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Brain wilderness Sara Crane In my body jeans are revealing / trackpants better/ grey best / down the street I want to blend with cement / do not see me / most harm done to this body was inside my head / heads are harder / to fix than skin and bones / I stopped letting other people hurt this person / I have not mended / healing is a language I don’t speak / she knocks like a stranger, foreign body, transplant organ not meant for ribcage / nobody knows her around here / they say the brain can form new pathways / I should know / my brain built her own pain pathway receptors to places in my body that were non-injurious / medicine gives it a name Fibromyalgia, my sister says it’s because I am crazy / I know the brain can learn new things, unlearn routes it walked, cut new trails in her wilderness / cripple ache is my body teaching me that she knows the way to heal / even if her talk is in tongues and her timbre too soft for my ears / us with mental illness long enough know the medication both saves and kills us- you should still take it / our life span is 60 and I intend to make it / here I sit, no map ready to cut the track to healing one brain cell at a time./
O Fortuna Luci Croci two swathed strangers meet two dust specks land on a shelf two tea dregs left in a cup two ruddy leaves in an autumn garden two pebbles washed up on a beach two teams in a soccer match two ships that pass in the night two cars in a head-on collision two bodies unburied in Syria a war hero shoots a civilian a policeman kneels on a negro a schoolboy shoots another schoolboy just another roll of the dice
Lovers Newcastle 2020 Grant Palmer A teenager’s first stirring That gentle touch of lips A first kiss and embrace Will they ever know that joy Your lover, your partner Where were they today Did someone cough or sneeze Isolation the only safe sex Facemasks neutering expression No joy in a masked smile Eyes peering out True colour of hair revealed
All At Sea Bill Williamson During the 19th night at sea during our Atlantic crossing, the weather cleared a little. It was still blowing hard and there was still a big sea running, but now the clouds were higher and it wasn’t raining as much or as often. At times we could see the horizon and then, about an hour before sunrise, in the early morning sky, directly ahead we could see the loom of some sort of light. We assumed this must be the lights of Barbados, but we didn’t get too excited. We still had many miles to go. The loom of even a small town can be seen for at least 50 miles. That distance takes ten hours or so to cover, and if the loom we saw was Barbados, and we were quite sure of it from our navigation, we were still north of the island and we needed to get round the south end of the island and up the west coast to get to Bridgetown. It was probably going to take most of another day before we were anchored. Although the conditions had improved it was still unpleasant. We were cold, with the wind still blowing at gale force and there seemed to always be spray and occasional solid water coming on board, and there were occasional showers that kept us wet. We were wearing wet weather gear, actually the best available, but even the best wet weather gear couldn’t protect us in these conditions. After night fall the following evening we were close enough to see the lights of Barbados. We rounded the south end of the island and were close hauled as we sailed to Carlisle Bay to the south of the port. We dropped anchor outside the collection of boats we could see and had our first quiet night’s sleep for three weeks. The next morning, we motored to the commercial wharf where we were to check in. It was not at all convenient for yachts such as ours. There was no ladder or steps, so it was difficult to clamber up the side of the concrete wharf while trying to keep the boat away from the rough sides. Even with our biggest fenders it was difficult to avoid damage to our topsides. After I got our mooring lines secured, I went to find the officials of customs, immigration and medical and fill in their forms. As usual these forms were presented in a stack of five copies with carbons for transferring the information even to the bottom copy. I had devised my own childish and petty form of revenge. I deliberately did not press hard while filling out the form. I pressed so little that it was often difficult to make out the first impression let alone what was on the sheet at the bottom. When this was pointed out to me, I would sigh and say that I was sorry, and I would try harder next time.
Creature Jan Dean After One figure from Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion – Francis Bacon My voice is much bigger than my body. See me side on from a distance and I fool you into thinking I’m an ostrich or emu with spindly legs. Close up, my body seems egg-like or a deflated football of the rugby league variety. Collapse adds to my character and conveys the impact I have on victims. Spy me. Try me. Your indecision is part of my power. Considerable, if I say so myself. My tiny mouth exudes slime infiltrated with extreme toxicity and screams so raucous they crumble cities. Experts often mistake my modus operandi for earthquakes. Spy me. Try me. My stench emits warnings but you are frozen on that spot so if I say stay away it’s just playful words, as if I could resist catastrophe. No talisman counteracts my wholehearted contempt. Obscenities are delectable fun to laugh along at with my supporters. Nothing defeats me. I’m always around. Spy me. Try me. Spy me. Try me.
Tired Cedar Whelan After: She felt the abyss of disenchantment. — Gabriel García Márquez - 'Love in the Time of Cholera' I'm tired Tired of fearing my feelings Tired of having to care Tired of not feeling trust anywhere Tired of feeling abandoned Tired of self-sabotage Tired of panic at random Tired of only just managing to manage How long does it take to be happy? How long is a piece of string? Tired of life being crappy Recovery a timeless thing
Vera’s Morning Tea Phil Williams An outing to the country while remaining covid-free to visit new friends and to savour Vera’s morning tea. Our drive traversed the forest with towering ash and teak their house is on the rise before crossing Muddy Creek. A wallaby and her joey scrutinised us at the gate rosellas squawked a welcome as we juddered across the grate. Aromas from the kitchen lured us to a tea-room trove redolent of grandma’s farm house and her wood-fired stove. Crowded tartlets on the table, a mouth-watering sight, salvers over-loaded - it was an epicurean’s delight. ‘Taste the quaint quiches’ - Vera was the perfect host, ‘and petite gateaux,’ we simply gaped engrossed. A jade-green three-tiered cake stand was table’s central glory, the layers stacked with goodness, each morsel had a story. Scones from the oven with jam and farm-whipped cream; plates piled with bite-sized treats - every gourmand’s dream. For crockery and cutlery on-line Vera trawled, before settling on a vintage set from St Vincent de Paul. Tea pots, cups and saucers, they didn’t really match, not that it mattered as there was not a chip or scratch. It was the finest morning tea thanks to Vera’s finesse, to celebrate their news and toast her culinary success.
Open Says a Me. Mick Fairleigh Oh how the moon shines bright on this dark winters night, as we reach out and touch each other for the very first time. It may be cold outside, but our body temperature is, hot, hot , hot, as we take our first passionate, romantic embrace. We cannot see one another for our love is blind, and our eyes are closed as we feel our temperatures rise in this our first loving and caressing hug. I ask, “Am I touching you in the right places?” and she answers, “Although we cannot see each other, you are touching me in places and giving me pleasures where I have never been touched or felt before.” Oh, what a sensation this answer has sent down my body, as I run my hand over and softly caress her loving face, feeling her hot and sweaty mouth as I pull her sultry responding body closer to mine. Our tangy lips meet, making our swirling tongues taste ever so sweet, as we kiss and cuddle ourselves to places we have never ever, been before. Oh my God! The most thrilling moment of my life has arrived, as my perspiration beads drip all over her voluptous body, as I scream out aloud the only magical words I know. “Open Sesame.” And boy oh boy, what a response I got, for when I pull the sticky, wet sheet from over my sweat ridden face and body I realise, “Oh man not again, surely one day this dream of mine will come true.”
The Lady in the Garden Diane Bartok I had seen her, almost dancing, on feet that barely touched the ground, among the Spring blooms in the Gardens. I seemed alone in my fascination of this ethereal creature. People were engrossed in their own activities: children chasing each other on the rolling grass, beseeched by parents lolling on picnic blankets to not fall into the glorious plants that are the botanical lungs of an over-developed city. The woman seemed to notice only me, glancing my way over the towering red bottlebrush, bees circling her frangipani-adorned dark head in a buzzing frenzy. She was unperturbed. And, then, in a blink of an eye, she was gone. With the breath taken from me, I headed to the Gardens tea house for refreshment. The day was not hazily hot enough for me to have imagined her. She was no apparition, this ethereal woman, I was convinced. Sitting down in the serene tea room, I ordered tea and cakes from the young waitress, who, I soon realised, bore an amazing resemblance to the woman in the Gardens. Just as I was thinking that they were one and the same, I noticed the woman from the Gardens, seated at a table in the corner of the room. This time I jumped slightly as a frisson of electricity ran through me. She smiled at my confusion. The young girl, without even taking her order, delivered tea served in an elegant antique silver pot to the woman. They beamed close-mouthed smiles to each other, their well-curved pale pink lips, curving slightly upwards. I could now see that the Garden woman was of an indeterminable age, with only a few shallow wrinkles on a creamy complexion. Her clothes were of another age, ankle-length dark green cotton-weave skirt, dazzling white long-sleeved white blouse, a cameo brooch at her neck. As I watched the woman slowly sipping her tea, the young waitress was by my side. In a quiet voice she said, “You can go over to talk to her, you know, now that she knows you’re aware of her.” And now the woman was looking at me, her leaf-green eyes beckoning. I almost floated across the room. Seated opposite her at her table, I was still shaking. The woman put her cool hand over mine, and whispered “I like to check up on her from time to time,” nodding towards the waitress who was busy serving customers. The tea room was filling up yet no one looked our way. “She’s my great great grand-daughter, my precious one, the only one of my descendants that has inherited my spiritual outlook on life . . . and of the life beyond,” the woman’s warm breath brushed my neck as she leaned into me, as if we were co-conspirators in a great secret. And she was telling me, me of all people, the greatest secret of all - that there was hope, a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.
A Philosophical poem Maria Clarke It is time to outgrow our Intellectual arrogance of The ancient past: It is time to let go of Our narrow mindedness It is time to embrace An understanding of Our humanity: “Nothing is itself without Everything else” 1 We are not so separated From our ancient past, We are participants in Each other’s lives, We are the universe. 1 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry - The Universe Story
Loss Marilyn Sanderson They come unexpected Uninvited From a well of memory Filled by a spring of sadness Which should by now Have long since run dry. Why then do these tears Follow thoughts which stray to you You who always sought to bring a smile to my lips. One soul in seven billion Surely it should not be missed So many to love But none to love me As you
Several Circles Shelley Stocken I saw her onstage. Emily? Emma? Something like that. She cast a long shadow over the others. Even James, who I’d come to see. His hug was surprisingly warm for someone who was grumpy every day of his life. But the day after, there he was, swearing at his kids across the park. I hid my association by chatting to Stella at the swings. Turns out our daughters were born a day apart. Hers was like a firecracker before she got sick. We sent them honey biscuits, just like the ones we sent for Cam, when he split up with whatsisname. Next thing you know, I’m flipping through the paper and I see whatsisname’s review of Sami and Mareke’s place down at the beach. Fifteen years, they’ve been running it. Fifteen! I still remember the opening was the same day Carla died.
Serenaded at Midnight Colin Mountford In the wee small hours of the night My mind keeps me awake My head is spinning, my eyes are bright Sleep won't come, for goodness sake Set in my mind, thoughts and daydreams Sweet love, you're the reason why Hopes and promises, serenades and ice creams I can't sleep at night, senses on a high I lie awake, I know not what to do Mesmerising, hypnotic pull, I can’t resist She coaxes me, I play the fool My head is hazy, just like the morning mist Serenading you at midnight, sing, sing a song A song to soothe the soul Slow boats, showboats, butterflies and bongs Sand between the toes and life can be so droll Senses on a high, I want to serenade Slow songs and images, my head is full of you Free my mind and let it fade The morning's coming soon Just another temporary sunrise, Wednesdays and summer breezes The windows open, looking out to blue-black skies When sleep hits me, it does it when it pleases Moonbeams break through the window A spear of light strikes the floor small flickering flakes put on a show Dancing all around me, who could ask for more? Put another record on, harmony on my mind The breeze whispers through the trees The sweet smell of Port wine Lingering fragrance, won't let me be Intoxicating, this can’t be wrong I first met her through a friend I want to Serenade her beauty with a song Sweet as honey, don’t ever let it end To dream a dream that was never dreamed To think a thought that no one can hear To wish a wish that rides a moonbeam To sleep, to think, to wish, to dream, to have her near My path is clear on what I have to say And tell her how much I care Telling her I feel this way So, serenade a song, a song we both can share.
Light on Water Yve Gray
After: “She felt the abyss of disenchantment” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Light moved sundancing on the ceiling in a constant capriccio of reflection. Lying in her bath, water warming cold flesh, trying to fathom what went wrong. Perhaps knowing that everything must change and change is the only constant. What is that philosophy? A thing can only rest while it is changing, but surely change requires some movement … even if not physical, and doesn’t that preclude rest? Maybe that’s too simplistic and needs more… lateral thought. Light still frolicked on the ceiling. She rested her head on the rim and watched. Here was beauty -- created or not created, happening as a result of accidental collaboration, in a narrow window of time. Light, sunlight, reflecting on water placed to catch runoff from the gutter, because the downpipe rusted out , because she didn’t want to lose the water, because of the drought, because it would keep the garden going. Because, there were always becauses – reasons for small actions, responses to things happening. So this beauty, she mused, was a “because” form of art – unintended, because of the becauses. Water in an old bin, fluking an angle to the rising sun, reflects up to bathroom windows of rippled glass (so no one can look in, no Peeping Tom ten feet tall, or passing on stilts!). She stirred the water, enjoying the ripples of tiny tides over her body. I am an island, she thought, then, No man is an island – I am a woman and I am an island – quod era demonstrandum or something. The tide flowed down the peninsula of her leg, ripples running up into the deep anchorage of inner thighs. Sydney Harbour, she remembered, where many ships of the realm may ride in safety. But there'd not been many ships. Not since she'd fallen in love. She had been faithful, not looking sideways, not once. Tepid water eddied around her chest, her breasts were twin islands – I am an archipelago, she thought. The strobing light was mesmeric – flickering light and shade pattering on eyelids. Where was I? trying to work out a compromise between the constancy of change and the constancy of love. The sudden pain that drove through her body made her cry out then weep. What had gone wrong? Had she been blind and not seen a problem, or had she assumed, that the ups and downs in a relationship were normal … disagreements, sure, but usually some compromise was reached. Can I bear it, she fretted , bearing the hurt, putting up with arguments always being blamed on me. The light was changing now, not so beautiful or compelling … and it did not last. How can I say all this, say, I know how you feel. I know you want the excitement and light. But, please be careful, please see that light doesn’t last. Beauty is so transient … it can depend on something so prosaic as a bin of caught water with sun at just the right angle.
Equilibrium Gail Hennessy After ‘Several Circles’ Vasily Kandinsky, 1926 Once upon a time I’d have . . . rejoiced in the perfection of your circles as symbols of spiritual perfection, even love a harlequin palette of sounds, their overlap striking a different depth each colour chosen for its weight Once upon a time I’d have seen a juggler spinning plates, champagne bubbles a precision of placement But today . . . I see a blue planet off its axis a black hole in her heart like a wound.
Brian Robinson…and meanwhile back on earth the blooms continue to flourish 2013 wood, plastic, steel, synthetic polymer paint, feathers, plant fibre and shell Artwork courtesy of the artist and Mossenson Galleries
What is this thing called love? Maree Chapman
L ove is a song of songs O riginal and worthy V icarious or real E nters in and never leaves L ove is an ever - changing melody O iften fallen into V erifies it’s presence E very touch or kiss L ove is an open space O ften fallen out of V erifies it’s absence E ven though it’s said L ove is a wounded heart O nly in part V alues a new start E mpowers the lover L ove is the full concerto O nce felt, never forgotten V erifies its permanence E mancipates the emptiness
Pam Tierney after: Brian Robinson .,,and meanwhile back on earth the blooms continue to flourish 2013 and I love the catapulting madness of his bike-riding, wheel-turning garden spree a flick here, a nudge there and all is set to tumble over the earth flinging random seeds of synthetic mischief and feathered sensuality flirting here, with fibre, there, with shell until I SMELL his frenetic delight, wrapping himself in patterned motion to celebrate his most marvellous creation
Shrouds Jeanette Campbell after: Rene Magritte – The Lovers – Paris 1928 Mummies, oppressed, wrapped in despair, clutching close. Stifled by relentless domination. Unable to grab control – struggling in vain, faceless. How long will we remain? Can’t breathe can’t break free, trapped.
Dinner Jane McGready
after: no little man from Customs and Immigration stands at the doors of memory or imagination demanding to see your passport. - Janet Turner Hospital, 'North of Nowhere, South of Loss’ There she sat at the head of the table, arms flung, midsentence. Facts within sentences within breathing cycles built like rows of bricks in a new wall. She abseiled through this story desperately clinging to a fact here, an anecdote there. Vowel blends became interchangeable held tightly between their consonant bookends. Syllables and sounds stood out more than their meaning. ‘Cabinet’ became ‘chest of drawers’. Suddenly there was a rush of tears, like water from a womb. Her shoulders shook and I put a hand on one. We sat in silence and then she looked up apologetically. She wiped her eyes and said ‘sorry, sorry’. I wondered where this would go, prepared for the hours of debriefing but then, to my surprise and relief, she smoothed the edges of the table cloth beside her plate as she always did, and dinner continued. Once she took a sip of her wine, and a big deep breath through her nose I knew then that a small part of her had been somewhere we hadn’t.
Tea for three Anna Ash The Sisters kept the Garden Tea Room: Afternoon Tea, High Tea, Cream Tea. Now Mrs if the great war didn’t get us, the Spanish Flu won’t. Grandma poured tea into her saucer, blew and slurped. Ring-a-ring-a-rosie, wear a camphor posie, the French flu, the Russian flu, the soldiers come for tea. Ma brewed our nice cuppa tea in the kitchen. Warm the pot, add the leaves, one tea-spoon will do nicely, cosy on, turn the pot, once, twice, thrice. But which way Grandma? Masks save, over the mouth is sufficient. Wait for the spray man to disinfect, then take your constitutional. I hold Grandma’s hand. Boy Alf is in his harness, Ma pushes baby in her pram, do NOT Kis. Pa’s got the fever. No Spanish Lady gorn get me Grandpa said, when he took over the meat deliveries. Now Ma's taken to her bed. Come here Vera, Grandma and Grandpa love you very much.
Maggie Hall After Lovers II A marriage between lost heavens, denied by an unborn Kin. Separated shadows steal emotion, the handmaids tale, an unfinished sculpture of another’s making. Naked lips destined never to touch. A room with two walls embrace the fabric painted sky. Unable to scream the others warning, for the echo of a silk worms dream. It is the play of light which detours Shakespeare’s destiny? A wedding without the feast passing judgement before guillotines count down, in this quiet game . . . . Hide and Seek
For Polly and Dolly Barnard Gail Hennessy After John Singer Sargent ‘Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose’ -Tate Gallery. Two sisters caught in the garden of innocence cosseted into white muslin flimsy as butterfly wings as they light paper lanterns again and again in a frieze of trumpeting pre-Raphaelite lilies an embossment of burgundy carnations, pink and white roses, lifted from life as the seasons changed only to learn the artist removed his brushstrokes every morning as he aimed toward a masterpiece struggling to ransom light from the glow of muted flame as the essence of twilight shadowed your faces for two English autumns he set you and his easel up as you obediently bent your heads above the orange glow did you ever want to drop those tapers into the bowls of light and see them shrivel into ash. I would have.
The Captain and the Sea Colin Mountford I hear the Sea, it calls aloud I see the Sea is mighty proud Rolling in and out again. The Captain shouts “Abstain!” “I cannot”, shouted back the Sea Perpetual motion makes me free. “I know you will be back real soon. You're drawn to me just like the Moon.” "Come ride upon the clear blue Sea. I’ll make you happy, just like me." The Captain shouts, "We will embrace!" A ship upon the water leaves no trace. Take the wheel and stay the route. Or you’ll feel, the Captain’s boot. Fill your lungs and sing up high I hope your loved ones said goodbye. The Captain shouted, “we’ll raise old Jack!" There's no time for turning back. Rum and sweat, a man you'll be. I am the Captain; you’ll sail with me. Onboard the ship, the men were weary 30 men were tired and dreary The Captain had to stand his ground Every man had duties bound. Except for Roberts, he was no good He tried to steal some extra food. Seamen Roberts was locked in chains Tied to the mast, his body remains 50 lashes of the stinging cat Blood from his wounds ran down his back The Captain’s whip gave Roberts a kiss Rarely did Captain Thom’s aim miss The Captain’s fury brought down the whip No way did Roberts make the trip The Captain said we cannot wait We’ll turn ol’ Roberts into bait. Fish or shark, it don’t matter We’ll feed them mateys, and make them fatter Do your job and what you’re told Then you’ll get your share of gold Or just like Roberts, your life won’t last You’ll find yourself tied to the mast. Ahoy there boys, we’ll sail the Seas Raise the rigging and catch the breeze I am the Captain, you are the crew Let’s end our journey, with oceans blue. Heave ho, me lads, heave-ho Or the bilge rats wait for you below Do your duty and take the plunder Or get no share of the Clap o’ Thunder So do your duty, you scoundrel pigs Blow your hornpipe and dance a jig Weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen Or find yourself alone in prison. Cape Horn is where we’re headed I know me buckos want a strumpet bedded Lovely lasses, they’re so pretty The boys can’t wait, to see their titties. We’ve been fighting, six months at sea Davey Jones, he waits for me. The boys fought hard and did their best Killed the enemy and hung the rest We sank 3 ships, sent them below Davey Jones enjoyed the show. Our cannons blazed and ripped ships apart Sending fear and terror into their hearts. The seas we’ll sail, ships we’ll plunder and send them to the bottom With their crew and Captains too, they’ll stay there ‘til their rotten. We are swashbucklers and brave as any man could be I am the Captain, the mighty Captain and madam, you are the Sea.
Sara Crane Time shimmered of light and ripple. Flimsy as the glint of sun on the bay. Blurring into the allness, time swayed. Time rolled on by, flickered in front of eyes a tenebrous flame. Time made things big like bulky muscle big. Time flowed and ran away like rain. Time sang her honeyed note, a butcher bird. Time was infinite bubbles rising, falling, popping. Time said I don’t wanna be friends with you anymore. Time said you’re out. Goodbye. Even fuck off! (but we made up) Time said she was leaving, I knew she’d be back, even when she moved away or we lost touch. Sometimes I lost track of time and she wavered in my breath until I found her standing by the mantle piece of our home talking about bad trips and thuds of love. Time punched me in the face like a hangover, made grooves and ridges on my face that didn’t fall smooth when I stopped laughing. I could never tell if she was running out the door or coming and when people asked me what she looked like I could never remember. Time teased like a child, went cold like tea I drank. Sometimes I’d call out to time expecting her to turn around and click her tongue but time never sounded like I thought she would. I asked time to stay. Said we could build together. Time brooded, what did you expect she said. Told me the metaphor about the snake you pick up by the side of the road. I asked her if she’d hibernate for me and there she was unapologetic, unhindering in my line of sight. Time was rolling her eyes at me. Could she sleep a little, not bite me just yet? I didn’t mean or mind the race car tracks she drove into my skin on my forehead and around my eyes. I needed her to sleep on the big things I’d give a damn about when time turned me old. Time said she only went in one direction, had no roundabout, flip switch, she wasn’t a sewing machine that could stitch the other way. Time was proud. Time was bold. Time gave zero fucks and I thought I should be more like time. Time said she didn’t negotiate with time terrorists but you be kind she said, be wild if you want, look after people like all people count its not the second I count, she said but the people, make the people in your life count and most of all love hard. If you do, time said, I give you this promise you won’t even notice when I am gone.
Where does love go? Marilyn Sanderson Certainty insubstantial as magma Engulfs my trust at each bitter stage Thrusting words like an obsidian shard Shredding intimacy with renewed outrage. What once beguiled sears memories fond Supplants unbound joy with apprehension And rends apart loves long betrothed bond So I wonder if my love was pure invention. Buried ‘neath the toxic tongued lashes I find remnants of self, tempered and strong And I will rise phoenix like from ashes My innocence long consumed by thy wrong. My heart will not moan, whimper and break For from this lesson a new me I will make.
A Garden of Babes Maree Chapman after: John Singer Sargent ‘Carnation, Lily, Lily Rose’ My babies drowsed within the flora of the womb Reclining amid the warmth of carnations, a rose, lilies and camellias Each flutter like leaves unfurling in the womb Alive and ready for your metamorphosis Lilies, camelias, carnations and a rose Kept you company- as I waited Tending carefully to the fertile oasis in which you lazed The vivid image of the garden Reflects upon the window of my lens I see you resting in your flowery nest There appears to be a shadow of a cross An outline of a beating heart Are they symbols pointing to the outcome of our union? For this time where a rose, carnations, camellias and lilies grew Where colour, perfume and nature bloomed There was just me and you