Issue 4 2010 - Learning and teaching portal - Victoria University

Issue 4 2010 - Learning and teaching portal - Victoria University

Issue 4 2010 - Learning and teaching portal - Victoria University


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Platform<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> 4<br />

October 2009<br />

Closet meringue<br />

by Louise Crossley<br />

At first glance, this middle-class, middle-aged mother of three may seem a<br />

little dull. But, like the humble onion, I can make your eyes water when you<br />

peel the layers away.<br />

Just before you M-rate my article I had better mention that my intention<br />

is not to shock or horrify, only to ‘sweetify’ (to cause acute stimulation to<br />

the heart’s taste buds through eternal naivety, excessive idealism <strong>and</strong> corny<br />

embellishments).<br />

Okay, I’m not a cool potato, but my antics have elicited reaction. Like the<br />

MySpace saga, when my daughter registered me in an attempt to make me a<br />

cooler mum—it backfired.<br />

I used MySpace to express my dork-status <strong>and</strong> sealed the deal with my song<br />

choice—the very cool, Helen Reddy singing ‘I Am Woman’. Unexpectedly<br />

though, I received dozens of friend requests from people who claimed to be<br />

dorks too. Liberating huh?<br />

Also, early last year I wore my happy shoes to work for three consecutive<br />

weeks in an effort to cheer up the new grade preps who were missing their<br />

mums. Recently, I was approached by a grade-one child who asked me with<br />

delightful enthusiasm if I still had my happy shoes—this made the odd looks<br />

from colleagues worthwhile.<br />

The piece dé resistance is when I organised a ‘this is your life’ birthday party<br />

for my parents. I was determined to concentrate on the edification my parents<br />

deserved <strong>and</strong> not on my relatives in the corner rolling their eyes <strong>and</strong> tutting,<br />

‘Trust Louise’.<br />

The truth is, I am too old to hide under the radar, so here I am!<br />

The other day I watched Never Been Kissed starring Drew Barrymore. My<br />

favourite part is when she waits vulnerably on the baseball field for a reaction<br />

to her article—that’s what I’m doing now.<br />

Don’t worry though, I won’t be literally waiting anywhere for anything.<br />

I do however, want to come out of the closet, or should I say pantry, as a<br />

meringue! The meringue is a perfect metaphor for me—too rich for some <strong>and</strong><br />

a sugar rush for others.<br />

Sure, it would be easier to be subtle shortbread that melts in your mouth, or<br />

ever popular chocolate mudcake. But we have enough of them—the world<br />

needs variety.<br />

That’s why, to all the meringues out there I say, ‘Don’t sugar coat who you are.<br />

You’re sweet enough’.<br />

Louise Crossley is a Professional Writing <strong>and</strong> Editing student at VU.

Managing Editor<br />

Bruno Lettieri<br />

bruno.lettieri@vu.edu.au<br />

Editors & Designers<br />

Megan Green<br />

greenmegan@bigpond.com<br />

Martina Michael<br />

martinamichael@bigpond.com<br />

Acknowledgements<br />

Maree Wheelens<br />

Youth, VCE & Community<br />

Education<br />

Susanna Bryceson<br />

Coordinator<br />

Professional Writing & Editing<br />

Paul Kinna<br />

Western Futures Program<br />

Stephen Weller<br />

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students)<br />

<strong>Victoria</strong> <strong>University</strong><br />

Sam Romijn<br />

TOTeM Project<br />

Sara Irel<strong>and</strong><br />

Photography<br />

www.chameleonphotography.<br />

deviantart.com<br />

Microsoft Corporation<br />

Clipart<br />

Enquiries<br />

Youth Enquiries VCE<br />

Susheel Ch<strong>and</strong><br />

03 9919 8643<br />

TOTeM Project<br />

03 9867 8740<br />

ESL Youth Courses<br />

03 9919 8744<br />

Submissions to:<br />

bruno.lettieri@vu.edu.au<br />

Editorial<br />

by Bruno Lettieri<br />

A magazine or newsletter cannot just exist in a vacuum. It would accumulate<br />

in hidden boxes <strong>and</strong> have no life, no ability to come up for air. It needs to<br />

circulate in <strong>and</strong> around a vibrant readership. Does the magazine create its own<br />

readership or does it attach itself affectionately to something happening, <strong>and</strong><br />

then help bind that thing together? Unanswerable? perhaps. But I’d like to<br />

think Platform could be both instigator <strong>and</strong> attacher.<br />

I know with great certainty that when enthusiastic language-loving teachers<br />

carry it into classes <strong>and</strong> read from it, speculate with their folk about the<br />

informing spirit of the bundled pages, <strong>and</strong> use it as an instrument to encourage<br />

the best of their generous creative thinking, it becomes a lovely instrument<br />

of possibility. We began with the hope that Platform would be read with long<br />

pauses <strong>and</strong> wide lenses gazing out of train windows.<br />

We imagine it could bring established talented writers <strong>and</strong> those putting ink<br />

on paper for the first tentative time into an unexpected alliance, <strong>and</strong> that<br />

some emboldened creative audacity could be released in that lovely chemistry.<br />

And of course, there is that broad constituency of people who usually write in<br />

role-directed ways who turn up in Platform in unfettered guise. Long may they<br />

dance here.<br />

Platform gets released four times a year at The Terrace Restaurant, Footscray<br />

Nicholson campus. It’s that attempt to draw an audience of teachers, staff,<br />

students, <strong>and</strong> those loosely gathered under the awning of ‘interested in youth’<br />

that makes me think of it as ‘Instigator’.<br />

The magazine gives us something to build that’s tangible <strong>and</strong> creative. All that<br />

writing from all those people who share something that’s a little unspoken but<br />

very forceful, all that sculpturing into shape <strong>and</strong> recognisable form—gives us<br />

something to weave a celebration around. We come into a space that’s a little<br />

different from the daily rounds. The gathering itself, is made <strong>and</strong> hopefully<br />

infused, with a sense of the importance of coming together when people bring<br />

their goodwill, better social instincts <strong>and</strong> attentiveness to the stories of others.<br />

Welcome to <strong>Issue</strong> 4. I know there are new surprises in it because we have urged<br />

<strong>and</strong> begged <strong>and</strong> asked nicely of many good new people. It’s slowly working its<br />

way into some of our neighbouring schools <strong>and</strong> toward new friendships <strong>and</strong><br />

alliances.<br />

Our last Platform release featured our own students in gentle conversation in<br />

front of a real audience around the questions: What brought you here to VU?<br />

What keeps you here? What makes it worthwhile? Questions I would eagerly<br />

take to any person at any place any time. I have a profound faith that when<br />

people are acknowledged seriously they will respond.<br />

P4, as we call it in the backrooms, urges you to write for it, encourage others to<br />

write for it. Please, put that wonderful imagination to full-thoughtful-curiouseager-to-communicate<br />

effect.<br />

Page 2

What constitutes youth?<br />

by Stephen Weller<br />

When I think about youth—I think about my children.<br />

When I think about my children—I think about myself as a parent.<br />

And when I think about myself as a parent—I think about my own parents.<br />

Yet when I think about my parents—I think of myself as a youth.<br />

So, what constitutes youth?<br />

Is youth a stage in life represented by age? Or is youth a state of mind?<br />

If youth is a stage in life then what stage is it? Is it teens, adolescence, or the coming<br />

of age?<br />

If youth can be described as a state of mind, is this just a desire by the old to hold on<br />

to the past?<br />

And once we know who the youth are, what is to be done with them?<br />

For those rightfully amongst the youth there seems to be an uncertainty as to when<br />

it is time to act.<br />

For those no longer amongst the youth there seems to be an insistence that the<br />

youth must wait.<br />

But surely given that youth are our future then why not let them have their time<br />

now?<br />

If youth is the period between childhood <strong>and</strong> adulthood then let it be a time to be<br />

celebrated.<br />

Let the blurred boundaries between naivety <strong>and</strong> experience be a time to be<br />

championed.<br />

Bobby Kennedy described youth as: ‘the appetite for adventure over the life of ease’.<br />

So why not let adventure triumph over ease?<br />

Let us recognise the perspective that youth provides fresh from childhood.<br />

Let us recognise the perspective of youth that is yet to experience adulthood.<br />

Let us invest in our youth <strong>and</strong> celebrate this unique period of transformation.<br />

So let us celebrate youth <strong>and</strong> put the h<strong>and</strong>s of the future in those who will live in it!<br />

Stephen Weller is the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) of <strong>Victoria</strong> <strong>University</strong><br />

Page 3

Western Futures<br />

Platform,<br />

My name is Chantelle Gordon.<br />

I am 19 years old.<br />

I use to go to Rosamond School in 1996.<br />

I was a volunteer in SRC school council.<br />

But my favourite sport is football because in<br />

2002 I was in Auskick.<br />

And my 14 words are:<br />

Kathy is cool<br />

Kathy is smart<br />

Kathy will always still be a great teacher<br />

We will miss you Kathy <strong>and</strong> I hope it’s a girl.<br />

by Chantelle Gordon<br />

Hello, my name is Vu.<br />

I’m nineteen years of age.<br />

I have two brothers <strong>and</strong> two sisters <strong>and</strong> my<br />

parents.<br />

My favourite TV shows are ‘Home <strong>and</strong><br />

Away’, ‘Two <strong>and</strong> a Half Men’, ‘How I meet<br />

my Mother’, ‘Neighbours’, ‘The Simpsons’,<br />

‘Futurama’ <strong>and</strong> Wrestling.<br />

My favourite football teams are Hawthorn,<br />

Geelong, Collingwood, St Kilda <strong>and</strong> Carlton.<br />

My favourite sport is football, cricket, soccer<br />

<strong>and</strong> basketball.<br />

by Vu<br />

My Flower Power Story.<br />

My name is Tu-Tu Halaseh.<br />

I would like to be a football <strong>and</strong> cricket umpire.<br />

I also love flowers.<br />

My favourite flowers are daisies, roses <strong>and</strong> pink<br />

flowers.<br />

They make you grow up everyday.<br />

Flowers are very special for all occasions.<br />

On a beautiful spring day, flowers bloom.<br />

Freshly cut flowers are very, very special indeed.<br />

All flowers are lovely.<br />

I like white flowers, yellow flowers, <strong>and</strong> red<br />

roses.<br />

All these flowers are wonderful <strong>and</strong> beautiful<br />

<strong>and</strong> I love to pick some.<br />

by Tu-Tu Halaseh<br />

My name is Glenn McDonald.<br />

I live in Moonee Ponds.<br />

I have a happy life.<br />

I live with my mum <strong>and</strong> Nan.<br />

My hobbies are watching rugby, race-calling<br />

<strong>and</strong> going to the Sam Merrifield Library.<br />

by Glenn McDonald<br />

I am Deana Horvat.<br />

I have a dog, his name is Jasper.<br />

I have a pool in the backyard.<br />

I have a mum, dad, sister <strong>and</strong> me.<br />

I am 19 years old.<br />

I will be 20 years-old on 17th October.<br />

I go for Essendon with my mum <strong>and</strong> sister.<br />

by Deana Horvat<br />

I am Robyn Sherrott.<br />

The school I came from was Ascot Vale.<br />

Before I came here I was in the Annexe.<br />

I play indoor cricket for a club called Footscray.<br />

There are two dogs at home <strong>and</strong> their names are<br />

Samson <strong>and</strong> Bain.<br />

I like to ride a bike.<br />

I also bowl on a Monday, my partner’s name is<br />

Brett <strong>and</strong> our team name is RMB.<br />

by Robyn Sherrott<br />

Hi, my name is Lauren Joy Sherrott<br />

I am 19 years old.<br />

I was born at Bacchus Marsh Hospital.<br />

I went to two primary schools, Coburg <strong>and</strong><br />

Aberfeldie. Then I went to Ascot Vale.<br />

In 2007, I was school captain.<br />

In 2008, I finished high school <strong>and</strong> moved on<br />

to Uni.<br />

Every Monday night, I bowl in a league called<br />

the Terrorways. My partner’s name is Jessica<br />

<strong>and</strong> our team is called the Girly Girls.<br />

Thursday nights I go to Mooney Valley to do a<br />

Hip Hop Class.<br />

by Joy Sherrott<br />

Page Page 45

Western Futures<br />

My Idol success<br />

by Jason Heagerty<br />

I started to audition for ‘Australian Idol’ when I was sixteen years-old. For two months before the<br />

2004 ‘Australian Idol’ had started. I practised the song choice that I wanted to sing. I watched<br />

‘Australian Idol—The Journey Begins’ (2004 tutor) which is all about how to deal with fame. It<br />

had about the success of Guy Sebastian, Shannon Noll <strong>and</strong> the ‘Australian Idol’ 2003 Final twelve<br />

<strong>and</strong> gave advice on ‘Australian Idol’ auditions.<br />

I realised that I couldn’t afford to catch a taxi to the auditions <strong>and</strong> back so I recorded my originals<br />

onto a tape using my ‘Australian Idol’ Karaoke CD-G’s I got from my Santa Christmas Wish<br />

list (2003 model), <strong>and</strong> I performed my version of the Australian national anthem, ‘You Are<br />

My Sunshine’ <strong>and</strong> also the Richmond Tigers’ AFL theme song. I sent it to the ‘Australian Idol’<br />

Melbourne audition <strong>and</strong> then two months later I received a letter with the judge’s autographs:<br />

Marcia Hines, Ian Dickson <strong>and</strong> Mark Holden.<br />

I sang well, but I know I’ve got a long way to go to superstar stardom, so I headed back to<br />

training. I was nervous at the start, especially when you go for it <strong>and</strong> then you don’t make it. But<br />

I was happy <strong>and</strong>, well let’s say it was a silent cry, that means I wanted it bad but there are others<br />

that are better than me, so I went back to practise.<br />

After that I did my originals, but in the next stage I used a DJ software called E-Tag <strong>and</strong> did my<br />

hottest remix version of ‘This Is Your Night’. The judges said I was getting better except when it<br />

came to Kyle S<strong>and</strong>l<strong>and</strong>s. He didn’t like my performance. Marcia felt like saying yes but rejected<br />

me due to wrong genre choice. Techno song choices are not a strong point for me unless I get<br />

advanced equipment.<br />

I moved on to ‘Australia’s Got Talent’ Kit-Kat Competition. I recorded my video clip of me<br />

performing my version of ‘Barbie Girl’ by Aqua. I sent it by sms. I was the best in street ranks<br />

<strong>and</strong> got 1242 votes, but didn’t win a trip for four to Queensl<strong>and</strong>, but I was glad to give it a go.<br />

On my 21st birthday I went to a Caroline Springs’ restaurant <strong>and</strong> had food, dessert <strong>and</strong> played<br />

Xbox. Later that night I did some karaoke. I sang ‘Buses And Trains’ by Bachelor Girl. The<br />

ladies that worked in the pub loved my singing <strong>and</strong> dancing <strong>and</strong> they thought I was hot, so they<br />

gave me an encore. So, I sang ‘All I Have to Give’ by Backstreet Boys. I really enjoyed my first<br />

karaoke night performances. I am looking forward to going in to the Centro Idol competition in<br />

Footscray soon. I found out about it by looking at the window sign on my way to school.<br />

Music is the best medicine to entertain yourself <strong>and</strong> friends.<br />

Thank you to the students from VU’s Western Futures Program.<br />

Page 5

we only loaned him to you<br />

by Kristin Henry<br />

We only loaned him to you.<br />

He was perfect up till then.<br />

He was smart <strong>and</strong> he was funny,<br />

there was nothing wrong with him,<br />

since before he was born<br />

when we curled our lives around his<br />

to keep him safe.<br />

For every new word he spoke<br />

we made up songs.<br />

We played each of his first steps together<br />

like games.<br />

Like a bunch of galahs I guess<br />

but loved was the only way<br />

he knew himself.<br />

And laugh, he used to laugh.<br />

Eyes full of tricks <strong>and</strong> spit.<br />

He was a hell of a giggler.<br />

But now he’s quieter.<br />

We gave him to you<br />

<strong>and</strong> this is what you do.<br />

He’s started to jump at touches,<br />

every day he’s smaller.<br />

He looks surprised<br />

like we lied<br />

when we let him think he was beautiful<br />

to everyone’s eyes.<br />

We gave him to you<br />

<strong>and</strong> this is what you’ve done.<br />

He’s torn, we cannot find the spot<br />

but we can see his childhood<br />

spilling out.<br />

You’ve made these holes.<br />

We want them fixed.<br />

We gave him to you perfect<br />

<strong>and</strong> you...<br />

you were supposed to be careful.<br />

Kristin Henry’s previous anthologies include quick packer, slices of wry <strong>and</strong> others.<br />

Page Page 67

Audit<br />

by Robert Corbet<br />

I’m not sure about my blood type<br />

but I’ve got a birth certificate somewhere,<br />

library card, Citylink, Friends of the Zoo<br />

ATM, driver’s licence, I lost three demerits<br />

for not having my seat belt on.<br />

Medicare, dentist X-Rays, Vitamin C<br />

I’m not allergic, broke my arm in Grade 5<br />

one beer is enough, steer clear of whisky<br />

a few more lines when I look in the mirror<br />

don’t leap out of bed like I used to.<br />

Reading the morning paper is depressing<br />

mixed feelings about humanity<br />

mortality <strong>and</strong> anxieties at arm’s length<br />

lost <strong>and</strong> found, stray dogs<br />

family, friends <strong>and</strong> aquaintances.<br />

Gas <strong>and</strong> electricity bills, rates coming up<br />

plastic bags, hard rubbish, green waste<br />

I put my bins out every Wednesday<br />

limited assets, no liabilities, creditors or debt<br />

a few leaks I fixed with a bucket.<br />

Power naps, late night TV, top tens<br />

celebrity guests via satellite, sports reports<br />

so many books to read, movies to see<br />

Do you take a chance on something new<br />

or go back to the classics?<br />

Need time to think, smell the roses<br />

make hay while sun shines<br />

treading water, running to st<strong>and</strong> still<br />

dreaming about places I’ll never visit<br />

stories I’ll never write, people I’ll never meet.<br />

Melway references, e-tags, short-cuts, dead-ends<br />

junk emails, door-knockers, pizza delivery<br />

dam levels, rain-shadows, long-range forecasts<br />

night-time disturbances: bats, possums, burn-outs<br />

thoughts falling asleep, forgotten next morning.<br />

Robert Corbet teaches Professional Writing <strong>and</strong> Editing at VU.<br />

Page 7

What matters<br />

by Hannie Rayson<br />

Four days ago, my son was whispering, ‘Be brave, Mum. Be brave’. Minutes later he was<br />

laughing <strong>and</strong> waving <strong>and</strong> then he was gone. The big steel doors at Tullamarine had closed<br />

<strong>and</strong> I found myself sobbing in the arms of my ex-husb<strong>and</strong>.<br />

My son is fourteen years-old <strong>and</strong> he’s gone to Paris.<br />

We drive back down the Tulla together, my ex-husb<strong>and</strong> <strong>and</strong> I. We talk about the prices<br />

of houses in Carlton. I am fighting back the urge to make him swing the car around <strong>and</strong><br />

retrieve our boy, to prize open the steel doors. ‘Sorry everyone, we’ve made a ridiculous<br />

mistake.’<br />

From Paris, Jack will take a train to Granville in Norm<strong>and</strong>y. He’ll live with a French<br />

family for three months <strong>and</strong> attend the local school. The family has two children, a rabbit<br />

<strong>and</strong> a cat. From his bedroom window he’ll be able to see the English Channel. ‘We will<br />

roast chestnuts from our tree,’ writes his French mother. She is the only one who speaks<br />

English—Un peu—with the aid of a phrase book.<br />

My son is travelling as part of a program organised by the Southern Cross Cultural<br />

Exchange, now in its 18th year. In 2001 the nine-thous<strong>and</strong>th student will go overseas with<br />

this organisation.<br />

So I am the nine-thous<strong>and</strong>th mother to lie in bed <strong>and</strong> stare at the ceiling, imagining her son<br />

crying silently into his pillow. Lonely, homesick, scared. (Missing his mother.) Suddenly,<br />

the phone rings. It is 2 a.m.<br />

‘I’m here, Mum. I’m in Paris!’ He is trilling with excitement. ‘My God, it’s divine. I’ve just<br />

seen the Eiffel Tower.’<br />

My heart leaps.<br />

In Melbourne, my son lives between two houses. He has four parents. Together we form his<br />

personal polit bureau. Where other children just have to manage two adult personalities in<br />

their nuclear family, ours has to go before a committee. Interestingly, there is rarely division<br />

between households. When it comes to decision making, the differences occur along gender<br />

lines. Usually the father <strong>and</strong> the step-father line up against the mother <strong>and</strong> the step-mother.<br />

Here is an example. We go to Jimmy Watson’s wine bar in Carlton after the airport <strong>and</strong><br />

meet up with the step-parents. They are very pleased because in French they are called<br />

beaux parents—the good parents.<br />

I am told firmly that I must not let Jack know that I am missing him terribly.<br />

My husb<strong>and</strong> says, ‘You must set him free. He has to go with your full encouragement to<br />

have the time of his life.’<br />

My ex-husb<strong>and</strong> agrees, ‘Don’t let him worry about you. You mustn’t do that.’<br />

‘I don’t want him to feel ab<strong>and</strong>oned,’ I say lamely.<br />

Georgina, his step-mother, underst<strong>and</strong>s. ‘I think it’s okay in the beginning. Until he settles<br />

in.’<br />

As a mother I’ve never performed myself to my son. I’ve never pretended in front of him. I<br />

have never ushered him out of the room when the news was on. My motto has always been:<br />

Don’t protect, equip.<br />

Once, I remember my neighbour came to the door <strong>and</strong> burst into tears. Her father had just<br />

died. Jack was three.<br />

I said, ‘Say you’re sorry, Jack.’<br />

He looked bewildered, ‘I didn’t do it.’<br />

Page Page 89

He has been party to the full gamut of life experiences. He’s been to hospitals <strong>and</strong><br />

funerals <strong>and</strong> law courts <strong>and</strong> weddings <strong>and</strong> the birth of two babies. He has learned that<br />

there is no more significant human response both privately <strong>and</strong> politically than the<br />

capacity for empathy. As a result he is insightful about the me<strong>and</strong>erings of the human<br />

heart.<br />

So now I must pretend, apparently. And crack hardy.<br />

It’s not as if we haven’t been separated before. Last summer he lied about his age to get<br />

into acting classes at NIDA. He was encouraged by his step-father who said, ‘Lying about<br />

your age is a great Australian tradition. It’s not an act of deceit. It’s a show of pluckiness.’<br />

Then, we all gathered at Southern Cross Station <strong>and</strong> ran along the platform waving <strong>and</strong><br />

waving as the train slithered off to Sydney.<br />

I was fine then. But this is different. This is character building of a different order.<br />

I ring my girlfriend. ‘Do you think I’ve molly-coddled Jack?’<br />

‘Absolutely not.’<br />

Two days pass. I am living in a time zone ten hours earlier. He is having breakfast now, I<br />

think. He is looking down at his plate. She is serving brains.<br />

My ex-husb<strong>and</strong> rings up. ‘I was awake all night,’ he says. ‘I was worried he might not be<br />

warm enough’.<br />

The phone rings. So far Jack has sent two emails <strong>and</strong> made four calls. ‘You can ring me,<br />

you know,’ he says, <strong>and</strong> I detect a little crack in his voice.<br />

‘What are they like?’ I whisper down the phone.<br />

He is silent.<br />

‘Can’t you talk?’<br />

‘Not really’.<br />

I hang up <strong>and</strong> replay the conversation over <strong>and</strong> over. There in all the cracks is uncertainty<br />

<strong>and</strong> strangeness <strong>and</strong> yearning. Perhaps I’ll have to fly over there at Christmas.<br />

I lie in bed <strong>and</strong> wonder, who is not coping here, me or him?<br />

‘Hey Mum,’ says the next email. ‘Remember moles from Enid Blyton? The cat just<br />

caught one.’<br />

I go to Safeway feeling quite chipper. I don’t know why, but the mole story has cheered<br />

me enormously. I run into his best friend. ‘I got an email,’ she tells me. ‘It says, “I’m safe.<br />

I’m scared. And I’m dealing with it.”’<br />

I hug my husb<strong>and</strong> in the toiletries aisle.<br />

‘This is why we sent him, remember?’<br />

Hannie Rayson is an Australian Playwright. This piece was first published in The Age ‘What<br />

Matters’ column.<br />

Page 9

A son again<br />

by Barry Garner<br />

Thirty years between prayers is a long time, but I was mad at God for letting my dad die.<br />

I was only thirteen when it happened. I prayed a lot back then. Begged God to make him<br />

better, but my prayers went unanswered. At thirteen it’s hard to underst<strong>and</strong> death <strong>and</strong> it<br />

was even harder to underst<strong>and</strong> God. All I knew was the man I idolised was gone forever.<br />

Dad died on a Wednesday, sports day at Collingwood Tech. At the same time I was running<br />

round the basketball court, my dad just slipped away. I had thought he’d get better. After all<br />

I’d prayed about it. God was on the job, he’d fix it, he’d make Dad well again. But he didn’t.<br />

I didn’t get to say goodbye. He was just gone.<br />

I couldn’t believe that life could be so unfair. Dad was only forty-two, a hard worker <strong>and</strong><br />

a loving father. He loved the Goons, World Championship Wrestling <strong>and</strong> Al Jolson. Dad<br />

loved a good laugh <strong>and</strong> lived each day for us, his family, or to quote him, ‘My Mob’. Why<br />

would God take him? How could this happen to our family? What good was prayer when<br />

God didn’t answer?<br />

For years after Dad’s death I did my best to shut God out of my life. Like I said, I held<br />

a grudge for almost as long as Dad’s life. But I refused to give in. Even when the need to<br />

connect to something bigger than my own life swamped me, I wouldn’t pray. It was no use,<br />

prayers didn’t get answered. God wouldn’t help me. God was a hard man.<br />

It wasn’t till I met my wife eight years ago that I was encouraged to talk to God again.<br />

Carolyn helped me see that God didn’t take my father, cancer had. She led me quietly <strong>and</strong><br />

patiently to her God, who wasn’t an ogre, but a loving father. This new way of looking at<br />

God meant I, the fatherless, was a son again. Carolyn taught me that the peace <strong>and</strong> hope<br />

that could come from talking to God is real. Is necessary.<br />

I pray every day now, but these days I do it without dem<strong>and</strong>ing a result. I know that we<br />

don’t always get what we ask for. That earthly bodies wear out <strong>and</strong> that for each of us there<br />

is a season. I now see prayer as the path to God <strong>and</strong> trust him enough to listen.<br />

Barry Garner studied Creative Writing at Sunbury.<br />

Page Page 10 11

The heart<br />

by Rhiannon Lacy<br />

You were beating. Slow <strong>and</strong> steady. But empty. Hollow. Nothing but blood pulsed<br />

through your chambers.<br />

Then one dreary day, when the sky was full of blackened clouds, you fluttered a little.<br />

A warm sensation filled you for a brief moment. As soon as you felt it, it was gone. Like<br />

glimpsing a shooting star, you stored this feeling <strong>and</strong> remembered it, tried to recreate it<br />

when you were alone. But it was a dull shadow. Not enough.<br />

On a windy day when the trees were bent so low towards the ground they could<br />

uproot, the feeling returned. You sensed it at a distance. It inched closer <strong>and</strong> closer until<br />

its heat warmed your chambers. A faint laugh entered your veins. This time the feeling<br />

lasted for a short while, long enough to exchange phone numbers. You fluttered once<br />

more.<br />

That same evening the sensation arrived at seven-thirty. Its heat returned to your<br />

chambers, flooding your valves, running through your veins until you were overflowing.<br />

The feeling left early the next morning, promising to come back in the afternoon. That<br />

promise was fulfilled. It stayed for the afternoon which became evening <strong>and</strong> turned into<br />

the weekend. This pattern of return continued <strong>and</strong> became a habit.<br />

You grew accustomed to the routine <strong>and</strong> soon the feeling remained, even when the<br />

cause had left. Its imprint visible to the stranger’s eye. You were now alive, very alive,<br />

content <strong>and</strong> happy.<br />

You fell into a rhythm of comfort. The comfort of smelly socks lying on the bedroom<br />

floor <strong>and</strong> the toilet seat left up.<br />

Summer came <strong>and</strong> the air was filled with the smell of freshly-cut grass. It was then<br />

that the feeling you had carried <strong>and</strong> tended to in the winter months through to spring<br />

decided to stay. You soared through the clouds <strong>and</strong> higher than heaven. Pure bliss.<br />

Not long after, on a heavily hot afternoon, the screech of tyres echoed through you.<br />

Shards of glass sprinkled across the road as a grey haze settled in the air. You stopped. Still<br />

<strong>and</strong> quiet. Then blood pounded through your chambers. Its rhythm growing faster <strong>and</strong><br />

faster. The smell of summer vanished <strong>and</strong> was replaced by fear. The feeling that had made<br />

you full had gone. Your beating grew louder <strong>and</strong> louder. Blood flooded your chambers,<br />

valves <strong>and</strong> arteries. Away. Then you broke, splitting down the middle, tearing in two<br />

uneven pieces.<br />

You had known the sensation for seven weeks. Seven weeks after it had gone you<br />

began stitching yourself back together. The feeling had been shared for eighteen weeks.<br />

It took eighteen weeks for you to seal the tear. You had seen each other at least three days<br />

each week which had turned into every day. After thirty-seven weeks the scars began to<br />

appear. It took you two hundred <strong>and</strong> fifty-nine days to mend yourself. But the scars are<br />

still there, twisted into you. They will remain.<br />

You are still beating, slow <strong>and</strong> steady. But empty. Hollow. Nothing but blood pulsing<br />

through your chambers.<br />

Rhiannon Lacy is a VU student.<br />

Page 11

Facing the future<br />

by Martin Flanagan<br />

For someone of her age <strong>and</strong> many experiences, Georgia Savage is almost unreasonably glad<br />

of life. I know people who would be wrecked by what she has been through, but her eyes<br />

continue to gleam like a child’s as she tells me what she has seen <strong>and</strong> learned. In the event<br />

of her death, she once told me, I can find her by looking at the grass in the back straight at<br />

Flemington during the Spring Carnival. Imagine a brush of sun-touched green with maybe<br />

a rustle of wind in it. And that is why, the week before the season began, when asked to<br />

speak in a pub on the topic, Facing the Future, I thought I would take Georgia along. I<br />

wanted to say something green, something that had life, but was nonetheless real.<br />

There were about eighty or so, mostly older, people in the pub. I basically told two stories.<br />

I told how, a week after ‘September 11’, I spoke at a testimonial dinner for Bob Brown in<br />

Melbourne. Afterwards, he <strong>and</strong> I had a talk about whether the human experiment could<br />

ever achieve any sort of enduring stability for all the peoples of the earth, or whether it<br />

would end in chaos <strong>and</strong> destruction.<br />

‘I don’t know that it won’t end in chaos,’ he said. ‘But I choose to act as if it won’t.’<br />

Bob Brown believes an act of defiance, within ourselves, is necessary if we are to resist the<br />

logic of our times.<br />

The second story I told was about meeting Rainsy Sam, the leader of the democracy<br />

movement in Cambodia, in 2002. At the time we met, the number of his party workers<br />

murdered for trying to establish democracy in their country was twelve. His wife told of a<br />

legally authorised march they participated in—turning a corner, they were met by a line of<br />

soldiers, rifles levelled. Her husb<strong>and</strong> continued walking towards the soldiers, so did those<br />

behind him. When he finally reached the tip of the barrel of the first gun, presumably<br />

belonging to the comm<strong>and</strong>er, the military stood back <strong>and</strong> the marchers passed.<br />

‘Where do you get your courage from?’ I asked.<br />

Rainsy Sam told me that if you have a choice between right <strong>and</strong> wrong, take the right way<br />

without hesitation, because if you pause for a moment your fear will get you. He also told<br />

me, with a trace of regret, ‘I thought, that once people believe in you, you don’t have a<br />

choice.’<br />

Martin Flanagan is a senior journalist for The Age. This piece appeared in his book, The Game<br />

in Time of War.<br />

Page Page 12 13

Four seasons of the heart<br />

by Paul Mitchell<br />

winter<br />

Below a steadfast sky<br />

blood glistens on a dove’s beak.<br />

I underst<strong>and</strong> again<br />

the wisdom of deceit.<br />

autumn<br />

Alone in thrilling rain<br />

my umbrella folded<br />

I watch the past fall<br />

all coloured lights <strong>and</strong> lampshades.<br />

spring<br />

Skipping through the thoughtless<br />

forest of my life, I use the rope<br />

to lasso mistakes<br />

kiss each <strong>and</strong> every one.<br />

summer<br />

Awake for luminous breakfast,<br />

charcoal clouds retreat,<br />

cereal stars are crumpetted.<br />

I raise a toast <strong>and</strong> dance.<br />

Paul Mitchell is a Yarraville poet <strong>and</strong> has two<br />

poetry anthologies, Minorphysics <strong>and</strong> awake<br />

despite the hour.<br />

Page 13

Waving goodbye to Granny<br />

by Marlene Gorman<br />

It was cold on the deck; the wind whipped around us as we stood at the rail of the ship. It<br />

wasn’t supposed to be cold. It was July 12th, 1950, <strong>and</strong> it was summer.<br />

I stepped up onto the first rail of the iron stopping me from falling into the chasm between<br />

the boat <strong>and</strong> the dock. My Dad was holding on to the back of my coat.<br />

We had come to Tilbury by train from Manchester that morning as we embarked on our<br />

journey to Australia. I was feeling very excited by all this fuss. However, I could see that my<br />

Mam was not happy.<br />

‘What’s wrong, Mam? It’s going to be great on the boat.’<br />

‘I’m feeling really sad because Granny hasn’t been able to get down here to see us off,’ Mam<br />

said tearfully.<br />

Granny lived in London, not far from Tilbury, but she was not very well <strong>and</strong> no-one really<br />

expected her to travel to the docks. We had had only six weeks notice to sail to Sydney after<br />

Mam <strong>and</strong> Dad applied for passage to Australia together with my brother, who was big then;<br />

he was seventeen.<br />

Once we had been told when we were going to sail, we all went down to London to see<br />

Granny, aunts <strong>and</strong> uncles. Granny lived on the first floor in a large three-storey house that<br />

had been converted to flats right next door to Holloway Prison. Her other neighbour was<br />

an empty block of l<strong>and</strong> where a house had been blitzed during the war. There were a lot of<br />

empty blocks on Holloway Road.<br />

‘I’ll never see you again,’ said Granny. ‘I’m too old to come to Australia to see you.’ She<br />

wept as she held me <strong>and</strong> Mam close to her.<br />

‘Don’t be daft. We’ll earn lots of money in Australia <strong>and</strong> we’ll come back to see you,’ Mam<br />

said as she held Granny tighter.<br />

Aunt Daisy, the beauty of the family who lived on the ground floor, was asking my Mam<br />

everything about how we were able to go to Australia.<br />

‘Oh, it would be great if you, Fred <strong>and</strong> the kids could come too,’ Mam said.<br />

We eventually said our goodbyes <strong>and</strong> went back to Manchester by train to a very hurried<br />

selling-off of furniture <strong>and</strong> household goods as we were only given a small allocation of<br />

cargo space for our skip. Mam sold off everything except linen <strong>and</strong> blankets; she also kept<br />

her sewing machine.<br />

There was a huddle of people on the wharf; not too many as we were a very small company<br />

going to Sydney. Only six hundred passengers were on board the MV Cheshire, mainly<br />

families as ten-pound migrants. Dad had said that I was free because I was only six years<br />

old.<br />

I was looking at all the people <strong>and</strong> suddenly I saw Granny. You could not mistake Granny<br />

as she always had a brightly coloured scarf on her head.<br />

‘Mam, Mam, look it’s Granny. There she is!’ I yelled excitedly. ‘She’s st<strong>and</strong>ing near the big<br />

green box—over there.’<br />

We waved <strong>and</strong> waved <strong>and</strong> then Granny saw us <strong>and</strong> started to wave back at us. Mam, Dad<br />

<strong>and</strong> Brian called out to Granny but I doubt she could hear us because just then the ship’s<br />

signal went off to announce that we were sailing. The hawsers came off <strong>and</strong> were pulled<br />

back onto the ship by the crew. Someone had thrown streamers out to the crowd on the<br />

wharf <strong>and</strong> as the boat pulled away from the dock they stretched out in the wind until they<br />

finally broke.<br />

Page Page 14 15

We saw then, that Granny had taken off her scarf <strong>and</strong> was waving it at us. Dad waved his<br />

hanky back until we could not see her any more.<br />

We did not see her again. She died less than two years later after my Aunt Daisy <strong>and</strong> her<br />

family immigrated to Australia. But I will never forget my last glimpse of Engl<strong>and</strong> in that<br />

cold summer of 1950.<br />

We didn’t get rich but we have all been back to Engl<strong>and</strong> several times. We just love it<br />

when we arrive back home in Australia though.<br />

Marlene Gorman is studying Professional Writing <strong>and</strong> Editing at VU.<br />

Page 15

A tough act to follow<br />

by Angela Jones<br />

He seems like a bright kid, which is why I suspect the education system has let him down.<br />

He says he was initially at a mainstream school; he struggled <strong>and</strong> failed. I doubt he was<br />

given the help he needed to cross the line. He then found himself enrolled at one of those<br />

schools for kids with intellectual disabilities. The lack of stimulation would have bored him<br />

to tears, that’s how I’m guessing he wound up working for Waverley Industries.<br />

He is creative but not in the artistic sense; more that he enjoys creating new personas<br />

for himself, which he tries on like one might a pair of shoes. A different persona for the<br />

different groups of people he’s with. He seems unsure as to which group of people to be<br />

friends with, unsure of who he is <strong>and</strong> who he wants to become.<br />

Some would say that when he’s in the presence of someone he admires, he lies; he shows off<br />

claiming to have done all these macho things <strong>and</strong> maybe one day he may do them. At the<br />

moment I think it’s all a fantasy, one of his many personas he tries on because he thinks it<br />

makes him seem cool <strong>and</strong> tough.<br />

He needs his personas to give him that air of confidence because he feels or thinks that he’s<br />

stupid. I believe this, because when a co-worker was telling him how to do his job I said,<br />

‘He’s a bright enough guy, I’m sure he’ll work it out for himself.’<br />

He was astonished <strong>and</strong> speechless when he finally spoke; he thanked me.<br />

When he’s in trouble he puts on the pathetic look, which he’s mastered over time <strong>and</strong> acts<br />

all hard-done-by, like the world owes him a favour.<br />

Angela Jones studied creative writing at VU Sunbury.<br />

Page Page 16 17

Coffee for Lucia was the remedy for every ill<br />

by Enza G<strong>and</strong>olfo<br />

Lucia brews coffee when she is sick, when she is sad. She brews coffee for visitors <strong>and</strong> for<br />

her men—she brews coffee several times every day—for breakfast, after lunch <strong>and</strong> dinner,<br />

mid-morning <strong>and</strong> mid-afternoon.<br />

Concetta drinks her mother-in-law’s coffee, thick <strong>and</strong> black, sweetened with two<br />

sugars, all through her pregnancy. She craves it. It is the 1950s <strong>and</strong> there are no medical<br />

warnings declaring coffee’s harmful effects on the unborn. It doesn’t appear to have any<br />

harmful effects on Cia who is ten pounds at birth, a healthy <strong>and</strong> lively child; a child with<br />

her own addiction to coffee.<br />

‘There is no point making coffee,’ Lucia says, ‘unless it’s strong. No one wants to<br />

drink dirty water.’ Lucia grinds the coffee beans each time she makes coffee. As each<br />

bean cracks, the thick aroma invades the house. This is sacred coffee. The ritual is in the<br />

making <strong>and</strong> serving.<br />

Each time Lucia takes the espresso pot from the cupboard, fills the base with water<br />

<strong>and</strong> spoons in the ground coffee—heaped spoon after heaped spoon, pushing the coffee<br />

down until it is packed tight. Once the pot is on the stove, the gas low, Lucia opens<br />

the draw of the dresser to reveal her collection of table cloths. Layer upon layer; each<br />

one ironed <strong>and</strong> folded. Square embroidered tablecloths: pink flowers in every corner, a<br />

bouquet in the middle. Or round white tablecloths with lace rims. Linen tablecloth in<br />

green <strong>and</strong> blue. New Australian fine cotton cloths with floral prints. Lucia shakes the<br />

chosen cloth <strong>and</strong> flings it across the table.<br />

On a silver serving dish she places sugar-coated biscuits <strong>and</strong> thick sponge cake. From<br />

the kitchen dresser she selects the miniature gold leaf coffee cups. As she places the last<br />

cup on the table, the pot on the stove begins to hiss. The steam, dense with the coffee<br />

essence fills the room. Lucia pours the coffee—black, thick, spitting—into the cups.<br />

‘The coffee was better in Italy, stronger,’ she says.<br />

Her family gathers around the table. They nod in agreement. Each one of them<br />

adding spoonfuls of sugar <strong>and</strong> their own comments; for them, of course, everything was<br />

better in the old country.<br />

Only Carmela shakes her head, ‘No coffee thanks, not for me.’ Later as they drive<br />

home, Carmela says to Alberto, ‘My mother tells so many lies. How often did she have<br />

coffee in Italy—never.’<br />

In Castellino coffee was expensive; it was a luxury. Mostly they drank water <strong>and</strong> wine,<br />

if they had their own cows, they drank milk. On the occassional chilly December night,<br />

they might grind chicory beans—cheaper than real coffee, but hardly the same.<br />

The men drank coffee more often than the women. Usually, at Marco’s café in the<br />

piazza. A quick, short expresso over a h<strong>and</strong>shake as they leaned against the bar <strong>and</strong><br />

finalised the sale of wheat or l<strong>and</strong>. Or a lingering one, spiked with a shot of grappa at<br />

night as they played cards at one of the back tables. The women never went into the<br />

cafés.<br />

In Australia, even the poorest Italian migrant can afford coffee. They buy imported<br />

Italian coffee, packets of roasted beans from delicatessens in Carlton. Inclined as they are<br />

to be nostalgic, coffee, becomes a persistent thread connecting them back. Each time they<br />

drink it, they remember with affection a better coffee, in a better country.<br />

It is not just this fabrication that torments Carmela.<br />

‘My mother lies about everything.’<br />

Carmela sits with Alberto on the steps of the ver<strong>and</strong>a of their brick veneer home,<br />

more solid than her mother’s weatherboard across town; a refuge from her family. He sips<br />

his coffee <strong>and</strong> Carmela drinks tea.<br />

‘Memories play tricks on all of us.’<br />

‘How can you defend her, she treats you like dirt?’<br />

‘I’m not defending her, Carmela, I’m just saying we all remember Castellino with<br />

Page 17

fondness as if things were better there—the air, the trees, the food, the coffee. We forget; we<br />

forget the things we didn’t like, the reasons why we left or maybe now that we are here—<br />

those things don’t seem so bad <strong>and</strong> we wonder if we should have left.’<br />

‘I’m glad we left. I hated Castellino. I have no fond memories of it. I hated my mother’s<br />

house—the stone walls, the narrow stairway; every time I climbed my mother’s stairs, every<br />

time I opened that door—even after they’d left, even after you <strong>and</strong> I took it over—I felt<br />

breathless, claustrophobic. There are no good memories for me there.’<br />

‘Nothing?’<br />

‘Nothing Alberto. Nothing.’<br />

Carmela sighs <strong>and</strong> leans hard against the wall. She closes her eyes <strong>and</strong> begins to talk,<br />

Alberto is not sure if she’s talking to him.<br />

‘I remember my doll, Yanna. I slept with her every night. I loved her. She was the only<br />

thing in the whole world that belong to me. That was all mine. One night, Paolo took her<br />

from me <strong>and</strong> threw her into the fire. She turned black, <strong>and</strong> half her face was burnt away.<br />

My mother yelled at me. At me, not at Paolo. She was angry with me for getting soot all<br />

over myself. As I pulled her out of the fire; she took her from me, pulled her out of my<br />

h<strong>and</strong>s <strong>and</strong> threw her back in the fire.<br />

“It’s too late now to be crying, you should have looked after her. Anyway you’re too old<br />

for dolls,”she said.<br />

‘She never liked the doll because my father had made her for me. He had spent hours,<br />

several nights in a row carving <strong>and</strong> shaping her out of a block of wood. He painted her<br />

face—blue eyes, long curling lashes, a tiny nose <strong>and</strong> large red lips that always smiled. My<br />

gr<strong>and</strong>mother made me a dress for her, <strong>and</strong> we glued str<strong>and</strong>s of wool to her head for hair.<br />

She was a happy doll. I loved her. My mother knew how much the doll meant to me but<br />

she didn’t care.<br />

‘It was the same with everything I loved. I loved school <strong>and</strong> I was good at it. I could<br />

read better than anyone in my class. My teacher thought I could have studied <strong>and</strong> become<br />

a teacher myself. She came especially to visit my mother, to ask her to let me study but my<br />

mother never said anything about that; never talked to my father about it; she just took me<br />

out of school as early as she could get away with. I still remember the teachers. I wanted to<br />

be like them. When I close my eyes, I am back in that classrooms. I can see the blue-green<br />

slate; I can feel the chalk dust on my fingers, specks of it catching on my throat. School was<br />

my favorite time of the day. Sitting in the classroom listening, writing, reading; that was the<br />

happiest time of my childhood; they were the only happy times I can remember.’<br />

Alberto took Carmela’s h<strong>and</strong>s in his, ‘It is better to forget all this. You have a different<br />

life now.’<br />

‘I can’t forget Alberto—if we had children maybe I could...I thought by loving my own<br />

children I could...’<br />

‘Carmela, don’t; there is still hope.’<br />

‘My mother made me lots of dresses when I was young, a new dress for every festa. I<br />

didn’t ask for them. I didn’t care about new dresses. “See how lucky you are, your friends<br />

can’t afford new dresses.” She made those dresses for show, so people would think she was<br />

a good mother. All that fuss over a dress—<strong>and</strong> over <strong>and</strong> over I would hear how much the<br />

material cost, how special it was, how lucky I was to have a dress made from material that<br />

came all the way from Vittoria. But I could see—she knew I could see how her face lit up<br />

at the sight of Aldo or Paolo or Luciano—never for me—never glad to see me. The sight<br />

of me was the memory of things to be done. “Bring the washing in, put the pot on, <strong>and</strong> do<br />

the dusting, the bed.”’<br />

Carmela straightened her shoulders <strong>and</strong> held them back, ‘I don’t remember her ever<br />

kissing me or holding me. I don’t remember her ever having a kind word. There are no<br />

good memories.’<br />

Page Page 18 19

‘Carmela, please.’ As Alberto started to speak she turned to look at him. ‘You don’t<br />

remember everything Carmela, none of us do. She must have held you, kissed you as a<br />

child. All our mothers did.’<br />

‘Not mine. She was too busy holding her sons. They were her favorites. She should<br />

never have had a daughter. I took my father’s attention away from her. She hated it when<br />

father came home <strong>and</strong> picked me up, throwing me up in the air, laughing with me as I<br />

flew above his head. She hated it. I could see it in her face. Quickly she would find him<br />

something to do—some chore to take him away from me. And then as I got older he<br />

too started to distance himself, as I became a young woman he stopped touching me,<br />

stopped laughing at the things I did. He stopped. She was at him until he stopped.<br />

He became just as bad as her. He kisses me now, one kiss on each cheek like a stranger.<br />

I could be anyone...he always takes her side in the end. He dotes on her, does whatever<br />

she says, he thinks she’s perfect. I never heard him criticise her.<br />

Carmela, Alberto thought, was about to cry, instead she took a deep breath catching<br />

the emotion in her mouth, swallowing <strong>and</strong> then spitting out.<br />

‘You don’t know what it was like with her; you can’t imagine that. I hate her you<br />

know. She makes me so angry. She’s cunning. She knows how to be nice to people, she<br />

knows how to put it on for show, but if you watch her, you can see what she is really<br />

like.’<br />

They sit, husb<strong>and</strong> <strong>and</strong> wife, in silence. The memories of her childhood have been<br />

haunting Carmela since her brother’s death, since the arguments with her mother over<br />

the money.<br />

Carmela goes inside the house, she takes a photograph from the shelf, a photograph of<br />

her family—parents <strong>and</strong> brothers <strong>and</strong> herself. The photograph was taken just before her<br />

wedding several years ago now—she takes it out to the ver<strong>and</strong>a. She has a strong urge to<br />

rip it up.<br />

She’s been thinking too much about the past, she knows that.<br />

‘Relax,’ the doctor said, ‘there’s no physical reasons why you can’t have a normal<br />

pregnancy. It’s nerves. You have to take it easy.’<br />

‘I have my period. I am bleeding,’ she says to Alberto <strong>and</strong> starts to cry. He holds her<br />

but says nothing. He knows platitudes won’t help.<br />

Every month’s bleeding is another barren month. Every month, Carmela grieves anew<br />

for the lost child.<br />

‘I just want to be like everyone else, like every other woman. I just want a child, a<br />

child of my own. I will love my child. I will love her so much.’<br />

Carmela looked at her mother in the photograph. A large woman, with full breasts<br />

<strong>and</strong> her wide hips. Her belly protruding—stretched after the birth of five children.<br />

‘Why can’t I give birth? Why do my children die? Why does life refuse to live inside<br />

me? Why am I barren? I wish I could stop seeing her, I wish I never had to see my<br />

mother again.’<br />

‘But Carmela, it is not her fault. She is your mother. She wants you to have children.<br />

And there is your father, your brothers.’<br />

‘Do you think she wants me to have children? Do you think she cares? And my father<br />

<strong>and</strong> brothers—they will always be on her side. They never understood what it was like for<br />

me <strong>and</strong> they never will. Only Luciano <strong>and</strong> now he is gone.’<br />

This piece is an extract from Lucia’s Story.<br />

Dr Enza G<strong>and</strong>olfo is a Lecturer in Professional Writing <strong>and</strong> Editing at VU <strong>and</strong> author of<br />

newly released novel Swimming.<br />

Page 19

Kastellorizo<br />

by Komninos Zervos<br />

my family came, my family came, from kastellorizo<br />

been living in the l<strong>and</strong> of oz, for eighty years or so<br />

they called them refs, they called them wogs, they called them<br />

so <strong>and</strong> so’s<br />

but they survived, the racist jibes, for eighty years you know<br />

now my papou, he’s ninety-two, he watched the family grow<br />

it grew <strong>and</strong> grew, <strong>and</strong> grew <strong>and</strong> grew, the greeks like sex you know.<br />

my family came, the cazzies came, from kastellorizo<br />

been living in, the l<strong>and</strong> of oz, for eighty years or so.<br />

from fish <strong>and</strong> chips, <strong>and</strong> steak <strong>and</strong> egg, they built their family<br />

homes<br />

on good australian soil they built, they helped australia grow<br />

<strong>and</strong> in their homes, their souvenirs, from kastellorizo<br />

the hallowed map, the harbour view, the painted plates on show<br />

<strong>and</strong> photographs, old photographs, that told a tale of woe<br />

of poverty, <strong>and</strong> tyranny, under the bed they go!<br />

my family came, the cazzies came, from kastellorizo<br />

been living with, the memories, for eighty years or so.<br />

their children grew, they went to school, they learnt the aussie<br />

ways<br />

they changed their clothes, they changed their talk, they even<br />

changed their names<br />

but in the house, the parents taught, that cazzies they will stay<br />

a cazzie born, a cazzie be, until their dying day<br />

‘cos everything that’s greek is good, it’s always been that way<br />

<strong>and</strong> cazzies are, the best of all, my old yiayia would say.<br />

Page Page 20 21

my family came, the cazzies came, from kastellorizo<br />

been living in, a time-warp zone, for eighty years or so.<br />

at weddings <strong>and</strong>, at christenings, they’d sing the cazzie songs<br />

we did the cazzie dances, <strong>and</strong> we all would sing along<br />

<strong>and</strong> all the stories, you would hear, about this grecian isle<br />

would put it on, a pedestal, a faultless pure lifestyle<br />

but reality, as time goes by, gets twisted, warped <strong>and</strong> changed<br />

<strong>and</strong> the longer, they had been here, the bigger the myth became.<br />

my family came, the cazzies came, from kastellorizo<br />

been living in, the past too long, for eighty years or so.<br />

the myth of kastellorizo, so good, so greek, so great<br />

to live by myth, in a changing world, simply does not equate<br />

‘cos no man can, an isl<strong>and</strong> be, the proverb wisely states<br />

<strong>and</strong> progress never comes to those, to those who sit <strong>and</strong> wait<br />

<strong>and</strong> so we see, the culture clash, worship of myth creates<br />

you can’t live in, another time, another mental state.<br />

my family came, my family stayed, in kastellorizo<br />

been living with the myth too long, for eighty years or so<br />

the cazzies came, the cazzies stayed, in kastellorizo<br />

they left reality behind, some eighty years ago!<br />

Komninos Zervos is a Melbourne Poet<br />

This piece was first published in komninos (1991).<br />

Page 21

The Anchoviad<br />

by Brian Doyle<br />

My daughter, age six, sleeps with her bear, also age six. My son, age three, sleeps with his<br />

basketball <strong>and</strong> a stuffed tiger, age unknown. My other son, also age three, sleeps with a<br />

can of anchovy fillets—King Oscar br<strong>and</strong>, caught off Morocco <strong>and</strong> distributed by the H.J.<br />

Nosaki Company in New York.<br />

He sleeps with the can every night, won’t go to sleep without it under his right cheek.<br />

The can is bright red <strong>and</strong> features a drawing of King Oscar, an avuncular, bearded fellow,<br />

apparently a benevolent despot. Every night after Liam is asleep I gently delete the can from<br />

his grip <strong>and</strong> examine it. It’s a roll-key can, 56 grams, with ‘about six fillets (15g).’ Other<br />

than the friendly visage of King Oscar, my favorite thing about the can is the word ‘about’,<br />

a rare concession, in the corporate world, to ambiguity. I suppose it’s a legal thing, but still<br />

it pleases me, for murky reasons.<br />

I sit there in the dark, holding the anchovies, <strong>and</strong> ponder other murky things like:<br />

What’s the deal with this boy <strong>and</strong> his anchovies? How is it that we are drawn to the odd<br />

things we love? How came anchovies from Morocco to be swimming headless under my<br />

son’s cheek in Oregon? What do we know about anchovies other than their savory saltiness?<br />

What really do we know well about any creature, including <strong>and</strong> most of all ourselves, <strong>and</strong><br />

how is it that even though we know painfully little about anything we often manage worldwrenching<br />

hubris about our wisdom?<br />

Consider the six animals in the can. They are members of the family Engraulididae,<br />

the anchovies, which range in size from a Brazilian anchovy the size of your thumbnail<br />

to a ravenous New Guinea anchovy as long as your forearm. Anchovies don’t survive in<br />

captivity, <strong>and</strong> they don’t survive long after being netted either, so we know little about<br />

them—but that little is riveting:<br />

* Their hearing is perhaps the sharpest of any marine animal, <strong>and</strong> the frequency<br />

they hear best is, eerily, exactly the frequency of the tail-beats of other fish. Is their<br />

unimaginably crisp hearing how they manage to swim in darting collectives that twist<br />

as one astonishing creature? We don’t know.<br />

* Their noses contain a sensory organ that no other creature in the world has. What’s<br />

it for? No one knows.<br />

* Sensory complexes in anchovies’ heads also form dense nets in the cheeks. What do<br />

these nets do? A puzzle.<br />

* Anchovies get their food by dragging their open mouths through the ocean in<br />

mammoth schools, but what, exactly, do they eat? Surprise: no one knows.<br />

Among the species of anchovy are, to the delight of meditative fathers sitting in<br />

the dark on their sons’ beds, the buccaneer anchovy (which ranges furthest into the<br />

open ocean), <strong>and</strong> the sabre-tooth anchovy, which has very large teeth <strong>and</strong> hangs around,<br />

underst<strong>and</strong>ably, by itself. And I do not even mention the anchovies’ cousin, the wolf<br />

herring, which grows to be a yard long, <strong>and</strong> has so many teeth that it has teeth on its<br />

tongue.<br />

Thus the anchovy, fully as mysterious a creature as, well, as this boy sleeping with the<br />

fishes. And what, really, do I know irrefutably about my son? Some of his quirks, a bit of<br />

his character, his peculiar dietary habits, the lilt of his song, the ache of his sob, where his<br />

scars are, the way his hair wants to go, the knock of his knees—<strong>and</strong> not much else. He is a<br />

startling, one-time-only, bone-headed miracle with a sensory complex in his head <strong>and</strong> heart<br />

that I can only guess at <strong>and</strong> dimly try to savor in the few brilliant moments I have been<br />

given to swim with him. He is a sort of anchovy, as are we all; so I sing our collective salty<br />

song—the song of fast, mysterious, open-mouthed creatures, traveling with vast schools of<br />

our fellows, listening intently, savoring the least of our brethren, <strong>and</strong> doing our absolute<br />

level best to avoid the wolf herring.<br />

Brian Doyle is the author of Thirsty for the Joy: Australian & American Voices.<br />

Page Page 22 23

Love story<br />

by Chris Beck<br />

The shared experiences between people <strong>and</strong> dogs make for a life the dogless can only<br />

dream about: a walk in the park, a run along the beach, a snuggle on the couch on a<br />

rainy afternoon, the sharing of snacks, the laughing at each other’s jokes (sight gags), the<br />

naps together (no fidgeting).<br />

The fun <strong>and</strong> games—ball throwing, stick tossing, bird chasing, kite demolishing, shoe<br />

chewing, sausage stealing—foster a connection second to none.<br />

On that evening stroll he clears the area of any suspicious looking cats (<strong>and</strong> just to<br />

make sure, the innocent-looking ones too). He investigates the bushes in the park <strong>and</strong><br />

runs through the puddles, checks out the trees, pokes his nose everywhere, all the while<br />

checking you’re still there.<br />

At the beach he swims towards you with pure love <strong>and</strong> affection in his eyes <strong>and</strong> just as his<br />

nails dig into your skin, he licks your face to muffle the screams. And when Rover leaps<br />

into the back of the car wet <strong>and</strong> covered in s<strong>and</strong>, avoiding the towel you placed carefully<br />

on the seat, you sigh <strong>and</strong> roll down the window so he can feel the wind through his hair.<br />

Rover sits attentively <strong>and</strong> listens while you complain about the loss of the corner shop<br />

to multi-nationals <strong>and</strong> the madness of progress, when all he really wants is some positive<br />

feedback about the hole he just dug in the front garden. Then you’ll scratch him in that<br />

special place that makes his hind leg twitch. And you both feel better.<br />

At obedience classes Rover st<strong>and</strong>s to attention, rolls over, sits, drops, pretends to like<br />

children <strong>and</strong> maintains a safe distance from an enticing, tasty treat for god-knows-whatreason,<br />

while you st<strong>and</strong> in the shade because you feel a little faint. Then you both go<br />

home <strong>and</strong> fight over space on the couch.<br />

The help dogs offer can’t be bought. Rover comes up smiling with that daggy look on his<br />

face, offering his arse to kick if you’ve had a bad day—though you never actually kick it.<br />

He selflessly guards the house all by himself, bored out of his mind <strong>and</strong> busting to go<br />

to the toilet, just so your stereo is still there when you get back from that all day outing.<br />

And when you get home <strong>and</strong> the contents of the bin are strewn throughout the house,<br />

you don the rubber gloves <strong>and</strong> cast an angry look his way. Five minutes later you offer<br />

him a biscuit.<br />

Rover barks every single time he hears the faintest glimmer of a noise, just in case you<br />

didn’t hear it. And when there’s a thunderstorm he burrows under the house to dig a<br />

shelter big enough for the whole family.<br />

The rapport is spooky. When you’re sick, a concerned Rover sits at the foot of the bed.<br />

When you’re sad Rover leaps into your arms <strong>and</strong> licks the pain away. When you’re feeling<br />

sorry for yourself Rover brings you the lead. And when you bath him, you get soaking<br />

wet—he makes sure of that.<br />

On that visit to the vet, you feel that cold hard thermometer going up his bottom in<br />

sympathy. And though he has a weight problem you won’t discuss it in front of him.<br />

Being with a dog means it’s OK to let your freak flag fly. You can play stupid games<br />

together <strong>and</strong> not feel stupid. But please remember that when you get drunk <strong>and</strong> dress<br />

him up as Elvis (the Vegas years) he is stone cold sober.<br />

The bonding of the beasts will go on for a long time yet. Long after the world has been<br />

concreted <strong>and</strong> sold off to the highest bidder, because dogs don’t care about money or fast<br />

cars, or revenge or power. They care about going for a walk.<br />

Chris Beck has written for The Age <strong>and</strong> other publications. Chris teaches Professional<br />

Writing <strong>and</strong> Editing. This piece was featured in the book, Dogs And Lovers.<br />

Page 23

The art of finding<br />

by Margaret McCarthy<br />

The art of finding is easy to master.<br />

A five cent piece from the gutter,<br />

Roads heading out of town,<br />

A window seat on a Boeing 747,<br />

An extra breath in my jumper.<br />

Finding myself<br />

In a city on my own,<br />

A sweet lover,<br />

A sour one.<br />

Finding friends with<br />

Easy conversation,<br />

Discovering joints, politics,<br />

Knowing more than I thought.<br />

Finding myself in<br />

A house of God,<br />

Without Him in it.<br />

I’ve found beach houses,<br />

H<strong>and</strong> written directions,<br />

Hard rubbish furniture as near as new,<br />

Squashed jewellery,<br />

Expired bus tickets,<br />

My own mother at a fair<br />

But things I lost—<br />

I found peace in crazy times,<br />

Good in everyone.<br />

I found out for myself<br />

What no one wants to know.<br />

I found a gold charm bracelet<br />

On the footpath,<br />

And took it home.<br />

Someone else’s flattened memories<br />

Along the path<br />

Towards the stray cats,<br />

Car seat, fire trap house of<br />

My lost property life.<br />

Margaret McCarthy is a Melbourne poet <strong>and</strong><br />

teaches Professional Writing <strong>and</strong> Editing at<br />

VU. This piece has previously been published<br />

in Eureka Street.<br />

Page Page 24 25

Suitcase of foreign collections<br />

by Alex<strong>and</strong>ra Pelevaniuc<br />

Composed of sophisticated <strong>and</strong><br />

organic charm,<br />

She is a soft memory of luscious foliage <strong>and</strong><br />

botanical beauties, a dainty perfume of forgotten flowers.<br />

She l<strong>and</strong>s delicately <strong>and</strong> shimmers<br />

in the midday sun,<br />

Her full leather body ample enough<br />

to carry documents is perfect for a summer stroll<br />

Voluminous, her exotic spices line<br />

the interior panels,<br />

Compartments are incessantly<br />

crammed with postcards <strong>and</strong> vintage wear,<br />

A soft whisper slides on the sea<br />

touching the lost corners of the globe,<br />

Her vibrancy emerges with eclectic elegance,<br />

Her ornament design is enriched<br />

with admirable craftsmanship,<br />

Attention to detail, only likened to<br />

that found in Mother Nature’s timeless work,<br />

Comes a goddess of eternal beauty<br />

An envied species torn between east<br />

<strong>and</strong> west,<br />

Awakened form a silver mist,<br />

She is an outl<strong>and</strong>ish piece<br />

of created bliss,<br />

Just simply a feminine accessory for the arm.<br />

Alex<strong>and</strong>ra Pelevaniuc is VU student.<br />

Page 25

Sunday far away<br />

Joy Barton<br />

Rickie always went to church, as did her husb<strong>and</strong>, Moss. I never go. I ab<strong>and</strong>oned religion<br />

after the Holocaust. But I was visiting them on their remote farm, after my husb<strong>and</strong> had<br />

died, <strong>and</strong> I wanted to be with them. I asked if I could go too. Of course they said yes, but<br />

Rickie warned me she always had to remember she was there for the service <strong>and</strong> not to<br />

laugh when Eva played the organ <strong>and</strong> sang.<br />

I remembered Eva. I had taught there fifty years before <strong>and</strong> now she would be ninety. It was<br />

a tiny stone church, set in among the tea-trees, graced with a font Moss had carved out of<br />

limestone. When we arrived we found only four congregated there—two older women, a<br />

young mum with her son, <strong>and</strong> Eva, sitting there in a vintage 40s coat three inches shorter<br />

than her dress wearing fingerless gloves. I greeted her with a kiss, <strong>and</strong> she said, ‘I have the<br />

flu. I can’t sing today.’ There went my chance of hysteria.<br />

We sat, this congregation of five, chatting while Moss waited outside to meet the minister,<br />

who visited once a month on circuit. He hadn’t arrived; Moss came in to tell us, <strong>and</strong> one of<br />

the older women said to him, ‘You will have to take it, Moss.’ So he did.<br />

We sang a hymn, Eva peddling away on the ancient organ as she had done forever. Opening<br />

the big bible in front of him on the altar, my friend turned the pages, peering intently at<br />

one.<br />

‘Oh, I don’t like the look of that,’ he said <strong>and</strong> kept turning.<br />

He found a passage on ‘Grief’ <strong>and</strong> read from it. I recognised the loving sympathy for me in<br />

his choice.<br />

We sang another hymn <strong>and</strong> at one stage Moss said, ‘If my wife had thought to bring some<br />

of my notes I might have had some help in this.’<br />

‘Come off it, Moss!’ called back his wife.<br />

He talked about the old history of the pioneering families who had lived there <strong>and</strong> of the<br />

hymn-writers, <strong>and</strong> the hour passed away, with comments from the small congregation.<br />

Back home, in our snug stone cottage beside the lake, Moss rang the minister who had<br />

forgotten. I asked him later if he had explained his own part in it.<br />

‘No,’ said Moss. ‘He wouldn’t think much of us if we couldn’t conduct our own service.’<br />

Joy Barton is part of the Kerrie Campus Writing Group.<br />

Page Page 26 27

Maybe tomorrow<br />

by James Button<br />

It has become a ritual. Clutching her<br />

resumé Jennifer Mead, twenty, takes the<br />

bus from her home on the city’s fringe to<br />

the CES, or to an interview for a job. She<br />

has done this for three years. This is the<br />

story of one person’s unrelenting struggle<br />

to find work.<br />

Jennifer Mead, twenty, has been looking<br />

for a job for three years. Every week she<br />

circles advertisements in the paper, makes<br />

phone calls, sends off resumés. At least<br />

twice a week she journeys from her home<br />

in the far northern suburb of Craigieburn<br />

to the CES office in Glenroy. There she<br />

takes a number <strong>and</strong> waits.<br />

On Saturday mornings Jennifer’s father,<br />

Alec, gets up early to buy The Age. He cuts<br />

out ads that sound promising <strong>and</strong> puts<br />

them in a pile, ready for when Jennifer gets<br />

up. If she looks doubtful, he urges her.<br />

‘You could do that, Jen, you’ve got those<br />

skills.’<br />

She has lost count of the jobs she has<br />

applied for, but knows it is in the<br />

hundreds. Although she has her VCE<br />

from Craigieburn Secondary College, <strong>and</strong><br />

completed basic hospitality <strong>and</strong> computer<br />

courses, most companies don’t reply to her<br />

applications.<br />

Still, she has a sheaf of rejection letters<br />

from: the Commonwealth Bank, Hungry<br />

Jacks, Transfield, Safeway. At one point<br />

last year she was getting a letter a day. One<br />

letter from Drake Personnel arrived twice<br />

within a few days. Jennifer smiles at that<br />

now. ‘If I was working for them, that sort<br />

of thing wouldn’t happen.’<br />

In the afternoon her parents bring in the<br />

mail. ‘Go on,’ they say, ‘open it.’<br />

‘There’s no point. If it’s a letter it means I<br />

didn’t get the job.’<br />

Sometimes, to console her, her father takes<br />

a rejection letter <strong>and</strong> throws it in the fire.<br />

‘Watch it burn, Jen. Watch it burn.’<br />

For a city interview, Jennifer has to walk<br />

for fifteen minutes, ride a bus for half an<br />

hour into Broadmeadows, <strong>and</strong> then make<br />

a thirty-five minute train trip into town.<br />

By then she has to prepare herself again, so<br />

she uses the Flinders Street Station toilets<br />

to redo her lipstick <strong>and</strong> brush her windblown<br />

hair. The light is dingy, the room<br />

smells.<br />

She likes to arrive an hour early, to locate<br />

the building. She’d hate to be flustered<br />

at the interview. Once she knows where<br />

to go, she finds a café. She never drinks<br />

coffee—it might smell on her breath—or<br />

Coke, which might make her burp. She<br />

sips juice, reads her book <strong>and</strong> waits.<br />

She has come so close to what she calls ‘the<br />

magical job’ that fits her skills. She had<br />

three interviews <strong>and</strong> a medical for a food<br />

<strong>and</strong> beverage job at Crown Casino before<br />

the axe fell. Late last year she got a second<br />

interview for a clerical position with a<br />

computer company on Southbank.<br />

The interviewer asked what she expected<br />

to be paid, showed her the desk she would<br />

fill, <strong>and</strong> where she could park. He asked<br />

questions that made her think, yep, for<br />

sure. He was a bit daggy, which she liked.<br />

They had a few laughs <strong>and</strong> even chatted<br />

about his favourite music. Despite all her<br />

knock-backs, Jennifer got really excited.<br />

The job, she decided, was heaven-sent.<br />

Then the letter came. When she collected<br />

herself <strong>and</strong> rang the company for<br />

feedback—‘to find out what I was doing<br />

wrong’—the response was familiar: ‘Your<br />

application was excellent. We just found<br />

someone more appropriate.’<br />

Although national unemployment remains<br />

at 8.6 percent, <strong>and</strong> although Jennifer has<br />

many friends who are unemployed, she<br />

blames herself for her predicament. After<br />

finishing her VCE in 1993, she was torn<br />

between further study <strong>and</strong> work. She<br />

worried that she might finish four more<br />

years of study with no work experience.<br />

‘I totally made the wrong decision. I am<br />

still whipping myself. I feel like I have let<br />

myself down so much.’<br />

Job hunting brought unexpected shocks.<br />

At seventeen she was shy about asking<br />

street directions. She is more confident<br />

Page 27

now, but was appalled when one interviewer<br />

lectured her that her neckline was too low,<br />

her shoes <strong>and</strong> necklace all wrong. Jennifer<br />

hurried home trying to cover her blouse.<br />

For a year she worked casually as a room<br />

attendant at the YWCA, but 6 a.m. starts<br />

<strong>and</strong> requests that she begin work in a few<br />

hours made the job impossible. She does<br />

computer work for her parents’ home<br />

businesses. She has good friends <strong>and</strong> a<br />

bright ready laugh.<br />

The fourth of five children, she was the first<br />

in the family to do her VCE.<br />

‘It was always going to be me that had the<br />

job <strong>and</strong> went far.’<br />

Both her parents have two jobs. Her father,<br />

who does promotions for Workcover <strong>and</strong> is<br />

a part-time masseur, is at a loss to explain<br />

his daughter’s bad luck.<br />

‘She’s a lovely kid. She’s got a great<br />

personality, she’s got the skills. To her credit<br />

she just keeps trying...we hate to see her<br />

hurting so much, but what can you do? You<br />

can’t actually buy them a job,’ he says.<br />

‘Work For the Dole’, declared a newspaper<br />

headline on the Meads’ living room table.<br />

The proposal floated by Prime Minister<br />

John Howard, put unemployment back<br />

in the news. Jennifer likes the idea if it<br />

gives her skills that would help her get a<br />

permanent job. From what she’s read, she’s<br />

not sure that is the case.<br />

‘Still, I’d do it. I’d rather be out there.’<br />

On Tuesday morning Jennifer calls a contact<br />

in a CES office, who tells her about some<br />

jobs that might suit her. Because she may<br />

have to go straight from the CES to an<br />

interview, she dresses in her best clothes:<br />

a dark suit with a green blouse. She wears<br />

platform soles to give her more height.<br />

Beside the newspaper is her sketch book.<br />

Her passion is art. Four of her pieces were<br />

chosen for the walls of her old school, <strong>and</strong><br />

still hang there. But it never occurred to her<br />

that art might lead to work or to further<br />

study.<br />

The family lives right on the city’s edge. To<br />

reach the bus stop, Jennifer walks across<br />

vacant lots <strong>and</strong> treeless parks. The winding<br />

streets full of new homes are empty, save the<br />

occasional woman pushing a pram. There<br />

isn’t a shop in sight, let alone an office or a<br />

factory.<br />

On the bus she meets a friend who is job<br />

hunting with a stack of resumés in her<br />

bag. Recounting her experiences so far, she<br />

is laughing, optimistic. The bus trundles<br />

down the Hume Highway. At the Ford<br />

factory, the friend says she might st<strong>and</strong> at<br />

the intersection <strong>and</strong> h<strong>and</strong> cars her resumé.<br />

Jennifer sits back <strong>and</strong> says quietly, ‘I was like<br />

that when I started, too.’<br />

An hour after leaving home Jennifer enters<br />

the CES, <strong>and</strong> takes a number. The office<br />

is crowded. Jennifer waits twenty minutes.<br />

In her h<strong>and</strong> is a piece of paper with the<br />

job descriptions written down: lingerie<br />

retail, <strong>and</strong> clerical work with a mechanic in<br />

Airport West.<br />

At 11:55 a.m. with her number next to be<br />

called, a CES clerk puts up a sign: NO JOB<br />


12PM AND 2PM. Jennifer groans. ‘I don’t<br />

believe it.’<br />

By 2 p.m. the jobs have gone.<br />

Jennifer hears the news n the city office<br />

of her case manager, Jane Norris, who has<br />

access to the CES Computer. Ms Norris<br />

works for Employment Express, one of the<br />

private companies to offer case management<br />

after the Labor Government introduced<br />

one-on-one support for the long-term job<br />

seekers in 1994.<br />

On her desk, Ms Norris has some other<br />

vacancies. A city jeweler wants a clerk;<br />

a personnel firm wants part-timer who<br />

qualifies, as Jennifer does, for a Jobstart<br />

subsidy.<br />

‘What about coming in for twenty hours a<br />

week?’ Ms Norris asks.<br />

Jennifer shrugs <strong>and</strong> smiles. ‘If it’s a job I’ll<br />

take it.’<br />

‘Or a job with Melbourne Pathology. Is<br />

Fitzroy too hard to get to?’ Ms Norris asks.<br />

Page Page 28 29

‘No, no. I’ve got a great friend in Fitzroy. I<br />

can probably stay with her.’<br />

Although she manages 130 unemployed<br />

people, Ms Norris has a special fondness<br />

for Jennifer, whom she sees regularly.<br />

She tries to keep her optimistic; their<br />

conversation is playful. Ms Norris believes<br />

Jennifer would appeal to most employers<br />

face-to-face, but lacks the weighty resume<br />

to get her in the door. ‘Jennifer, she’s a<br />

bright girl, she’s punctual, willing to go<br />

anywhere, do anything. She’s constantly<br />

calling me up...I have absolute faith I will<br />

find Jennifer a job.’<br />

While Ms Norris makes calls <strong>and</strong> faxes<br />

resumes on her client’s behalf, Jennifer<br />

gets back on the train. She passes inner<br />

northern suburbs that grew up last century<br />

around workshops <strong>and</strong> small factories.<br />

Further on are Glenroy <strong>and</strong><br />

Broadmeadows, which drew post-war<br />

migrants in search of work at Ford <strong>and</strong><br />

other factories. The suburbs are like<br />

geological strata, showing a city built<br />

through work—until you come to the<br />

outer suburbs, <strong>and</strong> no work.<br />

On Wednesday, Jennifer gets a call from<br />

Ms Norris, who has arranged an interview<br />

with an engineering firm in the city. It’s a<br />

job in the mail room. Is she nervous?<br />

‘No, not now. I just take a deep breath <strong>and</strong><br />

go, “Oh well, we’ll see what happens.” I<br />

don’t get really excited anymore.’<br />

Still, the next day she puts on her best suit<br />

<strong>and</strong> an orange shirt. Her younger brother,<br />

Michael, carefully straightens her collar.<br />

She grabs her resumé <strong>and</strong> hair brush <strong>and</strong><br />

consults the bus timetable.<br />

Just before Broadmeadows the bus lurches<br />

<strong>and</strong> Jennifer’s suit almost collides with a<br />

huge chocolate stain on the back of a seat.<br />

In the city she notices her shirt has creased,<br />

She stretches it under a toilet h<strong>and</strong> dryer<br />

<strong>and</strong> the wrinkles disappear.<br />

Before the interview she sees Jane Norris<br />

for a pep talk. ‘Ask to be shown around,’<br />

Ms Norris advises. ‘Remember employers<br />

are nervous too <strong>and</strong> like to be put at ease.<br />

And good luck.’<br />

The interview lasts fifteen minutes. Yet<br />

Jennnifer emerges feeling positive. She<br />

thinks she did her best. The interviewer<br />

was friendly <strong>and</strong> smart.<br />

‘She said, “I’m not going to ask stupid<br />

questions like where you want to be in ten<br />

years.”’<br />

At the interview, Jennifer was shown the<br />

desk where she would work if she got<br />

the job. The interviewer asked about her<br />

parents. She <strong>and</strong> Jennifer had a joke about<br />

how much they liked massages. She said<br />

she would probably let Jennifer know the<br />

following day.<br />

At 5:00 p.m. Jennifer has not heard from<br />

the company. After all this time she is<br />

philosophical. What dogs her most is the<br />

thought of having wasted three years.<br />

‘I’ll be twenty-one in September, <strong>and</strong> I’ve<br />

done nothing. It wasn’t supposed to be this<br />

way.’<br />

She’s thinking about more computer<br />

courses, volunteer work. She’ll keep trying.<br />

‘At this stage of my life I don’t want a<br />

relationship, marriage, children, anything.<br />

I just want a job.’<br />

James Button was a journalist at the The Age<br />

<strong>and</strong> a senior editor.<br />

This piece was first published in The Age<br />

(1997).<br />

Page 29

How does your garden grow?<br />

VU students get a taste for the real world.<br />

by Pat Reid<br />

There’s something special about working away in a vegetable garden. Maybe it’s getting back<br />

in touch with nature, the soil under your nails <strong>and</strong> the dirt patches you get from working<br />

on your knees. Not only do VU students from the Footscray Nicholson Campus get plenty<br />

of therapeutic relaxation, but they develop heaps of great skills, giving them the confidence<br />

to enter the workforce.<br />

Take a short walk from the Nicholson Campus on Albert Street to find the VU community<br />

garden. The block is 15 x 50 metres, with a possibility of future expansion. The garden is<br />

impressive. Robust cabbages grow alongside silverbeet <strong>and</strong> spinach. The smell of cori<strong>and</strong>er<br />

<strong>and</strong> parsley drift through the air. VU School of General Education Programs <strong>and</strong> Services<br />

teacher, Majella Grainger, greets me enthusiastically, introducing me to each student as we<br />

w<strong>and</strong>er through the garden.<br />

‘For a lot of students, working in the garden is a first workplace. The garden is a simulated<br />

workplace that enriches the development of skills they’ll need to gain work experience or<br />

move into paid work,’ says Majella.<br />

Students ranging from sixteen to fifty-five years of age who are enrolled in the Certificates<br />

in General Education for Adults have a chance to become involved in this innovative<br />

gardening program through Certificate I in Horticulture. This program helps to develop<br />

their literacy <strong>and</strong> numeracy skills <strong>and</strong> employability skills.<br />

A group of students finish planting a line of fruit trees. Melissa spreads mulch around<br />

the tree bases. She says she likes working in a team <strong>and</strong> that Majella is a nice teacher.<br />

Nicholas walks around, clipboard in h<strong>and</strong>, filling out the weekly checklist. He’s a bit of a<br />

maintenance man, having fixed a leaking tap this morning. Down the back of the garden,<br />

Joshua shovels compost into a wheelbarrow. He has finished the course, but loves coming<br />

back to help out, saying, ‘I just like being here with the people.’ This once-vacant block of<br />

l<strong>and</strong> has now been transformed into a productive garden offering a range of innovative skills<br />

<strong>and</strong> learning experiences.<br />

Each week the students take on different working roles, such as team leader or filling in the<br />

weekly checklist. They negotiate who’s going to do what <strong>and</strong> make everything accountable.<br />

For example, the garden is established as a workplace, where students wear uniforms <strong>and</strong><br />

fill in time sheets. The students are encouraged to use skills in planning, organisation,<br />

communication, design, construction <strong>and</strong> problem solving, while also learning the<br />

importance of environmental education.<br />

Majella stresses, ‘Environmental education is essential to the project <strong>and</strong> includes<br />

sustainable gardening practices such as water conservation, crop rotation, garden waste<br />

recycling <strong>and</strong> worm farming.’<br />

Every month the produce is sold to students <strong>and</strong> staff at a market stall on the Nicholson<br />

Campus. The students are involved from the very beginning with harvesting the produce,<br />

calculating the sale price, keeping records <strong>and</strong> once the sale is over, working out how<br />

much money has been made. Usually the stall generates approximately $90 per month.<br />

The veggies are sold at a cheaper price than organic produce so you are getting a bargain<br />

considering they’re chemical free <strong>and</strong> freshly picked.<br />

Another inventive approach to this program is the emphasis on healthy nutritional choices.<br />

Page Page 30 31

Students discuss recipes, cook the produce <strong>and</strong> get to taste different types of vegetables.<br />

Majella believes when the students get involved in preparing the dishes, there is more of a<br />

chance they’ll eat it. ‘And that’s why I think it’s unique what we’re doing here; because it<br />

is a holistic learning environment…the garden offers an integration of so many skills.’<br />

This program has been running for eighteen months now <strong>and</strong> continues to evolve. Over<br />

seventeen sponsors are involved—VU, Burnley Horticulture College, Maribyrnong City<br />

Council, Home Hardware (Footscray), Flemings Nurseries, Hanson <strong>and</strong> Shed Bonanza<br />

are just a few.<br />

‘We couldn’t have built this garden without these partnerships,’ says Majella. Recently a<br />

student has gained regular part-time employment through Home Hardware.<br />

In 2009 the Certificate II in Horticulture (L<strong>and</strong>scape) will begin to run over two years.<br />

There are other programs coming into the garden, such as Western Futures, where<br />

students come in to work on the herb bed; the VU Child Care Centre also tends a bed.<br />

There is hope that an Indigenous food garden will be established at the back of the plot.<br />

This would offer students the opportunity to grow traditional bush tucker, learn how to<br />

prepare the foods <strong>and</strong> even use them for medicinal purposes.<br />

‘Our vision is to set up a partnership with the Aboriginal community <strong>and</strong> it would<br />

revolve around an Indigenous garden with bush food plants, storytelling <strong>and</strong> an<br />

Aboriginal person representing the Koorie community bringing in h<strong>and</strong>s-on experience<br />

<strong>and</strong> knowledge,’ says Majella.<br />

Further plans include a community café where the focus is on the garden becoming a<br />

place for everyone in the community. A few locals recently came through the gates to say<br />

‘hi’ <strong>and</strong> left with some free veggies. A café would not only benefit the locals but open up<br />

opportunities for students to learn hospitality skills.<br />

Majella says, ‘The garden has many facets, but an important aspect is to give students the<br />

opportunity to be empowered, to give them the opportunity to share their knowledge<br />

<strong>and</strong> skills, to build their self-esteem <strong>and</strong>, hopefully, a pathway for them into further study<br />

or employment.’<br />

Majella gathers her students together at the end of today’s session asking them, ‘What<br />

have you achieved today?’<br />

Andrew says he moved compost bins, making more room.<br />

Shane adds cheekily, ‘I didn’t do anything. I’m innocent!’<br />

Nicholas was the resource man.<br />

Tony was everywhere.<br />

Majella says, ‘The students have done it all. They created it. And within the group they<br />

pass on their knowledge—so invaluable. They teach me <strong>and</strong> that’s the thing, we are all<br />

learning.’<br />

Pat Reid is a Professional Writing <strong>and</strong> Editing student at VU.<br />

Page 31

The estate of the philosopher<br />

by Paul Yeatman<br />

Pondering the rising of the moon<br />

So soon the sky turns to slate.<br />

The streetlights popped.<br />

At the lights the traffic stopped.<br />

Over the encircling wall<br />

The ball of the moonlight heaves.<br />

Colourbond glows.<br />

The sound of the highway traffic slows.<br />

We should’ve spent the fifty gr<strong>and</strong><br />

We planned to buy across the park.<br />

Regrets flowed.<br />

Someone parked across the road.<br />

The air conditioner’s gentle hum<br />

The thrum of the fountain’s pump.<br />

A buzz of voices.<br />

We had so many choices.<br />

The agent showed us plots with a view<br />

A few were over by the lake.<br />

Money’s down.<br />

At least we’re in this blessed town.<br />

The double story was the pick<br />

They’re thick on the ground over there.<br />

Fifty gr<strong>and</strong>.<br />

I could’ve made a stronger st<strong>and</strong>.<br />

She’ll be home soon.<br />

The moon is getting higher.<br />

Pergola dreaming.<br />

Somewhere ACDC’s screaming.<br />

The double garage is what sold me<br />

You see we need two cars.<br />

We both work.<br />

But on weekends we go berserk.<br />

This is the life<br />

The wife <strong>and</strong> I have made it.<br />

That new house smell.<br />

All our friends think we’ve done well.<br />

Excepting I don’t like this street.<br />

It’s neat but too many kids around.<br />

White st<strong>and</strong>ard roses.<br />

At least we’re away from those damned<br />

bulldozers.<br />

We can’t decide on televisions.<br />

Decisions—LCD or plasma?<br />

A car door.<br />

Is that her returning from the store?<br />

This is the life<br />

The wife <strong>and</strong> I have made it.<br />

Backyard delight.<br />

I wonder what the poor people are doing<br />

tonight?<br />

Think I’ll have another glass.<br />

All class the houses ‘round here are.<br />

A shooting star.<br />

I’m pretty sure that that’s her car.<br />

After the TV we’ll get the pool<br />

It’s cool to have one in the yard.<br />

We’ve got good stuff.<br />

I feel sorry for those who do it tough.<br />

This is the life<br />

The wife <strong>and</strong> I have made it.<br />

Fantastic weather.<br />

I wish we had more time together.<br />

It’s nice to have a quiet think<br />

And drink while waiting here.<br />

A bit more dough…<br />

I’d rather watch a TV show.<br />

I’m sick of waiting every night<br />

Half tight, waiting for her to come.<br />

Blasted shop.<br />

This second job will have to stop.<br />

Paul Yeatman is a Melbourne writer <strong>and</strong><br />

<strong>Victoria</strong>n school principal.<br />

Page Page 32 33

Beautiful Girl<br />

by George Athanasiou<br />

She’s a beautiful girl<br />

Her face picturesque, drenched in an ocean of<br />

curls<br />

That makes up the str<strong>and</strong>s of her hair<br />

Her endearing face untainted by make-up<br />

Her eyes small, gazing, sharp <strong>and</strong> penetrating<br />

Warm <strong>and</strong> glowing like a couple of campfires<br />

Glistening in the darkness from a distance<br />

Like beacons of light<br />

Paving the way to the depths of her soul<br />

She’s left the windows open again<br />

But it’s warm inside her mind<br />

The lights are slightly down low but she’s<br />

thinking…<br />

While he writes<br />

Drawing from her<br />

Sculpting words into an exquisite work of art<br />

He knows she will always have a place in his<br />

heart<br />

After all she’s always been his favourite<br />

sculpture<br />

As he’s tinkering away at her<br />

Whether she’s out at the cinema watching a<br />

film on her own<br />

Or staying at home tonight<br />

Drenched by the same picturesque ocean of<br />

curls<br />

That makes up the str<strong>and</strong>s of her hair<br />

She knows what to wear too<br />

Today she’s wearing a smile<br />

The likes of which he hasn’t seen in a while<br />

Ever beautiful in appearance<br />

As her image penetrates the very depths of his<br />

mind<br />

He can see inside her personality<br />

As warm <strong>and</strong> as inviting as the sun drenched<br />

s<strong>and</strong>s of the beach in summer<br />

Blue skies on a cloudless clear day<br />

Beautiful in every way<br />

Her face picturesque, drenched in an ocean of<br />

curls<br />

That makes up the str<strong>and</strong>s of her wavy hair<br />

Like the waves of the ocean<br />

Gently caressing the shore <strong>and</strong> the s<strong>and</strong><br />

As it desires more water<br />

To quench its thirst from the heat of the sun<br />

The sea breeze quickly alleviates its pain<br />

Just as the sun <strong>and</strong> the day give in to the moon<br />

On a clear night littered with stars.<br />

George Athanasiou is a Professional Writing<br />

<strong>and</strong> Editing student at VU.<br />

Page 33

Nails<br />

by Tom Petsinis<br />

I shake the tartan tin awake,<br />

Struggle with its lid, rust-sealed, tight.<br />

Arising from the nest of nails,<br />

You take me by heart,<br />

Remind me with half a smile:<br />

Luck’s never found looking up.<br />

A boy, eyes glowing still<br />

From last night’s thunderstorm,<br />

You prospect the village,<br />

Thinking as your pockets fill:<br />

They’re also from gr<strong>and</strong>father-God,<br />

Like silver rain, lightning bolts.<br />

Some go back fifty years<br />

To Fitzroy’s blue-stone lanes;<br />

Others, extracted with joy<br />

From hardwood boards <strong>and</strong> beams,<br />

You tapped lightly on a brick-<br />

A chiropractor of crooked spines.<br />

Sitting on a home-made bench,<br />

Tin on knees, you’re looking for<br />

A tack to close my gaping sole,<br />

A brad for Mum’s curtain rod,<br />

A grey clout to keep evening light<br />

Slipping our corrugated fence.<br />

It’s a decade since you died,<br />

But they remain, a legacy of sorts,<br />

Set by your galvanising touch.<br />

I see you in the shape of my h<strong>and</strong><br />

Rummaging for the nail<br />

That crucifies father to son.<br />

Tom Petsinis is a lecturer at VU.<br />

This piece is from the collection,<br />

My Father’s Tools (Arcadia 2009).<br />

Available in VU bookshops.<br />

Page Page 34 35

If only for the moments<br />

by Fiona.L.Browning<br />

If only for the moments,<br />

I walk this weary tread.<br />

If only for the moments,<br />

I crawl out of my bed.<br />

If only for the moments,<br />

I had all trace of tears.<br />

If only for the moments,<br />

I silence all my fears.<br />

If only for the moments,<br />

I say the voices are quiet.<br />

If only for the moments<br />

I hide when they run riot.<br />

If only for the moments,<br />

I cross over the bridge.<br />

If only for the moments,<br />

I stay back from the ridge.<br />

If only for the moments,<br />

When I hold my children tight.<br />

For those safe <strong>and</strong> happy moments,<br />

I hang in for another night.<br />

Fiona.L.Browning is a Professional Writing <strong>and</strong> Editing student at VU.<br />

Page 35

Meteor Shower<br />

by Helen Garner<br />

I’m on my way to get a view of the Leonid Meteor Shower, whatever the hell that is.<br />

I couldn’t give a damn about the science. I just want to witness a heavenly spectacle.<br />

Apparently it’s on at 3.30 a.m. I’ve brought my alarm clock.<br />

I peel off the highway at Werribee <strong>and</strong> head west across the stony, wind-scoured, volcanic<br />

plain. Under tremendous pale cloudscapes, I cruise along back roads that run dead straight<br />

for miles, hitting up against each other in a series of dramatic T-intersections. Out here,<br />

whatever the weather, the world is always beautiful, full of wonders <strong>and</strong> surprises.<br />

Once, when my daughter was a teenager, we spotted, 100 metres ahead of us on this road,<br />

a mini-bus packed with men in uniform. Back then I drove a Renault 16. It was summer,<br />

<strong>and</strong> over the grassy plain a warm wind was blowing. In our fluttering clothes we felt<br />

sophisticated <strong>and</strong> sexy. As we caught up with the bus, we fluffed our hair, stuck our elbows<br />

out the windows <strong>and</strong> adopted lithe bored poses. I pulled out to pass. We glanced casually<br />

up at the bus. They weren’t soldiers. They were middle-aged Japanese tourists in floppy<br />

cotton hats.<br />

When she still had her P-plates, I let the girl drive one of the empty stretches of this twolane<br />

blacktop. In broad daylight she nearly wiped us out. She over-corrected after a small<br />

bump, <strong>and</strong> suddenly we were zigzagging from verge to verge in wild sweeps. It took her fifty<br />

metres to get the car under control. She pulled off the bitumen. We threw open the doors,<br />

leaped out on trembling legs, <strong>and</strong> hobbled about on the gravel as if we’d been stabbed,<br />

cursing <strong>and</strong> screaming <strong>and</strong> crying with laughter.<br />

On our way home, the next night, we flew over a small rise on the loneliest stretch, <strong>and</strong><br />

picked up in our headlights, in the middle of the road, a figure with its arms out in a big<br />

curve, its legs capering, its face split by a manic rictus. It was a man dancing.<br />

And once, on a blazing day of forty degrees, I stopped for a hitch-hiker who was plodding<br />

along at least ten miles from a dwelling or shop. He opened the car door <strong>and</strong> hopped<br />

in, smiling. In his h<strong>and</strong> was a still unbitten banana Paddle Pop, its hard yellow surface<br />

glistening with tiny points of ice.<br />

Anyway, this is now, <strong>and</strong> I’m bumping along a rutted track to the piece of l<strong>and</strong> that once<br />

was mine but belongs these days to my sister. Here are the collapsing sheds near the gate,<br />

here are the big purple irises. Here is the ver<strong>and</strong>ah neatly stacked with wood. Here is the<br />

steep gully with the black dam at its very bottom, while the late sun still brightens the<br />

opposite ridge.<br />

It’s daylight savings but the evening is cold. I light a fire in the wood stove. Now—what<br />

about these blooming meteors. The Bureau of Meteorology said to look to the north-east.<br />

Clouds cluster more thickly there than anywhere else in the sky. I light the c<strong>and</strong>les <strong>and</strong><br />

crack open the flagon of sherry.<br />

At three a.m. the alarm goes off. I sit up <strong>and</strong> look out the window. Yay! Stars! It’s bloody<br />

freezing. I pull on, over my pyjamas, every rag of clothing the shack contains, drag on my<br />

boots, boil the kettle, <strong>and</strong> clump out on to the grassy hill. And there I st<strong>and</strong> for an hour,<br />

holding a hot water bottle to my chest <strong>and</strong> staring doggedly to the north-east.<br />

What a sky! The slow beat of the big bodies, the colossal lacy field of the small. What am<br />

I looking for? A peppering? A cataract of light? Should I expect a sound? A roar? A sharp<br />

patter? All around me, on the ground, I hear only the usual tiny clickings <strong>and</strong> rustlings,<br />

the rhythmic frog choir in the dam. A mating koala lets out a discontented, guttural rattle.<br />

Come on! What’s the hold-up?<br />

Page Page 36 37

A long fast streak of white rips across the sky. Oh! A second white bolt bursts straight up<br />

from the horizon. And here comes a third! Yaaaaaaah!<br />

They were fast, all right, but were they meant to be so small <strong>and</strong> colourless? I wait <strong>and</strong><br />

wait. Nothing more happens. My feet are cold. My neck starts to hurt. Then a sheet of<br />

fine, grey-brown cloud materialises briskly across the north-eastern sky <strong>and</strong> blots out<br />

everything. Can I go now?<br />

I crawl back under the doona, berating myself. I should have crossed the Divide, or gone<br />

to a desert. What a flop I am. I picture vast tracts of North African s<strong>and</strong> strewn with<br />

spread-eagled, ecstatic nomads. I imagine Arctic fishermen pausing from the flensing of<br />

enormous seals <strong>and</strong> gazing up into a sky torn by roseate fireballs with trails of fluorescent<br />

turquoise. I envy every Arab, every Eskimo.<br />

As I doze off, though, I remember that even in this misty gully, three heavenly objects did<br />

pass overhead. Three. And I saw them. The famous meteor shower may have gone about<br />

its celestial business without consulting me, but it did not entirely escape my vigilance.<br />

Helen Garner is the acclaimed author of The Spare Room <strong>and</strong> many others. This piece was<br />

first published in The Age (2001).<br />

Page 37

Rooku<br />

by VU’s Creative Writing Class, Altona Meadows<br />

Black’n’white TV days<br />

A delicate crater moon<br />

The flag begins to wave<br />

by Dave<br />

Midnight<br />

A full moon<br />

Shadows<br />

Computers<br />

Connect to the world<br />

Skype<br />

by Sylvia<br />

In the lucky country<br />

At a suburban pokies venue<br />

Dad is lucky<br />

by Rob<br />

Foggy shore—<br />

St<strong>and</strong>ing figure silently weeps<br />

Floating garl<strong>and</strong><br />

by Angela<br />

Young fat child<br />

Who is going to look after<br />

You?<br />

by Abi<br />

Sea water<br />

Protected in the bay<br />

Unruffled feathers glide<br />

by Louise<br />

Same self<br />

What did I do to deserve<br />

An absence of dreams<br />

Evening clouds caressed by pink<br />

In the car<br />

Kids laugh over Nintendo<br />

Mid-life crisis<br />

On a park bench<br />

So little has changed<br />

by Halyna<br />

Library at closing time<br />

Stacking shelves<br />

With books<br />

Morning walk in the woods<br />

Playing ball with the dog<br />

Among the trees<br />

by Doreen<br />

Battle of Birds<br />

Thrush chases crow<br />

Speckled brown ruffles sleep black dappled<br />

victory<br />

by Elena<br />

Empty church grounds<br />

Inside the lead light filled church<br />

He kneels, head bowed in prayer<br />

by Lee<br />

Rookus are three-line poems. The form is the invention of Melbourne poet, Myron<br />

Lysenko, <strong>and</strong> draws from the Japanese Haiku.<br />

Page Page 38 39

Death of a patriot<br />

by Megan Green<br />

myn love,<br />

it’s no right, what they did to ye<br />

i fought, with impassable madness<br />

to avenge yer slaying<br />

blood <strong>and</strong> duodenum wis spilt, aye,<br />

an’ fer the days of my remainder, i be at war with the English<br />

ye have gone from me now,<br />

i canna describe the plague that rots at ma disposition<br />

thay took our l<strong>and</strong>s <strong>and</strong> hooses<br />

<strong>and</strong> i stood<br />

at the place where only remains the blood of ye<br />

i swore<br />

no longer shall thay circumscribe<br />

our souls for the crust thay call King<br />

gothic limbs shall no prevail<br />

seeded navels of our own kind linger still<br />

bring forth generic survival<br />

of the generational kind<br />

ma love, ye must not fret, for implanted is ane, not of his line, bot of mines<br />

bot ma heart knows no falter<br />

suppose this<br />

let it be foresaid, that i, fought, no for na maner of revenge<br />

bot in case thay took from mines, soul an’ breath, from mines ayre, laid buried<br />

in an ither<br />

thay think thay have won<br />

becos i bleed aneath thaim<br />

a condemmed man<br />

man Claidheamh-mor cannae save me<br />

bot, lass, now, gratefully, i lay down aside ye<br />

Megan Green is a Melbourne writer <strong>and</strong> editor.<br />

Page 39

Gr<strong>and</strong>father’s last lesson<br />

by Cam Black<br />

By the time he was in his late eighties, my Gr<strong>and</strong>father was very ill: problems with<br />

digestion, breathing, <strong>and</strong> his mobility hindered by very bad arthritis. Physically he had<br />

become a shell of what he had been. But his mind, his imagination, never slowed. And he<br />

never stopped talking to me, telling stories, <strong>teaching</strong> me new ways of looking at life.<br />

Of all the lessons he taught me, I remember none more so than his last.<br />

I remember that day he had me to drive him to our favourite lookout—the high cliffs<br />

overlooking the bay around which our town sat. When he’d been stronger <strong>and</strong> healthier we<br />

would go there regularly to sit high up on the edge of the cliffs <strong>and</strong> he’d tell me about the<br />

tanker vessels we could see in the distance <strong>and</strong> his time as a seaman. He’d point out birds<br />

flying by, <strong>and</strong> sea creatures far below on the rocks <strong>and</strong> swimming in the shallows, <strong>and</strong> tell<br />

me strange tales of how they got their names—tales that I knew were fantastic, but which<br />

somehow fit each creature they were about. And sometimes we’d go at night to watch stars<br />

<strong>and</strong> planets, the occasional satellite, <strong>and</strong> the stories would continue.<br />

The day of his last lesson I drove him out to the lookout <strong>and</strong> helped him up the short track<br />

to the cliff edge where we sat in silence <strong>and</strong> just looked out over the bay for a while. It felt<br />

good being there with him again. I’d been up here a lot by myself, but I hadn’t realised how<br />

much I’d missed him being there with me.<br />

‘You remember how old you were when I first brought you here, lad?’<br />

‘Yeah, Gramps, about five or six. I thought we were so high up I could see across the world.’<br />

He chuckled, a slightly wet wheeze of a noise I tried not to think about. ‘I know what you<br />

mean. I was about the same age when my old man first sat me down here to look out over<br />

the world. I remember watching the birds fly past <strong>and</strong> thinking we were high enough that<br />

if I jumped off here I could fly with them <strong>and</strong> head out over the bay, out over the sea <strong>and</strong><br />

never touch ground again.’<br />

I sat there imagining my gr<strong>and</strong>father flying out over the sea, free as a bird.<br />

‘That’s why I worked the sea later, out there on trawlers hauling all sorts of strange creatures<br />

up from the deep. But I never did stop imagining myself up in the clouds with the gulls<br />

that followed us around. Even remember the first time I saw an albatross way out at sea,<br />

days from l<strong>and</strong>, way up above us, <strong>and</strong> gliding along all peaceful <strong>and</strong> calm with wings that<br />

seemed wide enough to encompass the sky.’<br />

I looked at him, his aged familiar profile staring up at the sky with a dreamy look on his<br />

face, picturing himself flying across the world <strong>and</strong> loving him for the imagination he always<br />

took the time to share with me.<br />

‘Life’s a funny old trip, lad.’ He continued, still staring into the sky. ‘It’ll twist <strong>and</strong> turn on<br />

you, take you places you’d never expect, <strong>and</strong> they’re not all gonna be happy. But remember,<br />

whatever she throws at you, life is to be lived; you grab whatever it is <strong>and</strong> you squeeze all<br />

you can out of each little twist <strong>and</strong> turn. And if it’s a bum turn, you get all you can from<br />

it; look at it from every way you can <strong>and</strong> remember it for later, ‘cause there’s always some<br />

beauty to be found anywhere, no matter how bad it may seem at the time.’<br />

He turned to me then, the light in his eyes bright, put a h<strong>and</strong> on my shoulder, smiled <strong>and</strong><br />

flipped me a wink. ‘Time to fly, lad.’<br />

I sat there for a while thinking about what he’d said, then pulled out the binoculars we<br />

Page Page 40 41

always brought up there with us, the one’s he’d given me so many years before, <strong>and</strong><br />

looked down from the cliff edge at his body. He’d made it out past most of the rocks <strong>and</strong><br />

had slipped into the water. His blood stained some of the rocks <strong>and</strong> was a dissipating<br />

cloud in the water in which many small fish were starting to collect. Some of the more<br />

adventurous ones were beginning to nibble at him, <strong>and</strong> I thought of how he’d appreciate<br />

that—how fitting to return to the sea from which he’d drawn so much of his life.<br />

I sat there for a long time, until long after it was too dark to see him down in the water,<br />

watching the stars come out <strong>and</strong> thinking. And I knew that I’d never forget, at that<br />

moment, how young <strong>and</strong> graceful <strong>and</strong> free, how beautiful he had looked, the day my<br />

gr<strong>and</strong>father finally flew.<br />

Cam Black is a Melbourne poet.<br />

Page 41

Fudge<br />

by Initially NO<br />

I was once given a teddy bear<br />

Whose name was Fudge.<br />

I didn’t much care for the bear.<br />

But I took him with me<br />

When I left that place<br />

Because the fellow<br />

Who gave him to me<br />

Wanted to stick marshmallows<br />

Up Fudge’s behind<br />

And get him to cross borders<br />

And stuff. And I thought, stuff that<br />

You’re not doing that to Fudge.<br />

So I took the bear with me<br />

When I left that house<br />

And put him in the cupboard<br />

Of my new home.<br />

Bit cruel, sticking him in there<br />

All squashed in. But anyway…<br />

Wasn’t until sometime later<br />

That I took him<br />

To a nearby opportunity store.<br />

They looked at Fudge<br />

And said there was<br />

Something spooky about the bear.<br />

And I said, don’t judge him for his past,<br />

Some things are best left sewn up.<br />

They sold him eventually<br />

Inittially NO is a Melbourne Poet<br />

To a person who was really sweet.<br />

And had lots of other teddy bears<br />

For Fudge to meet;<br />

All of which got to travel overseas<br />

With things stuffed in their behind<br />

To be checked by overbearing<br />

Border-crossing officialese.<br />

Eventually, Fudge got caught<br />

Trying to take some smarties<br />

To far-off countries.<br />

And got barred<br />

From ever using his passport again.<br />

He ended up in a police locker.<br />

Jammed in so tight, quite a shocker.<br />

My cupboard had nothing on that.<br />

By then he had lost some of his stuffing<br />

As well as his transportation job<br />

And the poor bear felt like<br />

He had been robbed of the good life<br />

He might’ve had<br />

Just doing the marshmallows,<br />

For the first fellow<br />

Who thought of the possibilities<br />

Of using the bear’s behind<br />

For work…of a scary beary kind.<br />

Page Page 42 43

Queen<br />

by Elan Hunter<br />

To my Queen,<br />

My safe haven in the dark<br />

Your castle light has dimmed now,<br />

But you have ruled your kingdom well.<br />

Your people will march forward<br />

With strength, honesty<br />

And a pride<br />

That allows us to bow<br />

To no other but you.<br />

Dedicated to Ruby (Rene) Linda Barnett—my GG.<br />

Elan Hunter is a Youth Studies student at VU.<br />

Declare<br />

by Lorraine Jane Allport<br />

Shall imply, you know not I, what I have<br />

become<br />

Trial <strong>and</strong> tribulations overcome<br />

Times a living hell, stories I could tell<br />

For I am not weak but strong<br />

Now know, where I belong<br />

Do declare, you have not been there<br />

Scantily, came charity<br />

Lies <strong>and</strong> deceit, time to retreat<br />

Feelings denied, found places to hide<br />

Quite bizarre, how shallow you are<br />

Interjection for protection<br />

Cried, while human right denied<br />

Victim from abuse of power, left to cower<br />

Hails, free will now prevails<br />

Talk not to me of humanity, compassion <strong>and</strong><br />

equality<br />

Do declare, I have been there<br />

Lorraine Jane Allport studied Creative<br />

Writing at VU.<br />

To my queen, rest now<br />

Knowing you have done all<br />

You came here to do.<br />

But always know<br />

…I loved you madly.<br />

Page 43

Pulsing blue lights in the third<br />

A short story by Michael Seebach<br />

Pulsing blue lights, the energy rises from the ground almost electric <strong>and</strong> spreads, nearly fifty<br />

bodies bounce into the air <strong>and</strong> crash at the proper climax. The techno beats resonate loudly<br />

throughout the club floor as Paul Van Dyke’s latest hit pounds out of the wall speakers. A<br />

peppy set of lyrics echoes out by a woman in the sexiest come-hither voice that’s possible<br />

through a synthesizer:<br />

‘I’m still alive.’<br />

‘I’m still alive.’<br />

‘And I’m not gonna apologise oooh no!’<br />

A soothingly rhythmic piano solo is thrown into the ensemble, syncing with the<br />

electronic beats so beautifully David forgot where he was, if only for a moment. It was<br />

dark in the bar area. David stood with his sixth glass of water for that night. Only the dim<br />

blue <strong>and</strong> green neon wall, showcasing the shelf-full of drinks he was too young to order,<br />

provided what little illumination there was. He leaned against the wooden bar counter—so<br />

shiny he could see his reflection in it—<strong>and</strong> watched the lone bartender, in her black blouse,<br />

cleaning glasses, <strong>and</strong> talked to the waitress in a white tank-top <strong>and</strong> black mini-skirt. The<br />

nagging voice in his head was the only thing keeping him from enjoying himself.<br />

‘You’ve got a test tomorrow!’<br />

‘I’ll do fine.’<br />

‘You don’t belong here!’<br />

‘Shut the fuck up.’<br />

David snapping out of his daze noticed that he’d been staring at the bartender for far too<br />

long <strong>and</strong> turned to survey the rest of the area. More blue light lined the low wooden ceiling<br />

showcasing blue leather coaches stretching from one end of the wall to the other. Several<br />

college students, mostly women with a few men peppered in, were lounging, alcohol in<br />

h<strong>and</strong>, talking, flirting. Their clothes <strong>and</strong> skin having all the light sucked out of them from<br />

the environment; he could only see these people in shades of grey. Only their eyes with the<br />

faintest of twinkles <strong>and</strong> their drinks showed any sign of colour: blue eyes; green drink; red<br />

eyes, yellow drink; green eyes; blue drink. Such beautiful grey faces with eyes giving him a<br />

thous<strong>and</strong> promises of unfathomable pleasure <strong>and</strong> unspeakable pain.<br />

‘I don’t belong here.’ David took another glance once again at the lines of alcohol,<br />

mocking him as they sat on the shelf. I could use some liquid courage right about now he<br />

thought.<br />

‘Hey, produce guy.’<br />

He nearly spilled his drink.<br />

The girl from the cosmetics section. Her tanned skin showed off trances of Latin heritage<br />

barely visible in this dim part of the club. Her short black hair was in a wavy mess covering<br />

half of her face, beads of perspiration dotted her cheeks <strong>and</strong> nose, along with her pink lips<br />

pursed only scarcely showing a straight set of pearly whites.<br />

David smiled. ‘Hey, cosmetics girl.’<br />

‘How was the floor?’<br />

‘A bit crowded, came back here,’ said David. He tried desperately to keep the<br />

conversation going. ‘You looked like you were having a good time!’<br />

‘Yeah,’ she said with a laugh. ‘I had a bit too much to drink though!’<br />

His eyes slowly moved down to her body. A pink T-shirt <strong>and</strong> a skirt that would barely<br />

pass a high school dress code covered the petite figure. He’d never seen this much exposed<br />

skin from her before. The legs, tanned, tight <strong>and</strong> athletic. I bet she’s a swimmer he thought.<br />

David could feel his h<strong>and</strong>s trembling. A thought crept from the depths of his consciousness<br />

<strong>and</strong> he strangled it to death before it had time to manifest. David couldn’t help but keep<br />

smiling.<br />

Page Page 44 45

‘That’s alright,’ said David trying to sound nonchalant. ‘I hear the drinks here are<br />

really good.’<br />

‘I know!’ Her interest seemed to peak at the comment. ‘I’ve already had two hits of<br />

that vodka-tonic already, how about you?’<br />

‘Oh, not much,’ he said with a shrug. ‘I’ve had enough tonight.’<br />

She inches closer.<br />

‘Hey I was wondering,’ she paused. ‘I was wondering if you could give me a ride back<br />

tonight, maybe your place?’<br />

David’s heart stopped, he could feel the blood thinning in his veins. His mind became<br />

strained <strong>and</strong> shut down. All he could do was st<strong>and</strong> there. His entire body was working<br />

in a burst of chemical overdrive, nerve endings firing, his heart pumping more oxygen<br />

to the brain. All this work concentrated the cellular level towards nothing more than<br />

keeping the glass in David’s h<strong>and</strong> <strong>and</strong> processing the question. No, let’s go to a hotel, was<br />

all he wanted to say. I don’t want to go home, <strong>and</strong> I don’t want to go to your place either.<br />

The thought returned: a path of clothes, socks, pants, skirt, <strong>and</strong> the pink shirt leading to<br />

a bed.<br />

David saw those lips again, pouting <strong>and</strong> green eyes giving an invitation he didn’t<br />

deserve. No, I can do this he thought; people do this all the time here. Why should I be<br />

left out of all the fun? Everyone here calls you the ‘nice guy’ <strong>and</strong> now you can prove them<br />

all wrong right here, tonight, <strong>and</strong> yet he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Am I feeling<br />

guilty he thought, stuck in a sea of panic? David opened his mouth but nothing came<br />

out. The voice that he’d tried to block out all night returned to reap its vengeance.<br />

‘You don’t deserve her.’<br />

‘God, just go away.’<br />

A whole thirty seconds had passed, his mind screaming for him to say something,<br />

anything. His heart rate slowed, his subtle exhale filled the space between them.<br />

‘I…no,’ David finally answered. Her mouth opens; she’s surprised. David could see<br />

the muscles around her face begin to tighten <strong>and</strong> those eyes lost all the charm that went<br />

into finessing an answer.<br />

‘Sorry,’ he continued. ‘But I have to be at some place early tomorrow.’<br />

‘Some place important.’ She looks down; her left h<strong>and</strong> begins to fidget with her index<br />

finger.<br />

‘Yeah.’<br />

‘Well, I’ll tell Chad.’<br />

‘Thank you.’ David tried once again to turn on the smile. ‘I’ll see you at work!’<br />

‘Yeah, I’ll see you.’ She was already making her way towards the bar counter.<br />

David squeezed his way through the crowd on the dance floor, he couldn’t hear the<br />

music anymore. He stepped into the cold empty street, stars in his eyes. The haze was<br />

still blurring his vision from being in the club for so long. Maybe I should go back, he<br />

thought? No, I blew it. Besides, I need to review that test anyway. I know the material<br />

backwards <strong>and</strong> forwards, but one more go at it won’t hurt. That is what’s important, that<br />

test. I need to make an A on it.<br />

David tried to forget what had happened at the bar <strong>and</strong><br />

began to make his way to the parking garage, pounding the<br />

memory out of existence with every heavy step. He knew it<br />

was going to be a long ride home.<br />

Michael Seebach is an American writer.<br />

Page 45

Mother<br />

by Katherine Hubbard<br />

When he fell from the<br />

Bough of the apple tree<br />

That’s when Johnny’s mum<br />

Decided she loved him<br />

Whilst he flapped like a fish<br />

In the moment between heaven <strong>and</strong> earth<br />

That’s when her womb contracted<br />

For only the second time<br />

As she lowed like a cow,<br />

Like an animal<br />

The St Christopher she never believed in<br />

Became human, made flesh between her breasts<br />

So she prayed to him <strong>and</strong> all the saints<br />

To grant her one last wish<br />

She brokered that deal in the back yard<br />

Her nail varnish now in ruins<br />

Chastising the make over<br />

In front of the tele<br />

When she should have spied his misdemeanour<br />

And run yelling<br />

But she was watching the man on screen<br />

As she lined her fingers purple<br />

He was selling her a machine to clean<br />

The house from the inside out<br />

As he intoned like a guru, like a lover<br />

She forgot her own suburban squalor<br />

Katherine Hubbard is a poet <strong>and</strong> actor.<br />

So now she barters with God<br />

Have my eyes, scar me<br />

Deform my limbs so he can live<br />

But live well<br />

Not dribbling on a feed-cup<br />

In a recreation centre cell<br />

Nor lying staring out from a wheelchair<br />

With tubes up his arse <strong>and</strong> nose <strong>and</strong> nothing<br />

Going on upstairs<br />

Spare me that, selfish bitch I am<br />

I cannot deal with an idiot son<br />

Stick me out to pasture<br />

May the sun harden me to alabaster<br />

But don’t mark him God<br />

I just don’t know how to do the endless<br />

Self sacrifice, change my stockings for tights<br />

Be all mother but no woman<br />

Stop the bourbon on Friday night<br />

The jiggle of breast in a good light<br />

I don’t know how to be it, her, she<br />

The one with no name but<br />

The one he calls me<br />

Spare my soul from that identity<br />

Which knows no other<br />

Than the one born for man<br />

The mother<br />

Page Page 46 47

This I know<br />

by Antonia Dingey-Attard<br />

Love endures all, but<br />

Sometimes love is not enough.<br />

In the quiet moments of the night<br />

As I lie in my bed alone,<br />

I cry because I am sad.<br />

THIS I KNOW.<br />

I love my children, my parents <strong>and</strong> my dog.<br />

I love spending time with friends.<br />

I love the feel of freshly washed hair<br />

Blown in the wind.<br />

Slipping into clean sheets of a newly made<br />

bed.<br />

BBQ’s on a hot summer’s night.<br />

The smell of fish <strong>and</strong> chips.<br />

I love an old song on the radio, watching<br />

Classic black <strong>and</strong> white movies on TV.<br />

THIS I KNOW.<br />

Antonia Dingey-Attard is a VU student.<br />

I am person known to be friendly,<br />

Warm, capable, pleasant <strong>and</strong> kind.<br />

There is always a smile on my face.<br />

This is how others see me.<br />

This is a part of who I am,<br />

The person I strive to be.<br />

THIS I KNOW.<br />

Deep in the recesses of my mind,<br />

In the darkness of my soul,<br />

In the stillness of my everyday<br />

I face the loneliness of my life.<br />

Vulnerable, cold, weary <strong>and</strong><br />

Troubled. I am broken <strong>and</strong> afraid.<br />

This is part of who I am,<br />

The person I do not want to be.<br />


Page 47

mediator<br />

by Cam Black<br />

a fight in my street this morning<br />

on the walk to the tram<br />

a difference of colour<br />

four of one<br />

attacking<br />

one of another<br />

loud exclamations by all in<br />

languages<br />

i could not underst<strong>and</strong><br />

i crossed the road<br />

to help<br />

the weight of my presence<br />

Cam Black is a Melbourne poet.<br />

Army of G<br />

by Raymond G Leavold<br />

The fragments<br />

Need to be<br />

Reconciled,<br />

Come back to me<br />

Everything that I’ve lost,<br />

All the flakes of skin,<br />

The hairs,<br />

The nails I’ve picked off,<br />

Complete me,<br />

Make me a new person:<br />

Raymond G Leavold is a writing student.<br />

enough to end the<br />

melee<br />

four indian mynah birds flew<br />

in different directions at<br />

my approach<br />

the harassed-looking<br />

small common blackbird<br />

did not spare me a glance<br />

as he took the exit<br />

thus opened<br />

but i was there<br />

nonetheless<br />

The old one,<br />

Make me three more,<br />

There’s enough to go around,<br />

Give me the hair & nails<br />

That grow<br />

When I’m dead,<br />

& I will give you<br />

an army<br />

from everything<br />

I’ve shed.<br />

Page Page 48 49

Once in a lifetime<br />

by Carolyn Garner<br />

I didn’t have a hope. I wasn’t that good of a driver <strong>and</strong> you weren’t looking. You were just<br />

lost <strong>and</strong> afraid. I slammed on the brakes but you were no match for four angry wheels.<br />

I could hear you crying while I sat motionless, imagining you twisted out of shape<br />

underneath one of them. What would I do then? Reverse? Go forwards?<br />

I got out. Holly followed. ‘Shouldn’t you move the car Mum?’<br />

I became aware that traffic was banking up behind me. Mean, impatient faces glaring as<br />

they drove around my own killing machine. Bugger the car! Bugger the traffic!<br />

Miraculously you had made it onto the median strip. Each appeal was a thorn in my<br />

flesh. Your leg was raised up in the air like you were asking a question.<br />

‘You did this so why aren’t you helping me?’<br />

But I didn’t know how to pick you up without doing more damage. So we just stood<br />

there. You <strong>and</strong> me <strong>and</strong> Holly.<br />

Suddenly someone stopped. Someone with a kind face.<br />

‘Can I help?’<br />

She picked you up, popped you in her car, drove you to the vets. I followed gingerly,<br />

feeling guilty as hell. They’d already taken you out the back by the time we arrived. I<br />

spoke to the receptionist, left my number. I had to know your future, if you had one.<br />

I cooked tea on auto-pilot. They rang about an hour <strong>and</strong> four cigarettes later. They had<br />

traced your family. You had a broken pelvis. But best of all you were going to be okay.<br />

I think about you often. I hope that you are better <strong>and</strong> happy <strong>and</strong> well-loved. Then I<br />

pray that neither you nor I will ever be in the same situation again. Once in a lifetime is<br />

definitely enough.<br />

Carolyn Garner studied at VU Sunbury.<br />

Page 49

The sound of silence<br />

by Sherryl Clark<br />

The child was screaming. Again. And she could tell by the way his screams echoed that he’d<br />

been put outside again. In the alley.<br />

It was dark in the alley, <strong>and</strong> overgrown with weeds, littered with rubbish <strong>and</strong> sometimes<br />

needles.<br />

She stood by her back door, listening. Every now <strong>and</strong> then she heard him shriek,<br />

‘Mummy, let me in,’ but the door to his house stayed shut.<br />

The sound of his screams frayed at her edges. She pulled her cardigan closer <strong>and</strong><br />

hunched her shoulders. She wanted the sound to bounce off her, but it soaked in, like<br />

blood into an old sheet.<br />

She opened her back door. The screams were louder; they pulled her outwards, towards<br />

the fence, making her stumble on the broken footpath <strong>and</strong> bang her head on the clothesline<br />

arm.<br />

The old fence was made of palings hammered onto a frame. The nails protruded, as if<br />

the wood was squeezing them out, a millimeter at a time. Her fingers touched the rough<br />

palings, caressing the splintered edges, as she listened.<br />

His screams had subsided into loud sobbing. He knew, <strong>and</strong> she knew, that he wouldn’t<br />

be allowed back inside until he’d been quiet for at least five minutes. Maybe longer, if his<br />

mother was on the phone or in the shower or watching a good TV show.<br />

She pulled one paling aside. The window opposite blared with yellow light; the kitchen<br />

with its dark brown cupboards was empty. Dishes piled on the sink <strong>and</strong> benches, a<br />

container of margarine <strong>and</strong> a dirty knife lay on the laminate table.<br />

The boy stood next to the door, as if to make sure his sobbing carried straight into the<br />

house. Why didn’t he stop? Why didn’t the mother come?<br />

It was pointless wondering. It was always the same.<br />

She pulled the other two palings away <strong>and</strong> bent sideways, struggling through, catching<br />

her cardigan on a nail <strong>and</strong> pausing to carefully unhook it.<br />

The boy stared at her, but kept sobbing.<br />

‘Hello,’ she said.<br />

The sobbing died down into crying. Crying was much better.<br />

‘I’ve made hot cocoa <strong>and</strong> biscuits,’ she said. ‘Do you want some?’<br />

His eyes widened but he didn’t reply.<br />

She held out her h<strong>and</strong>. ‘Want to come <strong>and</strong> visit me for a while?’<br />

He kept crying. Why did he keep crying? Didn’t all children like hot cocoa <strong>and</strong> biscuits?<br />

What was the matter with him?<br />

She stepped forward <strong>and</strong> he shrank back against the door. He kept crying.<br />

‘I won’t hurt you,’ she said crossly. ‘I just want to help. Don’t you want nice hot cocoa?’<br />

She grabbed his h<strong>and</strong>. ‘I’m your friend. I live over there, behind the fence.’<br />

He shook his head <strong>and</strong> tried to pull his h<strong>and</strong> away. He began the ungodly shrieking<br />

again, all of a sudden, as if the noise was in a bottle inside him <strong>and</strong> he’d popped the cork.<br />

She felt a shriek of her own surge up her throat <strong>and</strong> let him go, clapping her h<strong>and</strong>s over<br />

her mouth. The shriek came out as a stifled howl.<br />

She reached out <strong>and</strong> shook him hard. ‘Look what you made me do!’ Then she scrambled<br />

back through the fence, panting, gasping, ripping her cardigan on the nail, staggering across<br />

the yard <strong>and</strong> into her house, slamming her door hard. She sank to the floor, held her breath,<br />

listened. Silence.<br />

‘Good boy,’ she said.<br />

Sherryl Clark is an award-winning writer, <strong>and</strong> teaches Professional Writing <strong>and</strong> Editing at VU.<br />

This piece was first published on everydayfiction.com.<br />

Page Page 50 51

Ruth<br />

by David Weaver<br />

It was the loneliest Christmas imaginable, <strong>and</strong> my mother said that it would be much<br />

better by next year, but this was now <strong>and</strong> she didn’t underst<strong>and</strong>.<br />

When I asked Ruth to marry me I really meant it, <strong>and</strong> even though she’d told me to drop<br />

dead I knew it wouldn’t take long to change her mind.<br />

‘You’re the ugliest person in Engl<strong>and</strong> <strong>and</strong> your ears stick out, so why should I marry you?’<br />

she’d said.<br />

I slunk away to a secret place to lick my wounds, <strong>and</strong> everywhere I looked she was<br />

lurking in some quiet corner, laughing at me from the dark shadows.<br />

I remember she had long blonde hair sweeping past her shoulders, a cotton print dress<br />

<strong>and</strong> pink shoes, <strong>and</strong> the crowning glory was the beautiful matching pink ribbon tied in a<br />

big bow on top of her head. She smiled a lot <strong>and</strong> once held my h<strong>and</strong> as we sat on a coal<br />

barrow in the dusty yard with the smell of horse muck mingling with the hops from the<br />

brewery. How could I not want to marry her in such a lovely place? For these were our<br />

roots, this was where we belonged together for the rest of our lives.<br />

The air raid was no worse than the ones before it, just fear piled on top of fear—all that<br />

waiting, waiting. The next day Mum told me the bomb had killed her instantly, <strong>and</strong><br />

there was no pain. That the explosion was so intense there was no chance for her or her<br />

family. Eight dead from a single bomb, but I had to see if it was true for who but a fool<br />

would believe it.<br />

Mum walked with me, talked to me, <strong>and</strong> tried to explain to me about death, until we<br />

arrived at, what had once been, Ruth’s home. I searched through the rubble, looking<br />

for anything that would remind me of her, until I found a burned piece of pink ribbon<br />

shaped in a bow. I kept that bow hidden in my pocket <strong>and</strong> would take it out sometimes<br />

when feeling lonely. That’s until I fell in love again. For let’s face it. What boy of twelve<br />

has a pink ribbon in his pocket for another girl to find?<br />

David Weaver studied Writing at VU.<br />

This piece is dedicated to the Freer family.<br />

Page 51

Surfing with my brother<br />

by Paul Bateman<br />

My brother takes me surfing. I don’t want<br />

to go, but he’s insistent. My brother James is<br />

always insistent.<br />

‘Bugger work. You work too much. A surf<br />

will do you good!’<br />

By work too much, my brother means<br />

think too much, worry too much, <strong>and</strong><br />

goof around too little. My brother wants to<br />

hear that I’m lying on the couch, watching<br />

television. That, says James, is a proper day<br />

off.<br />

I’ve seen James st<strong>and</strong> before the wall of<br />

books that line my apartment, eyeing<br />

off each volume with a look of deep<br />

suspicion—like he might want to fight<br />

them if that meant I’d leave the house.<br />

‘Have you read all these?’ he asked me once,<br />

<strong>and</strong> grunted when I said I had.<br />

James would rather surf. Every Sunday<br />

for most of the last three years, James has<br />

strapped a board to the roof of his car<br />

<strong>and</strong> headed east to Phillip Isl<strong>and</strong>, south<br />

to Gunnamatta or west to Torquay. That’s<br />

quite a commitment for someone who<br />

works six days a week; James is a real estate<br />

agent.<br />

The business of buying <strong>and</strong> selling things<br />

would pretty much kill me if that was what<br />

I had to do in order to make a living: if my<br />

heart’s not in it, my head won’t stay. James,<br />

however, does alright. He’s what others call<br />

‘a natural’.<br />

A prospective home buyer once rang James<br />

with no real idea what he wanted in a new<br />

home: Two bedrooms? Four bedrooms? A<br />

backyard? A garage?<br />

James cut him short: ‘I’m busy, mate, call<br />

me back when ya know what ya want…’<br />

And the buyer did.<br />

‘Trust me’, said James, ‘he needed to be<br />

told.’<br />

James will leave the office early to catch<br />

some waves before day’s end, explaining his<br />

departure with the following advice: ‘tell em<br />

I’m on a course.’<br />

A course?<br />

‘Yeah, a golf course!’<br />

The line comes complete with a generous<br />

laugh <strong>and</strong> a look of childish delight. Most<br />

of all, it’s completely untrue: his mobile<br />

phone is never off; there’s always someone<br />

in his ear.<br />

My brother’s a dog; that’s what I tell my<br />

mates. When he’s happy, he wags his tail.<br />

When he’s not happy, he barks <strong>and</strong> growls.<br />

He’s as loyal as a dog, as buoyant as a dog<br />

<strong>and</strong> as smart as a dog—in as much as he<br />

follows his nose <strong>and</strong> leads by his nose.<br />

Whatever else his faults, he’s not neurotic.<br />

The Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, has<br />

a poem called Another Dog wherein he<br />

describes a night spent trailing a mutt<br />

through the streets of a sleeping city, ‘for no<br />

better reason than to know where dogs go<br />

in their tour of the night.’<br />

‘A thous<strong>and</strong> times, by my count, he stopped<br />

to pee in odd places,<br />

then went on with the air of<br />

someone expecting a telegram.<br />

He passed houses, crossed corners,<br />

parks, villages, countries,<br />

while I followed behind him to know<br />

where dogs needed to go.’<br />

‘The dog,’ says Neruda, ‘leads the way <strong>and</strong> I<br />

at his heels…’<br />

So it is with me <strong>and</strong> James.<br />

We cross the Westgate Bridge, surfboards<br />

on the roof, thongs on our feet, <strong>and</strong> the city<br />

fast retreating in our rear vision mirrors.<br />

Chimney stacks <strong>and</strong> factories arrange<br />

themselves below us <strong>and</strong> gusts of wind<br />

batter the car.<br />

‘The Geelong Road,’ says James, ‘is officially<br />

the world’s most boring road.’<br />

A fact he imparts with such authority that<br />

I believe it must be true—that somewhere,<br />

maybe Oslo, a committee of learned<br />

types has made this strange <strong>and</strong> binding<br />

pronouncement.<br />

I tell James that the earth beneath the road<br />

is thous<strong>and</strong>s of years old, the product of<br />

wild <strong>and</strong> ancient volcanic activity.<br />

‘I can’t get my head around that’, he says<br />

c<strong>and</strong>idly, <strong>and</strong> then having so decided seems<br />

to let the thought drift loose as though<br />

freeing a balloon. He shrugs <strong>and</strong> it’s gone.<br />

Page Page 52 53

I talk about work, about the things I’m<br />

writing <strong>and</strong> things I wish I would write.<br />

He listens in a half-hearted sort of way,<br />

fiddling with the stereo <strong>and</strong> announcing<br />

the towns on the road to Torquay in a<br />

loud, theatrical fashion: ‘Ava-lon! La-ra!<br />

Co-ri-o!’<br />

He makes me laugh, which stops me<br />

talking, which was probably his intention;<br />

I can’t switch off the way he does.<br />

Thoughts blow about inside my head <strong>and</strong><br />

the weather there is often grey. He knows<br />

this. I think he wants to break the pattern<br />

of my thought <strong>and</strong> speech.<br />

‘All good?’ he often asks, in reference to<br />

nothing, ‘all good?’<br />

He’s trying to tie me to the moment at<br />

h<strong>and</strong>.<br />

I used to worry how I fare in my brother’s<br />

estimation—I’m older than him, more<br />

earnest <strong>and</strong> cerebral—but recently a friend<br />

of mine saw James <strong>and</strong> me among a crowd<br />

of mates. She said that whenever James<br />

told a joke, it was me he looked to for a<br />

response.<br />

I mail things to James that I’ve had<br />

published in books <strong>and</strong> magazines <strong>and</strong><br />

he rarely ever reads them. Most of the<br />

time, he can barely recall where he put the<br />

envelope. It drives me nuts.<br />

Yet I can ring him as I’m writing <strong>and</strong><br />

read him what I’ve got <strong>and</strong> his response is<br />

always honest <strong>and</strong> rarely off the mark. His<br />

entire <strong>and</strong> utterly trustworthy school of<br />

literary criticism is contained in one of two<br />

words—‘yep’ or ‘nup’.<br />

By ‘yep’, he means that he can see what I’m<br />

saying—literally see it, in his mind’s eye.<br />

‘Nup’ means he can’t see it. ‘Nup’ means<br />

I’ve got to go away <strong>and</strong> rewrite the thing in<br />

a simpler, clearer language until it’s put to<br />

him again <strong>and</strong> I get myself a ‘yep’. Could a<br />

writer have a better friend?<br />

We arrive in Torquay.<br />

‘This’ll do’, says James, steering the car<br />

into a space at the edge of the town’s main<br />

beach, ‘let’s get into it!’<br />

Out beyond the bonnet of the car, beyond<br />

a broad expanse of dense <strong>and</strong> yellow<br />

s<strong>and</strong>, the surface of the ocean wobbles<br />

in the sunlight. Rolling rows of big lefth<strong>and</strong>ers<br />

build up slowly, hold up high then<br />

throw themselves upon the shore in long,<br />

consistent curls.<br />

James gets busy with the boards—waxing<br />

them, attaching ropes <strong>and</strong> inspecting the<br />

fins—while I look on, wetsuit in h<strong>and</strong>, my<br />

eyes adjusting to the light.<br />

Much of the day will be spent like<br />

this: he taking charge, energised by the<br />

physical environment, ploughing without<br />

reservation into the surf or things to<br />

be done; me in thrall of his energy, his<br />

effortless joy <strong>and</strong> ways.<br />

We paddle out, beyond the breakers, to sit<br />

astride our boards <strong>and</strong> read the patterns of<br />

the surf. Now James does all the talking:<br />

enthusiastic observations on currents,<br />

swells <strong>and</strong> tides; cautions on the strength<br />

of the rip, the placement of rocks <strong>and</strong> the<br />

likelihood of ‘dumpers’.<br />

The waves roll in. We let them pass. We’re<br />

like new batsmen at the cricket crease,<br />

watching intently, sizing things up.<br />

‘Right’o’, says James, eventually, ‘Get on<br />

this one, Tiger…’<br />

I drop flat to the board, nose to the shore,<br />

<strong>and</strong> dig my h<strong>and</strong>s into the water. The sea<br />

inhales <strong>and</strong> sucks me in, the back of my<br />

board rising fast. There is one second of<br />

perfect equilibrium—a balance between<br />

wave <strong>and</strong> board—<strong>and</strong> then imagine, if you<br />

can, that the wave exhales <strong>and</strong> spits you<br />

out, violently.<br />

I’m up, momentarily, but too late; the<br />

board nose dives, arrowing forward hard<br />

into the water, then snapping back just as<br />

fast from beneath my feet. I’m dumped—a<br />

tangle of sprawling limbs hammered under<br />

crashing surf, the leg rope tearing at my<br />

ankle.<br />

There’s a story about a student of Buddha,<br />

who is burdened by all sorts of existential<br />

questions <strong>and</strong> concerns. The student sits<br />

before the enlightened one <strong>and</strong> asks him<br />

how he, the student, can be truly sure<br />

that anything is real. Buddha smiles <strong>and</strong><br />

without warning slaps the student across<br />

the face.<br />

‘Ow!’ exclaims the student, grasping at his<br />

stinging cheek.<br />

Page 53

‘That’s real,’ says Buddha.<br />

I emerge from the foaming tumult spitting<br />

<strong>and</strong> spluttering. James is out the back, sitting<br />

on his board <strong>and</strong> laughing uncontrollably;<br />

‘that woke you up!’<br />

Yes, mate, it did. The sea has smashed my<br />

conscious self with a single burst of force.<br />

There’s water slapping back <strong>and</strong> forth in<br />

both my pounding ears. I’m short of breath,<br />

shaking with adrenaline <strong>and</strong> I can barely<br />

keep from squealing. I feel alive.<br />

James is yelling: ‘Go again, mate! Go again!’<br />

And so I do: waiting, paddling, breathing<br />

hard, pushing down upon the board <strong>and</strong><br />

lifting to my feet. I slice through the water,<br />

a ‘goofy foot’—left leg back, right leg<br />

forward—riding the white wash far into the<br />

shallows.<br />

James <strong>and</strong> I surf until late in the afternoon:<br />

sometimes together, both of us paddling for<br />

the same breaking wave; sometimes apart,<br />

me watching him or him watching me<br />

negotiate a rolling wall of hissing, tumbling<br />

sea.<br />

He’s good. He catches more waves than me<br />

<strong>and</strong> does more with them. From behind<br />

the wave he’s chasing I watch him sink<br />

from sight then reappear on the other side,<br />

charging upright to the shore.<br />

Coming on sunset, I call it quits. I’m tired<br />

<strong>and</strong> I paddle in. The cliffs that shoulder the<br />

right side of the shoreline are bathed in the<br />

last light of day, a swathe of salmon <strong>and</strong><br />

orange that softens the rocks <strong>and</strong> turns to<br />

silhouette the two or three people perched at<br />

their heights, high above the sea.<br />

Back on the beach the s<strong>and</strong> has grown cold<br />

<strong>and</strong> is streaked with water marks—damp,<br />

abstract patterns left by the receding reach of<br />

the sea. The tide is going out. The car park’s<br />

half empty. Night is coming on.<br />

My brother’s the last man st<strong>and</strong>ing; a lone,<br />

lumbering fellow with an ocean to himself.<br />

Some of us, wrote the American mystic<br />

Thomas Merton, persist in misunderst<strong>and</strong>ing<br />

life, ‘analysing it out into strange finalities<br />

<strong>and</strong> complex purposes’ <strong>and</strong> thus, inevitably,<br />

‘involving ourselves in sadness, absurdity <strong>and</strong><br />

despair.’<br />

But it does not matter much, he said,<br />

‘because no despair of ours can alter the<br />

reality of things, or stain the joy of the<br />

cosmic dance…indeed, we are invited to<br />

forget ourselves on purpose.’<br />

Fellow human, he wrote, ‘cast aside your<br />

awful solemnity <strong>and</strong> enter the dance.’<br />

My brother would probably no more read<br />

the thoughts of Thomas Merton than fly to<br />

the moon but, if pressed for his opinion, I<br />

think he’d take what Merton said <strong>and</strong> say<br />

it in reverse: ‘Enter the dance <strong>and</strong> your<br />

solemnity will be cast aside.’<br />

Life begets life. Go for a surf. Get out of the<br />

house. See what you find.<br />

There’s time enough before we go for a salty<br />

pile of fish <strong>and</strong> chips <strong>and</strong> a stubby of beer<br />

caked in melting ice. The boards are back<br />

upon the roof, our wetsuits in the boot.<br />

My brother flicks the headlights on <strong>and</strong> rolls<br />

the car, in no real hurry, past the surf club,<br />

over some speed humps <strong>and</strong> on to the road<br />

that will take us home.<br />

We listen to the radio, we listen to<br />

cassettes—mangled, dying, dated things that<br />

breed within his glove box—we talk a bit<br />

<strong>and</strong> then we don’t, each to his thoughts, the<br />

two of us in silence, gliding in a gleaming<br />

line of ever-growing traffic.<br />

Travelling over the Westgate Bridge we stir<br />

again <strong>and</strong> lift our concentration. The car<br />

shifts a gear <strong>and</strong> growls. The city shines like<br />

a welcoming flame <strong>and</strong> I have within me an<br />

optimism born of what we’ve done.<br />

Brother, I want to say, I know now why<br />

you surf. I know who you are. Creature of<br />

instinct, impulse <strong>and</strong> sensation, I underst<strong>and</strong><br />

your love of nature, its mystery <strong>and</strong> power.<br />

I see reflected in your self, salt <strong>and</strong> s<strong>and</strong> <strong>and</strong><br />

sea. I love your gift for living.<br />

But I don’t say these things. My brother is<br />

whistling, tapping his fingers on the steering<br />

wheel <strong>and</strong> nodding his head to a tune on the<br />

radio.<br />

I look from the car, high on the bridge,<br />

to the towering sweep of the city; to the<br />

harbour <strong>and</strong> its giant ships laden with<br />

containers; to the lights of the bay strung like<br />

diamonds far into the night.<br />

‘How good’s this?’ I ask my brother, ‘how<br />

bloody good is this?’<br />

And he says, ‘yep’.<br />

Paul Bateman is a Melbourne Writer<br />

This piece has been published in The Age.<br />

Page Page 54 55

Neither good nor bad<br />

by Lauren Ham<br />

I try, find the inner strength, though i am weak, still. I talk, not really saying much, not telling<br />

you much, in the end. I just ramble <strong>and</strong> words dribble out, sounds springing from my open<br />

mouth. Still no strength, still I try, put the blood stained towel in the wash, go get another clean<br />

cloth to dirty. You don’t hear me, my fault. All my fault. In the end, my fault. But I am who I<br />

am.<br />

Insight<br />

by Lauren Ham<br />

When it’s good it’s like I’m flying<br />

Manic, or sane but, I’m here ain’t i ? But when it gets bad, the negativity consumes me until i am<br />

trapped in my own little bubble. When the depression holds on tight <strong>and</strong> chokes me with both<br />

h<strong>and</strong>s.<br />

Nothing else matters.<br />

Happiness doesn’t exist…it’s overwhelming.<br />

Lauren Ham is a Community Services student at VU.<br />

Autumn oud<br />

by Tom Clark<br />

I am that sorrow<br />

you dreamt of yesterday,<br />

oh pillow friend<br />

of my steaming eye.<br />

My childhood was filled<br />

with all dreams<br />

in the long run, filled as<br />

your two cupped h<strong>and</strong>s poured on.<br />

Tom Clark is a lecturer at VU.<br />

I invite all friends<br />

to partake of mine without<br />

discrimination, bringing<br />

here each one as one.<br />

Since one is all,<br />

this, then, is my call:<br />

does your sorrow last? Weep in me!<br />

Foreign leaves must fall.<br />

Page 55

Walking over the mountain<br />

by Clare Boyd-Macrae<br />

Each Friday morning I spend an hour at my son’s school, working with a little boy called<br />

Joel. He’s a sweet kid, no trouble. He has a soft face, big dreamy eyes, long lashes that curl.<br />

When I praise something he’s done, some effort he puts in, he rewards me with a slow,<br />

heart-stopping smile.<br />

Joel has trouble focussing, keeping track. He w<strong>and</strong>ers off, not physically but in his head. I<br />

have to keep saying to him, ‘Joel, try <strong>and</strong> ignore what’s going on over in that other corner<br />

of the classroom, just concentrate on this, this paper right in front of you, what we’re doing<br />

here, Joel, can you hear me?’<br />

Slowly he turns to me, <strong>and</strong> then looks down at the sheet in front of him <strong>and</strong> we work on<br />

another sentence, spelling, punctuation, <strong>and</strong> then he drifts off <strong>and</strong> I remind him, <strong>and</strong> the<br />

process starts all over again.<br />

Joel’s letters are legible but big <strong>and</strong> ungainly. He forgets things like capitals <strong>and</strong> full stops.<br />

He takes a while to think of things like, ‘four words that rhyme with best’.<br />

We work on reading <strong>and</strong> writing, on Joel’s skill with words. Without words, without being<br />

able to manipulate <strong>and</strong> underst<strong>and</strong> them, Joel will be powerless as he grows up. He will also<br />

be cut off from a whole world, a whole universe of delight.<br />

‘Okay Joel,’ I say, ‘this morning, we’re going to make up some sentences with certain words<br />

in them. Here’s the first one. Sing. Can you write a sentence with the word ‘sing’ in it?’<br />

He looks at me, looks away, looks at the other kids on his table who are playing a math<br />

game with dice.<br />

‘Joel,’ I gently tap the worksheet; he studies it <strong>and</strong> chews the small orange rubber on the<br />

end of his pencil.<br />

‘Sing. What do you think Joel, what’s a sentence with ‘sing’ in it?’<br />

Suddenly his face clears <strong>and</strong> he writes laboriously, ‘I sing’.<br />

Hmm. ‘Yes, that’s a sentence, but let’s see if we can write something a bit longer. Could you<br />

add a couple of words to that?’<br />

More thinking, then he adds, ‘a song.’ I sing a song.<br />

‘Okay. Let’s do the next one. A sentence containing the word ‘walked.’<br />

The same process, the same result: ‘I walked’ is Joel’s sentence.<br />

‘Two words aren’t really a sentence Joel,’ I say. ‘Here, I tell you what. The next word we have<br />

to include is ‘over’. Let’s try <strong>and</strong> do two things at once, let’s write a sentence with ‘walked’<br />

<strong>and</strong> ‘over’ in it.’<br />

My own attention w<strong>and</strong>ers while I am waiting for Joel. I look around the room: the<br />

tall, grimy windows, the tattered blinds, the bright projects that cover the wall, the two<br />

computers in the corner. I watch the kids, some working away, others daydreaming or<br />

chatting while the teacher’s back is turned. The teacher goes from group to group, checking<br />

on their work. A full minute passes before I look at Joel again <strong>and</strong> see him suddenly put pen<br />

to paper.<br />

He writes ‘I walked over the mountain’. Then he looks to see my reaction. I’m excited.<br />

‘Yes, that’s it. Well done! That’s a sentence, that’s a good sentence.’<br />

I want to throw my arms around this dear <strong>and</strong> struggling little boy <strong>and</strong> infuse him with<br />

my own passion for words, for language, for the sound <strong>and</strong> rhythm <strong>and</strong> magic of it, for the<br />

world upon endless world it opens up.<br />

Page Page 56 57

Why is it so important to me that Joel should read with ease <strong>and</strong> delight? I’m not talking<br />

about literacy here, vital as it is. I’m talking of something more. I want Joel, like any<br />

child, to catch a glimpse of the boundless possibilities that multiply almost magically<br />

when words <strong>and</strong> imagination are powerfully linked. And I fear the flattened world that<br />

will come if children lose the ability to see print on a page <strong>and</strong> let their imaginations do<br />

the rest. Or pick up a pen <strong>and</strong> let their minds soar, until they produce something that is<br />

uniquely theirs.<br />

I want to say to Joel, ‘Imagine this. I walked. I walked over… I walked over the<br />

mountain. I walked over the mountain <strong>and</strong> down the other side. I walked over the<br />

mountain <strong>and</strong> into another country, into another world where everything was different.<br />

I walked into a new world where waterfalls leapt <strong>and</strong> glistened <strong>and</strong> grass glowed <strong>and</strong><br />

trees shimmered <strong>and</strong> people walked with a spring in their step. I walked, <strong>and</strong> found a<br />

nightmare world where I was no longer loved. I walked over the mountain <strong>and</strong> I was<br />

on the other side of death, but I no longer felt fear, only calm, <strong>and</strong> certainty that all was<br />

well. I walked over the mountain <strong>and</strong>, well, the sky’s the limit Joel.’<br />

My younger son gets into trouble most mornings because he is reading instead of getting<br />

organized for school. He’s miles away. He has walked over the mountain. This is what<br />

I want for Joel. I want him to drive his parents mad with his reading instead of making<br />

his lunch <strong>and</strong> brushing his teeth in the morning. I want him to look at words in a book,<br />

or at a blank page <strong>and</strong> no longer feel the tyranny that lack of comprehension brings, the<br />

weight of the unwanted pencil in his h<strong>and</strong>s.<br />

I want him to write, ‘I walked over the mountain’, <strong>and</strong> tingle with excitement. What will<br />

I write next? What will be on the other side of the mountain today? I want his mouth to<br />

water with anticipation, as he views the endless worlds opening out from his mind <strong>and</strong><br />

his h<strong>and</strong>, like mirrors opposite each other. Except that here all the worlds, all the views<br />

are different. They are whatever you want them to be, but at the same time they are never<br />

quite what you expect.<br />

These are the fears <strong>and</strong> hopes that keep me reading with my own kids <strong>and</strong> kids like Joel,<br />

who may never know the joys of the world on the other side of the mountain. Maybe it’s<br />

a hopeless battle, against massive forces way too powerful for me with my puny pen <strong>and</strong><br />

paper <strong>and</strong> bound books. But I keep turning up Friday mornings, dreaming that one day I<br />

will get there <strong>and</strong> find Joel ignoring his teacher because he is so deep into a book. Or that<br />

his face will light up <strong>and</strong> his h<strong>and</strong> will tear across the page: ‘I walked over the mountain,<br />

<strong>and</strong> you will never believe what I saw there.’<br />

Clare Boyd-Macrae is a Melbourne writer who studied Professional Writing <strong>and</strong> Editing at<br />

VU. This piece was first published in The Age.<br />

Page 57

Flashing lights<br />

by Marie James<br />

I only entered the bookshop to buy something new to read on the train.<br />

The shop was one I’d never visited before. I had chosen it only because it was on the<br />

route from the dental clinic, where I’d spent my afternoon, to the train station. It was<br />

long, rectangular <strong>and</strong> the shelves blocked the back wall from view. The shop was filled with<br />

people, all clustered around the bestsellers shelf. The teenage assistant stood behind the<br />

front counter. Opposite was the wide door <strong>and</strong> the shelf of new releases. Just inside the<br />

door stood a large display for an author who would be appearing at the store during the<br />

week.<br />

At first I took no notice of the display, my eyes already scanning the new release shelves<br />

for whatever caught my attention. But then something about the display registered in my<br />

mind <strong>and</strong> I looked again.<br />

The title on the st<strong>and</strong> looked familiar: ‘Flashing Lights’. It was more than familiar. That<br />

title was mine. The author’s name wasn’t.<br />

Daniel Taylor.<br />

Though it had been four years, I still remembered quite clearly, Danny holding my<br />

manuscript <strong>and</strong> saying, ‘Thanks, Ben, I better read the rest of this <strong>and</strong> see what happens.’<br />

They were the last words he ever said to me. One day he was at school, the next he<br />

wasn’t. I’d heard that he had to leave suddenly to see his gr<strong>and</strong>parents in the country<br />

because his gr<strong>and</strong>father had suffered a stroke. He never came back <strong>and</strong> neither did my<br />

manuscript.<br />

It was the best piece of writing I’d ever done <strong>and</strong> I’d spent seven years trying to make it<br />

perfect. When I’d shown it to him, there was still a lot of work that had to be done, but he’d<br />

been impressed with it anyway.<br />

When Danny disappeared with my manuscript in his bag, everyone told me not to<br />

worry about it. Surely he would read it <strong>and</strong> send it back through the post. He was that kind<br />

of guy, Danny. He could be trusted <strong>and</strong> everyone was impressed by him. He was good at<br />

anything he put his mind to, whether it be football, art class, or academics. I, on the other<br />

h<strong>and</strong>, had always been shocking at sports, couldn’t draw a straight line if my life depended<br />

on it, <strong>and</strong> was only ever an average student. My manuscript was my one claim to fame, <strong>and</strong><br />

even that wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be.<br />

Initially, like everyone else, I thought the best of Danny. Of course he would send the<br />

manuscript back. He had to. But soon three months had passed <strong>and</strong> I was forced to declare<br />

the manuscript missing-in-action.<br />

With all the old memories swirling around my mind, I saw my h<strong>and</strong> reach out to grab<br />

a copy of the book on the display, but couldn’t feel the movement. Everything in me was<br />

numb. I felt the heat drain from my face <strong>and</strong> the book felt unnaturally heavy as I hefted it<br />

in my h<strong>and</strong>s. The cover was a strange blur of blue <strong>and</strong> red (I’d always pictured bright green)<br />

<strong>and</strong> a hardcover (I preferred paperback).<br />

My manuscript wasn’t missing anymore.<br />

The crisp thrup of pages as I rifled through them sent the smell of fresh ink <strong>and</strong> new<br />

pages into my head. As I closed the book with a forced calmness, a finger caught on a page.<br />

A thin line appeared in my skin <strong>and</strong> it became red with blood. I clenched my fist to numb<br />

the stinging.<br />

My eyes travelled up <strong>and</strong> over the wall display, focusing this time on the large,<br />

professional photo of Danny in the centre. Much to my dismay, he was no longer the greasy<br />

haired, patchy, stubble-ridden, bottle-blonde boy I remembered from my Year 12 math<br />

class. Now, his hair was well-washed, a natural brown colour, <strong>and</strong> he had a neatly trimmed<br />

goatee.<br />

I turned to the teen behind the counter <strong>and</strong> laid the book down in front of her, with<br />

Page Page 58 59

a fifty lying on its mis-coloured cover. She rang up the purchase <strong>and</strong> h<strong>and</strong>ed me my<br />

change.<br />

I picked up the book before she had the chance to put it in a bag <strong>and</strong> she said, ‘He’s<br />

here today, you know. Why not have him sign your copy?’<br />

She pointed towards the other side of the store <strong>and</strong> I turned reluctantly.<br />

I was wrong when I’d entered the shop. The crowd surrounding the bestseller shelf<br />

weren’t gathered there for the novels, they were there for the man behind the table. He<br />

was sitting, blue pen in h<strong>and</strong> <strong>and</strong> surrounded by copies of my book.<br />

Almost without thinking, I was joining the end of the line stretching out in front of<br />

Danny’s table, book clutched tightly against my stomach.<br />

The queue stretched until it looked a mile long. I took a slow, deep breath <strong>and</strong> reassessed<br />

the people surrounding me. A lot of the people were just st<strong>and</strong>ing around<br />

watching, but most were, like me <strong>and</strong> the elderly woman up front who appeared to be<br />

trying to chat Danny up, in the queue itself. I heaved a sigh; the line wasn’t shortening<br />

anytime soon.<br />

The man st<strong>and</strong>ing in front of me couldn’t have been older than I was. He was<br />

bouncing on his toes <strong>and</strong> had his nose stuck in the book. His beer-bottle glasses were no<br />

more than an inch from the page. As I watched, he gasped <strong>and</strong> quickly turned the page.<br />

I glowered.<br />

That was my book the guy was excited about. And he was st<strong>and</strong>ing in line to get it<br />

signed by a fraud. The injustice of it all was a physical pain in the pit of my stomach.<br />

The young woman in front of the man was trying to see Danny around the middleaged,<br />

skirt-suit-wearing woman in front of her. Both of them were holding their books<br />

like a life-line.<br />

The queue moved slowly, with people shuffling their feet. I took to counting stupid<br />

things, like buttons on jackets, to distract from the wait between then <strong>and</strong> Danny’s black<br />

eye.<br />

The young man in front of me continued reading <strong>and</strong> gasping, the pages turning<br />

faster <strong>and</strong> faster. I glared at the back of his head <strong>and</strong> resisted the urge to yell in his ear. I<br />

let my anger simmer, so it could boil over for Danny when I got to see him. As soon as<br />

Danny mentioned the characters, Roy <strong>and</strong> Melanie, or anyone else beginning with an ‘R’<br />

or an ‘M’, I’d have him over his table <strong>and</strong> on the floor before he knew what had hit him.<br />

The picture was so appealing, I almost grinned.<br />

Finally I was there, the front of the line. The young man shook Danny’s h<strong>and</strong> yet<br />

again <strong>and</strong> stumbled away.<br />

I took another slow, deep breath <strong>and</strong> approached the table. I set the book down in<br />

front of him but kept it in place with my h<strong>and</strong>.<br />

Danny’s blue pen was poised to sign, but when I was not forthcoming he looked up.<br />

For a moment, he didn’t seem to recognise me, though I hadn’t changed that much.<br />

His gaze travelled over my face, frown creasing his forehead, before his eyes widened.<br />

‘Ben?’<br />

‘Hello, Danny.’<br />

‘Wow. I never thought I’d see you again.’<br />

The anger rumbled in my chest. ‘No, I guess you didn’t.’<br />

‘What have you been up to? Still writing?’<br />

I wondered why he was bringing up writing at all. If I were him, I’d have avoided the<br />

topic at all costs. Surely he knew that I knew what he’d done. I was holding the book<br />

after all.<br />

I said, ‘Yeah.’<br />

Page 59

A small frown appeared on his forehead. ‘You all right, Ben? You look a little pale.’<br />

‘Do I? Tell me, how did you come up with the story?’<br />

I couldn’t wait to see how he got himself out of this one. Alluding to the topic was one<br />

thing, but addressing it directly was quite another. This was my book <strong>and</strong> I wanted him to<br />

admit it. If he didn’t, I’d just have to call him on it, here in front of all his fans, <strong>and</strong> then I’d<br />

flatten him.<br />

It sounded like a good plan to me.<br />

‘Well,’ said Danny, who appeared startled, ‘I was just driving home one day <strong>and</strong> it hit<br />

me, you know, how one moment can change your life.’<br />

I nodded <strong>and</strong> felt the anger surge.<br />

Danny said, ‘So, I thought about two very different people <strong>and</strong> how the same trauma<br />

would affect both of them. What would their relationship be like? Would they blame each<br />

other? Would they be able to connect at all? I got to thinking, <strong>and</strong> eventually I came up<br />

with George <strong>and</strong> Tiffany.’<br />

‘Wait.’ I held up a h<strong>and</strong>. ‘Who are George <strong>and</strong> Tiffany? There’s no George or Tiffany<br />

anywhere in the book.’<br />

Danny stared. ‘George <strong>and</strong> Tiffany are my main characters. The guy in line before you<br />

thought they were great. Apparently he was freaking out about their head-on collision while<br />

waiting in the line. I wish I could find out what he thinks about the hospital scene, <strong>and</strong> the<br />

chapter about the car ride through regional <strong>Victoria</strong>.’<br />

I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. A string of words rattled around my head in an endless<br />

loop. George. Tiffany. Collision. Hospital. Car. <strong>Victoria</strong>.<br />

I snatched the book up from the table <strong>and</strong> almost dropped it in my haste to read the<br />

blurb on the back cover.<br />

Two cars colliding in the middle of a June night will change the lives of George Stanley<br />

<strong>and</strong> Tiffany Morgan forever. Overcome by guilt <strong>and</strong> rage, for themselves <strong>and</strong> each other,<br />

they must try to steer their way through months of loneliness. But fate is conspiring against<br />

them, <strong>and</strong> George <strong>and</strong> Tiffany learn that through loss comes life. This is a riveting love<br />

story that will stay with you the rest of your life.<br />

I looked up at Danny. ‘Love story? I don’t underst<strong>and</strong>. This isn’t a love story! It’s a<br />

fantasy adventure! What happened to Roy <strong>and</strong> Melanie? What about the centaur? What<br />

about the parallel universe? What did you do to my book?’<br />

Danny’s eyebrows were up near his hairline. ‘Your book? What are you…?’ Realisation<br />

flashed in Danny’s eyes <strong>and</strong> he laughed. ‘You think this is your ‘Flashing Lights’? No, no,<br />

no. I’m sorry, Ben. You must think I’m a real prick. I couldn’t send your manuscript back all<br />

those years ago—my gr<strong>and</strong>mother’s cat discovered a taste for paper <strong>and</strong> destroyed it. I knew<br />

you had a copy on your computer, so I just put it through the paper shredder. I didn’t think<br />

you’d like getting it back in the state it was in.’<br />

The explanation was so…normal. Could it be that simple?<br />

‘But…what about the title? “Flashing Lights” is mine.’<br />

Danny laughed <strong>and</strong> shook his head. ‘Oh, Ben.’ The sympathy in his voice made me feel<br />

small <strong>and</strong> stupid. ‘Didn’t anyone ever tell you? You can’t copyright titles.’<br />

Marie James is a Professional Writing <strong>and</strong> Editing student at VU.<br />

Page Page 60 61

John Platten<br />

by John Clark<br />

Another of the ‘Parramatta Poets’ <strong>and</strong> perennial Hawthorn rover. The image of Platten streaming<br />

away from the pack bouncing the stitched icon on his own bow-wave carries with it the picture<br />

four seconds later of Jason Dunstall surfing through the rich loam with a mark on his chest <strong>and</strong><br />

the opposing fullback pleading insanity.<br />

Are we there yet?<br />

My father <strong>and</strong> I would sometimes go out,<br />

Looking for ideas,<br />

Now <strong>and</strong> again we’d bag one,<br />

But most of them<br />

Would get away.<br />

They can smell embarrassment<br />

A mile away.<br />

He never talked about ideas,<br />

He told stories,<br />

Which would sometimes illustrate an idea.<br />

The idea they would sometimes illustrate<br />

Was that he didn’t talk<br />

About ideas.<br />

Courtesy of John Clark, from The Even More Complete Book of Australian Verse, Text<br />

Publishing, Melbourne, 1989, 1994 <strong>and</strong> 2003.<br />

Page 61

Little Shot<br />

Fiona.L.Browning<br />

Sharon’s dead. That was how the day started. It was like I’d heard the shortest Chinese<br />

whisper in the world. Girls huddled in clusters, arms encircling each other, seeking to<br />

ward out the words. Boys stood alone or in pairs—silent stoic statues. Teachers hovered,<br />

shepherding their charges towards their common rooms. I heard them as they walked past.<br />

‘Such a waste of a young life.’<br />

As I stood, stunned, in my locker bay, the words besieged my mind. Sharon was dead.<br />

Forty-eight hours earlier we had all been celebrating. The first musical ever to be staged at<br />

our school had concluded its fairytale run of three glorious days. Sharon was in charge of<br />

the stage crew. She was a tiny, bubbly fountain of cheek, <strong>and</strong> one of those kids we junior<br />

kids looked up to. It would be wrong to paint a picture of Sharon as the perfect student,<br />

because she was far from it. She was always late to class, more often than not wagged last<br />

period on a Friday, <strong>and</strong> had a running date scheduled with Miss Smith for lunchtime<br />

detentions. But she was fun, <strong>and</strong> lovable <strong>and</strong> always looked out for us younger ones.<br />

Being a super-nerd, I wasn’t much into sports, which Sharon loved, so I didn’t get to know<br />

her until she was made Captain of my house. But she apparently knew me. She made<br />

herself known to me at the swimming carnival. Some smart arse had put me down to do the<br />

1500m, <strong>and</strong> five minutes before the race there she was dragging my sorry butt to the pool.<br />

‘But I can’t swim that far,’ I implored, ‘I never signed up for this race. I can’t do it.’<br />

None of it mattered. Before I knew what was happening I was st<strong>and</strong>ing on the block, with<br />

four other kids <strong>and</strong> Sharon st<strong>and</strong>ing behind me, cheering for all she was worth.<br />

I sometimes wonder if fate brought us together that day. Somehow, with Sharon walking up<br />

<strong>and</strong> back with me, I finished the race. I was dead last, <strong>and</strong> held up the whole carnival with<br />

my lousy time, but Sharon didn’t care. I’d done it. As I staggered up the steps, Sharon was<br />

waiting for me with a towel. She smiled <strong>and</strong> thumped me on the back.<br />

‘Way to go Little Shot!’ she said, <strong>and</strong> then repeated the whole process again with another<br />

unwilling aquatic hero.<br />

From that time on I knew I wanted to be like Sharon. Whenever I bumped into her at<br />

school, she would give me a flash of her ever-present grin <strong>and</strong> say, ‘Hey Little Shot.’ I<br />

wanted to know why she called me that, but with her in year eleven <strong>and</strong> me in year eight,<br />

just her noticing me was one of those ‘oh-my-God-she-spoke-to-me,’ kinds of things which<br />

left me incapable of a reply.<br />

When the play was announced <strong>and</strong> Sharon was made stage manager, it was only natural for<br />

all of her protégés to sign up to help. For over four months we worked with her, painting<br />

scenery, making props <strong>and</strong> laughing as she goofed around with staff <strong>and</strong> students alike.<br />

The week before the play she called us all together <strong>and</strong> announced that she was assigning a<br />

couple of assistants to help her run the communications centre. As this was before mobile<br />

phones, it meant manning the walkie talkies <strong>and</strong> carrying notes to the actors during the<br />

performances. It seems inconsequential looking back now, but being picked for the job<br />

made me feel so important, <strong>and</strong> for a chubby, A-grade nobody, that was a rare thing. .<br />

On the final Saturday night, Sharon was even more vivacious than usual. As soon as the<br />

lights in the gym went up <strong>and</strong> the audience left, she went into full party mode. Even though<br />

teachers <strong>and</strong> parents there, Sharon managed to down a couple of UDLs <strong>and</strong> danced herself<br />

silly. It was the era of Boy George <strong>and</strong> Bon Jovi <strong>and</strong> the girl got down. God, I so wanted to<br />

be like Sharon. Just before she <strong>and</strong> a group of year elevens left for their own party, she came<br />

up to me. She signed my program, gave me a hug <strong>and</strong> said, ‘Later Little Shot.’<br />

Page Page 62 63

The next morning I read what she wrote on my program. ‘Always remember, the big shots<br />

are the little shots that keep on shooting’.<br />

It’s funny how we remember some events so well, <strong>and</strong> others so dimly. When I arrived at<br />

school the next Monday, I didn’t see, at first, the boy statues, or hear the sniffs <strong>and</strong> the sobs<br />

of the crying girls. It wasn’t until I bounced happily into my own locker bay full of shellshocked<br />

kids that it dawned on me something was wrong.<br />

‘Sharon’s dead,’ said one of my class mates. ‘She committed suicide Saturday night.’<br />

I didn’t get to go to her funeral, or say goodbye. I didn’t underst<strong>and</strong> why she felt she had to<br />

kill herself. It was such a short life <strong>and</strong> so many around me said it was such a waste.<br />

A couple of years later I got a glimpse into Sharon’s world, when I too was engulfed in the<br />

black endless hole of depression. Only, back then, I didn’t know it was depression. What<br />

I did know, was that I was a bloody good actress. My family was oblivious <strong>and</strong> no one at<br />

school seemed to notice. Not even my friends could tell something was wrong. All they<br />

could see was me, the eternal nerd, hiding behind her books. And I couldn’t tell anyone<br />

what I was thinking, or feeling, because all I could think about was Sharon, <strong>and</strong> nobody<br />

talked about Sharon.<br />

Then one day, it all became too much. Even now, I don’t really know what made me go<br />

to the cemetery. All I knew was that I wanted to be with Sharon. I remember finding her<br />

tiny bronze plaque amidst dozens of others in the flower garden. I sat on the grass ripping<br />

petals off a rose—terrified that maybe I was like Sharon. As I sat there sobbing, I relived that<br />

terrible day. I saw the huddling girls, the stoic boys <strong>and</strong> heard the teachers say Sharon’s life<br />

was a waste. Though part of me wanted to let go, I knew I couldn’t. The hole was terrifying,<br />

but there had to be another way out. I said goodbye <strong>and</strong> the next day went to a trusted<br />

teacher who helped me get help.<br />

Sharon didn’t get to be a big shot, <strong>and</strong> maybe I never will. But whenever things get hard<br />

again, <strong>and</strong> I feel like giving up, I remind myself that big shots are the little shots that keep<br />

on shooting.<br />

Fiona Browning is a Professional Writing <strong>and</strong><br />

Editing student at VU.<br />

A note from the author:<br />

Youth depression is a real illness <strong>and</strong> help is out<br />

there. If you, or someone you know, needs help<br />

but don’t know where to start, try Youth Beyond<br />

Blue or call Life Line on 13 11 14.<br />

www.beyondblue.org.au<br />

www.lifeline.org.au<br />

No one has to go it alone.<br />

Page 63

Youth, VCE & Community Education (TAFE)<br />

Letter<br />

by Judith Wright<br />

How write a honest letter<br />

to you my dearest?<br />

We know each other wellnot<br />

well enough.<br />

You, the dark baby hung<br />

in a nurse’s arms,<br />

seen through mist-your eyes<br />

still vague, a stranger’s eyes;<br />

hung in a hospital world<br />

of drugs <strong>and</strong> fevers.<br />

You, too much wanted,<br />

reared in betraying love.<br />

Yes, love is dangerous.<br />

The innocent beginner<br />

can take for crystal-true<br />

that rainbow surface;<br />

surprise, surprisepaddling<br />

the slime-dark bottom<br />

the bull-rout’s sting <strong>and</strong> spine<br />

stuns your soft foot.<br />

Why try to give<br />

what never can be givensafety,<br />

a green world?<br />

It’s mined, the trip-wire’s waiting.<br />

Perhaps we should have trained you<br />

in using weapons,<br />

bequeathed you a straight eye,<br />

a sure-shot trigger-finger,<br />

or that most commonplace<br />

of self-defences,<br />

an eye to Number One,<br />

shop-lifting skills,<br />

Judith Wright is a Melbourne writer.<br />

a fibrous heart, a head<br />

sharp with arithmetic<br />

to figure out the chances?<br />

You’d not have that on.<br />

What then? Drop-out, dry-rot?<br />

Wipe all the questions<br />

into an easy haze,<br />

a fix for everything?<br />

Or split the mind apart—<br />

An old solution—<br />

shouting to mental-nurses<br />

your coded secrets?<br />

I promised you unborn<br />

something better than thatthe<br />

chance of love; clarity,<br />

charity, caritas-dearest,<br />

don’t throw it in. Keep searching.<br />

Dance even among these<br />

poisoned swords; frightened only<br />

of not being what you are-<br />

of not expecting love<br />

or hoping truth;<br />

of sitting in lost corners<br />

ill-willing time.<br />

I promised what’s not given,<br />

<strong>and</strong> repent of that,<br />

but do not. You are you,<br />

finding your own way;<br />

nothing to do with me,<br />

though all I care for.<br />

I blow a kiss on paper.<br />

I send your letter.<br />

Page 64

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