by members of Hunter Writers Centre
May writing contest
Winner of the $100 cash prize:
After: ‘She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.’ -J.D, Salinger, A Girl I Knew The Red Blossoms Rosemary Bunker She breathed in the fear of the city, corralled on the balcony, green flashes of shrieking parakeets in the paper bark wall ignoring red blossoms, army of dandelions whirling and twirling batter her thyme, nothing to block Covid army, legions of red crab TV blossoms jostling on the floor, in the chair, her hair, aimed for her mouth, their entry, their survival in her lungs and her resistance a bar of soap like Don Quixote and she ninety years old in her V for vulnerable E for, she knew, expendable shirt no way out for her although she had listened, done what, more if she could in the supermarket, waiting at arm’s length, feet marked in the queue, holding herself, stick woman paper sketch not brushing a surface, not touching a hand and how she missed that, the feel of skin, banned now, stroking and patting the cat, touch of life, checking the pet food, following the security guard single file down aisle three for toilet paper and the guard jokes if anyone coughs you’ll shit yourselves from fear so the crowd cackled but this was no time, was it, for jokes and she clamped her mouth shut against red marauding crab blossoms and the heat, the sexual frenzy invisible in the supermarket, lurking on the empty shelves, the cash register as she waved her card, a magician no longer herself but a tree, absorbing and transforming night fog of fear that choked her dreaming of lovers, his hand on her thigh, of ham sandwiches and thick mustard that once was time for food and bottles of bubbly and red but not now, not on the edge, looking down, spades of rough-thrown earth marking the trench for her to fall when Covid hit, take no prisoners, she would go down but not to-day for the dentist accosted her outside the door with a thermometer proof of wellness required, pass friend, but the end would come soon enough, this certainty same as ever she did not want, feeling the thirst, the throat coated and closing, the lungs, hers no more resisting air, Canute a laugh, so she must stay here on the balcony, stay home, wash her hands, soap on blossoms like salt on slugs, coat herself with sanitiser and wait.
Winner of a $50 cash prize:
The fourth horseman of the apocalypse by John Tierney It made my Irish blood run cold. Standing in the fresh food people’s vegetable aisle, I couldn't believe my eyes. The shelf was empty. This made the great toilet paper heist of March 2020, fade into insignificance. A real crisis was upon Australia. No spuds! The need for potatoes, springs from deep in my Celtic DNA. Immediately, graphic images filled my mind of my great-great-grandparents flight from Ireland, when the potato crops failed in the 1850s. If Australia cannot even produce enough potatoes to feed itself in 2020, I suddenly realized we were done for! At the time, I was on a 'sensible restocking' run (which is good). This is not to be confused with panic buying (which is bad). The latter behaviour could even bring on another tongue lashing from Sco-mo. ‘Just stop it,’ he intoned on one-morning news bulletin, 'it is un-Australian.’ Whatever that is. We kept our excursions out into Coronavirus land a secret from our six children, who were becoming increasingly concerned about the welfare of their ‘ageing’ parents during the pandemic. I had only been home for five minutes when there was a knock on our door. It was Amanda who lived in the apartment across the corridor. She often dropped in, usually to wait for the locksmith to yet again let her in. The conversation this time started on a positive note. She asked if we needed anything from the shops (code for toilet paper). ‘No, we are fine’ I said gratefully. Then the conversation took a more sinister turn. The hairs on the back of my neck began to rise, as she announced the pending arrival of the fourth horseman of the apocalypse on his pale horse, to potentially unleash pestilence on our floor. Living high up in an apartment tower, I smugly assured myself that we were safe. However, in our mid-seventies, we were in the most vulnerable pandemic group. Then Amanda dropped her bombshell. ‘I am moving back with my parents' for two weeks because I want to put as much physical distance as possible between Bradley and me. Tomorrow he returns from Europe. With rising alarm in my voice, I enquired where his travels had taken him, hoping it might be, Iceland, the Outer Hebrides or Lapland. ‘Well, Bradley has been overseas for the last three weeks, having a lovely holiday with his parents in Italy, Spain and Britain,’ she said without a hint of irony. ‘Now the government is insisting that he self-isolate for two weeks. Although he’s across the hall from you, he promises not to come out,’ Amanda said, in an unsuccessful attempt to reassure me. During the next two weeks, my greatest fear was that Bradley would develop cabin fever in the tiny one-bedroom apartment, go stir crazy and run screaming at me in our common hallway, before dashing to the elevator to escape. When Amanda left, Pam and I looked at each other in fear, and said in unison, ‘don’t tell the kids.’
Winner of a $50 cash prize:
Nothing to Sneeze About exponential poem by Kit Kelen you wouldn’t murder your old granny in her bed or anyone else’s for that matter you wouldn’t smother a baby with a pillow in ordinary circumstances take tissues from a terrible cough or a bum that needs wiping you wouldn’t go into a crowded mall and open fire indiscriminately with a semi-automatic weapon you’d never turn off someone’s life support system (unless they’d specified when and under what circumstances and you’d agreed reluctantly earlier on) it is true sometimes you’re hot and you might take my breath away from time to time you might give me fever now and then but you wouldn’t use germ warfare just to win an argument you wouldn’t play Russian roulette for kicks or make yourself a mummy in one of those dolls you wouldn’t start up your own zombie apocalypse wouldn’t want poxy zombie breath you’d always clean your teeth you wouldn’t put children out on the street take crumbs from their starving mouths you wouldn’t vote to end the economy or curb the human species (well, maybe you would) if you wanted to top yourself you’d think up something pleasanter but anyway I think you can see where this is going you’re not a complete evil shit are you? so don’t touch every bloody thing and wash your hands after stay the fuck home don’t catch COVID 19 do not pass it on!
Winner of a $50 cash prize:
House Arrest by Eve Gray The house has been arrested cautioned to stay within doors not to do more than look out of windows remain within the confines of walls and the perimeter of fences. These orders stand for an unspecified period. Faces pressed against glass peer in prying geraniums trying to hide their curiosity behind coarse furred parasols, blushing for the breath they leave fugging up the window panes. They are standing at ease but on guard nevertheless. The place is under house arrest it must not leave the precinct without an armed guard and permission formed in triplicate. Lawns cower mown down beaten back by bullets of old rain Inhuman voices patrol in gutter and sluice the milk of inhuman kindness below ground where it is no longer relevant. The house in question soon learns its walls intimately all ceilings seen flawed floors all known finger-printed into memory There is nothing to do but wait and measure the length of days along halls take stock of dimensions and the condition of the paintwork. The house is under arrest and I have been appointed gaoler.
A Walk in the Park by Ann Blackwell “That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” ― Emily Dickinson Shivering under a large umbrella a stinging rain hit us in opaque grey sheets. ‘Oh God, so this is Oxford’. I muttered under Mike’s armpit. ‘and we have to live here for three years.’ The rain sodden place was called ‘Gloucester Green’ a barren bus station, the gateway to Oxford University. My first impressions of this beautiful ancient city were not good. Our bed and breakfast was in an old Victoria house that had been turned into rooms for overseas students. We had a tiny bedroom and a cupboard for a bathroom which contained a hipbath and toilet. A small 2-bar heater was all we had to keep warm. The shilling electric meter spun around madly and suddenly went ‘clang,’ and we were plunged into darkness and cold. The room smelt of damp mold and encrusted old carpet. Breakfasts was a gruesome affair. Mrs. Adams, a huge lady who owned the place, walked around with a fag hanging out of her mouth, coughing and making grotesque gurgling noises in her throat without removing her cigarette. She would squint through the smoke and dump a plate of fried eggs, sausages and toast in front of you. The eggs stared up hardened and the sausages solidified in cold fat and stuck to the plate. She had a loud, rasping voice and a temper, so students didn’t complain. I hate this place’ I said to Mike. ‘We have to find other digs.’ We hunted all over Oxford, and I had to let go of my image of a ‘rose covered thatched cottage.’ Rows of dirty back-to-back terraces was all we could afford. Then an Australian friend told us about a place which belonged to a Miss Wake CBE. She let out her attic on the third floor of her Victorian house, just off Banbury Road. She was in her eighties, lived alone and only wanted quite tenants. We tiptoed in and spoke in whispers. Miss Wake dressed in black with a walking stick, oozed out of a blue velvet chair. She blinked at us with watery eyes and had white hair sticking out of her chin. I was terrified. Heavy Victorian furniture squatting everywhere, red velvet curtains slammed shut and on side tables stood glass domes, with beautiful stuffed birds incased and stunned. She spoke only to Mike but seemed to think a married couple would be better than just students. I yearned for this flat because it looked out over a garden and beyond there were trees. The attic was freezing. We only had a 2-bar heater, which we dragged around after us. I watched as the wind blew the rug off the floor. We woke with ice on our bed and the cold wrapped around me like a ghastly mold. Going to the toilet I’d pull the old-fashioned chain, and it went ‘clink’. The tank frozen solid. The rain never stopped lashing the Birch trees against the windows and ice crept along the windowsills. Riding my bike to work it was dark and often icy, and I rode past people huddled at bus stops, looking gray and shrouded in coats. I wondered how I could survive this English winter and then one day we woke, and the sun was shining. The Birch trees that had tossed and hissed during the winter, now stood silent. The brilliant green of their foliage banished every dark thought. Waxy yellow crocuses appeared in great clusters, stumbling out among the tree roots and tumbling down banks. The fields and woods were flooded with snowdrops and bluebells. I breathed it all in and felt deliciously happy. Oxford's beautiful ancient buildings came to life and vibrated as though a chord had been struck and people come out of hibernation. The grey coats vanished, and you could see people’s shiny faces. I rode my bike through the Parks and watched Mike playing cricket in the sunshine. There were boat races, punting on the Isis, College balls and fierce debates on issues of the day. Life was full, vibrant, stimulating and beautiful. I put away my umbrella and walked barefoot through the park, sucking in the sun and smelling the sweet smell of spring.
seclusion by Nicole Rain Sellers under a cairn i pool ink in rock i trace a lichen alphabet consonant cracks vowel grooves boulder shards scribble the hill i seep out
Holiday by Grant Palmer So you need a holiday People just died from a holiday cruise And I cannot leave my house to go buy some bread No one comes close to me My body might struggle to resist But once I endured war You can afford your holiday Think of those who now can’t Who deal with sclerotic bureaucracy I’m bitter and paranoid On drugs to keep me calm So tell me why you need a holiday
Breakfast in Lock-down by Gillian Telford After ‘At the still point, there the dance is.’ – T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets.
Each day kicks off the same, so here you sit looking out to the garden and beyond, with one ear tuned to morning news the other to the birds— a thoughtful time when it would be easy to forget what you know lies beyond the limits of your vision. Between angled roofline and treetops, the horizon is a rift of sky pencilled in with blue, until for a breathless moment, two pelicans, as white as passing clouds soar into view. Wingtip to wingtip, legs trailing, they rise and fall, exultant on the updraught, taking you with them to where sky and water are one.
Yes by Chris Russell Dawn scatters diamonds sparkling free on sunlit paths and there we linger oh those lilting sounds touch them tumbling sparkling clear just as summer’s rain clutch them trembling close let them slip across your lips fresh as morning dew hear them whisper yes touch them if you dare embrace and breathe so deeply let the planet slow let it linger here to make this moment longer
A survivor of the last epidemic by John Tierney Only Australians over seventy would recall the terror that families felt during the polio epidemics that blighted Australia about every decade between 1910 and 1960, before the Salk vaccine. Just like the Coronavirus, it presented like flu. But overnight polio can do irreversible damage to the body's nerves, muscles and joints. The fear of the spread of polio in the Australian population in the first half of the 20th century was worse than the fear that is currently generated by CV. On the Victorian border during the 1954 epidemic, police were turning back cars that tried to cross, if they contained any small children. When I was born on the 21st January 1946, I contracted polio. How? A country doctor attended a polio case at a home in Cooma and then came to the local hospital to deliver me. He brought with him the poliovirus on his fingers. It was a pity that he didn’t wash his hands more thoroughly! Ten thoughtless seconds dramatically switched the direction of my future life path to one of slowly deteriorating physical disability over seventy-four years – so far. At night I had to sleep on my back, with my left leg in a fitted plaster cast until the age of seven. During the day, I needed to wear an iron calliper, until the age of 12. For the next 40 years, there were more hospital visits, including five knee operations, as the Late Effects of Polio increasingly tightened its grip on my disabled body. In my 1950’s childhood, hospitals were part of an annual routine for tracking my ongoing disability. I was one of the lucky ones because I only went for check-ups. Many years later, I heard horror stories from fellow polio survivors, who had been kept in hospitals for years of ongoing therapy. Some of it, such as the use of the notorious ‘Double Thomas Splint’ (a diagonal cross shape) was designed to keep the child’s body limbs immobilized and straight. Medieval torture chambers would have been proud of such an invention. My visits through the wards containing dozens of young polio survivors were traumatic. Many children were in iron lungs because they would die within ten minutes if they were taken out of these breathing machines. In the polio children's wards, parental visits were often not encouraged, because, for these preschool children, it was felt that the departure of the parents after the visits could be 'upsetting.' Sometimes parents could only ever see their young disabled children through glass screens. Even now, PTSD counselling is needed for many of these polio survivors in their later years. As a result of polio, there have been some significant gaps in my life, particularly with sport, but we play the cards that we are dealt. Sometimes, but not often, I reflect on what might have been. I am not a vengeful person, but if I could find that careless doctor who delivered me without washing his hands properly, I would sue the bastard!
Melany by Butch Torres Those black eyes summed me up. It was unnerving. A tall slender black woman with furtive deep-set eyes arrived from a refugee tent camp in Egypt 12 months ago on a Humanitarian Visa. Originally from Somalia she was one of the displaced thousands fleeing the country due to the Civil War of 1991. I had little understanding of the reasons for this war yet had heard about the atrocities inflicted. Now I was face to face with one of its victims. It was hard to focus on my role as her Case Worker. I worked for a housing agency in Hobart as a Case Worker in their Supported Accommodation program for homeless women and children. I was here to support her gain her own accommodation. Her current property was temporary, a bed sit, hardly room to turn around. “Where is Beverley?” she shouted, “why is she not here and you are? Who are you?” “I’m your new worker. Beverley has moved onto another department.” I explained. This was not true. Beverley had come back from her last visit with Melany and flatly refused to go back. Bev had been her third worker in three months. This was not the news Melany would want to hear and I was not going to add to her layer of disgust and distrust with the truth. Melany eyed me with unashamed malice. I was pulling out all stops to hold myself together really wanting to get out of there. “I am here in her place to help you find a place of your own.” I said. “Where are you going to put me?” she sneered. “I want to stay here.” Melany had been told many times that this bedsit was only temporary until we could get her something more suitable and permanent. When she arrived in Hobart she was bustled together with other African refugees in a group house. She never made friends, enemies yes. Melany’s story was horrific. Caught in the massacre of thousands of people, she witnessed the slaughter of her nine children. Shot, beaten and attacked with machetes. The murderers made her watch. I didn’t work with Melany for long. Thankfully the Mental Health Service responded a couple of weeks later to a referral made months ago. They provided intense trauma support including long-term accommodation. I moved back to the Mainland not long after this. Pleased and relieved that Melany was receiving the specialized support she needed. How does anyone recover from that experience? Yet I hope she does find some portion of peace in Tasmania. Melany: I am a strong African Woman. They cannot beat me down. They murdered my husband. Took him away and mutilated him. Why? He was no threat to them. He did not work for the government. He owned a small shop selling groceries. No threat to them yet they tortured and killed him because he was nothing to them. They murdered my nine children in front of me. They held me forced my head up to watch. They lined them up and some were shot others hacked to death with machetes. They gloried in their pain laughing and jeering. They raped my girls and butchered my son’s parts. This was my punishment for being the mother who carried them in her womb, fed them from my breast. I am a strong African woman. I AM RAGE.
Breathe Graham Davidson "I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart; I am, I am, I am." — Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar All my life I’ve been fascinated by the magnificence of the immune system. Experience has taught me to meditate whenever invasions of tiny parasitic organisms strike. I go deep within myself and do what I can to assist as my antibodies learn to adapt. I marvel at their capacity to push back and bring the marauding hordes under control. I do understand that, to a degree, a symbiotic relationship with these tiny invaders is important to maintain one’s good health and wellbeing. However, this recent plague is worse than any other, choking my lungs and breaking them down, making each breath a greater struggle than the last. It swept through so fast that it caught me by surprise, making it hard to concentrate. It caused my complexion to become pallid and grey. But years of meditation have now paid off. I have learned to tune into my immune system so well that I can influence the formation of specific mutations within the antibodies as a means of defence against disease. It has taken a great many attempts to trigger a mutation that has an impact on this current pestilence, but now there is one that works. I am finding it easier to breathe, and colour has returned to my face. While it may not have rid my body of the plague altogether, it has flattened the curve and stifled the irritation. Feeling more relaxed, I go deeper within myself; deeper than I have ever gone before. With each breath, I take in energy from the infinite multiverse surrounding me. I am at its core. I feel a healing power with each new breath, and share it as I exhale, wishing for all creatures everywhere to benefit from my strength. I go deeper, connecting with the energy that comes from all those entities that are part of the whole. I am at their centre, and they at mine. I drill down further, going far deeper again. There is an energy that emanates from what I assume to be a hive mind associated with the disease my body has now so valiantly brought under control. Hoping to gain a better understanding, I immerse myself within this unique energy field. It is a tangled web, billions of messages crossing over each other that seem meaningless. I relax and allow the energy to flow through me until I can make sense of it. There are so many thoughts. There is so much angst. There is panic. But among it all, there is also joy, love, and happiness. There is a multitude of ways in which the thoughts are presented, like different dialects or languages. And among them, there is one thought that remains the same across this vast array. It surrounds me, travelling through my deep blue skies and the cables these tiny organisms have laid across my skin. It occurs with great frequency, a reference to my most recent antibody mutation. Their hive mind has given it a name. They call it, COVID-19.
Brain Power by Marilyn Sanderson I need to reign in my brain. My ‘Time’ in the age of COVID19 has spread like gas realised from a canister, unfettered by the constraints of timetables, routines, appointments or commitments and now my web of thoughts is on the verge of descending into chaos. So many whims, ruminations, opinions, concerns, musings, ideas, deliberations, arguments, discoveries and considerations are banging off the walls of my cerebrum that I am in danger of concussion. Oliver Sacks, British neurologist, made understanding the complexity of the brain more accessible to his lay audience demonstrating that the brain is some much more than grey and white matter traversed by electrical impulses. Most of us have known people whose lives have been changed when their brain blows a fuse. Eyes, ears, skin, taste buds, nose may all remain intact but still the brain-traumatised person’s experience of the world is recalibrated confounding both the assaulted and their nearest and dearest. Reading Atul Gawande’s piece on ‘The Itch’ in the New Yorker in early February I experienced a Saul on the road to Damascus moment. Gawande explored the relative importance of perception and reception in constructing our world view. As an isolationist regime has taken hold people have found that their reception of stimuli is less cluttered freeing their attention to focus on mindful, creative adaptation. A psychologist once told me that a person only needs to be deprived of external stimulation for twelve minutes before they drift into negative thoughts. Sobering. It makes you think about hermits though doesn’t it. Maybe all those ascetics who lashed themselves bloody in pursuit of enlightenment should have walked out of their cells and burned a few more candles. But if Emily Dickenson and the Brontes with their view over the graveyard at Haworth, had not experienced an isolation of sorts, the literary world would have been the poorer. For an existence stripped of external, often vapid demands, can liberate our brain. While we may share experiences, perception is unique. Police sift through witness statements to piece together evidence as recollections of an event vary. Memoire writers often face a backlash from those who shared an experience but recall it from a different perspective. But it is the unique perspective that is the germ of creativity and there is a plethora of creativity emerging in this Age of Covid19. A typical neurone, (and we have tens of billions of them) is connected to about ten thousand other neurons. That provides an amazing opportunity to find novel solutions. The vast majority of people adapt to challenges by drawing from the reservoir of interconnected experiences and navigate purposefully through them. Covid19 has proved a challenge to a planet of brainpower. The challenges facing us now demand that our brains are freed up to prioritise our needs over our wants, sustainability over rank consumerism and nurturing community over toxic individualism. If intellect is the sum of all neurological activity, then we need to seek mindful experiences in this time we have been given to nurture wisdom on a global scale.
Anno Domini by Ned Stephenson Fra’ Gilbert wiped sweat from his brow then rested his palms on the oaken table. Below him was the body of Fra’ Gautier lying face upon a linen sheet soaked in beeswax and rosemary. Many of the red welts on the man’s torso were black in the centre and the lumps in his armpits and groin had ruptured to release rivulets of foul-smelling pus. The stink clawed at the air overpowering the normally fragrant apothecary. Across from Fra’ Gilbert his apprentice waited for instructions, the boy’s pock-marked face making him look older than his years. Fra’ Gilbert had found the lad a year ago climbing the cliff on the sea-ward side of the abbey. He suspected we was a runaway servant, but he was safe inthe abbey and was proving to be a clever herbalist. Fra’ Gilbert let out a breath. ‘Ad gloriam dei.’ ‘Ad gloriam dei!’ Repeated the apprentice. ‘Wrap him now, Raymond, it’s time for his soul to be judged by God. Begin with his legs and leave his face to the last.’ Raymond did as he was told and Fra’ Gilbert took up the bowl they hadused to wash the Abbott. ‘Master?’ ‘Yes Raymond?’ ‘Do you see how the fleas have treated the Abbott? His ankles are covered in their marks, and all up his legs. He has been plagued by them. Could it be that God’s vengeance is being delivered by his smallest of creations?’ ‘What do you mean?’ The apprentice pointed. ‘All the brothers we have buried have been marked heavily by fleas. You have told me before how they bitesome of us more than others. They seem to not like me, and you have said before that they do not bother you at all. Yet the brothers who die are favoured. Like the Abbott here, he has dozens of bites.’ The apothecarist wiped at his forehead again, the stone room was unusually warm today. ‘And what of it?’ ‘With your permission I would like to put Pennyroyal in our rooms.’ ‘That is a dangerous herb Raymond! Do you know what it’s used for?’ ‘Yes Master,’ Raymond blushed, ‘by shameless women who do not wish to carry child. But Master...fleas will not enter a room when Pennyroyal is used as a rush mat.’ Fra’ Gilbert looked again at the ashen face of the dead man, willing God to speak to him. They would now be voting for a new Abbott. Fra’ Theodore was the obvious choice, but he too had just caught the plague. Fra’ Gilbert himself was not without a chance, at 53 he was one of the oldest monks still alive. Would God speak through him and end this scourge? He would strive to be a wise leader, he thought to himself. ‘No Raymond,I see no reason bringing that wicked plant into our abbey. Now finish Fra’ Gautier’s shroud, for we must hurry to make an arsenic tincture to help our Fra’ Theodore recover.’
“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” ― Emily Dickinson Birthday in Paris © Jeanette Campbell Pocket-sized hotel, floor peeped out around the bed, no room for bags, tiny ensuite nestled in. Narrow stairs snaked down to a basement breakfast – croissants, buttery and warm; pastries, chocolate-filled; brewed coffee, black and strong. Map in hand we ventured onto the narrow street. We were in Paris – It was my birthday, Our anniversary – 38 years. The Seine beckoned, iconic calendar bridges, riverside stalls, little boxes, all with roofs of green, open to entice – books, paintings, tapestries under the shady linden trees. Padlocks called, cajoled ‘Secure your love in the City of Romance’. We pondered, chose one just for fun, with painted hearts, pink and blue. We clasped it on the rippled fence with great fanfare and celebration then left it there with all its friends. A Brioche café tantalised with culinary delights - strawberry tarts, cream puffs, raisin rolls and cappuccinos just like home. The Louvre soaked up our afternoon with delights of a different kind – murals, jewels, chandeliers that dripped with gold. Mona Lisa watched all who flocked to see her smile. The Lacemaker concentrated on her work close by, oblivious of all the fuss. We could spend a week – we will return. Erotic dancers at the Moulin Rouge, serenading, seductive – feathers and flesh, for a hundred years. Champagne and glitz - fantastically French. One last call to cap our day – the Eiffel Tower twinkling diamonds at midnight. A carousel still turning as the city lived into the night. Tomorrow we will take the train to Amiens, Archibald was killed on the Somme – We will pay our respects for a life snuffed out in the slush and mud. Mona Lisa – Leonardo Da Vinci (1503) The Lacemaker – Johannes Vermeer (1670) Archibald – My husband’s great great uncle
This Blood Stained Shore by Chris Russell I watched the dip and flash of oars - those muskets black and scarlet coats. I wondered should blood stain these shores but there I stood and saw no cause aboard those pointed urgent boats. I watched the dip and flash of oars and fast they swept - two rows of fours as rowlocks warned in groaning notes. I wondered should blood stain these shores but still I stood by human laws. A wave crests now. My fear it floats. I watched the dip and flash of oars. But then I called to stop - to pause! A puff of smoke, from musket’s throat. I wondered should blood stain these shores. And on they came across that mote true to the laws and lies they wrote. I watched the dip and flash of oars. I wondered ‘Should blood stain these shores?’
Universe of Soup by Grant Palmer Universe of soup Ingredients galore Random chance No recipe Or grand design at all
St. Corona Jo Lynch After: “That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” ― Emily Dickinson Blessed with a sweet molasses slowness, we realise we yearned for Blessed with new habits & old hobbies: home-life has never propogated such rewards And outdoors: the air is clear, Someone mentions butterflies, & creatures returning to their rightful places, in the spaces we've made Families too, they gather In driveways nowadays for window-bear spotting, full of cheer & a closeness that comes with the luxury of proximity un-wound from routine Warm drawing room desks where young Fathers work & shuffle papers that catch the sun & my eye As I glide by on a break I wouldn't usually take To watch the sunset, peacefully & reflect on all the gifts granted by St. Corona: Statue bestowed a new-found persona In a park I never would have explored, Should we not have been moored in this situation: isolation, the sequestration of impatience, some bright & ready maintenance Blessed with reprieve, We all stopped & breathed the freshness that comes from air that is calm These breaths will not last, The pace will pick up The contemporary myths which keep us all miffed Will begin to stir & wretch But we all had a taste Of that which was sweet & we all witnessed our systems come forward to meet the crisis And at least now, when I yearn for clear skies, calmness & spontaneity I have a deity to worship
Cautionary Rhymes for Cautionary Times by Diana Pearce Inspired by the notices in the lifts in my apartment block Wash your hands Wash your hands With reg-u-lar-ity. (repeat at will) Don’t touch your face Don’t touch your nose And sneeze into your bent elbows. (repeat at will) Hands off lips Hands off eyes Don’t forget to sanitize. (repeat at will) Stay home from work Stay home from play And hope you’ll live for many a day. (repeat at will)
Tanka by Jan Dean
After “She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” — J. D. Salinger, A Girl I Knew
there she stands, static --- he thinks she leans as sloth but her mind dances cavorting gloriously mending the world’s woes
Your absence is a window by Anna Forsyth After Morning Sun by Edward Hopper I remember piecing you together not a morning person, I’d coax you to the window, where you’d sit knees firmly clasped. I let your light play tricks on me imagining you softer, less angular painting myself into a corner for you. All the poems I write now are erasure shadow boxes, windows, vantages all opening to a geometry of absence. This morning’s view is from The Hill edged with metal lace a perfect metaphor for how memory is so cold but you in morning light are so etched. Your absence that’s what this window is how missing you I’m framed.
The Armchair Times by Kit Kelen STAY AT HOME FOR AUSTRALIA! fix things! create! have a long ponder be home and show you care watch the rain fall sometimes be sunlit encourage the garden to grow build bridges mend fences house proud? here’s your chance – get cleaning you needn’t be nationalistic about it but have some fellow feeling please stay home for Australia you can’t fight hypochondria with paranoia but maybe the other way around? … while you’re considering that perhaps a lovely cup of tea, a chat? so many ways to be at home talk to the others now equally far and safe in their homes (a great comfort, surely?) read a novel fall into a poem or picture have a song and dance do it for the whole wide world for creatures everywhere feel your carbon footprint shrinking it’s happening just while you’re thinking put on your favourite music sit in your easiest chair then sleep comes back to me in a dream I know we’re safer there be well stay safe stay home take care
Fences by Dianne Montague "Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I'm not living." — Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close The breeze was soft on her bare arms. The sun, tantalizing in its promise of summer. She stood alone immersed in silence. Only the occasional birdsong. If she closed her eyes she could be anywhere. Anywhere but here - in the backyard of suburbia. Seven years ago the new house was appealing. It came with a husband and children. It brought the promise of love, security and belonging. Every woman’s dream. She thought. It wasn’t that she hated him. It wasn’t that she disliked being a mother of two children. It was the certainty that - this was all it would be.
At The Site Of A Massacre By Averil Drummond Your footsteps slow, The sun is low now, Time to return. But you feel… What do you feel? Your ears strain, Soft river sounds, All is very still. But wait. See those trees, Their spirits flit among them. The babe, blood-splattered, Falling from her mother’s arms. The youth, manhood waiting, Turns to fight, runs wounded, Dying friendless, tribeless. Dusk falls. Do you smell smoke? Dim figures round a fire. Sharing the day’s tales, The gathered food. A laugh, soft as a whisper. You feel no fear, but peace, For now, you know. They can never leave this land, And never will.
Dambusted on a Cliff by Grant Palmer I just replied to a grieving friend Not well known, her stories though Always encouraging, infused with emotion Ignoring my past An agent of the fourth horseman. A harbinger of death That was me Planning someone’s mortality Confronted and threatened with death Not knowing tears Trained to dam them, Tear ducts redundant Never meant to cry Why the bursting flood Something is changing in me Never cried or been teary like this before Now on a different journey in life Not sure what I know any more Fingers just grasping the edge of life One of the vulnerable Falling into nothingness
Listen by GIllian Swain I am sinking old air shackles shadow across shoulders weight hangs I am light in a mangle of all we are meant to be rising heat pushes out of question and rush hear the hum of movement warmth heartbeat like wingspan I am rhythmic day is long and open.
Stay Home, Save Lives by Jan Dean
Good Friday, 2020 out the window a grey, cloud-covered sky roof tops and distant, dark trees bubble invisible rain hiding ugliness, accents the melaleuca tree, leaning away from the house once I saw a wattlebird in its tiny fern-like leaves and cream bottle-brush flowers below, water pools indent slate steps time expands and contracts a friend emails she overeats, slips into depression everything is too hard I pray she wraps herself in creativity a mystical mood bordering dreams suggests I could complete the Camino with feet hovering above ground I failed to notice the pink super moon missed haircuts mean my hair sprouts at right angles to my head will gravity take over and bring it down? familiar themes echo isolate sacrifice ah, the pace of drizzle if staying in doing little else than washing hands like Pontius Pilate, often is the way to fight corona virus then this is the perfect battlefield.
Down from Dorrigo by Kathryn Fry In response to: “That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” - Emily Dickinson Had you not come here you’d have missed the red drift down from an Illawarra flame, the cream of a yellow carabeen on the forest floor and the untold shades and shapes like thoughts in the continual clamour for power. Insects swirl where the sun filters through and you remember those who lightened your path. Birds ripple and render the air and you wonder will they always. Had you not come here you’d have missed the fluency of palms and vines and those old, over-powering trunks. And your mind hovers on a draught of hope.
Tanka by Jan Dean mood corona daily pandemic alerts hygiene and distance— will capitalism crash? what follows hibernation? warnings insist spacing and cleansing both physical, when our life has gone virtual impact is mainly mental
Originally Japanese, tanka in English doesn’t rhyme or use capitals. Limited syllables promote compact form surrounded by space.
damned whichever way and blessed by Magdalena Ball After Edward Hopper, Morning Sun (1952) she wore it well slack jawed waiting for the start overdressed on her bed isolation in the sweet city empty walls green light fills the room with solitude a still life without the flowers everywhere is industry outside a sound effect surreal like remembered voices out of a dream always on the go even when dis ease is on everyone’s lips skirted round better stay quiet words are an opening she watches waits for change stuck in the tableau misses the transition night turning to day the harsh angles of shadow an intrinsic intelligence dissasociated out of the picture what if she stayed in that space kept watch sunlight in matte tones reflecting on airbrushed temples took nothing broke no rules curled in shadow in stillness but ready to become heavy
Canary by Diana Pearce Miners carry small songbirds into the darkness, as the sunshine fades death is a wisp of gas. Who makes music in dark places? Who sings the last notes?
Spoon Requird by Grant Palmer Haven’t had sex like forever A fiddle isn’t the same. Who would I start with again Just to spoon Feeling weird and alone
Pluviosity by Phil Williams A mysterious sound on midnight tin; A possum? gum nut? prickly skin! Hush now listen and conceivably it may be the promised pluviosity. There it is again; again and again; widespread, resounding, arousing my brain. After a minute the roof is a-thrumming the deluge creating a melodious drumming. Plunks to a bucket perfectly placed; thuds on the canvas like a good bass. A susurrus of wind the humming fulminates all over the suburb roofs orchestrate. Torrents streaming into guttering; down pipes gargling with noisy stuttering. Guzzling and gurgling they thirstily drink decanting to the tank in bubbling sync. Subterranean stirrings with the souse; plants activating after the dowse. Xylem cells syphon, seeds tumesce rainbows and sweetness - we are blessed. Ridges gowned in morning mizzle; petrichor rising with the damp drizzle. Trees aquivering in anticipation leaves erect in moist expectation. Cold drops, warm skin, such delectation; summer rain brings exhilaration. after infernos drought and insanity soak us Pluvius for our humanity.
Past, Present, Future by Grant Palmer The past is finite, yet always getting bigger The future unknown but always getting smaller Both meet in the middle at the present. That fleeting point in time never fixed And sometimes forgotten Before the past there was nothing No memory of what came before Just stardust waiting for happy time And when the future ends Nothing but stardust again Just like before the past
Tanka* by Jan Dean sunlight trumps shadow yet depend on each other --- free now, she feels warmth basks for awhile, questions long buildings against blue sky
*Originally Japanese, tanka in English doesn’t rhyme or use capitals. tanka consists of 31 syllables and translates as “short song” and is known in its five-line, 5/7/5/7/7, syllable count form
Moon Rise, Sun Set by Claire Thomas Moon rise, sun set On a hot Summers day, And I’m trying to soak My worries away. For there’s drought out the back And fires on the coast, Affecting the people I care for the most. Moon rise, Sun set. Sun rise, moon set On a warm Summers morn, And I’m blinking away At the news of the dawn. For the storms through the night Kept the fires at bay, And filled up the tanks For the harvesting day. Sun rise, Moon set. Moon rise, sun set On an Autumn afternoon, And I’m staring in wonder At the size of the moon. For the clouds have now parted Bringing an end to the rain, Which has flooded the banks Causing heartache and pain. Moon rise, Sun set. Sun rise, moon set On a cool Autumn day, And I’m buttering bread To add to the tray. For the teams have been struggling All through the week, Working to stem The flow of the creek. Sun rise, Moon set. Moon rise, sun set On a crisp Winters eve, And I’m snuggling up With a friend in my sleeve. For the strong, icy wind Caused a crack in the tree, Disturbing her nest And making her flee. Moon rise, Sun set. Sun rise, moon set On a fresh Winters morn, And I’m hammering nails In a box on the lawn. For my small, furry friend Needs a warm and safe view, When the next blasting wind Comes barrelling through. Sun rise, Moon set. Moon rise, sun set On the first week of Spring, And I’m wondering what else This season will bring. For the bush on the coast Is now bursting with green, And the farmers’ new crop Is the biggest they’ve seen. Moon rise, Sun set. Sun rise, moon set On a budding Spring day, And I’m digging broad holes In the soil and the clay. For now is the time For beginnings and birth, And spreading new seed To embrace the sweet earth. Sun rise … … Moon set.
After Edward Hopper’s Morning Sun ( 1952) by Judy Johnson Her dress, as she sits on the bed gazing passively out the window, is almost but not quite the colour of the horizontal line of building that looks like a terracotta train pulled in to some railway station in the sky. The painter has simultaneously set her apart from her surroundings, and made sure she makes no impact as her weight does not even dent the sheet. Hopper wants us to think she’s alive and lonely in some early-hour eyrie above a busy street below that bustles, shouts and horn-blows anonymity from its furthest psychic distance. But I see her as no different in substance than any other painted detail. The sky, the bed, the shadows that never move, the bricks, her alabaster thighs. She is just an unwound-up version of the human-shaped stardust cluster that we all are. Not even endowing her with that one staring eye you imagine might harbour a deep un-ignited spark, can make me see her as animate. I think instead of watching and yearning for real connection, she has resigned herself to social isolation and is listening to her familiars: the objects and angles and stain of light on surfaces inside and out. She’s been in solitary confinement since the 50's after all. She must know by now that the inanimate is only mute and other until it speaks to you and you answer by paying attention to its own tales of isolation. It is then you become part of something bigger. It is through empathy not human relationship that you become real.
Painting Containment by Gail Hennessy
After Edward Hopper’s ‘Morning Sun’ (1952) The calligraphy of morning’s sunrise paints its geometry of light and shadow first strike a column of white illumined brick, it runs the window sill, colours silenced factories in a precise line of storied red across the skyline etching a desert cityscape against water colour blue light seeks its own patterns, stencils cuts outs sears the division between white and black the woman sits on a hospital cornered bed in a hotel room arms embracing the triangle of her legs, a zigzag of angles a slanted blind projects elbow-sharp angles, steals her shadow to silhouette across sheet and pillow projecting the single smudged circle of her chignon as it escapes the containment of her focused solitude canvas traps planes of light in a precision of division and in the lightness of her being she floats weightless* it is her lover’s brush that seals her in her isolation as the touch of his caress on canvas morphs her into being… *with reference to ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ by Milan Kundera
Interruption by Tammy Briggs I continue my daily routine of walking to the sounds of my monkey brain, but now I do not stop to listen to the wattle birds. That beautiful sound of civic chatter amongst the gum trees basking in the sun. These communal beings getting on with life as they have not been disrupted by the virus. I cannot stop and watch them singing to each other anymore. The track has become too busy. People who are now locked up are free to invade my solace. They are out in droves pounding my track instead of escalators to office floors; showing no manners, runners speeding towards me, sweat dripping, the desperation clear on their faces. The fast pace of working life has invaded the peace of the Wyrrabalong. The arrogance which was used to chase the dollar to buy that house and that car is now around every bend. There are no more lizards to scare me lazing in the sun. The wallaby who used to greet me as I reached the crooked ‘Old Man Banksia’ is gone. So too are the tiny robins who come in March to mark the change of season. They no longer flit through the bracken covered ground. The pounding of angry feet upon the sandy black soil of Bateau Bay has scared them all away. I stood my ground once when I was twelve with a racehorse. I dug in my heels and faced that horse down. It charged at me snorting, eyes fierce with rage showing no sign of stopping, forcing me to fling myself face down. This is how I feel now with these runners hurtling towards me still dressed for the office from the neck up, leaving a sillage so alien amongst the blackened stumps of the burnt trees, sprouting green regrowth outshining their latest seasons colours from Lorna Jane. Their fiercely dead staring eyes assuming I will move, and they are right. I move not because I am scared or intimidated, or want them to run free, uninterrupted, but only because I did not remove the giant ‘Wolf Spiders’ web with him stuck right in the middle waiting for his prey stretched across the track. Nor did I destroy the occupied ‘St Andrew Spider’ webs which are everywhere this time of year. Instead I stepped under them. In this time of uncertainty, we all have our way of coping, amusing ourselves. Mine is to respect the nature of the beast, and let nature take care of these victims of interruption. A passive aggressive approach maybe! But anything for a laugh. Its time to slow down world. The isolation which restored the already self-isolating’s peace is now the new norm for all those who chose the world. That has always been our superpower, us introverts from society. We already know where the spiders hang.
Entering the Wilderness ― a reflection for 2020 by Jeanette Schultz Today, I stepped back into the wilderness Otherness. Wildness. No boundaries, no pathways, no answers Simply sanctuary The bliss of being The blessed sweet unknown Dried leaves and moss and twigs tangled undergrowths of memory at my feet here before I existed Rediscovering them now in solitude in the gentle unfolding of each moment in the rain falling now in the delicious scent upon the earth as fear is dissolved Even while the earth is dissolving in fear struggling for breath fear and more fear the same process destroying and healing as people return, desperate, to the forgotten wildness and refuge of home In the stillness I remember the first time I came here ― a small child returning home alone after my first encounter with death A jammed door opening running out into the wilderness tears stinging my cheeks laying my head in the long soft grass while the clouds spun their stories above
Flewdemic by Mick Fairleigh Oh how the pendulum swings, healthy one minute and sick as a dog the next. The War to end all Wars is over and I, Bibiana Sassy, am back home catching up on lost time, after spending several years on the frontline as a nurse in France and Belgium. I'm at my local favourite bar, the Ole' Cantina, downing a few alcoholic and party beverages. I sure did catch up and celebrate with the locals on all mylost nights of socialising, turning it into one hell of a long, long night of celebration. Waking up after my night of partying, I am very, very ill, with non-stop vomitting and a very high temperature. The Spanish Flu has hit every country in the world and on how I’m feeling, I think it has found its way to my little neck of the woods. Of course thisis the first thought I have in my head, 'Oh no, don’t tell me I have I contracted the Pandemic virus.' Straight away I get myself to my doctor, whoruns a full examination and tests on me. Later that afternoon the doctor rings and asks me to comein, for he wants to explain the results to me in person. When he calls me into his office, and before I can uttera word he says, "All your results have come back positive. There’s no need to worry, for it is not the Spanish Flu you have, but the Spanish Fly.It was caused by mixing all the alcoholic beverages you had last night, with this very potentand dangerous stimulant." All I can say is that I left the surgery in a much, muchmore cheerful and healthier state,to the one I had arrived there in. I am so relieved after that little scare, I guarantee youthat the Fly who flew over my tongue and down my throat, will not be getting a chance to repeat that so called adventure ever again.
Dreaming by Ann Blackwell Emma came up from a deep sleep trying to remember the dream that had pushed her into such a dark place. She lay there with her eyes open thinking who was in the dream and what had happened? Was it her husband or someone else? She remembered her hands clinging to someone as he disappeared into dark waters. Did she get up afterwards or go back to sleep? The room still dark the shutters closed tight but she could hear voices outside, she knew it was morning. I should get up. She wanted to but her limbs felt heavy. She felt pressed down and did not want to move. Her eyes closed again; her mind dropped away. I can’t wake up now. She put her hand out and felt him next to her. She let herself sink into a groggy sleep again. She awoke suddenly to the jangle of the doorbell, jumped out of bed feeling shaky, grabbed her dressing gown and tried to push back her tangled grey hair. Opening the door, she found her daughter standing back on the front steps. ‘Are you not up yet, its 11am. You OK? ‘Oh yes, I’m fine, but I decided to sleep in today, there seems to be nothing else to do.’ ‘Is dad still asleep as well? Her daughter asked laughing. ‘Yes, the lazy old devil.’ ‘Well, I’ll just drop this fruit in for you that I got at the market.’ Her daughter said passing her in the passageway and going to the kitchen. ‘If you need anything else just let me know. I’m pleased you and dad are self-isolating. It’s the right thing to do.’ Emma watched her daughter arrange the fruit in the bowl. She was suddenly overwhelmed by sadness and fear but was not sure why this simple task had moved her to tears. She got a tissue out of her pocket and blew her nose so her daughter would not see she was crying. ‘Would you like a cup of tea before you go.’ She asked her daughter. We can still remain 4 metres apart.’ Umm, OK. Just a quick one. I have the boys doing home schooling. Emma put the kettle on and said she had had this really awful dream last night, but she could not remember it. It had something to do with her dad falling. Emma’s fear subsided having someone to talk to. Her daughter packed her bag and said she will come back this afternoon as she wanted her dad to sign some papers for her. Emma quickly showered in the guest bathroom so as not to disturb her husband and went out to her doctor’s appointment at 12.30pm. She went on to the Post Office and the grocery shop before returning home at 2pm. ‘Hello, I’m home again,’ she called and walked down to the kitchen. Her daughter was sitting there white, trembling with tears running down her face. ‘What’s the matter.’ She said, fear gripping her throat her heart racing. ‘He’s dead.’ her daughter said sobbing. ‘I’ve called an ambulance.’ Emma collapsed to the floor and wailed. ‘Oh God, it wasn’t a dream.’
Morning Sun by Phil Williams Morning Sun Peggy’s gaze was fixed on the window of the apartment opposite on the third floor. Was someone looking at her through binoculars? A voyeur taking advantage of her peaceful, morning sun bath? Immediately she felt vexed, violated and vulnerable. Her simple pleasure had been rudely interrupted. During winter, Peggy yearned for the sun’s rays. Now in spring, the sun was at a perfect angle, gently warming her bones and giving colour to her long, slender legs. The morning meditation was normally a perfect way to start the day. Annoyed, she quickly slid into jeans, strode to the window and dragged down the blind to block the offensive intrusion. How dare he assault me in my room like this! Carefully, she pulled back the side of the shade and peered out, trying to confirm her suspicions of a pervert across the street. But there was nothing; no movement, person or binoculars. At lunch that day Peggy discussed her situation with a friend. Geoffrey volunteered to draw a poster which would block the deviant’s view, but also convey a strong message. After work he arrived at the apartment and pasted the large image onto the pane. ’This is meant to stop what he’s doing,’ Geoffrey said with authority. The offensive drawing was ‘The Finger,’ a centuries-old signal for contempt and disgust. The next morning, Peggy arose and peeked to the side of the poster to the opposite flat. Surprisingly she saw an easel. But she could not quite discern what the artist was painting. Then at lunch time Peggy bought a pair of opera glasses. Before sundown she was able to clearly spy across the void. But the apartment’s curtains were drawn. Peggy was miffed. As soon as it was light the next day Peggy hastily jumped out of bed, grabbed the opera glasses and focused on the apartment with now opened curtains. The easel and canvas had been turned towards the open window as if the artist wanted Peggy to see. The painting was revealed. A woman, sitting on a bed with long tanned legs, a short red nightie and blonde hair were enough for Peggy to recognise herself. Relieved that she may not have been the victim of a pervert, but an unbeknown life model for a female artist, she was nevertheless perplexed. An attractive woman in black pants, amber sweater and short black hair appeared next to her easel and waved to Peggy with a paint brush. The artist held up her own poster across her chest, a pretty face smiling above a drawing of a flute of overflowing bubbles and a message: ‘If you like my painting join me for a drink tonight, 7 o’clock?’ Betsy
The Swimmer by Colin Mountford “Hey Henry, I haven’t seen you in two weeks, where’ve you been?” “Sydney, Gus, my brother Joe had a stroke and didn’t make it. I had to go and tidy up his affairs and see to his funeral.” “Henry, I’m sorry to hear that. If there is anything I can do, just let me know, ok?” “Sure Gus, I appreciate that.” “Anyway, I’m here for a few laps; how’s Maggie?” “Fine Henry, Look, I must get going, Maggie wants to go shopping. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Joe wiped himself down with an old towel that hadn’t been washed in a decade. He got dressed and left. Henry stripped down to his swimmers and moved toward the ocean baths. He dipped his big toe to test the temp. ‘not too cold, I’ll adjust,’. Testing the water was like kicking the tyres on a car, it must be done. Grabbing hold of the pool ladder and climbed down. Henry only did the breaststroke; it hasn’t always been that way. Henry had been going to the ocean baths for 43 years, hardly missing a day. He had been a great swimmer in his prime and won many carnival events, mostly ocean comps. Today, he swam to forget his problems and let his mind drift away. After his wife Mary died, all his problems were solved at the bottom of a bottle. He didn’t have much else. The kids lived quite a way, and he rarely saw them. They have their lives to live. His arms stretched out and he started kicking the water. Pushing his old tired body as best he could. ‘I can’t do any more than 10 laps now; the body can’t take it; at least the water is nice this time of year.’ Pushing through the water and the pain, he finally finished his laps and rested at the number 3 diving block. He was breathing heavier than usual. “Hey Henry, I haven’t seen you here lately; Where’ve you been?” he looked to see Jim Merrick. “In Sydney Jim, Funeral of my brother Gus, you know how it is.” Henry climbed out of the water and rested on a seat. He grabbed a towel and wiped the water off his aged and wrinkled skin. ‘I must ring up about that sunspot soon.’ Henry stood and started to get dressed. He sat down quickly as he felt dizzy. “Hey Henry, are you alright?” asked Jim. This is the third time he felt dizzy after a swim. “It’s nothing, I may have pushed myself too hard.” “Alright mate, just take it easy.” Jim looked at Henry and thought He shouldn’t be swimming so many laps these days. He sat on the seat longer than he normally did. He reflected on his life; staring out to sea; a large coal ship sat in the distance waiting for the next available dock to fill up and head back to China. "Maybe an island cruise, the guys always tell me it’s good…
RulesforSocial Distancing by Gail Hennessy
After an Imitations of Andy Warhol, ‘perhaps’ the tongued hamster wheel offers arms of glitter gold gilded to dual bile yellow eternally masticating its tail swallowing with taloned teeth offering ascent or descent everything will depend on where you stand you can choose ascent or descent depending on your POV stand soldier stiff, arms at your sides do not let your hands reach for support touch is always present to betray you keep 1.5m from the person ahead keep 1.5m from the person behind a cough or sneeze may slay you remember, take care what you inhale you can not regulate the proximity of the person standing behind you make sure you know up from down you are allowed to exercise but you must keep moving the body’s health is paramount no space for the stretch of the spirit the eye’s longing for distant horizons remember always be on the lookout for invisible glitter on the hand rails everything depends on where you stand what you do not touch
Untitled 1 by Grant Palmer That we know ultimately what all our futures hold doesn’t mean that it hurts when it arrives. And there is nothing after it comes, just like before we were born. Tiny specks in a massive , fascinating, yet capricious and uncaring universe. Full of stuff we don’t understand or how it even got started. Because of how how our heads work we will always ask why. The sciences tell us why, but offer no comfort. Belief in beings, primitive and absurd, who lets it all happen and doesn’t care anyway; cancer has no answer There is no meaning to life, we are just driven by the evolutionary process. Such thoughts are blunt; pragmatic and are the problem of evil destroys any thoughts of inherent meaning. The cognitive dissonance wrought; as in our grief tears our minds are torn apart. But that doesn’t stop us from caring and sorrow, when those things that we value succumb to the inevitable. We need to bring our own meaning love and care. No one will do it for us. Striving to follow our dreams, taking chances. Sometimes it’s like face planting onto the parade ground. But if you fall and miss the ground you can fly just like Arthur Dent. There is going to be mistakes and bad decisions, but the good ones when they come together always outweigh the bad. Our children, our lovers and friends. They are what makes life a journey with meaning. That when inevitability arrives we have left something better for them. Our own journey has helped others along the way.
Before she met him by Dianne Montague In response to the prompt:
Nice people don't necessarily fall in love with nice people. ― Jonathan Franzen, Freedom She didn’t know that he had her photo on his mobile . . . on his desk at work . . . on his bedside table. She didn’t know that he knew her favourite café and recognised many of her friends . . . that he’d dated her sister to get more information about her. She didn’t know that he followed her everywhere...that he had hundreds of photos of her. If she’d known she would have refused to go out with him . . . avoided being alone with him. She would have rejected his sexual advances . . . his declarations oflove . . . his insistence that they move in together. She wouldn’t have surrendered to him . . . his demands . . . his monopoly of her time . . . his dislike of her family and friends. If she’d known . . . she’d have lived past 26.
*A Time of Polio a trilogy for Joan by Diana Pearce 1 I know the bleakness of late autumn skies I get off the school-bus collapse my legs don’t work there is great pain I am alone in an ambulance through its windows starless skies my mother rings every morning I survive each night limbs bandaged full-splinted body there is great pain slowly my winter passes spring becomes my seaside rehabilitation 2 One girl fell ill at my school dormitories emptied contacts sent home; prescribed a daily walk in the open air. My father and I strode our farm’s boundaries for two weeks, checking the fences, treading single file along meanders of well-marked sheep tracks, inspecting dam levels and rock salt, setting and re-setting rabbit traps outside burrow entrances, penning calves for overnight separation. Unspoken words hid my father’s anxiety, an intimacy never repeated. 3 She bounds across the playground iron-clad leg swinging, a beaming smile stops in front of me. Tell me about your friend who had a leg like mine. My friend studied at university holds a senior personnel position raises her family walks without an iron. She listens smiles contentedly swings towards tomorrow.
*the inspiration for this poem came from Joan’s own account of her polio experience I’ve used her words in part 1
Fear’s Arrival by Grant Palmer “I know what you’re fearful of It’s being alone” Her words to me Even as I am Despite all I have been through A danger to no one But in my house As if I am the deadly one The death is invisible outside The world visible through a screen door A delivery on the steps One tin of this, one packet of that My love is distant No touch of flesh Or warmth of her smile Healthy and alone Teary and anxious My fear has arrived
Untitled by Grant Palmer Relationship travelling over distance and time, That we love is no surprise, Imperfect and full of self doubt, Providing strength to each other. Not knowing our future, That commitment is hard Things that I say, But you feel you can’t. Feeling imperfect You are not a bad person We live our own standards Not the standards of others Learning and discovering, taking charge, After all it’s your life Fulfilling a dream is what life’s about Not constrained by the judgment of others One life to live Nothing after death But the uncertainty of our future Means taking that chance
In Winter By Averil Drummond Winter nights fall fast, the fire beckons. In somewhat melancholy frame of mind, you fumble in the bookshelves by your chair, seeking for what solace you may find. An ancient volume clothed in plain blue cloth, detritus from a pre-computer age. Compressed by more entrancing companions, falls and opens at an ivory page. You reach and take it up; the poems of Keats. Vague remembered lines that you did ken, in dusty, sunlight classrooms long ago, of autumn, urns and peaks in Darien. So callow then, you could not comprehend this brief life lived in servitude to art. His struggle for perfection, unconsidered. Meer words and lines learned, perforce, by heart. Was Keats enfolded by the quintessence of Truth and Beauty, as he fought for breath? Did poetry bestow this consolation? Watching beside her favoured son at death. Whimsy, perhaps? But unforeseen delight in reconnection with your youthful ways, brings thoughts of other lives truncated, as fire of genius consumed their days. Did Shubert hear the strains of his quintet, that poured forth from his soul as shades drew near? Numinous choirs sing in praise to Mozart the requiem he would not live to hear? You feel old. Perhaps not over-wise? Long years half lived with petty hopes and fears, A candle guttering low in melting wax, no glorious flame shining, as did theirs. But did you find the comfort that you sought in this communion with a radiant mind? In truth you did, for in such contemplation, is quiet joy and blessing for mankind.
Connecting family in the time of Corona by John Tierney Remote social media connection within families and with friends will become all the go in the autumn of 2020, as the virus continues to restrict our freedom to associate. We are fortunate that technology has reached such a sophisticated level during the Coronavirus crisis. When this new virus struck, our very extensive family were already exceptionally well connected. This was mainly through text messaging, with photo and video images and hilarious Gify graphics doing the rounds of our devices, recording various family events. Messages in our large family text circle, usually occurred several times a day, depending on the current family issues and news. This all started to evolve rapidly after the arrival of Edward, our eighth grandchild in December 2018. His every cute move and development milestone was recorded and sent via social media, by Michael and Chloe, his doting new parents from their distant home in Melbourne. With the arrival of the Coronavirus, there was a shift, to using this internet technology from a fun thing to be helping the family pull through this crisis together. Suddenly the family along with the rest of Australia and the world were in peril. During the lockdown, our daily connections by text on fleeting topics weren't enough for our increasingly isolated offspring. Better communication between family members became imperative. In early April, the family made a technological quantum leap when our children set up zoom video conferencing. The launch of this new way of connecting was set for 4:00 pm on Sunday 5th April 2020. The problem was that three of our overeager descendants, independently set up on their devices, different family conferences and codes for the same time. Chaos ensured as fifteen of our family members joined one of the unconnected three meetings. Eventually, an agreement was reached over the phone, on one conference and one access code. Finally, we were all on the same page or in this case, screen. As more joined into the agreed site, the situation became increasingly chaotic. Eventually, fifteen participants joined, but Zoom, only provides the vision of eight screens at the one time, with the main one activated by whoever speaks. With so many speaking at once, the result was far from ideal. Only two family members were regular zoom users. So, what followed was a series of rapidly improvised tutorials on the zoom tools, by the family ‘experts.’ The 'agenda' was for people to describe their day, starting with the youngest. As the grandparents, that meant Pam, and I was last in the queue. We didn’t get a look in as the meeting veered off onto other topics of family interest. This first family zoom meeting got mixed reviews. Still, after several weeks of increasing isolation, we all agreed it was great to see and hear each other in the virtual world. However, no one wanted to repeat this zoom experience. Perhaps 15 noisy participants were too many?
Tanka by Jan Dean “Nice people don't necessarily fall in love with nice people.” ― Jonathan Franzen, Freedom does he realise turmoil creates wisdom and visions lie? while he belittles, she flees first inward and then, away
Day Four by Grant Palmer So isolated and alone Distance from my daughter Living at opposite ends Isolated in our own home Her possible exposure A threat to my life My lover and I Destroyed by isolation and distance Tepid at best It feels like it is over Dreams of a future Feeling shattered, alone No hope in my heart Breathless and anxious How do I cope? Drugs that addict? Try sleeping for ever I just don’t know