ISSUE ONE LYRE is an Australian-based independent literary magazine. Operating on a non-for-profit basis, LYRE receives no external funding. Subscription information and other details can be found at our website. EDITOR: Michael Holmes DESIGNER: Amy Christensen WEB: http://lyreblog.blogspot.com.au/ EMAIL: email@example.com This compilation copyright ÂŠLYRE Magazine. Do not copy or redistribute without permission. All content copyright ÂŠrespective authors, artists, contributors. With thanks to: Liss Fenwick, Arjuna Alexander, & Adam English
THIS ISSUE PERIPATETIC THOUGHTS AT 100KPH Arjuna Alexander MELT + MIRROR + PROTECTION SPELL Zenobia Frost THE TRANSFERENCE OF MINDS Ariella Van Luyn INDEFINITE SPACES Liss Fenwick ESCAPE Christopher James
HELLO Welcome to the first edition of Lyre Journal. Lyre is a place to be free, creatively, and to find work by your contemporaries: those artists, poets, writers, and essayists that you will come to know throughout the issue. It’s a place to explore history, to help understand the present, and, if the mood takes you, to have a go at predicting the future. And we’re here to help you along the way. The submissions fell together quite beautifully for the first edition. I think beneath the surface of everything that appears here there is a kind of eclectic vision of Brisbane life, and from absorbing the words, the poems, and the art in this issue, I think it feels like everyone’s coming from someplace close by. This kind of unison is an editor’s dream, and I can think of no better theme to kick off a Brisbane-based journal. Lyre Journal would not have been possible without the support of the great writers and artists who bravely put their work up for selection in a new and unknown journal, as well as the Lyre team, with thanks to Amy Christensen, whose design work for Lyre has been nothing short of amazing. Whether you’re a reader or a contributor, or both, thanks for being part of Lyre. Michael Holmes Editor
At the end of this line there is an opening door ~ Derek Walcott
ARJUNA ALEXANDER My eyes slide down past the fuel tank to the asphalt, the fine details of the road blurred by my brain’s inability to render them accurately at this speed. I’m on the legal side of 100 kilometres per hour, but only just, a slight twist of the wrist and I become game for the prowling agents of convention, with their shrieking sirens and flashing lights. The temptation’s always there, but I don’t have the resources to pay the state for the pleasure of indulging in a flirtation with death—it was decided long ago by others how fast I ought to go in this moment. When riding, death is always close by; it has no need to be personified by the reaper, it is already embodied in that blurred asphalt, or the headlights of cars, trucks, motorcycles, the trees and sundry hard objects which flash by at the speed of semi-awareness. Thoughts of death loom large in the context of success as I take note of it in my mirror, and success,
or at least our cultural version of it, does too. Black and sleek, the white and blue badge, marking it as a German product, is stark against the hood. The driver of this conglomeration of status, greed, and environmental damage sees me as something that must be overtaken, and though we are both already pushing the delineation between legal statuses, the black car accelerates further and pulls out beside me In that fleeting moment, while we hurtle side-byside through space and time, I examine the sleek, black cage for stereotypes and find myself revelling in the sensation of having each of my expectations met. Male, white, fat, shorthaired, and balding,middleclassed and unaware of how close by death is. Concerned with status, money, and all the pitiful aims associated with what constitutes success in our society, the driver’s conviction that such things are in his possession
grant him immunity from awareness. The sleek, black symbol pulls away and disappears up the asphalt river. * * * I start to reflect upon my assumptions, about how I had been pleased about my stereotypical prejudices being fulfilled—what did this say about me? What did I consider success? Perhaps I was envious, perhaps the wind roaring three centimetres from my face while the blinding asphalt roared below was a distraction that allowed me to not think about how much I wanted what the other had...perhaps the proximity of death makes things clearer. There would be no bargaining or excuses, with that speeding river of pitch, were I to meet it. And in life, once it’s done, there is no exception either. When it comes, will I smile, or will a tear escape my eye and put a lie to my claim of satisfaction? * * *
But what is this I see in my mirror, another sleek, black cultural status symbol? Yes, it is! How strange, one after another on this same stretch of road. It bears the same insignia, but a model that would have been sought after several years before. Undoubtedly a decade earlier this one had been as “successful” as that one that had passed by earlier. What had happened to this one? Had the success been sort lived? And if success has the potential to be short lived, how could anyone ever fit the definition and deserve the title—without dying—while enjoying this ephemeral state? Unlike the other, this driver must know success is no longer on his side; this one does not attempt to pass me by. But instead settles comfortably in the lane behind me, where no doubt he now sees the success of days gone by. ￼ Surely then, there is a link between success and death? Had this fellow behind me punched his ticket before his status symbol no longer represented
success, would he not have been successful? It seems to me that now he is someone who clearly was successful, but what does that make him now, non-successful or static? When does a successful person become a failure? Surely not at the first fall, as they might rise again.... Lost in my thoughts on success, I fail to heed the present moment and strike a pot-hole in the road. The motorcycle shudders briefly and carries on regardless. My eyes shift nervously to the line of the speeding rim—all seems well. I could have met death in that moment, but not yet...I had successfully cheated death! Success and death, here the two are entwined and reciprocal in their definition; one making the other clearer.... At this point you are probably wondering how I rate success with regard to myself. It’s simple: I frame success against the imagined moment of my death. I ask myself, in that final moment as I lie
bleeding on the asphalt or propped up comfortably in my bed,in that final moment when I know without a doubt that death is on me, what will bring a smile to my lips? Will it be the knowledge that I bought the latest cultural status symbol? That I won the largest, most resourcehungry monolith to my ego, wrestled it from all the other individualists to show them once and for all that I am Ozymandias. No, that smile will be won through knowing that I never exchanged my humanity for fleeting calcifications of status,that though it left me naked in the eyes of those who value avarice as success, I pursued curiosity over prosperity and valued my sanity over the mad pursuit of vanity! Die with a smile on your face, I think to myself. Make the world better for all, or at the very least do no harm; reject Ozymandias’ quest and follow the path that is clearest in the moment. I throttle down and shift to a lower gear, quietly dropping off the highway to follow a back country road...I’ve had enough of the “mainstream” for today, of status symbols and hollow victories. I’m curious to know what is down this road. I chuckle to myself, it’s all a cosmic joke....
The city bursts a potion of silt and lost fish heads. Houses melt stilt-first to sludge, bitumen into lavic liquorice Garlic chives, broccoli, potatoes and loaves resolve into soup. In ghost gums, tar-bats drip and possums sloth. We expel putrefied organs as slime; each human liver turns back into wine. We hibernate nude in homes with more windows than walls, glass-bottom boats tied up at the doors. Surely soon autumn will curdle, coagulate, finally cool.
The air is lukewarm and milky as Jane’s flat white. They stare out at the road. Across the table, her mother holds head in place with hands and stares past her daughter. At table two, an old man stands up from an unfinished chess game. A bum wanders in and the chef, nodding, slides him a sandwich. At table six, a capsuled baby is adrift in a squall of tears. At table nine, by the window, Jane’s mother finishes what she has to say and Jane presses her lips together in protest. Then: “How long?” A car rolls into a park outside the cafe, and Jane sees her mother reflected, briefly, in the glass - the stranger in the passenger seat’s eyes in place of hers.
sage the kitchen smudge any mouldering spirit then prepare a stout black storm of Russian Caravan or fresh ginger all this saucered on the windowsill a larrikin brew for they who accept so much milk and honey and might welcome libation with vigour and no eyes averted
INDEFINITE SPACES LISS FENWICK
Ariella found a black and white image of a young woman canoeing past the market gardens in Toowong, Brisbane, dated 1900. This is the story she imagined.
As a child, Althea would work herself into fits of terrible rage, ripping the paper from the wall and pulling the insides out of soft toys. She tore the fabric with her teeth. The stuffing would erupt from the gash, and her mother Ethel would find it scattered over the floorboards, Althea herself flung amongst it. Ethel watched Althea closely during this time. Once, she saw Althea playing with some of the children from school on the verandah, the Chinese market garden sprawling beneath them. They were playing a game of gypsies. The three of them had set up a circus, draping tablecloths over the chairs, painting signs, inviting each other to view natives caught in the wild or a man with two heads. The boy was wearing a top
hat—Ethel recognised it as her husband’s, but didn’t say so—and oversized shoes. He played a guessing game with the other girl, while Althea looked on. The boy asked the girl to tell him which cup the ball was hiding under. He would shuffle the cups around awkwardly, the rims getting stuck and tipping over. The girl kept guessing the right cup; the boy was on the brink of tears because of it. Althea was not helping, laughing every time the girl pointed to the cup and the boy tentatively lifted it to reveal the ball again. Ethel usually didn’t interfere, but today she felt generous, connected to the boy, waiting for the magic to happen. She called the little girl away, distracted her by asking her to help make tea. While the girl was struggling
with the big pot, Ethel gestured to the boy to hide the ball. So when the girl came back out—making him swear he hadn’t touched anything—she guessed wrong. This sent Althea screeching, ‘How couldn’t she know he hid the ball? How couldn’t she know?’ Althea was genuinely perplexed, on the edge of one of her rages. ‘She didn’t see,’ said Ethel. Althea didn’t understand, kept repeating the same question: how couldn’t she know? Ethel sent her away, leaving the other children to play, although you could see the fun had gone out of the game. Althea’s outburst startled Ethel— here was the heart of the problem. Althea didn’t understand that other people didn’t know what she knew. She transplanted her own mind onto others, not recognising how other people could think or know differently. Ethel taught Althea to hide this fact, to read people by their eyebrows and hand gestures. They developed a system of hand-signals: palms up and open for signs of hurt in others, palms down for silence, hands to face for embarrassment. In her adolescence, Althea took to canoeing through the back creeks of Toowong. She once asked a Chinese man to take a picture of her. While he set up the camera, he used the gesture meaning ‘I love you’—left hand to the cheek. Although she was almost certain it was an accident, Althea couldn’t look at him while he took her picture. He didn’t call to her, or ask her to smile either, for which she was grateful. He handled the camera solemnly, and, apart from
the gesture, was restrained, economical in his movements. He barely spoke. In truth, the gesture drew her attention to him, is all. The rest he did himself. She took to canoeing past that spot every day. Sometimes she saw him working the market garden, but didn’t wave. She only spoke to him once more, when he gave her the picture. Althea came to associate her love with an upset stomach. She became diarrheic, would rush to the toilet during meals. She once was struck with an attack in the bathtub, with the outside lavatory too far away. Ethel found Althea in her nightie, emptying out the soiled water. She thought her daughter was dying, and that she should get married before she did. Ethel invited a friend of the family to stay, Frederick, a fellow with a plot of land in Eumundi. She made a new hand-signal: destiny. Althea married him because of his face; in all situations it reflected hers. Here too was the Chinese gardener, he would smile when she did, or laugh. On their acres in Eumundi, he would mimic the magpies and kookaburras. Once, when she expressed her sadness at the death of a hen named Robin, who was hatched the day her first child was born, he wept for her. She felt his gesture was a generosity she could never reciprocate. This was always between them: she never knew what he was thinking, he gave up his own thoughts for her.
CHRISTOPHER JAMES I’ve always been one to argue that we should be striving to live the kinds of lives that we never feel the need to escape from. Though in saying that, sometimes it’s still great to escape, even if it’s only for a day. A couple of weeks ago I was given that chance: I’d booked a tattoo with the great Claire Reid on a Thursday, and at six am that morning, I dragged myself out of peaceful slumber, grabbed a quick, very early coffee with my house-mate, and hit the road. Destination: Claire’s private studio in Bangalow, northern New South Wales. I love the highway. Maybe I’ve just read too much Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson, but I still fantasise about the open road. Not many things excite me in this world, but one thing that does is pulling out onto a highway in my little white shit-box (or even the old maroon shit-box I used to own), pushing my foot down hard on the accelerator, turning the music up, and watching the world fly by. There’s time to think. Time to relax. There’s just you, your car, and the highway. It’s a simpler world than the crazy, complicated one we normally live in. Anyway, just before eleven am I veered off to the Bangalow exit, and took an immediate left turn, that supposedly led to a cemetery, onto a tiny road that probably only went twenty meters in either direction. At one end was the cemetery, the other, a few lots with houses. Claire Reid was residing in one of them.
Claire was a few minutes late (her and a friend had been caught in some morning traffic getting back from the beach), but I was enchanted as soon as I was inside the property and looking at my surroundings. I was in a whole other world. To put things into perspective, I’m a Mechanical Engineer by trade, and I’m currently completing my PhD, studying various planetary entry phenomena. I work in a basement. Actually, I’m sitting at my desk right now. The office I share has three windows. One has a view of another office, one a corridor, and the other our basement laboratory. I don’t often see much sunlight and nature during work hours. So to be sitting on someone’s verandah in northern New South Wales, sipping tea, and flipping through a local newspaper discussing the symbolic gay marriage certificates that the Byron Bay Council will be implementing, and the failure of KFC to set up shop in Byron Bay, while looking out over clear skies, greenery, a macadamia farm, and a backyard with a fucking peacock, was a whole other world, and I can’t say I disliked it. It’s certainly an experience I could get used to. * * * I know it’s cliché, but these situations are always the ones that give me time to think about life. I see so many people caught up in their education, their jobs, and their careers. It’s all about getting to that next level, so it’s all right to not be happy today,
because if you keep pushing, eventually you’ll get to the top of the life pyramid and you can relax and be happy. You know what though? I don’t think it works that way. If you spend your whole life trying to get a job title, or a ridiculous amount of money, you’ll never know what to do when you get there. You know why I studied engineering? So even if I stayed at the bottom level my whole life, I could still earn a decent amount of money, and get on with the more important part of life: living it.
I know I can’t go to Bangalow and relax with Claire Reid every day of the week, but I think we all need to make sure that no matter how small it is, that no matter if it’s only fifteen minutes or an hour, that we all try to spend time in our own metaphorical Bangalow-esque places every single day. That’s what will prevent us from leading lives that we’d feel the need to escape from.
Lyre is an independent Brisbane-based journal for writers, poets, and artists.