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Congratulations to our May winners:

$50 – Julie Simpson, ‘The Wonderful Taste  of Non-Water’ 

$50 – Ronald Atilano, ‘Encounter’

$50 – Therese Lloyd, ‘The Hang-Out’

$25 – Mark Liston, ‘Two Trintina’

$25 – Justine Bird, ‘Promise on a Wet and Lonely Night

Past contests: read the wonderful submissions 
DecemberAugust, 
May and February 2021 

4 times each year we post prompts here for our members to submit poems or prose works in response.

We award cash prizes totalling $200.
Here are the responses to prompts provided May 2022.

 The Wonderful Non-Taste of Water
Julie Simpson


Aaah-h-h! The glassy flow of fresh water trickling down

your throat a sudden slurp of saturated air a liquid strip

of wet cling film backlit transparent silver streaming

falling from clouds to join the lake/river/creeks/dams

imperceptible ripples of coolth ready to replenish my

breathless body cells & recharging other invisibles:

my sweet soul / life force longings / my thirsting

for this wonderful non-taste of cool clear water.

Consider the acrobatics when swallowing great

gulps of wetness in jerky responses glug-glug

or snaking down throats in uncoiling pleasure

s-w-a-l-l-o-w or bringing the luxury of much-

needed sip sip sips of icy re—fresh—ment.

Deep drinking delight that gives the feeling

of ultimate lightness with its sweet bouquet

of nothing at all turning gasping breaths

into song between our simple ah-ha-hahs

of relief / / / / / whenever it starts to rain.

/ / / /                                    

/ / /                                      

Encounter
Ronald Atilano

After: Murakami

I remember the slow procession of boats and their black nets  

That evening at the old pier, when, having fallen asleep  

On a bench, I suddenly woke up from a strange dream, 

Faintly recalling an encounter with a man at that same spot,  

A man who looked like me, and who, after an argument,  

Drew a revolver and shot me to death, then dragged my body  

Into the water.  As I sank, he calmly sat down on the same iron bench, 

Gazing at the passing boats.  The sun had set, the wind sighing. 

The pained joy that it had all just been a dream, the stars  

A scattered chorus above me.  I walked back home. 

For a number of days, I didn’t leave my room,  

Avoiding the company of friends. I grew weary  

Of my old causes, wary of any gestures of generosity,  

Stopped smoking, religiously saw the doctor for the smallest cough  

Or irregular heartbeat. In time, my voice grew coarse,  

As if a crow had been trapped, thrashing wildly, in my lungs.  

These days, when I look in the mirror,  I recognise 

The man from that night, the criminal I have become, 

As my old self lies submerged under the drifting boats, 

From time to time getting tangled in their mournful nets.

The Hang-out
Therese Lloyd

After: Street

We would converge in the afternoon, uniformed dresses hiked up much higher than allowed between nine and three. Our tanned and shaven legs hoping to attract attention-who’s we did not know. Retouches of mascara and eyeliner had been made on our sojourn from school, darker than our light application in the morning. Hair bounced, happy to be freed from its regulatory band. Together we would throw in coins stealthy scrounged from benches at home. There was a table out front. If an unsuspecting had perched themself there before our descent, we would hover like gulls waiting for a crumb. They left, of course, overwhelmed by our loudness and body spray that swam through the air in its fruity frenzy. Davo would be behind the counter as we swanned in and placed our usual order. His large stomach, hanging over his pants would roll, slowly ebbing up and down as he jiggled our chips and wiped sweat away with his chubby hand. He was always friendly, in a funny fatherly way. Shaking his head at our giggles and sighs. 

As I drive through the street to visit mum, I pass Davo’s. The name, once emblazoned in red is faded, only visible to those who would look. A new banner hangs below –‘Café 95’ with an invitation for coffee and cake. I glimpse polished benches carrying glass cabinets filled with delectable delights. People lounging in modern chairs. I can hear our talk, our chatter. Life’s plans – when we would get out. Some did, some did not.  Three are gone now. Two lost too soon before they could dance. Another we farewelled, had to leave her babes behind. And the rest of us are scattered through distance and time, each walking our own path away from the past.

 

Two Tritina
Mark Liston

for Walter and Mabel Smith

1. Rain Clocks Time

A dripping ceiling is counting rain,

in the hollow hallway it is clocks.

But both remind you of time.

 

You can’t try sleeping away the time.

This week in bed you listen to rain

in bed it is the endless clock.

 

Watching the ceiling stain, the clock

Reminds, you are missing Mable all the time.

You lose count counting drips of rain.

 

But you will sleep soon: rain clocks time.

 

2. (The) Sun Shines Now

 

I wake with the light of the sun

and sense your smile as it shines.

You tell me it is all fine now.

And I can open my heart again now

and feel the warmth of your sun.

Oh, how this bedroom we love, shines.

 

You return with the light, it shines

in your hair, in your eyes and my soul now.

I am whole again; you have brought the sun.

 

We are whole again, now the sun shines.

Promise on a Wet and Lonely Night
Justine Bird

After: Street

The streets were empty.  Shops shut.  Even the fish and chip shop had closed its doors for the night.   

You couldn’t miss it was a fish and chip shop.  It said so emphatically on the window, three times in different colours, fonts and sizes, including once in neon lights.  Another sign under the awning, outside the shop, “Fish & Chips Hamburgers Grilled Fish”.  If fish or hamburgers didn’t do it for you, they also ran to fried chicken.  I preferred the fish and chips with a Greek salad, even tabbouleh if on offer.  I could taste it now, pity the shop was closed.   

The shop wasn’t large.  It had a long counter down one side and behind it the vats for deep frying, hot plates for grilling fish or hamburgers, and a rotisserie for chicken.  Not sure a rotisserie fried chicken exactly, guess that was poetic licence.  Along the other wall, next to the drinks cabinet ran a long bench with a few stools so you could eat there if you wanted or just sit and wait for your order, making idle talk.  On the walls were menus, pricelists and images of Greece, brilliant white and blue. 

For convenience you could phone in your order and collect when ready.  It seemed a good idea if you were an organised sort of person.  But to me the fish and chips shop was a neighbourhood hub that you wanted to visit, regularly, with an excuse to linger and see who was about and what was going on.  

It was always interesting to read the cards, mostly handwritten, placed in the shop front window.  Work wanted, odd jobs, babysitting, dog walking, second hand cars, bicycles and baby things for sale.  Some cards hadn’t changed in a while, blue ink faded with sunlight.  There were a few new cards since last week.  The hourly rate for gardening had gone up – inflation I guess. Could I afford a couple of hours’ help in the garden?  Maybe I’ll take the number down for future reference.   

On wet nights like tonight the shop looked forlorn.  No one about, only distant headlights of cars that turned the corner before heading this way, the muffled sound of tyres shooshing through water-logged gutters. 

Among the new cards in the shop window I read, “Business for sale.  Great location, long lease, reasonable rent.  Reliable turnover.  For details, contact proprietor within”. What would I do with this business?  Jazz it up a bit?  Repaint, improve lighting?  Add some outdoor dining, sun umbrellas for those long hot summer days.  Plants for shade and wellbeing. Perhaps some music – quiet jazz or classical – to be a little different, distinctive, fun to visit. A few tweaks to the menu – add some desserts, gelati or Baklava perhaps, my favourite.  

Could a fish and chip shop change my life?  Promise comes in all shapes and sizes, even fish and chip shops on a wet and lonely night. 

painting by Clarice Beckett

Clarice Beckett – “October Morning, 1927”

Out Early
Justine Bird

After: Clarice Beckett – October Morning 1927

In 1927 it was my grandparents’ world, a different world, “marvellous Melbourne” before the Depression, the wild twenties in full swing. 

Here was a man of his time, out for his walk in the strengthening light of early morning, shadows still long and dew fresh on the grass.  The footpath was clear, no one about.  It was still cool enough for a coat and scarf, ubiquitous brown felt hat planted firmly on his ageing head. 

How many times had he walked this street?  He knew where the dogs were, behind their fences or on their front porches.  Some would bark to signal his progress on his daily rounds, others would recognise his scent and the rhythm of his walk and not bother.  He could see which lawns needed mowing even this early in the season. To the left of him the hedge had weathered the bitter winter and now sprouted new green foliage, insulating the house from street noise and lending privacy to the residents beyond.  A heady scent of jasmine was in the air and boughs of golden wattle hung pendulous over the top of the hedge.  Behind him the bay stretched wide and silent, streaks of blue between the tree trunks.  Water birds would wheel in later, dive for fish then spread out their wings to dry while families watched on, picnicking, their children playing on the banks. 

He had lived in this area all his life, gone to school here, met his wife here, had his children here, and he would die here when the time came.  There was a cadence to his life as he walked out to see the world.  A quick breakfast of toast and a hot cup of tea, feed the cat and out the front door, down the path and out through the front fence.  He was aware of his gait as he walked, not as smooth as it once was, maybe a hint of a limp creeping in.  A walking stick might be needed in a year or two. 

While the world around him was speeding up, it seemed his world was slowing down, their orbits no longer in sync.  Just the natural order of things, he thought as he walked, out early on an October morning.   

October Morning
Maggie Ball

After: Clarice Beckett – October Morning 1927

The way you leaned in, shadowed
one October morning, long before 
the war that swallowed us both
though I was not yet, and you were carefree
awake to a soft palette, tonal
a dream that lingers, synchronised sound
suburban morning in the city
jaunty against the creamy-yellow of Banksia.
 
Honey sweet filling the air
along with the buzzing of wild bees
who understood, better than we did
with all our frail articulations
the mesh that binds us, connected 
In life and beyond, part of a single whole.
 
The way you walked out
leaving behind a shadow of your passing
one October morning years later
events only seeming to be separate
our disparate lives, broken by time
fractured in space, this world and another.
 

Light and Dark
Jan Dean

After: Clarice Beckett – October Morning 1927

Some days stand, stark in your mind. It could have been yesterday 

but was the morning of my thirteenth birthday, a lost eternity away. 

I was there with Molly. A crisp, clear day in a park by the sea, seeming 

bright and innocent. The artist worked quickly, bending every so often 

to her little art cart; shifting her focus from light to dark and back 

over and over. She was a maker of mysteries, since the shadow cast  

from the wattle appears on the ground as emanating from two people.  

Was this her way of distracting from the ghoul lurking there?  

Did he have an accomplice? Was his heavy overcoat a masterful disguise?  

Artists often blur reality. I saw him, arms extended, making a T for trouble.  

He’d loitered for days, his countenance a constant leer, so I averted  

my eyes; an everlasting regret. Molly remains in my dreams.  

Only in my dreams. 

Walking Through Time
Julia Brougham

After: Clarice Beckett – October Morning 1927

The Old Man walks in  

Spring shadow and light 

Heel toe footsteps and swinging arms mark 

Time’s measured flow, 

Sequencing his yesterdays, todays,  

and uncertain destiny.  

Yet entropy of passing days, 

from urgent, untried, loose-limbed youth 

to three score years and ten  

is memory  

unconfined,  

unconstrained, 

by arbitrary intervals of arrowed Time. 

He slips those bonds at will,  

and  walks, 

unbounded, 

through all his Springs. 

 

I have this strange feeling that I’m not myself anymore. It’s hard to put into words, but I guess it’s like I was fast asleep, and someone came, disassembled me, and hurriedly put me back together again. That sort of feeling.

Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart

Disassembled Me
Aleta Snow

After: Murakami

The woman stands in front of the mirror, drawing in deep breaths. Her eyes are cast downwards in an act of avoidance, not wanting to truly look at the reflection she will see in the mirror. Mirrors have become a source of sorrow and uncertainty since her body seemingly betrayed her.  

 

The woman’s eyes flicker upwards, and then widen at what she sees. An ageing, weary face. Deep lines etched around her mouth, discolouration’s on her cheeks, and eyes with colour fading. Her neckline is crinkled and sun damaged, breasts sagging with extra weight, arms dimpled, and a body broadened. Each time, the woman sees this image it shocks her to the core. It’s as if she is viewing her mother, instead of herself. Inside her head she still sees a much younger version of herself, a person she believes still lives within her

 

The woman closes her eyes and a kaleidoscope of images flow through her brain. She sees herself as the small child learning to navigate the world, the teenager keen to strike out on her own, the first-time lover glowing in the adoration from her partner, the new mother, overwhelmed, sore and yet exquisitely in love with her newborn. The woman remembers images of herself as the capable, confident woman being noticed and her opinions valued. She remembers her body as lithe and without pain.  

 

Now there is a new version of herself. One which others no longer see. With ageing has come a sense of blending into the background, eyes look over her and slide past her. Society now expects her to be staid and sensible. No silly dancing, or frivolous fun. For her this change seems to have come quickly, but in reality, it has come stealthily. 

The
first changes in her body’s hormones, the sense of irritability with the world, the bombardment of fatigue heavier than stones, an internal wrestle with constantly changing emotions. She can no longer sleep the restful sleep of the young. Her body heats up unexpectedly and her mind has become at times fog-filled with reduced recollection. This “Change of Life”, has left her feeling discombobulated, almost disembodied from her previous sense of self. She is no longer is sure of who she is, in her head she is a young girl trapped inside an old woman’s body. 
 

 

The woman once again drops her eyes away from the mirror. The experience has been painful and disconcerting. A confronting reminder of the untangling and degradation of her younger self.  

Killing His Darlings
Margaret Leggett

After: Murakami

Peter awoke as sunlight slid through the shutters. He stretched, extending his limbs to squeeze out the kinks, then scratched at his chin, surprised at the abundance of stubble. Had he slept so long? Disoriented, he scanned the room. A flicker in his peripheral vision vanished when he tried to focus. Strange. Probably just a lingering fragment of last night’s dreams. He wondered how a grown man’s brain could produce such fanciful imaginings.
     He rubbed his eyes and examined his surroundings again. Ah yes. His own bedroom, and there she was—his beautiful wife. He could still see in her features the child she’d been when they met. He doused the bedside lamp, forgotten as sleep had overtaken him last night, and closed his eyes for a moment’s extra rest, but jerked awake again to a dizzying sensation of falling—no, soaring—across a jungled landscape. 

*

Then a flash, a groan. Peter jolted upright. He rose to investigate and looked out upon a brilliant day. Of course—the play of sunlight on water, creaking timbers as the ship strained ahead. He gathered his wandering thoughts, reached for his uniform and dressed, just in time for a sharp rapping at his door and the arrival of his cabin boy, bearing breakfast. He ate, feeling out of sorts, as though he’d been deposited unprepared into this place and time. Had he been ill?
      A cursory flick through the ship’s log on his desk recalled his mission—to eradicate that scoundrel of the high seas and his villainous crew. Peter picked up a framed portrait of his beloved, remembering his solemn promise to her, and vowed again that when his mission was accomplished he’d abandon the sailor’s life forever. She wouldn’t survive losing him as she’d lost her brothers. Michael and John had died as heroes, but that was small comfort.

*

A scraping sound and a blaze of light disturbed his reverie. Peter struggled to concentrate as a tall, gaunt gentleman entered his office, pulled up a chair and touched a glowing taper to his pipe. The man was familiar, but Peter could not recall what business he had with him. Was he a client? A fellow lawyer? Something about his injury disturbed him—why had this man chosen to replace his missing hand with such an evil contraption? He was, however, very impressed with how skilfully he wielded that hook.
     Business was transacted, sealed with handshakes, and Peter was in the street.
     A shimmer caught his eye. A flutter of something gauzy and bright spun across his vision and vanished. Peter blinked away the impression and quickened his pace. The wind was increasing, blowing leaves across the road. He pulled out his fob-watch. Late again. Wendy would be worried. 

*

Meanwhile, in a land far, far away, yet another rewrite takes shape. Lost boys, mermaids, crocodile, flying children, meddlesome fairy entity—all discarded.
     Perpetual childhood? Self-indulgent nonsense, worthless fantasy. A boy must become a man, discover his destiny.

Strangeness
Jan Dean

After: Murakami

See that pile of jigsaw pieces over there? That’s me. You’ll patiently sort through over a great length of time and find more than one puzzle with crucial pieces missing. It seemed to happen suddenly, but I know deep down it took a few years. You know what I mean. I’m talking about the pandemic; war and rumours of war; unseasonal weather of great impact that saw glaciers melt in the northern hemisphere causing oceans to rise. Horrific temperatures and drought in the southern hemisphere came to a fearsome halt with deluges of biblical proportions, bringing repeated floods. Advanced age exasperates matters. Who wouldn’t be anxious when nothing makes sense? Isolation made me madder than before. Who wouldn’t discard a few pieces of a distressed and rebellious self, sweeping them under the floormats? There’s no denying the nagging feeling no one can put me back together again.

Well-worn
Therese Lloyd

After: Murakami

Vexation bubbling in a well-worn jug, 

 polished silver – faded to some. 

 

 Heat radiating, 

 raw energy  pulled – gasping for breath 

 

Sweat on skin;  

entangled in a way we did not want changed. 

 

Who did then and when? 

Who crept across and broke our impenetrable hold? 

 

Replacing it with a modality of reciprocal appreciation; 

affectionate glances in our tag-team life. 

 

Commitment in mutual exhaustion, 

smiles substituting kisses. 

 

Next adequate indifferent existence. 

Sweet sounding cymbals merged into a cacophony we did not hear. 

 

Until –vexation bubbling out of a well-worn jug; 

melting everything around. 

Fish and Chips shot - photo taken at night on a rainy street

Street

Fish and Chips
Gregory Struck

After: Street

“The usual?”

“Yeah – the usual.” He turned to the fryer, checked the heat – as if he really needed to – and threw in a scoop of chips.

“How’s she going?”

He asked this question each time he saw his customer. Dave was a tall, rangy man, about fifty, easily taken for sixty. The lines that etched his face spoke of more than hard work.

“The doctor reckons she’ll hang on for six months. I just can’t …” the voice died away and the cook struggled to respond. What could he say? “It’ll be ok mate”? when both knew it wouldn’t? What could make this man feel better when he walked back into the darkness of the deserted street? He would turn to the right, walk a hundred metres and climb a set of half-broken stairs to a flat that an optimistic real estate agent might have described as “cosy”. No to mention “in original condition”. The cook knew what that flat looked like because he had delivered there once or twice. A hot parcel, steam curling out – grilled flathead, chips and tartare. He didn’t generally do that for customers but this was somehow different. Dave had a few issues of his own and was no cook even when things were good, while Jean wasn’t up to much of anything these days – a shower and a bit of telly was an achievement of sorts. Cancer did that to you.

He stirred the sizzling contents of the fryer. Not long to go. You got to be a pretty good judge after thirty years of throwing the stuff into hot oil – he had once idly tried to work out how many chips had passed through his hands but had given up. Too hard. What he could remember was most of the Daves who had come through the doorway. A lot of his customers struggled with what life threw at them – this wasn’t the flashest part of town, money was often tight. If he had been a more reflective sort of bloke – what was that word he had heard some wanker on the telly use once? – philosophical? – he might have thought of his little business as a bit more than a fish-and-chip shop. He would have shrugged at words like “haven” or “refuge” – Christ, mate – I just sell fish and chips! Still, you had to do your best to cheer people up a bit. Help out sometimes. A few loans here and there – not always repaid but he knew people meant well. The occasional freebie, though you had to be a bit careful with that – too many of them and next thing you knew you couldn’t pay your own bills. Bloody electricity company didn’t want sob stories, that was for sure.

The food was done. He wrapped it and handed it to the man waiting silently on the other side of the counter. He took it and walked away. Opened the door, paused and looked over.

“Mate – thanks. For everything.”

I have been feeling very clearheaded lately and what I want to write about today is the sea. It contains so many colors. Silver at dawn, green at noon, dark blue in the evening. Sometimes it looks almost red. Or it will turn the color of old coins. Right now the shadows of clouds are dragging across it, and patches of sunlight are touching down everywhere. White strings of gulls drag over it like beads

Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See

Eyes of the Sea
Eve Gray

After: Doerr

Look into the sea’s blue green eyes

try to read the words waves write

in cuneiform on curling crests

Restless rhythms row in poetic feet,

fleets of fleeing fish make mirrors of meaning

meaning to make more of movement

making music of sea syllables and sand scripts

frowning in concentrated corrugations

But meaning can be as hard

as water to grasp after grab

Meaning can seem to flow

with an ebb and swell of emotion

Turning tides turn meaningless

Look into those blithe blue

Sea’s eyes and the sea eyes

you back with calculation

The Ink Black Sea
Clare Thomas

After: Doerr

Pokyo drifts along the ink black sea. Searching and searching for her place to be.  

The whispering breeze calls to her, ‘Pokyo, follow. Come follow me.’ 

 

Pokyo catches the breeze in her tattered sails and skims along the raven waves.  

Her heart is small and empty on this endless ink black sea.  

 

Glistening fins arch up and down across the ink black sea. 

Pokyo asks them, ‘Are you searching, searching for your place to be?’ 

They trill and squeak and tell her, ‘No. We race and feast on fish!’ 

The whispering breeze calls to her, ‘Follow, just follow me.’ 

 

The full moon shimmers like a pearl across the ink black sea.  

Pokyo asks it, ‘Are you searching, searching for your place to be?’ 

It glows and chuckles and tells her, ‘No. My beams dance and play on the waves.’ 

The whispering breeze calls to her, ‘Follow, I said follow me.’ 

 

Curious eyes blink and flicker upon the ink black sea. 

Pokyo asks them, ‘Are you searching, searching for your place to be?’ 

They sniff and snuffle and tell her, ‘No. We hide and seek in our seaweed maze!’ 

Pokyo listens for the call of the breeze, but it is silent and still on the shadowy sea.  

 

A lonely tear rolls down her cheek and plops into the waves. 

‘If my salty tear can find its place, then I must too,’ she sighs.  

 

A rippled mountain rises up through the ink black sea.  

Pokyo asks it, ‘Are you searching, searching for your place to be?’ 

It spouts and sighs and tells her, ‘No. I fill my belly with krill.’ 

Pokyo listens for the whispering breeze, but the briny air is still.  

 

Ebony wings flap and glide beneath the ink black sea.  

Pokyo asks them, ‘Are you searching, searching for your place to be?’ 

They swish and circle and tell her, ‘No. We skate along the sandy floor.’ 

Pokyo wishes the whispering breeze would murmur to her once more.  

 

A mossy face appears, bobbing up from the ink black sea.  

Pokyo asks it, ‘Are you searching, searching for your place to be?’ 

It blinks and nods and tells her, ‘Yes! I look for somewhere warm to make my nest.’ 

The wind whirls round and cries with glee, ‘Follow! Come follow me!’ 

 

Pokyo and Turtle swiftly sail across the ink black sea. Hoping that the place they seek is close, as close can be.  

 

The rising sun sends streams of pink towards the shimmering shore. Pokyo leaps and skips towards the place she has been looking for. 

 

She searched and searched and finally found … 

Home. 

Beside the bright blue sea.

 

mad house

Sally Smart – Mad House

Mad House
Gregory Struck

After: Smart

It’s nice to see you dear. How are you? Have a seat. Cuppa?

How have I been? Oh, not bad. Just the usual – still stiff – walking isn’t getting any easier. But I manage.

The neighbours? Much the same. I know they all think I’m crazy. Lost the plot. That batty lady in the old house on the corner. You’d think she’d put a coat of paint on it, wouldn’t you? Letting the neighbourhood down. And that lawn… But I don’t care. I must admit my memory isn’t quite what it was and maybe the place could do with a bit of a clean-up. There was that nice young girl who used to come with her mower. Whatever happened to her? Anyway, bugger them. Especially that snotty bitch with her big BMX next door. Or is that a BMW? Whatever it’s called. I know they talk about me. And those real estate agents! I remember when real estate agents wore suits – Mr Johnson who sold the place to us in – when was it? 54? 55? – anyway, he always wore a suit. These young ones keep knocking on the door and telling me they could get an amazing price for my house. Amazing! That’s another thing. Everything’s amazing these days. You go to Woolies and the sixteen-year-old on the desk tells you it’s amazing when you pay. I could show them amazing. It was amazing when Bert came back from the war after three years in that prison camp and was back in the factory in a month. It was amazing everything started working again, if you know what I mean – now, that was amazing!

The girls reckon I ramble on a bit and maybe I do. But I have so many things I think about. Maybe I forget to pay the gas bill sometimes or don’t get around to vacuuming as much as I should, but I remember the important stuff. I remember when each of the girls was born – I could tell you the nurses’ names and what the weather was like each time. I remember when they started school. I remember when that nice Mr Whitlam was sacked – we were so upset. Bert went on a march about it but his sister thought it was a good thing – never really did get on with her. I remember all the grandkids’ birthdays – well, maybe I do have to check the calendar sometimes. Anyway, most of all, I remember what Bert said about the house. He said they’d want to get me out and build flats or something. But I couldn’t move. This is where the girls grew up. Where Bert passed away, god bless him. He was right, of course. They all want to make out I’m crazy so they can make me sell. Well, as Bert said – pardon the language, dear – they can get stuffed. I live here. That’s what matters.

New Growth
Gillian Telford

After: Smart

It took years to nurture, to feed this obsession— 

first, the child, sweeping dirt floors of a hideout; 

peeping through oak leaves at unwanted neighbours; 

fashioning furniture from cardboard boxes, smuggling 

cans of condensed milk against times of need. 

Time passes, while any space with a door to close 

against others, is a place to make a home— to arrange 

and fuss, clean and polish, adorn and bring light. 

But then space becomes shared— new needs emerge— 

desires to nurture, to care for others, are dragged from joy 

to dogged routine; a world-view hazed in sleep deprivation. 

Still you cook, wash and fold, laundry-baskets topple 

with un-ironed shirts, you shop and stack, unstack and cook; 

machines fill up, break down; dogs drop hair, boots spread 

mud; toys, homework, leggo, craft, dirty dishes, dirty 

clothes, dirty floors, where now is the light? 

One day, you resist, stand firm and tall— let chaos reign.  

You spread your arms, put out new shoots, let song-birds 

gather. Beneath the sun, burdens shift. It’s time now, 

time for new growth. They will survive. 

Madwoman
Cedar Whelan

After: Smart

Messy as a 

madwoman’s shit”, 

you said. 

 

There was a time 

when I would have taken it 

silently. 

 

Not any more. 

I’ve found my voice. 

 

Can you just not?” 

How can you 

think 

it’s ok? 

 

Or do you not 

think? 

 

Sorry 

doesn’t fix 

some things. 

 

True colours vivid. 

 

It’s your shit showing, 

not mine. 

Rain is its own season: keeping its counsel, withholding or giving as if by whim – months of nothing then a dramatic plenitude of damp and cold, of life.

– Diane Fahey, Rain is its Own Season, Newcastle Poetry Prize 2014

In The Valleys
Brenda Proudfoot

After: Fahey

I. South Wales

As lithe and lilting as Myfanwy, 

rain mists the moors and valleys,   

runs through farms, beside hedged 

lanes, skips past the Aberthin pubs 

to the stone bridge at Y Bont Faen. 

 

Milk bottles erupt, leak frozen lava. 

My heart sings like Julie Andrews 

as snowflakes dance and swirl. Icicles 

hang from eaves and hedgerows, pipes freeze. 

We build a snowman with coal black eyes. 

II. New South Wales

It’s that damn El Nino, keeping the weather 

dry. The pump sucks water from a pool in 

the Hunter River, slakes parched paddocks, 

keeps the cattle alive. King parrots wilt 

on our veranda, dazed by the searing heat. 

 

The creek is a raging torrent. The neighbour’s 

charolais crowd the boundary gate seeking 

the high ground where our cattle churn green 

grass into mud.  A spooked wallaby bounds 

into flood water, swims 100 metres to the bush. 

 North Coast Rain
Diana Pearce

After: Fahey

I heard a dairy farmer speak about 

the flooding of his home and farm, 

how he had raised 

his heifers and cows himself 

knew each one’s personality 

named them all.  

 

As the river rose 

that summer night 

covering the plains and paddocks 

the farmer heard his cows 

bellowing 

stranded 

as if calling for him. 

 

He too was stranded 

listening   listening 

until 

only the resonance of rain 

on an iron roof 

the sound of rushing 

rising waters 

broke the silence.

 

 

 

painting by Carlotta Consonni

 Carlotta Consonni – Isolation

SOLITARY
Diana Pearce

After: Consonni

Last night 

your neighbour said, 

Aren’t you lonely? 

You should try this website. 

 

In morning’s early light 

you wonder: 

 

no more 

perfunctory exchanges 

with strangers, 

 

no more 

unshared afterthoughts 

about movies, concerts,  

 

no more 

cold breath of loneliness 

on winter nights. 

 

Could you love again, 

not with youth’s passion 

of instant consummation 

 

instead find another 

in the contemplation of spaces  

where words fall in between? 

 

You turn the radio on, 

the forecast says rain clearing 

a sunny day ahead. 

Tears From an Isolated Cloud
Chris Williams

After: Consonni

Isolated behind the shutters 

thrown wide open like the sky 

pristine, a stainless cloud floats by. 

 

The missile screams overhead, hits his school 

takes his leg, his innocence too. 

He stares at the stump, soccer boots in his hand, 

grips the crutch, wipes his eyes 

says his prayers, waves his goodbyes.  

 

Cloud, isolated in the blue like our flag, 

the shadow creeps across the cracks. 

They buried her husband last week  

in a field, somewhere in the east. 

 

Our country, ruined, spalled, 

who will pick up the pieces? 

We remain,  

defiant. 

Alessia Sakoff painting

local artist Alessia Sakoff

Secret Worlds
Clare Thomas

After: Sakoff

There are secret worlds all around you. 

Hidden spaces, concealed kingdoms, precious places.  

If you are curious enough, you will find them.  

If you are clever enough, you can slip inside them.  

 

A rock pool is a secret world.  

Starfish sparkling, 

Sea anemones reaching, 

Guppies darting 

And crabs scuttling. 

  

The splash of a wave and all is still for a moment.  

Then the weaving and waving of the pool returns.  

Shh, whispers the ocean, shh.  

 

A cave is a secret world. 

Bears snoozing,  

Moss seeping, 

Bats blinking 

And centipedes arching.  

 

A flash of lightning interrupts the gloom. 

Then dark falls again on the resting cave. 

Pit-pat, soothes the rain, pit-pat.  

 

A bee hive is a secret world. 

Nectar oozing, 

Larvae wriggling, 

Workers clambering 

And wax shapes forming.  

 

A swirl of smoke charges through the comb.  

The bees surrender their golden treasure.  

Buzz, sounds the Queen, buzz.  

 

A pond is a secret world. 

Tadpoles squirming, 

Dragonflies skimming, 

Turtles bobbing 

And eels swirling.  

 

A kingfisher spears the surface with its pointed beak. 

The fish scatter between rocks and groves.  

Blip-blip, grumbles the toad, blip-blip.  

 

A burrow is a secret world.  

Worms tunnelling, 

Roots spreading,  

Rabbits preening 

And moles snuffling. 

 

An unwelcome visitor peeks into the hole.  

Mother rabbit thumps her feet in angry protest.  

Rattle, rumbles the earth, rattle.  

 

A tree trunk is a secret world. 

Caterpillars weaving, 

Squirrels storing, 

Spiders feasting 

And sparrows nesting. 

 

The last rays of the sun sink behind the trees. 

Night creatures awake and prepare to emerge.  

Who, calls the owl, who-who.  

 

There are secret worlds all around you. 

Hidden spaces, concealed kingdoms, precious places.  

 

Rock pools, caves and beehives. 

Tree trunks, ponds and burrows.  

What did you see there? 

 

What did you see? 

No More Poetry
Sharon Rockman

He talks about his ex’s pathology, her games. I balk at the whip  

of words, the lash of terms. The stream of key dates, adjourn- 

 

ments, mediations, Child Protection intervention, AVOs and ABCs 

of parenting—all misspelt, he says, by a sanitized system unused  

 

to male victims of family violence. It can barely accommodate  

the stock-standard DV, IVOs, 000s, burdened DHS. And NTV 

 

(no to violence) incorporates the MRS (Men’s Referral Service)  

and MBCP, in fact, no Female Behaviour Change Program exists.  

 

I see how he suffers, how he puts working and living on hold,  

how he fights to see his kids, to parent. The proceedings  

 

are all he has. I hear the accusations, I know the beer, the endless 

cigarettes, the bare walls, and waning funds and hopes, the waste  

 

of years.  And my story, it’s a rivet in the same machine. He’s part- 

gracious, part-sympathetic, part-furious at my femaleness —  

 

my failure to calibrate this system. His internals rust. He’s brittle.  

He rebukes me for writing poetry, which hasn’t structure after all

Thank you for my Z name
Sharon Rockman

for Shakespeare, Zadie Smith, and my son

My son has an unusual name that starts with ‘Z’. 

We fell upon that end sound while he waded  

 

in utero. Something to live up to, inside of.  

Quite barometric for the kid, the adult he’d inflate  

 

and hover over one day. I worried but not enough  

to revert to a name more sayable and known.  

 

Sure, he shot out heaving and hefty. Sonorous Z,  

which zigs background into foreground. A riff   

 

vibrates; buzzes between air and tongue and teeth. 

My son knows. We know why Sadie now is Zadie. 

 

Two curves ironed into zags, into acute corners,  

sharp elbows, straight lines and unassailable selves. 

 

It’s all embedded in what we choose to call ourselves  

when givens fail. A rose by any other name might not  

 

smell as sweet, if it dreams of Z — or other sounds. 

But my son has always been grateful for his name.

Can’t Look That Way
Rosemary Bunker

The old man’s thongs crunched bark and leaves as he walked to the edge of the park He dropped the empty milk crate he carried in the shade, lowered himself onto it and sat, looking ahead, feet wide apart. 

‘How you doing, Michael? Carol called from the coffee garage opposite. 

He nodded. He was all right. 

Cars screeched at the intersection of roads that bordered the park. Brick and weatherboard houses jostled with fences, parked cars and amputated frangi pani branches. Diesel fumes smothered the scent of mown grass and gum leaves.  

‘Danish apple to-day,’ Carol told him and handed him a mug of coffee. She saw the faded reddish-brown patches on his forehead and cheeks and wondered at the stillness of his sky blue eyes, helmsman’s eyes that never strayed from the road ahead. She hoped the conversation of the group sitting behind him on the grass might divert him. Their words -‘gluten free chocolate bikkies’-might, like children’s kites flying above the trees, the pavilion and the road., sweeten his day. 

 

The park, a spreading green space of grass and trees brought relief to crowds from the hot sun and humidity of February. Cars parked, boots opened and chairs, picnic tables, strollers, baskets, bags and umbrellas spilled onto the footpath. Adults in sunnies and hats claimed territory for the day. Mothers laid babies on rugs, changed nappies and found biscuits and band aids. Everyone kicked footballs. Kids yelled, accused and cried. Parents consoled and threatened. Somebody’s sheep dog yelped, bounced and jumped in a game of hurl, retrieve and drop the stick. And there was lunch to enjoy. 

 

‘I’m closing early, Michael.’  

She observed the blue glare of eyes beneath brows thickened with wavy lines of black pencil as she held out her hand for the mug. 

‘You be here next week? It’s a holiday.’ 

He nodded. 

She glanced at the moles and warts on white legs.that stuck out of crumpled shorts  

‘Why don’t you sit in the sun next time? You could turn your chair around and watch them having fun. Make it a morning out.‘ 

‘Blood sport. Fun!’ he snorted. ‘You know what they call an old man sitting in the park looking at the kids?’  

She stepped back. His scalding breath seared her face, her hands as he raised his face to hers. 

‘I’ve never hurt children. I may have done other things but children, never!’  

Clenched fists expressed his defiance. Carol looked at the grass, unable to move or break the long silence. 

‘Children are beautiful. I want to see them, watch them playing’ He spoke his truth aloud and lifted his hands in a gesture of despair. 

‘What’s wrong with them?’ he railed to a passing car. ‘They know nothing of me. I’m stuck with their judgment, turn my back on kids. It can’t get worse than that for an old man.’ 

He pushed himself upright, picked up the crate, walked across the pavement and down the road. 

‘Watch where you’re going,’ a cyclist yelled. ‘Wanna get yourself killed?’ 

His Favourite Frame
Mark Liston

Martin drops to his knees, sand gritty on his bare legs. He zooms the lens to photograph a seagull throwing an albatross sized shadow across the dimming afternoon. In his mind he frames it and hangs it on the beach house wall with the other still-life figures.  

He searches for shots that are transfixed by stillness of light—black and white snaps freezing time; to refine his eye, to study how he can find light others cannot see. 

Terns land to clutch the rocks. He sees a confirmation of motionless mid-thought in their stance—head and eyes facing the waves: whether to fly to any splash nearby. Next, magpies lay a mournful siege on tea trees on the hill beyond the dunes, (he often snaps his most personal birds, that always seems to know there is a camera aimed at their eyes).  

Martin breathes deeply the evening creep, silhouettes that seem to soak in his eyes; as palm trees capturing orange, the trunks slicing sunset. He captures the warm finger embers in the gossamer of salt spray. Like light in a veil. He uses longer exposures, letting light mystify itself. And as last flames of waves slap the sand, spikes of water run gullies, while last swimmers dry half-casted bodies with beach towels big as flags. These shots will hang as a triptych. 

And when the last leaf-shine of indigo hands, and stars win their spot in Constellations, (to tell the nightly temporal story), he walks back alone. 

**** 

He sips green tea, stares out the open bay-window, it’s wide mouth letting ocean air float in, greeting him, but also as if asking questions. Why are your most precious photographs, framed and hung on these bedroom walls, (each reliving the slices of his life now, his most important moments) while the one of Katherine laughing and lying on this junk-shop sofa in semi-darkness those years before—the first one you framed, is not on display? And why only hung once a year?  

Martin stands where her framed photo will hang tomorrow. He runs his fingertips over the plaster, as if drawing her face and mouth. He holds the pose as the moonlight bathes him with tears. 

He had said to himself 

‘I have not forgotten you Katherine, forever a hidden light’ he says to the moon, ’so I live within myself. Essence of existence. It is my love of birds and water that fills my thoughts nowAnd things from a distance, like an eaglet beak-fed and learning to fly, then taught to leave the nest to fend for itself, or a cygnet, grown beautiful into a model of love, then drifting away like a dream of just another night.’  

‘I know you would say to me that I take Nature with me. Nature is all and we are it.’ Away from this one room, a shack for one now, tomorrow there will be view of the headland, with its scars laying clefts of the past. 

****