Issuu on Google+

fill your bucket WESTSIDE NEW SERIES VOL.1


FILL YOUR BUCKET WESTSIDE New Series, Vol.1

Edited by Michael Mohammed Ahmad A Westside Publications Project Produced by BYDS

1


Westside, New Series, Volume One. Published by BYDS, PO BOX 577 Bankstown NSW 1885, 6-8 Bankstown City Plaza Bankstown, telephone: (02) 9793 8324, www.byds.org.au. No part of this publication may be published without the written permission of the publisher. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the publisher. ISBN 978-0-9580108-3-2 ISSN 1441-712X Copyright 2009

2


Acknowledgments This edition of Westside could not have been completed without the support of the funding bodies and wonderful individuals associated with BYDS. The editor would like to personally thank artistic director of BYDS, Tim Carroll for all his hard work, devotion and investment in Westside. He is the hero of Bankstown. The editor thanks Roslyn Oades for her time and dedication to Westside over two decades and rejoices in her collaboration on this new series. It isn’t whole without her. The editor thanks Professor Ivor Indyk for his valuable assistance, guidance and mentoring throughout the process of producing a Westside. You raise the bar for us all. Thank you also to Judith Ridge and Jenny Bisset for their support and partnership with Westside Publications. Thank you to all the funding bodies that support Westside Publications: Bankstown City Council, Arts NSW, Copyright Agency Limited, Giramondo Publishing and the UWS Writing and Society Research Group. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. Also supported by the Western Sydney Young People’s Literature project, funded by Arts NSW, DET, the Australia Council for the Arts and Blacktown City Council. Finally the editor would like to thank the amazing and talented contributors of Westside: Fill Your Bucket. The future is looking bright.

3


EDITOR: Michael Mohammed Ahmad SUB EDITOR: Roslyn Oades PROOFREADERS: Isabel Veira and Chris Womersley LAYOUT ARTIST: Roslyn Oades COVER IMAGE: Bill Reda

4


Contents Introduction by Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Editor ..................................................................... 9 Passing of the Eye by Peter Polites ..........................................................................................................11 Collected Short Stories by Luke Carman ..........................................................................................15 Collected Poems by Fiona Wright ......................................................................................................... 23 In the Middle by Andy Ko ............................................................................................................................ 33 On What Comes Next by Felicity Castagna .................................................................................... 43 Collected Poems by Arda Barut .............................................................................................................. 49 Disorder by Gloria Ahmad ......................................................................................................................... 55 Tickets by Lachlan Brown ............................................................................................................................ 59 Madness and Bliss by Samantha Hogg ................................................................................................. 63 Collected Poems by Rebecca Landon ................................................................................................. 67 The Revelation of Shane by Andrew Ma ........................................................................................... 73 Collected Poems by George Toseski ..................................................................................................... 85 Funnel Web Woman by Riem Derbas .................................................................................................. 91 Alleyway Honour by Bill Reda .................................................................................................................. 97 Collected Poems by Nathan Elhosni ...................................................................................................105 Sudden Departure by Tamar Chnorhokian ......................................................................................109 Spaghetti in Italy by Michael Mohammed Ahmad .......................................................................115 The Bridge by Tim Carroll .........................................................................................................................121

5


6


Winners of the 2009 Bankstown City Council

Youth Week Writing Competition Introduction by Justine Foo ........................................................................................................................127 Flashback by Daniel Bishara ......................................................................................................................128 Equal First Place

Swirly, Bright Entity by Paul Boustani .................................................................................................130 Equal First Place

Life after Learning by Rebekah Bojkovska .......................................................................................132 Outstanding Junior Writer

The Life of Nick Rossi by Rifat Kibria ................................................................................................136 Highly Commended

Guilt by Stephanie Pawlowski ..................................................................................................................140 Highly Commended

Tiger Rising by Shannan Nettleship .....................................................................................................142 Highly Commended

Leap of Faith by Arthur Wang ................................................................................................................143 Highly Commended

Aunt Sally by Nicole Chahine ..................................................................................................................145 Highly Commended

The Stealth of Sundown by Kate Kovalik .........................................................................................146 Highly Commended

7


8


Introduction When I first began work on this particular edition of Westside, I was encouraged by my friend and mentor, Professor Ivor Indyk to include my own writing. “You have to show people how it’s done,” he said. Looking over this amazing publication, I now find that comment rather amusing. Having worked with the writers of this edition very closely, and also having hand-picked their writing, I can honestly say that I am their biggest fan, and use my admiration toward them as a tool for recognising quality work across Western Sydney. The writers of this publication show me how it’s done, and I don’t think that my own writing exceeds their level. Nonetheless it is a great honour to be a writer on this publication as well as its editor. Westside: Fill Your Bucket is the first of its kind, and focuses on the long-standing contributors to Westside Publications: older, more experienced and promising writers from Western Sydney. This is a publication which has once again raised the bar for quality writing from a diverse, but largely unrecognised region. I met Professor Ivor Indyk in 2007 through the formation of the Western Sydney Writers’ Group. Back then our writers loved telling mythical, epic and fictional stories that in many ways reflected how we wished we were somewhere and someone else. During that time Ivor pointed out to us that it was a disappointment we weren’t writing about Western Sydney, the place we knew best. He said, “No one else is going to do it.” When I first began producing Westside, I didn’t fully understand the publication’s value and importance to Australian literature. Four years on, I now know that Westside – as well as being a unique and lone outlet for identifying writers from Western Sydney – explores and teaches the world about a place that only people within can understand and accurately portray. I hope, in respect of Ivor’s point, that this publication, and future Westside publications, will share with Australia the true voice of Western Sydney. The content of this publication is writing which has been facilitated, developed and nurtured. The stories and poems you are about to read are honest, personal and life-changing. It is writing that speaks of honour and shame, strength and weakness, courage and cowardice. This edition’s title, Fill Your Bucket, comes from a poem written by my dear friend and long-standing contributor to Westside Publications, Arda Barut. His words on undying and everlasting love represent to me the attitude we at BYDS have about art and literature. The need for it is unlimited. Enter Westside, take what you need. We offer you an ocean of knowledge. Come on inside … … and fill your bucket. Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Editor

9


10


Passing of the Eye By Peter Polites

11


T

he moon was setting in full in the west over the branches of my neighbour’s olive tree. For the first part of the journey I was fence-walking on the low-to-the-ground brick mortar. It was just one foot after the other not looking down, pretending I was walking a thin plank of hard bridge and the rest of the ground was molten concrete turned lava. The more the morning sun rose behind me, the more the winter moon slipped beyond the hillside of eucalyptus and brown tiled roofs. Like the moon in the morning sky, I was hanging in wait for resolution before I reached my destination: school. This is what it came down to – grey shorts that were too tight and a powder blue Bonds shirt that had a crest on the left and even at that point, the clothes were too tight and even at that point, everyone except me knew what I was and they told me in the playground who I was (I spent a lot of time running from this). It was public memory, just like that of my sister walking and a trail of blood that followed her when it was too early even for her. And it would have been the time I was making my journey that I noticed the car. I would probably have been walking on the shadow of the morning fence line by now (fence-walking alone between the outline of double-brick-veneer-bungalow-keepaways, raised high to the ground) when I noticed the wheeled machine in shit-coloured khaki with a gaunt, faded chrome grill and hubless, rusted wheels carrying someone that had too much dark slick short hair for his age and a moustache that was bushy enough to be foreign, not from here and therefore out of context. The man inside was short or his seat was lowered, his stout neck and shoulders just peered over the camo-green dash and when he leaned into the driver’s side window to take a better look at me – to eat me with his eyes – his nostrils heavy with moist breath created a fine dragon trail of mist on the glass. At times I swear he was looking so hard that one of his fat cheeks nearly pinked against the glass and for a moment this short pathetic foreigner aroused my pity in a way that no one had before. Poor him, that he wasn’t me, I thought with vanity and tight little young body. The second time he passed, the vehicle crept alongside me, winding in and out of the double lanes almost hitting parked cars. Staring at me alone on the street, so alone, while I was surrounded by all the possibilities of life: the remnants and affronts of housing indicating a rich life inside, I was aware of the contrast. There I was, in front of the many 1950’s bungalows with their brown bricks – almost escaping from the clutches of art deco heritage with trimmed trees, clean front yards and Victorian rose bushes, all occupied and cared for – and yet it could have been the most barren of deserts when I saw him. I wouldn’t have been shocked seeing a sidewinder straddle a dune. But this man and car were no mirage. He was no oasis by date trees and

12


palms. He was real, there, present and under the foliage of blooming red bottlebrush. On the third time he passed, after I’d realised I was being watched, his gaze hit more than the side of my face, not caressing but scanning and assessing. At the time I was not able to distinguish myself from my shell, and in this scared, revelling way really embraced it. Responding towards it like a mosquito caught in the lightning blue serenity of a trap, caught unforeseen but realising with its death throes that the only thing to do is just go with it. Going with it to see how far it would go. Pushing my back out, arching it to show the deep curves, not tightening the slack around my waist (back then there was no slack to tighten) and using my creamy little legs, defined calves and disproportionately thick thighs to show him who I was. Then on the fourth time he circled the block, he pulled slowly alongside me, curbing my pace while he lifted his eye-line. He rolled down the window and I could see his right shoulder mechanically working a handle with difficulty, a handle that desperately needed the attention of lubricant. With the creaking down of the dirty window, the top of his moustache arching, both sides of his cheeks balling up against his nose, he grunted in four syllables: “Ah. You. Come here.” I fled as fast as I could using those disproportionately thick thighs in grey little shorts that I should have stopped wearing about two years ago. My shorts rubbed against themselves, chafing the fibres from the top of my legs so much that the system in place for bush fire hazard went from yellow, to orange, to red: high fire risk. His gaze before the: Ah. You. Come here. put the eye on me. The eye that can only come from the inside of their person, so deeply from their core that it’s a curse and that’s where I’m sure I got it from. I’m pretty sure if that day I didn’t get abducted he turned me into himself not through the transference of voice but through gaze, the curse, the eye, which lured me and like a little boy handing a man a glass of water, I realised that the giving of myself is controlled by the force of me. At the time I only had one previous experience with the eye. I’d been cursed by jealousy before and it was revealed to a woman that I called Aunty even though she wasn’t blood kin. Her name was Vaso. She was always painted in blue eye shadow and had curly blonde hair with glowing brown roots. She was called Aunty because she wasn’t one. She was just a family friend that had been around forever. The revelation came to her in the prayers of a familial stranger: a stranger who came to her in dreams, long bearded, hair around his shoulders, Mary Magdalene by his side. I was rotting on the inside; my legs were blue and fading from their natural use. There was perspiration around my forehead and my eyes blurred. Four women gathered

13


around me, a curly blonde, a stringy ashen blonde, a brown scouring-pad-haired woman and my mother who at the time had a black bob. They chanted in a language older than our Orthodox faith, their fingers formed a triangle, crossing my forehead, chin and both cheek bones. Their clothes were contemporary and as they practiced this medieval ritual, three of them wore A-line skirts which they had sewn themselves. The curly blonde’s blue eye shadow caught my attention and as I looked up from the living room couch I was lying on, I wondered if she painted her eyes with pressed powder, the kind that reminded me of the residue left by cobalt chalk that my primary teacher used. Basil in holy water dripped onto my hair and the collective matriarchs unit resolved my sickness through their intercession. It began slowly at first. What initially came back was my eyesight, then my temperature normalised. After a while the colour and feeling came back in my legs. It was on the same living room couch where I was cured by the matriarchs that my adolescence aroused its decisions. Yielding my dick with my hands I found resolution behind the veiled attempts of youthful masturbation. I’d think about the glistening torsos of these women’s sons, the pectorals that were enlarged from specific targeting, their skin tanned from the beach and it would arouse a part of me that I understood was contrary. And it was a self of continuity: the eye; the destruction; the gaze; the self-harm; the running away from and to; the pawn but not the guilt because I’d been taught that I had a direct communion with God. And I knew about the joy masturbation would bring me, temporary and on the inside. I could control its strength and use it for my own benefit. I was saved by women and my blessed love for the realisation – thank the named Lord and my female namesake, the Holy Virgin – that redemption is unnecessary when ritual can be conveyed through gender and space. And it was these coddled protections that defined my space and protected me from harm. They protected me from the energies that we failed to understand. These energies were beyond our control and led to situations that could not be cured by contemporary western medical practice. We had methods of safety that were preventative too. When I was in my finest, dressed for a wedding or the first day of school and I would feel smart, be perceived as someone that doesn’t have body odour, free from the indignities of being human, I would be armed. A clove of garlic in a handkerchief would keep the eye away; the bones of a flying fox that fell to earth electrocuted from touching two power lines at once would safeguard me against demons.

14


Collected Short Stories By Luke Carman

15


Whitman and the Whitlam Centre My name is Luke Francis Carman. Don’t call me Mr Carman – that’s my mother’s name (for me). When sorting out the mail. Example: ‘Here’s one for you, Mr Carman.’ Sometimes she says, ‘Stop it! You’re acting like your father!’ But only when she’s really mad. I’m never really acting like him. I’m never really looking like him either. He has a real beard. He has real facial hair. Mine’s all on the neck. It’s weird. Y’know I saw Groucho Marx the other day. He was on YouTube. He was eighty-one years old. His moustache was in great condition (for a dead guy). Y’know what I read the other day? I read that all we leave is a memory. I read it on the back of a demolition company truck as it was cutting me off. No fooling. I’m serious. I’m pretty much alone on this stance but I don’t reckon there should be any such thing as heritage listing or whatever. I say all those old buildings are just taking up space that a block of units could fit into. I’m serious. Take everyone’s back yards away while you’re at it. No fooling. I’m not afraid of overcrowding. I wanna see people crammed in together like chunks of meat in a tuna can. That oughta cure all the loneliness that’s going around. People need each other. In my vision of the future there’s one in every kitchen. I found someone the other day. It was Walt Whitman. Under a broken cabinet outside the Whitlam Centre. The Whitlam Centre is a place in Liverpool where they have swimming pools and boxing rings. It’s sort of a big deal. So anyway there was the complete works of Walt Whitman just lying there. It wasn’t the first time I’d come across him. He was in an Allen Ginsberg poem I read once. It was a poem about finding Walt Whitman in a supermarket. I liked the idea. I still like it. I took Whitman with me, around Liverpool for a bit. He gave me some crazy ideas about everything. Most of it didn’t make any sense to me, just like his poems. But sometimes things are alright, even if they don’t make any goddamn sense at all. And oh – the thinks you can think with Walt Whitman. That last sentence is a Dr Seuss reference. Y’know, Dr Seuss isn’t a real doctor. He’s not even a real Seuss. Have you ever heard of that website where that guy sings Dr Seuss while imitating Bob Dylan? It’s ‘epic’ as they say. I hate the way they say ‘epic’ these days. One thing it certainly isn’t is random. I hate the way everything is ‘random’ these days. Almost nothing is random. Ask Professor Dawkins. Professor Dawkins is a real professor. He’s also a real Dawkins. I talked to Walt Whitman about Bob Dylan. I said, The Times they are A-Changing. I said, The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast, the slow one now will later be fast, as the present now, will later be past. Whitman sang back to me, singing, Let that which stood in front go behind, let that which was behind advance to the front, let bigots, fools, unclean persons, offer new propositions, let the old propositions be postponed, let a man seek pleasure everywhere except in himself, let a woman

16


seek happiness everywhere except in herself. I said, “Oh Whitman – the thinks you can think!” Y’know, there were two Australian actors in that Bob Dylan film. Cate Blanchett and Heath Ledger. They both played Bob Dylan. Whitman already knew. He was abreast of the times. He asked what I thought about Bob Dylan. I said Allen Ginsberg really liked him. He asked what I thought about Allen Ginsberg. I said Allen Ginsberg really liked Walt Whitman. He asked what I thought of Walt Whitman. I said, “Let man seek pleasure everywhere except in himself, Mr Whitman!” He asked what I was talking about. I said, “Sometimes I have no idea.” There was an awkward silence. He said, “By the way, don’t call me Mr Whitman.” There was another awkward silence. I tried to come up with something. I asked what he thought of Aussie hip hop. “Ah, hip hop,” he said, and he seemed to long for something far away. His lips twitched. We walked around Liverpool for a while. He didn’t seem impressed. “Where are the second-hand bookstores?” he asked. “There are no second-hand bookstores in Liverpool,” I said. The truth is, if there were, I’d have swapped him for Dylan Thomas. Nothing personal. I went back to the Whitlam Centre and put him back under the wreckage. Goodbye Walt Whitman. Goodbye.

17


Liverpool Boys My name’s Luke and sometimes at parties when people ask me what it is that I do I say, “I’m a professional fraud, how ‘bout you?” Nobody ever laughs. To be honest I don’t go to a lot of parties. Y’know I read in the newspaper yesterday that cocaine use has skyrocketed in Sydney despite police efforts. I guess it’s good to know that somewhere out there people are having fun. Frank Sinatra said that he was for whatever gets you through the night but according to the Bible anyone who endorses, participates or watches Australian Idol and isn’t very sorry is going to hell. I take no real consolation in that. I don’t take much consolation from philosophy either. I attended Liverpool Boys’ High School on the corner of Forbes Street, Liverpool and my English teacher was Friedrich Nietzsche. In a dream I had once. He had a mighty moustache. Maybe the greatest moustache ever. It wasn’t a bad dream really – although he was a pretty lousy teacher. For one thing, none of us could pronounce his name. I have a lot of trouble with names. The Latin motto of Liverpool Boys’ High School is Labor Omina Vincit. I’m pretty sure it means ‘what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’. It was a very philosophical place. It probably still is. My real English teacher was Mr Cooper. He had no moustache to speak of and neither do I. Y’know a funny thing – Mr Cooper looked exactly like that Jerry Springer guy. Mr Cooper would stand bewildered at playground duty surrounded by boys in blue uniform chanting “Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!” at him. “There’s no Jerry here!” he’d scream. I saw him play handball once. He fell over and all the boys laughed. I felt sorry for him. And other teachers too. Like this one teacher called Turboeyes for instance. That wasn’t his real name. I forget his real name. But he had some condition where one of his eyes would rotate in times of stress. The worse we behaved the faster it would spin, and the faster it spun the louder the boys would chant, “Tur-bo-eyes! Tur-bo-eyes!” He didn’t last long really. Nowhere near as long as Mr Kadoofadill. Mr Kadoofadill’s name wasn’t really Kadoofadill. I mean, that’s how you say it – but not how you spell it. He had a comb-over and the angrier he got the more it would flip back and uncover the baldness. The boys would all laugh. Y’know my father is bald. I have dreams where I’m bald. Oh well. We had a bald teacher from Scotland for a little while. He had a mighty beard – like Santa Claus. He had a really unusual car too. It was a tiny green European model. Like Mr Bean’s. We broke into it once, released the handbrake and eased it into a ditch. We stood around waiting for his reaction. I can’t remember how he reacted but it pretty much broke my heart. Then again – Labor Omina Vincit – as they say. Y’know Mr Cooper – he had no idea who Jerry Springer was. Neither did I. Mr Cooper was a fine English teacher – only he never

18


taught us English. He really loved poetry and he tried to teach us about John Donne and busy old fools but the trouble was he was so easily distracted. There was this guy Rafal in my English class. He was Polish as it happens and he didn’t really want to learn about poetry. Nobody wanted to learn about poetry at Liverpool Boys. Anyway, as it happens, Mr Cooper was obsessed with inventing the world’s first air-conditioned overcoat. The whole idea sounded crazy to me, but Mr Cooper swore it would be his ticket out of teaching. Soon as class would start Rafal would ask, “Sir how’s your overcoat coming?” and then all we’d hear about for the next hour or so was his latest breakthrough in airconditioned overcoat design. We wouldn’t learn about poetry. We wouldn’t learn about John Donne. One day Rafal came in and claimed to have stolen the idea – said he had been taking notes the whole time – said he’d actually patented the design – said he was in fact already selling the plans for an air-conditioned overcoat to other, very interested parties. Mr Cooper was hysterical. We were all hysterical. When the principal discovered Mr Cooper wasn’t doing his job they made him the careers advisor and Ms Marchinson took over. She had a moustache. She kicked Rafal out. She wasn’t so easy to distract. She had no plans for air-conditioned coats of any kind. She wasn’t Polish either. These days I live in a small unit with a Polish girl. Her name is Agnes. Her real name is Agneshka. Well actually that’s not really it either. I have a lot of trouble with names. We’ve tried to resolve this many times. She tries teaching me. My eyes twitch and my hair falls out. I’m an English teacher now too. I tutor this girl named Ceren. Well, that’s at least how you spell it. I try pronouncing it but can’t get there. She tries teaching me. The problem is I’m easily distracted. I’m supposed to be teaching her about this Australian poet Peter Skrzynecki. Apparently the name is Polish. He has this book called Immigrant Chronicles. It was published in 1975. I think facial hair was big in 1975. Y’know what the bizarre thing is? I was having a drink in Liverpool one time – in the bowling club – and outside there was this guy sitting in the sun wearing an enormous overcoat. The bizarre thing is this – he looked exactly like an old English teacher. And he needed a shave.

19


I Have an Imaginary Friend Named Tom My name is Luke Carman and I have an imaginary friend named Tom. He lives at 227 Concord Road, Concord. Tom and I go to a bookstore in Glebe sometimes. It’s also a cafe. I think it makes all its money from the cafe bit. I don’t think bookstores make much money these days. But how the hell would I know for sure? I don’t like guessing. And while we’re on the subject – what the hell is guestimation? I’m serious. What is it? I like to take photos of Tom when we go to the cafe. I sometimes wonder if there’s an unsavoury element to this habit. Everyone always likes the photos I take of Tom at the cafe. Especially his sister. Her name’s Adelle. I don’t know what it means. To be honest, I don’t know what any name means except Linda. Linda means ‘Pretty One’ according to this keyring I saw once. Linda’s my mother’s name. It’s also the name of the only girlfriend I’ve ever really had. When you put those two sentences next to each other, it has an unsavoury affect. I tried separating them, but it didn’t help much. Adelle and I went to Newtown the other night and had dinner in a place with goannas and koala bears painted all over the walls. I picked it out. I wasn’t trying to be ironic. I don’t think people should be so ironic all the time. Newtown is full of ironic people. I was twenty-two years old when I found out the difference between irony and sarcasm. They say Australians have a dry sense of humour. They also live in a dry country. Does that count as ironic? I hope not. And anyway, it’s not relevant. It’s not irreverent either. That last sentence was supposed to be an in-joke for Australians. But I don’t think it was dry enough. It wasn’t funny either. Adelle and I went back to my place in Summer Hill and I read aloud from Dostoyevsky. I read, “I am a sick man ... I am an angry man. I am an unattractive man. I think there is something wrong with my liver.” I think she enjoyed hearing these admissions. On the back cover of my edition of the work I was reading from, the novel is described as “a series of darkly sarcastic notes”. Have you ever heard that saying, don’t judge a book by its cover? It’d be amazing if you hadn’t. To be honest, I don’t know why I even asked. I guess I was trying to be cleverly sarcastic. I’m no Dostoyevsky. Then again, neither was Ernest Hemingway. I was going to say, neither is Tim Winton. But I didn’t want to sound like a self-hating traitor. Tom and I went to that cafe the other day. We both picked up copies of The Odyssey and went to order lunch at the counter. I was reading the specials that were written on a mirror that was sitting on the countertop and I saw a woman come up behind me in the reflection. “Quite a classic choice,” she said. She pointed at The Odyssey. “Yes,” I said. “You’ve read it before?” she asked. “Bits and pieces,” I said. “You don’t find it difficult reading at times – with the language?” she asked. “No,” I said. “Not with an easy translation.” “I see,” she said.

20


She started to walk away. “What about yourself,” I called out to her, “have you ever read it?” “Only a little,” she said. “Well you should find a good translation and read it all.” “Okay,” she said, and then walked off. I stood there for a moment. My underarms were sweaty. The conversation bothered me. “That was unsettling,” I said to Tom. “I’m just glad she didn’t see my copy,” he said. “I was hiding it under my arm,” he said. Good thinking, I thought. We both ordered chicken salads and berry based smoothies. We sat in the quietest part of the cafe, behind big pot plants. But there was some guy there, sitting on his own. He was reading The Journals of James Cook. He noticed we had copies of The Odyssey. “Ah, quite a classic, isn’t it?” he said. “Yes,” I said. “And a fine translation.” He had big bug eyes and a nervous voice. Tom and I didn’t look at him again. In fact, we waited for him to leave before we started talking. We sat there for hours, and just before we left I said, “Hold still for a minute,” and I took out my phone, and took a photograph. He was wearing dark glasses, and behind him, infinity. I showed it to him. “Genius!” he said. “I know,” I replied. We get along so well.

21


Tim Carroll, Mohammed Ahmad & Nicole Chahine, Westside Writing Workshops, photo by Richard Birch

22


Collected Poems By Fiona Wright

23


West The things you notice once you leave. That here, the postman comes on foot, the curled hairs on his bolstered calves glowing ginger in the sunlight, his tourist-sized backpack and boots. That here, the garbage trucks are crewed and frantic through the fiendish one-way streets and terraced corners, and the bins are only buckets. That the front gardens sprout bikes, or chubby succulents but never grass, and you can hear your neighbours singing, closing doors and climbing stairs, can smell their evening curries, and find their cats inside your window. That here there are no teenagers, but sports utility strollers, and even retirees are tightly muscled. That you can rent a parking space for fifty bucks per week. The hairdressers are organic and the dentists wholistic, and the graffiti is commissioned by the council.

24


Panania She keeps her gallstones in a jar

on the hallway shelf,

an ivory elephant with one truncated tusk, one figurine of Papa Smurf. We drink from cups scarred still with the imprint of our baby teeth. The wall clock chinks metallic, the spined light fittings in an aluminium imagining of rocketships, and their washing machine thrums and bolsters, ready to lift off. A fat Apple Mac,

for playing solitaire,

jigsawed cities, knitted vests and crocheted cushions, stuffed tigers on the spare armchair and a registry of photos leaching back into the walls. They watch Tom and Jerry or the Foxtel trots, choosing horses with the same names as their grandchildren.

25


Page Three Girls: North Cronulla Something has happened to Katie – it was an accident. Surf shatters here on Saturdays. They grasp glazed eyes of the sheeny-dressed girls, who slip from bar stools to flexed biceps, their pretty giggles. Other men know their faces from the telecasts. Buy them beers, glowing amber as trophies. Their wives smile shards, they glitter mutely, poised on the edges of chairs. Beer spill dark and sticky. Hands wander in the backseats of taxis. There is blood everywhere in the unit. Glass windows over the black water, it pounds like a hangover head, and she watches it, dark-eyed and silent. The bitter set of her bruised mouth, her hands ceramic at her side. The sirens circle like gulls, the chip-hungry journos, they both hide their faces. We told the police it was you how do you feel about that?

26


Page Three Girls: Lithgow Panther a Premier Concern Its shadow pulls across her blinds, drawn against the fleshy hum of afternoon sun. Her fading armchairs, the stiff canvas of a big top. She sees it moving.

Dark and muscled, she sees it moving

and counts her cats. The smell of damp straw, iron bars and facepaint. She hears its horny claws clattering her driveway, its razed teeth gnashing on her rooftop. She sees it moving.

And still they don’t believe.

The newsreaders chuckle like indulgent mothers and her mailbox fills with formal letters drafted by public service juniors, who never saw the crying clowns, the brown bears in jester hats visiting Lithgow. She knows it lingers there, elegiac and dangerous as Wollemi pine. She sees it moving.

27


Page Three Girls: Court Told The space beside her shrinking body as she sleeps. Eyelids thin and pale as eggshells, laced collarbones. Her cresting shoulders, softened arms so heavily inert. Her dentures and wedding band gleam on the dresser. The crisp sheets will burn like newspaper, he sees them curling, flaking to the ceiling, floating on the hot draughts of her breath. His own skin crackles. He holds the mallet, the matches, a fuel can, the sheened metal cold on his bare and veiny skin. The smoke will hold them tighter, choke the swellings in their bones, their limbs will melt again, together like in the months that they first met. I didn’t want to see her suffer the court was told.

28


Fruit Market Vast bald marrows, frilled mushrooms make us marsupial. We scamper, the greens hustling from the woodwork. Wheeled baskets stalk. Their leathery muscle snaps at careless ankles. The whiplash of green bins, cornsilks and macheted heads of cabbages, we duck and weave our way, as the small teeth of asparagus grate. Knobbled and gossiping fingers pull at thin bean strings. The backpacks are bulbous, sometimes sprouting. The crate-jawed men compere, their howls reverberate and crash against the foliage: one dollar one dollar cheapest cheapest cheapest try sweet lady, sweet sweet sweet pear, try before you buy. The smell of fish curls on the edges. We gather, alertly herbivorous and chew on cherry tomatoes. The seeds burst like blood in our mouths.

29


Flowermarket, 5am Fleece beanies fold over petalled ears. Their aprons, the armourous leather of butcher’s shirtfronts, the stamp and shuffle against the creeping cold. It’s taxless cash here, a shout-out registry that’s almost schoolyard: Lizzies! Daisies! Crissies! Daffs! Plastic wrap fleshy on cold hands. Skidmarks scuff on plastic buckets, the mad eyes of trolley wheels. She said, I need an orchid with more leaves, I’m a designer, I need more leaves! Unfurling steam from thermos flasks; fronds, the tips of fingers curled upon their edges. Vans reverse their echoes off the barebeam ceilings, spare secateurs cling in jean pockets. The hefty toss. The roses cupping stillness. The stem-ends ooze intestinal and snailish. Then they all buy something extra, on the side.

30


Scratch The acoustics of darkness, night clenches. Feral engines and the high-pitched heels ring fragile and thin. Each button pressed into my breastbone. I curl into my coat. The concrete as flaky as winter skin, the shopfront shutters scabby and reverberant; the neon fizz from their glottal facades. Kebab shops stutter and the sports club sings a promise of cascades of easy coins. My tinny footfall. Their squared fingers grit on shrunken coffee cups, and taut shadows recline backwards from their hips. I can hear each neckbone shift, each beardhair scratch the lulling voices

night.

The night butts cold against my car and my hands bumble useless on the handle. Key scratch. The thick silence of the engine, the leather seat shrinks its stiff skin against my own. I don’t want to say I’m frightened. I’m not like that.

31


Knuckles beating on the windscreen. Her face distorts in the curved glass: Hey! They want to know if you need help, but didn’t want to scare you.

32


In the Middle Where there is enough dignity

By Andy Ko

33


1 – Not Here I sat in the front row at the edge of security; behind me ranks of well-dressed, well-liquored cityfolk chatted away even as the lights dimmed. But I was already listening as I was taught to. Out from back-centre-stage a tall man with a charming face and his family welcomed us to the theatre and to the country. No exemptions for any of us, all Australians, it seemed, from the important reminder of the land upon which we gathered. And for the next point of business the man asked us to stand so we could learn their language like we were children just so “you whitefellas� knew how it felt.

34


Except that I already knew, but played along to be polite. As the man began to unfold the script and his lips recalled forefather memories the song and story of this family carried the same decades-long tenor of a people: that without an Apology there will always be mourning. But amongst the grief the man delivered a smile, gritted his teeth, and held his head high. Then drove the act to its burning tip: For all his brothers, young men who drink to ease the sense of indignation and defeat, upon whom “you whitefellas” spare some change, through a caustic grin proposed a deal: if he and his people shared with us his culture, perhaps “you whitefellas” might share this land, he said, calling deceit with confidence. And he told us, one never knows how misfortune could turn; one day “you whitefellas” might be the ones who’ll need spare change, And he reached into his pocket, leant out over the stage and handed me some coins.

35


Behind me laughter lapped up the irony, while I sat confused: Because in this dialectic, neither black nor white I was alien and excised from this matter of national importance. So I sat there in the front row a foreigner, an accidental bearer of the brunt of a joke – let’s make fun of the new guy, it seemed. Except that I wasn’t, but played along to be polite, and went home that night wondering if it really was my home after all. When the day of the Apology did come, and long-awaited words rang across the land, I listened as I was taught to, and I cried, because I no longer knew for what I was sorry; or if I was even Australian.

36


2 – Foreign This Asian kid walks into a newsagency. It’s a boiling hot Aussie autumn afternoon and he’s lugging a full backpack – he’s obviously a student. He’s just come in from the open streets. In fact the newsagency is right in front of the Great Western Highway on the outskirts of Penrith, so the kid’s been in the glaring sun for a while, and he just stands there near the doorway panting away while his eyes adjust to the level of lighting inside. And it is dead quiet, with only the sound of magazines flapping under the breeze of the ceiling fans, as though the place had been abandoned. But a shadow moves, and a man-voice behind the counter bellows, “Can I help you?” He’s a largish man, but this skinny Asian kid is still half blind from the sun and doesn’t know who he’s actually speaking to, so he just squints his eyes until he can see better. The man-guy intones his inquiry a bit further, and a bit slower: “Hello? Can. I. Help. You?” “Hello,” replies the sweaty Asian. “I need a TFN Declaration form,” he says. Except it comes out like a breathy squeak – “I nee- a Teef En Deck ray shun form, um ... please” – because it is a hot day, and he has been walking the pavement along the highway to get to this newsagency, so his mouth is all dry and his breath is heavy and every word is syllabilised. “I’m sorry?” the man asks. “What d’you need?” “A TFN Declaration? Please?” “For work?” The kid stalls for a moment and thinks: Are there income taxes other than for work? He replies with an unsure, “Yes?” At this point, the man-guy newsagent looks across to his lady friend, who also happens to be standing by the counter in the low lighting. She is also largish and wears a flannel shirt, just like him; she has ear piercings just like him, and has a shaven head just like him. And the man raises an eyebrow at her, and she shakes her head ever so gently. You can read their exchange like an unashamed news headline: Another Foreign Student, Can’t Speak English, Wants Tax Form for Job. The man turns back to the kid and finally answers, “They’re up the back.” Meanwhile the big dude-lady idly stares at the little Asian as he tries to squeeze past her. So now the kid’s a bit more reoriented and he’s looking across the shelves for the right form to take, and he realises that it’s not just his eyes. The newsagency really doesn’t have enough lighting inside, so he can hardly even figure out what’s right in

37


front of him. He was probably just staring at a stack of cheap diaries and envelope multi-packs until the newsagent man came by. “You alright?” he asks. “You need this one,” he says, reaching into the darkness. “Tax File Number form. For work. You fill it out,” he adds. So the kid, relieved, says thanks and takes it. But he stops just at the doorway again, just to check for himself that it really is the right one. But the man, he wants to be a bit more helpful. “It’s a government form. It’s for free.” Then he looks over at her again and, as before, she shakes her head, the sweat condescending off her brow. At this point, the little Asian kid could have spoken back. He wasn’t so parched or flustered anymore. He could have raised a point of indignation, something like, “I know what to do with a bloody tax form, thanks, mate!” And he could have said that in fluent Australian English like he had done all his life. But this little Aussie Asian kid, instead says, “Thanks. Thanks very much,” and walks off, just to be nice.

38


3 – Here My mother and I stand watching a woman on the street holding a framed photograph of her daughter. The woman is crying out. “Corruption,” she says and pounds her fist upon her chest. “Bring my daughter back or bring her justice.” The woman is so close to us that I can see the creases on her distraught face. Behind her, a rally of parents have also gathered on behalf of their children. My mother places a finger near the woman’s teary cheek, and wipes a mark off the television screen. The mothers and fathers on it are from Sichuan, China. They are marching and grieving outside the provincial office demanding to know why the local schools had so easily collapsed during the earthquake when neighbouring buildings remained standing, killing their sons and daughters. “That’s why people leave those countries,” says my mother, “Because they build things badly that end up killing people.” Then she gives a long sigh and walks away. I stay and listen to the news story for a while longer. My mother has the television on a lot of the time. It receives satellite channels from China. She likes to catch the Hong Kong drama serials – the ones about struggling familial ties and corporate takeovers, all in a single story arc. They’re really predictable. My mother likes to call out what she thinks will happen next as the action unfolds. And she’s always right too. It’s like our living room has a one-woman Mystery Science Theatre in Cantonese. I don’t enjoy the television much, but I like hearing my mother talk and laugh. She doesn’t care for the News though. She speaks of the events on it as though they left behind a sense of bitterness, and understandably too. When my father was still with us, he commanded the screen on the SBS, picking up news from around the world. Here in the living room of our quiet suburban home he would watch the world happening from afar. Giant oceanic waves crushed seaside villages. US skyscrapers fell, framed in tricoloured glory. Blue-suited soldiers led wailing ambulance trucks through Belgrade rubble. People danced atop a falling concrete wall. And always – always – children had not enough to eat. I always wanted to ask my father how he could bear it, watching all that. Somehow I knew why, in those stories about sneaking onto farms for a handful of vegetables or about getting into fights with the Red Guard. But these he would only ever just mention and never really tell me. And then I would forget the details. Did my father really encounter pirates at sea, or was this the story of a friend’s parents instead? Of course now it was too late to ask. His portrait sits on a shelf in the living room, side-on to the television.

39


My mother, now, has returned from the kitchen with a mug of coffee for herself and ostensibly sighs as she sits on the lounge. I decide to join her and sit down on the other sofa in the room. A home improvement program hosted by two women comedians is now running. I try to catch up with the dialogue, in an accent to which I am not very used to, by following the closed-captioned characters on the screen. But they are a bit too unfamiliar; the language is not the one I learnt. There are a few less strokes – simplified, far from my recognition of them; and the colloquialisms are beyond me. Still I laugh along anyway because the two women cannot stop failing at what they’re doing. My mother is in tears. She’s got both hands on her coffee mug to stop from spilling it. There are obviously no language barriers at all when it comes to cooking mishaps. From afar, in our living room, we watch a world not of our making, in a language no longer exactly our own. But it is only a television screen. There’s nothing to be nostalgic about. I once asked my mother if she regretted resettling in Australia. And she simply told me that there was no need to regret anything. She was here, with me and my brothers, and that was enough for her.

40


4 – In the Middle I am sitting in a room full of writers. We are seated on old couches, relaxed, pencils and papers in our hands. The discussion in the air is about Western Sydney, its character, its qualities, its quirks. We laugh about how things are done differently here than in the Inner City. We joke about public transport and the behaviour of young men. We nod and groan and chuckle, as though we understood exactly what each other meant. But I am mostly silent. I try really hard to think of something to say; something very ‘culturally specific’. But I can’t. Admittedly, things are different here than elsewhere, but I lack the confidence, perhaps even the ability, to speak about it. I become similarly silenced when faced with the task of writing about this place that I should know something about, having lived here all my life. My absence of expressiveness on this matter clearly pointed to one thing: I cannot really write at all. So why am I amongst this company of writers? When I was growing up, my most treasured things were stories. My young aunty used to give me books to read while she minded me. She also drew me picture books about fairytales and even made up some of her own. I also played video games with her and my cousins where we encountered fantastic epics unfolding under our direction. Our parents, of course, worried that we’d forget about the world around us. They had truly worked and endured much so that we, their children, would not need to see the hardship they did when they were young. I remember quite vividly the day when my father became upset that I was reading a book at the dinner table. “Eat before you find out there’s no more to eat,” he said, and threw my novel away. But that didn’t keep me from my stories. In Year Three at school, my teacher, who was Greek, taught us about her culture. She told us the ancient myths, and how the modern nation of her country was fought out from an empire. What I remembered most though, was when she told us the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. Two classmates played the story out for us as it was being told. I remember imagining being with them within the cold, damp walls of the labyrinth. I pictured Prince Theseus, heart racing, breath caught between fear and stealth, while the Minotaur roared in the background. From then on, I knew I was going to discover the world through stories. So I read and I wrote my way to adulthood. But here I was, in a room full of writers, choking on my refusal to say anything at all.

41


I feel like I’m there, sometimes, wandering through that labyrinth, mired in a maze of multiple paths and possibilities. Even more, I do not envision myself as the heroking who fought there and escaped. He had a thread to follow; I have nothing at all. Because in my head roars the chimera of a minotaur, half animal, half human, standing in two worlds ultimately divided between both of them. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, the Minotaur lived his life. He could not say that he was a man, or that he was a bull. Suppose someone came up to him, the Minotaur, and asked him to describe how it felt to be in this position: Tell me about your experience as both a man and a bull. Except I’d think that the Minotaur would be unable to talk about either world. You’d think he would: like some sort of medium of understanding between men and cows. Finally, humans could find out what their cattle felt about being draught animals! Finally, here was an ambassador from the humans to reassure the livestock of their proper treatment! But the Minotaur was neither man nor bull. He had only himself as a reference. The labyrinth in which he was trapped was ontological, not physical. When you’re between worlds, you’re practically nowhere. It’s a certain burden, and a certain freedom, to be unable to say where one came from or to where one is located. The world’s collected stories and myths were like, for me, the colossus built astride all worlds. Stories spoke about all of humanity, even if they had national or cultural bounds. In the differences and commonalities stories spoke directly to me. I treasure stories greatly. Because I knew as much, from reading stories, myths and legends, that I needed no identifier or qualifier or locality of being; for I am in the midst of this world, and am first and foremost human. And that should be enough.

42


On What Comes Next By Felicity Castagna

43


L

isa is aware of herself, behind the bedroom door, in this room, in this chair, thinking of Charlie Fareed. She imagines meeting him somewhere in the clutter of this apartment, between the old couch she inherited from her grandmother and the odd socks stranded on the laundry floor. She imagines the scene in a series of frames cut from a romantic film. His fist knocking furiously on the door, her hands reaching out towards him, a close-up of the shadow underneath his jaw that writes the story of someone who has spent their whole life leaning against their open palm, wondering what it is that comes next. What does come next? She opens the curtains. The day stretches out across Parramatta Park. It is hot, too hot, she can’t wake up in this heat; she stays inside her head in a perpetual state of dreaming. Later, much later, when the storms come in that transition time between day and night, something inside her head will click on again. At this time, she will be more aware of herself than ever. Her thoughts will present themselves, as clear and as crisp as a photograph. Sometime after this moment of clarity she’ll need to sedate herself again in preparation for the night, in preparation for the next day. Her chair faces a music stand that Alec has left there. He leaves a trail wherever he goes, of music sheets and teacups and things scribbled on pieces of paper. She picks up these pieces of him and stores him away in the hallway cupboard. She has only been living with him for a short while. It is something she still needs to get used to; this sharing of space, the presence of another person’s objects, the rhythm of someone breathing next to her at night. She thinks about the older women at her work. Relationships are all about compromise they say. In their day, you found a man, you married a man, you had children with that man. You will end up childless, they say, their words, their greatest threat to her generation, childless. She pictures her love life in this way, as a gaggle of older women who follow her around pointing their fingers and shaking their heads. She watches Alec sleeping and thinks of coffee. Alec has always just finished drinking a cup of green tea – and not just any kind of green tea either. The type that comes in bags is for people who don’t know any better. He gets his tea in powder form from small aromatic shops in Cabramatta. People who drink green tea live for like a hundred years, he is constantly saying. She likes coffee and cigarettes and wine. She has no intention of living for one hundred years, of getting old, of wearing orthopaedic shoes. She wants to die early with a fag hanging out of the corner of her mouth and a smug look of satisfaction on her face. She climbs back into bed. Alec turns over and rolls himself into a little ball. She

44


pinches the sides of his stomach, trying to build rolls of fat between her fingers. It can’t be done. He has always been a skinny man and probably always will be. She wonders what it would be like to be with a fat man – to have someone whose stomach extends forward like a gigantic pillow. “I think you’ve lost some weight again,” she whispers in his ear. “I have not,” he protests. “My mother was saying just the other day that I look like I’ve gained some weight.” His mother is a loud box of a woman. Lisa could never work out how she had produced such a quiet, skinny child. He plays with her hair. He likes running it through his hands and twirling it around his fingers. He treats it with much more consideration than she does, so she sometimes gives it over to him. He places his fingers at her temples, runs them through the length of her hair and puts it into a plait. When he is done she wiggles away from him to the other side of the bed, because she likes her hair this way and he will only undo it and do it again and again in various styles until he gives up and lets it fall in a messy heap around her shoulders. The man next door has turned on his music again. She hums along to those tunes on the other side of the wall that she has come to know so well. She imagines the place he comes from must look like the sound of his music; wide-open spaces, the sun reflecting off the sand, little square houses like the sugar cube models they made in history class as children. She wants desperately to travel to such adventurous places. Alec grabs her hips and pulls her towards him. “Love me,” he says. “Alright ...? Just love me.” She is not sure if she can but she turns around and fits her head into the arch of his neck. “It’s time to get up,” he says but now that their bodies have fit together so perfectly she wants to stay this way until the afternoon. “There’s a party on tonight. I’d like to go.” “Whose party?” he asks. “A guy named Charlie, just some friend of Louisa’s. He lives in an old warehouse somewhere around Silverwater. He’s got a band. They’re going to play.” By seven she’s convinced Alec that they have to go. He puts her hair in a plait. She hides a packet of cigarettes in her purse. At the party they hardly know anyone. Lisa fills up two large glasses with the cask of wine that she finds by the kitchen sink. Alec holds his glass as if he doesn’t know what to do with it. She takes long sips out of her glass and feels the hair stand up on her arms. Alec tries to make small talk, but she knows that he is feeling awkward, out of his depth.

45


He is probably wishing he were at home with his cello and a nice cup of green tea. When they arrived only an hour ago the floor was pulsating with a techno beat. Friends, lovers, acquaintances have paired themselves off now and settled into corners. They giggle and touch one another. They share drinks and lock arms and forget that other people can see them. Louisa slips through the door at a fashionably late hour. There are kisses all round. Lisa and Louisa excuse themselves from Alec’s presence to go to the toilet. They go out on the balcony, share a cigarette and talk. They watch a man in the front yard sing the Australian National Anthem while peeing in a bush. Louisa whistles at him. The crowd on the balcony begin to notice him and laugh. He turns around and waves. “What a dick-head,” Louisa says and smiles, but there is something about the freedom in his actions that makes Lisa feel an attraction to him. She sips on her wine and feels her head spin around a little. “How are things going with you and Alec?” “I don’t know.” Lisa shrugs her shoulders and tries to catch a glimpse of the guy in the bush again. Louisa says that her problem is that she thinks too much. She should just do and not think: things are better that way. Last night Louisa slept with someone from her work. It was short, intense, furious; a kind of pleasurable accident (hardly worth mentioning). When they arrive back downstairs Alec is missing. Louisa and her collapse into a heap on the couch. From their position on the couch Lisa can see Charlie setting up a music stand in the corner. The light from a disco ball on the ceiling breaks in circles on the back of his shirt, like tiny fingertips touching him all over. Someone fills up their glasses with a deep red liquid. They both grimace when they taste it but they sip it down anyway. Louisa pulls out another cigarette and again they share it, passing it back and forth between their wine-stained lips. Through the smoke Lisa watches the slight twists and turns of Charlie’s body as he begins to sing. She rocks her body back and forth to the rhythm of his playing. She can feel her pulse beat in her ears. Louisa holds her hand and whispers, “I miss you,” in her ear. Lisa misses her too. She misses all the late night conversations and bottles of wine they shared before she was living with Alec, in another time, in another space. When he finishes playing Charlie comes over, kisses Louisa on the cheek and sits down next to Lisa. “Hi,” she says. She wants to make some kind of witty remark but she can’t think of one. Her head is spinning. Half of his hand is sitting tucked discreetly between the fabric of the couch and the base of her thigh. She wonders if he has set it

46


there on purpose. The three of them sit in silence and watch as someone else gets up to play. She cannot think about anything but his hand resting underneath her thigh and yet she feels it would be wrong to look and witness it there, as though looking implies a certain kind of admission. She makes her body into a statue and thinks only of the colour red. When the moment is over, Charlie gets up slowly and looks Lisa straight in the eye, as if it were the most natural of things. He walks towards the corner of the room, picks up a drum, places it between his legs and begins to tap his fingers slowly against it until it builds into a mesmerising kind of rhythm. This occasion is not the first time they have spoken. The last time she saw him, the only other time that she has ever seen him, he was sitting on her couch in a house that she shared with Louisa. It was early on a Sunday morning the night after a party at their house. She never remembered him being at the party, but in the morning there he was, drinking a cup of coffee in his boxer shorts and flipping through one of her uni textbooks. She had made herself a cup of coffee and sat down at the kitchen table, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to have some half-naked man sitting on her couch having his way with her things. When Louisa came out of her bedroom, she had kissed him gingerly on the forehead before she got into the shower. Lisa had sat there and stared. Louisa squeezes her arm and asks, “Where’s Alec?” Lisa doesn’t really know. She gets up and walks outside, around to the front of the house. It is raining. Not very hard, but in tiny little drops that land on her arms. She begins to feel more awake again; in the cool breeze something inside her switches on. Around the corner she finds Alec’s car. He is sitting there in the front seat with the radio on and his eyes closed. She leans against the car and listens. It is Bach. She has heard him playing it before in their apartment. She opens the car door and climbs in beside him. He opens one of his eyes slightly and looks at her. He closes it again, reaches over and takes hold of her hand. They stay like that for a while. She looks forward and waits for him to open his eyes. “Do you want to go home?” she asks, already knowing the answer. “Wherever,” he says, beginning to straighten himself up. She feels more awake now than ever. She wants to go somewhere, be somewhere else. She fidgets in her chair. Alec begins to drive. “Where should I go?” he asks. “What direction from here?” From here? She does not know. She feels like he is asking her a coded question.

47


She thinks of what her mother told her; that love is two people who have decided to travel in the same direction. They have been travelling around in circles lately, circumnavigating one another’s heads. She wants to go to another bar, for another glass of wine and a bit of a dance but she knows that he would rather be somewhere else. “Cabramatta,” she says and he knows that she is giving him permission to go to one of those little late-night cafes he likes, with all the tea and the funny smells and the people who live forever. For the rest of the night he takes her hand and holds it gently. She does not feel she can look at him. Not now; not yet. When it’s time to get into bed he undoes her plait from underneath the covers and she rubs her ankle slowly up and down the front of his leg. When Lisa wakes up in the morning he is gone. There is a cool breeze, too cool for this time of year. She pulls the covers high over her shoulders and scans the room. His pants are still on the floor where he left them last night. A styrofoam cup stands in the corner containing the dregs of his last cup of green tea. She is overwhelmed by a strong reluctance to get out of the bed, to go through the door, to prepare for the day. A breeze from the window blows the sheets off his music stand and they dance in tiny spirals on the floor. She will leave him tomorrow, perhaps, or the next day, or the next.

48


Collected Poems By Arda Barut

49


Kova Yalandır bu dünya, her yer kap kara ve yanık. Sen sadece bir kız, kovası altından kırık. Kalbimde bir deniz, doldur kovanı içinde. Yıka bu dünyayı, temiz suyun sevgisiyle.

* The title of this poem, Kova, literally means bucket in English. The word kova in Turkish however, is also used to refer to the zodiac sign of Aquarius.

50


Bucket A lie is this world, everywhere dark, and burnt out. You, only a girl, your bucket broken from underneath. In my heart a sea, fill your bucket. Wash this world, with clean water’s love.

51


Kum Adamı Kum adamı yürüyor bitmeyen bir çölün içinde, Durmadan derman arıyor ruhsuz kalan yüreğine. Zemine mahkum tapınaklar batık kalmış kumuların arasında, Insafsız zamanla aşınmışlar, bırakmış onları arkasında. Güneş şiddetle ısı saçar, karamsarlıkla yanar üstünde, Uzakta bir sanem gördüğnü sanar ama yalpalanır eriyen çevrende. Ordaki serapa yaklaşınca kendisini kumun içine gömer, Kalımsız kumların içinde kaldıkça yeniden doğmayı bekler.

52


The Sand Man The sand man is walking in a desert of no end. Incessantly he searches for a remedy to the soulessness of his will. In the background, forsaken temples, left sunken in the sand dunes. They erode with the ruthlessness of time, he leaves them behind him. The sun violently spills forth light and burns with pessimism from above. In the distance, he sees a goddess, but she quivers in the melting horizon. As he approaches the mirage he buries himself into the sand. Left within sands of transience, he waits to be reborn.

53


Zena Haddad,Tamar Chnorhokian & Rebecca Landon, Westside Writing Workshops, photo by Richard Birch

54


Disorder By Gloria Ahmad

55


F

ive Tim Tams, six packets of chips, three pieces of cheesecake and ten minutes later leaning down a toilet bowl – sticking not two, but four bony brittle fingers down my enlarged throat. My mouth begins to build with decay, forming holes in between my set of once straight white teeth. My breath begins to smell of vomit and my back begins to drip with sweat. Sprawled across the bathroom floor my breathing becomes heavy and my heart beats rapidly. My eyes are bloodshot and my stomach shrinks back to regular size. Twenty minutes later and I am at it again. A feeling I know too well. I wait a few minutes, leaving the tiny bathroom window wide open, allowing the smell to disappear. I can’t get up. I am weak, I am so tired and my god, I am starving. “Control yourself,” I begin to whimper angrily. I look into the bathroom mirror. There in front of me is a face I hate, a face so far away. It’s a good thing I can’t see my body. I wash my face. The cold water drips down my neck and soothes my breathing. I begin to brush my teeth over and over. The food particles disappear. I take one last look in the mirror, flash out a wide smile and untie my long black hair. It falls neatly around my shoulders. My brown eyes look bigger and darker. Making my way out of the bathroom I remember one thing. Back at the toilet I wipe the pieces of food formed around the bowl and flush it for the fifth time that day. Perfect. “Are you okay? Not quite yourself today.” “Yeah Mum, I’m fine.” She stares at me. Her long brown hair is tied up neatly. She is wearing her usual colourful dress. Her big brown eyes are childlike – they torment me. Her complexion is light and her skin is flawless. Even after five children she has maintained her tiny frame. “What?” I say more rudely than I intend to. “What is wrong with your eyes?” She focuses her gaze on me from the kitchen adjacent to the living room. She’s pissing me off and she knows it. I know I’m going to regret this but I can’t help my temper just as much as I can’t help spewing my guts out. “Just mind your own business and leave me the hell alone!” I shout. Oops. “What’s going on here?” she pries. Fuck! Can’t I get any privacy in this household? My mum turns quiet; a silence that she knows will give my dad the sense that something is wrong. When my dad arrives home he ignores my mother for a while and turns towards me. My legs are stretched out on our three-seater brown couch in the living room. My gaze is directed towards the television across from where I am sitting. It is a wide-screen

56


plasma blazing with sound. My father leans in and kisses me on the forehead. I move my legs, giving him room to sit down. I smile half-heartedly and want desperately to push him out of the way. “How was your day, beautiful? Are you okay? Did you eat?” he asks. I think about his questions and want to reply: Yes Dad, I am great. I had ten pieces of pizza, a bowl of ice cream and a family size Cadbury chocolate. Then I walked into the bathroom and it came out so very easily because my oesophagus is so wide from the amount of times my whole fist has gone down my throat. “Fine, Dad. How’s business?” I say instead, still staring wide-eyed at the television. “No she is not fine,” my mother says. Here we go. I knew my mum couldn’t hold her tongue for much longer. “What do you mean?” says my father. There it is. That face: Precious and intelligent daughter couldn’t possibly have anything wrong with her. “She’s been chucking up again,” my mum tells him. My father frowns. He looks very tired, older than I remember. His once black hair is now grey. His soft brown eyes question me. His lean body appears frail and weak. He moves in closer, looking very confused. “Yasmine, is that true?” he asks. Yes, it is. Please help me, Dad. One word of assurance and my dad will believe me. “No Dad, of course not.” Lies. “Kadijah, leave the girl alone, she knows what she is doing. She is fine.” “Yeah, Mum. Fine.” I am not fine. I smile at my dad. “Thank you,” I whisper. I can’t sleep. It is forty degrees outside. I have locked myself in my room. My room is small. My queen-size bed takes up most of the space. I am finding it hard to breathe. I open the window and stare down at the small desk underneath it. It is filled with all my unfinished work. I avoid the mirror and scale alongside it, moving quickly towards my bed. I hide under my thick blankets in a jacket. I’m too ashamed to wear clothes that reveal even a morsel of my body. I am uncomfortably full. Tomorrow, I think, I will start again tomorrow.

57


Luke Carman, Westside Writing Workshops, photo by Richard Birch

58


Tickets By Lachlan Brown

59


1. Prologue Smart, funny, beautiful. In American movies every guy wants the same three things. Right now you give me a meniscus grin on this John Mayer kind of day, grey like the drought is wanting to break. You know that Redfern’s bare trees are just there to remind us what winter could be.

2. Good Living The origami of recycling bins. It’s still tonight. Perhaps because we’re hanging onto reality, somehow replaying the Herald’s own silence. Oh to exist like the inner west – ripe for reviewing. Somewhere the wind is cracking open language and Woolhara’s million dollar views.

60


3. Western Australia From a Perth train I see dolphins caressing the Swan. Later Cottesloe’s smooth water will remind me of this calm green fairway, so endless that you can’t overshoot the pin.

4. Saturated Phenomenon Skittled by attention, my brother’s phone crashes when one person sends him 180 identical text messages. Who needs repetition, those unfading echoes? “here I am … here I am … here I am … here I am …”

61


5. Parochial “I want you to experience the new train�. Tourists at Ingleburn station! Each camera click sets the rhythm of the day. Overhead a blank billboard remains speechless, outlined against a sky that could be earning money somehow.

62


Madness and Bliss By Samantha Hogg

63


H

e flashed me that trademark grin. That contagious, beautiful, deranged grin. And I felt my lips twitching to match. He extended a black gloved hand in my direction and I grasped it tightly. I stepped towards him, still clutching the hem of my blue dress. “What are you–” He silenced me before I could even finish my question, that grin had still not left his face. I felt nervous and rather vulnerable as his eyes scanned over me. The hand not clasped in mine, found its home on my back. “Dance with me.” His voice was husky and coarse but incredibly soothing to me. I let him lead me through a slow waltz, dancing to music only we could hear. His eyes locked on mine, searching my soul, as he twirled me around the large room. Nothing existed as we danced. There was no one else in this world or the next who could understand my fractured mind like he could. As our imagined music reached its crescendo, he dipped me back, low enough that my hair dragged against the floor. I didn’t care that all the dirt and mess would end up in my already sticky mane. He held me there, adjacent to the ground, for a moment which stretched for a lifetime. A loud clang broke me out of my trance. I turned my head to see what had caused the noise. My prized butcher’s knife, coated with still warm blood, had fallen from my pocket and crashed to the floor. I could feel myself zoning in on the blade, thinking how easy it would be to end my life. Just a few simple slices. Snicker-snack. He seemed to know that my thoughts were drifting away from all the fun we had together. He could always tell when my thoughts became too sharp and started to stab away at my heart. And he could always pull me back before it got too bad. He gently set me back on my feet and brushed some hair from my face before retrieving the sharp knife and placing it back in my hand. “You look beautiful.” Standing in the crowded but empty room, in my blood splattered dress, I didn’t feel very beautiful. I felt shattered. Like a broken mirror with no real reflection. Just him, staring back at me with his burning eyes and feral grin. “Is this real?” My voice barely more than a desperate whisper. He gave me a look, one that could have been interpreted as ‘are you mad?’ or even ‘I hope you’re alright’. I didn’t know which one this was and didn’t want to. “Yes, this is real.” He’s comforting without being condescending. I like that. I finally looked around me, at the insanity splayed across the ground, and all I could

64


think was: I’m not cleaning this mess up. I felt his breath on my neck and his chest against my back. Turning my head a fraction to the side, I glimpsed his vicious smile. I could almost feel the pride radiating off him. “This is art, my dear.” Of course, he would believe that. “You’re mad.” “Well, we’re all mad here, kitten.” He wrapped his arms about me as he replied, swaying from side to side. I couldn’t stop the giggle that burst from my mouth. As I looked at all the bodies with their throats cut and slashed chests; with their blood sprayed across the walls and spilled upon the marble floor; with their eyes forever staring, I could see our “artwork”. But this was more than just art, this was insanity in technicolour. And it thrilled me to my core. “Yes, love, we’re all mad here.”

65


Fiona Wright, Westside Writing Workshops, photo by Richard Birch

66


Collected Poems By Rebecca Landon

67


Here Just here. With the rain twinkling on tattered asphalt and mosquitoes echoing watery beats. Rubber swishes amidst cicada arias. Just here, with hip hop in my ears. Just here. Paranoid phantoms crawl beneath my flesh and depart, leaving rash-like scars. They linger and parade through my veins. Just here with sympathy itches. Nature’s tears subside for a moment, but my mental typhoon gains strength. Bubbling neurons restrict blood flow. Just here with a full glass of red. Tickle upon tipple. The mozzies don’t relent so I lament my loneliness, furiously scratch and howl! Here with my own holy word. I love that part of us, just here – in the middle of our back that we can’t reach alone. Yet we try. Still here, reaching for what we can’t see.

68


Come here, to where I scratch, itch and scars envelop my body. It’s hard to celebrate while I’m here, at the other end of the world. Come here. Let us dance in the rain like childish blossoms or Gene Kelly. And lift our eyes to the heavenly gully from here – remote valley of the living. Stay here with me in this wet night hour. Slink along my skin like rain, make me twitch like the mosquitoes do. Stay here, and fight the dawn with me. Here at the end of the world.

69


This Poem is a Beer This poem is a beer that free falls from a tap and crashes into your glassy mind kissing miniscule remnants of detergent with its bitterness swaying every time it moves you.

This poem is a beer that stares back at you – its creamy halo predicts high and hangover in the blink of a bubble.

This poem is a beer that gets wrapped up in itself till it can’t see straight mixing with spirited strangers, coke and other chemicals. This poem is a beer whose warmth spills into your blood like an old stain that fades into the carpet.

70


This poem is a beer that inspires you kills inhibitions and when you’re done sinks away into gutters and grassy graveyards after a post-dinner purge. This poem is a beer. Enjoy it.

71


Young Sundays A whistle pierces morning birdsong as the paper boy’s rusty wheelbarrow rattles over pot holes. Some rub fog from their eyes and scurry to their front door silver coins shaking in one hand warm inked pages in another. I squint beneath blankets as the whistle fades and barrow rolls over dreams of William Carlos Williams behind a dew-glazed window.

72


The Revelation of Shane By Andrew Ma

73


- Good afternoon boys n’girls. Me name’s Shane Davies. But you can call me Shane. I’m sittin in front of a classroom packed full of kids. Year Nine. Bout thirty odd. Last period so everyone’s real restless. Sittin on the carpet cross-legged, swingin on the backs of chairs hittin the back wall, sittin on tops of desks, some lyin on the carpet face down. Anything but sittin on the chairs. Banksia Public High School. Same place I went to. Mrs Sparrow said seein it’s me first time I could start somewhere familiar. Makes no difference. I’m still nervous. Specially when I look round the room n’see all these faces starin up at me. Thing is, Banskia’s changed heaps from the school I used to go to. Cos they’re all ethnics! When I see the kids for the first time I get the shock of me life. Lebs, Wogs, Chinks, Islanders n’Curry Munchers. You name the ethnic, Banksia’s probably got it. Least from what I saw. Back in 85 there were wogs and stuff, but only a few. Now it’s like there’s thousands of Lebs. The boys all got beards n’the girls all wearin hankies on their heads. A few years later it’s spot the Aussie. -Y eah, like thanks for um, thanks for comin long today. I try n’say somethin else but nuthin comes out. Mrs Sparrow says cos we’re only allowed in the public schools once a year you just gotta keep jabberin on. She says if you have faith it’ll sort itself out. But now the kids are just sittin there starin at me, lookin at me as if to say, “Mate. What’s the go?” I’d come to Banksia straight after finishin me shift at Woolies. Went straight up to the library instead of goin to see the office ladies first. Mrs Chapman, the school librarian, met me there. Real old lady. Was librarian when I was at Banksia! Reminded me of me nan. All wrinkly with big white hair n’thick glasses. I remembered her. But she didn’t remember me. Looked like she’d been there since the school was built. She took me to the staffroom where she made me a cup of tea n’gave me two Iced Vo Vos. The library was all the same. Same dirty blue carpet. Same stuffy smell of books. But it was different bein in the staffroom. Felt weird. You only went in there when you were in trouble. Last time I was there I was on detention for muckin up. We had a class on the library catalogue and we had to fill in fake library cards but instead of filling them in I folded them in half n’spent the class peltin em at Justin Milligan’s head. Had to spend lunchtime standin facin the corner next to the hot water urn. Only remembered all this when I saw the urn. Nuthin to do cept watch the librarians eat their lunch in its reflection. As I’m drinking me tea I hear all this yellin and screamin. The noise gets real loud

74


n’the library doors bang open then y’can hear the kids comin up the library stairs. Through the window of the staffroom I can see em running to the reading room. Mrs Chapman looks at me n’says, “Well, I suppose we should greet your little charges for the next forty-five minutes,” so I scull the rest of me tea, shove me biscuits in me mouth and follow her round the corner to the reading room. When we enter the kids quieten down. This big Islander girl stands up, lookin at the ground, n’says like it’s all one word, “Werehereforthescriptureclassmissuschapman.” Mrs Chapman smiles to the girl and says, “Well you better sit down then and wait quietly,” n’then turns to me n’says, “I’d like to introduce you to Year Nine,” n’I say, “Yeah, right,” but when I say it a bit of Iced Vo Vo flies out me mouth onto her shirt. It’s a real chunky piece too, with icin on it so it sticks and she has to brush it away with her hand, but even then it leaves behind a little wet mark. Mrs Chapman pretends like it didn’t happen. I don’t say nuthin else cos I’m scared more biscuit will come out if I do. Mrs Chapman turns to the class and says, “Year Nine this is Mr Davies and he will be taking you for scripture this afternoon. I want you to all be on your best behaviour for our guest. That means eyes to the front, no fidgeting, no talking amongst yourselves when Mr Davies is speaking and if you have a question raise your hand and wait until you are given permission to speak. That includes you Mohammed.” She gives this little Leb kid at the back a look, n’he just smiles back. The class laughs n’groans at the same time, like they’re expectin something. “Yes ... well I hope you all make a very excellent impression on Mr Davies of how wonderfully well behaved students from Banksia Public High School can be.” All I can do is stand there chewin me biscuits. I give her a nod n’the next thing you know she walks out n’shuts the door behind her. Soon as she’s gone the kids all start yellin n’carryin on like I’m not even there. I make a shooosh sound a couple of times but they all ignore it. I say, “Excuuuuuse me,” like I remember me teachers used to. I clear me throat a couple of times but that just gets me coughin, n’I got a real bad smoker’s cough which kills. In the end I get so fed up I just shout, “SHUT UUUUUP” real loud. This quietens em down n’gives me a chance to introduce meself. But like I said before I’m all lost for words. Dunno what to say. I think maybe cos I’m sitting on a kid’s chair n’it’s too small for me. I stretch me legs n’as I’m stretchin em I notice some markins on me seat. I chuck a leg-spread to try n’get a better look n’I see these two white lines runnin down the whole seat, inside of each leg. I spread me legs even more n’then I see someone’s drawn a dick on the chair, made it real thick with liquid paper so that it’s

75


real bumpy n’rough. There’s a smear on one side where someone’s touched it before it’s dried. Someone else’s tried to scratch it off but only cut into the plastic instead. But it’s a dick alright. Almost the length of the whole seat. Right between me legs. Right where me real dick would be if I flopped it out. I move as far back in the chair as I can. Whoever drew the dick put the balls in as well, but to get em in he’s squashed em flat on both sides in a way that’d kill if it was real-life. I used to see em all the time, but I hadn’t seen one for ages. Took me right back. Felt like I was in school again. Bored. Lookin out the window. Scratchin me name on desks. Or fallin asleep at the back, just sittin there, feelin like I was underwater. Gettin so sleepy I’d forget to breathe sometimes, me eyes closin n’me head noddin forward till it drops real sudden n’wakes me up. That’s what I would be doin if I was one of the kids today. Makes me realise I got no worries. It’s not like anyone’s listening or anything. - I just want to thank you kids this arvo for the chance to meet youse, have a chat. Bet you’re all thinkin, “Who’s this bloke? What’s he gonna try n’teach us?” Well I’m not real good with the textbooks n’stuff. So you don’t have to worry about that. I just wanna tell you a bit about me life, yeah? Better than sittin in class, ay? I point to me head. -T hing is, I learnt a lot here. But I learnt the hard way. By makin mistakes. And I’m here cos I don’t want youse to make the same mistakes. I look round the room real serious, noddin me head. - See, at school I used to muck up all the time. Try n’give the teachers hell. I’d never listen to whatever they were teachin. When a teacher’d ask me a question I knew that if I just said “What?” n’stared back at em long enough, or even if I just looked at em, n’didn’t say nuthin, they couldn’t do nuthin. They couldn’t send me to detention just for bein dumb could they? So they’d just give up n’go to the next kid. So like, I was given an opportunity to get an education n’stuff. But what d’ya reckon I did with me life? - Sir! One of the boys at the back, one of the Lebs. The little one that Mrs Chapman pointed out. He’s stretchin his arm up real high, like he’s desperate to get the answer right. - Mohammed, right? Yeah, let rip. - You full-on grew that sick mullet, Sir. Then you put on your ugg boots and your flanno and hung out at the train station. He n’his mates start pissin themselves like it’s the funniest thing they heard in their

76


lives. I reach back n’smooth me hair down, n’try laugh it off. -Y eah okay, joke’s over. What’s your name mate? Mohammed, right? Mohammed ... -Y ou’re not a teacher bro. You can’t get me in trouble. - I don’t wanna get you in trouble. But I think you gotta learn a bit of respect when p eople are talkin, right? What’s your name? -M ohammed. Mohammed Eddie Fic. Eddie Fic. Now the whole class starts laughin. Even the kids I thought were sleepin, lyin down with their heads on the carpet, smilin with their eyes closed. But I wasn’t fallin for that one. Mrs Sparrow had taught us a whole bunch of swear words so that we knew when the kids were takin the piss. She said when she first did scripture she didn’t know half of what the kids said to her till she took an ethnic scripture teacher with her one day. After that she really boned up on it. We could all swear in Greek, Vietnamese and Leb if we wanted to. -M ate. I know you’re takin the piss. Do unto others as they do unto you, right? - J eez, take it easy bro. Mrs Sparrow said you had to keep an eye on kids these days. Smart arses. -D o y’know what that means? The “do unto” thing? -N ah bro. Tell me what it means bro. I’m like, real dyin to know. - I t means when someone’s talkin at ya, ya shut up. I’m lookin round the whole room, tryin to look at each of the kids in the eye. Cos this is when the sleepin kids were gonna wake up and really listen. This was when the Indian kid would throw away the ball of carpet thread he was throwin in the air n’catchin with one hand. What I had to say would get the Lebs mumblin at the back to finally shut up. I hold me hand up n’give Mohammed a nod, but real slow. Cos that’s the way Jesus would’ve done it. -W hat are you waitin for bro? Jeez. -Y eah, steady on. Listen. How many youse tried drugs? Or someone’s offered em to you? Okay, how many of youse know someone who has? Maybe you don’t even know em know em. Like maybe you just seen em at the train station? It’s okay to tell. I’m not gonna dob ya in. A little fat kid with red hair n’dried grass n’mud over his tracksuit top sticks his hand up. -Y eah you. The ranga. You taken any drugs?

77


-N ah, but me brother’s a druggie. Dad says he’s a loser cos he keeps stealin stuff from the family n’that. Like once we were havin a barbie n’me nan n’me aunties n’uncles n’cousins were all over, n’when Dad went into the shed to get the Weber he couldn’t find it cos Gav had taken it. Dad says he went n’flogged it at the pub. He took the whipper snipper too. But not the lawnmower. Cos it’s electric. Dad reckons he wouldn’t’ve been able to get anythin for it. - Yeah right. I don’t blame him. What’s to stop you cuttin over the power cord by accident? Electrocute yourself, ay? Anyone else know any druggies? A skinny Chinese kid with glasses sticks his hand up. -Y eah, you China. What’s your story? -M y brother’s a dealer. -F ar out. What does he sell? - I don’t know. But he buys the maddest stuff. He’s got a stereo with 300 watt RMS with a CD player. -Y eah right. Pretty exxy, eh? -A nd last week he bought a brand new 386 IBM compatible with a sound card. -N ew computer? Far out. Sounds like he’s goin off. Yeah, but anyway, listen. Bein a druggie is no joke. It’s not all fun n’games. I look into the distance n’count to five slowly in me head. Then I start rolling me left sleeve up n’as I’m doin it I can feel every pair of eyes is on me. When I finish foldin me cuff, I stand up n’I hold the underside of me arm out. Real slow, I show the whole class the scars on me arm. - I know. Cos I used to be a druggie. The kids that were sleepin are wipin their eyes, gettin up to try’n get a better look. Everyone’s real quiet. A fat little wog boy with a runny nose, in grey school shirt with stains and blue track pants comes sniffling up to me, gets up real close, trying to look at me scars. -W hat is it? -T hey’re track-marks. -W hat’s track-marks? - S ee them scars? It’s from a needle. From injectin drugs into me. -D oes it hurt?

78


-N ot anymore. Used to. But after a while, I stopped feelin it. Then after, I was too wasted to care. -C an I touch them? I nod and with one finger he traces the hardened red skin around me veins. -T he skin’s real hard. -Y eah. The skin all comes back, but with scars. Like some things your body doesn’t want you ever to forget. Y’can all come up n’have a look if you want. Don’t be shy. A tide of kids comes up to me. They line up, real excited. Whisperin to each other. Some of em have a feel. Others keep their distance, but I can tell they’re dying to have a long hard look. It’s all eyes on me. - I didn’t become a druggie overnight. It’s not like I woke up one mornin n’said to meself, “It’d be real good if I became a druggie”. I was just hangin with me mates. Y’know, havin a laugh. On the piss. Getting shit-faced. Nothing serious. Wasn’t long before we were smokin cones. Smokin hydro, gettin ripped and listening to metal n’some reggae too. Gettin kebabs. It was heaps good. The thing is, once you start takin drugs it’s hard to stop. Anyone had a box of pizza-in-a-biscuit by yourself ? Like, you’re watchin telly, you’re hoin into the biscuits one by one, n’then before you know it you’ve finished the whole box? N’yer thinkin, “Where’d all that go?” Yeah, well then y’know what I’m talkin about. Drugs are real moreish. Then one day this friend gives me some new gear to try. I didn’t think twice. By that time I was too ripped most of the time to know what day it was. He wasn’t much of a mate though cos what he gave me was junk. I don’t mean garbage. I mean heroin. Didn’t take me long to get hooked. Didn’t take me long to turn to crime either. Breakin into houses. Smashin into cars. Even when I was at Woolies I’d jam stuff down the front of me trackie dacks every chance I got. Bet you’re all wonderin, “How’d he get out of this mess? Why isn’t he dead like all the other junkies?” Well, it wasn’t luck, that’s for sure. God gave me a second chance. Y’know, to redeem meself. See one day I needed to score. I dunno where me usual dealer was, maybe Port Stephens on holiday or somethin, but I was real desperate so I ended up scorin off this bloke I didn’t know. The gear he gives me, it’s real strong. Y’know maybe that’s a good thing, like, with pot n’stuff, but with heroin it’s like real bad if you don’t know. I shoot up, same as normal, right. One minute I’m feelin the rush race up me arm into me head, feelin real light like I feel everythin all at once, but like I don’t feel it feel it,

79


if you know what I mean. Y’know, like I’m real light n’flyin. Then next minute, before I know it, I just black out. This doesn’t normally happen. This is like real bad. I dunno how long I was out for but it feels like forever. N’when I wake up alls I see is this real bright light all round me. So bright I can’t see nuthin else, but real strange cos it doesn’t hurt me eyes. It’s like I’m floatin towards the sky, or where the sky should be if I could see it. N’all round it gets brighter n’brighter, like when you stick your eyes up to a flouro light, but right up to it so you can’t see nuthin else. Then outta nowhere I hear this voice. I dunno where it’s comin from, but it’s speakin to me, almost like it’s in me head y’know, so I can’t hear nuthin else. Anyway, this voice, it says, “Nah Shane. You’re not ready yet mate. Go back to Planet Earth. We don’t want ya.” – “Who’s this? Where am I?” I ask, n’the voice says, “It doesn’t matter mate. Go back to Earth n’live yer life. We don’t want ya yet.” So I say, “Who doesn’t want me? How d’ya know me name?” Then the voice says, “We know everything mate. We don’t want ya to come here yet. Yer not ready mate.” I say, “I dunno what yer talkin about,” then the voice shouts, “Jeez mate, are ya thick! It doesn’t matter. Yer not comin n’that’s that. Just promise us one thing will ya?” – “Yeah, righto,” I reply, cos the voice sounds like it’s gettin pissed off, “Just get off the gear will ya? It’s not a good look. We’ll send ya back, but just promise to get off the junk.” I’m too shocked to argue. Or say anything. I got no idea who’s talkin to me, how they know me name or even how they know I’m on the gear. Then all of a sudden it goes dark again, “Yeah, no worries mate. I’ll get off junk. I promise,” I shout but no one replies. It’s real quiet. Feels like ages. Just as I start getting comfortable I cop this slap on me face and it stings real bad n’for the first time in ages I can open me eyes n’there’s this guy I don’t know kneelin over me shoutin. “Wake up! C’mon wake up!” he’s going, so I say, “Steady on mate. Who the hell are you?” I look round n’see I’m still in the Woolies car park where I set meself up. Except now there’s an ambulance man standin over me. And some checkout chicks smokin ciggies just starin me out. The ambulance man told me me heart had stopped. That I had technically died. I just nodded. I didn’t tell him about the voice. I didn’t want him to think I was crazy. I know you’ve all heard of Jesus Christ, but how many know him like I got to? See, it was Jesus who made me promise to get off drugs n’sent me back to Earth. Why’d he speak to me? Cos he fuckin loves me. Cos it was Jesus that helped me get off the gear. Without cravins. There’s heaps more love to go round. Jesus doesn’t care if you’re a loser junkie like I was. Jesus saved me life with his love. He’s ready to save yours, if you

80


just let Him. All you gotta do right, is open your heart to Him. Fuckin open your heart to Him right. He’ll just fuckin love you n’let you enter His Kingdom. They’re hangin onto every word now. Mrs Sparrow would be so impressed with me if she could see me now. - S ir? It’s Mohammed. This time he’s holdin up his hand, waitin for me to let him speak. I’m lookin at him with this big smile on me face, cos he’s lookin uncomfortable now, like me message has touched him, but he doesn’t know how to deal with it yet. - Somethin on your mind mate? Do you want to let Jesus into your life? - Nah bro. It’s not that. It’s your story bro. - Tell us what you’re thinkin. No one’s gonna laugh at you. - It’s bullshit man. What kind of God waits till you OD before he speaks to you? It’s like he’s a drug dealer man. Like a gangster. - Nah, it wasn’t like that. When I hit rock bottom, Jesus was there to lift me up. It’s like the footprints in the sand. Have you heard the story about the footprints? - Bro, don’t youse have Church you can go to n’do singin n’shit? Couldn’t you have done that? Man, how fucked is your God? And how much of a loser are you bro? No one’s talkin, no one’s sayin nuthin. They’re all waitin for me to say somethin but I can’t think of nuthin. I’ve been told I’m a loser almost all me life. By everyone. You’d think you’d get used to it, ay? But nah, still hurts. Even Mrs Sparrow thought I was a loser at first. Least that’s what she told me. One night I’d fallen asleep in a clothin bin. Too drunk to remember gettin into it. One minute I’m asleep, next minute someone’s opened the door n’everything spilt out onto the ground. Old clothes in plastic bags, books and stuffed toys, a few pots and pans, and yours truly. I’m lyin on the ground, thinkin, “How’d I get here?” when I look up n’there’s this old lady checkin me out. I’m thinkin she’s gonna call the cops or something when she says, “Oh dear. I think I’ve caught myself another lost lamb. Such a skinny thing. Even for a junkie.” I’m real hung-over. Real tired. I’m thinkin, dunno who she’s talkin bout but it’s not me. I say, “Nah, just got a hangover. I’ll be right. Just need a kebab.” Then she says, “Would you like to come inside? Have a coffee? Get something to eat?” So I say, “Nah. If you didn’t wake me up, I’d be fine. Just gotta sleep it off.” Then she says, “We can’t

81


have you sleeping in the clothing bin. Come inside. I’ll make you breakfast,” n’she takes me arm n’helps me to me feet. Tells me I’d fallen asleep in the clothin bin at Banksia Community Church. Tells me her name is Mrs Sparrow n’she’s married to the Minister. Once we get inside she sits me down at the kitchen table and makes up this full-on spread for breakfast. Eggs, sausages, bacon, toast, coffee n’tomatoes, like not cold, but hot n’fried. Mrs Sparrow laughs, “I’m always ready for unexpected guests.” While I’m eatin she sits down at the table n’just sits n’talks to me. I’m too busy eatin to talk back so I just listen to her. She tells me I need to stay a while. She says she can’t force me, but she says I have to try n’come clean, that I should stay so I can clean me body n’me soul at the same time. She pats me on the head while she’s talkin to me, real slow like you’d do to a dog. Felt kinda weird. But I was too hungry to say anythin. She told me that I was gonna have to go cold turkey. That the Church frowned on methadone. She told me that it was gonna be tough. That sometimes it would feel like it was gonna kill me. That sometimes, in the darkest hours of the night, I’d feel more alone than I’d ever felt before. But that that wasn’t a bad thing, cos it gave me more time to spend with Jesus. It was the first time anyone had ever laid the hard word on me about Jesus, so I wasn’t sure what to say. Turns out, as long as I just sat back n’listened it made her real happy. She showed me a room at the back of the church with a bed and a’telly. She said it was mine to use if I wanted, n’I was free to come n’go as I liked, but that I’d always be welcome there. She told me to go inside, try the bed. So I go in and sit down on the edge of the bed, n’straight away she comes and sits down next to me, kinda traps me in the corner n’asks whether I want to give it a go or not. I didn’t have to think about it for too long. I wasn’t getting on real well with me mum at the time. N’seein how good a cook Mrs Sparrow was, n’how I didn’t have to share the telly with anyone else and I could crash there whenever I got wasted, I told her, “Yeah. Why not? I’ll give it a go!” n’she full-on went off, squealin and jumpin up and down and huggin me. True to me word, I stayed. I went to me mum’s every now n’then to get clothes n’stuff, but I kept on goin back to Mrs Sparrow’s. I helped the kids out when they were playin their music in the church hall, like I was their roadie, but I didn’t have to do chores or nuthin while I was there. All I had to do was concentrate on me rehab. Mrs Sparrow said she prayed for me when I was sittin in me room, battlin me demons n’goin cold turkey. I wasn’t the first she’d tried to help, but she told me I was

82


the first to stick around. She said Mr Sparrow wasn’t too happy with her tryin to help cos they’d been ripped off a couple of times, but she said that she knew she was doin the right thing. She said she could see Jesus’ light shinin through me eyes. Sometimes there were tears in her eyes when she told me how proud she was of me. It made her so happy I couldn’t tell her I was just watchin telly most of the time. Most of all, I couldn’t tell her how I wasn’t really a junkie seein how happy it made her to think that I was. Every now n’then, just so it didn’t look suss, I’d tell her how much I wanted to get back on the gear, n’how I really needed to score. She’d get real worried n’force me to look in her eyes n’tell her I didn’t mean it, n’then I’d say, “Nah, I didn’t mean it. I’m gonna stay on Jesus’ path so I can enter His Kingdom one day.” She’d always introduce me to people as the lost sheep that she had rescued. “Rescued from what?” they’d ask, n’then she’d look real proud at me, smilin, n’say, “You know Shane used to be addicted to heroin,” n’people would be real nice to me. Sometimes she’d cry as well. I never knew what to do when she cried. Most of the time I’d just smile. I didn’t mind bein the centre of attention cos she was so proud of me. No one had ever been proud of me before. She said “my quiet dedication was an inspiration to everyone.” I’d never been nobody’s inspiration before either. After a while, it got that I could never tell her the truth. Then one day Mrs Sparrow asks me if I wanna go teach some scripture classes. I tell her, “Nah. I was never good at school. What am I gonna say to a bunch of kids?” but she says all I got to do is tell em how I lost my way and then found it again. She said all I need to tell em is how I was a junkie and how much I love Jesus now. She was so hopeful. She’d been so nice to me. Even though the manager at Woolies said he didn’t wanna hire no ex-junkies, she managed to get me a job there. She let me stay for ages. It got to the stage where I didn’t wanna go back to me mum’s. There was no way I could say no after all that. But I’d never even tried heroin let alone have an overdose. One night I was in me room at Mrs Sparrow’s, pullin cones out the window, gettin ripped, n’this thing comes on the telly bout a guy havin a near-death experience. He was tellin how he bought a quarter chicken n’chips and was eatin when he started chokin on a bone. Couldn’t breathe he said. Ended up passin out. Said that he saw a light and was floatin up towards the light and he thought he saw heaven. That is, till the ambos brought him back. He was brain-dead for like fifteen minutes, he said. Spoke real slow ever since, like a cassette left in the sun. Anyway, I was gettin so ripped that I thought for a while maybe I was havin one too, cos I could see a light n’stuff, n’I felt like I was floatin too. Till I realised

83


I’d tripped the antenna and all I was seein was snow on the telly. When I pull up me sleeves to show em me track-marks they’re just scars that I used to make with me compass in Maths. Fuck I hated Maths. - Maybe you’re right Mohammed. Maybe I am a loser … Fuck. And right there, in front of the whole fuckin class, I fuckin lose it. I try n’stop it, but I can’t. I feel this pain right in me chest burst open n’me eyes start to get real hot n’wet like their bleedin or somethin, n’I just start cryin. Like a fuckin baby. Nah, worse than a baby, cos I’m not screamin or shit, just chokin on me own spit n’snot. I’m cryin so hard I’m fuckin dribblin onto me lap now. I try n’hide me face cos it’s real embarassin n’stuff, n’it’s worse cos no one’s sayin nuthin, n’I can feel the tears hittin me lap, but I can’t stop. Like, I’m even dry retchin. And I’m thinkin, fuck this shit. Fuck this shit. Fuckin Mrs Sparrow. Fuckin Jesus. I’m hidin me face in me hands, n’they’re all wet cos they’re covered in me own dribble, n’I’m still cryin when I feel someone’s hand squeezin me shoulder. But the thing is, I’m way too embarrassed to look up cos I’ve been cryin so hard, n’I’m thinkin Mrs Chapman must have heard me bawlin me eyes out n’maybe thought it was one of the kids cryin n’come in to check up on me, but I’m holdin me face, still cryin cos I can’t face it, n’the hand squeezes me on the shoulder again n’so I dunno what I’m gonna say to explain it all, but I look up n’it’s not Mrs Chapman.

84


Collected Poems By George Toseski

85


Souther East We descend from the eighth floor unit the way a sneeze delivers a nosebleed the sun blinds our bare feet and we step on wine casks our skin remains intact fruit bursts open in spring the train station in Riverwood buzzes like a refrigerator cigarette butts swept under by the station guard a badge suggesting the rights of workers there is no jungle for the train to take us through.

86


Drowning Drowned vehicles tugged from George’s River; Henry Lawson stops to look. The cars are a terminal green-brown, paint melted by the fire. Seaweed falls back in as the waste is craned out and loaded onto trucks. There is enough metal down there to hamper boats. Cordoned-off police, rescue workers, and ambulance. But why ambulance? The violence is over. For the river perhaps; oils and fluids seeping into already congested veins. They chose the wrong burial ground. Poison signs along the banks remind us of the danger. Divers in full-length body suits and goggles fear breathing. This is a recovery operation and if it goes well, we may conceive of resurrection. Believers wait around in thongs flicking cigarettes down the jetty which collide with the water and suffocate the flames. They hope to simply clean off the gunk and continue the journey.

87


The Dead Hours This hour prefers its own destruction but chemicals have made the night endless; at the brink of eclipse, the sun can no longer be avoided. Buildings unseen for hours spring up, yawning cleaners prepare offices for another week, another way of life, traffic lights resume their meaning, cars return safely to the streets, though I walk blindly, the crowd bumps me toward the correct path. Early morning people are near their dreams; later, they look back to know where they are but morning disallows errors or amends. No money left for a table I rest on steps and low walls soaking in the stench of urine, glimpsing people’s underwear as they ride escalators. Later, they’ll open their empty legs to squat and eat lunch, then purchase a single apple from the fruit stall or fiddle with a coffee, cannoli and cigarette. My clothes do not belong here and I’m taunted by a sense that someone here knows me in an awful or intimate way. If only I can dislodge their sunglasses as they dash by the recognition may begin.

88


Black Wine Chairs and tables upon sticky tar and dried chewing gum, the River Road traffic shooting from the banks blunts the rumble of light planes, car horns, and the slamming doors of neighbours who find nothing on summer nights but to drain glasses of themselves. Beyond the vehicles, massive houses built to trap children and lure wives and husbands. The old man just shakes his head as the boy wipes dog shit from new sneakers onto freshly mown lawn – it’s best sometimes to say nothing, as the last of the sun is caught by a private satellite dish. “Specials” line the board in forgotten chalk. I tell the table how as a teenager I loved a girl with a bubble in her heart because she had a bubble in her heart and the wine slides down gently, though the pasta encounters a hump. My friends, things are well at this moment. Later, the wine will darken, ideas will be unpicked and we shall never again be ourselves. 89


Ivor Indyk & Mohammed Ahmad, Westside Writing Workshops, photo by Richard Birch

90


Funnel Web Woman A night time prowl

By Riem Derbas

91


T

he smoke from the cigarette slowly wafts through the air; a languid mist of patterns swirling through the room to mark their yellowing haze on the ceiling. Her painted red lips cover the cigarette as a silent drag is taken then forcefully blown out to form a separate haze of mist and smoke. Three more times this pattern is repeated before a soft tsh is heard and the cigarette is finally killed. The room falls into silence, broken only by the rhythmic breathing of the woman on the bed. Her body dons many bruises, but a smile of wicked pleasure caresses her face, contorting her normally handsome features. Her honey-like eyes land on the body of an unmoving man, his naked form still warm; his face buried in the mattress beside her. She lets the events of the night flood her; fill her with pleasure. It’s as though they are occurring again. Her eyes close, the images appear so vivid, so fresh in her mind. She lets herself fall into the memory.

Strutting down the streets of Kings Cross, clutching a small black purse in her hands, her red stilettos clicked noisily against the pavement. She held a sequined gold clutch. Her red long-sleeved dress sat well above her knees. It hugged her body tightly and accentuated her womanly figure, the plunging neckline boasting a very full bust, leaving little to the imagination. Her hair blew gently about her head, the zephyrs of winter carrying the soft auburn curls in their gentle embrace. Her face was heavily made up; bright red lipstick drawing attention to her sensual lips. She did not travel with an entourage of girlfriends. She hadn’t any to travel with. She felt blessed not to have such distractions. She turned onto Bayswater Road, heading down to The World Bar, the classic Victorian building frequented by her many times in the past. She could see the long line of people queuing outside and smiled at the platter of choice before her. She didn’t bother joining the queue; she never did. She continued past the row of people, long confident strides bringing her up to the bouncer. She flashed him a smile. His hard face gave way to a small one of his own. “Maxine Varnon,” she stated, pointing at the clipboard he held in his hands. “I believe I’m on the list.” He’d made a point of scanning the two page list she knew her name would not be on. His eyes turned to her and she smiled, flapped her eyelashes at him. She watched as his eyes drank in the sight of her, pausing a moment longer than necessary on her breasts. Without moving his eyes from them, he stepped aside slightly to let her in, knowing she would have to brush past him to enter. A smile still caressed her lips as her body made contact for a brief moment with his, and then she was inside. She made a beeline for the bar, sat on a surprisingly unoccupied barstool and

92


ordered herself a martini. She skimmed the patrons of the room. Her eyes fell on a tall, black-haired man seated at one of the centre tables. He was facing her direction but not her. He was dressed in jeans and the two top buttons on his striped white shirt were left undone. Looking up, his eyes hungrily absorbed her body. Downing the last of her martini with a smirk, she lifted herself off the stool and, smoothing down her dress, walked towards her prey. He remained seated as she approached; his eyes in direct line with her chest. He lifted his eyes after a beat. Emerald orbs met her caramel ones. “Hi.” She flashed him a dazzling smile and batted her eyelids seductively. “Hey,” he responded coolly. She noticed a thick accent she could not quite place over the thumping music. A bronzed hand circled itself around her snow white skin as he pulled her closer, his mouth to her ear. “Why is a beautiful woman here alone?” He was French she realised. She shifted her head to respond, her lips to his ear. “Vous êtes Français?” He pulled back, smiling widely. “Et vous parlez Français, vous êtes bilingue.” This time he leaned into her ear, shouting above the rowdy music. “Oui, j’habite en France pendant une année.” The smile remained on her lips as she spoke. “Avec qui êtes-vous ici?” she asked. To her astonishment, he shook his head and mouthed in English, “No one.” “You came alone?” she asked again, reverting back to English. He nodded and pulled her into him. His mouth found her ear once more. “But I do not plan on leaving alone.” His lips touched the side of her neck. Neither do I, she thought, smiling still. She drew her bottom lip slowly into her mouth, moistening it with her tongue before she released it. His eyes were on her lips. He swallowed. “Would you like a drink, Mademoiselle ...?” “Maxine,” she offered, “And yes, a martini would be great.” “Martin.” He brought her hand to his lips. “A Martin-i it is.” He winked and with her hand still in his, guided her to the bar. Several cocktails and hours of dancing later, she wound her arms around his neck. She could taste the alcohol and cigars as his tongue slid into her mouth. He pulled away a moment later and taking a firm hold of her hand, moved towards the exit. It was almost 2am when they stumbled, hands and lips all over each other, into his hotel room. He leaned her against the closed door, his mouth moving from her lips. He placed a wet trail down her neck and nestled his head in her cleavage. She moaned, her hands gripping his hair. This was her favourite part of the night.

93


hey found themselves on the bed in a matter of minutes. Their clothes had been T stripped off. He supported himself above her, kisses assaulting her. A moment later he’d had enough with the foreplay and tore open the foil packet on the bedside table. He looked down at her, his eyes dark. She knew the change was coming. Her own eyes darkened. He entered her. Her mind returned to her sixteen-year-old self, silently crying as a beast atop entered her body. Her face burned as the memories took possession. Every thrust of his hips brought the pain of that night tearing through her body. Her mind was detached. She had dissolved into the beast; the funnel web woman. She started struggling against him, trying to push him off. He grabbed her hands and held them to the side of the bed. Bruising would come easily to her alabaster skin, but she needed more than bruised wrists. She continued to thrash beneath him, his eyes meeting hers. The calm emerald flashed a Hulk-like green; he was furious. His right hand left her wrist to plant a print across her face, her head jerking on impact. The coppery taste of blood filled her mouth as her eyes welled with tears. “You bastard,” she whispered. His eyes flashed brighter. She felt the tiny flecks of spittle hitting her face as he seethed at her. “You’re a whore, a slut.” The sting of his hand again connected with the other side of her face. She kicked her legs until she heard him grunt, her foot somehow coming into contact with his scrotum. He fell back, cupping his hands over himself as she scrambled up and off the bed. She walked towards him, bending her head so their faces were level. Incensed caramel met Hulk green. “You brought the wrong girl home tonight.” Her body twitched as she continued to watch him. Fear flashed across his face. She pushed her face forward and took his lips in a kiss. He, like so many before, stood dazed and confused, still clutching his crotch. She offered a heinous smile through her swollen face. As she stepped away from his bent-over body, he looked up at her. Her hand flew and connected with his face. He almost fell to the floor but somehow managed to stabilise himself, snapping out of the daze. “Get the fuck out.” His thick accent came through clenched teeth, his eyes still trained on hers. She didn’t move; her eyes remained on his. A wider smile graced her lips; a chuckle left her throat. “I’m not going anywhere.” His body shook with rage, his hands fisting at his sides. “You wanted me and now you’ve got me, you sick mother fucker.”

94


S uddenly, he moved in fast. His hands were around her neck almost instantly; shaking her body. The air was thwarted from her lungs. “Vous êtes une putain,” he seethed, pushing himself against her. He slammed her into the wall, his face so close their noses touched. “A slut.” S he tried to pry him off but her strength was fast being squandered. She heard the voice again, heard herself screaming on that fateful night and found an ounce of strength. She dropped her arms from his and grabbed hold of his head, squeezing her thumbs into his eye sockets, fingernails digging into his head. She lifted her knee and once again made contact with his testicles. His arms instantly dropped from her neck as he bent forward in pain. She picked her discarded clutch up off the floor. Clicking it open, she pulled out a small pocketknife. She flicked the blade out of the red handle and held it tightly. Martin was groaning, doubled over by the edge of the bed. She walked up behind him and slid an arm around his waist, digging the knife into the soft flesh of his stomach. He grabbed at the hand that held the knife but she held it firmly against his flesh, dragging it slowly across his lower belly. She put her mouth to his ear and whispered, “Le monde est un meilleur endroit sans toi.” Then she pulled away from his ear and screamed; begging him to stop what he was doing. A smile slowly crept across her face as blood dripped onto her hands. She released her grip on the knife, leaving it embedded in his skin. She heard the intensity of his breathing as it quickened. His hands clutched at his stomach and she watched him pull the knife from his body, blood spilling from the open wound. The knife dropped and he buckled over, falling forward onto the bed. She glided over to the bed, watching as life left his body. Taking the knife off the floor, she held it lightly in her hand before she turned it and dug into the skin beside her belly button, cutting a shallow line a few centimetres across. The pain shot through her body, but it would pass and the wound would heal. A rapping on the door pulls her out of the memory. She knows it’s the police; she knew that at least one other hotel patron would have placed a call. She lifts herself off the bed, tears coming to her eyes easily as she robes her naked body. Hobbling slowly to the door, she peers through the tiny peephole before opening it. “I’m Officer Erin Burney, this is my partner, Officer Cheryl Mac. We got a call about a disturbance at this residence.” “Ye-yes.” Thick with tears Maxine’s voice is barely above a whisper. She steps aside to let the officers in. “He, he tried to hurt me and I, it’s all my fault, I-I- didn’t, it was an

95


accident, a horrible accident.” She falls to the floor, her robe shifting slightly to reveal the self-inflicted wound on her stomach. “Did he do this to you?” Officer Mac asks her, Erin standing close by. Maxine nods softly. Blood is still dripping slightly from her open wound. As Cheryl covers Maxine’s shaking body, applying pressure to stop the bleeding, Erin radios for an ambulance. “Where is he now?” Cheryl questions softly. “He’s in, he’s, he’s in the b-bedroom.” She watches as Erin walks into the room, drawing her gun as a precaution. As Erin steps out of sight, Cheryl gently prods Maxine for answers. “I need to know what happened here.” It takes Maxine a moment to compose herself, wiping away the tears. In a whisper, Maxine relays the altered events of the night. How they left the club and came back to his hotel room. That though she had consented to sleeping with him, when she wanted to leave, Martin had blown up in a rage. How he slapped her and grabbed her and would not let her go, then how things escalated and the next thing she knew there was a knife. They probe her for details and she tells them as much as she can: how he lunged at her with the knife; how she pulled it out of herself then he guided the knife, while in her hand, to his gut and sliced across his stomach as she screamed for him to stop. She looks into the eyes of the women before her, allowing the tears to fall once more. “It was an accident, an, an accident. He-” she hiccups, “He was mad, this is all my fault, I’m so sorry, I’m sorry.” “So he did this to himself ?” Officer Mac asks softly. “Yes.” A knock on the door is heard. Two ambulance officers are ushered in. “We need to take a look at those injuries ma’am.” Maxine hears an echo of a voice from her past, words once spoken to a scared sixteen-year-old girl. She looks up into the kind eyes of the doctor and lets him check her injuries while Burney and Mac further their enquiries, calling on the neighbours who said they heard a scream piercing the night, one of them admitting to having placed the call. Maxine is loaded onto a gurney and rolled out of the room. Hidden by the thin material of the blanket that covers her, a wicked smile seeps onto her face as she silently congratulates herself on the performance of her life.

96


Alleyway Honour By Bill Reda

97


98


99


100


101


102


103


104


Collected Poems By Nathan Elhosni

105


Train I remember I was on a train You were there too At times silent Yet you were so loud My music blaring Your words mixing My anger mounting I sit legs crossed Devouring the grey atrocity of this train’s interior Judging its smooth yet bumpy skin Bolts sticking out, graffiti holding onto it tightly I analyse all its imperfections You’re still there I remember you well I think that’s when you forget That I was there too

106


Jump So I remember We were on a roof You were scared But you were also determined Eyebrows knitted you take a step forward Stones trembling, your fear being transferred A deep breath in, I sigh in relief You’re still there, you’ve heeded my wisdom You’re still at the edge What are you doing? What are you thinking? I hear the groan of the gutter Too much weight on its shoulders You smile and wave And this is when I begin To wish I could forget To stop remembering You spread your wings Oh, how beautiful they are You leap so flawlessly, You’re flying And suddenly you’re done It’s all done for you My mind jumps, seeing this truth It lands and it breaks just like you 107


My Balcony So I remember I was alone in my room Everything flawlessly neat, cleaned only today You were standing there Watching me Studying me, your eyebrows knitted You just smile like you always do Tight and humourless Then you turn away, walking onto my balcony I watch for a while Hearing you call to me Your mind ordering me to follow I huddle under my blankets Trying to forget About you and voices and even myself Nothing helped Your voice getting louder So I did what I always do I ran, knowing that you would follow

108


Sudden Departure By Tamar Chnorhokian

109


S

o there Tim Tam was in Moree. At last she had been given a chance to get her foot in the door of this cut-throat industry. She moved her whole life to a country town she had never been to, determined to start her career. Leaving her family and friends behind, she traded her social life for a life in the bush. And she was out in the bush alright. Tim Tam wasn’t used to isolation, the quiet streets or the foreign landscape. Where was the traffic and where were the traffic lights!? There was only one traffic light in the whole town and it took forever to turn green! Tim Tam started to miss the chaos of her home life. She even missed her father’s drama, his nagging and volatile behaviour. There was never a dull moment on Wheller Street! She had gotten used to doing all the house chores, except for one. The cooking! When she got home she was too exhausted to cook anything. How Tim Tam longed for her mum’s tasty dishes which were served when she came home. Her one-bedroom apartment was silent. The only noise came from the TV. The Farmer Wants a Wife was on, which she found quite fitting considering her current circumstances. The box had become her best friend along with her sofa bed. Every night after work Tim Tam would curl up and veg out with a piece of custard tart or some chocolate. She’d lie there totally exhausted from all the running around she had done that day. Tim Tam wasn’t used to full-time work. She considered herself a lady of leisure and she would joke that she didn’t have the baggage that came with it – the hubby or the kids. Tim Tam was used to having breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner with friends during the week and going to the movies on a Tuesday night and then having a coffee afterwards. The cinema was literally across the road from her house. Now the closest cinema was an hour away, driving through nothing but bush! Tim Tam missed her Stockland Mall, where everything she needed was at her disposal. The food court was only a footstep away and it had a variety of food, something which Moree lacked. How she longed for a strip-roll meal from Oporto or a juicy beef kebab. She missed sitting at Blue Star, her favourite café with her best friend and having the best ice coffee in the world as they engaged in their deep-and-meaningful conversations. But most of all Tim Tam missed the flavour of the people that would walk in and out of her local hangout – the multiculturalism of Fairfield City. She stuck out like a sore thumb here. When Tim Tam interviewed a member of the Moree Council on the upcoming Multicultural Festival, he informed her that there were forty-two nationalities in Moree. She held back the laughter. Was he kidding? The only different types of nationalities she encountered were the wogs at the Moree Spa Baths, the main attraction the town had

110


to offer – the ‘miracle waters’. Hot mineral water flowed from underneath the ground into man-made pools. Apparently the water had healing powers. Elderly Sydneysiders flocked there each year – it was only there that she sort of felt like she was back home. Tim Tam was feeling lonely and homesick but on top of that she was stressed. It was only a country town of 14,000 people so you’d think that the paper would only come out once a week. Wrong! When she started work she was surprised to discover the paper came out twice a week – Tuesdays and Thursdays. There must be a mistake! The town isn’t big enough for that much news. Tim Tam knew she was right when some days she roamed the streets asking locals if there were any stories they’d like featured. Hang on a sec, that would be great if there were people on the streets to ask. It’s only 2pm and there’s hardly a soul about. She was forced to go inside the shops and interview the shopkeeper. The deadlines were a vicious cycle – from Tuesday to Thursday and before she knew it she was back to Tuesday. But there was more! Tim Tam was now a photographer as well! Journos weren’t meant to take the pics – well not in Sydney anyway. But apparently out bush Tim Tam was a jack-of-all-trades! So Tim Tam was running around taking photographs from place to place then trying to find time to fit in interviews and come back to the office to produce copy. Her mind started going blank and so did her face. She started to wear a vacant expression – the run-down, tired look. She started forgetting simple things and that was when she recognised the symptoms. She knew it was only a matter of time. Things were going to get worse unless something changed. When Tim Tam first started she was meeting deadlines and everybody loved her work. Everyone back home knew she was doing well but secretly she wished that fewer people were aware of her success. Tim Tam couldn’t help but believe in the evil eye. Probably because from an early age, her life had been totally affected by jealousy. Whenever things were going smoothly some incident always happened that changed the course. Sometimes she wondered if she was cursed. Moree was no different. Six weeks into her job a drama unfolded. This incident changed the editor’s attitude towards her. It was ten o’clock on a Sunday night when Tim Tam’s editor called, clearly upset and shaken. Someone had broken into her house while she was in the shower and stolen her computer. The editor tried to make contact with the manager but couldn’t get hold of him. She said, “Tim Tam, can you drive to his house and tell him what’s happened and please tell him to call me?” Tim Tam reassured her boss not to worry and drove over to the manager’s house.

111


When she got there it was pitch black. She parked her car in the driveway and left on her car lights so she could make her way up the stairs. She banged on the door and waited. A second later she heard his voice. “Who is it?” the manager asked. “It’s Tamar,” she responded. “What’s the matter, Tim Tam?” he asked as he opened the door. Ron was an elderly man in his sixties. He was half asleep and drool dripped from his mouth. He opened the door and Tim Tam went inside. “Rebecca called me. Someone’s broken into her place. She’s very upset. She’s been trying to call you but she can’t get through.” “I take my phone off the hook when I go to sleep and my mobile’s switched off.” He turned on his mobile and found several messages from Rebecca. He called her up. Ron then asked Tim Tam if she could give him a lift to the editor’s place. She did as her boss asked. Then she went home. On Monday Tim Tam went back to work – totally unprepared for what was in store. At first Tim Tam got a big thank you from her editor for helping her out. Then hours later she copped attitude – a message left on her mobile. “Excuse me, Tamar, where are you? Don’t you know you have to be back in the office at 12pm to take a photo? Someone’s waiting at reception for you. Next time if you’re late you need to call!” She listened to the editor’s voicemail and was totally caught off guard. It sounded harsh. Tim Tam thought it was strange but ignored it and got on with her job. From that day on things started to change. The editor became more demanding and was increasingly short with her. At first she was surprised by this sudden change of behaviour but Tim Tam was a smart cookie and she knew a thing or two about psychology. Tim Tam realised the editor was embarrassed that she had appeared vulnerable and was now trying to reassert her authority. Every day things got worse. The editor’s harsh tone began to take a toll on Tim Tam. She wasn’t used to shutting up. The editor had no idea that treating her in such a manner was going to make things worse. Tim Tam started to forget the simple things, like dates. She wrote the wrong date on an important article and the editor instructed her that she was no longer to write articles. Only take pictures. The insult was too much to bear – how dare she tell her not to write articles, that’s what Tim Tam did best! It was obvious Tim Tam was being singled out. A couple of weeks back another journo made a pretty big error in an article about a council election and didn’t cop it anywhere near as bad.

112


Typical, she thought, you do something good and you pay for it. Tim Tam didn’t want to return home but she had to. The manager and editor took her into the office. “Why have you resigned?” Ron asked disappointed. “I’m not meeting deadlines.” “In time you will,” he reassured her. “You’re a very good writer and capable of becoming a great journalist, just aks anyone,” added the editor. The editor was really starting to get on Tim Tam’s nerves. The word is ask, not aks, Tim Tam felt like blurting out. Can you get it right, you’re an editor for god’s sake ... “I know I’m a good writer, but if you’re not meeting deadlines the writing doesn’t mean much,” she replied instead. They both stared at her confused. Tim Tam’s heart was breaking into a million pieces but all she could do was stick to her story. “Did you get homesick after your family came to visit you last week?” Ron asked. “Yes, I did.” “I thought so,” he said, relieved that he’d found an answer to the sudden change of mind. She let him believe that was the whole truth. The editor didn’t say much. She let Ron do most of the talking. Tim Tam could tell by the expression on the editor’s face that she was in for a long last two weeks. From the moment all three of them left the room the editor’s claws became sharper and her tongue nastier. She started making Tim Tam do extra work. Tim Tam was given a long list of clientele that advertised with the paper and made to ring each one and confirm their contact details were correct. So now I’m the Office Admin Assistant. Hang on; let me rephrase that – Office Admin Assistant slash Photographer. On the list of tasks she’d also been asked to write the editorial. It was obviously the editor’s job, but now Tim Tam had become the errand girl. “What do you want me to write about?” Tim Tam asked curiously. “Mental health. It’s Mental Health Week.” Tim Tam tried to keep a straight face. She wants me to write about mental health? Little did the editor know that her journalist was resigning because she had schizophrenia. Tim Tam wrote the column without any source of reference. She knew the topic all too well.

113


Samantha Hogg, Westside Writing Workshops, photo by Richard Birch

114


Spaghetti in Italy By Michael Mohammed Ahmad

115


Ice Cream at the Trevi When we wake up at the same time, and happen also to be facing each other, she sees me, smiles, and says, “Hiii …” My wife is stunning when she smiles. Her lips are full, pink, and her teeth are perfect. She asks me what smile is my favourite from time to time and does a series of different ones. Sometimes she pouts, other times she gives the biggest smile she can. Then she smiles because she thinks her game is funny and I tell her, “There, that one right there is my favourite.” Mariam smiles. And she was smiling on her birthday inside L’Amore – a small café in Rome on the street where we were staying. I popped my camera open and pointed it at her. “Why are you so happy?” I narrated. “I’m gonna have ice cream,” she announces like a child, and then bobs her shoulders up and down with her hands closed close to her chest. I turn our camera to the large doorway of the restaurant and zoom in. Outside you can see and hear Manchester United fans chanting in front of the Trevi Fountain. The water is pristine and the air is hot and dry. People wash their faces and smile. An Adonis stands in the centre – or a god – and horses emerge from the left and right. The sculptures don’t look real. When I stare at them I feel like I’m playing a video game in full HD. Tight streets hide the Trevi; it pounces onto you when you step out of them. It’s a good place to celebrate historic events. I take Mariam by there every morning to celebrate our marriage.

116


The Size of the Colosseum I notice I have one hair on my eyebrow that’s too low so I ask my wife to pluck it before we leave to see the Colosseum. She pulls out a pair of tweezers from her handbag – she brought them with her – and says, “Just give me a sec.” She steps right in next to me. She’s close enough for me to kiss her, and now, while she’s not in heels, we’re the same height and at eye level. The tweezers come up and press against the top of my eye. Under the light of our small hotel room, Mariam’s face is the size of the sky. I see a gigantic smile form on her mouth. She doesn’t notice me staring at her because she’s so focused on the small hair. I try to hold it in but I can’t. I laugh out loud. “What?” she says, losing her focus. “Nothing,” I say. “Please, please. Pluck the hair.” She plucks it and half an hour later we’re standing outside the Colosseum. When you’re close to it, and look up, it’s all you can see. We walk through its walls and pick rocks to keep while we move. “Look,” I say to her, popping my camera open. “Someone has carved the name Habib into this pillar of the Colosseum.” I film it. Mariam doesn’t reply. I thought she’d get excited because her mother’s last name is Habib, but she’s still mad at me for laughing while she was plucking my eyebrow hair. “You know, I’m probably gonna laugh at a lot of things you do in the future,” I tell her. “Then I’m probably gonna get mad at you a lot in the future,” she replies. I already know. I can live with that.

117


The Floor of the Sistine They told me I wasn’t allowed to film inside but I see a few flashes go off. I slide my camera through my hand and point it down. My thumb sits on the record button. “It’s so crowded in here,” Mariam tells me. I look up and try to absorb it in one go but I can’t. It’s too much. I refocus my eyes and start to look at it one image at a time. I stare at David. He’s huge. I think, Isn’t Goliath meant to be the huge one? I keep going, bit by bit, till I reach the famous painting of God and Adam reaching out to one another. “Look, babe,” I tell Mariam. “See how the fingers break contact.” “Huh?” she says. She was staring at the floor. “You’re missing it, babe.” “Yeah,” she says. She keeps staring at the floor. “Are these tiles?” she asks. “I think so,” I reply. “They’re dirty,” she tells me. “You’re not meant to notice,” I tell her. I suddenly realise it’s a good thing I married her. I press record and swing my camera up to quickly get a shot of the ceiling. My camera tries to absorb it in one go.

118


Pigeons on St Mark’s She isn’t always happy. But then again, who is? Like early that morning while brushing her teeth. She stopped and stared at me. “Have you ever used my toothbrush?” she shouted. I raise my eyebrows. “No,” I reply. “Have you ever used mine?” “Once!” she shouts back. Then she continues on brushing. She’s so beautiful. Even when she’s angry we’re still holding hands. We were holding hands and walking on St Mark’s Square when she noticed her first pigeon. “Fat pigeon,” she gasped with a laugh. “Film it. Film it.” I let go of my wife’s hand for a second and pop open my handycam. It’s our second week in Italy and my second week of filming. I’m very fast at slipping the camera strap through my hand and capturing a moment. The pigeon waddles slowly across the concrete of the gigantic square. Here in Venice the pigeons linger on the floor longer than they do in Sydney. They’re unafraid of people. And they’re fat. They spend all their time on the concrete eating tourists’ scraps. They fly low to the ground and most of them harass you. They think they’re seagulls. I’ve seen people sit amongst them. They play with them, and get pictures taken with them. The pigeons in Venice are fat. My wife is afraid of pigeons. And cats. And insects. We hold hands and maybe she feels safer. But most of the time my hand doesn’t draw the wildlife away. And back home, a firm grip and a frown on my face will keep men looking the other direction. But on St Mark’s Square, my hand can’t even protect her from the male gaze. So what good am I, here in Venice?

119


Nicole Chahine & Daniel Bishara, Westside Writing Workshops, photo by Richard Birch

120


The Bridge A Poem by Tim Carroll

121


There are prehistoric Fish in my memory Gigantic and scary They swarm Just below the surface Always moving And Hard to get a bead on. --Long nosed A little like a crocodile Short and stubby Like piranha But bigger, Much bigger Than the fish I see Jumping In and out Of the Cooks River. (do they try to avoid being cooked perhaps?) And sometimes when fortune is On my side, Or on one side Or at one’s side may be a dog Or a small boy called Matthew And I lift him up onto the rail And warn him to be careful As I point excitedly to 122


that one And look, did you see that one? As the shimmer of silver underbody Shines just below the surface Of the blighted brown or Dirty green water A little bit like my dreams Just enough to bring on back To my conscious mind a vision Of the prehistoric fish. --And I am suddenly caught In this reverie As Matthew’s shoulder And shirt Are as surely caught In my right hand So he cannot fall As my dog’s lead is caught In my left hand So he cannot run, Or fight And all this catching Is nothing As I am caught In Matthew’s joke. If I jumped in there You would have to dive in to Get me. 123


And laughing, we three leave Back across the wooden bridge To our side, To the familiar To home --As I lie or sit, I ponder prehistoric fish And Matthew’s vision of Our precious minutes On the bridge. --The child sleeps, The clock ticks, The fish swim In subdued moonlight Filtered by filthy Wonderful water. And occasionally Find the energy To jump For my personal wonder And delight. I secretly thank them: – And rejoice in this night.

124


Winners of the 2009 Bankstown City Council

Youth Week Writing Competition

125


2009 Competition Finalists Winners Daniel Bishara (18 years), Equal First Place for his poem, Flashback. Paul Boustani (17 years), Equal First Place for his poem, Swirly, Bright Entity. Rebekah Bojkovska (13 years), Outstanding Junior Writer for her short story, Life after Learning.

Highly Commended Rifat Kibria (19 years), Highly Commended for his short story, The Life of Nick Rossi. Stephanie Pawlowski (14 years), Highly Commended for her short story, Guilt. Shannan Nettleship (13 years), Highly Commended for her poem, Tiger Rising. Arthur Wang (19 years), Highly Commended for his short story, Leap of Faith. Nicole Chahine (19 years), Highly Commended for her short story, Aunt Sally. Kate Kovalik (14 years), Highly Commended for her short story, The Stealth of Sundown.

126


Youth Week Writing Competition This year I was pleased to be involved with the 2009 Youth Week activities for Bankstown. As part of Youth Week, Bankstown ran a creative writing competition to search for the very best undiscovered creative writers across the region. The competition provided an opportunity for young people to express their ideas and views and for the wider community to listen to young people and acknowledge their positive contributions. The competition was open to any young person aged between twelve and twentyfour years old and needed to include the words “make a move”. Competition judges included myself, Mohammed Ahmad, editor of Westside and Roslyn Oades, sub editor of Westside. The responses we received were tremendous. Poems, short stories, and articles were entered by young people aged nine years and up from all across Bankstown. The standard of writing was outstanding. Thanks to the committed teachers, parents, friends and judges for making this competition a huge success, but most importantly, thanks and recognition is due to the inspiring writers who entered. I hope you enjoy reading our finalists. I’m confident these writers will be producing some of the best creative writing across Sydney in the years ahead.

Justine Foo Community Development Officer for Youth Bankstown City Council T: (02) 9707 9605 F: (02) 9707 9554

127


Flashback by Daniel Bishara Blood stains my knuckles, blinds my eyes with the madness of my fury. My face contorts into a perfect picture of pure, animalistic rage. There’s no method to my madness. All I want to do is make him hurt. To make him suffer, to bleed and to cry as my fury reigns upon his now horribly disfigured visage. My reason, lost to memory. All there is left … Crack. Anger, hatred. Crack. Insatiable rage. Crack. Revenge, my bloodthirst, my purpose. Crack. Fuck world justice, it’s my turn. I look down at my knuckles. The kid’s tears morphing into the soundtrack of my childhood, the world warping into an unimaginable mass of ever-shifting contours and intangible blurs, my mind stepping back in time. I become that faceless kid. I become the pain. I bear the brunt of the fury once more. The image finally settles, body bracing for impact. Crack. My dreams.

“You’ll never amount to anything!”

Crack. My innocence.

Crack. My identity.

“Nothing but a waste of time!”

Crack. My purpose.

“Just stay the fuck out of my way.”

128

“You’re a stupid piece of shit!”


For a split second, the image of my fist and the fist of my father, my beloved creator, my guide and carer, are superimposed. For that split second, I know exactly how he felt as he unburdened his drunken anger towards me, just as mine delivers a final blow to that faceless kid before me. All he fathered was my insanity. All he created was this monster inside, this monster that is I! My guide? His only path was madness! My carer? All he cared about was himself. Four broken knuckles. Four pieces lost. That kid … He’s just like me. Why doesn’t he make a move? Why doesn’t he do what I could never do? But it’s too late. Now it’s my turn. My turn to be the monster. My turn to create hell. Like father, Like son.

129


Swirly, Bright Entity by Paul Boustani A pulsing Dominating her senses Drumming sharply on her veins She flexes her arms The music begins And so too her dance Her dance of darkness With an awe-filled crowd Silence, as of death The spotlight shines bright on her naked skin Stiff as though of stone And so it begins The swirling, bright entity As though a liquid so bright Fills in her veins Oppressing her blood In agony The shatter of drums Resonating across the walls Of high-pitched entities

130


Of which is the cue For her to make a move Inhaling the elements She creates her life-change With sorrow Of which her beauty exemplifies And is overcome She begins her dance of magic Slowly and quickly Her power wanes With a last mind-piece of flowing ember She falls and dies. As the swirly, bright entity Dims and fades away.

131


Life after Learning by Rebekah Bojkovska Every kid always goes on about how much they hate school. But in actual fact they like it. If it wasn’t for school humans would not socialise with other people until they became adults and had jobs. I myself have always known I loved school. Of course I acted like I didn’t, I mean who’s going to be friends with the freak-show who likes school? Anyway, my name is Zach Stewart. I’m seventeen years old, I am in Year Twelve and I’m a smart kid – not to sound too arrogant. Unfortunately I am also very naive. It didn’t occur to me that I would soon be finishing high school and heading out into the real world until I was in my first term of Year Twelve and it was the first day of school. As I walked through the school gates I had my usual toothy grin on my face and my dark curls were swaying in the light breeze. It was a perfect day: the sun was shining, the birds were singing – so to speak – and it was the first day of school, what was not to love? As I walked down the rocky pathway I could see up ahead my two best friends, Jake and Ryan Collins. Jake and Ryan are twins and they share the same characteristics: blonde, gangly and utterly stupid. When they saw me they ran up yahooing the whole way. When they finally caught up to me we went through the usual small talk. It was actually mostly me and Jake talking. Ryan just stood gazing up at the sky with his mouth hanging open. Out of the two, Jake was the more intelligent. We continued to talk and Ryan broke out of his ‘daydream’. “Come on man, we’ve got to go. There’s something going on in the hall,” Jake said and we slowly walked towards the hall. We walked in and took our seats. The assembly hall was filled with mixed conversations, most of them about holidays. Mr White, our PE teacher, stood on the stage with a stern look on his full face. It was a strange sight to see because he was always so light-hearted and positive. He never yelled or got angry unless it was necessary. To see him with scruffy hair, tired eyes and an angry expression was rare. “SILENCE!” he yelled, interrupting the many voices that filled the hall. “Now, as you know you are now in your final year of high school …” Cheers arose from everyone and the hall was once again filled with noise. “I said QUIET!” The chilling roar from Mr White silenced everyone again. “Now, as I was saying, today is the beginning of the end of your school years. This year your future will be determined by you. It sounds simple enough but don’t be fooled. All of you will have to work hard and the harder you work the better off you will be. So, may the best student win.” With that he left. Most of the students took a few seconds to gather themselves

132


before going back to their conversations. It took me more than a few seconds. The whole day went by in a blur. It was as if I was asleep. My body was there but my mind was somewhere else, somewhere else entirely. I went through the whole day like a zombie. Even throughout Jake and Ryan’s mindless squabbles I sat still: wide-eyed and unmoving. It took something unexpected to awaken me from my breakdown. We were in English and Jake was struggling with his work. One thing he said caught my attention. “Oh no, if I can’t figure this out I’ll have to repeat.” The word echoed in my head. That was it. That was the answer to all my problems. I wasn’t prepared to study into the wee hours of the night, I wasn’t prepared to finish school and I definitely wasn’t prepared to go out into the world alone. I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career. This was the best and only option. Jake started to stare at me. I suddenly had a large grin on my face. “Dude, where have you been? What’s going on?” he asked cautiously. In a calm, quiet voice I replied: “I am going to get expelled.” Although I was a lot smarter than Jake he acted more intelligently when he heard my plan. My eyes were filled with excitement whereas his eyes were filled with fear. “I still don’t understand!” groaned Ryan as he fell onto his bed with exhaustion. For half an hour I had been trying to explain my plan to Ryan and Jake but of course it was taking longer than it should have. We were sitting in their room in the blazing heat. My perfect day had changed in more ways than one. The weather was no longer warm like before, now it was just hot. Jake understood but getting Ryan to understand was a harder task. Like I said before, Jake is dumb, Ryan is dumber. I went through the plan again, only now I sounded much more aggravated. “Okay, what’s going to happen is, I’m going to get myself expelled so I can redo Year Twelve and get more prepared. This is the only solution.” “But that means you will have to endure another year of school,” Jake said, stating a fact I was already aware of and comfortable with. “I know, I think I’ll be able to survive,” I answered, again acting – like everyone else – that our school system did not appeal to me. “I have a question. How exactly are you planning on getting yourself expelled?” Ryan asked, raising a very vital question, one that had not yet crossed my mind. We sat in silence as we all pondered ways that would guarantee my expulsion. It had to be drastic enough to get me expelled but not so drastic that I’d be sent to prison instead of school – though some would say it’s the same thing. The silence continued to linger, the only sounds coming from Ryan’s grumbling

133


stomach and the tick-tock of the clock that hung on the wall. Surprisingly it was Ryan who came up with an idea and broke the silence. It all came about when we smelt a strong stench of fish in the air. “My mum is cooking fish,” Jake said, answering my unspoken question. Then Ryan, the brainless, childish, irresponsible person that I called my best friend said something that made him a genius in my eyes. “At least we only have to smell it for twenty minutes while Mum prepares dinner. If I had to smell it any longer I would feel very sick and very angry.” I sat up, excited. “We are going to put a dead fish in the principal’s office,” I said in a serene, calm voice. “Why?” asked Ryan. Although he’d just had a shining moment of brilliance, his stupidity was still very much intact. “Think about it, dead fish, hot day, result: disaster,” I replied with a sinister smile. “All we have to do is sneak in at recess, place a fish in the vent, and drop something on the floor with my name on it … An eraser! What does that spell? Expulsion.” “Dude, you’re a genius!” Ryan said excitedly. Jake however, still looked very uneasy about the whole thing. That didn’t worry me because for now, for this small, insignificant moment, everything had fallen into place. Life was good. The plan was in action. The fish had been bought, the eraser with my name on it was in my pocket and I was mentally prepared … or at least I hoped I was. The plan was to go into Mr Mason’s office at the beginning of recess when he went to get his mid-morning coffee. Then I would get on the chair, unscrew the ventilator, place a fish inside and of course, ‘drop’ my eraser on the floor. Jake was going to be helping me in the office while Ryan was on guard duty. Ryan being the lookout made me feel a little uncomfortable. As you know he isn’t the brightest in the bunch and gets distracted very easily. The bell went. Ryan and Jake rose from their chairs. I did not. “Are you coming?” Jake asked. “Yeah,” I breathed. “Of course.” We crept silently through the halls of the office. Ryan waited outside while Jake and I went in. I picked up the chair and placed it against the wall. I slowly climbed on top, breathing heavily. I unscrewed the ventilator and Jake handed me the fish, cringing. I placed the fish inside, screwed the ventilator back on and hopped off the chair. “We did it!” Jake said smiling triumphantly. I smiled also, but just like the person in the horror movie who thinks the killer is dead, or like the person during the eye of a cyclone who thinks it’s all over, we had a rude awakening. The sound of the creaking

134


door made Jake and I turn to stone. The door swung open and Ryan stepped through. Jake and I breathed a sigh of relief. “Wait, what are you doing here?!” I asked, feeling anger now rather than relief. “Well, you were taking so long I thought maybe you needed help.” Ryan liked to contribute and when he felt he wasn’t, he got extremely needy. I rolled my eyes and started to walk out the door when Mr White appeared, like a ghost, behind Ryan. “What is going on here and what in goodness name is that smell?!” asked Mr White in his booming, loud voice. “It’s fish!” Ryan said proudly, a wide grin on his face. “DUDE!” said Jake, punching his idiotic brother. I just stood there, not saying a word. “I think I know what’s going on. Jake and Ryan you can go but Zach, you come with me.” “Seeya, dude,” Ryan said as he and Jake rushed out of the office. Mr White turned and signalled with his finger for me to follow. I walked down the long corridor to his office breathing heavily. Everything was silent except for the light tapping on the floor from our shoes. We stepped into his office and he told me to take a seat. He took a deep breath, as if he were preparing himself. About now you’re probably expecting a big, eloquent speech from Mr White telling me that he knows I’m scared and he understands. That I’m a strong, confident person who can face anything that life throws at me. Well, if you were thinking that, then you would be wrong. What he really said was: “You put a fish in the principal’s office.” “Yes,” I replied quietly. “No, don’t speak. I’ve seen students react pretty badly when the realisation of Year Twelve hits but I don’t think anything can be compared to this. You’re feeling scared. You’re heading out into the big, bad world and it freaks you out. It’s weak. So, you decide to be smart and get yourself expelled so you can have more time to prepare. Now you’re not only weak, you’re stupid …” Then he paused, trying to figure out what to say next I suppose. “The world isn’t as scary as you think. Of course it is at first but like everything else you adjust. Life doesn’t wait for you to be ready. You need to make your move. You need to be great.” “But I don’t even know what I want to study at university.” “You’ll figure it out. All you need is a sign.” He walked to his wall – which was filled with certificates – lifted one and left it on his desk in front of me. Then he left the room. I leaned forward and looked at the certificate. It was Mr White’s teaching diploma. All you need is a sign. I smiled and walked out of the office. For the first time in my life I felt confident.

135


The Life of Nick Rossi by Rifat Kibria One day, in February, a man named Nick Rossi woke up to a bright morning, alone, in his king-sized bed. This morning, he felt, was like most mornings – warm, melancholic, and essentially the platform to do something ... well ... fantastic. He would slowly get out of bed and put his feet into slippers that were always bedside, unless he had a woman staying over, which he almost never did. He slept in a white tee-shirt, blue and white chequered shorts and socks. It was necessary, he said. Into the bathroom. Nick brushed his teeth. He flossed. Then he brushed again, every morning. Soon he was naked and under the spray of a careful balance of hot and cold. Sometimes he masturbated. Sometimes he cried. Sometimes he did both. Fifteen minutes had passed. The shower taps were closed tightly and he watched himself in the mirror being dried by: Nick Rossi, Accountant. He wore an expensive Swedish suit. It was made by peasants. A tie, a leather belt, cufflinks, hair brushed to this side – no, that side – buttons, all done. Nick was a perfect human being.

136


Down his stairs, wearing his power, maybe yawning once, maybe twice – it’s hard to tell with Nick. He made breakfast himself. The same breakfast. A breakfast of champions, if you will. Two eggs, three bacon rashers, coffee – no milk, one sugar, please – and a fresh orange. This was his world, and his routine, he felt. Absolutely. After consuming such a meal, he watched the daily morning news. He casually fantasised about the weather girl. His briefcase waited near the door. Shoes, left first, then right. He picked up the briefcase, taking the keys from a holder on the wall and exited into madness. His back turned to the outside as he secured his home by locking one door. He turned. There it was: A giant, red freight container. Just sitting – casually sitting – in his front yard. Astounded, he was. Nick, of course.

137


He stared into it. Into its eyes. It was rusting. The rust was like a beautiful disease. Creeping here and there, not ever settling in one place. Nick’s head turned, like a water sprinkler. He watched for perpetrators, disturbers of his peace – even television cameras. No one. It was barren. The briefcase rested against the door as he moved quickly, keeping his distance from the container, onto the street. Again, equally barren. Where are they, Nick? Nick did not have the answer. He continued to search, but found nothing. Absolutely nothing. He stared back at the container, waiting for it to ... attack. There was nothing in his garden shrubbery. He was angry. Flowers were torn out by their roots. Time had passed. He slowly moved towards it. He had nothing to lose he told himself. He was Nick Rossi, Accountant. He was perfect. God’s gift to humanity.

138


He touched it. Nothing. He inspected the sides carefully. There was a giant deadlock holding the two doors together. What was this? He became frustrated now. This side? Nothing. That side? Nothing too. He shook the lock furiously. It did not open. He was furious. His fists began to beat the coarse metal doors. It did not budge. His fists, left, then right, began to bleed. Nick was screaming, louder now. Two fingers were out of place. Now, a third. He fell back, tired, beaten, out of luck. Breathing heavily, sweating. Something caught his eye. He stood up, and looked skywards. Into my eyes. Out of this world, out of this galaxy. His vision reached the ends of the universe. Do you see me now, Nick? He nodded. It’s your move, Nick. Nick Rossi understood.

139


Guilt by Stephanie Pawlowski I’m standing in front of the house; fists clenched in my jeans pockets. Even though it’s freezing and it looks like it’s about to rain, I’m sweating like a pig. I’ve been standing here at least ten minutes, trying to summon up my courage and ring that doorbell. I never thought I’d be afraid to ring a doorbell! “Come on, make a move!” I think to myself. Weirdly, it works; I pull my hand out and ring the doorbell. It sounds silly but I’m proud of myself. The door begins to open and … “What do you want?” A massive man in a black singlet top grunts. But before I can answer a sweet, old voice yells out from somewhere in the house. “Who is it?” Soon there’s an old woman standing in the doorway looking at me, kindly. “I … I come t … to give th … this to …” I stammer but I am interrupted by the old lady. “Come inside, I just made cookies.” She stands back to let me in, but I still have to squeeze past the massive guy. We walk through the hall, the man behind me and the woman in front. I feel squished. There are no pictures on the walls. We turn right into the kitchen. She sits me down on a kitchen stool and passes me a plate of choc-chip cookies that are still warm. I take one to be polite. “Now, where are my manners? I forgot to introduce myself, silly me. My name is Mrs Kockinski and this is Rob. Now, what did you want to say? Don’t be afraid,” she said after I’d taken my first bite of her cookie, which by the way was quite good. I knew what I wanted to say but the “don’t be afraid” part, that was something else. I was terrified. I looked at the kindly smiling woman and thought about how many times she must have smiled to get all those wrinkles. Then I looked at the big bikie and wondered how many wrinkles he was going to get from frowning. He looked so mean and tough, I bet when I told him what I had done he was going to hurt me badly. Hopefully the lady would stop him. I started to imagine the scenario in my head. I was so deep in thought that when the man grunted (probably because I was staring) I jumped in my seat. The old woman was looking at the man in a stern way. I could read her look. It said, Don’t scare the poor boy, we’ll talk about this later. She then turned her head in my direction. “Don’t be frightened by this one.” She hit the bikie in the chest with the back of her hand. It looked like he didn’t even feel it. She gave a small laugh. I opened my mouth but nothing came out. “Out with it, we haven’t got all day!” yelled Rob, taking a step closer to me. I began to get off my chair and move right away but this time he was in trouble. “Excuse us for a minute will you? Have some more cookies,” Mrs Kockinski said

140


pushing the big man out of the room with one hand and the plate of cookies closer with the other. While they were gone I looked around. There was a small fridge with no fridge magnets. That was about the only electrical thing in the kitchen. Well, there was a modern electric stove but no kettle or microwave. There was also nothing on the bench except the plate of cookies. In the living room there was a small TV with an antenna, a foot-rest, knitting needles and an ashtray. No pictures on the walls, photo frames, tables, carpets, nothing. I turned back to the kitchen and took another cookie. I began to think through what I was going to say, but I didn’t even think of the first sentence before Mrs Kockinski came back. Rob wasn’t with her. “I think it would be easier for you if Rob wasn’t around, he has a short temper and looks scary. Now, no rush,” she said as she came into the room and sat down opposite me. I felt much more relaxed without Rob staring at me. I opened my mouth and the words spilled out on their own. “I stole twenty dollars.” “Sorry, I couldn’t understand that.” She looked at me, puzzled. I took a deep breath this time and said more slowly, “I stole twenty dollars.” This time I knew she understood. I figured she might want an explanation so I continued. “I was passing your son’s bike and his wallet was on the ground, so I picked it up and the twenty dollars was sticking out so I took it and ran.” “How did you know where Rob lived?” she replied. She seemed to be taking it well. I didn’t expect that kind of reaction. I was expecting a call to my parents (who, I figured, didn’t need to know about this). But this lady was quiet; she acted like this had happened before. “The wallet flipped open as I was picking it up. I saw the address,” I answered, my head down. “Well you did the right thing coming here.” She was looking me right in the eye. Now she was scaring me. I took the twenty dollars out of my pocket, it was wet with sweat, and I slid it across the bench. This was one of those awkward moments where no one speaks because they don’t know what to say. I got up to leave. She got up as well and led me to the door. We said quick goodbyes and I turned down the street. The sun had come out. I felt proud of myself.

141


Tiger Rising by Shannan Nettleship Master descends Kill silently pronounced On the prowl Eyes glinting with fiery anger World flashes red Crouches in the lavish lea maze Steady, focus Anticipating the deadly pounce Professional Scheming claws entice the unsuspecting victim Freeze Seeking the soul which he is to slaughter Make a move Constructed for destruction Slashes Slices you open Revealing Hollow stomach Filled Pride sustained Ravening virtuoso Tiger rising 142


Leap of Faith by Arthur Wang The oppressive sky stretched beyond the distant horizon, an endless blanket that shrouded life itself in its prison. Airborne at 15,000ft and 42 degrees-below-zero, the lifeless air burned as it entered my lungs. My eyes darted across the surroundings with a sense of alertness and despair, desperate to focus on something that would offer solace. The interior of the plane was nothing lavish, but at this moment it was the warm centre of the world, shielding me from the unseen horrors that lay beyond. The only sound came from the roaring engine of the plane as it executed a huge arc and halted in mid-air. I winced at the sight of the clouds; they must’ve been as white-chalked as my face. The cold sweat of fear formed and molded tightly with the metallic bar as I desperately clung for dear life. It’d be a miracle if anyone could ever pry my fingers off. Haunted by the sight of the inescapable gap into the unknown, an eerie air of doubt threatened to overpower the greatest things I stood for, my self-trust and determination. I could feel the deafening thump in my ears of heartbeat growing louder, the bitter taste of anxiety in the pit of my stomach grow nastier, and for the first time, I was truly afraid to make a move. The stone-cold intensified, like a herald of dementors, as seconds ticked into eons, slowly sapping away the last of my strength; that which adhered my hands to my lifeline. I stood with toes half dangling over the rugged edge of the world, and stared out with horrified eyes at the empty expanse that was to engulf me. Hundreds of miles beneath roaring waves against the jagged jaws of the coastline beckoned with frightening allure, telling me its story … “In skydiving, the sky isn’t the limit, the ground is.” I forced a laugh and it came out in a tone I did not recognise. Well this is it. Me and all my insanity, who “in the case of my death,” had waived any liability. When you dismiss your last allies – hope and confidence – you have defeated yourself. Mother’s words of wisdom were like smoke on a windy day. Yet it was clear that I couldn’t turn back now, even if I wanted to. Fear is life’s only true opponent. Fear is the thief of dreams! The pilot approached me as I stood rooted to the spot for what seemed like an eternity. Inquisitively, he asked, “Do you consider life an adventure to be relished or a string of problems to be survived?” I did not know how to respond, but those words struck a chord that still resonates strongly with me to this day. Looking down, fear’s alluring cadence was desperately

143


urging me to turn back. But I knew that I had to get past this voice, to accept that I was afraid and still jump. This was it. The moment of moments. The plunge into the unknown, the nothingness, the dormant side of Me that I never knew. Taking one final deep breath, I whispered a silent prayer, barely loud enough for the pounding wind to hear. “Cross my heart and hope to fly!” Whoosh. A new air gave life to a tsunami of sensations. The sudden onrush of adrenalin pumped through my veins in a blasting torrent. My cheeks flapped against the wind like sails, its shards of iciness pierced my body with flying daggers. Somewhere, a million boa constrictors grappled at my stomach, tensing and squeezing as I careened through space like a paper doll, a dummy to the ravages of nature. “Oh God!” I screamed. They say that life reveals its secrets reluctantly. Chaos. Confusion. Contentment. In that split second I was served with a thousand mixed emotions, enough to last a lifetime. A surreal sense of elation, of completeness rushed through my nerves as I continued to plunge, letting the extraordinary expanse of sky consume me. I felt invincible: without a care in the world to deter me. Thoughts of doom and gloom evaporated faster than the white candy clouds I was plummeting through. Paradise, the sanctuary removed from the realm of men, is indeed an attainable geographic location. For the first time in my life, I savoured the air that blessed mankind. I drank in the passing scenes, its flatlands and valleys, its mountains and rolling hillsides. I cruised on the wings of the wind, momentarily paralysed in a moment of transcendence. The earth looked like a vast picture map from this unique panoramic view, a myriad of blue and green spread across its canvas. Peace and serenity. Flying with the white streams of velveteen beneath my feet, I smiled, knowing that this would sing in my memories for years, like the music of morning stars.

144


Aunt Sally by Nicole Chahine Her eyes darted from side to side, watching the passers-by. If they looked at her, she’d curl her lips, reveal her rotten teeth (what was left of them), and hiss, spitting on anything within three feet of her position. She would then stroke her pet cockroach, slowly moving her finger along its head, across its back and down its abdomen. As the hour changed, she reached into her shopping trolley with the missing wheel and pulled out a tampon. She slowly unwrapped it and threw the plastic on the ground. She pulled the string hanging from her nose and the previous hour’s tampon fell to her lap. Picking it up, she flung it at a man who watched her with disgust. “What are you looking at? Make a move,” she screeched. He swore as it hit his blazer and walked off hurriedly towards the public men’s bathroom. She then inserted the fresh tampon in her left nostril, allowing the right nostril to air out. Her pet cockroach walked up her arm, disappearing beneath the baggy sleeves of the curtain she wore as a dress. The sides of the curtain were stitched up from her leg to her underarm. She stood up. The corkscrews dangling from strings attached to her hat swayed from side to side, occasionally slapping her across the face. She walked towards the train station, her upper body swaying from left to right with every step, her toes turned inwards. Climbing the stairs, she used the railing to pull herself up, using a few stray arms of unwilling bodies to stop herself from tumbling down the steps she had already accomplished. Reaching the platform of her day’s choice, she sat on the bench and waited for the train, eager to begin a new adventure.

145


The Stealth of Sundown by Kate Kovalik It was only the smallest of sounds but it had caught Clara’s attention. She had been lying in bed reading when she heard it. With her heart racing, she sat up. There it was again, the same noise, but the slightest bit louder. Clara knew that sound; the creaking of the floorboards that led from the kitchen into the hallway. Her heart beat even faster. The only light on in the house was her bedside lamp. Its light wasn’t bright enough to radiate into the hallway, however it threw large shadows. She didn’t really like the idea of being found in bed, it wouldn’t give her much chance of escape. Clara took two deep breaths. As she did, the creaking reached her ears once more. She couldn’t just act like she was sleeping. I’d give myself away. I’ll have to do something, she thought. Carefully, she pulled back the covers, desperate to avoid any possible sound. As she did, she heard a cabinet door being opened. Damn it. The one in the hall contained her best jewellery. Not only hers, but her grandmother’s wedding ring also. The closing of a door ... More steps forward ... In that time Clara had only moved to sit on the edge of her bed. Thinking hard, she tried to devise a quick plan of attack. Up to that point it had never crossed her mind that she was only five-foot and weighed in at sixty kilos. There was no way she would be able to put up a fight against what she assumed to be a man much bigger than her. The only weapon she could lay her hands on was a can of hairspray. It’ll have to do. She had nothing in the way of a knife or gun, but she was sure the hairspray would do the trick. She had never been hit across the head with an aerosol before, but she had been sprayed in the eyes with hairspray. Not only did it sting, but it stuck your eyelashes together, a very unpleasant feeling indeed. Clara rose from her bed. Thankfully, hers was the only room in the house which didn’t have creaking floorboards. She crept quietly past her bed and stood next to the doorway, just out of sight. Her heart was racing faster still, however she wasn’t breathing. She was hardly even thinking in case that could possibly make a sound. She had only one plan: as he walked through the doorway, she would spray him with hairspray then kick him, hard. The time came, and the man walked in. He was tall with dark hair and shifty eyes. That’s how he came across Clara. She had the perfect opportunity to strike, but she couldn’t. She just stood there, frozen. She hadn’t even managed to take the lid off the can. He stared at her for a moment with a puzzled look spreading over his face. All Clara

146


managed to do was make an eerp sound and tremble. “It seems I have some company.” He spoke with confidence, like he had come across something like this before. He had the slightest British accent. He continued, “Now you be a good girl while I go about my work. Once I leave, you can go back to–” He paused, turning his head to study the book lying open on the bed, “Ah, Dracula, a classic. Messy business that vampire slaying …” It was as though he was trying to make a friend. He went to the dressing table, picked up Clara’s necklace, bracelet and ring, then placed them in his bag. He then proceeded to take her wallet. “Well, I would have loved to stay and chat, but I must be going. Have a pleasant day.” He smiled, then turned and attempted to exit the room. “W-wait!” Clara just managed to choke out the word. “Did you have something to say?” he replied. If this were a different predicament, he would have sounded sincerely curious. “B-be careful! Can’t you see I’m armed?!” He chuckled. “I’m sorry, I missed that. I do beg your pardon. Now, if that is all, a prior engagement awaits my presence.” Clara stepped in front of the doorway as he attempted to leave. It had taken all of her courage. The man’s facial expression changed from a smirk to a look of boredom. “Fine …” His voice matched the look on his face perfectly. “Make a move.” Clara only just managed to remove the cap considering how much her fingers were trembling. As she made her attempt, the man turned and looked away, the smirk rising on his face once more. This proved handy for Clara, because as he took a last glance at her she caught him offguard, held down the nozzle, and sprayed hairspray into his eyes and over his face. As he put his hands to his eyes Clara kicked him in the shin. Even though he had fallen to the ground, he somehow managed to get to his feet and make his escape. He had seemed like a rather well-educated man with incredible stealth to Clara, however he must have been quite stupid or simply arrogant to go through the entire effort without even a stocking over his head to conceal his identity. After much discussion with police into the early hours of the morning, Clara sat down to continue reading her book. She hadn’t been in her room since the ordeal. As she collected her book from the bed, she almost tripped over a bag. There it sat on the floor, the sack full of his findings. She opened it to find not only her own valuables, but a stack of papers clipped together. She whispered the title aloud: “The Stealth of Sundown – A Thief ’s Account.” Clara flipped through the pages briefly. Could he really be a writer? She considered this. If he became a best-selling author, she knew she had just played her part.

147


Contributors Gloria Ahmad is the writer of a collection of short stories, articles and interviews for Westside Publications since they were revived in 2006. She is currently completing a Bachelor of Communications at the University of Notre Dame. As well as writing, Gloria has a strong background in performance and a profound love for literature. Michael Mohammed Ahmad has an Arts degree with a major in English, Text and Writing. He is the chief editor of the BYDS’ writing department, Westside Publications. He was a recipient of the FTO’s 2008 Young Filmmakers Fund for his script, The Pizza. Mohammed read and performed in the 2007 and 2008 Sydney Writers’ Festivals and has been published in the literary journal, Heat. He created and starred in the 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival event, Alleyway Honour. Mohammed wrote, directed and starred in his first solo performance, The Veil (2004) as part of Urban Theatre Project’s Short n’ Sharp 3. He also performed in UTP’s acclaimed season and tour of Fast Cars and Tractor Engines (2005) and Stories of Love and Hate (2008). As a TV actor he has appeared in East West 101. Mohammed began a boxing career some years ago which was shortened by the realisation that he could better serve the world without brain damage. He often dreams however, of stepping back into the ring. Arda Barut has a Bachelor degree in Communications and Arts which he completed at the University of Canberra. He has been a long-standing contributor to Westside Publications, having his first poem and talent recognised at only thirteen years of age. In 2004 he co-directed and wrote a short work for UTP’s Short ‘n’ Sharp 3 and in 2006 worked as the director of photography and co-writer of the documentary Consumed, featured at the Westside 06 launch. Arda is pursuing a career in public relations and has a passion for writing poetry and short stories in both English and Turkish. Lachlan Brown grew up in Macquarie Fields in South West Sydney. He teaches at William Carey Christian School in Preston and also works at Sydney University where he completed his doctorate in English Literature. Lachlan’s poems have been published in Heat, Southerly, Total Cardboard and Philament. Luke Carman was raised by a team of eccentrics atop a tiny mountain in Western Sydney and has grown into a terrified young man who writes ‘special’ fiction for his own salvation and amusement. He has spent the last three years in semi-isolation, trying to write the Great Australian anything. His consistent failures have given us all a few laughs, but with the guidance of Dr Anna Gibbs, Dr Maria Angel and Professor Ivor Indyk of the University of Western Sydney, he has, at the very least, begun to see where

148


and why it all keeps coming apart. Now, with the added insight of people who actually know what they’re doing, he hopes to continue beating his head against a literary wall that only he can see. We wish him all the best, though we would like to stress that his views do not represent those of our organisation. Luke’s collection of stories published in this edition of Westside have also appeared in the 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival Event, Alleyway Honour. Tim Carroll has a BA dip Ed majoring in English and History and a Masters degree in Media Studies. He has been the artistic director of BYDS since 1991. During this time he has nurtured, supported, encouraged and mentored local emerging artists from the Bankstown and Western Sydney area. Tim runs a multitude of contemporary artsbased projects. He initiated various publications including the original Westside magazine (1997) and the Bankstown Oral History Project (2001) which inspired the development of UTP’s Fast Cars and Tractor Engines (2005). This is the second time Tim has appeared in a publication of Westside as a writer. Felicity Castagna is a Western Sydney writer and teacher. She received the Qantas SOYA Award for Writing (2004) and has recently undergone a mentorship with Random House Publishing. Tamar Chnorhokian has always loved writing and followed her passion by completing a Bachelor degree in Writing and Publishing in 2004 at the University of Western Sydney. Since completing her studies she has worked as a columnist for the Fairfield City Champion newspaper, a freelance feature writer for My Home magazine and a journalist for the Moree Champion newspaper. Tamar continues to pursue her passion in the hope of one day becoming an author. Tamar’s writing has appeared in two earlier editions of Westside: Westside 07 and Westside 08. This is her first appearance in a literary journal. Riem Derbas is a writer currently studying a Bachelor of Arts at Macquarie University. She has appeared in two previous editions of Westside. She likes to experiment with different forms of storytelling and tries not to limit herself to one specific genre. Nathan Elhosni is 17 years old and currently resides in Punchbowl. He is a student at St Charbel’s College. Nathan was elected Young Citizen of the Year for Bankstown City in 2009. He is also the Vice Chair Person of the Youth Advisory Committee for Bankstown City, which is known as Team Phoenix. Nathan began writing two years ago. He writes because of the satisfaction he gains from creating a good piece and also because it helps him express his thoughts and emotions. Nathan writes about his previous experiences and believes that anything can make a good story.

149


Samantha K Hogg Has lived in the South West her whole life. Has been writing since childhood. Has been featured in Westside Jr. and Westside. Has a warped sense of humour. Decorates her own stories. Is not evil, just wicked. Andy Ko is a young theatre-maker and producer. He has worked as a stage technician, performer, and project facilitator. For the past three years he has produced and facilitated performing arts projects with Fairfield High School, Fairfield Intensive English Centre and Powerhouse Youth Theatre. His work is focused on building capacities in the arts for young people and emerging artists in the Fairfield area. Andy has performed readings of his poetry and short stories in both 2007 and 2008 Sydney Writers’ Festival events. This is the third time his writing has appeared in Westside. Andy’s collection of short stories published in this edition of Westside have also appeared in the 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival event, Alleyway Honour. Rebecca Landon aspires to be an eternal uni student. She received First Class Honours as part of a Bachelor of Arts degree at Macquarie University and is completing a Master of Teaching at the University of Sydney. She is majoring in English/Drama education but her specialty is procrastination. On the odd occasion that she feels proactive, she writes poetry. Her greatest achievement was living and working in Japan for eighteen months although she couldn’t speak Japanese. Her favourite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle is Donatello. Andrew Ma is intimately connected with Western Sydney. He was born in St George Hospital and spent his first years in Bexley North before moving with his family to Padstow where they ran a Chinese restaurant for many years. He attended Sir Joseph Banks High School and was School Captain, before studying Arts at Sydney University followed by a Law degree. He has written several short stories and plays, and continues to do so. Recently he was also dramaturg on two Urban Theatre Project productions directed by Roslyn Oades: Fast Cars and Tractor Engines (2005) and Stories of Love and Hate (2008). He currently lives in Melbourne and works as a lawyer in media law. Peter Polites was born Panagioti Polites but unfortunately for him the nurses couldn’t pronounce that. In his twenty-nine years he has gone to art school, worked for a Senator, a porno bookshop, directed two short films, one long play and developed numerous cut-

150


throat community cultural development projects. His work has been published in four editions of Westside and he credits BYDS for his artistic “growth”. Peter is currently writing his first novel. Peter’s story in this edition of Westside has also appeared in the 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival event, Alleyway Honour. Bill Reda is a photographer. Having contributed to every Westside since 2007 it is now his turn to be the edition’s featured artist. Over the years he has undertaken many projects in conjunction with BCC, Bankstown YAC, Revesby YMCA and especially BYDS – the most recent of which was a digital photography course he taught to disadvantaged young people from the Bankstown LGA. He prefers to assume a passive role behind the lens, aiming to document Western Sydney suburbia “as it is” rather than “otherfy” it by focusing on the novel and exotic. Away from Western Sydney he can be found at Thai eateries, the darkrooms at COFA or at UNSW where he is currently studying a Bachelor of Psychology. The collection of images featured in Fill Your Bucket were originally commissioned by Westside Publications to promote a performing writing event for the 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival. Bill named this collection Alleyway Honour. Westside Publications liked the title so much they used it for their production too. George Toseski was born in Wollongong three months after his parents arrived by boat from Macedonia. He grew up and continues to live in the Bankstown area. George works as a teacher and is currently undertaking a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages at the University of Western Sydney. Fiona Wright is a Sydney poet whose work has been published in journals and anthologies in Australia, Asia and the USA. Her work was included in Best Australian Poems 2008 (Black Ink) and the Toilet Doors Project (2004), and she was runner-up in the 2008 John Marsden National Young Writers’ Award. In 2007, she was awarded an Island of Residencies placement at the Tasmania Writers’ Centre, developing a sequence of poems about Australians in Sri Lanka. Fiona works as an editor at Giramondo Publishing, and as a project assistant for the Red Room Company. Fiona’s poems published in this edition of Westside have also appeared in the 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival event, Alleyway Honour.

151


152


Honour, shame and all the issues in between ... Fill Your Bucket is the first volume in an exciting new series from Westside Publications. This new-look journal is dedicated to showcasing and nurturing the work of established writers and artists from Western Sydney – one of Australia’s most densely populated and culturally diverse regions. So come on in ...

... and fill your bucket.

Honour, shame and all the issues in between ... Fill Your Bucket is the first volume in an exciting new series from Westside Publications. This new-look journal is dedicated to showcasing and nurturing the work of established writers and artists from Western Sydney – one of Australia’s most densely populated and culturally diverse regions. So come on in ...

... and fill your bucket.


Westside New Series Vol.1: Fill Your Bucket