WESTSIDE WESTSIDE 08 SS E N I EL LON e & th reof he T e Cur
Produced by Bankstown Youth Development Service
Published by Bankstown Youth Development Service (BYDS), PO BOX 577 Bankstown NSW 1885, 6-8 Bankstown City Plaza Bankstown, telephone: 9793 8324, website: www.byds.org.au. No part of this magazine may be published without the written permission of the publisher. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the publisher. ISSN: 1441-712X Copyright 2008
Acknowledgements – Not So Lonely After All Westside 08 could not have been made possible without the love and support of the amazing groups and individuals from Bankstown, Western Sydney and beyond. Firstly, the editor would like to thank Mr Tim Carroll, who, more than being our artistic director offers a clear cut cure for a lonely artist. The editor feels blessed to thank his new and beautiful sub editor, Roslyn Oades – finally, we’ve made one together! The editor also thanks Professor Ivor Indyk for his aid through the Writing and Society Research Group and for his exceptional mentoring and guidance since 2007. Very special thanks to Melbourne theatre company Not Yet It’s Difficult (NYID) and its artistic director David Pledger, who inspired and founded the early research for the theme of loneliness. Thank you to the wonderful schools and organisations that have contributed to Westside 08. Workshops in Punchbowl Boys High School, Sir Joseph Banks High School and Links to Parks have derived wonderful writing and art, encapsulating the true essence of this publication: sourcing the many talented writers and artists living secretly in Western Sydney. Warm regards also go out to Chris Womersley for his advice and assistance throughout the editing process and Vandana Ram and Arda Barut for their aid and organisation in launching this very special edition of Westside. Thank you to the Macquarie Legal Centre for their continued sponsorship throughout 2007 and 2008. During the legal centre’s tour of schools, this organisation has offered advice and legal aid to many young individuals who often feel alienated and in trouble. BYDS trusts that their valuable message can be further appreciated and utilised through this publication. Finally, the editor would like to personally thank, with all his love and support, the writers, photographers and illustrators who have opened their hearts to voice the art which no one else can know and only they can choose to tell.
Edited by Michael Mohammed Ahmad Sub edited by Roslyn Oades Centrepiece by Helen Thai
Cover Designed by Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Roslyn Oades and Arda Barut Photo by Bilal Reda Subject: Sean Thomas Hinds
Images Tin Pham - pages 12 13 17 29 31 33 41 44 64 title page Roslyn Oades - page 69 AimĂŠe Falzon - pages 22 51 58 Abel Do - page 26 Pranjal More - page 59 Graham Murdoch - page 52 Gloria Ahmad - pages 34 35 Ada Hong - page 47 Petros Hovaghimian - pages 9 50 55 67 Rahul Carroll - page 56 Dilara Yasin - page 68 Bilal Reda - pages 10 11 14 15 24 39 40 54 57 60 65 66 Rabia Tirnova - page 21
Westside 08 Contents A Lonely Little Introduction by Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Editor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 “Is anyone there? I am lonely …” by Lyle Elisara, Muaz Haddad, Mohammed Kheir, Ashraf Nesirwan. . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 An Observation on the Passion of Rejection by Wayne Mcintyre . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12 An Observation on the True Nature of Perfection by Wayne Mcintyre . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 From Behind the Bars by Gloria Ahmad . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14 The Plane with a Fence by Benjamin Jimenez . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 To Sing a Song by Benjamin Jimenez . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17 Homelessness by Peter Polites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Pristine by Nukte Ogun. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 A Tribute to Sav by Rabia Tirnova. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 From the Salt Pillar by Aimée Falzon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 The Victim by Kamil Hosni . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23 Serenity by Jessica Daaboul . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25 The Diet Starts on Tuesday by Tamar Chnorhokian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Apple Pie Sky by Anita Maglicic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27 The Storm by Andy Ko . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28 Lost at Sea by Arda Barut . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 En-Web by Aimée Falzon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 The Fighting Spirit by Gloria Ahmad. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Wasted Day by Luke Carman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38 Loneliness by Ashraf Nesirwan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Loneliness by Taha Daghastani. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 My King by Ahmed Mahfouz. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 What I Really Want to Say by Lyle Elisara . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 I Bullied My Next Door Neighbour … After He Bullied Me by Patrick Tribbia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 When I Was Bullied by Damien Lee Scott . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Teachers at School by Unknown. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43 Death Isn’t So Lonely After All by Riem Derbas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .45 The Unfortunate Incident Involving a Small Kangaroo and an Ugly Straw Hat … by Amy Murdoch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 Comics by Abel Do . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .48 My True Disdain by Samantha Wells . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Cling to the Moments by Sarah Pinson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 Memoir by Amy Murdoch. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 Untitled by Mohammed Haddad . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 Day to Day by Eric Nguyen. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .55 Cockroach by Yasemin Barut. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Cruising by Roslyn Oades & Michael Mohammed Ahmad . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 30th of March by Samantha Hogg. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 The Best Time of My Life by Philip Tetou. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 Ten Thousand Cigarettes: Part One by Louise Lamella . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .60 Two Poems by Janie Gibson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Got Grimm by Kirsty Stewart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .64 Age of Treason Without a T by Zid Niel Mancenido. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65 Loneliness and the Cure Thereof by Tim Carroll, Artistic Director. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 Afterword by Roslyn Oades, Sub editor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 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A Lonely Little Introduction In June of 2007, along with my new and beloved sub editor, Roslyn Oades, I found myself working with a Melbourne theatre company called Not Yet It’s Difficult (NYID). In what artistic director David Pledger referred to as a reading group we spent a week sitting around a table discussing a phenomenon we like to call loneliness. What is loneliness? What causes loneliness? What is the opposite of loneliness? Over six days we explored the many components of loneliness. We recognised its manifestations and reasons. We considered its affects on individuals and societies. We discussed its causes – technology, depression, disconnection and despair. We discussed its solutions – psychology, sport, community, literature and connection. Although we attempted to look at it outside of ourselves, the further we delved, the closer it hit home, and I began to realise my own loneliness and despair. I learnt that fundamentally, one can be lonely though not alone and one can be alone though not lonely. And I knew that I was not finished with the profound contemplation I experienced at the completion of our workshop. I continued to dwell and explore this strange, depressing yet beautiful phenomenon that seems to be growing stronger as the world progresses. Ironically the further in I went, the better I came to understand that I wasn’t alone in my desire to explore this issue. It seemed like everybody had a story to tell and an answer to give. I discovered that we will all feel a sense of loneliness at some point in our lives, and thus we might as well feel it together. If for this reason alone, I chose to embark on my third and most personal edition of Westside. Once again it has been a memorable and amazing experience. I must firstly thank those very special and beautiful people who cured me from my own loneliness and hope this magazine will pass on the same feeling of safety and joy I found in creating it. For the first time since I became editor of Westside, I have sensed a great connection and collaboration with the wonderful community we live in. It is a community of people – both beautiful and afraid. When I began asking questions on loneliness, responses were always personal, profound and heartfelt. Very quickly, I began to realise what kind of theme we were exploring. It was no mythology or fiction. It was no political situation or hypothetical condition. For the first time in Westside’s existence, we had begun creating an edition that was solely about people: about human beings; about thoughts; about feelings; about experiences; about emotions; about living, breathing and dying. A human condition that only humans can understand, only humans can share. So finally, with this realisation, I wanted to reach out to people, just people as they are, to share Westside 08. I began to document these people. With my trusty team, we began collecting people for the publication rather than material. I wanted to accumulate the individual human components that made this magazine what it is. And of all my amazing experiences throughout this journey, I found it most interesting to discover the reluctance people had in allowing me to take their photo for our centrepiece. It came as no surprise that we can be shy, insecure and modest when asked quite simply and directly: “Can I take a snapshot of your face for the centrepiece of my magazine?” First the answer was always ‘no’. Then I’d explain that it was for a collage. A collection of snapshots of faces, of people involved with BYDS, with Western Sydney and with Westside. Suddenly people weren’t so afraid. And it occurred to me that nobody ever really wants to feel alone. We need to feel safe. We need to feel protected. We need to feel sheltered. But above all we need to feel a part of something greater than ourselves. We need, as people, as humans, to feel loved. For this reason I’d like to thank Helen Thai for the wonderful centrepiece that truly identifies this connected community – maybe a lonely one, but nonetheless a loved one. 8
Unfortunately, this introduction offers you many questions and few answers. I ventured out on this edition not because I understood enough about loneliness to suggest some kind of rational cure, but rather because of my own quest to find peace and connectedness. To our artists, I thank them, having once again found beauty, honesty and inspiration in the words and images of the amazing individuals living right here under the thick skin of Bankstown and Western Sydney. From each of them we are given a story about a lonely soul, a plummeting spirit, a screeching voice. You may be left in despair or you may find peace in solidarity. I can assure you however that by the time youâ€™ve flicked through these pages and listened to these artists, by the time youâ€™ve reached the end, a sense of safety will rush over you. The answers you seek, I promise you will find. For individually we each create a tale of loneliness, but together we create the cure. With love and fear, with body and spirit, with heart and fist, I give you a publication from BYDS that is for any person who is nothing but a person. I give you Westside 08: Loneliness and the Cure Thereof. And leave you with this small but comforting message: You are not alone.
Michael Mohammed Ahmad Editor 9
“Is anyone there? I am lonely…” Dear Mr Lonely
Dear Mr Lonely
If you’re lonely then why don’t you talk to me? I’m lonely and need to talk to somebody too. Maybe it wasn’t by accident that I surfed the net and found your lonely response. Maybe it was meant to be found. I mean, things don’t just happen without reasons. Look here, I am a part of a magazine group called ‘Westside’ and we are doing a page on loneliness. If you give us a ring maybe we will take care of your lonely dilemma.
Well if you’re lonely why don’t you try kicking a ball or riding a bike? If you’re not an active person, jump into a gaming website and play an interesting game. Or you could just stay and chat here. If you don’t want to then I’m sorry I can’t help you.
Sincerely, L y le Elisara
Dear Mr Lonely
Sincerely, Mohammed Kheir
Do you feel lonely because someone in your family is gone? What is the reason? I am really sorry to hear of your problem and if you can tell me what’s happening maybe I can help you. If it’s private, sorry I cannot help. Just to let you know I have felt lonely before. My courage to not care about anyone else’s opinion got me through it and now I am popular… you might be younger or not popular or maybe you’re sick.
So try playing in the park – why are you lonely? Do you have any friends? Do you have anyone there with you at home? Can’t you do something to entertain yourself like kick a ball, watch TV, eat yourself, do something man, read a book, why are you lonely? Far out man! I’m getting frustrated. Now are you lonely? Now? How about now? How about now, are you still lonely? Do something. Why are you lonely? Why? Why? Why? Do you have any family in Australia? Did you kill them or eat them or something? Are you lonely now? How about now? OK you’re crying. Get lost!
Sincerely, M uaz Haddad
Sincerely, Ashraf Nesirwan
Dear Mr Lonely
An Observation on the Passion of Rejection by Wayne Mcintyre Another day. Different to the last and yet so alike to all the others that the difference can be measured, only in the difference of emotion from the next to the day passed. And even then, it seems, the difference remains relative to some forgotten pleasure, Or some terrible loss lingering forever. For what could tomorrow possibly bring to compare: With the first touch of a beloved? The first taste of despair? With the excess of that first intimate moment, shared in secret with a secret lover unaware of the vice grip she holds you in? At once fantasy made flesh. Completely helpless before her? And what pain could approach its loss? When the truth finally spears you, crushes you utterly, but still reason is put aside, cast aside, thrown aside! Still, after it all, you would do anything to have her back. How could tomorrow, or any day, or any new love touch you that way? The destroyed fantasy you held so dear. As a child I believed I could live without pain, without sorrow. And now as a man I long for it to catch me again. To feel the pangs of loveâ€™s intolerable cruelty. To burn with so intense a passion that even in its demise I find â€Ś What? Truth? Love returned in kind? There is nothing left for me to feel here.
An Observation on the True Nature of Perfection by Wayne Mcintyre To say a thing is perfect can be dangerous indeed, no possible improvement, no change and no decline in the perfect adaptation of the thing for all of time. Yet time can change the meaning and the definition seemingly relies on circumstances being suitably refined to suit the perfect thing’s continuation further down the line or else resign it to a fate not dissimilar to the great Tyrannosaurus, the perfection of its breed. But is perfection so dependent on a perfectly arranged list of principles maintained by the perfect thing’s own needs, or is it subject to the needs of the system which it feeds, growing outwards, onwards, like the leaves upon the trees which are perfect until seized by the chill of winter’s hand? Their perfection won’t withstand such an onerous demand. They fall upon the earth and die the death of all things perfect which are perfect until circumstances change. So can a man be perfect, or imagine himself thus? If the world about him changes yet he always rearranges the impressions that he makes upon the strangers that he meets, if he takes the necessary steps, remaining ever wary to exhibit exemplary deeds pertaining to just what he thinks he needs to be to see the perfect man when he looks into the hanging mirrored glass? Or else can he be perfect by rejecting other things, substituting in his mind imperfections of the kind that he perceives within himself which no one else would think on twice, and he instead believes these things a sign perfection thrives in him, alone in him for no one else he sees as perfect like himself, and like a god his image stays the same while all the world is changed, yet he remains in his own mind a perfect being for all time, embracing the solitude perfection brings.
From Behind the Bars by Gloria Ahmad Hatem Ahmad tells his side of the story If you were to put an ad in a personal column how would you describe yourself? I would describe myself as generous, kind and very happy. I think that for a man of my age I have very good looks and would appeal to women who were interested in meeting someone. Loneliness is not a good thing and I think we all have to be with someone. What is loneliness to you? Hmmm, I think for me loneliness is being on my own most of the time and not having a woman, wife, or partner to share my life with. This is something very important to me now, as I have lost a partner for a second time in my life. I have friends. Very close friends. But they are not family. If you donâ€™t have family you start to feel lonely. Can you tell me about a time when you felt lonely? Well that would be about six months ago. My wife placed an AVO against me. I spent time in
jail because of some silly arguing. She was a very controlling woman and after the argument she called the police on me. Before I knew it I was locked up. I felt very lonely in jail; I could not believe I was there. I felt as though I was in a deep sleep, a dream that I couldnâ€™t wake up from. I did not deserve to be there and it was so hard for me to accept that someone like me, who cared so much for his family could be locked up. I mean a husband and wife do fight but I never physically attacked her. Did you feel lonely when you were with your wife? Well yes and no. When my wife and me were living in Sydney I was happy and content, but when we moved to the country I began to feel lonely. There was no one to talk to. Being with only her twenty-four hours of the day made me feel depressed. I would go to work and when Iâ€™d come home we would argue. She was always complaining about the kids and the pressure she went through. She would never ask about my day or how work was and I had no one to turn to as
all my family and close friends were in Sydney. Basically my wife wanted me to understand her but she did not want to understand me and that’s why our relationship couldn’t work. So can you say that the atmosphere played a part in this feeling of loneliness? Yes, most definitely. Being in the country made me feel like I was trapped inside a genie bottle and couldn’t be let out. My wife was controlling and I just couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t talk to anyone or even say hello to old neighbours. She would assume that I was cheating on her and this showed the lack of trust she had for me, adding to the loneliness. Do you intend on one day starting a new family? While I love my children dearly I am glad that I am now living close to my family in Sydney. I have lost trust in women. Although I find I have no trouble communicating with them I must admit that I am scared of starting another relationship at the moment. What song would you play if you were feeling lonely? I wouldn’t play a particular song but I do find it comforting to listen to religious verses from the Holy Qur’an. It stops me from thinking of all the injustice and hatred that happened … Sorry hatred is not the word ... It’s a feeling I can’t describe, a bitter feeling, very bitter feeling. I was accused of threatening my wife and that was very untrue. Her word was put against mine and I had to suffer for it. I’m currently still on twelve month’s probation and can’t wait until it is finished so I can travel and have some peace and quiet of my own. What do you think is the opposite of loneliness? The opposite of loneliness for me is keeping oneself occupied with work. Just enjoying yourself and the life you have without thinking too much about things that will upset you. How do you cure loneliness? During the day I keep myself busy by doing some work but at night I find it the hardest. To put myself to sleep I try and think of somewhere nice – on a faraway beach where I am playing with my kids. 15
The Plane with a Fence by Benjamin Jimenez I can swim but not that far. I can hold my breath but not for that long. You held my heart and gave it back on a silver platter. Your love sprung from the one thing you hate dealing with. Your promises were not empty and your love felt deep and true. Ancient societies and modern day tribulations have built a fence between us. We are still together but not together. Worry drives me insane, not knowing how you are, not able to be with you when I want to be the most. I must take my seat, your plane leaves soon.
To Sing a Song by Benjamin Jimenez If I could write the lyrics of tomorrow it would be the sweetest song you have ever heard. Your eyes will be filled with sunlight and your hair will be windswept. My hand will be grasping yours and our skin will be like electricity sparking when we touch. Your words fill my bones with sweet enchantment and my conversation makes you smile endlessly. This isnâ€™t to be. This isnâ€™t to be. My song falls on deaf ears.
Homelessness by Peter Polites
Pristine by Nukte Ogun The bathroom door closed. He had closed himself in, and closed it in with him. It leaned in on him, surrounding him, moments away from engulfing him. His friendship with it was precarious at best, but still, the relationship stood the test of time. White was his age-old friend. Clean white, pure white, sterile white. White, white, white. Were they actually friends? He did feel relief when he was near white, in white’s vicinity. But was he really white’s friend? Or was he its enemy, its destroyer? He tainted white, tarnished it, disfigured it. Not by choice – but did that matter? Did it change what was done? He, Matthew, stripped white of its purity. Stripped it, like he himself was stripped. He was here to see white, but in reality his purpose was self-serving. He knew it. White knew it. He was ruled by want. No, not want. Need. White would hand over his need. White always did. And silence would be his. Just one moment’s silence. He needed it. He needed silence. One moment without the constant chattering in his mind. The ceaseless chattering that daily drove him to the brink of insanity and back. One moment, without white noise clouding his synapses, his receptors. The irony did not escape him. White. Endless white. Always white. With silence, an answer would come. He knew it. It would come. It had to come. It had to. And there it was, amongst the white. A glimmer of silver, a drop in a sea of white. His answer. His salvation. His salvation. It was only five, yet the afternoon had darkened. He let himself into the house. A quick glance around revealed a deserted living room. Only a small lamp was on, its light barely reaching the first couch, the second not at all. He raked the hair out of his eyes. The kid must be around, lurking in the shadows, trying to escape the inescapable. Without a second look, or thought, he walked into the darkened kitchen. He didn’t bother with the light, simply grabbed a glass, and poured himself a drink. His throat was dry, dusty. He needed a drink, a quick gulp. And down it went. Instantly he felt its soothing properties. It all became easier to face. Glass in hand he began the walk up the wooden stairs. They creaked under his weight. The sound near deafening in the eerily quiet house. Where was that kid? He stopped when facing the bathroom door. It seemed a likely place. The knob turned, the door pushed open. And the tumbler slipped from his fingers, shattering on impact. Crystallised pieces scattered through the slick pool of blood, coating the once pristine tiles. They shimmered softly around Matthew, who now lay perfectly still, in the crimson beauty. And for the briefest of seconds, he glanced at the silver fragment still in his son’s hand, before walking away.
A Tribute to Sav by Rabia Tirnova Two days after the death of my cousin there was a religious funeral ceremony. Still in shock and looking for answers. Still asking why, why him? How? Trying not to accept the rules of reality. I prayed and thought of my cousin. Trying to stand tall, high and strong, tears running down my face as if a tap had been left open. Everyone around me was devastated. I could hear the loud crying, relatives screaming. The sight of immediate family fainting increased my fear. I stood there watching the grave being dug out. What a wake up call. I took a deep breath. His grave wasn’t ready – it had not been dug out. We watched it get dug. Five metres away was the funeral car, my poor cousin resting in his coffin. Once he was in the ground and we all left, what would he do? It would be his first night alone in a place, or rather no place. Accepting his death was hard. The hole was now ready. They took his coffin out of the car. The cries got louder. The men passed his body to the front of the grave, everyone trying to touch him one last time. I watched his body go into the ground. It was wrapped in a white cloth only. He was lowered, and that was it. Alone by himself. My thoughts still continued, now it was the ‘but’. But he is going to be alone? Why? No, it’s not fair. Maybe this was a sign from God to everyone? “Watch, watch and remember, this could be you.” As if God was warning me and everyone. I needed to get in touch with my spirituality again. Was I prepared for death? No. My dreams soon involved death. I would see my cousin in my dreams. He would never talk to me. Rather he would point or do different actions. I didn’t want to forget my dreams. When I woke up I would write them down. Was this a good strategy for me to forget death or remember my cousin? Days, weeks, months later I would look back and recall my dreams. Was he communicating with me? No idea. To make things worse for myself, I would go to the graveyard each day. I would sit for hours. Cry and laugh. People probably thought I was crazy talking to myself, laughing in front of a gravestone. There was a different emotion at the cemetery. I would cry but it was like his soul was next to mine and I would smile remembering all our silly moments. Maybe he was telling me to cheer up and that he was happy? It’s been one year and four months now. I still miss my cousin dearly. I don’t feel ready to confront him in his grave anymore. I haven’t visited him for almost a year. They say I should but I do not know how well I can manage it. In most ways I feel confident, I feel happier. Slowly I’m getting back into my normal social routine. University isn’t all the best either. I remind myself I need to leave things behind and start a new future. My religion is a guide. The death of my cousin has matured my thoughts about death and dying. I remember death is just around the corner. People think I might be crazy, constantly disturbing my mind with dying but to me it’s a motivation: not to die; to achieve what I want in life. I’ve learnt to plan and structure my life – things that I want to do and accomplish before I pass away ... I love living.
Dedicated to the Memory of SAVAS ALEMDAROGULLARI 21
From the Salt Pillar by Aimée Falzon I had no funeral for you Only a plane ticket very East Fate pulling through your clouded chest Towards umbilical home. You will travel Times behind While I roll forward Glancing backwards Turning into Sodom salt. I saw In that instant before How furiously the past burned And ate up the houses I saw In that instant morning Me saying goodbye With my head turned Backward Salt again. I should have – Held a little tighter to Lot’s skinny limbs No! I should have – With senses all honest to heaven’s sulphur Yes – I should have – Watched a little longer with pillared eyes As the flames tasted our rooftops. In waves I have become you since you Left smoldering on the porch Lipping through the carcass of your cigarettes Blowing smoke into the man-shaped emptiness Felt I could suck the last of your cynicism Into my lungs and breathe out contentment Ah, the sweet yoga of addiction! I dissolve across the Pacific … To float this stretcher to the travelling dead.
The Victim by Kamil Hosni The true victim of loneliness is not the sufferer, Not the one feeling it first. None seem to suffer as much as you, None comparable to your thirst. Think then beyond yourself, Further than your mind’s square. Look then at the suffering, Of the one who’s always there. Always standing beside you, Never once faltering in start. Though when you continually push them away, The ones closest to your heart, They suffer alongside you, They absorb your despair. Though when you push you show them, You’re the one who is not always there. You grow to learn and reflect, On the opportunities lost. Of the closeness and understanding, The relationships you have cost. You regret every push you made, Every chance at sharing gone to waste. While those close to your heart are innocently suffering, All as a result of your haste.
Serenity by Jessica Daaboul I’m feeling rather drowsy Got my head deep down Sunk all the way to the ground It’s wet. I can feel the sandy grains. Like someone kicking my head in … Pound! Pound! Pound! Laughing at my thoughts … As I watch my dreams wash away every drop of blood. Sweat. Tear. Wasting … Going, Just disappearing. The grass smells sweet It’s so silent … Cold. I’m getting pale. No ounce of energy It is pathetic. Isolation. Will someone help me? Do I want someone to help me? I need some answers. It gets darker … You know that total dark black? That is it … I am in it And I am not going to get out. Running the dirt through my fingertips. The smell of soil attacking my brain. For the first time I feel serenity, calmness. I am not panicking Nor is there fear. I get up … Physically … 25
The Diet Starts on Tuesday by Tamar Chnorhokian
Jessica walked through the front door to an empty house. She threw her bag on the floor then walked into the kitchen to grab a glass of water. All that chocolate had made her thirsty. She gulped it down but it did nothing to quench her thirst so she went for a second round. It was stinking hot outside and just as bad inside. She dived for the AC control, turned it on and then went to her room to change into her comfy pink t-shirt and blue cotton shorts. Her mobile beeped and she went back into the living room to get it. There was a text message waiting for her from Carmelina. Hey Fatty what r u doin 2nyt? Matt & I are goin to the movies – join us? Carmelina had been her best friend from the first day of high school. They “got” each other. They shared the same sense of humour. They constantly teased each other. Jess called her my skinny half and Carmelina called Jess my fat half. Nobody except Carmelina could make jokes about Jess’ weight. She could get away with anything. Jessica looked at the message and rolled her eyes and smiled. The gesture was nice as usual. Carmelina always made an effort to include Jess – but Jess didn’t like being the third wheel. Matthew graced them with his presence in year ten when he started at All Saints. On his very first day Carmelina leaned over and whispered in Jess’ ear “He’s mine” – and he was. You only had to take one look at her to know why. Matt was a sweetheart. He never made Jess feel like she was cramping their style. In fact he’d joke around and say, “Jess, you’re our adopted child.” Nonetheless, there are limits to everything and she didn’t want to be in their face too much. Not only that – she wished desperately that she could write back and say Yeah I’m coming with my date, and turn up with Frankie. But she knew that was only wishful thinking. So instead she wrote, thanks Skinny but I’ll give it a miss … njoy talk 2 u soon. She hoped that Carmelina would leave it at that…but she never did. Whatz wrong? R u ok? the new message read. She wanted to write back no, I’m not ok … it’s only the second week of the school holidays and I miss Frankie already. I wish I could take him to the movies with me and snuggle up to him the way you do with Matt ... But she knew if she ever admitted that aloud she would burst into tears. So instead she just wrote, Yeah I’m fine Carms … just wanna stay in 2nyt, don’t worry … say hi 2 Matt. She hoped that Carms would give in – she was relieved when the next message read, OK Jess I will. Have a good nyt I’ll call u 2morrow. Jessica put her mobile down and sighed. Her heart felt heavy and her stomach felt funny. She missed Frankie. How could she possibly survive another four weeks without seeing him? When everyone was enjoying their school holidays, she couldn’t wait to go back to school to see his sweet face. Every day at school she’d wish that she could march straight up to him and say “Frankie, I love you.” But Jessica Irby knew not to make a fool of herself. Only Carms and Matt knew how much she loved Frankie and they also knew if they ever revealed her secret she’d never talk to them, let alone look at them again. “Forget it, forget it,” she whispered to herself and went into the kitchen. It was nearly six o’clock and her parents would be home soon. She browsed through the pantry. Her eyes lit up at the sight of chocolate. She couldn’t be bothered making a sandwich, a fast sweet fix is what she was after. The Tim Tams came out first, followed by the Kit Kats, then the potato chips and last but not least the bottle of Pepsi. She grabbed a tall glass and chucked in lots of ice and then set off to transport the nibblies to her room. It was show time. She created a little cinema of her own. She took out Jack and Rose and shoved them into the video player. As the opening credits rolled Jessica munched away on the potato chips and guzzled down the Pepsi. It was a long movie. She hoped the snacks would last till the end. 26
Apple Pie Sky by Anita Maglicic
She heaves and splutters with a chesty cough. Her lungs gasp for something clean. It’s apparently going around, everyone’s had it this winter. The cold air doesn’t do her any favours. Nor does the lit Marlboro between her yellow-tinged fingers, the last one of the daily pack. She doesn’t seem to mind sitting outside alone. Sitting at the edge of the veranda table for eight, her weathered, hunched frame lets the ten degree temperature chill her to the bone. She just stares into space as she takes a long drag, savouring the tobacco, almost swirling it in her mouth before expelling a constant stream of smoke into thin air. She prefers her party of one, two with the Marlboro Light, not missing the party inside, its latest joke with multiple fits of laughter or second helping of the chocolate birthday torte. She takes another drag. She looks old. In her wedding photo on the dresser she’s nineteen, she’s smiling and her eyes are full of life, anticipating the future. She looked so glamorous with her French laced dress and fancy French-roll hairdo. She liked pearls too. She hasn’t dyed her grey hair to brown since he died. Perhaps she hasn’t found the right shade of brunette to her liking. Her pinky-peach lipstick must have slipped into a hole in the lining of her bag, her lips are plain now. She doesn’t bother with other makeup either. Mousse rouge and bronzer isn’t her thing. When he was alive her Sunday bests were happy colours. She looked great in her 1950’s style wrap-around dress in canary yellow with pink flowers and lime green leaves. Her rainbow collection of beautiful high heels all neatly faced row by row to the front. But they’re in a box somewhere in the garage and the Homey Peds she replaced them with are all bone-colour and flat. Washing and cooking are old friends that still see her through though, only there are no more smiles with the suds. Hours pass, days pass and years pass and she is still on the couch watching her beloved soaps. She, a different she, prays for him every night. She still sleeps on her side of the bed and his side is cold. The TV remote controls are always returned to his night stand. His clothes are still hanging in his wardrobe, his razor still at the bathroom sink and shined shoes still stacked neatly in the cupboard. She seems to get by. She’s quiet once everyone has gone to work, doing what they do in their busy lives. She has nothing new, besides a phone call or two from an old friend every day. She’s happy when the calls come in and she talks and talks and talks. But there’s no one to play practical jokes on, no one else to feed or keep her company to discuss the 10.30am news. She tries to find him in the fridge or in the pantry. Even though she never finds him there she still tries again the next day. She cries, and then smiles every time she sees his canned peaches, fresh pears, Neapolitan ice cream or the Jerry Springer Show. Even McDonald’s apple pies. They were all his favourites. Sometimes I imagine what the men are up to, if God let’s them have their way. Still a bunch of pranksters laughing, singing and drinking. They’re having such a great time that they forget to call and are in areas with bad reception. A little silver haired man, walking down the street with a cap or the sight of a tall dark stranger in a red 1985 Ford Fairlane makes my heart skip beats. He knows this back way into McDonalds. He’d waltz in through the back door, as if rummaging through her kitchen, looking for that fresh, hot apple pie and one for his old mate before hitting a smoke-filled pub. Unnoticed, the pair sit there for hours drinking their vino, happily singing old folkloric songs while one plays the red piano accordion. They occasionally bicker about what verse goes next or which note to start on, but they are quick to make up with another shot of Rakija. The old soldiers talk about the war, the jobs they held and reminisce about the good old times. They have no concept of closing time and there’s no one to say “time to go” or tell them they’ve had enough, and they party on happy as happy can be. They occasionally look down with knowing smiles, somehow guiding their loves, making them sense it’s going to be OK. Both watch their own love when they sleep. They are with them all the time. 27
The Storm by Andy Ko The humidity had been bothering me since lunchtime. Even inside the teachers’ offices, the air was thick and heavy. Otherwise the anticipation of rain to break the week’s dry spell was my only consolation for having to make the long walk across the school grounds to Block Twelve, Drama. I met my students along the way. “Sir, what are we going to do today?” asked Soraya, without looking up from the novel in her hands. “Drama,” I said, more intrigued at her choice of reading material: Edgar Allan Poe, Complete Tales and Poems. Not that I wouldn’t expect any diligent high school student to be reading, but that it was in English was something rather rare within the unit in which I worked. Only a year ago Soraya had been living in Turkey, her entire family displaced from Iraq. Now she, like the rest of her classmates, was here, in Fairfield, readying her English so she could get back to regular schooling. And like most of the students here, Soraya loved school. “Sir, can we do something by Edgar Allan for Drama?” she asked. “We could,” I said. From behind, Lena bounded up and caught my stride. “Hello sir, it’s time for Drama!” she said with a grin. “It is, Lena.” “What are we going to do today?” “You’ll find out in class,” I told her. Lena grinned a bit more, turning sidelong at me to gauge what sort of surprise I had prepared. “Sir,” Lena said, “did you know every time we have Drama it is different each time? I don’t know what we will be doing.” I nodded my head. “Is that a good thing or a bad thing, Lena?” “Uh ... I don’t know. Good. Maybe,” she replied, already drifting away from the conversation and moving over to Soraya where the two of them began talking about poetry and Poe in a pidgin mix of Arabic, English and Turkish. A faint rumble sounded overhead as we started crossing the long stretch of basketball courts. It could have been a shaky trailer going down the nearby highway, but it caught Soraya’s attention. “Do you think it will rain, sir?” she asked. “We’ll be inside soon,” I said, and shortly we rounded the corner of the assembly hall in front of where Block Twelve stood. Usually I would expect my students to be gathered outside but today, perhaps at the prospect of rain, only Farah was standing there. She was leaning against the wall by the door looking up at the sky, and seeing us, smiled, picked up her bag, and quietly joined us. The rest of the class was waiting inside the hallway. By the time we gathered ourselves into the room, the sky outside was an even grey and I could no longer see from where the sunlight came. I brought the students to the work space to begin the lesson. “Sir, what are we doing today?” I was asked again. Lena answered instead. “Sir, you know that we will do anything you tell us to do.” “Not everything,” I said. “But in Drama we have to be accepting,” she said, shaking a finger in the air. “Remember?” “Very good, Lena.” As the warm-up to the lesson progressed I brought out the CD player and put on the sounds of the 28
piano to inspire some work. Soon, we were all sitting on the floor watching each other devising mimes and acts. Enthusiasm was picking up and I expected the rest of the lesson to mostly run itself on the students’ energy. But all this was broken by a blinding instance of white light and the intense crash of the storm which had arrived. I wowed at its suddenness and intensity but not everyone seemed to have the same response. Soraya looked over to me briefly with a grimace. I guessed that perhaps some of the students were not used to this sort of weather yet; but I had not suspected that there could have been a different reason for their seeming anxiety. When thunder and lightning came again in a violent succession of three, a few of the students screamed and sprawled away from the open windows. Only Farah did not move; with her back against the wall she had dropped her head to her knees, arms covering her ears. Then the lights in the room went out. I heard Soraya say, in hushed tones, “Sir, look!” as she turned to watch the torrent of rain fall outside. I then realised the power to the building had gone altogether, as the music from the CD player had stopped playing. The rest of the class sat similarly silenced by the striking storm outside. But Farah’s hands were still over her head. I called across the room to her. “What’s wrong?” I asked. She looked up and raised her voice above the booming sounds. “Sir, it sounds like a bomb.” Another flash briefed the sky. I waited intently for the follow-on. It came, the windows shook, and it sounded like a bomb. Not that I would know. Or did I now? For a moment I imagined that just outside the window streamed militiamen and bullets, that the spray of wind-beaten water on the panes was heated soil dug up by battle shells landing by the building. The flicker in the sky and the rumble in the air may be the hallowed sign of the drought-breaking rain here but, elsewhere, storms came in more salient forms. “It happens every summer ...” I said, thinking that explaining the weather would reassure them. Instead they raised an incredulous groan at me like I had thrown upon them the worst of portents. “Every summer?” yelled Farah. “Every summer,” I said. “In November we get rain. Then January is very dry.” “Dry like sss,” said Lena – ever the thespian – making a sizzling sound at her teeth and flicking her fingers in front of me. “Yes. Dry like that.” I had thought to add that we get bushfires that sometimes go right into the suburbs where we were. But I supposed I would leave that for them to know about soon enough. The ceiling hummed, an anacrusis to the returning lights. With a collective breath the class and I together shifted from our places as though the return of power to the building meant our own capacity for work and movement had been restored. The display on the CD player came back. I pressed ‘Play’. The lesson could resume. But it was their turn to speak now. For with the last and main activity of the day it was their turn to tell their own stories. And eagerly they took up the opportunity. The rumble of thunder no longer shook the room. The storm had passed. For the remainder of the afternoon, no more did crashing sounds frighten gentle Farah or elicit a comment from Soraya or Lena. Instead they themselves filled the classroom from within: tales of leaving home, stories of family separation and recurrent episodes of loss and grief broken by declarations of love and hope. These were stories I had heard plenty of times before. But as in every retelling there is always a new insight, a different way of seeing things. The weather was trivial. The day went on as if it hadn’t rained at all. These students, these young men and women under my charge, they could tell me about storms more terrifying than I would ever know.
Lost at Sea by Arda Barut
So here I wait alone, Facing the desolate ocean. And the sky is so grey, Just the way you like it. Thatâ€™s the way you like it. I swear to you my dear, The sand beneath me does not sink. These feet of mine stand strong, And I always believe. I will always believe. My tears are lost in rain, For my heart will break no longer. Now these tears fall only, For a girl lost at sea. A girl whoâ€™s lost at sea.
En-Web by Aimée Falzon I come to load-down My numbing blood-gushed head – Come flood me with your emptiness And stiffly ebb to my veiny fingertips. Tap the web sisters Arachne For I am singularly entoned Embalmed by a note A finger-tipping ghost. Upload me in (notime) Realtime Porn me upon your infinite seas Like a Hawking thought Curved and dimension grinning An infinite-expanding black pool That I dip into Delighted and dead. A sultana of obscurity. Suckling infant generations Upon your tentacled web Reverse the milk of imaginations Undertake their dreaming nets And feast whilst begging to be fed – Needy machine. We cake coldly on the Bitter metal light of your highways Longing for the stream. .art .knowledge whored upon your flesh On lonely kissing wires of ethernet No more facts – but this modemed whirring A hellish hook-net eternal and undead. I am this fang-dried humanity Dying little Quicktime deaths Googling up legacies Upon your be-speckled altar. But cut-paste me and I bleed real blood. It is red. Come cobweb, come lights, come beeps, clicks and freezes – Come pornéd tentacles and ethernet breezes – Come flashes and glitches, locks, wires, seizures Come zeros and dots – Come all unwholesomely! Backslash-embalm me Till I am gone. Click me here for more pages. 32
The Fighting Spirit by Gloria Ahmad A chat with Father David Smith
for anyone. Like with my wife … I was already here (at the parish) before we got into our relationship; kind of like jumping on a moving train. At the moment we have two people living with us, so you become the centre of the community, which means you’re on call constantly. You choose between a public and a private life. This was a big adjustment for someone like my wife who came from the suburbs. It almost feels like we’re on the frontline of a battlefield. What is loneliness to you? That’s a hard one! Hmmm … Well isolation is just a synonym I guess. I’m thinking in terms of not having anyone who understands you – that would be on a personal and emotional level. However, with most of the people I work with it’s a state of vulnerability. On a practical level loneliness means you die and no one knows you’re dead. For the most part the people that struggle with loneliness are the older people. Like in the parishes we have single people who were married or in relationships but are now by themselves. Most of the people I deal with in the fight club are young so loneliness isn’t so much an issue. Yet I guess it can be for younger people who are in relationships or already have children at the age of sixteen.
Father Dave is a retired boxer currently training young fighters both physically and spiritually. I sat with him one afternoon to talk about loneliness, its cure, and the power of community. If you were to put an ad in a personals column how would you describe yourself? I’m not likely to do that as I am happily married. Although, even if I wasn’t married I don’t think I’d advertise. I’ve never had a shortage of female friends or people wanting to get close to me. That’s not saying I’m an easy person. I think I’m a very difficult person to live with. I work twenty hours a day and sleep during the time that remains. I think that means I’m not very good at making time for my partner or my children. I become consumed by work; I can work eight to nine hours without a break and not even realise the time go by. I’m hopeless. I’m not a happy or easygoing sort of person … I don’t watch any form of television. I don’t see myself as a good partner
Why do people feel lonely? The reality of living in a community is that you don’t feel lonely. There is a serious problem with the nuclear family concept as a cohesive unit; the expectation that you marry one person and that person fulfils all your emotional and sexual needs. I don’t think this concept was ever meant to work. I think we were made to live in a village with a variety of people. In life one alone cannot balance the cheque. Our centre is more than just about the breakdown of marriage or community. It’s for many age generations working together – people living together is how we are created to live. How do we create these communities? People can’t find community in their traditional cultures or even their church or villages. They form their own gang where their values become created by their peers. Western and European cultures have been served badly by a romanticised
and idealised fantasy of a nuclear family. The toll this has taken on children is clearly disastrous. What song would you play if you were feeling lonely? Anything that is heartfelt with passion such as angry Eminem songs. I also love passionate religious music. Leonard Cohen was a singer I listened to, he was a poet and sung beautifully. His songs speak right from the gut. Guilty Conscience, that’s one of my favourite songs, while brutal it’s so true to the culture. So much that goes on with TV and music is crossing over – all bullshit – that is why I like songs that speak true. This is why Christ for me is real. He suffers and bleeds, he doesn’t stand back saying “Everything is going to be Ok”. Like in all of life you bleed, to be human is to bleed. I can’t get into anything that doesn’t have that sort of stuff in it. What is your cure for loneliness? Porn and reality TV are usually viewed as people’s
cure for loneliness. People are thirsty to be close to someone. They hold their animality while they think they know the characters on reality TV, but really it doesn’t work that way. It only gives people a full sense of virtual relationship but it doesn’t satisfy. I think we are substituting this virtual community for a real tangible community. Community is the answer to isolation and vulnerability. I build community. Community is just a fact, time spent together and interacting with people. The community we have here is a close one linked in different ways of emotional support but also physical and tangible things. An example is cooking meals for each other and cleaning together. My role is to build and facilitate a community and in doing so it cures loneliness.
Feel like punching away the blues? Find out more on Father Dave – visit his website: www.fatherdave.org
Mohammed Ahmad puts up his fists with Father Dave
Wasted Day by Luke Carman Wasted day. Watching it go. Watching it crawl towards an opaque fade and now rigor mortis night is ready to begin. This is another one of those long, illiterate afternoon showdowns where everything backs into the corner and the hair raises on the flesh of some unimaginable neck. They’re a dime a dozen really. Up above, the skylight is moving frame by frame into an avalanche of purpling fire, seeping into a deep petrol blue as it turns and shifts. All so very dramatic. It’d be beautiful, breathtaking even, if it wasn’t so commonplace and dreary. No one’s taking any notice. The intersection’s busy and no one has the time to raise their chins. They’re all dizzy with work and dusted by exhaustion, dulled from their exhaust fumes as they wait at the lights, scowling hard into their windshields like a great phalanx of allegiance-less automatons. Some others are tripping along the street, hands in pockets, feet flapping and wriggling along. Tight jeans and high heels, thongs and stubbies. Pedestrians never look into the hard eyes of the traffic as they cross the street, pushing prams and hunched into their cigarettes, jogging from one safe slab of pavement to the other, feeling the burn that comes from a hundred burrowing faces. It makes sense. I wouldn’t either. Drivers, well they get upset too easy. They push their foot down about things, about certain slights and misdemeanors. There’s an etiquette that everyone needs to know. They go through last minute reds for example, or they refuse to indicate, or they abuse, curse and speed up when people get in the way, especially those with game limps and wheel chairs and one too many worried glances left to right. You can’t out hustle steel and fuel, or burn-outs from a standing start that leave mechanical roars behind them, the black haze of their contempt flares in your nostrils and makes you gag. You can’t really fuck with that. Someone’s waiting for the little green man that tells you when to cross. She looks about my mother’s age. She takes a step before he’s ready. A P-plater kid in a work van comes rattling around the corner and she stiffens, bracing for the magic mortal blow. Her loose face winces. His wheels slide and scream. The van bends and twists around her frozen form and is gone. There’s only noise and expectations. No accident takes place. But it comes close. No one notices a thing. Not the school kids walking late up the street towards their safe suburban homes, or the slow dithering walking-stick miserables, the teary drug women, a bum on the corner giving sound advice to passers-by, not even the kid in the van or the police in their patrol car. No one notices these things – I sure as hell wouldn’t. It’s only that there’s just nothing left for me to do but stare. With a Slurpee in my hand, I feel like some ugly, wrinkling child. I’ve got the stupidest expression in my eyes. People can see it when they get close, and so I’m glad they never do. There’s a flicker and the street lights blink into life. Some stray dog pisses on a pole and a bus stops with a wheeze, letting off a sorry bunch of frowns who look into the cement and roll along their way. There’s a sign on the bus, an ad that says “I’m in Chocolate Truffle Heaven!” and there’s no denying that. A beautiful woman flirts at me from it. Her face is spread along the bus’ long frame, her mouth bigger than my body and a single giant crack of chocolate breaks against her soft, red lips. She keeps both gorgeous eyes on me until she’s carried out of sight, up the hill and over the way. Off towards some other stop. Falling in love with advertisements. It’s not much of a romance, but I’ll take what I can get. I throw the Slurpee into a skip bin with cardboard boxes erupting out of its mouth. They’re falling down around a grim alley with no self-respect. The automatic doors pull open for me, they don’t discriminate, and I walk back inside the 7-Eleven. The familiar Indian face behind the counter greets me with some strange happiness. Can never remember his name. We only talk when I’m drunk anyway. I head over to the fridge, but can’t find anything. 38
“Where you keep the Heavens?” He points over my shoulder, and there they are. “You eat too much junk food. Bad for you. Indigestion,” he says. “I love indigestion,” I reply. He blinks at me and shakes his head. The fridge breathes out a cool breeze, a curling smoke of heavy, icy air. There’s no Chocolate Truffle, but it doesn’t really matter, I’ll have whatever’s left. Money changes hands with an accompanying smile from his face to mine, like some secret passing between us that only he knows about. He’s not such a bad guy really, but it sends a shiver down my throat that turns into a bubbling, soundless groan. My gut grumbles to me. Maybe it’s just gas though. Outside, unwrapping the smooth clear chocolate, standing in the watery white lights above as the darkness saunters in and smothers everything, I watch the headlights start to shine and wonder what this place will look like a thousand years from now. If it’ll be the same glowing scab, the same surreal crossroad that leads to pale desolation no matter where you turn. Left, right, up, down, left, right, up, down, and back around and around and around and nowhere’s left to go. You won’t get far. Things are thin and ugly and grey. Even the bright greens and the blazing brake-light reds have lost their precious colour. The rich, the unemployed, the re-deployed and the redevelopments. The strong and the weak and whimpers and wheeling, stumbling failures. It’s non-discriminate. It’s loyal and barren and brutal beyond all belief. I chuck the ice-cream away, I didn’t really want it anyway, and I go walking up the street. The green man beckons, my feet hit the road. They get jerked into the air. My head rolls and pivots, swinging, sailing, slamming into something hard. The whole scene spins and I hear someone scream out “Fuck!” Lying on the road. Shoulder smashed against the concrete. Just watching the grass twitch above the gutter. Dizzy and exhausted. Limp. I might stay here for a while. Strewn out and grounded. “Are you OK?” Someone keeps on asking. Over and over. And I keep telling them: “I’m in Chocolate Truffle Heaven.”
Loneliness by Ashraf Nesirwan The last petal on a flower An old man in a park A busy dial tone on a telephone A bird without wings An empty room A blank page A dark night with no stars A rainy day A dead highway An empty stomach A blind man An empty cup The last person in a queue Loneliness is dinner for one Loneliness is a single tear
Loneliness by Taha Daghastani The last leaf to fall off a tree An empty heart A burger with no meat A pond with no water A fishing line with no bait A car park with no cars Loneliness is an empty room
My King by Ahmed Mahfouz I come from school, Feeling lonely and depressed, Having no one there for me. I walk up onto my front porch. Waiting for someone, Someone to make me feel better, Someone cute and cuddly. Then something brown and tall appears. King, Makes me feel happy, When I’m sad and lonely. He is always there for me. When I’m low, He’ll make me feel better. I look into his eyes. I see my whole life. I look back at where my problem started. Then I just get up, And walk away, Feeling happy again.
What I Really Want to Say by Lyle Elisara Do you want to hear what I really want to say? Well … the point I want to highlight today is bullying. It has a big effect on the bully and the victim’s life. To be a bully, people stereotype you as big, bulky, mean, popular, aggressive at all times and teasing others. I think that being a bully just lowers your standards, makes you a weak person, not a strong one. No one likes people who think of themselves as big hotshots. But bullying can have a big impact on the bully because in the future their behavioural outcomes are negative and they suffer mentally. This also happens to victims because those thoughts will stay with them in the future. It will disadvantage them mentally and emotionally. I wish to put a stop to bullying but what can one person do to make a difference? If you are willing to help, put a lid on it now before it’s too late. Thank you.
I Bullied My Next Door Neighbour … After He Bullied Me by Patrick Tribbia His name is Kevin. He was eleven and I was thirteen. We were mates and used to go to the skate park together. One time he told me, “I’ll come over tomorrow and we’ll go to the skate park together”. I was waiting at my house and he didn’t come over. I saw him with another mate when I looked over the fence. I confronted him the next day and asked him where he was. He said he had to do his homework. “Bullshit!” I said. I pushed him. He got scared and cried. I felt sorry for him and let him go home. We started talking again when he came over to play with my brother. I felt annoyed when he dogged me. Then I felt good seeing his tears.
When I Was Bullied by Damien Lee Scott When I was eight years of age I was bashed by a guy in year six. It happened at school after the Easter Bunny parade. I was all happy and full of energy. I went down to the soccer field to play. While I was playing the year six guy came to me acting all big and strong and asked me if he could play. “Only year two can play,” I told him. He got really angry and pushed me to the ground. Then he started to punch and kick me. After hurting and making me cry I got up and began to swear at him. He chased me. I was so angry but I was too scared to fight. I ran as fast as I could to the teacher. She took me to the sick bay because my mouth was bleeding and I had cuts on my face. Then the teachers called the bully and were yelling and screaming at him. He had to leave the school and I got sent home.
Teachers at School by Unknown The way teachers get treated at school. No respect. No respect is given and students treat them like shit. I just don’t get it – why they disrespect teachers if they help students improve their education? I just wish for once teachers could get respect from students and school will become a peaceful place. Anonymous Respect Writer
Death Isn’t So Lonely After All by Riem Derbas He looks around one last time, Knowing he must say goodbye. This is not the coward’s way out! A coward can’t stare death in the face. The cool air tickles his stubble As he walks out onto the balcony. He starts to get into position. One leg over the railing, The other will follow suit. The ledge is thinner than he thought, He smiles at how easy this will be. He does not turn to look again, Goodbyes have already been said. “Forgive me, my darling,” He calmly whispers to himself. She will get the note. He is ready now to be Consumed by solidarity. He takes a breath of the city air, Not exactly the great taste of freshness he expected. His lungs fill with toxic mass that Provides life to those thousands beneath him. Ironic. He leans forward, Feeling his grip loosen As his palms begin to sweat. Fear has kicked in. It’s too late to respond to that now. His hands have released and he is falling, The pavement that seemed so far away Is getting closer by the second. He closes his eyes And envisions her standing beside him As they dance the night away. He hits the floor of the Deserted streets below. Soon she will be home. She will inch her way slowly to the balcony, Stare over, already knowing what She will see. His mangled body will be there, Bleeding out its lifeless form. Behind his closed eyelids, She will be there with him As they dance the night away. 45
The Unfortunate Incident Involving a Small Kangaroo and an Ugly Straw Hat … by Amy Murdoch I love the zoo. I think it’s a marvelous place. It was there that I decided to be a dolphin trainer. As it turns out, I don’t like to be in the water, I can’t swim all that well, and I find dolphins mildly irritating. Other than that though, I’m sure I’d be great at it. The zoo, although some say it’s cruel and fake, gives a city girl who’s afraid to meet a cow (in the wild) a little taste of the world they would otherwise miss out on. I’d love to get to the zoo more often. There’s nothing better than a bright, sunny summer’s day where you can hop on a ferry with your family to Taronga Zoological Park, licking sticky fingers from a Calippo ice block and coming home sunburnt and exhausted but excited, and then falling asleep before the sun is properly set. I imagine an adult trip to the zoo would be wonderfully romantic too: walking around all day holding hands; eating Calippos for nostalgia’s sake; the dappled afternoon sunlight flickering across our faces; the bright, dancing patches highlighting blue and grey eyes; then waiting for NightZoo like you never could when you were young (bedtimes must be honoured) to see the interesting activities of the animals which always hide or pretend to be logs during the day. Then catching the ferry home at night, watching the fairy-like lights of Sydney Harbour dance across the dark waters, sharing a cocktail before the kiss goodnight … (That was for Tim, if he reads this, because he won’t take me to the zoo on a date. How is the zoo boring? It is filled with wonder). When I was three and a half or four, young enough to be on one of those leashes that wrap around small children so they can’t escape their harried parents, but too old to tolerate such indignity quietly, (especially when the other children didn’t have to be on a ferret-leash), my uncle took me to the zoo. He asked me on the way there “Amy, what animal would you like to see first?” I replied that I would like to see the buffalo. I don’t know why, as I did not really like buffalo. I preferred smaller, cuter animals. He told me that I would have to go to Dubbo to see them, and I could not understand why we weren’t going there. If the zoo we were going to didn’t even have buffalo, why were we going? I ended up loving Taronga. It was the beginning of an annual tradition. Every Boxing Day, my Uncle Barry, his best friend Ron, Ron’s wife Marie, and their two sons Jonathan and Bradley would go to the city, and we’d go to the zoo. On this auspicious day in December, my mother had carefully dressed me in a blue summer dress with pink flowers, white socks and sandals (which matched my leash just perfectly) and an ugly straw hat with plastic mauve roses. I hated the hat. Even at four I had style and I knew that the hat crossed certain fashion boundaries that should never be breached. I informed my mother that I would not wear the hat. She insisted. I pouted, but really, what could I do about it? The day started off wonderfully. We caught a train to Circular Quay and walked across the promenade to the ferry. By this stage my pale little shoulders were tender and pink, so my uncle bought me a white shirt with little coloured koalas embroidered on it. It was super touristy and I’m not sure I liked it, but it stopped my shoulders hurting, so I deigned to wear it. I still remember the ferry ride. I was so excited, and I wanted to be free of my leash. Jono and Bradley were only one and two years older than me. Why didn’t they have to wear one too? I pointed this out I’m sure, but to no avail. I was only allowed off the leash when we got inside the zoo, and only if I promised to be a good girl. We wandered around all day. I didn’t see any buffalo, but it didn’t matter. I saw the giraffes, with their enclosure that had the best view of Sydney, the elephants, the orang-utans, and the reptiles and my perpetual favourites, the meerkats. I was extremely worried about the meerkats that day. There was a large kookaburra looking at them hungrily from a tree. From their cute little squeakings, I could tell they were worried for their tiny little furry behinds, too. By late afternoon, I had eaten my orange Calippo (the best flavour ever) and seen as many animals and birds as my little legs could carry me to. We had passed the echidnas (which to my dismay were hiding), the nocturnal mammal house, and had now come to the kangaroo and wallaby enclosure. I was excited. They weren’t hiding and they were close enough for me to touch! I leaned through the fence so I could cuddle the nearest kangaroo. I stuck my head and arms through the gap in the fence and 46
reached towards my kangaroo friend. It came towards me. Obviously it wanted to be friends too. All of a sudden, the little beast leaned forward and bit my hideous hat, taking it right off my head. I cried out, and it hopped off. It stopped a little distance away and began to eat my hat. Of course, I cried. Not because I was bemoaning the loss of my hat, but because I was scared of what my mother would say. I neednâ€™t have worried. My mum just laughed and gave me a hug. Secretly though, I thanked the kangaroo. I was finally rid of the hat! I got all excited that I never had to wear it again â€Ś until mum came home from the shops one day with a new one.
by Abel Do 49
My True Disdain by Samantha Wells You came to me a broken piece, what’s left of a man, Starring pathetically into dead eyes and captivating my hand, I never would have guessed that for your sins I would pay. You’re not the first to reveal the truths of men, But as of today you are the last one that I let in. Your scars from the past, you show at first glance, Those happy places now seem such a trance, I can’t help but blame myself for the deeds that were done, Now I shall sit back and watch the web as it’s spun. Forgiveness would be soon to follow, for I usually surrender, But not this time, not for you, This lesson in life would be a waste if you were something I would give into. There is someone walking along in shadows Slow down, my dear there is no escape All you’re doing is prolonging your fate The worst part of all of this, I pretended not to care, For what? A life with you is what I wished to share, I didn’t stand up for myself and I was treated like a mat, But I’ll be back on my feet there’s no doubt about that, The strength in my legs I do not lack, And the control of my heart is something I’ll soon get back, It may seem a sad excuse to be upset, Learning this sullen lesson, I won’t be misled. There is someone walking alone in such presence Now is the time of retribution And I my dear have the final solution Your memories shall fade along with this pain, Answer me this, by breaking me down what did you gain? You can be certain that question is sodden with blame, Yet I am truly convinced you are bearing no shame, This is just part of your game, And you will carry on just the same. There is someone walking behind me I was blinded by your lies but now I forever see Turn around; look at me No longer will I be the loser, Today I am stronger, stronger than the abuser. You will leave a sad excuse for a man, And I will leave all of this with my heart in my hand.
Cling to the Moments by Sarah Pinson The best day in my life, Itâ€™s hard to describe, Thereâ€™s more than one, Of the things I love. When I was crying, Lonely and scared, With open arms, My mum was there. Waiting stoked, On Friday night, I saw my dad, and held him tight. Behind the stage, Nervous and ready, I sang my heart out, Nice and steady. Those precious moments are memories to cling to, When hope is lost and your heart feels empty. Live your Life and Love your passion. Cling to the moments, And be OK.
by Amy Murdoch
A stunning child, wouldn’t you say? Five years old in 1991. In this photo, I seem apprehensive. I don’t remember feeling that way. I was more likely sick of the photos. I wanted to get going. But the first day of school is an important occasion. That meant at least ten minutes at the photo wall. Off to the patio I’d go so Dad could stand on the steps and take photos of me. Lots of photos. I don’t remember feeling worried, but then, I always remember images more than feelings. I tend to detach. I can imagine that I was excited and tense and eager to get going because I kept picking up my new school bag and moving it around. I liked that bag until I took my cat to the vet in it and it became … well … no longer hygienic to use. I remember it being a shiny, yellow day. Perfect and warm. We coloured in stencils of large butterflies with chublets in deep, dark blue, yellow and red. I remember wishing the fat crayons were prettier colours. I also remember meeting Katrina. Our mothers had been work friends for years – still are – and they pushed us together. I thought her name was pretty and exotic, but I couldn’t remember it. I spent the whole day asking her, “What’s your name again?” We’re still friends too. She got married last April. Married. How strange it seems … Primary school was odd. I went through that awkward stage where I never brushed my hair and ran around in shorts and didn’t notice how out of style I looked. Not that it mattered then, but the photos are painful to look at. They are cringe-worthy until I reach about year ten actually, and even then my hair was bad. I won the Harry Potter look-alike award at the year ten formal. How embarrassment … I fancied myself clever in primary school, that I was Calvary Chapel Christian School’s finest. Well, finest girl at least. The boys could do maths. Maths was and is the bane of my existence. I am not equipped to deal with rationality of any form and maths is, as we know, the god of the rational, literal world. I do not worship your god. Sometimes I think I hated school, but that is looking back on it. I don’t remember trying to get out of school until I was in year four, and didn’t realise I hated primary school until I got to high school. Junior school was fantastic. I never took naps. I lay there imagining instead. I would imagine I had to escape fortresses or was on an adventure with the Ninja Turtles (I was the pink Turtle, their long-lost little sister, and I had my whole house and all I owned in my shell. We had awesome battles and fun times at the base when we had won the day). I was a loner child, and I loved it. I was always in my mind or in a book. It was only when I got to year four and got called a slimy bookworm that I realised there was obviously something wrong with 52
my behaviour. I tried to change, but I did prefer books to people. I became more social in high school. I feel that school has wronged me in many ways. I never felt inferior when I was on my own reading. I had hope when I had an imagination. The school system killed it. I would have been happier to learn on my own. I would not have filled my brain with useless poems that I hated and algebra which is useless to me, but rather with what I wanted to know. I would have chosen to have a comprehensive knowledge of insects and arachnids, Cretaceous and Jurassic dinosaurs, cartoon drawing, volcanoes, chemistry, singing, cats, snakes, dogs, Papua New Guinea, birds of paradise, playing guitar, lizards, ancient Egypt, venoms, large mammals of the African savannah, the Mayan and Aztec civilisations, the etymology of the English language, movies, the druids, Latin, the Vikings, Star Wars, dragons, Welsh Gaelic, astronomy, religions of the world, piranhas, building robots, flesh-eating viruses, possums, music and perhaps cooking. And definitely Irish folk tales of faeries. Faeries are highly important. What else matters? How to make a=4? I think not! Abc, that’s equal to one two three. What bullshit! They’re two entirely different systems of communication! The knowledge of faeries or the Aztecs or even animal first aid would stand me in good stead for a PhD or two and a cosy job at a university. That’s what I wanted towards the end of my school career, especially after being battered with the theme of “Journeys” where we had to read crap poems and a novel about some teenage tosser on a boat by himself. How will that help me later in life, I ask you? How does making students think the same benefit society? They are forced to become robots to get marks. I preferred being an underachieving freethinker. I hated the system. The system hated me. I would be different. On purpose! That’s how I justified not going as well as I had hoped in the HSC, anyway. There were the hard times when I didn’t fit in, when I was bullied, when I failed, when I only got 72.30 UAI, but the good came with the bad. I amused everyone at my year twelve swimming carnival by wearing floaties in my races. I was sports captain for my house and had to earn points for participation. Becoming sports captain was quite amusing. I had not entered a race in either the swimming or the athletic carnivals since year seven when it was compulsory to enter two races. Year nine was fun too. I achieved what I could and was happy about it. It was even better after year eight. Year eight was terrible. I had been in a class without any of my friends. I was stuck with the idiot boys who decided making monkey noises would be appropriate behaviour halfway through every lesson. I figure I ended up in that class because they needed to put a certain number of nerds with the delinquents to preserve the teacher’s sanity. In year nine I mucked around in science, fell in love with Tim, and did my best to get kicked out of every maths class. The teacher had chronic halitosis and, really, was a bitch. The other maths teacher couldn’t speak coherently, nor could he spell. Misspelling common English words as an educator makes me angry. Also, he told us once that his wife caught him wanking. True story. I also spent a memorable year in Home Maintenance, where I learned to change flyscreens, that I was the only girl to select that subject and how to build things out of wood. I thought I’d dux that subject. Nup. Got called a dyke a bit though. The short hair didn’t help. In this subject, most importantly, I noticed Tim. He was at the white board on about the second lesson writing a quote by Bismarck: “Laws are like sausages, it’s best not to see how they’re made.” I watched him from across the room, very impressed. How cultured and intelligent this boy must be! Quite a looker, too … I spent the rest of the year talking to him too much and being really obvious that I liked him. Much teasing ensued. In my defence, he is just one of those people that you spill your innermost to without even realising you’ve done it. He inspires your trust. I knew he didn’t feel the same way about me, but I just felt privileged to be his friend. It took until year twelve for Tim to ask me out, but we’re still together, so it was worth it. Thinking back though, I’m not even sure if some of my memories are real. This could all be a lie, but who knows … 53
I dream of falling, falling through darkness with no base to land. Wind rushes through my ears like monsters tearing my soul. No one to talk to: just a blank wall. I’ve isolated my soul, my thinking and myself from everyone else including me myself. I see things but don’t know what they are. I sometimes lie to myself which gets me depressed. Who am I? What am I? What’s keeping me here? How did I get here and when will I leave? Who will take me and who brought me here? Why would they do such a thing? I am scared. What is death? What is life? What is education and how do we get educated? I am a lie to myself and I am always alone. How come? How to leave this place, I don’t know – I try and I won’t give up. But I don’t know how to do it. When will I do it? I don’t know but I have my time and not too long left.
by Mohammed Haddad
Day to Day by Eric Nguyen What we treasure most, Closest to our heart, The darkness seeping in, Pulled we are. Corner crawl, Sounds, images and flashes, The seed of the heart beat. Arms close in, Neither accepted, I want to feel wanted. To look down rather than up, Makes me feel unwanted, Yet comforting. Only path I face, Eyes half seeing, Into a mirror looking back, Can I smile.
Cockroach by Yasemin Barut I’m as ugly as the sewer, Yet obscure to some. I am a small nothing scurrying, Hurrying when day turns to dark. Silent like the dead, Nibbling on scraps, trying not to be trapped, the only things I’m good at. I mean no harm, please be calm. The light turns on, I try to escape, A shadow upon me, a foot shape. A scream of panic, I shiver, A foot getting closer, I can’t breathe. Trapped as I am, nowhere to go, Flap my wings, something stings, Struggle to get up off my back. I can’t bear ... does anybody care? Nothing to do now, except wait This isn’t pretend, This is the end.
Cruising “It looks good. My life does look good. You know why? I make it look easy. But you know what, it’s not. I walk around with a smile on my face, but you know what, I’m burning inside, you know? You know what, that’s the best way to be. So no one knows what you’re going through in life and they can use it against you. You know what, I just walk around with a smile on your face. You know? . . . I might have my shittest mornings, my shittest days, jump in my car, cruise to my system, put my sunnies on, you know, have a cigarette, just chill out, you know? Cruise. Everyone’s like, yeah, this guy’s lovin’ life, you know? Probably I’ll cop a couple of, um . . . they’ll probably abuse me. Oh, this guy’s a gronk, he’s a faggot, you know, a hard cunt so and so like they say. You know, but you know what? I’m burning inside but you don’t know that . . . you know? That’s why you shouldn’t just say oh, this, that, that, that, so and so, you know? “I go to the, drive to the beach, drive down to The Gap. Like I go far places, you know? Nice scenery, you know . . Bondi. . . until this day I still go to Cronulla you know. Yeah. I just don’t care. You know what, if someone wants to have a word, you know, I just “come around the corner” (laughs) . . “I’ll fix you up” (laughs). Nah, me, um, I go Cronulla, Bondi, ah, Brighton, Brighton’s my most hang out, ah, La Perouse . . . um, I go to The Gap every now and then, ah, Coogee, there’s a nice scene there . . . um, yeah. When I’m in a bad mood, I just like going for a drive . . . you know, get things off my mind.”
Interview with Ousama Ali by Roslyn Oades & Michael Mohammed Ahmad Cruising is an excerpt from Stories of Love & Hate, a verbatim-style theatre piece created in response to the 2005 Cronulla riots. This unique show is constructed from carefully edited interviews with local characters from the Bankstown and Cronulla areas on the subject of love. During the performance, actors wearing headphones speak along word-for-word to an audio soundtrack as if channelling the real-life interviewees. Stories of Love & Hate is produced by Urban Theatre Projects. For more information, including performance dates, visit www.urbantheatre.com.au
30th of March by Samantha Hogg The cemetery is cold. The sky is grey. Standing on the hill before the graves take over, I take the cigarettes out of my red coat and light one up. This day is easier with nicotine running through my system. The drive out here was easy. I slept most of the way. Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley on repeat helps me prepare myself. I easily navigate through the tombstones, stopping to pick up the forgotten flowers and replacing them on their graves. I’ve visited this place so many times over the past fourteen years but every time I draw close to my destination I begin to weep. I hide behind my dark sunglasses and pull the red hood further down. Shielding my face I move closer. Up ahead my grandfather has stopped. He is placing the flowers I chose near the white crucifix. This home of eternal rest evokes so many feelings within me. I love coming to this place of beauty but it makes me feel I am alone. I begin to softly sing, “you are never coming home”. Crying again I make my way towards the resting place of the only person I was not afraid to love. “Hello Mother.”
The Best Time of My Life by Philip Tetou The best time of my life was when my dad was alive. If my father were still here he would help me grow and thrive. My father made me happy, He was the only one that could. If I knew I could save his life, Everyone knew I would. When he was given to the earth, all I could do was cry. I hope he left this place and spread his wings to fly. I hope he flew to heaven, because thatâ€™s where he belongs. I had another way to remember him by writing all these songs. So here is another one to remember you by. All I have to say is: I love you and goodbye.
Ten Thousand Cigarettes by Louise Lamella
Part One A cheerful man’s voice spoke with an Australian accent over the speaker. “Good afternoon ladies and gentleman, my name is Captain Geoff Smith and welcome aboard flight DJ281 from Sydney to Beirut, Lebanon stopping in Abu-Dhabi. Flying time to destination is fourteen hours depending on turbulence. We will be flying at approximately 35,000 feet. The current air temperature is fifteen degrees Celsius. I wish you all a great flight so sit back, relax and enjoy. Thank you for choosing to fly with ETIHAD airways.” She felt restricted sitting claustrophobically in the window seat. “I can’t wait till the wedding. They’ve been together for ten years. It will be nice to finally see her and George official,” her mother said. “Yeah, I just can’t wait to get there and get over the meet and greet small talk part. It’s going to be a long flight too,” she replied, thinking the last time she was on an aeroplane was fourteen years ago. Her body was bite size, more compact, tolerant in attitude and resilient. She felt people’s energies crawling upon her skin like irritating ants scampering up and down your arm which you can never find to kill. She was surrounded by a mixture of passengers. Young families, business men and women engaging in business affairs on their laptops, elderly men and women going back home, single adventurers, AngloAussies who wanted nothing to do with Arabic countries other than stopping over to change flights, couples holidaying and many women in hijabs nursing their babies. Directly behind her sat a mother with her young daughter who was crying because the air pressure was too much for her ears and she’d became extremely restless. She worried about getting along with her family overseas. She was always an outsider in every social and community group, struggling to find a place. This was dealt with by rebellious behaviour. She met with trouble and they tangoed together on a regular basis. A decent heart in the wrong flesh, filled with destructive desires, yet now her ways were tamed. Will they like me? What if they don’t like the fact I’m Australian? Her craven insecurities of never fitting in were being conceived in the crux of her intestines and rapidly breeding anxiety which scurried through her blood cells, along the walls of her veins and arteries, forcefully travelling to make their way into her bones without obstruction. Small scenes of her past came as blasts in her mind. Paranoia and anxiety had formed to rear its hideous head; she broke 60
into a neurotic sweat. If this is what I feel now, what will I feel when I meet them? Where’s Johnny? I need a drink. I need a smoke. A cone would be nice. Stop thinking of that. You don’t do that anymore. She glanced up at the attendant’s button but felt too embarrassed to press it. Having curious eyes watching her rekindle romance with an old bad habit deterred her from extending her finger any further. She longed for sedation as the mixed aeroplane curry with reheated chicken sausages, over-steamed vegetables and expired vanilla slice churned in her digestive system. It was about to be expelled. She covered her mouth, jumped over her mother and ran swiftly to the bathroom to relieve herself. As she rose slowly to meet the pier glass, she was abashed in her reflection, stricken of her face. Lapsed in a mirror she couldn’t tell to shut up. It stripped her to the core. Her worst memories circled through her brain. Her skin was juiceless and zits were forming as a result of her reaction to the dehydration of flying miles above the Earth’s air blended with Johnny Walker, Amstel, Baileys and Smirnoff. The bags which nestled underneath her eyes dominated her best features. The blemishes she concealed seventeen hours ago were revealing themselves like a lover’s admittance to addictive pleasures. She soothed her mouth and face with cold refreshing aeroplane water. I left home perfect. What will Uncle Elias think of me now? You couldn’t control yourself so you turned to Amstel & Mr. Walker for a little in flight comfort? What’s gotten into you? Yeah, well if you have a six year old behind you kicking your chair from Sydney to the Arab Emirates I’d like to see how you’d cope with the situation. She pictured her uncle as a roaring lion ready to pounce and criticise her every move, and thought of every possible comeback. It was now 1:30am. The plane touched down to the sizzling barren runway of Abu Dhabi airport. She eagerly rushed off the plane and made her way to the stairs that reached the tarmac as she battled with her balance and the fifty degree desert heat. Her mother and grandmother weren’t too far behind, carrying the two cupboards and kitchen sink they managed to squeeze in their hand luggage. They quickly changed planes where she fell asleep. “Ahleeeeeennnnnnn, Shuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu ya cuz, How are youuuu? I’m very happy you come, I love you cuzzzzz, very good to see you.” She was greeted by her cousin who was to be married in a week with many kisses and bear hugs as her brown friendly eyes smiled radiantly. Their connection, from when Stumpy was in Australia, had been rediscovered immediately. She called her Stumpy as she was short, and miles away from anorexic. Her hair, a shoulder-length brown with a red tinge, sparkled as the airport lights reflected off it. Her face was oval shaped with high cheekbones. Her nose was small and had a bump on the bridge. Stumpy was no Miss Universe but her smooth charm, quick wit, warm smile, flamboyant character and heart of gold was enough to draw the toughest of personalities. She had the qualities of a poodle. They gathered their luggage and made their way to the family four-wheel drive where Uncle Elias was waiting to drive them home. He greeted them with fierce affection and a gigantic smile as he loaded their bags into the boot. “Kifik little one, ya ahlen.” He wasn’t the monster her imagination had led her to believe. As they made their journey home she gazed out the window to savour the sight and smell of Beirut as an adult. At 3:00am it was quiet and the temperature was warm. The air was thick and eerie and smelt foreign, polluted with culture and dust. The sides of the road had accumulated rubbish as they drove past a bridge which had been recently bombed by Israel. Bricks and mortar lay destroyed on the ground, torn sides of buildings with holes in walls. There were crosses on walls, pictures of religious saints, the Virgin Mary and posters of politicians the Lebanese people worshipped. Her heart sank for the country. As they opened the elevator door, Stumpy’s sister was waiting. She caught an initial glimpse of her silhouette by the doorway. She had the kind of body most Australian women run everyday on the beach to acquire. Blessed and shaped from Heaven. Her long slim cousin walked forward with the poise of a gazelle to greet her with a nimble hug. “Hi, ahlen, nice to meet you.” “Good to meet you too,” she replied awkwardly. Her cousin rarely smiled but when she did it could warm an Antarctic winter. She found it strange that at twenty-six her cousin wasn’t married with a kid on the way. Perhaps love hadn’t found her in the right place or time, or maybe she had been looking in the wrong places. The youngest sister woke up from the sounds of their talking and laughing. She entered the living room wearing her summer pajamas with white rabbits on her top. Her dominant feature was her long, curly black hair. “Hi, kifik?” She was nineteen years of age, big boned in appearance and spoke like a spoilt child. Her family had 61
treated her like a princess because she was the youngest. After suffering severe jet lag, she threw herself on the bed and blacked out. Her eyes slowly opening she detected the princess and model gazing at her and whispering as if she was a strange entity from another universe. She lapsed back into a deep sleep. When she woke the house was empty. The only person was the maid from Ethiopia who was mopping the floor. She helped herself to the Marlboro Lights and lit one on the balcony. She was soaking up the sights in the sun when her aunty came home. “Hi, yi, shu heh? Why you smoke? Not good, I tell your mum when she get home!” She snatched the cigarette from her hand and threw it off the balcony displeased. This was the monster of her nightmare. “Yalla we are going to a barbeque, get ready cuz,” the princess exclaimed. She had put on her coral red Haviana thongs as it went with her summer outfit. “What are you wearing? No no no way, don’t go out with those shoes, I will not let you. They’re not nice. Change your top. Only the maids wear those, people will think you are poor! Put on some heels.” “Why? I wear them all the time in Australia,” she replied shocked. “No, I don’t care, we wear heels everywhere here. We are not in Australia now and we’re not going to the surf.” “Well I don’t care. These are comfortable, we are going to a barbeque, not a wedding. I want to wear them.” “Fine. Do what you like, look like a Sri-Lankiyi,” the princess gave up. She was furious and felt ashamed that her own cousin could not accept who she was or what she wore. How am I supposed to put up with these people for six weeks? They won’t let me be me. That night at the barbeque she watched the model closely and observed her slimmer’s secret. While all the guests scoffed their meals and constantly drank their alcohol, the model munched on salad and sparrow portions of meat. It was no wonder she looked the way she did. The model was standing alone on the balcony staring into blankness as she approached to break the ice. “What are you drinking?” “Just water,” she said in English with a flaky French-Lebanese accent. “So how was the plane, are you still tired?” “The flight was horrible. I felt sick most of the way and threw up.” “Why? Are you now OK?” she asked as her glassy green eyes widened in surprise. “Yes I am now. But I hate long flights and the food was gross.” “Gross? What is gross?” she replied confused. “It means disgusting.” She laughed at the model’s attempt to understand her lingo. “Oh, like yucky?” “Yes, like yucky.” “Did you leave behind a boyfriend?” the model fished smoothly as she turned her chiseled face. “No. I am single.” “You are single? Well, we have to find you one here before you go home, OK? You should marry a Lebanese man!” she said persuasively. “Find me a good one, one who loves and adores me. So are you attached?” “Attach? You mean do I have a boyfriend?” “Yes.” Her eyebrows arched as she woefully shook her head. “No, I do not have one anymore. We were together four years and had to break.” “Why?” she inquired. “Because life’s bitch. He got a job in Kuwait because there is no work for him here and my family do not want me to move away from them if we get married. So he left. I can’t do anything. I’m scared. My situation is stressful and shit. I have no freedom.” Her voice throbbed and temples pulsated. “I am twenty-six. I should do what I want …” Enjoyed it? Check out Part Two Available online now! www.byds.org.au 62
Two Poems by Janie Gibson
f ink o ike feel l To th t kin s u ing s it m h t c a u h w d to e han n. v a h to ur ow o y t no thatâ€™s
If you ha ve nothin g but the th ings you touch then whe re do you begin?
Got Grimm by Kirsty Stewart Destiny bone’s connected to the Thy will be done as it is in heaven Help me if you can I’m feeling Down to earth wind & fire And brim stone cold sober. I owe the piper nothing Wrong with my think I can I think I can anyone hear me? Sorry. Seems I’m coming down With a bad case of the Flew over the cuckoo’s nest I di-gress again! What light threw yonder window Broke instantly when it struck A writers block like this. Spoke too soon alright Then held the little splinters Of my heart up to the light Will make rainbows. Emerald cities, blue bird skies Grandiosity. Chewed words, blew lies To aim at a yellow brick thin red line and Spit out a narrow stick, skim headline; Fixed like an arrow trick for Tell’s crime. But pulverised at the core Some beans magical. Now a Pizza Hut emulation, Summer gum like frustration, Sh*t I’m stuck complication, On the soul of my ruby stiletto. Put the can’t incantation, Clicking heel calculation, Dish & spoon destination, ‘Cause my transportation’s staccato. Rocket launching, crater carving, Puppy laughing, for ghetto blasting and Pepsi hot headed for disaster! The pot not game to give race to the kettle, Boiling not, in the name of a Gretel bone plot. So many chefs, not enough broth For a farmer’s wife, wanting a karma life Wielding the sharpened strife Of honed metal; to make rodents Even shorter sighted opponents. Pouring the tales into an ear so fucked up It cut off its write artist. 64
Listen. If Monet needed glasses, Then Dali’s pipe was ablaze at the time, Over ripe in amaze hedged in climb, An endless Escher design, Asinine inclination to nowhere fast. Up. Always up. What’s with that? Anti Alice foundation, thin air Crumbles creation the same. Concrete & claim to fame. I’m gonna live forever after. But things got Grimm and Spun out more than Rumplestiltskin On the last straw breaking the camel, Through the eye of the needle On the record skipped again. Skipped again. I mean, how could you even tell if a Humpty hump was broken?
Age of Treason Without a T by Zid Niel Mancenido You are either with us or against us. Those words echoed through that September evening. Those simple words which reduced the world so simply into the childhood game of ‘Black&White.’ George Bush knew with an effortless conviction what he said that night would change the world. I remember that September 15th night vividly; if not for those fateful words, than for the thunder. Exactly thirty years later the storm still plagues this night; the world’s troubles still have a while to go. Those simplistic life-changing words: we could not have been expected to envision this future, but neither did Prometheus that fateful night when he gave the world fire. What Bush forgot that night were our shadows. In 2008 when Tibet was liberated from China, the world rejoiced. America stood firm as a congratulatory beacon; heralding the virtue of democracy. In 2009 when all literature criticising democracy was banned in Utah, Georgia, Tennessee and Delaware, Tibet congratulated America for its commitment to the liberating cause. The world rejoiced.
Who knew those words that September night were such a paradox in disguise? Who knew that fateful night, what George Bush forgot would return to enslave us all? Who knew that the human race would become exactly what it had strove for millennia from? In 2012, the European Union passed the first Lockdown Act, effectively closing its borders and isolating itself from the rest of the world. In the last communication before ‘Shutdown’, America congratulated the EU for its progressive liberation towards its ideal of self-determination. In 2014, the African Union invaded Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and three other Gulf states. The world rejoiced; no more would it suffer from the war on terror. There is no use for the sun now. Everything is manufactured: food, water, oxygen, even roses. The sun was always just a distraction. Scientists now say it was the sun which dried the brains of the 20th Century. Others say it was the sun which kept our shadows behind us. 65
In 2018, Russia traded nuclear secrets with Denmark and Canada to create the Coalition of the Strong. The world rejoiced for their innovation and new-found power. In 2019, Australia sent troops to Antarctica and claimed all land as their own. Five Argentinean spy submarines were destroyed in the consolidation. Argentina publicly apologised and India congratulated Australia for its rightful enforcement of its sovereign right.
In 2024, in the last case held before the International Criminal Court, Israel was convicted of providing refuge to fifteen EU citizens who had sought asylum on their border. The world rejoiced; never before had sovereign rights been so enforced. In 2028, the United Nations, which had now, before a mere signatory body, passed GA Resolution 4550, which abdicated the Universal Charter of Human Rights. The world rejoiced in their new-found choice and freedom.
There is only one variety of weather now. It has been months since the wind last touched my face, but it does not matter. The rain outside has lasted for six hundred and twenty seven days. It’s all normal now.
In 2030, the EU, AU, UN, Coalition of the Strong and America signed the Eternal Discommunication Declaration, which outlawed intercommunication between sovereign states. It was a special day. No one had ever rejoiced more.
In 2023, Brazil invaded Mexico. Mexico did not resist. America congratulated Brazil on their resourcefulness after the complete deforestation of the Amazon.
On September 15th 2001, George Bush called out those words in vicious simplicity, “you are either with us or against us.” Now we no longer look back to see the shadows and storms. The shadows and storms have consumed us all.
Loneliness and the Cure Thereof Loneliness is a state of mind The proof is there I was lonely, surrounded by many people Clinically depressed The favourite people in my life Wife, children, brothers and friends No one could get in I could relate to no one And forced others to be unable to relate to me I recreated myself As though to be covered in prickles In barbs like cactus that once touched could stay in you and fester Simple human pleasures of a week before Felt barren, false and empty Separated By a switch in my mind switched to off A switch in my mind turned to disconnect I went through the motions of living: Sex, sport, talk and work The motions of love as well Not wanting to hurt those I know love me.
I, the essential thing that I think of as me Came back As if from a long and dangerous journey Or even death As if reborn again But in the same outward form That was always there But not lonely Connected and in love again With my life. Dedicated to Mark Treffry
Tim Carroll Artistic Director Bankstown Youth Development Service P: (02) 9793 8324 F: (02) 9796 4581 www.byds.org.au www.myspace.com/bankstownyouthdevelopment
But loneliness stayed â€Ś and went away just as suddenly The chemicals my brain produced to keep me whole Came online again A neighbour, a friend, fellow traveler Through simple, pointed conversation Identified the problem Identified the need Assured me of my value to the world Made a genuine, gentle smile flicker at the edges of my mouth Eased the fears that I held for all our futures And my role and part in that He found the pilot light of hope that still burned and fanned it back into flame
Afterword This is an afterword, as opposed to a forword; a last little word from me, the sub editor ... When I’m lonely I often feel compelled to take photos on my phone. Usually it’s self portraits. And sometimes I go scanning the streets for an empty scene that captures how I feel. It makes me feel better to document my lonely times. I’ve been trying to work out why that is. Maybe finding a bleak beauty in the darkness helps? Or is it an act of resistance – an attempt to capture the beast and thereby tame it? Or then again, am I creating an instant companion in my phone (like a genie in a bottle), someone who understands, to sit with me on the journey?
It is a well-trodden tradition for writers to channel their loneliness into poems and stories. Perhaps, like my phone-photos this practice is also an antidote of sorts. To let loneliness spill onto a page and by doing so, purge oneself. Or at least, acquire space to stand back from the pain, to attain a moment of objectivity. There is also comfort in the knowledge that the reader may find solace in their beautifully crafted words. Words that offer new insights into a complex emotion many of us struggle to comprehend, let alone express. While wading through the many submissions to Westside 08, I was struck time and again by the immense generosity of our contributors. These writers and artists have granted us access to some very personal thoughts, emotions and experiences. It is a gift I know will be appreciated by our readers. From the editorial team at BYDS a warm thank you. It has been a privilege and a joy to work on Westside 08 as sub editor. This collection of work has touched me, surprised me and made me laugh, all of which are excellent signs of a good read in my opinion. I also want to acknowledge the wonderful Tim Carroll for initiating Westside back in 1998 and his long-standing commitment to promoting and nurturing local writers and artists. In the same vein, it has been exciting to have highly respected editor and publisher Ivor Indyk supporting our publication this year. Interestingly, when I first met Westside editor, Mohammed Ahmad, I was the editor, and he was a contributor (from year 7, Birrong Boys High). It has been inspiring to witness Mohammed’s journey as a writer and to be reunited on Westside ten years later – working for him! I congratulate him on his passion, his strong vision and the many hours he has devoted both to encouraging new young writers and compiling material for this powerful edition. I look forward to seeing where his career takes him next. The story of Mohammed’s progression symbolises what Bankstown Youth Development Service means to me. In addition to writers, many successful performers, musicians, filmmakers and visual artists from Western Sydney have passed through BYDS. I’d like to end with some advice to all the aspiring young artists and thinkers out there: stay in touch!
Roslyn Oades Sub editor 69
P A R T Y I N G
s e m a G d n a n u F l l a Not What’s the worst that can happen to me if I graffiti a wall somewhere? Tagging a wall is actually damaging someone else’s property and can be very serious. The maximum jail term for maliciously damaging property is five years. If you want to express yourself through graffiti, many local councils’ run legal aerosol art workshops that you could attend.
Am I allowed to have a Leatherman/Swiss army knife on my keys? You are not allowed to have custody of a knife in a public place unless you have a reasonable excuse. If you don’t have a reasonable excuse you may be fined up to $550. An example of a reasonable excuse would be if you are an apprentice chef and are taking your knives to or from the restaurant where you work. Self-defence is not a reasonable excuse!
If a friend has reacted badly to drugs or alcohol and I call the ambulance – will they then call the cops on me? No. The ambulance officers will not call the cops. The only time that they would call the police is if they feel in danger themselves, someone dies or there are other non-drug offences involved such as violence or theft.
I have received an Infringement Notice/ Court Summons/Notice of Confiscation, what do I do now? If you receive anything that looks like an official document the best thing to do is to deal with it immediately either by yourself or by getting legal assistance. Do not ignore these documents as the problem can escalate very quickly and lead to even more serious consequences.
What are the penalties for drinking alcohol underage? You are only allowed to legally consume alcohol when you are at least 18 years of age. If you are caught consuming alcohol while you are under 18, you can face some serious consequences. Even if you are over 18, when you obtain alcohol for people under 18, you can also get into serious trouble. 70
What can happen if I get a fake ID and try to use it? Proof of age offences can be very serious, as you can be charged with a number of different offences which include using false evidence of age (maximum fine of $1100), making a false Proof of Age Card (maximum fine $2200). All proof of age offences have a minimum penalty of an on the spot fine of $110.
Are there any other consequences for drinking underage? Drinking alcohol underage doesn’t only have legal consequences. Alcohol affects each person differently and impairs your brain functioning properly. Offences like assaults and malicious damage are often linked to alcohol use. Don’t forget that drinking alcohol may also make you more vulnerable to be a victim of an assault.
Is being under the influence of drugs or alcohol an excuse for committing offences? No. You will not be able to use the excuse that you weren’t thinking properly due to drugs or alcohol as an excuse for committing an offence.
What is an assault? An assault is any act that intentionally or recklessly causes another person to fear immediate and unlawful violence. It needs to be more than just verbal threats – but you do not actually have to harm anyone for it to be an assault. The penalties for assault depend on a number of factors such as the injuries that you cause, or whether you committed the assault in a group. Before you get involved in a fight, you should be aware of the fact that you can never know what sort of injury you are going to cause, which also means you don’t know how serious the penalties are going to be. You can be charged for assault for things other than fighting. Throwing rocks at moving cars can be an assault if someone gets hurt, which is likely, and you could be charged with assault occasioning grievous bodily harm or worse depending on the injuries caused.
Are there other penalties for committing assaults in a group? Yes. If you are involved in a group assault, each participant can also be charged with the additional offences of riot and affray, which definitely adds to the seriousness of the offence.
If you are in trouble with the police and under 18, call the Legal Aid Hotline on 1800 10 18 10. If you are over 18, call Law Access on 1300 888 529.
A Community Legal Centre might also be able to help you with your problem Macquarie Legal Centreâ€™s number is 9760 0111 or go to www.macquarielegal.org.au