Literary Fiction

Afterwardsness by Claire Gaskin

Afterwardsnessclaire-gaskin

We sit in Cuppa Cottage looking at a photograph from twenty eight years ago. We both had kept a copy. Cuppa Cottage is in Sandringham and has porcelain tea cups hanging from a wooden ladder over the cash register. We sit at a corner table under a large red paper umbrella. I have a plastic bag full of photos to go through together.

We lean in to each other over the photo. The horizon is yellowing with age; I wear a sarong over bikinis, my arms loosely around his neck. We both look out at the camera, our eyes in shadow.

‘I think it’s Byron Bay’, I say.

Women sit with their mothers or in groups of three friends. The waitress comes in a floral apron with rockabilly hair. Everyone else in Cuppa Cottage has a slight variation on the style you get in one of the six hairdressers in Sandringham.

‘You can order a trifle in a tea cup,’ I smile. We order two pots of English breakfast tea.

‘By the way’, Kevin says, ‘I am sorry about what happened’.

We are one third of the photo standing to the right of the frame, two thirds is sky and sea.
The moment is blue.

‘I was confused’, he says.

We are standing on a cliff. There is no sign of what is to come. What is a photo but the refusal of the future?

‘I could have dealt with it better’, he says.

There was no space between us. We wore thongs on our feet. I wore thongs, he wore thongs. In the coming months I would learn the power in a pronoun.

I was nineteen. It was 1984. I had worked at Myers as a lift driver to save enough money to go around Australia. Was there something about being between that I liked? I liked bridges and verandahs. Travelling up and down between floors. Travelling up the east coast of Australia. Many times in my life I have walked the streets at night looking at the warmth of lit windows with longing. But not wanting to be inside. Why is my favourite fairy tale The Little Match Girl? Is it the freedom exclusion brings? Is it because something considered of no substance can enter where there is no space? My university place was deferred. Every day numerous people said, ‘This job must have its ups and downs.’ I would try to smile. When it wasn’t busy it was solitary confinement. Sometimes the young men from refrigeration would ride with me.

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Poetry

Kris Saknussemm ~ A Poem

What’s on my mind this bright sunny morningkrissaknussemm

Well, I’ll tell you.
I’m thinking of Moirés, an interference pattern
created when two grids are overlaid at an angle
or when they have slightly different mesh sizes.
I’m thinking of two headed marine worms, slime
molds and Pavlov inserting a window into a dog’s stomach
to observe its digestion, for which he won the Nobel
Prize in 1904.
I’m thinking about Moosbrugger, the psychopathic killer in
The Man Without Qualities. I’m thinking about Schoenberg’s
renunciation of melody,
Wittgenstein’s beetle, Gertrude Stein’s perpetual poodle
basket, the gargoyles of the Chrysler Building and
the swan that carries the Grail Knight to heaven
in LOHENGRIN.
I’m thinking I’m glad there are Crayola Crayon
colors called Inchworm, Neon Carrot and Macaroni & Cheese—
and how sad I am at how even stupider
America has become since I went walkabout.
Oh, wenn ich schrien könnte!
Un carnaval desesperada de imbéciles.
Mi go pas.


© Kris Saknussemm

 

Kris Saknussemm is a cult novelist and multimedia artist. Born and educated in America, he has lived most of his life abroad, primarily in Australia and the Pacific Islands. He has published ten books that have been translated into 22 languages.

His science fiction themed novel Zanesville, published by Villard Books, an imprint of Random House in 2005, was hailed by critics as a revolutionary work of surreal black comedy. It has attracted the devotion of outsider artists like the Legendary Stardust Cowboy and was the inspiration for Michael Jackson to want to have a giant robot of himself constructed to roam the Las Vegas desert.

Another key novel, an erotic supernatural thriller Private Midnight is set in a noir crime world of jazz, junkies and shadows from out of time.

 

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Poetry

Justin Lowe ~ Four Poems

Nostalgiajustin-lowe

I believe I have moved
beyond the shouting now.

the lines are nicely blurred,
the corners rubbed smooth.

cohesion, let’s be frank, was
never my guiding principle,

the better to watch
and count where others name.

the shouting was a gasp of air,
not of a man held under,

but like someone passing a mirror
in a cobwebbed hall.

Nineveh

gazing out at the rain
only seemed to make it angrier.

he is still to learn
how tempers fray in the tropics,

how tin pleads
like a parrot in a cage,

and night crawls
under a rock with the lizards.

you cannot live here
with your nose in a book

now matter how hard he tries
something is always tugging at his sleeve.

this is his one revelation.

he knows eventually the rain will stop
because they built a city here.

The text that never comes

it is the blanket draped
over an old piano,

the dead bird
still clutching its perch.

it is the stone rolling
down a deserted hillside,

the cat purring
as the needle goes in.

it is the sound
of dust gathering on a book,

the funereal hunch of the uninvited,
the arrow quivering above a sleeping head.

it is the picnickers trying to beat the storm,
like waders suddenly drowning.

it is the question put to a dying man,
the lone comma on a bathroom mirror.

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Poetry

Michael Farrell ~ Three Poems

michael-farrellThe Concept Of The Queue As A Justification For Linearity

Catching a bus offsets the cost of addiction. The Australian
Stands at the front yet belongs at the back. Things
Can be learned from browsing the fronts of books, but
There’s no free ride when it comes to
Reading
Entering a bus in the middle’s
Like an operation and causes rage from the Jonahs inside
Trying to escape. Being nervous like a word expecting to
Be edited, finding that it’s shifted place. No one takes
Logic that seriously; they take breaks and find themselves
Refreshed and to some extent alive. When translating we consider
The age of each word and the relative respect due
Yet a bus may come at any
Time and even on arriving refuse to go
Further or in the right direction. At the end of
The night’s service, most passengers have been shifted around and
The stops are empty, except for those who don’t want
To go anywhere. They are the full-stops
The ones insisting on shelter. In the line-up
There’s one maroon coat or the drabness is relieved
By a scarf printed with tulips. When did they arrive?
Will we see them again? Perhaps in a much larger
Space, where the scarf will appear like a foreign
Word or note of light and not as it does
Now, a fireplace

The Blue Wheelbarrow

I wake and I take my waking pillow
& cover it with warm milk. Things
Are not as they
Are
Black chickens are popping on the piano lid
Again; Canto V Dorothy says dragging
On the chords. Years of widening
Undies, Canto LXXI drones Olga. Anything, anything
Under a bridge can be a giraffe
A blue wheelbarrow can become a platypus, barking
At a viper
In the night. The viper too cold
To respond. Some people make images, others swallow them
In the background – though life is not
A stage. When we read we put our hat
Under the pew and reach for
Its felt when done. Our hand is bitten, glazed
A blue chicken. Things are – perhaps
In reverse. Canto minus I snaps Mary. The foreheads
Of the National Front. The ideograms
Of purification. The nougat scene. There is a way
Of saying that may result in laying
A boy runs around, or boys, scared
Of talk, weather, tools, shit
Aesthetics, music, stories of paternity. It’s not that
I disagree, it’s that I don’t find
It meaningful. I didn’t want to open up because
Of the smell, which became an
Analogy that you found in a dream, but
I found in
A hymn, being the beneficiary of so much holiness
I mean so much finger. I am
A sick biscuit, tracing the expressions of windows
In the aftermath of friends mating
In the ashes. The blue wheelbarrow decides … Everything is
As they were and are. The War
Of 1812. The Coniston Massacre. Honour the method that
Allows
It’s not what I’ve seen that counts: emu wrenches
Off spinifex like they were chewing firecrackers
Giraffe pulls screaming wheelbarrow around the yard or rain

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Poetry

Samuel Wagan Watson ~ A Poem

Gulag Windsamwaganwatson

In memory of Liam and Frankie Davison…Flight MHI7

Between 1932-33 an estimated 7 million people were murdered or perished on Stalin’s concentration camps in the Ukraine. And almost 80% of the region’s intellectuals were handed death sentences, a majority without trial…

Executioners are forensic raconteurs; their charges’ last words and breaths are always deleted or embellished. Their quills are equally primed with an antidote for poison. The word ‘genocide’ is not in their vocabulary and confession is not in their creed. Those of us who can see through the veils of propaganda suddenly believe in ghosts, the endless reams of victim impact statements recorded in ectoplasm have always been there. We need to teach our children that monsters do not wait under their beds at night, but in the shadows of the world’s upper-echelons, where fact cannot escape an arranged marriage to fiction. Dark wings await their masters’ approval for surface to air insanity. The arrival and departure lounge in a killing field has no discriminatory features. Was that a final boarding call? I am adamant that if you listen, you can hear Solzhenitsyn today more than yesterday in the summer skies over Ukraine, storm-front echoes of a lingering Gulag wind…

© Samuel Wagan Watson

State and National Award-winning poet and professional narrator and storyteller, Samuel Wagan Watson has Irish, German, Dutch, and Aboriginal (Munaldjali and Birri Gubba) ancestry. He is the son of prominent Brisbane-based academic, writer and activist Sam Watson. Born in Brisbane Watson spent much of his earlier life on the fringe of the Sunshine Coast, but moved back to Brisbane to start a career.

In 1999, he was the winner of the David Unaipon Award for Emerging Indigenous Writers for his first collection of poetry Of Muse, Meandering and Midnight. Since then he has written four collections: Itinerant Blues (2001), Hotel Bone (2001), The Curse Words (2011), and Smoke Encrypted Whispers which won the 2005 NSW Premier’s Award for the Book of the Year, and the National Kenneth Slessor prize for Poetry.

 

 

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Poetry

Jeff Klooger ~ Five Poems

The First Experimentputputt

Pick a word or phrase at random* ― or try.
Can it be done? Can you do it?
If everything means something
― since meaning is ubiquitous, unstoppable,
profuse, prolific, virulent ―
all ostensibly senseless acts
are really ciphers, keys unlocking declarations,
stories, cries, befuddled rants,
the whole storehouse and factory
of language’s obscure and labyrinthine mind.

No sooner do lips part
than words no one can hope to master,
behind your back, despite your wishes,
construct the miracle of selfhood.
You are the music signifiers make,
sounded like crashing thunder
or whispering grass.

Dreaming of some tabula rasa,
an empty plain on which to build your city of sense,
changes nothing. You are simply what
the play of words and styles has made you,
their first experiment and last,
your end and appellation leaking
like rumours from a stranger’s mouth, and no one’s.

* From the first of Bernadette Mayer’s writing experiments

Steel

At the start line we are bright and shiny,
new paintwork, dazzling yellows and reds,
chrome flashing like a million light bulbs,
that brand new smell of unused interiors,
engines that growl like caged animals.

We feel it when we take our first hit,
the loss of innocence, how the merest blemish
spoils for good our showroom perfection.
By the second and third, we forget
to grieve, concentrate on steering, aim
for the weakest points, judging forces,
anticipating impacts.

Soon we are no longer novices, know exactly
how to cause damage and how to take it,
what face to wear when the crunch comes,
scowling like warriors or smiling
like beauty queens. We spin sometimes
and learn to hold our nerve, let friction
stop us, then step on the gas,
become a moving target – the best way
to stay in the game.

More and more drop out
and we are left to weave between the hulks,
chasing each other round obstacles left
by history. We do not pause
to think of those no longer driving, immobile,
stuck, staring out or scurrying off
through traffic. We don’t have time
for regrets. All our efforts are bent
over the wheel, peering out
through mud-spattered windscreens,
hoping to catch that moment’s hesitation, the slip
that will give us our chance.

When it comes, we will plant our feet down
like pulling a trigger, claim our kills
as any hunter would, giving in to the heady
satisfaction of still being alive, the thrill
that any death not yours can bring you.
Though all around us buckles and bends
we stay firm, rigid, steeled to our task,
our goal to be around when all this ends,
to stand atop our wreck and wave our arms
in salute – triumphant, undefeated,
filthy, battered, exhausted and alive.

We believe in this moment with all our faith,
as certain of it as torque and traction. You cannot drive
and doubt at the same time. When it’s over
there might be a time for questions. Now
there is only this, hands gripping the wheel,
feet pumping gas and brakes, eyes searching
forward and behind, brain ticking like a motor,
tyres biting dirt, constant motion, heat and speed,
power, will, destruction.

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Collections Poetry

A. G Pettet ~ Five Poems

AGPettetIn The Wake of Small Craft

I can still hear cicadas
in the churchyard
from where I sit
on the stone wall.
A black river
embedded in my skin
and lonely the ferryman.

Dawn Was Dragging Her Wings Among The Tears

Old ways mixed into new metaphor,
old habits hiding ancient truth.

Beneath the blackened railway bridge
the watch trick broke my mind.
A dark coat letting in a breeze,
two broken fingers,
his hand a dirty bandage.
Glass eyes, raw tracks
and time breaking down squealing.

A dog barking, rabies ravaging a futile mind
a sigil burned in it’s forehead.

A crippled horse pulls a rickety wagon
as prostitutes flash their cunts
in lucid dreams.

Footsteps in the dark,
the pavement an empty grave.
A watch,
a trick?
Two broken fingers
and the dawn waking.

Ruins

Sudden eruptions of scar tissue on fingertips,
an unfeeling membrane ending touch.
In the mouth the tongue twists
vainly to taste itself.
Gloss washed over eyelids,
the coloured plastic crumpled in my pocket
and an old man pointing a bone at my back.

And The View Looks Like The Country

A clumsy child playing jacks
spills colours from between
clenched fingers.

It Is Wise

it is wisest to remove insolence,
and her entrails hang steaming on a fence.
the snow stained red by the setting sun.

 


© A. G Pettet
from the forthcoming collection Improvised Dirges (2015)

 

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