The pandemic cancelled our live readings but we moved online and our quarterly writing contests were born. 

 

Read the wonderful submissions to the MayJune, and September contests


November 2020 Writing Contest 

Congratulations to:
Magdalena Ball who wins $100 for 'The Lost Sister'
Phillip Yeatman who wins $50 for his poem
Ann Blackwell who wins $50 for 'My Sister's Cloak'

Special Mention: Free HWC membership to Jeannette Campbell for 'Swindler'
The Lost Sister
Magdalena Ball

After: Reading at a Table - Pablo Picasso 1934

Let’s say there was a sister.  
There is evidence to suggest it 
though no one knows - no family get-togethers 
no diary entries of tearful late-night gossip 
letters on parchment paper written by candlelight  
after her husband went to bed.  

The journey was arduous 
anything could have happened.  
 
We know they were guilty of poverty, detained under  
burden of persecution, searching for a new life.  

All notes were written in invisible ink 
in the solitude of the mind, the shadow self, lamplit. 

The other self was tattered, unkempt, verklempt. 

She might have covered the younger girl with her coat 
saved her the best scraps, but still she disappeared. 
There were so many diseases on the boat:  
cholera, the yellow cup-shaped crusts of Favus, Tuberculosis 
or worse of all, Trachoma, which might get you sent back 
blind, groping for a home that no longer existed 
and every horror you ran from multiplied. 
Reading at a Table - Pablo Picasso 1934

Reading at a Table – Pablo Picasso 1934

 

painting by Joan Miro titled Woman and birds at sunrise

Femme et oiseaux au lever du soleil. Woman and birds at sunrise. Joan Miró

 

Phillip Yeatman

After: Femme et oiseaux au lever du soleil. Woman and birds at sunrise. Joan Miró

The fireball dawn deslumberates
A flopsome bird of strilly bits 
Immormous, pendle-limbed and godge 
Kwaloka kwaw kwaw, it blaws 

A skitting puff of wimmiwags 
Confettified and interwhorled 
Escapes capillarous treetops 
And dipples into morning’s glim 

Along the wolden path there prinks 
A fettle girl, galing glad songs 
Which guile a shock of chitterdaws 
That teem the maid like zippy juves. 

The joyful dilly laughs with feen 
Beflocked by plumerous wingdings 
Not knowing where her ends begin 
Or what is bird, or what is her
My Sister's Cloak 
Anne Blackwell 

After: Femme et oiseaux au lever du soleil.
Woman and birds at sunrise. Joan Miró

Oh, dear God, this reminds me of my sister’s Earth Cloak.  I am appalled and she keeps sending me photos of it, which I try not to look at. An Earth Cloak is a chichi shroud.  So, what does this mean for me? I am her ‘identical’ twin sister.  We are both in our seventies.
          The cloak is long, a gorgeous purple and green satin (feminist colours) and she is painting scenes from her life on it.  Beautiful native birds, Australian flora and two elegant looking green and brown snakes slide down the front panels, their eyes staring at her feet. Yes, it is magnicifient, but not for me.  
          Her eight-year-old granddaughter has done some wonderful paintings on it and thinks it’s for a Halloween. She keeps asking if she can go trick and treating with Jen, wearing her magnificent cloak.
          Now, I don't object to my sister making a cloak, that is not the issue.  I am worried because I am her ‘identical’ twin and I mean identical, in every possible way. When she gets something medically wrong with her, I get it as well. We both take the same pills, for the same aliments. She looks like me, sounds like me, it is frightening.  So why is she making this death cloak now?  Is she saying something about the end of her life and therefore mine, or is it just a good time to make it?  She is more comfortable talking about death, whereas I tend to skip through all the talk and pretend it is eons away.
          She and her partner made an earth cloak for a friend of theirs who died aged 42 years. This friend chooses to go all the way to Victoria to be buried. It is the only place where you can be buried standing up, apparently more environmentally sound.  Her poor Italian mother was devastated as she wandered around a paddock amongst happily munching cows, trying to find her daughter. She had disappeared.  
          My granddaughter told me that you can be squashed into a cube, they plant you, and you become a tree.   
          ‘Gosh,’ I said. ‘That sounds terrific. But how do they squash you’?   
          She turned pale and ran out saying, ‘I don’t want to talk about it’.   
          I was wondering what would happen if I told my children I was making my own Earth Cloak?  Their reactions would be very different.
          My eldest daughter would freeze emotionally, intellectualize it, become efficient and talk about it, as though I was making it for someone else.  She would be supportive, and instructive.
         My son would start researching the whole subject, going back to Egyptian times and telling me about everyone, who had ever had a shroud, and I would disappear into an amorphous mass of information, so he would not have to think about whom the cloak is for.
         The youngest daughter would want to redesign it, argue about the politics of it, the color, the fabric, include all her children in painting, and we would have to throw a party to launch it, before I popped off.
         So, guess what, I will avoid this conversation like the plague because I don't really care what I am be buried in.  

 

Fur Traders Descending the Missouri - George Caleb Bingham 1845

Fur Traders Descending the Missouri – George Caleb Bingham 1845



Swindler 
Jeanette Campbell

After: Fur Traders Descending the Missouri - George Caleb Bingham 1845 

Natural fur kept us warm 
in times gone by – 
a discrete commodity. 

Today we desecrate the earth, 
inflate our stomachs 
in wonton waste.  

We pillage pangolins, 
rhino horns in trickery. 
Are fingernails an aphrodisiac? 

We destroy the rainforest, 
plant palm oil 
for a crispy french fry. 

We think we’re King but 
we murder the defenceless –
then wonder what went wrong. 

Are our koalas next in line? 
Lesley Harrison

After: City on a rock

Travel Blog 

A hazy blueish mystical image favoured in my primary school French textbook forged the vision of my dream to one day tread the nautilus road that spirals this unique lofty village. So it was in the European Autumn of 2006 following an eventful channel crossing from the lavish port of Poole to charming Cherbourg that I found myself a random few days in France enroute from the UK to Austria. iPods were new then so as our ferry entered the harbour of Cherbourg the haunting music of Prizeman’s Libera was a fitting accompaniment to my living documentary. Based for a few days in Bayeux to see the famous tapestry (another childhood dream) and stay in the classic French stone farmhouse gite of a friend from school days, the question arose as to where we might maximise forty-eight spare hours before our alpine family rendezvous. 

Only a two-hour drive away, the legendary fortress called, so our hire car navigator took us along cherry tree lined lanes that opened up to the vast open country roads of Normandy’s flat west coast until up she majestically loomed in the distance – the place I’d imagined since childhood. Mont Saint Michel. 

On arrival, my basic French deciphered the car park signs that warned of unforgiving tides that could easily find your car submerged following your visit to the hilltop fortress. We parked with keen caution. 

Colourful autumn tourists scattered the lengthy walk from that carpark and up the hill towards the mount offering a rich visual entry to this medieval place.  A rich smorgasbord hinting already at Christmas lay ahead. Once through the ancient stone gateway and portcullis the first few hundred metres of gradient provided tiny shop after minute stall of tempting colourful tourist treats displayed to entice even a single purchase. Scrutiny revealed the disappointing yet common Chinese origin of most of the products resulting in no money leaving our wallets today. Once through this commercial corridor passing restaurants and boutique accommodations, an architectural feast emerged towering above us in stone splendour. Several storeys of granite and shingles that had witnessed centuries stacked one on the other resulting in what is now mostly an imposing Romanesque and Gothic fortification and abbey. Constantly looking upwards, our awed meandering eventually found us albeit with aching necks in the stunning soaring abbey and adjacent verdant hilltop arched cloister, convinced we could hear the faint chants of monks gone by. Hedges trimmed to perfection stood above the last of the summer flowers now wilting in their beds with angled streaming November light softening row upon row of ancient columns and arches. At the pinnacle above gargoyled buttresses reaching heavenward lay a spire dedicated to the gold clad winged Saint Michel holding command over this venerable stronghold.  

Most intriguing was a single thought. Decades ago a nebulous childhood textbook picture had called me to the citadel of Archangel Michael – whom I now know has for centuries been the inspirator of artists and writers.  

Maggie Hall

After: City on a rock

They came to visit: Three Orbs of a different colour. They came through the clouds with a sight read song. A little boy without his drum, bending time to play his tune. A prince with rubies for eyes, and an emerald for a tongue.

The little boy without his drum; turns to Time, ‘please, may I have some?’

Waiting in a dress of red, Time watches Patience hook up the next thread. A single prayer, a lost son, all in hope that one day he will come. Beating over fire on a bed of wine, they watch blood cover clouds in her selfish desire. Three Orbs in waiting by the castle made of stone, one last beckoning to the sleeping child. 

It is time to move on so we all can be reborn, and the little boy can find his drum let time alone, and play a different tune.

City on a rock

When A City on a Rock was purchased in Spain in the mid-1880s by an American collector, it was attributed to Francisco de Goya (1746-1828). The painting is now thought to be by one of Goya’s followers and may have been painted as late as 1850-75.

 

Lost in time 
Jan Dean  

After: City on a rock 

Those who dwelled in the city on the rock lived cheek to jowl. In the passage of time tiny bickers echoed through crevices, causing walls to crumble. Prophets foretold doom. A few who ventured outside the craggy walls noticed the rock on which their city rested had two eyes gouged on either side of a striated nose. They recognised the formation as Golgotha the skull, symbol of death. The inhabitants began to crave strange food combinations; buttered celery, oysters sprinkled with cake crumbs and ant-crusted mango. Unfulfilled desires caused great unrest. For the first time the rock-dwellers doubted each other and no longer sang while struggling to work. Their breathing was shallow. They grew puny. Groans rocked the sky. Imbalance tipped the scales. Fewer female companions were available. Men couldn’t find women for procreation. Numbers dwindled, so scouting missions set out to search and steal. Three birdmen who previously returned with seafood and other scarce supplies, found their wings too feeble to support the weight of humans and dozens of crashes were documented; gallons of blood and bile seeped into cracks, creating stench. People who lived in nearby villages became suspicious of the rock-dwellers. They gathered at the base with batons of fire. Spot fires, uncontained, ran amok. Smoke swathes spread, filling the sky. Embers rose sparking fire in the city. Gasping at the base, villagers oscillated between prayers and curses. The few who survived knew they had witnessed a catastrophic end. Ever since, for millennia, travellers skirt the area. No one dares look upon the destitute city on a rock that only attracts and hosts vermin.
Gala Éluard - Max Ernst 1924

Gala Éluard – Max Ernst 1924

 

His Eyes Met Mine
Suzie West

After: Gala Éluard - Max Ernst 1924

His eyes met mine. Deep, dark brown eyes. I couldn’t turn away from his stare. Our eyes locked as our worlds spun around in shock. His eyes never left me. 

Metal screamed in panic as it pulled itself from the bones of the car like the lid of a sardine can.  Motion slowed.  All the while his eyes pierced the windscreen until it spectacularly rippled and distorted his face. Pieces of glass pierced the air in angry excitement as it finally shattered. His image lost.  

I tried to scream, but my tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth like someone had superglued it. Horror punched me forcibly in the guts. Fire! 

My hands grappled for the buckle. It wasn’t there. I couldn’t find it. I had to get free. Don’t panic. “Breathe”. I took small insipid breaths and choked as I inhaled. My feet were in the smoke not my head. I realized I was upside down. That’s why I can’t undo the seatbelt.  I’m the wrong way up. I feel like a car with a flat battery. Unable to move. “Focus”, my mind cried. 

His eyes were in front of me, again. Deep and dark. I could see his hair. I hadn’t seen his hair before only his eyes. A hand reached out and gently stroked my cheek. The eyes were back. “Come on girl, get a grip”, I reprimanded myself.  

A click, and I fell to the ground from where I was suspended. Someone was pulling my feet. I am sliding out the window. “Bloody hell, I won’t fit. I’m too fat”. And then there was air. Thin air. Easy to breathe air. I sucked it in. Long deep gulps. Oxygen hit my brain. Blue sky floated above me. A hand rested on my shoulder. I knew someone was speaking to me. I turned to see those eyes again. They looked like they had been crying. The whites were red. His face painted with soot, resembled a zebra.  

“I’m so sorry” he said. Sirens and flashing lights filling the scene with Police and Ambulance. “I’m so, so sorry”, he whispered. He held my hand and I looked into those big brown eyes. I clung to his hand. He bent down and toppled forward. His face buried itself in the grass.   

Someone pulled his hand out of mine, rolled him over. His dark brown eyes were cloudy. Life’s spark extinguished. My eyes filled with water.  

“He’s gone”, I heard someone say.  

“You Ok, love”. I looked up at the Ambulance worker. “I can still see his eyes”. “Time will heal the wounds”, she said. 

I looked over at the man under the sheet. “Thank you for saying sorry”. I pulled back the sheet and gently closed his eyes.  
With birds at dawn
Eve Gray

After: Femme et oiseaux au lever du soleil. Woman and birds at sunrise. Joan Miró

Barely light   though
faint shoals of dawn
are forming in the east

Small birds   run
through repertoires
and kookaburras keep
trying to get their motors
to trip over

Nothing moves
only a flurry of choughs
flirting the forest with flights
of white on wings strobing
first light with shadows

Phillip Yeatman

After: City on a rock

Yamát nocks an arrow and squints into the granite veil of cloud, the arrowhead aimed at a soaring figure in the sky. 

The weight of a hand pushes the bow downward.  

“Your arrows can’t reach that high,” says salt-haired Moyamar, though he smiles with understanding. “The ampliata are mechanical constructs, built to rise on air currents. You have only piece of wood strung with hemp and the strength of your own muscles.”  

Pairs of white wings circle and drift in the sky and descend, one by one, back to the nest of buildings perched upon a pillar of stone jutting from the earth. A sound like creaking leather fills the air followed by a thunk of heavy wooden parts. Another handful of ampliata burst into the sky from a sandstone tower in the middle of the city. Strapped to each one is a person. Yamát wonders if they can see her and Moyamar in the grassland below. 

A procession of four-tusked elephants emerges from the wooded shore of the river to the south. The bull in the vanguard is charcoal black and raises his trunk to blast a single note of warning. Flocks of birds rise from hiding places in the grass in their hundreds. Moyamar curses under his breath that he didn’t notice the elephants sooner. If they run now the bull will trample them. They keep still as trees while the giants rumble past. Yamát’s throat tightens and her hands go clammy. She closes her eyes and tries to remember to breathe. 

The stink of the elephants dissipates on the wind and their footfalls diminish to distant peals of thunder. 

“Have you heard the story of Kuyan Kazarow?” Moyamar asks. Scattered around them are circles of stamped grass. Birds float lazily back to earth.  

Yamát shakes her head, unable yet to find her voice. 

“An empire,” Moyamar says, as if the word is a dirty one. “At its peak it could have conquered everything.”  

“Who stopped them?” Yamát asks. 

 He gestures for them to follow in the elephants’ wake, toward another stretch of woodland. The chaos of their passing will scare game animals from their dens and topple trees laden with fruit. 

“No one,” Moyamar tells her. “The Kazarow weren’t interested in taming the wilderness or eking tribute from small tribes. They wanted farmland and cities, and, most of all, gold. So we never had to suffer them.” 

Yamát glances toward the city on the rock, visible from any point for miles around. It shines like a polished crown. There is no clear way up the cliffs to reach the marble and granite buildings. Beside the sandstone tower which launches the ampliata is a pyramid with stained glass windows in its base. 

“But now we have them,” she says. 

“Yes,” Moyamar nods, “but when the next lot of elephants come, they won’t be able to go unnoticed.” 

From the Back Window – 291 - Alfred Stieglitz 1915

From the Back Window – 291 – Alfred Stieglitz 1915

 

Subject to Dispersal
Magdalena Ball

After: Femme et oiseaux au lever du soleil. 
Woman and birds at sunrise. Joan Miró

It’s rare energy, a million footsteps up the broken path 
the achromatic grey, your childhood sky 
trailing through a lattice of sloppy time 
with eyes that won’t stop blinking. 

Again I saw you there but it was only a dream 
the house lamps flickering, your hands pressed  
in a position of prayer, as if to say, stop 
don’t go any further, you will not like what you find.  

Somehow, in that space, you are still vital 
tugging at your skirt, remembering freedom as if  
it were a place you might visit in your mind  
when the duty of daylight dissipates.  
There were bees on the Primulas 
Sweet scent like an orange lolly. 

The smell lingered; continues to linger, even as it flattens 
grows wings, dissolves into a past you can barely access. 

You were the girl in the picture walking slowly 
abstracted sunlight on your face, another time; another life 
yet here you are, walking again in the sun, the air whistling 
your youthful body in motion, unimpeded.  
Averil Drummond

After: From the Back Window – 291 – Alfred Stieglitz 1915 

There’s a cat in the alleyway. Black on black but, fleetingly, the dim light catches its fur as it noses the bins.  

Motionless by the window I keep my vigil. There will be a man loitering at the front of the house I am sure, but perhaps, how I pray and hope, not yet in this dingy, noisome laneway. My fame has protected me so far. My fame and my riches, but they are a flimsy bulwark in this tortured land. The despot waits for public distraction, the chance to strike. I have been marked now and they are watching, always watching. Soon I will be ‘disappeared’ as so many have been before me. 

If she can bring the forged documents I will have a chance, but she must come soon. What courage she shows, what love. What a love we both had, but now I must let that go. 

My bag is packed and waits by my side. What money I could lay my hands on is distributed about my person. To distract myself I think of the cab waiting at the bridge. Imagine the horse unsettled by the cold, pawing at the ground, the driver hunched in his coat. If ten o’clock strikes and I have not come they will leave. I could not rebuke them, that is the arrangement.  

I think of the journey that waits me, first in the carriageExpectant of rough hands grabbing the bridle, the glint of moonlight on steel.  Then the night train, the seemingly  interminable journeySick with fear, I must own.  Eyes and ears straining, alert for noise, voices, any change in the steady forward motion through the darkness. If I am blessed, by dawn there will come the border. The border, and safety. 

A sound. Stiletto heels tap the cobbles, a shadow crossing window light. The envelope pushed under the door. Three whispered words. Such yearning for her as the last echoes of her footsteps die away. Then silence. Nothing but the pounding of my own heart.  

 
Connecting
Dianne Montague

His dry cough breaks the silence in the doctor’s waiting room. Some look up, anxious not to catch whatever he’s spraying around.

They both sit down. He - with tousled black hair and obligatory games machine. She - with bejewelled fingers and obligatory iPhone. He surveys the room. His constant, body-shaking coughs appear not to worry him.

Her eyes are glued to the screen as her fingers flitter across the surface of her constant companion. He looks at her face then at his Intendo. He begins to play, eyes down, coughing frequently. After several minutes, disinterest sets in. He gets down from his chair and fidgets around the small room. The Intendo now lays abandoned. She doesn’t look up.

He goes back to his chair. Cough, cough. She hands him a drink bottle with the arm that isn’t busy communicating. A few sips and the bottle slips to the floor. He wanders over to the table and pushes the magazines around. One falls with a clatter. ‘Don’t do that.’ The voice reaches him but the eyes don’t.

An hour passes. Games machine – table – drink – cough – cough. He looks up when someone comes into the room, but quickly disengages when they smile. Then back to the Intendo.

Suddenly his eyes light up. He thrusts the machine in front of her, “Look”. She doesn’t move. Eyes down, fingers flashing. He stretches up, takes her chin in his hands and twists her face around.

“Don’t do that. You won’t get my attention that way.” She snaps her head back to her task

 
Apartment
Diana Pearce 

After: From the Back Window- 291- Alfred Stieglitz 1915 

I watch the city 
its eyes unblinking 
starless skies are closer. 

In my shrunken world 
sirens’ songs  
pry at the edge of sleep, 

traffic hums  
its constant pulse 
slips into dreams, 

a hollow companionship. 
Dawn
Grant Palmer

My companion nuzzles
Tail thumping
Then a gentle snore

Not light not dark
A lightening sky
Moon waining stars fading

Magpies rolling the day into being
Coffee grinds boil and bubble
Four weet-bix and milk

Mundane and routine
That monster asleep in my head
Till I step out the door

A baby cries in the dairy aisle
Triggered, trapped and lost
Memories awaken my monster
Call of Duty 1977
Grant Palmer

Battlefield full of screams
Scanning through the shimmer
He is out there
A danger to our land
Weapon poised, grenades at hand

Bell rings, play lunch ends
Machine gun stick left in my bunker
Miss Cooke marches us in
Truce and long division
Until the lunch bell rings
Dock Worker - Brendan O Se photographer
Dock Worker - Brendan O Se 2017
All At Sea
Mark Chimes

After: Dock Worker 2017- Brendan O Se

At first glance you might think me
white. At second you may see me black.
But each impression is wrong. I am
invisible. That’s fact.

No pale genes to bring redemption
You judge me unwashed, unclean.
No blue eyes to ease your apprehension.
Non-whites should be unheard, unseen.

More than a glance shows blood
red. Our chromosomes ecumenical
If you walked a mile in my shoes
maybe our views would be identical.
My Wharfie
Phil Williams

After: Dock Worker - Brendan O Se 2017

My old man was a dock worker, after the war, at Tathra, 
winching Bega Valley produce into holds of 
Pig and Whistle Line coastal steamers. 

The SS Allowrie unloaded coal, cargo. Offered overnight passage to Sydney 
before tracks became roads. The Captain would wait for a pig, but not a 
minute after the whistle for a passenger. 

I reminisce; an afternoon in 1954. In a howling black north-easterly 
the Kameruka shackles to a mooring buoy. In the calm of morning she makes 
fast against huge spring-loaded buffers of the wharf. 

I recall Dad in blue overalls striding into the cavernous warehouse. 
I hear revving, smell the blue exhaust of a 
Bedford reversing to unload ironbark sleepers. 

He winds the crane’s jib, lowering boxed cheddar. 
The freshening breeze tosses blond curls. 
Chop slaps the barnacled black hull. 

Distracted by a sickening stink, I see dozens of pigs 
squeal down the race to a squalid sty on the stern, 
none wishing a cruise to Darling Harbour abattoirs. 

I clamber down granite to the wet timber sub-deck, 
treading carefully to avoid piercings from 
cart-ruts, oysters and periwinkles. 

Lying prone on wide weathered planks the 
up-draughts of ocean breath freshen my face. 
My fingers trace dark whorls in the grey timber. 

Peering through cracks I am mesmerised by the 
sway of kelp in the sapphire water below. 

I yearn for my wharfie father. 
Hands
Gregory Struck

After: Dock Worker - Brendan O Se 2017

“Grandfather, why are your hands like that?”

The directness of children. It never ceased to amaze me.

Like that. Like what?

I looked at my hands. Gnarled, thick fingers with the stubborn marks of work ingrained. A few scars. Worn nails. Old hands. These hands which intrigued my grandson were the same hands which had held him a few years earlier – a tiny thing whose own hand curled around my finger as his mother’s had done thirty years before. That baby thing, as I thought of it – perhaps grasping for reassurance in a puzzling new world. Or perhaps giving reassurance.

I looked again. What had these hands seen? What had they shared and done?

Love. Work. Joy. Death.

A boy’s hands. Hands which had learnt to grasp a pen and fashion words. Been nipped by a playful puppy and caressed its soft fur. Hands which had held a bat and thrown a ball. Guided a wobbling bike down a ten-year old’s Everest. Hands which had learnt.

A young man’s hands. They had taken a first pay slip and signed a licence. Raised a first beer. Touched the hands and more of a girl. Hands which moved with the unshakeable confidence of youth. It seemed a long time ago.

Hands which had worked. They had dug, built, held tools. They had worked honestly, though there had been times when they could have reached out and taken what was not mine to take. I could look at these hands and know that, whatever the dirt marks might say, they were clean hands.

These same hands had killed. They had held a rifle and my finger had squeezed the trigger. A simple thing – a bit of pressure on a piece of metal – no real connection to another young man in a different uniform on the other side of a jungle clearing, a man my government had told me was my enemy. No real connection – just a bullet and a scream. A scream which could still wake me sweating from my sleep.

Family hands. They had held a drink and shared a plate. Secretly wrapped Christmas presents, their discovery announced by squeals of delight. Held small hands through good times and not so good. Clapped for achievements – a ball kicked, a race run, a prize given. They had held a daughter’s hand on a walk down a long aisle, then raised a glass to a life begun. A father’s hands.

These hands had held Sarah’s hands. At first shyly, hesitantly. Later passionately. They had held a ring as I listened to the words of marriage which would change my life forever. They had held her hands through the pain of birth. Later, those same hands of hers had sought mine in their last hours, still warm when the nurse looked at me and shook her head. Hands which had known grief.

“Grandfather, why are your hands like that?”

Like that.

“My boy … I guess they’ve … done a few things.”

Gifts
Gail Hennessy

After: Dock Worker 2017- Brendan O Se

Hands link in an image across time
pixelated pattern of grime-distilled labour
caught by the camera’s eye in the lens of class

where does gratitude lie between the man
who takes the photograph and the man who
offers the mark of his labour as witness to his life

I read your story of your visit to Djakarta in 2016
when you brokered permission with a smile, a nod
and a few foreign words from your interpreter to

the dock worker who let you photograph his hands
expecting nothing in return, both of you unaware

of the international fame you were to win in a world
that privileged you with technology and exotic travel

your work payed tribute to the dignity of his labour
an exchange of gifts where the scales balanced even
because the man without vanity expected no reward

and I remember the smell of sandsoap as my father
after a day’s work scrubbed his hands in the laundry tub
meticulously removing all traces of any grease or oil.
I Loved a Sunburnt Country
Rose Mils

“I loved a sunburnt country.”, is a Politico-legal, Sociological piece by Rose 
Mils, The Age of Aquarius Anthology. 11.12.2020. 

Recognition and respect are offered to the author, Dorothea MacKellar, of an 
iconic Australian poem titled, “I love a sunburnt country.” I quote her work in part.

~ I Loved a Sunburnt Country ~ 

I loved a sunburnt country, 
a land of sweeping pain. 
Of indigenous brothers standing tall, 
like fauna in the rain.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Of droughts and flooding ranges, 
of death by “Boys in blue”. 
Of Corona killing millions, 
but cured is our Flu.

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you 
commit atrocities.” Voltaire, Questions sur les Miracles à M. Claparede, Professeur de Théologie à Genève, par un Proposant: Ou Extrait de Diverses Lettres de M. de Voltaire

I’ve loved her far horizons, 
I’ve loved her jewel sea. 
I’ve cried a million lifetimes, 
I’ve cried for you and me.

“There is nothing fair about the Law.” Anonymous, Professor of law.

Her beauty but a figment,
her terror plain as day. 
Do not think to utter lies, 
will change to whom you pray.

“Men can not be freed by the same injustice that enslaved it.” Pierce Brown, Red Rising #1.

The wide brown lands lay ravished, 
the people sprawled in shock. 
No King, nor Country left to see, 
The people move. TikTok.

“I guess the only time most people think about injustice is when it happens to them.” Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye.

Core of my heart, my country! 
What have they done to you? 
They’ve torn your guts, raped your seas, 
and your people too!

“When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.” Thomas Jefferson.

To all that do not love her, 
we rise to block your path. 
The People; We. Do not agree, 
but in blood, we will not bath.

“The pen is mightier than the sword.” Edward Bulwer-Lytton

I know to what brown country, 
my homing thought will fly. 
But for now, I’ll cry a river, 
for you left us all to die.

“It’s only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.” Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club.

My respect remains with the culture of my First Nation’s people. I pay this respect to my Elders and all, past and present. 
In closing, I offer a tribute to the Princess Diana of Wales, the People’s choice. With much love and presumption, I say on her behalf: 
 “You broke all of our hearts, you bloody bastards!”
Reading at a Table - Pablo Picasso 1934

Reading at a Table – Pablo Picasso 1934

 

Dock worker
Raymond Mc Guinness

After: Dock Worker 2017- Brendan O Se

‘They’ll not launch a ship, read Latin, play Bach or Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff’. 

‘Nobody will open doors for these leathered segs – but they do close them’. 

‘How can you know these things?’ 

‘Because I know what’s in a soft hand’s eyes.’  

‘How did you come by them?’ 

‘They forced themselves upon me’. 

‘No, you chose them’. 

‘It could have been the fairies, but they’re really a gift from my family, school, laziness … my ignorance.’   

‘Or where they were gifted to me by an alcoholic father, which do you think?’ 

‘Feeling sorry for yourself, again?’ 

‘No, they have accomplished things – sometimes they scored tries, excited women, held babies, but they have also been thieves and filthy bullies, they have been disgusting, generous and miserly, and protective.’   

‘A wet lettuce with sheilas, and a vice with men’. 

‘Am I what you think I am, by what you see?’  

‘I am told that I am a free man, in a democratic Christian world’. 

‘Free to have hauled brandy, cottton, tea and silk, tobacco bales, ivory, salt and sugar and a million other things. 
They’ve unloaded infected animal skins and the cancerous detritus of the holds . . . under the slave conditions of day labour, year in and year out’.  

‘Yet they have stood in the arena, alongside the fighting bulls’. 

‘But you haven’t been outside of Balmain’. 

‘At the dockers pick-up shed we are given a token, that token gives us a day’s work. 
Once a month, the clerk behind the cage throws a handful onto the floor. 
Men fight for them, but not us, not the bulls. 
We wait. 
And when then ignorant fuckers have punched themselves stupid, we move in on the winners, bash them and take their tokens’.
‘That’s disgusting’. 

‘What we do or what the clerk does every month?’ 

‘Both of you’. 

‘So is being hungry … though I’d rather have learned to play Bach or Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff.’ 

‘Do you think smooth hands would have made you civilised?’ 

‘Yes’. 

‘Shallow more like’. 

‘I would have had better food, clothes and jobs – I would have met women who didn’t smell of fish guts, the tannery and poverty – types who could speak better than me mam’. 

‘You’re ashamed of her aren’t you?’ 

‘I’m ashamed of all my kind and of her ignorance’. 

‘That’s terrible’. 

‘I know, but so are kippers on Friday night’. 

‘What?’ 

‘Fish on Fridays for Catholics, and I hate kippers’. 

As the clock chimes, a shout between a yell and a scream comes from the next room. 

‘Yer teas ready!’ 

‘You’d better get going’. 

‘Yeah’ 

‘Don’t come with me’. 

‘Okay’ 

‘You can’t swing a cat in her kitchen … it’s really a scullery‘. 

‘I know’. 

‘A word bigger than me mam’.  

The hands enter and accept their tea. 

‘Who were you talkin’ to?’ 

‘Nobody mam’. 

‘But I heard you talkin’ to somebody’. 

‘No’ 

‘You haven’t got a woman in their have you?’ 

‘With these hands?’ 

‘The white coats will end up comin’ for you’.  
Dock Workers
Bill Williamson

After: Dock Worker - Brendan O Se 2017

After our first four years of sailing we were starting to think of looking at a bigger yacht. As a first step we put our 26 foot boat on the market. We expected to take a while to sell it, and, in the meantime, we were planning to collect a few more trophies as our performance was improving faster than our handicap. It wasn’t to be. Almost as soon as the boat was advertised we had a buyer, and he would not be put off. He wanted to buy the boat sight unseen. We insisted that he come and have look. “How much money should I bring?” he asked. It was meant to be, and we were soon boat-less.  

At almost the same time, my father-in-law in Perth went into hospital for heart bypass surgery, and my wife went to hold hands. One day, after things relaxed a bit, she rang me and talked about a 38ft yacht that was advertised for sale. With my encouragement she went to look at it and was so enthusiastic that I flew to Perth and we both went to look. We made an offer which was eventually accepted, and we were soon the owners of a 38ft yacht.  

At this time in our sailing career we didn’t feel capable of sailing a boat from Perth to Melbourne. Actually, this course was not considered even momentarily. We arranged to have the boat brought to Melbourne on a specialised boat transporter. Later we were sent some photos of the boat being loaded, and it was wonderful to see our two mums looking very proprietorial as they supervised the job. We waited impatiently in Melbourne after arranging with the Harbour Master of the Port of Melbourne for permission to unload the boat in the sheltered waters of the port. We arranged for a crane truck to be on call. All this nearly proved to be our undoing. The truck with the boat arrived, and while the driver was preparing to unload, the crane truck arrived. So did the dock workers who were working on a nearby ship. It soon became apparent that the wharfies considered this to be their territory, and if we wanted our boat unloaded at that place we should have asked them, and they would have done it with one of the cranes on the ship, for a small unofficial charge. We stood on the sidelines, quietly, but dismayed as our boat sat there. It looked like the whole port was going to be shut down by a strike. Fortunately, the crane truck driver and the boat truck driver were both members of the Transport Workers Union, and they negotiated some sort of acceptable compromise with the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. Eventually the boat was in the water and everybody, wharfies, truckies, and my wife all waved me off as I motored away, down the river then across the bay and into our club to pick up our mooring.   
Tonmoy Adhikary, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards

Tonmoy Adhikary, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards

 

Kerosene Lamps
Diana Pearce

After: Reading at Table - Pablo Picasso 1934

My mother read, ate, worked  
in the diffused light 
of kerosene lamps. 

They were the eyes of night, 
glowing among dark silhouettes 
of trees and houses 
set back from country roads. 
  
       Their flames were lit 
on kerosene-soaked wicks, 
their blaze enclosed in  
Titian-curved glass chimneys. 

I can still remember her  
at day’s end; 
book open  
to other worlds 
far from the farm. 
Pablo Speaks
Jan Dean

          Marie-Therese, I crowd the room with you
and accessories, in order to show things I love
         especially you, and emphasise your delicacy.
Lovers for seven years, I have no itch to escape.
         The table is tall, to stop you hunching
and keep the book close to your face, which flows
         as three-quarter and profile view.
The reading lamp bathes you in glow, illuminating
         pale purity and allows the ringlet of flowers
circling your brow, sparkle. If you look carefully
         the abundant potted plant imitates the two
of us in a clinging embrace, your arm extends over
         my shoulder to my crown; your hair meanders
down your back to your waist. The bird of happiness
         soars from the lamp. I gave you feathers
in lieu of hands because I see you as an angel. The red
         of your dress, passion’s colour, is enlivened
by green. My darling, best I’ve seen, I have one last
         painted secret to reveal: Angled shapes contrast
your breasts, exquisita: Better than my beloved bullfights!
tres de mayo – third of may (a painting by Francisco Goya)  
Luciana Croci

After: Tonmoy Adhikary, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards

have they snapped open the bonbons already? 
is it the start of the silly season? 
the man wears a google-eyed paper mask 
and a white buttoned-up shirt, 
his dark-skinned face as expressionless  
as a prisoner's, hands by his sides, 
or as a peasant, the one with his hands in the air 
surrendering to the shooters, 
to god, to injustice 
body taut in a tremor of terror. 

25th of december, third of may, 
men will be born and be shot 
over and over 
as actions repeat like historical fractals 
as mandalas of good or evil 
will be carefully coloured in rainbow-hued sands 
only for feet to scatter  
and the tide to wash back to the sea 
All in One Day
Grant Palmer

Fighter attacking
Oerlikon spits fire
Relinquishing life
Victoria Cross
Afterlife of heroes
Life unremarkable
Owed by his shipmates
Under the sea
Respected by all

Dehumanised enemy leg
Innocents murdered
Special no more
Honour undeserved
Outraged families
Nation shocked
Or should it be?
Unit disgraced
Respected by none
Somewhere Under the Rainbow
Mick Fairleigh

After: Colorful Toilets - Chiot 2012

Oh, that was a nice little shower of rain, I think I might mosey into the village and checkout the new colourful dunnies, everyone is talking about, that the local council has just had erected. 

Living only a stones throw from town, I’m quickly out the old creaky wooden front gate, onto the cobblestone pathway leading to our medievial historic village. 

I clip clop my way along the main drag and turn the corner into the shopping precinct. Lo and behold I stop right in my tracks as the council’s neat and tidy looking new dunnies came into my sight. 

Now I can see what all the gossip has been about as I edge my way in total amazement, towards the bright and very colourful amentities. 

Standing there and looking at them, there is a pink one for the girls, a blue for the boys and a rainbow one for all the unisex users. 

With my bladder bursting and needing to be emptied, I walk up to the boys toilet, which is engaged.   

Knowing I cannot use the girls and clinging tightly to my waterworks, I stare at the queer coloured rainbow loo and fling the door open and quickly rush in the hope no locals have seen me entering in there. 

Door closed and what a splash I make as my urine spurts out and hits the bowl, with the pressure of a fireman’s hose. 

Totally relieved I flush the loo and wash my hands, but my relief soon turns to shock horror as I turn to go out the door and all I can see is a big crowd of people out on the streets. 

I think, oh no! Don’t tell me they seen me doing my business 

Then I remembered I couldn’t see inside from the outside, so this must a one of those contraptions where you can see out but not in. 

Taking a deep sigh of relief breath, I open the door and a loud cheer goes up from the crowd, as they start chanting, “Old Mick, is the first to christen the rainbow unisex toilet.” 

A councilor makes his way from the crowd to me and gives me a congratulatory shake of the hand and tells me in the honour of my achievement a Plaque will be attached on the loo door in commemoration of this historic occasion. 

I look back at the loo and right at that moment there’s a rainbow over the top of it and some stirrer from the crowd sings loudly, “Somewhere under the rainbow, old Mick has really let it flow.”  

Colorful Toilets Chiot 2012

Colorful Toilets – Chiot 2012

 

Facades 
Mark Chimes

After: Colorful Toilets - Chiot 2012

Mumbai slums and Brazilian ​favelas
painted bright to camouflage
the filth of the environment, the
hopelessness of the inhabitants lives

Our faces covered with cosmetics that
conceal, contour, blend, blush and highlight
to hide the truth of blemish, the imperfection of character

Our bodies scented with perfume made
from waxy whale vomit ​ambergris
and fecal-odoured white crystalline ​skatole
Shit-stench substances to make us smell pretty

Sometimes I wonder - Are we just walking, talking,
colourful toilets?
What makes a Celebrity?
Dianne Montague

It appears on Facebook. Max has entered his video in ‘Kidz Flicks 2017’ – Festival of films by kids. At age nine, his film ‘Please’ is nominated for ‘Best film’ and ‘Best drama’. Mum, Bron is very proud.

Max was invited to attend the opening night with his friend … and Mum. He was so excited. There was to be a red carpet.

“A red carpet.” He glowed. “I’ll be famous like all the celebrities.”

The night arrived and Max and his friend jumped out of their car in front of the cinema, ready to ‘walk the red carpet ‘.

On the ground, in all its glory, all the way to the entrance door was … a yellow mat.

Max didn’t win.

On the way home he was very subdued.

Bron didn’t want to make a big deal out of the loss but thought Max needed some reassurance.

Sorry you didn’t win Max. You did a great job. Are you really upset about it?

The answer came quickly. “No, I don’t care about losing.

But … they said there’d be a red carpet.”
 

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

― Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
My name is Crystal
Shelley Stocken

She’d always been old. Always been Grandma. In her tidy, spotless house with her tidy, spotless things.  

Soapstone Viking, worry beads, rosewood goldfish. 

This was different though. Sitting at her kitchen table (tidy, spotless) we saw her for the first time.  

A heavy-set book, creaky in the spine. Between its rice-paper riblurked drawings and drawings and drawings. Ribbon trims, pleated sleeves and double-breasted drape sacksCheeks flushed with pencil shavings, lashes done in inkThe big stores paid best, with their reliable catalogues. Farmers and Foys and that one in Newtown 

This wasn’t Grandma, or even Mrs Thornely. This was Crystal Gladys Hughes. A life barely lived and never told, stuffed between whispering interleaves. 

Footsteps on the side path. The boys were home. 

Oop! I’m off,” she said, scooping up her treasure.  

There it sits – hall cupboard, second shelf, behind the slide carousel.  

In her tidy, spotless house. 

 
Maree Gardner Chapman  

Embedded within the tissue of the mind 
Pent up within the wall of the heart 
Is the story left unsaid 
Not a mention of what lies between the lines 
And life just simply ploughs right on ahead 

Years, and still no word that asks the question 
What is it that makes you who you are? 
Quietly the soul encounters desolation 
The story, it lies trapped within the jar  
And life ambles on regardless 

Dark is the abyss where the story lingers  
Darkness black as pitch, eerie dead calm 
Waiting for the cue, wondering what to do 
And life skips along as if it meant no harm by silence 

Agony has nothing on this empty feeling 
This space that life regards as vacant space 
Yet the story has it’s life  
Within the tissue of the mind, within the walls of the heart  
But life in all it’s glory cuts the spirit like a knife 

Once pricked by a bee I thought that it was time 
The sting so sweet my soul jumped with sheer delight 
Still no door to conversation, no cue to begin a dialogue 
The story felt the pain, and it heard the door shut once again 
Left me stranded like a frightened barking dog 
And life so arrogant, turns the other ear and switches off 
Fishing
Chris Williams

On the day Evie turned thirteen her chest exploded. Men stopped staring at her face, older women tut-tutted and girls her own age asked her if she could still run. Her teachers took more notice of her. Boys in year 10 asked her to come over to their places at odd hours. She received frequent notes from the deputy and was summoned to his office. She wondered why his hands, with the gold wedding ring, would always be under the table. 

There were a lot of negatives – her girlfriends avoided her, no, she couldn’t run and her tops were too tight. So she took up a new sport, fishing. 

She started big, reeled them in and they just flopped into her boat. Some tugged on her line, these too gasped out of their watery freedom. Sharks, tuna, even catfish. 

One day when she was fifteen, the Science teacher, a young man of serious composure, smiled and she knew this smile was different. She worked up a plan. 1. Get noticed (come late to class), 2. Wear her aquamarine panties, the ones Uncle Kevin had given her, on her twelfth birthday, 3. Write a note and leave. So, before Period 2, she waited in the toilet until after the bell, walked into the class, inched up the back, sat on a desk and waited. And watched him babbling in another language. After a pause, she slightly, teasingly opened her legs. And waited. 

Science. She knew enough about moisture, friction, viscosity to get by. Currents, temperature and of course different hooks. So she wrote the note in simple script, seven words-meet me at the corner after school. She knew he’d be there.   

She walked out. 

“Evie, where’s your late note?” 

She just looked at the note on the desk, and smiled. Not in any particular direction. 

She waited, on the corner one knee raised, back against the fence, and sucked a lolly pop like the ones Uncle Kevin gave her. Older boys cars slowed and some whistled from open windows, older men stared, there was almost an accident. She checked. She had plenty of bait. 

He was late. She knew that fishing required patience. The tails would start wagging when they saw her get into his car. 

“Where are we going?” he asked. 

“To my private fishing spot.” 

She thought he might be different, not creepy like the others, but he moaned just the same and his fingers like tentacles fumbled at the knots. So she let him go, back into the murky waters where colours fade like loneliness. 

On the day Evie turned sixteen the fish stopped biting. She decided she didn’t like fishing anymore. This new one like a bun risingshe couldn’t throw back.  

Later, when it kept her awake at night, she told it all the untold stories about the ones that got away. 

 
'Worthless' - hidden pain
Rachael Shields

On a dark, lonely day in May 2019, I finally understood the true meaning of ‘feeling worthless’ with the sobering realisation that, it was exactly how I felt. 

It struck me like a tonne of bricks.  Silent tears escaped, rolling down my cheeks, a never-ending flow.  A powerful and debilitating sadness awoke within, casting a dark shadow that threatened to completely engulf me – if it hadn’t already done so.  This feeling of worthlessness was onerous and had transcended into the deepest area of my soul, my core being.  

I felt worthless.  As a person.  A wife.  A mother.  A friend.  A family member.  An employee.  

What did I have to offer people - nothing! I was not the social butterfly that attracted people wherever their path led, but rather the willowing wallflower that blended into the surrounds and was easily forgotten.  Not worthy of praise, having never reached my full potential, an underachiever. 

A failure as a wife.  Was there a hot, cooked meal ready when my husband walked in the door after work and a spotless home? No.  He would find me stagnate on the lounge rueing reality, no meal prepared and an unkept home.   

My inadequacies as a mother were stark.  My parenting was not admired, and I didn’t present perfect cakes to school cake stalls or provide essential guidance on life.  The battle to keep my head above water was a daily struggle.  I had erred in so many ways. 

I was not the friend who kept in touch and gave more than they received.  I was the one who knew what she should do and desperately wanted to but was unable to follow through.  The one they felt obligated to include sometimes. 

Was I the family member known as the pride of the bunch? No, on the contrary, the least admired, unsuccessful and boring, my absence was never noticed.   

A failure as an employee.  No longer the diligent, respected, valued employee, instead a useless, inefficient and dispensable liability.  Nothing to offer.  Unemployable. 

There was no smooth path that would lead me out of this darkness and into the light again, but a treacherous track that led further into the depths of despair and darkness to battle whatever demons danced cruelly in front of me.    

The overwhelming, intense sadness was confronting.  Like nothing I had ever experienced before.  Rockbottom.  I would silently carry this belief and knowledge indefinitely, unable to release the pressure valve without exposing my vulnerability and reigniting the agony within. 

I was in pain and sentenced to remain there forever more. 
Fake
Suzie West

1. Fake! Fake! Fake! She hears them cry
2. You stole the words from poets
3. You stole the pictures from artists
4. You are a fake!
5. No! she screams back 
6. The work is mine I did them!

7. She sobs, Openly! Loudly!
8. Then whispers, I did them 
9. It was me, no one else but me!

10. The ideas
11. Are in my head and in my heart
12. It is my creativity

13. I‘m not a fake, go away, silly silent voices 
14. Bully some other creative, not me

15. Get out of my head give me a chance
16. Don’t let me suffer self-doubt 
17. For my stories want to be told

18. Let me excite and thrill  
19. With my words 
20. The everyday crowd