,
as you leave a kiss against lip
as a hand strokes my hair
as a breath is tattoo-delivered against brow
with a sigh so full of thought.
That’s when you leave me again.
That’s when I remember
I’ve been meaning to tell you
that you hold my soul in your hands.
There is silence at the gate,
all my angels press against the fence.
To capture the moment just before it happened:
The river was epic,
everything coiled and flowed
inside a great restlessness.
Then came a ribbon of blood,
then came curlicues made by stone,
then came the water, inking.
Canoeists passed silently like ancient travellers.
A step-by-step approach
You walked a straight line.
He circled around you.
You stood and stared into the sun.
He handed you a blindfold.
You got used to the feel of it.
He then led you down the garden path.
You walked with the smallest of steps.
He talked along the way.
You listened to those whispers.
He smiled when he made you laugh.
You walked in bare feet.
He guided you with fingertips.
You stopped, hesitatingly at the edge of sand.
He said: Trust me.
You felt a soldier crab climb your toes.
He seemed too preoccupied to notice.
You listened to the sound of the sea.
He kept his eye on the horizon.
You felt the roaring wind.
He steered you closer to its strength.
You blinked when the fold finally left your face.
He blinked in sympathy.
You looked at his quiet eyes.
He turned and then looked away.
You said something about how his hair moved in the wind.
He couldn’t see the point of it.
You said that it left his eyes to linger, to search out the world.
He said the wind was by no means a friend.
You said: Trust what you know.
Rumjhum Biswas’s prose and poetry have been published in India and abroad, both in print and online. Notably in South, Words-Myth, Everyday Fiction, Muse India, Eclectica, Nth Position, The King’s English, Arabesques Review, A Little Poetry, Poems Niederngasse, The Little Magazine – India and Etchings – Australia. Her poem “Cleavage” was in the long list of the Bridport Poetry Competition 2006. She won third prize in a poetry contest run by Unisun Publishers India in February 2008. A flash fiction by her was shortlisted in the 2008 Kala Ghoda Arts Festival literature section Flash Fiction Contest managed by Caferati. Her poem “March” was commended in the Writelinks’ Spring Fever Competition, 2008. She won third prize in the Muse India Poetry Contest 2008. Her story “Ahalya’s Valhalla” is among the notable stories of 2007 in Story South’s Million Writers’ Award. She was a participating poet in the 2008 Prakriti Foundation Poetry Festival in Chennai. Links to her work at www.rumjhumbiswas.com. She blogs at http://rumjhumkbiswas.wordpress.com/
Pelicans On The Brisbane River
“They’ll be here soon,” said the man in the wide brimmed hat
lumbering on his way down
into the wide belly of the tourist launch.
So we stayed above, sipping iced lemon tea
picking at our lamingtons nonchalantly flicking
crumbs off our clothes. Honestly speaking
nobody cares except for mother. “Don’t be so
impatient,” she said, as she smoothened her hair
before it succumbed to the river breeze again.
“Didn’t the man say they’ll be here soon?” So we waited
above the snowy froth churned up in our wake.
The launch skimmed like a water skater on the river’s skin,
flying faster than the flock of birds that seemed
to be doing a marathon just for the heck of it.
Some people preferred Brisbane’s sun bitten breeze
so they went up. But some, like mother, wanted the soft river
spray. We however outnumbered them all
clambering all the way up and then
all the way down. The river crept smoothly along
humming a song. Until finally the stars of the show
arrived waggling like miniature paddle boats,
jelly- jawed and ready to receive
our excited offerings of fish and more fish peeled
from buckets of ice. The pelicans smiled.
They spread their wings out wide for us and our cameras. They knew
what to do and they knew what to eat. Unlike that other
family that day, so lost in contemplation at the lunch buffet,
holding up a softly murmuring meandering queue
as they pondered and weighed
the pros and cons of each and every dish.
The Other Side of the Sun
Dusk has hefted this bloodless day
upon grim shoulders
and is now striding towards a horizon
where the Borealis are waiting
Night drops down on iron haunches
and scans the sky
for a Moon, any Moon. Even an Arabian Moon.
Instead this night is hit full in the face
with wind, sleet and hail
Snarling at this January day, winter’s dragon
row by row by row on power lines and telephone poles,
ready to champ down hard
on bird, beast and man…
Its power is elusive. Elusive like the mirages
in the burning fields
on the other side of the sun. Redemption is too far away
and winter’s flinty fingers are breaking now
over the dreams of the dead lying forgotten
in unimportant lands.
I am at this portal
where the corridor of infinite doors
opens up one after the other
multiply and recede further
and further away from me.
Light turns opaque. Light turns heavy.
In that deep and perhaps dark world
light turns. Time ceases its terrors.
Dreams release their hold over notions.
My mind becomes torpid like a tomb.
My thoughts are embalmed. Sound
becomes numb and sight is nullified. Touch moves
more than a thousand touches away
from skin catacombed by sutures.
In the darkest maws of my belly
another consciousness stirs.
I cede control. I cede myself.
There is no ‘I’. No ‘Me’ left to hold.
Afterwards the hours are counted and stored
in the bag of oblivion.
Time becomes wafer thin.
Afterwards my tongue begins to seek words.
My words desire utterance and a man who loves me
understands me. Translates my wishes to those
who wield syringes.
There is no ambiguity here.
Eventually I unhinge and flow back
through the canopy of infinite doors
from that long corridor.
I return as one who was
a special guest of death before the gap
between then and now was squeezed
into an infinitesimal thing. I return as the one
after whom the world spun
and fell back like rain.
But I do not care then. I do not care.
Like a new born baby, I do not care.
Brenda is a Sydney writer and artist, of Aboriginal and British descent. She has had work published in journals anthologies and on the web. Her poetry readings have been broadcast on ABC RN and 2MBS. In 2008 she won the NSW Society of Women Writers Poetry prize. Brenda plans to publish her first collection The Sound of Red in 2010
Under the net
He is a man without a shadow
living in the park. Humid nights hiding
behind the kiosk. Or in the undergrowth
his dark shape spread on ivy. He wakes
to the murmur of couples leaving
a well-lit path: footsteps on the grass.
Settles to the steady roll of traffic.
Christmas lights. Possums sparked
to an all-night frenzy in the giant trees.
The shaft drops him into old territory
an open vault. Stale air. He waits
as the cold closes in, counts his steps
along the rail, unsteady on flint.
Hands trace a line to a corner place
at the end of a walled-in tunnel.
He lies awake, listens to the sound
of his breathing against the whirr
of trains. Heading into blackness.
He comes at me. Side on. The weight of metal
pressed at my side. A hand clamps my mouth.
He breathes one word, up close. Move…move
There are men on the ground, a gate swinging
I am deaf to any thought of protest as the bag
covers my head. It smells of fermenting hay
hot against the lids. I listen to the men shouting
in strange accents, count each turn out of town
senses on high alert. We drive for hours. Stop
when the air is cooler. Maybe it is already night.
Blind Man’s Bluff at a half-remembered party
Arms search empty spaces for familiar shapes
a friendly voice. Now I wait for some command
to shuffle forward: like an old woman shackled
by pain. A baby stepping onto new ground.
Sounds carry when you’re closed in, bare feet
on mud-brick. A square, three paces each way.
I have learnt to be attentive to every variation
strain to catch familiar phrases under the door.
When a guard raises his voice I hold my breath
tighten the little fears, mouth dry. A water bottle
anchors my hands, roped against risk of slippage.
Clothes cling heavy under waves of midday heat
its prickly light penetrates my roughcast prison.
Only night loosens the pressure under the mask.
Or the touch of water. One small escape allowed
for daily bathing, to absorb the playful splashes
on skin and hair: fill a chasm inside me. Waiting
for the barter, like prized sheep penned at night.
Back and forth a mobile’s ring tone sets the price
of freedom. A pause in the skirmish: long days
trading this body for comrades held like me in
some other place. Waiting for payment. Funds
exchanged for my ordinary life, already pledged
long ago to their distant cause. Sight unseen.