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UNSWeetened acknowledges the Bedegal and Gadigal peoples of the Eora Nation, who are the traditional custodians of the land upon which UNSW was built. We pay our respects to the Elders both past and present, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff in the UNSW community. We recognise this is and will always be Aboriginal Land.


F R W R

O E O D


There are so many wonderful things about reading. There is the tactile pleasure of feeling the words in your mouth. The pleasant interplay of tongue, teeth and lips as they lift the words from the page before you. The sensory pleasure of seeing, smelling and feeling the world that the author has fashioned for you. Then of course there is the thrill of finding yourself in a new place, inside the mind of a stranger; the witness to people, creatures and inventions that you would otherwise never have imagined. All of these qualities are part of what makes literature so special. However, for me, what is most invaluable in the written word is its power to show us we are not alone. That the pains and joys we found too inexplicable to ever describe and too vulnerable to share are not ours alone to bear. When writers submit their work to this journal they are giving us a gift. They have undertaken the massive task of sitting in front of a blank page and pouring onto that unforgiving white space a piece of themselves; their beliefs, their humour, their inner world. It has been an enormous source of light and encouragement to me, to know that these voices, these incredibly unique and interesting voices, belong to my fellow students, the people I walk beside every day. In return UNSWeetened offers writers the opportunity to have their works published. I can say from experience that seeing one’s words on the page is an indescribably satisfying feeling. It shows a writer that what they have to say is important, and that they have the power to touch people. I have in my time as the UNSWeetened Coordinator read so many works in which I found beauty and value, but what you will find in these pages are the works that my fellow editors and I could not let go of. These works spoke to us, and I hope that they will speak to you too.

Jennifer Bowers UNSWeeteened Coordinator

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CONT DARLING

TRANS-OCEANIC

A POSTERIORI

STRAIGHT UP

SOMNOLENCE

TORTURED ARTIST

ROOTING FOR THE CHILDREN

Kashish Mahbubani

Eva Caley

Marnie Cooper

Ashley Weir

Alexandra Wang

Alexander McRae

Fernando Bayer

ONION

Rachel Berkeley

BANDAIDS

LINGER

Jade Pham

Emily Olorin

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USUALLY RESIDENT

FORGIVENESS Emily Olorin

Syed Jarri Haider

CULTURAL AMNESIA

LOOKING IN THE MIRROR

HIGHWAYS Brodie Ackroyd

A BLACK HOLE WITHIN THE THIRD SPACE

BIRDS N STUFF

HOW IT STARTS

6-0-1

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Ailsa Liu

Geordie Timmins

Sia Kafle

Jade Pham

Jumaana Abdu

Axel-Nathaniel Rose

ENTS 5


ER

“What’ll it be?”

W

DARLING

WI NN

IN

NER

You had bought such a lovely coat just this morning after your train came in, a black coat

The bartender doesn’t look up at you until she

with deep purple lining that ended mid-way

finishes speaking. It must have been a long night

down your calf. You had worn it out tonight

for her. For a moment, you let yourself imagine

but had taken it off before arriving at the first

her as a crone with tattoos, with a spooky grin,

bar. It might have ruined your entrance.

with thin skin glowing in the tea lights along the

It would be worth the cold, you had decided,

bar. You wonder what you’d have done if she’d

to have him notice your dress when he saw

hissed “What’s your poison, darling?” through a

you. Or your legs, either would do. Now the

forked tongue. You could have done with being

coat is trailing on the ground, clutched in

called darling tonight. Instead she’s just a thin,

your left hand. You hadn’t yet thought to put

tired woman, dressed in black, working a bar

it back on.

on a Wednesday. “You like red wine? White? Or are you one You don’t answer her question. Your lips are

of them gin-and-tonic girls? All the girls your

numb, and your fingers are stiff. Your gaze is

age are drinking gin-and-tonics,” the bartender

fixed on the piece of her hair that’s fallen out of

tries again. She seems kinder than you had

it’s pins and across her forehead. This isn’t your

first thought. Her accent isn’t Scottish either.

first bar of the night. You sway a little, your right

Midlands, it sounded like. Without wondering

hand brushing a barstool to keep you from

what she is doing serving a bar in Edinburgh,

stumbling. The cold air makes your shoulders

you answer that you would like red wine

prickle. The dress you chose to wear tonight is

please, and she pushes an empty glass across

proving too flimsy for October. It is short and

the wooden countertop towards you. As she

gold, with little flecks of blue.

fills it you think of asking her what age she thinks you are, that you should be drinking

6


gin-and-tonics with the other girls. You feel far

of his throat. He had shaken your hand and

too old for that. But now she’s putting the cork

glanced at you before looking away, halfway

back into the bottle and you’ve left it too long

through a conversation with someone else

to ask.

in the group of well-dressed people having after-work drinks in the city. Later, the two of

You notice that the skin on the bartender’s

you had sex in your apartment; new person,

hands is papery and dry, her knuckles red.

stranger, what-have-we-got-to-lose sex. When

She has hands that have seen night after night

trying to justify it to yourself later, you decided

of wet cloths, and wet glasses. She must have

that it was his hands that convinced you to

seen so many people sitting alone at the bar

order the taxi. They seemed too big for him,

where you now stand. It makes you terribly

and you wanted to feel them on your body.

embarrassed to think of yourself as just one

The next morning you took the train back

in a long line of people, an assembly line of

into the city together. You had thought that

bodies. You take the drink with your eyes cast

seeing him in the light would make him

down and sit on one of

unremarkable, but he was kind

the barstools. The wine is

and you felt quietly pleased to

smooth. The bartender

be sitting next to him on the

turns away.

Tube. You watched the people around you more closely that

You look at the clock behind

morning, trying to see if anyone

the bar, ten thirty. You feel

had noticed the two of you. You

as though you’ve forgotten

wanted to see if they knew that

something important,

you were practically strangers.

somewhere you were meant

As the train filled with people

to be, but you know that

carrying coffee cups and

feeling stems from standing

briefcases you briefly allowed

at the last bar. Minutes and

yourself to imagine him as your

hours had collected around

husband. You usually have a rule

you, but the man in the suit hadn’t arrived. You

against creating these fictions but after such a

had bought the little gold dress for this occasion.

night you were feeling indulgent. You imagined

You had caught a train into Edinburgh two days

that the two of you were catching the train

before your meeting for this occasion. You had

to work together, and that you had done

first met him at a bar in London, introduced

so yesterday, and that you would be doing

to you as a friend of a friend. He was Scottish,

it tomorrow as well. You imagined how the

you had liked the way his accent sat in the back

two of you would get dressed in the morning,

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his hand on your hip as he moved past you in

Instead of speaking you stepped away from

a tiny bathroom. Rituals would have developed

the handrail and leaned back into him against

between you surrounding who would fetch tea

the wind. As he pulled out his phone to check

for the other in the morning. You imagined these

the time, you saw the photo on the back of his

things until you caught the eye of the lady seated

screen. It was of a little girl, maybe five or six,

across from you. Convinced that she saw what

standing against a brick wall in a school uniform.

you were thinking, you broke off your imagining

The photo caught her mid-laugh, leaning forward

and looked away.

with hair in her eyes, weighed down by a school backpack that threatened to engulf her tiny

You both had some time to spare when you got

body entirely. Her eyes were unquestionably

into the city. Not enough time for coffee

his. Something stirred in you at the sight of the

– it was suggested and politely dismissed – but

photo, but then his phone was away and you

enough time for you to walk along Southbank

were saying your goodbyes. You shared brief

together, stopping midway on the bridge where

kisses on the cheek, thank-yous for the walk,

he needed to cross. The Thames rolled past

for the night, before he turned to walk north

underneath the two of you and the weather had

across the bridge and you walked south.

a cruel edge for September. It was three weeks before you heard from him “What a beautiful town,” he said. The wind was

again. He had gotten your email address from

vicious and snatched at his words, so you didn’t

your mutual friend and invited you to visit him

immediately realise what he’d said. Leaning over

in Edinburgh. You had replied to his email with a

the handrail of the bridge, you spoke into

date and time and he had replied with a place.

the wind:

You went out and bought your dress that very

“What a terrifying view.”

night. You had imagined what you might say

You weren’t entirely sure what you meant,

when you greeted him in the bar. Perhaps you

whether it was the height of the bridge, or the

would say what a beautiful town, like he had said

size of the city, or the sheer mass of the river

on the bridge. You would be referring of course

water moving beneath you. It made you feel

to your own beauty, or perhaps to your dress.

heady being up so high with a stranger, and

If he had heard your reply, if he had cared to

you laughed aloud thinking that now he had

remember it, he could reply what a terrifying

slept with you, he could simply push you into

view and you could both laugh at each other’s

the water and be done with you. He looked at

cleverness, secretly relieved that each of you had

you in confusion and you shook your head, not

remembered the other’s words.

wanting to admit to the silliness of what you had just thought.

8


“We’re just doing last orders now love, if you’d

It must be obvious to him, to this man with his

like anythin’ else?” Love. Not quite darling, but

huge family and red hair, that there is no ring

close. You shake your head and say no, thank

on your finger, that you are from London, that

you. A man comes up behind you to order,

you are lying. Perhaps you are only embarrassing

and as he opens his wallet to pay you see the

yourself further.

little plastic window inside covered in faces; tiny

“I’m sorry to hear that. And you got all dressed

photographs, some grey and yellow and bent,

up and everything.” He is humouring you, and his

some tinted brown, some glossy and fresh, all

kindness makes your cheeks burn.

fighting to see out of the little sleeve of plastic.

“I’ll see him later tonight, when he’s home.”

They all seem to be related. Half of the faces

“That you will. Well, take care of yourself love.”

have red hair, while eyebrows and noses connect

Love again.

the rest through the generations. The wallet snaps shut and you look up at the man as he

The man walks away with his beer in his hand

scoops his change into his pocket while sipping

and you regret letting him leave you with no one

the foam off his beer. You are trying to see if the

to talk to. You think for a moment of talking to

eyebrows and the nose and the red hair belong

the bartender but she is polishing glasses at the

to him too.

other end of the bar from where you sit.

“That’s a pretty dress.” He has caught you looking. He is red-haired and

On the way to the first bar you had felt almost as

old, old enough to comment on your dress with

if you were a character in a film. The air was nice

no discomfort on your part.

on your face so you had decided to walk from

“Someone meeting you here? He’d be a

your hotel. As you did, it seemed as though your

lucky man.”

life was hurtling forward at great speed and that

“No. Not tonight.”

you had no control over it. The movements of

“That’s a shame.”

your arms and legs and hands – reaching up to

He has a measured way of speaking that you

push open the lobby door, holding your hair back

like. It makes his curiosity seem genuine. You

against the wind – didn’t seem to quite belong

feel another ache of embarrassment at what

to you. They belonged instead to a character you

he must think of you sitting here alone in your

didn’t recognise. As you had walked you had tried

pretty dress with no coat.

to find your reflection on any available surface,

“Not tonight,” you repeat. “My fiancé, he – we

catching yourself at every shop window to check

were supposed to have dinner. He sometimes

that the face on your body was still yours.

has to work late.”

You had felt a similar way upon waking in your apartment with the man in your bed. The light was still soft; the sun was rising later and later as

9


autumn encroached. You padded out into the

You hadn’t yet asked him about the little girl

kitchen and started the kettle, shivering a little

in his phone. You hadn’t forgotten about her.

as you reached into cupboards for teabags and

When his email had appeared in your inbox

mugs and your jar of sugar. As you waited for

a small part of you had remembered her and

the kettle to boil, you fiddled with a teaspoon

wondered if you should reply at all. He hadn’t

and looked out of the kitchen window onto the

mentioned a daughter, or a mother that might

street below, and some combination of your

have been standing just outside the edge of

tiredness, of being so high up, of the body in your

the photo, and you hadn’t wanted to think

bed in the next room, made you feel like this

about where you might fit into this picture.

kitchen wasn’t yours but a prop, some kind of

You had clicked decisively out of the email,

theatre set, and that no one had thought to tell

intending to leave it, but as it sat in your inbox

you yet. The switch on the kettle clicked and its

the thought of him burned in your chest. You

rumbling came to a stop. You poured tea for the

replied, but sitting at that first bar of the night,

two of you and crept back into your bedroom.

the picture of his little girl pressed harder and

He was awake and took the tea with a smile and

harder against your temples. You couldn’t clear

a good morning, darling. You felt warm.

her beautiful, laughing face from your mind, the face that was so much like her father’s.

This exhilarating lack of agency that you had

Before you had replied to his email you had

felt while walking in your little gold dress had

taken another moment, despite your rule,

dissolved the longer you had sat at the first

to imagine yourself as the girl’s mother. You

bar. You had tried to stand at first, positioning

imagined smoothing her forehead with your

yourself facing away from the door so that when

hand as she slept, and holding her little body

he arrived he would see you and put his hand

against yours, and pulling a brush through her

on the small of your back as he said hello. This

hair in the morning as she ate breakfast. Sitting

meant, however, that you had to exert all your

at the first bar, those thoughts made you

self-control to not look around each time the

feel ill.

door swung open. This was easiest when the door brought a bark of laughter or the chatter

“We’re closing up now, love.”

of a group of people into the room, but as

The bartender is back and you are the last

time went on and your legs began to ache you

person sitting at the bar. A few stragglers loiter

compromised by ordering a drink and siting with

outside the door, chatting loudly, but the two

a view of the door out of the corner of your eye.

of you are the only ones left inside. Outside

What a beautiful town sounded more and more

will be cold, and you don’t want to put your

like a line from a terrible script. As your body got

coat on yet. You don’t move.

heavier with wine, your head began to spin.

“Can I at least order you a cab? Do you have

10


far to go?” She is tired, but she is

Eventually, the cold air hurt your lungs and the

unwaveringly kind.

shivering drove you upstairs to your room.

“Thank you. No. I’m not far. I’ll walk.”

Without turning on the lights, you discard your

“If you’re sure. Get home safe then, my darlin’.”

coat over the black mass of an armchair in the

There. Darling. You nod your thanks and pull

corner of the room. In one move you pull your

yourself to your feet. You slip your coat on,

dress off over your head. You drop it on the

covering the gold of your dress and thinking that

edge of the bed and it makes a sighing noise

it was a foolish choice after all. The dress makes

as it slips off the duvet and falls to the floor.

you look like a child, and who would wear such

As you kick off your shoes, part of you wants

a short thing to dinner in Edinburgh in October?

to check your emails in case you have gotten the wrong day entirely, or the right day but

You walk back to your hotel slowly, trailing your

the wrong week, or maybe he hadn’t existed

hand against the brick walls as you go. Your legs

at all. Or perhaps he had sent another email

detour you, without much thought, past the

apologising, saying that he was double booked,

first bar of the night. Maybe you had missed

that his daughter was sick, that he couldn’t

him, maybe you got the time wrong, maybe

make it, and asking desperately to reschedule.

he is sitting waiting for you at the original bar

You know this is a foolish idea. You leave your

where you had intended to meet, where he was

laptop undisturbed on the table. Naked now,

supposed to put his hand on the small of your

and dizzy, you pull yourself under the duvet

back and call you darling. But the door is locked,

and close your eyes.

and the windows are dark, and the chairs are stacked upside-down on the wooden tables. Your hotel room is equally dark when you get in, and your legs are numb from the cold. You had loitered at the door of the hotel and taken off your coat on the off-chance that he might appear around the corner. Perhaps he would even be coming home from a night out with his daughter’s mother, and you would see him, and he would see you, and you would both say nothing but everything would be understood.

Eva Caley is halfway through her third year of an Arts degree with a double major in Creative Writing and English. In her spare time Eva plays the cello in a folk band, reads books in the garden of her Marrickville share-house, and gets overly enthusiastic about spiders.

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Unknown, Unsafe,

Lost at sea,

Trans-oceanic. Land unseen for weeks at a time,

And salt in your skin,

And salt in your eyes.

We do it

And don’t understand yet why.

Lost at sea, Unkind, Unsaved!

Ghostly worth and Captain’s choice,

Join white wash and white noise.

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P

R

N

UP

The passage is dark,

RU

TRANSOCEANIC

N ER UN

NER U


Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow Creeps in this petty place, From rage to rage.

A lighthouse here, On a headland afar, Celebrate now! They know where you are. There are Monsters Out here. THERE ARE MONSTERS OUT HERE.

We do it, Despite understanding.

Those who jumped ship At the wrong place Disappear into darkness. I clutch stubbornly To the notion That something can Also be gained. Those who jumped ship At the right beach, Disappear into the light.

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Cross as many oceans

As you manage.

Cross all the fingers,

You have spare.

Not every harbour is safe from the storm.

After all,

There are

Monsters Out There.

“All that matters is what’s inside” The price — you pay with your body.

Unsweet, Uncouth, Expand,

We do it,

Because we understand.

(Grass tends to be greener on land).

Mahn Lion is a pretend name for a real person who likes to make things up and write them down. S/he wants to be a jester-poet-firefighter in the future, but for now, a Fine Arts degree will do. For the last several months, Mahn’s brain has been pretty distracted.Too-excited, too-nervous, too-afraid & too-eager to fall deeper and deeper into their gender transition.

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A POSTERIORI Take the stars from my eyes and sea. Stay with heavy skies as the soured night takes the warmth from my oceans, and slits the air from my breast. Squeeze at your sides to feel the obscurities pinch at my skin and strip me of my leaves. Spill these inky sentiments down the cracks of my spine, and bind my lily-white waist. Sharpen my tongue, benight the paper of my bark, and look me in the eyes, when you whisper to the Living World, my goodnight.

Obsessed with all that is morbid and macabre, Ashley is a pale, Pathology major in a Bachelor of Advanced Science. She is often recognised by furrowed eyebrows, and can be found seeking a strong coffee and an enduring romanticist novel; when not hopelessly chasing the affection of her disinterested black cat.

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The tang of oranges and limes Intermingle on the tongue of my heart, I want to devour its sweetness in heady mouthfuls, But it is too sour a soul to not be savoured in morsels. The bitter pith licks against the edges, Hard rind fragrant in my frosted glass mouth, That cracks, each time I grind my teeth, The flavour pooling slowly to coat my cheeks.

STRAIGHT Alexandra is a final year Medical student who enjoys lying in the sun and playing a good board game. She wishes she had more time to luxuriate in reading, and loves E.E. Cummings, Gwen Harwood and H.D. to name a few.

17

UP


SOMNOLENCE

I do not dream. That is to say, I suppose, that I do not remember my dreams when I recover myself in the morning. The contrary state I realise was merely dormant, its advent inevitable, for I have since been plagued with locusts of biblical proportions. To recount even one fragment of the infinite anthology that has presented itself to me, is an exercise in implausibility. Despite the profound and transformative effect they have had upon my being as of late, such fleeting feelings can never be captured in their totality, a fact I’m sure you can well attest to in your position. Nevertheless, I understand that there may lie a constant element, a thread of reason that you will be able to glean from my inaccurate accounts. For is that not why you are here? Is that not why I have been instructed to come to you by forces outside of my control? Yes, I believe that it is by starting here, at the proverbial root of one’s problems, where you will be of the most assistance in a professional capacity. I can see that you are surprised, surprised that there could be something more pressing to me than the matter at hand, that of which you have been informed. Your opaque spectacles and your pen twitching at your clipboard give you away. But you can surely understand how it is, that these two afflictions are related? You can only aspire to assist me with my grief if you can find where it really lies; and it is here, in this immaculate office of yours, entwined with the essence of that nightmarish space. It has been recurring, that I find myself trapped in the bathroom. Not in chains, but immobile nevertheless. It is a claustrophobic space, the handle easily in reach, but you see, I am facing the wrong way. What lies in front of me is the mirror and wash basin, obscured by a cloudy film, ashen in appearance. I mechanically run my hands through the stream of water and bring them up to my face, blinking like a mad man, the foggy apparitions retreating further into the corner of my eyes. With a clarity of vision and of mind, I am powerless to resist the creaking of my straightening neck. In the reflection, I see myself, old, with all vital colour drained, looking back through time like a daguerreotype. Somewhere in that second, my hair had become the frayed filaments of a split cable, and my eyes welts lost in a sea of wrinkles and parched tears that evaporated like dust. I try to scream, confronted at once by empty gums, strands of spittle linking lips and a writhing worm of

18


a tongue. Give me death, but never this. The signs have begun already to reveal themselves upon my face. Look to my right eyebrow doctor, can you see what appears when I furrow my brow? A gash a cracked fissure in my lid. I see the truth in it now, myself, aged, a grotesque blight upon the earth, every time I gaze upon that incessant wrinkle, and I know that you do too. I first fell into that chasm in Dunedin. I am holding my father’s hand with devoted trust. The sound of sea lions barking drifts on the bitter Antarctic wind. Wohwoh’s I call them, my tiny hand pointing to the bay, my father in his fur-lined leather jacket and nineties blue jeans laughing. I look up to his youthful face, his features blurred in black shadow, eclipsing the rays of the southern sun. All at once the idyllic scene is fractured by the first tremors from the earthquake exhibit in Te Papa. The shaking house superimposes itself onto the splintering street; lampposts curling, cars swerving, a television crashing onto the lacquered floor. My arm is wrenched from its socket when I am engulfed by the abyss, my wailing progenitor clutches my limp wrist with Herculean resolve. His contorted expression of guilt is the last thing that I see before the sleeve of my red parka explodes in a cascade of cotton fibres. “Why could it not have been me?” his desperate scream echoes in the void. The final pinprick of blue sky shrinks smaller and smaller as I plummet to the centre of the earth, into the very furnace from where Prometheus first stole the spark of stardust that animates my bones. To my blossoming brain, all time became equivalent in that instant. I realise suddenly, from a nagging sensation in my bowels, that I am not falling, but rather, traversing the limitless axes of space; loitering in the cosmic lobby that presents itself to me every time that I scrunch my fists into my closed pupils. The sheer terror of having lost a loved one forever felt suddenly inconsequential, and gave way instead to understanding, for forever was no longer than any other instant. But why then, did I wake? All traces of that divine connection were severed and my mattress indented by the sudden impact of my arrival. New life roused my corpse, making my mouth snap open, inflating my chest with stale air. “What are you doing awake?” She protests the disruption, the sound of sand sprinkled in her speech. “Nothing darling,” I retort, unable to articulate a suitable recollection of the vision. I turn and run my fingers through her hair, an action that has always been able to quell my listlessness. I continue the rhythmic movement, her satiated purr permeating the pitch, but slowly notice stragglers separating. My palm, charged with static, attracts those fine needles. I call her name out, a queer inflection in my voice and a delicate mitten wrapped around my fist, to sudden silence. I fumble for the lamp, books and a glass of water clatter to the floor in the struggle, but its handle cannot be depressed by my ensnared digits. Leaping from the sheets, I hear her hiss, a guttural primal rasp, and flick on the crystal chandelier from the switch at the other side of the room. Perched on her pillow, a sphynx cat with celeste eyes, burning cold with resentment. Its claws extend into the bleached fabric and darn red threads into the canvas.

19


“What have you done?” I plead, aware of a cunning intelligence lurking behind those profound blue buttons. With a flick of its naked tail, it leaps across the divide, sailing past the patterned doona and the woollen rug that we had transported from Peru, a feminine screech trapped in its cavernous, pink gullet, her name lost somewhere in the wind. I cushion its bites with golden gloves and force it to the floor with my fists, bludgeoning its fragile body with primordial ferocity. Its ribs and skull rupture, its choked agony spluttering out in crimson rivulets. As I stand over the discarded doll, I am moved by an inexplicable sense of loss, ennui leaving behind hatred, and linger a moment before returning to the empty bed. The worst is still to come, my good sir. I look to the night with trepidation, for every further replay of that scene chips away at my bust, leaving more of a husk than a portrait. A mother, distended and skeletal, supported by a technological contraption, wires protruding from and penetrating her arms and breast, looks out to the glimmering ocean. Her daughter, too young to comprehend, sits by her side, gazing upon her visage, puffed raw from damp sobs. I am powerless to console, doing all I can to possess a lone kite in the sky, to be transported by a warm current to a land of milk and honey, and those days of southern sun. I am wrenched back, weeping at the side of an alabaster goddess, the girl and her stuffed monkey led out of the room by a white coat. A woman in a navy uniform explains to me that it is a peaceful process and offers her shoulder to me for support. She leads me down a winding path, past rows of identical chairs and matching models, expressions of resolve, painted on eyebrows, gaping glass walls revealing the bustling streets on this beautiful day. I am told that Dr. Pentos is well equipped for dealing with such matters and that I should do my best to describe exactly how it is that I am feeling. “It will help,” she insists, sitting me outside an imposing cream door, beneath a blaring, ultra-violet light, holding my hand as I compose myself. The door swings open as if animated by a great magnet and I see him, the good psychologist, inviting me into an immaculate office with his impenetrable glasses.

20


Fernando is currently completing his Honours degree in English Literature, after having recently graduated from UNSW with a Bachelor of Arts and Education.When not teaching English or Spanish at schools across Sydney, Fernando can be found engaging in his various creative pursuits. He is deeply influenced by the works of Latin American writers such as Julio Cortázar, Gabriel García Márquez and Horacio Quiroga.

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TO RTU R E D A RTI ST I’m a tortured artist. All my jokes are met with awkward laughter. All I wrote was meant as sort of cathartic, As I’m martyred against our corporate masters. Spare us 40 bucks to support my start up? Imagine Uber for imported lager, And afterwards we can head to the bar, Get plastered off of my father’s MasterCard. It’s not funny to me, I’m being earnest. Since mummy networked my last 3 internships. Even when I’m the worst person for the job, There are certain perks I can be certain of. I’m just a burke in socks and Birkenstocks, Shirking work for jerking off. Live for weeks on goon and cheese, Stay asleep ‘til noon at least.

Alex studies Surveying/Civil Engineering. He spends most of his time eating, sleeping and yelling at traffic. He doesn’t really write much other than the unfinished song lyrics in the notes section of his phone. He likes MF DOOM, Norm Macdonald and 30 Rock. A few years ago, he wrote and recorded a mixtape in his bedroom/garage/laundry. It wasn’t very good.

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Almost everyone makes me nervous, ‘Cause of my self-diagnosed Asperger’s. Respond to impulses and urges. Only a nerd on the surface. The archetype of the arty type, Sleep days and party nights. Smoke a pack of darts to act provocative — Jokes but never laughs — I am the opposite. I’m the type of guy no one knows at your house party. I’m a feminist until a woman outsmarts me. Upper-middleclass, shoplifts for fun, Studies visual arts, stock tips from mum. Buy books but don’t read them, These glasses, don’t need them. All my diary entries are sealed shut by semen. The only reason I’d be disagreeing is so I might seem Intelligent. Prone to embellishment, but — I’m actually really into photography.

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ROOTING FOR THE CHILDREN When people fuck under a tree in the dark, The way their bare arses arrange The dirt into new grooves — For the ants, civilisations will fall. When their grasping fingers grip At bark and sap, it sticks Under bitten nails, and on the tree A radiating braille is left. Most importantly, the heaving Branches, bent like taut bows, Are shaking seeds, dispersed by flailing bodies That will grow into tiny little saplings. Not for your children, But for your children’s, Children’s, Children.

Rachel studies Arts with an English major and the rest of the time works in childcare because she likes to feel powerful. Her therapist once told her that her sex dreams about Susan Sarandon were most probably not prophetic, and she’s been writing poetry to try and deal with this reality ever since.

24


25


ONION

ACTRESS The shower sighs, steam billowing into the air. For a moment the world is soft and warm, and I am clean, untouchable. What an odd sensation, to feel at home in so many arms only to return home empty handed. She is sighing over the screams that billow into the air. They’re filming a murder scene next door. It’s okay, they tell us. We can edit them out. I wish I could edit out her fingers. Edit out how much it hurts to be touched so softly. Edit out the feeling of wet marble pressing into my wet hair, pressing against her warm neck. Edit out the seventeen pairs of eyes watching us intently. Her arms are snaking around my waist in a caress that we’ve rehearsed fourteen times before, but I cannot tell if my gasps are reflexive because she’s coaxing a genuine reaction out of me each time…or because I’m just memorising when to breathe. Why is the feeling of having my shoulders bare worse than baring my soul to a stranger? They unscrewed the shower door so the foggy glass won’t ruin the shot. There is a clap and I am snapped back into the icy cold, teeth ch-ch-chattering. She has untangled me from her arms and I’ve forgotten to notice. All I hear is the squeak and squelch of water under her feet, the rag-tag-drag of the towel trailing behind her as she walks. Someone is pressing hot lemon water into my pruned hands and I whisper my words to the water. I am cold, I am wet, and I want to go home.

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ASEXUAL The love I know comes in hand-holding and hugging, tickling and playfighting, cuddling under the covers with all our clothes on. The love I know has me carding fingers through your hair, pressing foreheads together but leaving room for air. The kissing I do doesn’t involve, the teeth the tongue the tip of the lips, fingers running up spines, open mouths, head tilts. I’m unfamiliar with hands snaking around waists from behind, heads against chests, fingers intertwined. I wish they had, scripted our flirting, choreographed our caresses, because the love I know comes from making you laugh, not making you moan. I’m tired of their surprise, the teasing twinkle in their eyes when I mumble, I don’t know what to do with my hands,

because that’s a lie

I can cook,

I can clean,

I can lift,

I can hide,

I can write,

I can build,

I can sort,

I can type,

I can poke,

I can tie,

I can fidget,

I can touch.

My fingers itch to touch everything except flesh and bone, except you. I can hold the whole world in my hands but I don’t know how to hold you because I have never made someone like you my world…and I don’t think I ever will.

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AUSTRALIAN The apartment is dim and stifling when I return. I ignore the fact that I’ve built myself a little coffin. I Toss My Keys Onto The Kitchen Counter Sunlight bleeds into the room from under a blind that is permanently halfway down. I uninstalled the weather app the day I moved to Sydney to ignore the thirty-seven-degree forecast and the fact that in the summer the sun is so hot it burns me through the windows. I Empty Out My Pockets I’ve become accustomed to the cicadas that never stop singing, and the fact that late at night the roads find time to be empty, but I don’t think I will ever get used to the people, so many of whom have perfectly smooth, sun-tanned skin and wear strappy tops to show off their shoulders and stare at you funny if you have nothing to say in a conversation. I Shuck Off My Shoes And Tuck Them Into The Shoe Rack I catch myself still reading the subtitles on the movie screens, even though the dialogue is already in English. I Pop The Kettle On The tap water here is clean enough to drink, my roommate tells me, and I nod in understanding as I wait for my boiled water to cool. They sell bread here in packets longer than my arms, with two loaves that expire in two days, and the cheese slices don’t come with the refreshing after-taste of plastic, and they’ve never thought to cube brown sugar. Tea and toast for breakfast has suddenly become too much of an effort. I Twist My Hair Into A Bun I light a candle and change my laundry detergent and sing to the walls in the hopes that they learn to breathe like the walls back home but all that does is shrink the coffin. I clean my desk every morning, but it is scattered with crumbs and bills and highlighted scripts for scenes I will never watch myself in. These details slip my mind though because I am cramming so much into the front end that I never notice the memories leaking out the back. I Perch On The Edge Of The Bed I have made a career out of convincing myself I will be happy elsewhere; on set they call it acting, the bookstores call it a bestseller.

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I Sip My Lukewarm Water My parents told me they love my name. It means attraction. The kind of innocent, heart stopping love two people feel when they see each other — really see each other — for the first time. I think a little part of me breaks off each time I shorten my name for it to sit comfortably on European tongues. I cannot decide if it is their fault for stumbling and stuttering over each letter, unsure of which ones clump together and which ones are silent, or my fault for not having patience. I Sigh I love it here. The golden country whose anthem I learnt harmonies to before I learned the anthem of my own people. Whose green and gold colours I grew up painting on my cheeks. Whose first Prime Minister I moulded out of clay. Whose flowers I have alphabetised in my mind. I love it here, but it will never feel like home.

ASIAN The clink of cream-coloured chopsticks against plastic white bowls heaped with slick, puffy white rice is symphonic. My roommate hums the melody they play in the lobby of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. I spoon deep-fried pakoras out of the sizzling oil and place them next to my sloppy attempt at my mother’s tandoori chicken, on the Susan that spins lazily atop a pristine tablecloth. After dinner we will sit in facemasks that my roommate’s father brought back from Japan and cue up the next episode of our favourite Korean drama only to let it play in the background while she scrolls through Tinder. “He guessed ‘Asian’” she smirks, holding her phone out for me to read the messages from her latest match. He’s probably racist, ignorant, or a horrendous combination of the two, but she’s blinking back at me expectantly from behind strands of silky black hair, courtesy of her Thai mother, with the dark brown eyes she inherited from her Vietnamese father. I grin. Between the two of us, we probably were.

SISTER My little brother has the sweetest smile. He looks at me like I am the world, and every time I talk to him, I make sure to tell him I love him, inside out, and back to front. His smile is pixelated now, nestled in the crack of my phone screen. He is laughing at the faces I’m pulling in the video camera, and I’m listening fondly as he goes over all the drama that happened at school today because apparently, he was late to orchestra, which means he got stuck sitting next to the clarinets, and everybody knows they can’t keep their mouth shut (all they do is brag about their perfect pitch). But then Abigail, and Kirstie from percussion totally wrecked them by asking them to demonstrate, and they got all red and flustered, and stalled for time until

29


Mr. Taylor finished perfecting the strings and told us to take it from bar three seven one. And then dad came back from work, and then Grandma came over for dinner and then we…

I don’t think even my husband will ever know me the way my brother does.

DAUGHTER The woman in the mirror has round eyes, flushed cheeks and an angled nose. She slides the purple nightdress over her head and lets it fall over her. It’s long enough to cover her ashy knees and high enough to sit along her collar bone. When I was a child, I grimaced and scoffed at the relatives who pinched my cheeks and told me how much I reminded them of my mother. I’ll grow out of it, I huffed. Instead, I grew into it. I have never been more grateful. The woman in the mirror has silky black hair, thick eyebrows, and even thicker skin. The woman in the mirror smells like baby powder and masala. The woman in the mirror runs her fingers through my hair and cups my cheek in her hands. Smile, meri beti. You have everything you ever wanted. But all I want right now is a hug, and I will never get another one from her.

HOME It starts with a flicker. There, in the balcony window! I am convinced I can see my father’s fingers lighting a stick of incense at the altar and shaking out the match. The jangle of the keys turning in the lock of the apartment next door morphs into laughter. The footwork of the tap-dancer in the flat above me turns into the pitter-patter of the rain on bamboo scaffolding, the sizzling of oil, the rhythmic chopping of coriander and tomatoes. My mother is in the kitchen, shouting above the noise in three languages at my brother, who — dressed in his green and gold school uniform – is replying in two, one from his mouth and the other from his saxophone. The sound of honking taxis and wailing sirens, the screaming and sobbing in Cantonese outside the seveneleven, underscores it all. The landline is ringing again, and the caller display isn’t working but it’s always my grandmother, calling back for the fifth time to ask if she should bring over some mangos. I’m skipping down corridors wallpapered with memories until I am back in a room with four walls that talk back to me in the kind of conversation that doesn’t become awkward when my words run dry. The world around me is loud and messy and everything at once, but I have never felt so peaceful.

AFRAID I press my mother’s nightdress to my face and sob. I am cold, I am wet, and I want to go home. But home is a place that no longer exists.

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Kashish Mahbubani is an aspiring actress/author majoring in Theatre Studies and minoring in Creative Writing. She spends most of her spare time serenading her showerhead with musical medleys and overwatering her succulents. Influenced by her time growing up in an Indian family whilst living in Hong Kong, Kashish’s works explore the multi-faceted nature of identity and take inspiration from Sarah Kay, Kina Grannis, and Sylvia Plath.

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BANDAIDS okay. it’s time to do things. it’s time to get up, break a few bones, do things! it’s gotta be done sometime. now’s just as good as tomorrow. why don’t people ever say that? now’s just as good as tomorrow. i am a series of unfinished projects, and excuses are so weak,

you know? i mean, why don’t you do that thing? why don’t you do exactly what you’re thinking of?

doing that thing! do the thing. it’s so small. do the thing. call your mother! put the cups in the sink!

tell her you love her.

Jade’s interests vary between bakeries, languages, astronomy, muay thai, archery, writing, photography, volunteering, and babbling about some film/book, if not neuroscience. She’s a fan of studying the human endeavour, and her stories aim to encapsulate this appreciation and desire for authenticity. Amidst all her varied interests, she sometimes forgets that she also studies Medicine (which she should do something about). (Jade is also the author of Birds n Stuff p.59)

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LINGER There is something incendiary, flammable, filamenting through me. It gleams within my bones, phosphorus, pale. All it takes is a touch, the slightest brush of skin and I ignite. Into flame and ash, I dissolve into your pores. You will find me, weeks later, a streak of soot behind your ear. I linger, in all those hidden places — The curve of your back, The nape of your neck, Behind your knee, just so. Not malignant, Just present. Out of sight, out of mind, A good scrub will wash me away. But leave me too long, and I will seep through your skin. No deeper than the dermis, and remain forever. Patient, contented, always with you.

Emily is a Computer Scientist, writer, and occasional Archaeologist who is yet to finish their undergraduate degree.They enjoy long walks through history, when their code compiles, and romantic musings on the horrors the future will bring.They are definitely not a series of cats jammed into a sweater. (Emily is also the author of the following peice).

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FORGIVENESS

The call comes in the evening. Absently, she picks up her phone, but it is not her mother as expected. It is him. He croons down the line, voice like molasses, telling her how she is missed, how he sees now that he has wronged her, how he wants her forgiveness. Despite all he has done, she says she will consider it. When he hangs up she stares blankly at the flowers on the windowsill. Daffodils withering with cold, only to once again unfurl from the dirt like veins under skin, pulsing with fragile life. She stares until the yellow sears into her brain and makes her head pound. On the other side of the kitchen a beeping starts. Jolted from stillness, she rises to turn off the oven but doesn’t eat. Leaving the food to cool, she takes a clean plate from the cupboard and places it on the table in front of her. It is on this plate that she places her heart. Taking out one’s heart is easier than it seems, you just have to know the trick. It takes a sort of twisting motion, a partial inversion of the self, and then it’s in your mouth. From there, you can spit it out. She spits it onto her plate; this is not the first time she’s had to observe her heart in this way. The first time, she had been twelve and newly in love. Not knowing quite what she was doing, she had spilled blood all over the kitchen. Most was easily cleaned away, but there was a splash that stained one of the jonquils on the counter. She had planned on taking it and pressing it as a memory, but her mother gave the bunch to the neighbour as a gift, never noticing the blood on the bone white petals.

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Dispassionately, she stares at the clot of her still-alive past sitting in front of her. Across its ropey surface, there are impressions of bitemarks, silvery and scarred. One for every person she’s ever loved. The largest of these bisects her heart, as if a mouth had closed around her and gnawed. This is the one that he has left. Unlike the others, it is raised and red, painful to the touch, fresh despite its age. She looks at her heart and sees that it is too small, too scarred to hold forgiveness. The oven beeps again and she remembers her food. Taking a second plate, she moves the asparagus, the carrot, the fish. She places them on the china and is repulsed by the smell, but she knows that tomorrow morning she will be hungry, so rather than throwing it away she puts it out of sight. Into the fridge it goes. Opening the door, she sees it — a chance. There, nestled next to a dozen eggs, is a cow’s heart. It takes up an entire shelf, almost the size of her head. She had planned to eat it later in the week but now it has another purpose. Using both hands, she takes it from its place and cradles it to her chest. As she walks back to the table, old blood, brown and tacky, seeps into her shirt. The heart falls to the table with a wet thunk. With a small knife, she cuts into both her heart and that of the cow, carefully separating ventricles from atria. Then, with great care, she plucks several hairs from her head and braids them into thread. Delicately, she sews her new heart together with her hair, tiny stitches almost invisible against the heart’s texture. Her new heart is far less scarred, and she can almost feel the weight of her past lifting from her. This new heart, she thinks, has space for forgiveness. But even though the space is there, she cannot yet forgive him. She realises that her heart is too closed, too cloistered, an unknown land where emotions enter but only love leaves. She knows nothing of this place, nothing of how to turn love into anything else. She cannot forgive. She does not know how. So she opens her heart. She takes tupperware from the cupboard and cuts out neat little squares of clear plastic with the same bloody knife. She holds them up to the lamp, watching the light stream through. Transparency, that’s what she needs. These squares are harder to graft on than the cow’s ventricles; too rigid, too pointed. It hurts in a way that expanding her heart did not. The edges stab into the holes she’s made, a constellation of tiny pains with each breath. But now she can see into this unknown place and map a path. Finally she can see and there is room. Now, she can forgive. She places her heart back in her mouth; it is much larger now and swallowing it hurts. Sharp corners cut into her gums and her jaw aches from the stretch. Once it is in her chest, the pain stays. With every beat of her heart, she feels a reverberation around her ribs and across her spine. A deep ache, damp and heavy, overlapping with scattered pinpricks of agony. Is this the price of forgiveness, she wonders, all this hurt? It must be. It must be the good kind of pain.

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Overjoyed, she calls him back. His voice is rough from sleep, cracked around the edges. There is a moment of perfect silence from both of them before a soft voice asks “Darling?”. She hears the rustling of cotton and his voice pitched away from the phone, “Work call, go back to sleep, Cariad”. Not directed at her, but at whoever it is that now warms his bed. Memories crawl out from the back of her mind, calls in the middle of the night and half-absent hands carding through her hair, while his thoughts wandered elsewhere, abruptly turning harsh and focused when something didn’t go his way. It is at this moment, with his low voice on the phone, and a deep pain in her chest, that the tupperware squares in her heart crack and she can truly see, without a plastic filter, into her heart. “Oh,” she says into the phone, and again, “oh”. It hurts, how it hurts. She can see inside the landscape of her heart, see the path she has taken, and now she knows without a doubt. None of this has been for her. Her heart throbs in her chest, a beat of pain and sharp, sharp pricks. It thunders through her chest and her ears, blocking out his annoyed hiss at her continued silence. All of this pain, all the work she has done, all the alterations to her heart; they have all been for him. The plastic cracks and cracks and the pain is unbearable. Her heart beats and beats and each beat is agony. If this is forgiveness, she doesn’t want it. “I don’t forgive you,” she says down the phone to his responding growl, “don’t call me again”. Without pausing to let him speak, she hangs up the phone and throws it in the sink. Her breath hitches on a sob as she stares at the daffodils on her windowsill, glowing gold in the morning light, as her heart continues to break.

36


37


S CH OI C

E OIC

I TO

R’S

H

E

D

R’

E

ED I TO

U S U A L LY R E S I D E NT C

“The place that a person is ‘usually resident’ is decided taking into account their physical residence (where the person eats, sleeps, has a home) and the person’s intention to make that place their home.” Definitions, Australian Government – Department of Home Affairs

[The place]

[that a person]

is a continent,

would be lucky,

where the sun learns

if here

how to use

he washed ashore.

the light in its hands.

unlike my heart, which

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[is ‘usually resident’]

[their physical residence]

in the clenched fist

on this fake passport,

of this lover or that.

on this boat,

its status

this heart, always seeming

un[decided]

to belong somewhere else. yearning

at the border

for a place

between this life and that. my heart,

[where the person]

which found itself

in the photograph

one night,

is the same person

having floated across

who —

the Indian Ocean, under arrest

[eats,

before a Border Force officer.

sleeps, has a home]

[taking into account] in Australia. the weight of the body that carried it. the officer trying to determine whether the eyes were desperate enough to justify

Syed Jarri Haider is a young Pakistani poet who first entered into English poetry with a course on form, themes and images held by Desi Writers’ Lounge. Presently enrolled in the Law program at UNSW, he is still trying to figure out Sydney’s transport system and his new life as a potential migrant.

39


40


41


C U LT U R A L AMNESIA

No love for country The tour guide looks impossibly glass-skinned for fifty, a jade bracelet encircles her wrist thick as a snake. She fingers silk underwear, rubs cocoons against baby cheeks, “These embroidered bed sheets make good gifts to bring home.” We shuttle from artisanal teapots, that produce spiralling water streams, and immature pearls snatched from freshwater mussels. Instead of perusing the factory-wares, the four of us take a nap on memory-foam pillows. The tour guide sighs in disgust that our feet trample over, Emperor’s Summer, Autumn, Spring gardens, but no love for country.

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No tithe given of our Australian dollars. My mother says that, “even if they murdered her, they’d pry no money from her hands”

Double-eyelid surgery (Skin screams) Here the precious girl, submits to the double-eyelid surgery. She bears the scars of parental expectations and aspirations, drawn lines across the tops of her eyelids. We’ll take care of you. Just listen to what I say. We only want the best for you, ease into the life. When photographs clipped on resumes, draw favours like fireflies to light. Beautiful child, you will live a better life than us. There’s no shame in overcoming what you’ve been given. But something is lost, is forgot, with bought beauty. A silent rebuke sounds as the knife digs in. Skin screams unanaesthetised.

Suffering, no longer constructive I am one big bruise. A soft peach held in the palm, bends against the knife’s edge, refuses the bite.

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For want of English I lie back on the living room sofa, reclining on Western leather, I try on third aunt-in-law’s wedding tiaras, I watch a gecko walk circles on the ceiling. Once I’d trapped it in an orange cup, I realised I didn’t know what Chinese geckos eat. An ocean away from speaking to anyone in English, Here my incompetence is held out as a pointed example, To impale myself on. Each nod I make to bridge the silence is a strike against me. You can see in the 眼神, in the eye’s expression, Foreign born and bred. I fall silent, nodding. An ocean away I am stroking a gecko’s scaly brown back, Looking for something to do. Rifling through pirated CD collections I grasp at Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Surrounded by the cadence of Cantonese, For want of English, I make Jackson dance for me. He moonwalks backwards and forwards. With each crotch thrust, time hangs suspended in boredom.

Ailsa Liu is an artist working across electronic music, performance, installation, fiction and poetry. She writes strangely humorous, uncomfortable stories on semi- autobiographical experiences of liminal spaces and their feelings of loneliness and anticipation. She is a member of Finishing School and All Girl Electronic. She is currently studying Fine Arts/Arts at UNSW.

44


LOOKING IN THE MIRROR The man

The boy

Staring back,

Staring back,

What is in his eyes?

What is in his eyes?

Desperate for understanding,

The recognition

Red, raw and dry. Hope —

Of defeat

Crawls forth from crows feet —

And not even twenty-five.

Signatures of the smile — And falls Into deep, dark, purple pits, Signs of a sleepless void. Hairline starting to recede, Tattoos begin to fade, Colours blur into the skin A painting left out in the rain. Greys sprout isolated, In the beard and thinning mass Of curls falling Just above the shoulders. Thin, tall and waning, From constantly asking why?

Geordie is a third year student studying Creative Writing and English and working part-time in a bar.When he is not up to the early hours of the morning making (and then participating in the consumption of) alcoholic beverages, he can be found reading modernist and gothic literatures, listening to old records and musing over the endless questions of life.

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S CH OI C

E OIC

I TO

R’S

H

E

D

R’

E

ED I TO

H I G H WAY S C

We had fooled ourselves into believing that departing in the dim light of dawn, a time when everything consists of hazy silhouettes rather than identifiable objects, would soften the reality of what we were leaving behind. Cardboard boxes lined the backseat of the old red station wagon, with more crammed haphazardly in the boot. I hesitated before stepping into the car, pointing my face up to the sky which was now sparsely dappled with the last stars of night. Inhaling deeply, the coastal air saturated my lungs, earthy scents of casuarinas and flowering banksias settling somewhere behind my nostrils. The taste of salt and sand dissolved on the tip of my tongue, a familiar experience. Senses ingrained in a childhood spent padding barefoot across dunes and foreshores, collecting baby-pink seashells, infinite Sunday afternoon. A soft breeze ruffled the fine hairs that framed my face, a parting caress. Without a glance backwards, I swung my body into the passenger’s seat and felt Dad sink down beside me, the well-known sound of two slamming doors reverberating in the air. The engine hummed to life beneath us. I absentmindedly switched on the heating and pressed my fingers against the vents on the dashboard. An old habit. The car began to crawl forward and foregoing the ache in my chest, I let myself turn to look out through the stained back window, glimpsing the house one more time before it disappeared completely. The tires crunched against the pebbled driveway as we veered onto the road, the street shrouded in a hazy glow, fringed with a lucid light that hovered somewhere between night and day. “I know it’s hard, love. I’m sorry.” “Don’t be sorry, Dad. This is good. A fresh start.”

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Dry mouth. The tickle treading softly up the back of my throat registered faintly in a distant pocket of my brain. In a lazy movement, body still heavy with midday sleep, I reached for the water bottle sitting in the cup holder and put it to my lips. My eyelids fluttered, apprehensive of the strong light that began to slowly seep into the spaces between my lashes. I was blinded momentarily, white stars clouding my vision, before clearing to reveal the long black road that the car steadily but surely continued to devour. “There she is.” “How long have I been asleep for?” “A while.” I turned my head to look over to the driver’s seat and was greeted with a familiar sight. One that had been planted as a child and unbeknownst to me had grown into an image of safety and comfort. My father’s long pale arm casually outstretched over the steering wheel. Skin so luminescent you could see constellations of stars beneath the surface, planets travelling along the veins and disappearing into his bloodstream. A complexion his mother had gifted to him and one he’d passed on to me. The black of his watch strap sat stark in comparison. It’s appearance only softened by deep lines that ran horizontally across its width, marks that traced the passing of time. 8am fasten. 7pm release. I returned his affectionate smile. “Are we almost there?” “Not much longer.” Not much longer. The words hovered in the air between us, heavy and intrusive. Three words that had slowly engulfed our lives ever since they were first uttered between the sterile, white walls of the clinic ten months ago. The same words my mother had used to articulate her own doomed timeline. A casual reference to describe the uncertainty of what lay ahead, easier than putting her indefinite existence into days, weeks and months. I suppose we had imagined it would be easier with no endpoint, no deadline. We had tied an endless red string to my mother’s life, in the foolish hope that after her untimely end my father and I would be able to simply rethread and continue sowing. Not much longer. The sun slowly crawled towards the west. Scenes rushed past us, a steady stream of blurred shapes. Fragments of green, now grey, now brown. Motionless figures that sometimes resembled a house,

47


a tree, a looming wall of rock. My eyes ticked over them all, two round mirrors set in opaque frames, reflecting everything yet seeing nothing. The only constant lay ahead, a river of black, lazily traipsing and curving along never-ending banks before being swallowed by the sky. Dad exhaled softly under his breath. The afternoon sun flickered over his face, swathing him in layers of orange and gold. The light illuminated finer details. The white of his hair, receding at the temples three grooves running along his forehead, insignificant to the shock of smile lines that framed his wide eyes. For a brief moment, the veil that separated his thoughts from mine was torn down. His expression was smooth and relaxed, all pretence fell away, creases melted unseen. Time became lucid and I glimpsed the silhouette of a grieving man underneath his skin. He was a stranger to me, always hidden from sight. Perhaps he emerged when my father lay alone at night, when with one outstretched arm he ran his hand over the cold side of the bed. The thought cut shapes into my stomach and chest. He turned his eyes from the road and caught hold of my intrusive gaze, the moment collapsing around us. I smiled meekly and looked away. The car kept up its steady thrum beneath us. “You okay, love?” “Yeah, fine.” Not much longer had come all too soon. In a room consumed with suppressed anguish, we had watched on. Two pairs of tired eyes, hushed statues sinking deeper into cane chairs and blue walls. Both acutely aware of the slow rise and fall of my mother’s chest. She lay silently on the makeshift day bed we had set up in our living room, curled up like a child. A soft light filtered through the window above her, bathing her in a celestial glow. An ethereal figure in white, a ceaseless landscape of mountains, valleys, hollows, crevices. A gauze curtain fluttered intermittently, somewhere on the edges of the scene, occasionally obscuring her body from view. From across the room, I’d faintly registered a small sigh escape her lips and then, nothing. In the followings days, a slow procession of family and acquaintances had filtered in and out of this same space. A stream of voices offering hollow consolations and us, in return, hollow responses. The room took on a strange feeling, one only acquirable through the collective stifling of a certain truth and desperate attempts to fake normality. Conversation continued, yet all who visited were highly conscious of averting their gaze from the now empty bed. “We’re going to be alright.”

48


Dad reached over the armrest and gave my hand a reassuring squeeze. The afternoon light that filtered through the windscreen had softened, reaching through the glass to wrap us both in the soothing hues of dusk that now settled themselves across the sky. A seamless, natural gradient that flowed from blue to mauve, mauve to pink, pink to yellow. The lower half of the sun was just dipping beneath the horizon as we hit the water. The wall of rock and terrain, which had been my constant companion for the past fifty kilometres, fell away on the passenger side, revealing cascading cliffs. Grey and smooth, they tumbled downwards towards the sea. I looked out across the vast expanse of blue, framed by the darkening sky, both slowly devouring the sun. “Breathtaking, huh?” “Yeah, it is.” My mother had loved the ocean, she could often be found strolling along the shoreline, sometimes with Rudy the dog in tow but sometimes not. Sometimes I believe it was the place she went to be alone, to think. There is a serenity like no other enveloped in the sound of waves crashing against sand, a comfort in the way the water gushes across the shore before receding back into itself with a slow sigh. Naturally, her funeral service had taken place on the headland that overlooked the long, thin beach closest to our house. The day had been cold. Mid-July. The sky shrouded in a blanket of mismatched greys and whites, its sides seeming to drape downwards, enveloping the small congregation. It had been in that moment, as I had stood atop the headland overlooking the sea, that the thin walls I had constructed to keep out all that was real, began to fall away in ribbons of unyielding grief. The air that had sent chills through the tips of my exposed fingers was replaced by a strange numbing that took hold of my body and without warning began to seep through my skin and suck the warmth from beneath my chest. Cracks began to appear and the pain slowly trickled in. Small details, now lost forever, encroached upon my consciousness; the sound of her voice floating up the stairs, slender fingers picking at guitar strings, the familiar sight of a red handbag slung across the back of the kitchen chair. The night following my mother’s funeral, I stole away to my parents’ bedroom, my body aching under the suffocating weight of the grievers and strangers who plagued our living room. It had smelt faintly musty, old sheets lined the bed and dust filled the folds of the curtains. There was a thickness to the air, as if it hadn’t been disturbed for months. I walked to my mother’s side of the bed, the bedside table with its books and pens still perfectly in place. Her pillow lay in the same position,

49


the soft imprint of her head still visible from years of use. Something below my ribs fluttered, urging me to stretch out a shaking hand and press it against the satin case in the hope that I’d feel warmth underneath my fingertips. So cold. I shivered. My hand moved away of its own accord, to hang limp by my side. Numb. The impulse to sprint from the room surged through my legs and pulled me to my feet, but I was stopped by a piece of clothing at the end of the bed. A familiar item, painfully familiar. I reached out to run the soft lapel between thumb and forefinger, brushing knuckles against the soft lining. Carefully picking up my mother’s oversized coat, I swung it around my shoulders and threaded my arms through its long sleeves, stuffing my hands into large, warm pockets. Burying my face into its neck, I inhaled deeply. The very fabric was imbued with her smell. Eyes closed, knees hit the carpet, my body melting into her scent. Bending forward, I put my forehead to my thighs and pressed my entire weight against the floor, willing it to consume me whole. “Very close now.” My father’s voice brought me back to the present, the car diligently pressing on in the darkness. The orange glow of the street lamps intermittently bathed our faces in light, illuminating deep lines around tired eyes. We began to head inland and before long hit the highway, joining the methodic, staggered procession of late night travellers. A line of slow moving beasts with wild, all seeing eyes, emitting a low, collective hum as something unseen herded them obediently towards the unknown. Our wheels continued to swallow the black road, as we drove on through the night.

Brodie is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts and no, before you ask, she doesn’t know what she wants to do after she graduates. She often contemplates her place in this world before the waves of Coogee Beach, in the meantime however, whilst meaning alludes her, she is guided by the words of Michael Scott; “I am Beyonce, always.”

50


51


A BLACK HOLE WITHIN THE T H I R D S PA C E .

Dedicated to the immigrants misunderstood


A prolonged discontent.

1/9

In the room that no one can go into, except guests, there is a shelf. On that shelf are brass vases, painted with different Nepali symbols – a souvenir he brought from his last trip there. In one of the vases is a letter, written in my father’s handwriting. He believes the letter is known to no one, but I’ve seen it. In that letter, he tells his dead mother of his struggles in Australia. He writes in broken English, a call for help. The letter doesn’t move from the vase. He is embarrassed that the life he lives now has

disconnected.

enough power to destroy him,

We are

he is embarrassed of his

any Nepali.

depression;

want to learn English. Thirteen years in this country and he doesn’t each other’s noses, but nothing else. He sees in his daughter the similarity of having believe that boys and girls are equal. I am inclined to call McDonald’s, Maccas, and Turnbull Budget. an advocate of multiculturalism or the new prosperity – I am the child of opportunity, I guess that’s how I treat him. So, missing out on. about the places I must visit in Nepal or what I’m My father treats me as a foreigner, telling me 2/9

53

Foreign ground, Foreign relations.

.

Thirteen years in this country and I do not know

a word he feels but does not know how to say.


Unemployed.

3/9

Burnt curry.

We approach the kiss and ride.

4/9

He heaves the grocery bags into the pantry and

We do not say bye.

stacks them on top of each other, carefully taking

I walk out of the car,

out only what he needs. and

“Egg Curry” he answers, to the question my eyes

he drives away immediately.

ask.

Now I’m going to go to school.

The sight of an unorganised pantry makes me

I will spend six hours there,

shiver.

then I will come home

I categorise the noodles from mild to spicy and

to my father sitting on the sofa in the room no

take to placing them with their complementary

one goes into, except guests, pairs. with

Next,

a bottle of beer at 4 pm in the afternoon and his

I open the dhal packets, making sure to create a

laptop ajar next to him. funnel with the plastic to refill the half-filled jars. He will be asleep with his mouth slightly open –

I wash the saag once, twice, three times,

unaware that the day has passed him by. and place it according to type in the fridge. Sometimes, when they weren’t fighting, he used

The water has over flowed.

to talk to her about going back.

He tries desperately to mop it up.

But it never really happens.

The fringes of the hairs on his wrist sizzle, as he

It is the sound of

tries to clean the burner without closing it.

dollar exchanges, of water and electricity bills, that

“FUCK” he yelps,

overcast the

his skin blisters.

soft hums of his desires

It’s one of the only English words he knows. I turn off the burner and put paper towels over the spilt water. I do this until the stove is clean again. He is embarrassed. The doorbell echoes through the empty saucepan. Sigh. He takes a cigarette out from his pocket and goes to the back yard.

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Unromantic nostalgia.

5/9

55 The present,

“Ay, look there – she look like you” he says, pointing to a small Indian girl, holding onto her

6/9

Maybe he doesn’t know what I’m talking about either.

father’s hand on the way to school.

I have no memories of you holding me Papa,

“I used to take you through the dirt roads in

when we arrived in my country.

Nepal to school every day”

Standing on the escalators marked

An odd wave of nostalgia overcomes him,

‘Sydney International Airport’,

as his yellow teeth and purple gums are exposed

your undying love,

by a genuine grin. He’s only like that when he talks about his

died. My accent western,

country. In mundane moments once every few months,

Your accent eastern. I cannot understand you.

he shares another story of his life there.

We became foreigners residing within the same

I suppose it saddens him that I don’t know what

four walls.

he is talking about.

I have no memories of your hugs, your kisses, your love, your attention. You tainted my childhood with beer bottles and cigarettes. Now, wrinkles overwhelm you. You aged too quickly. Your teeth – yellow, falling out, one, by, one. I don’t know you, I don’t know you. Who are you, Will you leave.


The inevitable

7/9

The Fourth Space1 ,

8/9

After a tumultuous fight, he decided he would

Bhabha,

leave any way.

your theory,

He figured it would be best,

yes, the one you crafted over so many tedious

that he ought to seek happiness.

years,

So,

you did not meet my father if you thought your

he left.

theory was correct.

My father got off at Sydney International Airport

You did not meet the epitome of a fish out of

and did not look back.

water.

The house is empty.

He is a man that does not find meaning in

Nobody is home, all of the time.

Advance Australia fair.

There is no egg curry being made

To him

or beer bottles behind the sofa.

I am a foreigner. I am a foreigner.

I hope he is filled with the answers he longed for, I will always be a foreigner. but I believe that it is only temporary.

Rename your theory to the ‘Fourth Space’ perhaps. Fourth being a space of emptiness, a black hole. I am the black hole. My father rests at the bottom of this hole. We are connected by blood, disconnected by everything else. Depressed. Bhabha, you got it wrong, Hall2 , you got it wrong, Bennett, you got it wrong.

1 The Third Space is a theory cultivated by professor and theorist Homi Bhabha. He explains that through time, one reaches a hybrid identity where an immigrant creates an identity that has aspects of both their native and host countries; This is deemed as entering Bhabhi’s ‘Third Space’. 2 Stuart Hall and Louise Bennett and influential theorists that write about immigrants being able to reach a hybrid identity in similar ways as the previous theorist Bhabha.

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Theory of the Black Hole.

9/9

I propose to you, a new theory. The theory of an insecure, cold, cynical, chasm. Here, my father, his father, her grandfather, the immigrants who cannot reach the Third Space, thrive. It is a hole riddled with confusion. The instructions for how to survive are written in an indecipherable language. With no way of understanding, there is no escape. The black hole swallowed my father and took him away Bhabha, how could you be so wrong?

Sia is studying B/ Media (Journalism and Communications) and aspires to be a Journalist writing about topical world news and diminishing entrenched taboos among the South-Asian population. She spends her time exploring her creative and intuitive personality by addressing issues faced by people of colour through an online blog. She believes that hybridity is an issue amongst the migrant population and aims to authenticate their struggles through her micro fiction short story.

57


BIRDS N STUFF

Natan could pass as either 19 or 22. The

unable to slip, visibly in control. He floated in

difference is that he’s supposed to be a fully

waveless ocean waters, cap tipped forward to

functional postgraduate by 22.

shield his eyes from the sun, water lapping in and out of his ears. His hair was darker then, black

Natan is a videographer. “Aspiring”. He’s making

even. He could see the “no swimming past this

documentaries right now. He loves to unwind to

point” sign to his left. He floated a bit further,

documentaries about birds and stuff. His favourite

soaking in satisfaction.

is on the flamingo. Two of his friends were already up and lazing He had a cat. It was a stray but he fell in love with

about on the sofa bed. He can see them in the

it when it first showed up on his front doorstep.

corner of the bathroom mirror. The dark blonde

It’s been less than three months but she’s gone

rests on the tummy of the other (a brunette, like

again. Was there meant to be more out of the

him) and they lay quietly. The blonde mass rises

friendship? He’s conflicted about the beauty

and sinks just as the other respires. She’s reading

of transience.

a Carver collection. The girls are quiet, Natan thought. He wondered if he would ever find

I mean, it should be a good day. He feels clean

someone to just rest with. Something like what

now. His hair is clearly mussed, and he leans over,

the girls had.

placing his foot onto the edge of the sink in a most uncomfortable position. The cut on his

Natan pulls himself out of the thought, arms

sole has been reduced to a white scar. Maybe

weak from disuse. He scrambles over the ledge,

he shouldn’t have doubted the sharpness of the

afraid of remembering Alice. They broke up some

barnacle. He clambered over rocks, seemingly

months ago, convinced that their confusion was

58


permanent, and love fleeting. But it wasn’t like

insignificant it all was; the girls, the writing, The

they were a thing or anything. So no, they didn’t

Girl, the barnacle, his cat, blueness. Natan exhales

really break up. I would say that he felt something,

a little, blinking himself back to his

but even Natan himself doesn’t know, or at the

morning routine.

very least, wouldn’t admit. Natan, tall and lean, hobbles to the counter in I have a longstanding theory that Natan is blue,

a subconscious search for buttered toast.

like the metallic blur between the sea and the sky.

He ponders as to whether he should’ve given

I’m not sure if he really understands that things will

any of it a bloody thought at all.

be fine, that he might be “aspiring”, but that he is also whoever he’s crafting himself to be. I’ve seen the same flamingo documentary, and although for one, yes it is strange, and two, it is boringly niche and oddly specific, I’m glad he enjoys it. I feel like he touched it, just very subtly, with a lightness that resembles a breeze and a dandelion, and buttered on a soft blueness, a turquoise blush. He’s doing just fine without Alice, figuring himself out. Natan wrote about Alice exactly four times since their first meeting in a second-hand book store in Coogee. He had tripped over a bump in the rug, and noticed a chuckle behind him. Her laugh was so pink and full of life. She reminded him of a pomegranate, or the centre of a poached salmon fillet. Since then Natan has given up writing, and is now trying to film movements. His current documentary is about turtles. The girls are helping him, calling him over whenever they spot one. Sometimes they just go and get drunk instead (Natan and the girls, not the turtle), but he tells his parents that he’s getting good footage, and that thinking that alcohol is inseparable from the young adult experience is “grossly incorrect” and “incredibly misled”. Natan rinses his mouth twice. The blue foam swirls down the drain. He’d forgotten how

59


HOW IT STA R T S As I sign a cursive vow He nods assured behind me. Weighty vowels of lineage, Mantle of a vessel womb, I was looking at the pen, He was looking at me. Contracts and confetti As, in haste, we steal away. Now night closes the scene, The quiet gloved hand Of privacy – at long last, Save the chauffer, Eyes discreetly road-bound. The two of us dolled up, The ebbing afterglow of love, Black and white like winter moths,

IN

NER

ER

W

Around anticipation’s flame.

WINN

60


I was looking at our hands, He was looking at me. You look nice in make-up, I long to smear the paint away, I don’t like it, it smothers He laughs, You can learn That enchanting lip upturned, How it casts a sweet decree. I was looking out the window, He was looking at me. A compromise writes its way Into thoughts on the defence, Your beard, would you trim it? But I like it, he says smiling. So it stays – and he leans in To prickle my lips.

Jumaana Abdu is studying Medicine but in her spare time likes to fancy herself an amateur writer/poet, posting on her blog, Minor Catastrophe, for all of twenty-two people to read. Mostly, she just daydreams about living in a quaint country cottage with a kitchen garden and cosy home library.

61


P

R

RU

N

UP

6-0-1

N ER UN

NER U

The first time Elijah believed in God was not

His mother and father tickled their children when

so much a moment as a montage of memory.

they walked through the church doors. It was a

Not quite experienced, not quite dreamed.

ritual in its own right, alternating as to who took

Deep golden sunlight, the flame of the candles

the daughter and who took the son, often lifting

disrupting the glass patterns and melding the

them right off their feet. Their shrieking laughter

borders between them, the swish, swish, swoosh

was familiar to the Church. Lillian and Elijah were

of the priest’s robe coming to stillness, the cold

well loved, a little more so than all the other

wood in winter, his back and thighs and buttocks

children. Though of course, the grandparents of

protesting the pew, the rise and fall from his feet

the community would deny it. The arrowroot

to his knees to the seat, his first rosary beads,

biscuits on the tables outside would crumble in

the glass cool as it fell through the gaps of

Lillian’s hands, just from her hold. Those in Elijah’s

his fingers.

would remain pristine, even as he took tiny bites from the corners.

He held them pressed between his thumb and forefinger, with the elastic twisted around

His hands were small, and he held the thin chain

his wrist five times. He felt Him like a weight

bearing the crucifix tightly when he started

that hooked into his collarbones and held on,

school. The post didn’t fit in his hand, jutting out

warming his lungs and his heart, holding his

under his fist. Seeing Lillian in assembly, so grown

ribs together.

up in her year two uniform, he smiled. He let go of the cross. The sun glinted off the metal.

62


He believed in God when his mother was

Lillian was curled up at their mother’s side,

sick. She was pale and clumsy, no longer full of

vicious sobs turned to silent tears. She refused

her vivacious grace. Nine-year-olds were not

to close her eyes. Elijah held his mother’s hand.

supposed to cry, he was sure. He held her hand.

He whispered The Lord’s Prayer and hymns from

Her skin was calloused, the hands of a woman

Isaiah, sure that God heard, and that he lived in

who worked tirelessly.

their mother. She was half awake, and her voice joined his. They were fragile prayers.

Her hands were cold, her face was hot, her smile was cracked. The hospital was a huge, terrifying

Her return to Church brought the priest to tears.

place. His racing heart did not still, and nine-year-

He took her into his arms. Elijah’s gaze followed

olds do cry. He and Lillian begged their father to

the dust, illuminated by the sun, through the air.

let them stay at the hospital, but he shoved them

The blue of the Mother Mary’s dress played with

onto the school bus and told them in a frantic

the sunshine, staining oak and birch in rainbows.

whisper to hold onto one another, and to pray.

The warmth of God’s blessing weighed him down.

He pleaded with God.

God was with him when he was fourteen

his body when he showered the incense and ash

and lost. Confession was both a refuge and a

away. He washed his back, his thighs, his buttocks,

punishment in and of itself. The priest’s words

as quickly as he could. He wasted away – his

were all the same, but he never quite met Elijah’s

body both sinner and sin, unlovable. His robes

eyes. He still talked to him as one of His family,

became too large. He whispered prayers again

but Elijah had told him one too many truths, soft

and again and again and again, until he was half-

voiced and barely-bearable fear, tainting every

mad with it. It felt like a slap when he recalled: his

word from behind the mesh screen.

body was not his own. The body, gifted to him for a little while from God, grew back into itself.

He felt like a liar, pulling on the Altar server’s

His skin was clean. He didn’t look at the boys. He

white robe and walking side-by-side with the

hoped God would forgive that he wanted to.

other boys. He didn’t look at the boys at his school. He wouldn’t let himself. He wouldn’t look at anyone. He prayed. The rosary beads of his Confirmation were navy jet stone, forever cool. Their string was pure white silk. He didn’t look at

63


Elijah believed in God when the boy with bronze

Saia held Elijah’s hand as if it were sacred. He

hair stumbled into the school, shy, quiet and

kissed his cheek, and the scratch of his lips were

sweet. Saia didn’t believe in God. Or he thought

like papercuts from thin Bible pages. Saia kissed

he didn’t. Or he wasn’t sure. Or maybe he did.

his lips, and Elijah hid his face, tried desperately

Elijah wanted to hold his hand anyway. He didn’t

not to cry. He cried anyway. He ran his thumb

know he could laugh like he did with Saia. He

over Saia’s furrowed brow and whispered

hadn’t known how gentle life could be; Saia taking

apologies through sobs. Saia took his hands.

his hand and guiding him through museums and art galleries, not always saying much, but nudging Elijah’s side, pointing to a painting, tugging him around corners.

Elijah believed in God when his hand could have

entered the Church. The sun was out and no one

bled from how tightly he held the crucifix. His

was around. The priest didn’t seem surprised to

mother’s eyes turned vibrant green with tears.

see him though, and wordlessly gestured to the

She didn’t say anything for a long time. His father

Confessional. Elijah wondered how many tears

had coughed and carefully said that he needed

were held within the oak seats.

time to pray and to think, but that nothing could stop him loving his son. Lillian said that there

The priest gave him no Penance, a silent

were too many words to choose from and so

concession, and so he took Lillian into his arms

she wouldn’t use any. Instead, she hugged him

and swung her around; clung to her as she

tight, and tapped him on the tip of the nose with

laughed. They held onto each other in the church

a fingertip, like she did when they were little.

grounds like when they were children. She smiled as he threw his arms around Saia’s neck and

Lillian prayed with him when he asked her to.

laughed, or maybe sobbed, and kissed him with all

Their rosary beads complemented each other,

the love he had.

jet and red stone, and they sang in Altar servers’ harmony. She sat outside in the grass as Elijah

64


He believed in God when the first punch came.

hidden filth. He couldn’t quite tell if he was still

He believed in God’s love when he felt the slurs

in his body, but Lillian was holding his hand. Her

as sharp as the knife. He trusted his God.

eyes were red with tears and sleeplessness. His parents were asleep in chairs. Saia was covered in

The hospital smelled sterile. It was not the warm

tubes, not quite human, with bandages on his face

lemongrass disinfectant of the Church, or the

and his bronze hair matted with blood.

clean air. It was a mere acknowledgement of

Saia’s hand twitched under Elijah’s own. He

Elijah grasped desperately – he didn’t know

looked too small. The flush in his cheeks, an

where – for his faith. He was trapped in a dark

almost artificial pink, perfect circles, sick against

room with nowhere to go, and the only comfort

the grey, was so different from the sweet flush

from his rosary was how cold it was on his cheek.

of their first kisses. A stabbing pain ran through Elijah hip, to sternum to collarbones, quite

Saia woke up.

different from the cuts on his face. He clutched at his chest. His crucifix hung limp and lifeless on

Elijah reached out for God. God did not

his flesh.

reach back.

Saia’s parents were kind, and gentle, and promised Elijah that he would be okay.

65


The priest touched his cheek. He did not want to

resting on the pew before them. The priest was

confess. He didn’t know what he was supposed

singing in one of the back rooms, a deep and

to confess. His cheek was still yellow and green

gentle tenor, cradling the Lord’s Prayer in

with bruises, but the priest ran his thumb over it.

his voice.

Elijah looked at his feet. He didn’t want to look at the man of God, a man who looked for God

Elijah could feel Saia’s hand on his arm still. He

in others.

was listening so intently, had never heard the Prayer before. His lips were parted, his hair was

He pleaded the pain from the bruising on his

golden and his eyes were bright blue. He was

throat so he wouldn’t need to confess. He

cast in the light of the stained-glass angels.

kneeled. The winter was creeping in through the wood and stone, and his knees ached. Lillian had

Elijah could feel a weight building in the crooks of

given him her rosary, said that he should use it

his collarbones, pulling just below the flesh. Bitter

to heal. He couldn’t talk to his family about his

warmth slid down his chest. It was a tremulous

loss of God. He didn’t want to lose God. He ran

connection, more fragile than his stuttering

the amber beads through the gaps between his

heartbeat. The prayer was over, but Elijah felt

fingers, again and again and again and again and

it still.

again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again-

“Are you okay?” Saia’s voice was too quiet to echo, but Elijah felt it under his fingertips, through

“Elijah?” Saia was framed in the stained glass.

the hand that rested on his chest.

The red light made his hair shine, the grey in his cheeks less violent. “You’ve been here for hours”.

“Yeah.” His voice cracked.

Elijah struggled to speak. His throat caught and so he tried to stand. “Don’t” He was still. Saia was awkward and uncomfortable in the Church. He maneuvered his knees and arms into the pew with barely concealed pain until they were kneeling side by side. Elijah took his hand. The rosary stayed between their hands. Flesh to stone, stone to flesh. The dust, highlighted by the setting sun, made patterns on the wood. A hot tear slipped down Elijah’s cheek. Saia pulled him close, their heads

66


Axel is a second year Creative Writing student. He is of the belief that literature shapes and changes the world, and is insistent that someday he will save, said world.The finer details of his plan are somewhat more vague, and his postuniversity plans even more so, but he’s sure that queer fantasy novels will take part.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS UNSWEETENED TEAM

EDITOR IN CHIEF COORDINATOR Jennifer Bowers

EDITORS

Emma Cox Claire Thompson Justine Ching Naomi Segal Caroline Li Shima Golmohamadi

ILLUSTRATORS

An annual fixture of the UNSW literary community since 1998, UNSWeetened is a student-run publication that celebrates the diversity of creative writing found on campus. It features poetry and prose from both undergraduate and postgraduate students. You can send your works to UNSWeetened throughout the year – all pieces of work submitted before early Semester Two, 2019 will be considered for publication, so start writing! This project would not be made possible without

Danielle Huang Stephanie Ung

the committed assistance of its volunteers, whose

DESIGNER

about UNSWeetened or to get involved in next

Imogen Hunter

hard work and dedication have brought this publication to life. To learn more year’s edition, visit: arc.unsw.edu.au/unsweetened

PERSONAL THANKS A massive thanks to my amazing volunteers. From the editors, whose maturity and insight is far beyond their years, and who put so much thought and care into their treatment of each and every work, to my talented and obliging illustrators and to my incredibly dedicated and dynamic designer. I am so proud of all of you. I’d also like to thank my friends in the Arc office, who were always offering me a hand without the need to ask, keeping me in baked goods and helping me make the tough decisions. Lastly I’d like to thank my mother, I could not have put this journal together without her unwavering love and support. - Jennifer Bowers

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THANKS TO Arc @ UNSW

Scarlett Ha Student Engagement Coordinator (Clubs & Events) Adrian Turner Graphic Designer Sharon Dowsett and Natasha Pantzer Marketing Production Coordinators Jeeves Verma Student Engagement Coordinator (Volunteers) Carla Zuniga-Navarro Communications Coordinator 2016 UNSWeetened Coordinator Laura Kenny 2018 Blitz Coordinator 2014 UNSWeetened Coordinator

JUDGES

Colin Dray Author of pyschological thriller ‘Sign’ Paul Dawson Published poet and lecturer at UNSW Ren Arcamone Program Officer at Writing NSW James Carey UNSW Bookshop

PRIZE DONORS

UNSW Bookshop The GiantDwarf Theatre Writing NSW Good Reading Magazine Kill Your Darlings Magazine Westerly Journal Overland Journal

Haya Saboor 2017 UNSWeetened Coordinator Tulliz Moriah Bakar 2018 Artsweek Coordinator Katheryn O’Connell Business Development Manager

UNSW BOOKSHOP Stephen Pott Customer Service Manager

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UNSWeetened 2018 ISSN 1441-1415 Š 2018 by Arc @ UNSW Limited, UNSWeetened and individual contributors. The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Arc @ UNSW unless expressly stated. Arc @ UNSW Limited accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions or information contained in this issue of UNSWeetened. Any complaints should be made in writing to the UNSWeetened Coordinator. UNSWeetened is published by Arc @ UNSW Limited. For more information about Arc’s programs, please contact: Arc Clubs & Volunteerinng Arc @ UNSW Limited PO Box 173 Kingsford NSW Australia 2032 volunteer@arc.unsw.edu.au arc.unsw.edu.au/UNSWeetened

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