Creatrix 56 Poetry

March 2022

Selectors: Peter Jeffery AO and Mitchel Thompson (aka Leonard James)



Ananda Barton

Mar Bucknell
            The cabinet maker today

Helen Budge
            Old Man Floating

Gary Colombo De Piazzi
            Forrest Depth

Derek Fenton
            A Nut for Leaving Home

Margaret Ferrell

Wendy Fleming
            In God’s Good Light

Sally Gaunt
            Invitation to the Dance

Kevin Gillam
            the road

Mike Greenacre
            All the Things of You
            The Other Side

Jenifer Hetherington
            5:25pm Fremantle 

Ruari Jack Hughes
            stay or go, i don’t know

            A tin of chickpeas

Peter Knight
            who dunnit

Veronica Lake
            Up on the Roof

Mardi May
            Tanka – full moon 

Glad McGough
            Moore River

Jan Napier
            Doors Closing

Virginia O’Keeffe
            Pink sky

Allan Padgett
            What was that

Chris Palazzolo
            Collective-for Charles Court

Yvonne G Patterson
            Woman redirected

Fern Pendragon
            In the Land of the Blind

Jaya Penelope
            poetry workshop

Barry Sanbrook
            A Recording on the Colombia Label

Laurie Smith
            Restaurant Italiano, 1961

            Borrowed Time

Amanda Spooner

Kaelin Stemmler
            Old Tapes

Traudl Tan
            Sound effects

Maggie Van Putten

Gail Willems
            Autumn Annica

Emma Jayne Wilson
            Saint Hazel (An Elegy)

Ted Witham
            To My Sister



The hour of ghosts 
On a smoky hot day 
With no power and bushfires on the horizon.
The bathroom,
Dense with heat,
Explodes with green eyed march flies 
And black blowies
Buzzing through the dense brightness,
Ricocheting off the slightly tarnished mirror 
With muffled taps
Like humans pounding themselves 
Against unreality.Ananda Barton 

Land of the Kaneang Noongar People / Upper Warren 5th February 2022 

Ananda Barton

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the cabinetmaker today
made a table
a chair
a chest of drawers
and a casket that one man can carry

Mar Bucknell

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Old Man Floating

Summer after summer
I would see him
In the blue ocean, floating,
looking up 
to the endless sky,
paddling his thin arms,
moving his legs up and down
without a splash,
an unhurried style, a
floppy white hat
tied under his chin,
eyes covered by goggles
ghost-like face plastered 
with zinc cream,
a long-sleeved shirt,
black shorts.
I never spoke to him.
This year he was not there and
part of my summer
has gone. 

Helen Budge

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Forrest Depth

Sick with wilderness, her eye
after three days of quiet feeding,
exhumes landlines and memories.
Binds them to reflections
caught on the face of the lake.

Trembled like the wind
slipped to shadows that twist
to snakes, the escape of a sigh.
Wrinkled as crumpled paper.

There is a voice in the musk
of damp earth, a sacred stillness
that seeps on the trace of a leaf
as it scissors the air counting 
the beat where clocks falter.

It’s as if the weight of the canopy
cannot hold the sun, eases to night
with its shadows and each branch
becomes a rib. A repository 
for the heart framed by bars.

Everything permanent cradled
temporary, each foot steps deeper 
into moss, imprints on fern until 
it scales back to insignificance 
as trees embrace the double L in tall.

And day’s shadows creep
distant to the heart.

Gary Colombo De Piazzi

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A Nut for Leaving Home?

Did all the gum trees I once saw at home
migrate from Australia and then roam,
as so many have done all over the world,
their nuts picked up and summarily hurled
to lands needing a fauna to endure. 
Hardy pioneers planted to ensure,
windbreaks protecting many a farmer’s wealth,
or, in Vietnam, predicting a soil’s health;
but when they get there they are never the same
metamorphosing again and again.
Ugly foreigners looking not quite right
who won’t budge or disappear overnight,
just like migrants coming the other way,
like it or not, we are all here to stay.

Derek Fenton

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There they are
seated at the lake, taking
in the changing light
and colour as the sun
begins its descent.
We are certain to find
them each time we walk
this way.

His left arm is around her
waist, her arm resting on his 
knee. They are comfortable
together. Words are not needed.
They incline towards each other.
In their later years they seem to be 
grateful for the stillness and quiet
of this place.

We imagine their lifetime has brought
its strain and stress along with a mixture
of joy, laughter and the unexpected – 
because we recognise from their
demeanour that life has honed them 
to a smoother state. 

They remind us of our own mortality,
our degree of resilience to what lies ahead.
These two older people have found
contentment, noticeable to all who come their

There they are seated at the lake, at peace,
whether in rain or sunshine –

owing their life to a sculptor of discernment,
insight and genius.

Margaret Ferrell

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In God’s Good Light 

Ghazal 25 November 2021

Where are you? Do you bathe in the river that gleams in God’s good light? 
From that enraptured state did you wake and stream in God’s good light?

My dear sister, in your final robes, will you pause your jagged breath?
Say a last goodbye to me? Your journey is a dream in God’s good light.

My muse has left and I am lost grasping at shadows. I shout Mercy.
I am lost. Small hand in mine, help me scream in God’s good light.

The mirror shines moonlit shafts of inspiration on to my bed. 
Tell me when my muse will return seamlessly in God’s good light.

Every day I recite and sing those poems you spoke on leaving 
I hope that when it’s my turn I will lift and fly as a silent beam into God’s good light. 

Wendy Fleming

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Invitation to the Dance

There is nothing more exciting
for a writer
than a blank page:
It is the beginning of a journey
more mysterious than
conception to human birth.
It is the question without the answer,
the invitation from a silent lover.
He was jammed packed with ideas ;
she was shaking with excitement at
what could be achieved in their
fusion of talent.
It was an invitation to the dance,
a passé double to a coy mistress.
He calmed her flutters with
hot pomegranate tea then laid
beside her in the shade of an old oak tree.
It was an English Spring—
the woods were full of bluebells and scented woodbine.
“I am not sure where this is going to go”, he said
chucking her under the chin,
“One thing that do I know is that
I lead, you follow”.

Sally Gaunt


How many women perish on Desdemona’s pyre
fuelled by male sexual jealousy;
“If I can’t have her no one else shall !”
A pyre fuelled by liquor, misperception
the trickery of a knave with a small kerchief :
all senses leave the Moor, the soldier with the sword,
The General, the lover , the wonderous storyteller.
He smothered her, with a pillow, asleep 
she scarcely struggled , not a whimper.
The grieving Brabantio who stifled his grief
even as the banns were read, disbelief at his daughter,
credulous of the Moor’s tales, trusting him.

This story repeats down through the ages:
Corpses of the innocent litter Life’s stage,
plucked flowers without petals,
women despatched in their youth
women who clutched at freedom 
women who with their last breath
cursed their fate and died a violent death.

Sally Gaunt

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the road

the road scars right, across the
palm of land, tumbling, dwindling,
a groove, a history, a way in,
worn and healed slick

the road, oil on linen, bitumen
on peat, with all its gradations
of shadow, bruise to smear to brush

the road, cloud above scuffed and
tugged by wind, rain sifting down,
the ‘haar’ they call it here,
cold breath of wet

the road, its dip and sway, blur
of scrub, the urge, glimpse of roof,
swerve, the early dark, the entrance

Kevin Gillam

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All the Things of You
for Jeremy

So much hair
for a new-born,
yet those tiny hands
and feet confirm
your new arrival

as if a package
postmarked and now
unwrapped on delivery
this thirteenth day of 
the final month of year.

Your face glows
with your mother’s lips
and her cute little nose 
while your eyes
belong to your father’s side

and yet your gaze
of wonder and happy smile,
then needing cries
belong to every child.

As grandparents
we sing to you, as you lay 
as captured audience
on the change table, 

your concentration
searching our adoring 
words and expressions 
in the rhythm 
of your new world. 

So much time
ahead of you
to learn   and for us
to discover
all the things of you.

Mike Greenacre

The Other Side
for Rose van Son

She said to bring along
who you are
and who you are not,
but I knew there’d be trouble
fitting them side by side.

One would be dressed
in quiet confidence,
while the other
couldn’t decide whether 
to say what he really means
or just fit in
somewhere in-between.

While one is still looking
for his favourite pen,
the other will have
mentally scribbled down
his thoughts while
driving along.

One is always on time
and has spoken and joked
with those he knows well,
while the other stumbles in
a bit late and has 
     to sit somewhere 
conspicuously not him.

Each of them
stand as gatekeepers
on opposite sides 
of the line, keeping
the other    just so far
from what the other 
has in mind.

Mike Greenacre

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5.25 pm. Fremantle

A galactic electric storm just tweaked the tail of a comet,
he asks me to come to the oval to throw a frisbee,
the light entices; I surprise myself and go
rather than preparing food for child, cats, him.

The shadows on fresh mown grass are 
Hampstead Heath twilight long, 
it’s almost spongy yet keen under foot,
magpies, mudlarks, galahs are feasting.

I run, miss a catch, run, throw, laugh.
A girl walks a fat pup, says her name is May-as-in-the-month,
her father’s a world traveller, 
her mother from Thailand can speak any language.

A friend passes, walking his kelpie.
I break a nail, always do on frisbees,
the disk hurtles, pink-purple cactus flower 
against puffs of gold rimmed clouds.

Jenifer Hetherington

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stay or go, i don’t know

i don’t know, i just don’t know
there’s no point of reference
nothing familiar for comparison
i’ve got to find a way to settle this
do i stay or do i go

for a day it seems right
but the next, not so much
in the beginning i was sure
now, each hour, i’m reconsidering
do I stay or do i go

every day, every morning, first thing 
i’m asking myself the same question
day after day after day the same
inescapable, insistent, clamorous
do i stay or do i go

there’s a storm coming, i feel it
will it wash things clean
will it destroy everything
the carping question remains
do i stay or do i go

Ruari Jack Hughes

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A tin of chickpeas

My mother dies
After the call I
go home
boil beans

I can’t say that here
go home
boil beans

It isn’t home
and I’m not sure
that they’re beans

In truth they are, but
I don’t want to
boil the local beans. 不要!                [Bú yào! ]
I want to open
a tin of chickpeas
from Kakulis Sister
in Market Street, Fremantle


 不要 (bú yào): Chinese (Mandarin). Roughly, “No thanks.” Literally, “not want”.

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who dunnit?   

—“Careful with that axe, girlie!”

A statement obtained by police from Miss Lizzie Andrew Borden, aged 32, concerning the death by axing of her father Andrew Borden, aged 70, & her stepmother Abby Borden, aged 64, at their home on the same day in 1892.

Dear Dad, oh Dad,
someone axed you in the head
and I’m feeling kinda bad. 

Who killed Pa? 
who? … who? … say!
[Not I, said Ma, 
I was engaged
in my own demise.]

Who killed ole Cock Andrew? says I.
How killed? says sister, she.
His head caved in by a hatchet.
Hooray, I and me and she no longer to be
at the call of ole Cock Andy.

Who saw him die?
Not I, says I,
I didn’t spy him dying, 
my eyes were shut to all at the time.
Says me, i saw and
i’m appalled that he didn’t die 
with some greater dignity.

Who is staunching his wounds?
[Not I, said his brother came to stay,
I had business elsewhere in town that day.]
Not I say I.
Using my apron, says me
i caught his gushing blood,
then let it run free.

Who will dig his grave?
[Not I said our maid,
I have my period that day.]
Not I said I, nor me too. 
He dug his own grave 
years ago, according to cliche.

Who will be his chief mourner?
[Not I said his eldest daughter,
I’m outta town, I’m outta his reach.   
Here i will stay.]
Not I said I, and not me said me.      
But maybe yes, says we,
if we want him put down for sure 
his face buried into dirt.

Who’ll bear the burden of his coffin?
Not I said I, nor me,
while i can swing a hatchet,
I will not bear his coffin.

Who’ll sing psalms for him now?
[There’s none appropriate that we know.]
When he’s buried, out of sight, 
I’ll sing songs of praise, says me.
But no sacred song sung by us 
should embellish him, we say.

Who will toll the funeral bells for Pa?
I will said I,
I will shift their weight. 
I will toll those bells, says me,
to ring out that at last he’s dead.
His death is celebrated by we,
free, at last from the man 
hatcheted from our memory.

Peter Knight

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Up on the Roof

birds eye-ball you, 
                        sing sweeter, 
swoop so close 
                        you see feathers 
roofs of buildings
                        are terracotta
looping to the horizon
                        you look out and over
                                      to the new
ant-like humans scuttle
                        heads down, eyes
tree-tops tremble with life
                                    stretch up, spread wide
                                                   a green canopy
air fills the lungs 
                        easier to inhale
                          swept clean 
winds blow briskly, 
                        change is coming
light seeps under eyelids
                        vision expands
things are different 
                        sitting up here
                                      on the roof.

Veronica Lake

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Tanka – full moon 

the moon, an animal eye
golden, full-glowering
the January ‘Wolf Moon’
tonight I will howl
at my waning world

Mardi May

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Moore River

There was movement on the water for dawn had come to land.
And the heart-beat of the moment were the waves upon the sand.
The night-dark clouds were drifting, shifting to the west.
A hint of blue with promise – a stormy night at rest.
At peace, the still waters waited, waited at the bar –
For the promised winter rain release – release would not be far.
Impatient for the wedding – his bride just out of reach,
restlessly he pounded; the sandbar of the beach.
The bridegroom was relentless, he would not be denied,
the peaceful bride was waiting, waiting for the tide.
They longed to be united to become at last as one.
Their love, again, denied them with the rising of the sun.
So, what was the movement that gently caught my eye?
As my sight became accustomed, black shapes had glided by.
The world may be in chaos, but peace is easily won
When watching nature’s grace in movement, when a new day’s just begun.

Glad McGough

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Doors                Closing

the train

      spooling through afternoon’s cumulus gloom      tubular    inclusive

       almost its own movie    view matchstick silhouettes in lit windows 

the train

       looping between stations     phone viewers    the curious      the furious

      the cuties     the chewers      the rubes    the fruity    those sudoko doers 

the train 

      cruising swan mute     no whistle whoo whooing      no rackety clackety   

      tunnel’s plunge    a rush    spooky confusion     a blinding conclusion.

the train

      fluting tuned out commuters to home smoke   to who    is she a shrew 

      brand new computer    booze    TV news     lamb ragout    ooh coochy coo.

the train    

      losing velocity     night city a fusion of mood and idea 

      illumination without rumination      all passengers please 

                                                                                                       alight here.      

Jan Napier

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Pink sky

The valley spread flat between the curl of gentle hills 
carved broad by relentless gouge of rock in waters’ curves
and vast upheavals as earth tossed and tore its mantle.

Now cotton capped fishermen try their luck in eddies under willows.

Hard to believe you could find bones of tropical fish
just up the bend below which embankment carp now
flip in drying billabongs and herons rise as blue clouds.

Toward the north paddocks flare with oil seed blossom
as gold as any frame cradling the hand’s-work of old masters
or Turner’s Sunrise with Sea Monsters.

Indeed as dawn cracks a line across the range it flares
bruised and molten pulling night from day
ready to gift glories to the world dozing at its feet 
farmers release their herds of neatly patterned friesians
between the rows of ordered blackberries along the creek.

At evening after day’s heat deflates, a thickened breath
of rosegold cloudfall fills the heights in icepink caves,
drawing those of us who live along the hills,
the dairymen, the fishers, those travellers in reliquaries of 
cattle drench and nipple teats, to bear witness
to a display of painted grandeur, a renaissance mural on the sky
which will roll away towards the high peaks of Mt Dargal
leaving us, in gumbooted feet, whistling up the dogs
in the face of ancient heaven.

Virginia O’Keeffe


It is barely dawn in the shadowy rooms where light
and emptiness collide in stillness. Where silhouettes
play in her sight-lines, and touch, that long elusive element
comes into play only as a means of travelling in the dark.
Outside a breeze taunts beneath the grape vine
whose promised harvest clusters like green hail
unpalatable as knowledge, sour as his smell
where he lies in a bed of his own uneasiness.
A crow calls alone, insistent questioning: why-why? why-why?
and the air answers with muted wafts: it just happens.
This is the outcome of fragile balancing acts
and all those clichés, hoist-petards and promises cracked.
More light now, the mirror reflects a watery green,
rippling like his wandering mind which has forgotten
what it wanted to say or simply wanted, wants, grabs, missed.
She missed alright the life of mills and boon and chic-lit
fantasies, caught on the tight rope, the fine line between… 
but knows as a small bird begins its chanting,
as first sunlight strobes the blind,
that she will pick those grapes
and make strong wine.

Virginia O’Keeffe

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What was that

When Tim Winton doesn’t remember a passage from Cloudstreet 
when read to him on TV, I withdraw the tears from tumbling
 as I look at my wife’s so sweet and lovely face 
but cannot form her name, let alone say it. 

On another day in what now feels like another epoch, 
I leave our home for coffee, but decide to go back in 
to get my forgotten hat. It hangs from a hook on a laundry hatrack, 
and after I grab my scruffy, threadless cap, those four hooks look 

as bare as memory is becoming. The recent past I mean, 
not those glorious years of being young and free with books and cows
and horses and silky bantams and rangy boobiallas. But the trouble is,
 I didn’t get as far as a hat rack since on rushing inside 

with a slash of whitehot anger from another bout of forgetting, 
I forgot that on the first time out I had switched our home alarm to on, 
and as a dreaded digital raging ripped the air and tore my ears to shreds
and bashed the patience of our neighbours, big tears went plop plop plop – 

and I couldn’t see the keypad, let alone press the coded buttons. 
But then I remembered something, so grabbed my remote control 
and pressed the top right button so all that could be heard for days 
were Willie Wagtails, passing helicopters searching for criminals, 

whispering grass and the sounds of my beating heart. This day
turns somewhat sour as I scramble to untangle
the whys and wheres and whats.
I wonder what it would be like to be young again.

Allan Padgett  

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Collective – For Charles Court

As big as the land itself— 
                             Human Organisation. 

He blew up a mountain back in 1965
but bringing men up here to move that half kilometre 
of subsided rubble under the sun entailed energy use 
of tectonic force. The road, fence and dam that engrid the land 
competes with the land itself; he argues, as he digs 
and burns and demolishes, you’ve had your turn, 
for hundreds of millions of years,
but with Capital at my right and Labour at my left 
to make a great flood for the new Genesis
                                    I’m preeminent now.

Us Humans, scattered all over the land now, 
we’re as Organised as ants,
                               of One Mind as ants. 

The Mind—One—Under the sun—
                                    Is Organisation.

Chris Palazzolo

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woman redirected 

her letter materialised, envelope etched
multiple redirects —
dear niece, she’d heard

I worked in a hospital for brain injury
I have one, here’s my photo
 how are you?

an aunt I’d never met, knew of, overheard
whispers of — 
she’s in the new place on the coast

we should visit — it’s a long way — 
her shadow lodged
within my childhood, portents

echoed through my mother’s lips
a nephew’s birth, a sister’s illness
institutions, psychiatric —

her image hovers —
an unswept path, feet steeped
in autumn leaves, dressed in white

a floral broach, a summer’s shadow, hinting
of a life — an aunt, a daughter, sister, wife
a mother, briefly — once upon a time

Yvonne G Patterson

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In the land of the blind . . . 

I’ve been myopic all my life
book-up-to-my-nose myopic
all-faces-look-the-same myopic
help-can’t-find-my-glasses myopic

In my fifties I ran away to sea
days I stared at the horizon
nights I stared at the firmament
found my place in the Universe

Returning to the Big Bad City
time for a visit to the eye man
testing twice, looking puzzled
Have you been to the desert?

To the wide ocean I told him
ah, same thing he beamed
he had seen this improvement
in those who look far

Coronavirus is as close as it gets
if I focus on it my sight dims
but if I look to the future 
I begin to see the light

Fern Pendragon

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poetry workshop

she wants to write 
long poems 
about fire
I make her write
tiny poems 
about water

Jaya Penelope

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A Recording on the Columbia Label

You don’t like music do you?
The fourths and fifths in Cohen’s song 
discordant in your mind
relay your distaste as you sit
with the tune pulsing in your ears
covered by arthritic hands with copper bands
that rattle as you move

Listen (or you cannot hear) 
the treble and the bass
pass over you
spearing out to be heard 
in some ancient universe
where the concept of music
isn’t understood
a cipher maybe
difficult as Sanskrit hieroglyphs
to interpret

But you don’t like music do you?
even iconic melodies
that resonate for most           
while improvised patterns on keys
remain as remote as the codes
misunderstood out there

No hallelujah 
no hallelujah
no flash of understanding
or enjoyment for that matter
your voice drowned in protest
and as the notes fly past 
you grapple to grasp one
to study it
to understand its beat
and the poetry of its words

Why don’t you like music
is it threatening?
Remind you of your lost youth maybe
Does it stir emotion?
Emotions you wish to lose
Are you reminded of love?
Lost in nostalgic tempo
or deaths dark shadow
offering no relief
only agnostic thoughts  
diffused in verse and rhythm
The music continues

there is no escape
it will haunt you
follow you

Demand to be heard.


Barry Sanbrook


he knew It was coming
It had visited before
the time he had failed
his failure pausing the rampage
but this time It was stronger
pushing away any consideration 
of the family he loved
as It listened to a determination
no councillor could penetrate
nothing could stop It crashing over him
not his usual lust for life
or the toys many envied
from a lifestyle akin to a boy’s adventure comic

is It in all of us
the seed of destruction
that fertilises itself on self-doubt
blooming when light can’t be seen
as a rolling form of blackness
creeping imperceptibly at first
to pummel the senses

It arrived again
one sunny morning 
when the surf was up
the washing up done
demanding the pills
lots of pills to activate a plan
conceived long ago
until ashen dust rose
Its benthic prey submerged 
beneath ashes of despair
leaving only grief for those left
and questions…….questions

Barry Sanbrook

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Restaurant Italiano, 1961

Once long ago
before attending a night school class
I would eat at Restaurant Italiano.

Not flash Northbridge, 
it was up the top of James Street,
bentwood chairs, bare wooden tables.

The fixed menu cost seven and six;
minestrone, chicken and spaghetti, 
with as much bread as you can eat, then cassata.

Papa’s voice drifted from the kitchen,
voluptuous momma in black, serving,
daughter alluring in a dress as tight as a cavalry boot.

Swarthy grano men trickle in
weary, white after another day of chipping limestone
as if emerging from a baby powder shower.

A grano man lived in our street, often getting home after dark,
shuffling, stopping work to carry bricks we would say
and then, one day his Australian triple frontage was completo.

An invitation to visit comes from Tina, grano man’s daughter,
we are given a bag of sugar coated almonds,
shown the fridge, washing machine, record player.

Every minute domestic detail:
one proud Calabrian family has arrived.

Laurie Smith

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Borrowed time

Our sky dense with hope, lit up with the fire of a thousand chandeliers burning 
–some embers, some flame, some flying sparks–now pressed cold against the 
vast nothingness. We look up, observing the hypnotic motion of celestial bodies, 
pin-pointing satellites, plucking planets from their orbitals. Separating dark from 
light with our bright, starry eyes.

We’re yet to meet–on this sultry, warm summer night 6 years ago, I enlivened 
and you consumed. Feeling time move–forward and space tilt–backward, 
moments split on their axes. We share our first thoughts over burnt cigarettes, 
the used-up stubs collecting on the ground as I smoke away time. Your forgotten 
greyhound melting into a river that drips from the table, 

just like the sky that drips onto us–a river of light. Milky with foiled remnants 
of the very early universe. Galaxies that are so far away that our eyes reduce 
them to a single point. Stars that are born, that will die
and some that will compress, collapsing in on themselves to form a 
singularity. One black hole at the heart of every galaxy, we cannot find.

For it is over now. We have had those countless, unceasing conversations–
revealing you to me, me to you–bodies in flux drifting through ether, huddled 
by the candlelight. Too close to each other to tell apart, dancing like two black holes 
caught unseen in a frenzy of nearness. Warping space and time in unknown ways.  
Colliding into a stream of energy that causes ripples in the fabric of our existence. 

is causing ripples in the fabric of our existence. I had always known you were coming. 
I had always carried that light. You too knew or you wouldn’t have come up with empty 
wishes. With makeshift telescopes we peered into the shapeless heart of the night sky, 
watching stars that we wished upon, streak and fall. Tracing the tails of comets that 
were just passing through, and now you too are gone. 

Following your path into an alternate reality. To be an engulfer of light, 
swirling inside the core of another galaxy. Waiting for time to unwind to when I find you, 
when you found me–we first sense each other–orbiting around a common centre 
of mass, through the pivot point, we begin our dance–like we have countless times before.
Orbits shrinking into an inward spiral with deafening finality and again.
And again.


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the end of lockdown 
should have been joyful
(all those people at the airport, hugging)

a reprieve from holding tightly onto
your thread – holding space, love, time 
for you
an end to the waiting
at last a day when we could meet again
to hug   to hold   to kiss
jubilation happiness relief 

July passed and September, November
then finally, December, when all 
our Christmases came at once
you spoke a sentence we will make this work 
powerful         strong              false

 those eggshell months
watching you submerge under the
cocoon of lockdown, be eaten away
(you didn’t even know it was happening)
watching the little doubts double and double
doubts that were once washed away 
when we smiled

there is protection in lockdown
I can’t do anything, I’m not allowed
they removed the protection 
revealed the possibilities 
and bravery, courage and love deserted you.

a chasm of fear appeared, our connections
so tenderly celebrated and nurtured,
rendered insignificant  
by small differences between us 
which gnawed at your lockdown brain 
and became insurmountable 

You cannot move, now that you can 
your fear of life smothered us
you said our love could be stifled.
Yes, it could
but where is the chance to prove otherwise?

Amanda Spooner 

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Old Tapes

I chuck in your old tape. The one you sprayed perfume in the inlay to hide the smell of paper glue. The memories of high-school flood back as the VU’s peak out – these sorts of glimpses of the past never having been meant to be played on anything but a portable player. Oversaturated; badly balanced; mono. My deck is much better than it was then and the shock of the audio quality is another abrasive reminder that the nostalgia isn’t what it once was. 

Did you ever buy a new deck? or did your player just wear out slowly and never get replaced, my flirtatious gifts now sitting in a tub at the top of your cupboard, never to be played again.

We’ve drifted so far apart now that it’s hard to tell you how much a piece of plastic and Ferric-Oxide meant to me without drawing attention to the lack of time we spend together now. These warped segments of forgotten teen-anthems, all I have to console myself with. I could have bit my tongue more. Not said some of the things I did. But you can only bite down for so long before you start to taste blood.

People move apart. I know this now.

The mind races, to find alternate histories, possibilities that I had asked you out then. We’d still be where we are today, just having traversed a different route. I have no doubt that you’d still view me with the same detached look, and our interactions would still be short and awkward, but perhaps for different reasons.

Kaelin Stemmler

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Sound effects

no wing beat heard nor swish of feathers
just a sudden midnight shriek
close to dome-tented
imagined security,
more heart-rending, human-like wails
follow in tone and crescendo
then in dread and fear I hear
bone chilling screams slash like daggers,
assault the cosiness of a dream-filled swag

such haunting, eerie sounds
of deepest anguish and
utter desolation
cause instant trepidation,
gone the memory of a star-studded sky
whispering flames of a camp fire
sending aromatic cypress pine waft
over hot mugs of black tea
shared in good company

now cautious venture in the dark
instantly reveals the rushing
whooosssh of a feathery get-away
bush stone-curlews’ flight
swiftly splits the night
their calls in the Kimberley
are believed to be
spirit voices of children
crying for their mothers

could it be that we might see
bush stone-curlews, like children,
            afraid of the dark?

Traudl Tan

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Half awake, half asleep, or neither?
Bedside lamp on, lighting the way,
a blurred line between real and not.
Doors shut, yet it’s a time of visitations.
Ghostly faces are reminders
of mistakes made, friends out of touch.
Yet they appear as we were then,
filled with promise, bright horizons.
Maybe this is another chance.
A subconscious wish – if only –
before a confused awakening,
feeling the weight of years.

Maggie Van Putten

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Autumn Anicca

Do you hear 
the calendar of trees count down to autumn
in wind shadows and small thunders

Do you see
two figures    wind-blown     clothes tight to their bodies
a shot of light spots the ground
tumbled with stone fists

Do you hear 
between heartbeats a harped windsong
twisted leaves gusting rising circling
             a coloured

Do you see
the moon impaled on a bare branch
illuminate owl eyes
as it steps into the night


The street runs with small ghosts of winter
cool the breath
admire the impermanence
of autumns rich edge     

Do you hear
the faded chant resonating
with the drum of winter earth?

Gail Willems

(Anicca- Pali word for impermanence)

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Saint Hazel (An Elegy)

My mother-in-law died in her sleep last night.
She was found in the morning, cold in her bed
she was peaceful, they said.

As a child, her own mother 
had once thrown her over the back fence
into the desperate arms of a neighbour
to escape the fireballs of the Blitz –
death comes as a shock
when the elderly have already survived 
so much more than this.

My husband always said his mother was a saint. 
I had once thought to dance on her grave,
but every Christmas, she insisted 
I join an awkward feast, the ghost of her late son 
mute in a vacant seat.

The last time that I saw her face
she wrapped me in a warm embrace
and said, My darling girl –
a benediction, all was forgiven
I did not know how much my heart would break.

Emma Jayne Willson

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To My Sister

Do you remember that hot night 
at Grandma’s house? 
The heat has driven us out from the unairconditioned cottage
to her front verandah. 
Electric lights off against the heat. 
The light-bulbs tick in the heavy darkness 
like the popping of the gum trees in the unmoving dry air. 
Whirring crowds of moths retreat into the abyss.

And do you remember how all of us had been 
gathered to the city 
Gathered in from across the city, from the family farm 
and from the tiny country town, 
we keep vigil together as Grandad lay dying in hospital. 
The slow counting down of days 
to the moment 
when he no longer 
pushed his breath 
in, out. 

The hidden crickets thrum their endless dirge.

Do you remember Mum crumpled with grief, 
shoulders slumped, 
her face a rigid mask
– and us staring at her in bewilderment?

A spool of candlelight on the cribbage table
a remembrance of decades of cribbage games 
on Grandma’s front porch on hot nights, 
Grandad going out with a hundred and twenty-one, 
putting his cards down on the table with a flourish 
and his grin of triumph. 
Do you remember? 

Ted Witham

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