Fear’s Arrival By Grant Palmer “I know what you’re fearful of It’s being alone” Her words to me Even as I am Despite all I have been through A danger to no one But in my house As if I am the deadly one The death is invisible outside The world visible through a screen door A delivery on the steps One tin of this, one packet of that My love is distant No touch of flesh Or warmth of her smile Healthy and alone Teary and anxious My fear has arrived
Canary by Diana Pearce Miners carry small songbirds into the darkness, as the sunshine fades death is a wisp of gas. Who makes music in dark places? Who sings the last notes?
Tanka* by Jan Dean sunlight trumps shadow yet depend on each other --- free now, she feels warmth basks for awhile, questions long buildings against blue sky
*Originally Japanese, tanka in English doesn’t rhyme or use capitals. tanka consists of 31 syllables and translates as “short song” and is known in its five-line, 5/7/5/7/7, syllable count form
Anno Domini by Ned Stephenson Fra’ Gilbert wiped sweat from his brow then rested his palms on the oaken table. Below him was the body of Fra’ Gautier lying face upon a linen sheet soaked in beeswax and rosemary. Many of the red welts on the man’s torso were black in the centre and the lumps in his armpits and groin had ruptured to release rivulets of foul-smelling pus. The stink clawed at the air overpowering the normally fragrant apothecary. Across from Fra’ Gilbert his apprentice waited for instructions, the boy’s pock-marked face making him look older than his years. Fra’ Gilbert had found the lad a year ago climbing the cliff on the sea-ward side of the abbey. He suspected we was a runaway servant, but he was safe inthe abbey and was proving to be a clever herbalist. Fra’ Gilbert let out a breath. ‘Ad gloriam dei.’ ‘Ad gloriam dei!’ Repeated the apprentice. ‘Wrap him now, Raymond, it’s time for his soul to be judged by God. Begin with his legs and leave his face to the last.’ Raymond did as he was told and Fra’ Gilbert took up the bowl they hadused to wash the Abbott. ‘Master?’ ‘Yes Raymond?’ ‘Do you see how the fleas have treated the Abbott? His ankles are covered in their marks, and all up his legs. He has been plagued by them. Could it be that God’s vengeance is being delivered by his smallest of creations?’ ‘What do you mean?’ The apprentice pointed. ‘All the brothers we have buried have been marked heavily by fleas. You have told me before how they bitesome of us more than others. They seem to not like me, and you have said before that they do not bother you at all. Yet the brothers who die are favoured. Like the Abbott here, he has dozens of bites.’ The apothecarist wiped at his forehead again, the stone room was unusually warm today. ‘And what of it?’ ‘With your permission I would like to put Pennyroyal in our rooms.’ ‘That is a dangerous herb Raymond! Do you know what it’s used for?’ ‘Yes Master,’ Raymond blushed, ‘by shameless women who do not wish to carry child. But Master...fleas will not enter a room when Pennyroyal is used as a rush mat.’ Fra’ Gilbert looked again at the ashen face of the dead man, willing God to speak to him. They would now be voting for a new Abbott. Fra’ Theodore was the obvious choice, but he too had just caught the plague. Fra’ Gilbert himself was not without a chance, at 53 he was one of the oldest monks still alive. Would God speak through him and end this scourge? He would strive to be a wise leader, he thought to himself. ‘No Raymond,I see no reason bringing that wicked plant into our abbey. Now finish Fra’ Gautier’s shroud, for we must hurry to make an arsenic tincture to help our Fra’ Theodore recover.’
The Swimmer by Colin Mountford “Hey Henry, I haven’t seen you in two weeks, where’ve you been?” “Sydney, Gus, my brother Joe had a stroke and didn’t make it. I had to go and tidy up his affairs and see to his funeral.” “Henry, I’m sorry to hear that. If there is anything I can do, just let me know, ok?” “Sure Gus, I appreciate that.” “Anyway, I’m here for a few laps; how’s Maggie?” “Fine Henry, Look, I must get going, Maggie wants to go shopping. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Joe wiped himself down with an old towel that hadn’t been washed in a decade. He got dressed and left. Henry stripped down to his swimmers and moved toward the ocean baths. He dipped his big toe to test the temp. ‘not too cold, I’ll adjust,’. Testing the water was like kicking the tyres on a car, it must be done. Grabbing hold of the pool ladder and climbed down. Henry only did the breaststroke; it hasn’t always been that way. Henry had been going to the ocean baths for 43 years, hardly missing a day. He had been a great swimmer in his prime and won many carnival events, mostly ocean comps. Today, he swam to forget his problems and let his mind drift away. After his wife Mary died, all his problems were solved at the bottom of a bottle. He didn’t have much else. The kids lived quite a way, and he rarely saw them. They have their lives to live. His arms stretched out and he started kicking the water. Pushing his old tired body as best he could. ‘I can’t do any more than 10 laps now; the body can’t take it; at least the water is nice this time of year.’ Pushing through the water and the pain, he finally finished his laps and rested at the number 3 diving block. He was breathing heavier than usual. “Hey Henry, I haven’t seen you here lately; Where’ve you been?” he looked to see Jim Merrick. “In Sydney Jim, Funeral of my brother Gus, you know how it is.” Henry climbed out of the water and rested on a seat. He grabbed a towel and wiped the water off his aged and wrinkled skin. ‘I must ring up about that sunspot soon.’ Henry stood and started to get dressed. He sat down quickly as he felt dizzy. “Hey Henry, are you alright?” asked Jim. This is the third time he felt dizzy after a swim. “It’s nothing, I may have pushed myself too hard.” “Alright mate, just take it easy.” Jim looked at Henry and thought He shouldn’t be swimming so many laps these days. He sat on the seat longer than he normally did. He reflected on his life; staring out to sea; a large coal ship sat in the distance waiting for the next available dock to fill up and head back to China. "Maybe an island cruise, the guys always tell me it’s good…
Tales from the Time of the Coronavirus : The fourth horseman of the apocalypse By Dr John Tierney AM It made my Irish blood run cold. Standing in the fresh food people’s vegetable aisle, I couldn't believe my eyes. The shelf was empty. This made the great toilet paper heist of March 2020, fade into insignificance. A real crisis was upon Australia. No spuds! The need for potatoes, springs from deep in my Celtic DNA. Immediately, graphic images filled my mind of my great-great-grandparents flight from Ireland, when the potato crops failed in the 1850s. If Australia cannot even produce enough potatoes to feed itself in 2020, I suddenly realized we were done for! At the time, I was on a 'sensible restocking' run (which is good). This is not to be confused with panic buying (which is bad). The latter behaviour could even bring on another tongue lashing from Sco-mo. ‘Just stop it,’ he intoned on one-morning news bulletin, 'it is un-Australian.’ Whatever that is. We kept our excursions out into Coronavirus land a secret from our six children, who were becoming increasingly concerned about the welfare of their ‘ageing’ parents during the pandemic. I had only been home for five minutes when there was a knock on our door. It was Amanda who lived in the apartment across the corridor. She often dropped in, usually to wait for the locksmith to yet again let her in. The conversation this time started on a positive note. She asked if we needed anything from the shops (code for toilet paper). ‘No, we are fine’ I said gratefully. Then the conversation took a more sinister turn. The hairs on the back of my neck began to rise, as she announced the pending arrival of the fourth horseman of the apocalypse on his pale horse, to potentially unleash pestilence on our floor. Living high up in an apartment tower, I smugly assured myself that we were safe. However, in our mid-seventies, we were in the most vulnerable pandemic group. Then Amanda dropped her bombshell. ‘I am moving back with my parents' for two weeks because I want to put as much physical distance as possible between Bradley and me. Tomorrow he returns from Europe. With rising alarm in my voice, I enquired where his travels had taken him, hoping it might be, Iceland, the Outer Hebrides or Lapland. ‘Well, Bradley has been overseas for the last three weeks, having a lovely holiday with his parents in Italy, Spain and Britain,’ she said without a hint of irony. ‘Now the government is insisting that he self-isolate for two weeks. Although he’s across the hall from you, he promises not to come out,’ Amanda said, in an unsuccessful attempt to reassure me. During the next two weeks, my greatest fear was that Bradley would develop cabin fever in the tiny one-bedroom apartment, go stir crazy and run screaming at me in our common hallway, before dashing to the elevator to escape. When Amanda left, Pam and I looked at each other in fear, and said in unison, ‘don’t tell the kids.’
Tales from the Time of the Coronavirus : Connecting family in the time of Corona by Dr John Tierney AM Remote social media connection within families and with friends will become all the go in the autumn of 2020, as the virus continues to restrict our freedom to associate. We are fortunate that technology has reached such a sophisticated level during the Coronavirus crisis. When this new virus struck, our very extensive family were already exceptionally well connected. This was mainly through text messaging, with photo and video images and hilarious Gify graphics doing the rounds of our devices, recording various family events. Messages in our large family text circle, usually occurred several times a day, depending on the current family issues and news. This all started to evolve rapidly after the arrival of Edward, our eighth grandchild in December 2018. His every cute move and development milestone was recorded and sent via social media, by Michael and Chloe, his doting new parents from their distant home in Melbourne. With the arrival of the Coronavirus, there was a shift, to using this internet technology from a fun thing to be helping the family pull through this crisis together. Suddenly the family along with the rest of Australia and the world were in peril. During the lockdown, our daily connections by text on fleeting topics weren't enough for our increasingly isolated offspring. Better communication between family members became imperative. In early April, the family made a technological quantum leap when our children set up zoom video conferencing. The launch of this new way of connecting was set for 4:00 pm on Sunday 5th April 2020. The problem was that three of our overeager descendants, independently set up on their devices, different family conferences and codes for the same time. Chaos ensured as fifteen of our family members joined one of the unconnected three meetings. Eventually, an agreement was reached over the phone, on one conference and one access code. Finally, we were all on the same page or in this case, screen. As more joined into the agreed site, the situation became increasingly chaotic. Eventually, fifteen participants joined, but Zoom, only provides the vision of eight screens at the one time, with the main one activated by whoever speaks. With so many speaking at once, the result was far from ideal. Only two family members were regular zoom users. So, what followed was a series of rapidly improvised tutorials on the zoom tools, by the family ‘experts.’ The 'agenda' was for people to describe their day, starting with the youngest. As the grandparents, that meant Pam, and I was last in the queue. We didn’t get a look in as the meeting veered off onto other topics of family interest. This first family zoom meeting got mixed reviews. Still, after several weeks of increasing isolation, we all agreed it was great to see and hear each other in the virtual world. However, no one wanted to repeat this zoom experience. Perhaps 15 noisy participants were too many?
*A TIME OF POLIO a trilogy for Joan by Diana Pearce 1 I know the bleakness of late autumn skies I get off the school-bus collapse my legs don’t work there is great pain I am alone in an ambulance through its windows starless skies my mother rings every morning I survive each night limbs bandaged full-splinted body there is great pain slowly my winter passes spring becomes my seaside rehabilitation 2 One girl fell ill at my school dormitories emptied contacts sent home; prescribed a daily walk in the open air. My father and I strode our farm’s boundaries for two weeks, checking the fences, treading single file along meanders of well-marked sheep tracks, inspecting dam levels and rock salt, setting and re-setting rabbit traps outside burrow entrances, penning calves for overnight separation. Unspoken words hid my father’s anxiety, an intimacy never repeated. 3 She bounds across the playground iron-clad leg swinging, a beaming smile stops in front of me. Tell me about your friend who had a leg like mine. My friend studied at university holds a senior personnel position raises her family walks without an iron. She listens smiles contentedly swings towards tomorrow.
*the inspiration for this poem came from Joan’s own account of her polio experience I’ve used her words in part 1
Untitled by Jan Dean Originally Japanese, tanka in English doesn’t rhyme or use capitals. Limited syllables promote compact form surrounded by space. mood corona daily pandemic alerts hygiene and distance --- will capitalism crash? what follows hibernation? warnings insist spacing and cleansing both physical, when our life has gone virtual impact is mainly mental "She wasn't doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together." — J. D. Salinger, A Girl I Knew there she stands, static --- he thinks she leans as sloth but her mind dances cavorting gloriously mending the world’s woes “Nice people don't necessarily fall in love with nice people.” ― Jonathan Franzen, Freedom does he realise turmoil creates wisdom and visions lie? while he belittles, she flees first inward and then, away Edward Hopper, Morning Sun (1952) sunlight trumps shadow yet depend on each other --- free now, she feels warmth basks for awhile, questions long buildings against blue sky
crown shy by Claire Albrecht I want my family the way oceans want shores tidal forces advancing and repelling the way that tree crowns edge away from one another making maps in the canopy nations nestle just so, some breathing room in generational diplomacy and when the wind blows it's camera shake the line blur, boarders breaks leaves like hands reach out and touch their second skin their kinfolk, their ocean grasses before collecting themsleves retreating, shy and tired to take their places in a portrait pulled apart an unmade jigsaw on the coffee table we take a photo and tell each other we'll remember to try again next year
beams by Claire Albrecht holding in the air that clambers over ridges your firm balled fist forms a knuckled landscape rest you lips on those towns, those pulsing peaks and feel a solace from the tension it's a hard call, sharing your comfort, when this light could be easily all your own. but don't forget that we are mirrors, bouncing beams off of each other as fast as we can fathom. and when it comes back to you, when the shadows fill and the warmth hits won't it just be blinding
Listen by Gillian Swain
I am sinking old air shackles shadow across shoulders weight hangs I am light in a mangle of all we are meant to be rising heat pushes out of question and rush hear the hum of movement warmth heartbeat like wingspan I am rhythmic day is long and open.
Pluviosity by Phil Williams A mysterious sound on midnight tin; A possum? gum nut? prickly skin! Hush now listen and conceivably it may be the promised pluviosity. There it is again; again and again; widespread, resounding, arousing my brain. After a minute the roof is a-thrumming the deluge creating a melodious drumming. Plunks to a bucket perfectly placed; thuds on the canvas like a good bass. A susurrus of wind the humming fulminates all over the suburb roofs orchestrate. Torrents streaming into guttering; down pipes gargling with noisy stuttering. Guzzling and gurgling they thirstily drink decanting to the tank in bubbling sync. Subterranean stirrings with the souse; plants activating after the dowse. Xylem cells syphon, seeds tumesce rainbows and sweetness - we are blessed. Ridges gowned in morning mizzle; petrichor rising with the damp drizzle. Trees aquivering in anticipation leaves erect in moist expectation. Cold drops, warm skin, such delectation; summer rain brings exhilaration. after infernos drought and insanity soak us Pluvius for our humanity.
Day Four by Grant Palmer So isolated and alone Distance from my daughter Living at opposite ends Isolated in our own home Her possible exposure A threat to my life My lover and I Destroyed by isolation and distance Tepid at best It feels like it is over Dreams of a future Feeling shattered, alone No hope in my heart Breathless and anxious How do I cope? Drugs that addict? Try sleeping for ever I just don’t know
Yes by Chris Russell Dawn scatters diamonds sparkling free on sunlit paths and there we linger oh those lilting sounds touch them tumbling sparkling clear just as summer’s rain clutch them trembling close let them slip across your lips fresh as morning dew hear them whisper yes touch them if you dare embrace and breathe so deeply let the planet slow let it linger here to make this moment longer
This Blood Stained Shore by Chris Russell I watched the dip and flash of oars - those muskets black and scarlet coats. I wondered should blood stain these shores but there I stood and saw no cause aboard those pointed urgent boats. I watched the dip and flash of oars and fast they swept - two rows of fours as rowlocks warned in groaning notes. I wondered should blood stain these shores but still I stood by human laws. A wave crests now. My fear it floats. I watched the dip and flash of oars. But then I called to stop - to pause! A puff of smoke, from musket’s throat. I wondered should blood stain these shores. And on they came across that mote true to the laws and lies they wrote. I watched the dip and flash of oars. I wondered ‘Should blood stain these shores?’
Holiday by Grant Palmer So you need a holiday People just died from a holiday cruise And I cannot leave my house to go buy some bread No one comes close to me My body might struggle to resist But once I endured war You can afford your holiday
Think of those who now can’t Who deal with sclerotic bureaucracy I’m bitter and paranoid On drugs to keep me calm So tell me why you need a holiday
Universe of Soup by Grant Palmer Universe of soup Ingredients galore Random chance No recipe Or grand design at all
Untitled #2 by Grant Palmer Relationship travelling over distance and time, That we love is no surprise, Imperfect and full of self doubt, Providing strength to each other. Not knowing our future, That commitment is hard Things that I say, But you feel you can’t.
Feeling imperfect You are not a bad person We live our own standards Not the standards of others Learning and discovering, taking charge, After all it’s your life Fulfilling a dream is what life’s about Not constrained by the judgment of others
One life to live Nothing after death But the uncertainty of our future Means taking that chance
Untitled #3 by Grant Palmer
My brain cleaved by dissonance A man I revile with the deadly virus But I don’t want him dead Yet take glee at his suffering and potential fate
Does that make me bad Not the first I have wanted dead Nor the first death I have pondered Staff officers write orders, my pen led to death
Those orders I would do all over again I have no regrets But this feeling of guilty horror Overwhelms me tonight my mind’s Nuremberg
Sleep brings no relief Drugs only cover the cracks The next day will be the same “Make it go away with death” says my dissonant brain A solution in death No pain, no joy, no comfort Nothing at all A void just like before we were born
Jaw clenched up tight Drugs starting to work Sleep slowly comes along Unsettled till dawn’s promised light