by Sam Morley
The steering is slack until you crank
the gurgling outboard motor.
We push past the last buoy
and I find myself standing.
Over open water, air circles
the blackness underneath.
I pull my children closer.
Cormorants dive, find nothing
and rise as oily shadows up a wall.
I cut the engine and we slide
slowly on the skin of the lake –
chiaroscuro in a graphite field.
Water mounds, then wears away.
The children scuttle and chiack.
I feel something slick, a vague
threat closing, a regret I can’t repair.
On the expanding cross-hatch of lead
I watch an accumulation of shapes
contours of nothing that do not remain
long enough to define themselves.
Sam Morley is a Melbourne based poet and secondary school teacher. His work has been published by Cordite, Red Room Poetry, The Hunter Writer's Centre and shortlisted in the ACU Poetry Prize 2020.
by Helen Loughlin
I’m dreaming of driving over the Forth Road Bridge with you,
and Curly Wurly panting and laughing on the back seat. I see
the snow over Fife and the long road ahead looking to Sutherland.
Oh Sutherland, your cold recesses, your sad battles, your defeated
Romans and the cold, deep innards of your lochs and your lands
and reaching Scots Pines. Where I saw your Pictish symbol stones,
the Migdale Hoard, and mighty Suilven rising from your still rock.
Crossing the Firths along the East coast to get to you sustain me here.
Now as I walk the streets of Camperdown and Newtown these hot,
stolen streets and land shadowed by the Moreton Bay Figs
buckling the pavements, negotiating the waves of the buttress roots
only slightly defacing the paths and, in places, defining them, looking for
a way onwards. I love these trees and their march along this East coast
where the tale of the route begins over and over and seems never to end.
Helen Loughlin is a poet living in Sydney. Her work has been published in journals including Southerly and Hermes and she's edited a number of magazines including Phoenix Review. She's currently working on her first collection, City of the Dead.
by Tessa Milton
soft tissue wings
flit the lightest of touches
too long after she’s gone
Tessa Milton is a writer, poet and QUT Fine Arts graduate. ‘Flutters’ is her first poetry publication and hopes to see more of her poetry out in the world soon. Tessa’s poetry draws on the nostalgia of her rural childhood in contrast with her urban and worldly experiences into adulthood.
by Svetlana Sterlin
autographed, antiquated town
bustling, possessive pride
pretensions sprawling protectively
over no great art.
garments of the past
wrapped in youth
haloed by the fringe
of being monotonous.
any attempt at ornamentation
is frequently coupled with a cherub’s head.
most of whom had a rather alien appearance
were shouting defiance at their traditional enemies.
life and occupation
the vigour of youthful lungs
glad goggle eyes.
sleepers lie dreamlessly
forever crooned to
by the glamor of traffic.
i can’t describe how i felt
the teeniest drop to the naked eye
i would go down to my grave
unwept, unhonoured, and unsung.*
*This is a found poem. Words from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of the Island.
After years of relocation, Svetlana Sterlin was raised by her Russian parents in Brisbane, Australia, where she completed a BFA and contributes to Our Culture Magazine and ScreenRant. Her work appears in several publications, including Entropy Magazine, Santa Fe Writers Project, and AndAlso Books’ 2018 anthology, ‘Within/Without These Walls’.
by Peter Mitchell
I was a silhouette
in the backroom of The Pleasure Chest.*
You blue-blurred past the glory hole.
I recognised you.
(For some years, I had drunk
your image down.)
I followed you;
I kneeled by the hole
in the wall.
You were a profile
on the other side,
your navy-blue King Gee shorts
fire-water to my need.
Your glory-stick bloomed in my mouth
like a flame-red rose.
Your prisoner, I stumbled dim
corridors to the cubicles at the back.
Your fingers, made for piano keys, pressed
my shoulders, the dusty floor
my altar again.
The thickness of your signature
charmed my body.
At dinner, you whispered
You're eminently fuckable.
*‘The Pleasure Chest’: The Pleasure Chest is a sex-on-premises venue in lower George Street, Sydney.
Peter Mitchell is a queer writer living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in regional New South Wales, The author of the poetry chapbooks, Conspiracy of Skin (Ginninderra Press, 2018) and The Scarlet Moment (Picaro Press, 2009), they write poetry, memoir, short fiction, essays and literary criticism. Conspiracy of Skin was awarded a Highly Commended in the 2019 Wesley Michel Wright Prize for Poetry. His website is at www.peter-mitchell.com.au.
by Daragh Byrne
Gull packs, perched on surf.
Over the headland, a half-moon
smirks cold glow on half-clad sun
worshippers — five p.m. blue sky
perquisite of work from home
with the earth for no fixed fault;
for a moment, scuppered in my
berth. Nature seems uncertain,
until a single
jacaranda blossom lightly lands
on sand, softens all belief,
sings me slow relief.
Daragh Byrne is an Irish poet living in Sydney, Australia. He’s published in The Blue Nib, The Honest Ulsterman, Backstory and others. His poems were recognised as Highly Commended in the Westival Poetry Competition 2020 and the W.B. Yeats Poetry Prize for Australia 2019. He runs the Sydney Poetry Lounge.
by Simon Kindt
when Ma lost her third in the red year
that scorched and burning year
we couldn't afford the box
or the priest
so daddy wrapped the small splinter of the body
folded stones into the cloth
and cast it to the river
and how Ma’s body wept for weeks
those hours she stood at the sink
pressing out the milk
swollen with an ache
beyond all metaphor
how she'd wake sudden in the night
at the sound of a child
crying from across the way
and there against the window
silhouetted in the lamplight
I watched her weeping
stains spreading on her blouse
light washing through the air
hands pressing out the milk
the letting down of grief
Simon Kindt is a writer, musician, teacher and performance artist who lives and works in Meanjin. His work is interested in myth and art-as-ritual.
by Courtney Thomson
I don’t know how to be. In the room,
with a bed too great for my body.
Rest my arm around my waist
to feign company, until it numbs. Press
two fingers against the vein to feel
a pulse. Whisper goodnight
aloud to hear the word.
Slide fingers into my lone
hand’s embrace; I need to find
solace in a world of four walls and bleached
sheets. I swing in this restless trapeze
waiting for sleep to catch
me but I’m tangled in memory’s net.
My mother said, I need to let the past
go but I can’t control where my mind
parks; I am only a passenger.
Courtney Thomson is a QUT Creative and Professional Writing graduate. She has special interest in poetry and personal essay. Her work has appeared in Voiceworks, Concrescence and Woolf Pack.
by Linda Kohler
I call toss on bedding intimacy
Meet me on the cool axis
where our seaweed bods
glint civil enough
to grant a little taking
of warmth in nights.
Let’s speak of azure
and deep indigo,
being wrapped in water or sky,
Meet me in seafoam green
where kindles of emeralds
crest the sands of unions.
Meet me in throes of cyan,
let the sun imprint itself
on our subtractions.
Let’s talk of immersion,
Let’s ally lightness and depth
after the artwork of the same name by Henri Matisse
Us in spiral
tearing strips off each other:
in many pieces;
eyes locked, slinging palettes,
When our spiraling ends
we cling to windows--
gluing each other
where we are torn.
We nibble each other’s shells
to be strong,
we behold, retreat, and
tender, we emerge
What if I could babysit?
Clean your radulae, I’d say
after I’d fed them seaweed,
then I’d bed their rocks in
fuss over their girdles.
In the shallows
my toes are duly armoured:
I wonder if I could know each chiton
by shell, by name,
by the way they curl up
in their layers, cradle
I could be classed chiton.
I could be mother of all chitons
by what’s rutted under
Linda Kohler lives and writes in South Australia, on Kaurna land. She's worked mainly as an arts teacher and currently assists with her own children's flourish. Her poetry appears in Pink Cover Zine and elsewhere.
by Angela Peita
1. Leave this realm as you know it. Watch the world rise around you in a wall of distress sounds. Listen to the loop of news reports, the tick of statistics climbing the chart, the whispers of prophecies to come.
Watch as your world becomes a distant memory, and is replaced with this new dimension you do not know how to navigate.
2. Begin your incubation process. Make your world small. Hide in your dark bedroom, doom scroll through social media, let the panic set in. Become insular. Make the inside of your head the walls of the world. Relive the dreams you had growing up where you are yelling for help but your voicebox won’t make a sound. Listen to the echo of your thoughts bounce off your one sided conversation.
3. Accept your new supernatural state. Celebrate the work you don’t have to do, the awkward social settings you get to avoid. Lean into to the feeling of existing outside the limits, of breaking out of the structures you felt trapped in.
Settle into the quiet.
4. Emerge as your new ghost self. Attempt to hide your surprise when the world begins to return to the way you remember it. Discover you have lost the knowledge to be human. Notice how the sun is too bright, the cars are too loud, the conversation is never easy. Worry that the transformation is complete.
5. Try to unlearn this departure. Put on your favourite lipstick, pretend to care about the return of routine, practice saying your name into the mirror. Ignore the shifting degrees that mean the before will never quite line up with the after, ignore that you now think in before and after, wonder how it is possible to exist in both.
6. Even though you are back now, understand that the leaving was permanent. That you have gone through a doorway that you can’t return to, that you can only move forward.
See how your world is now a reflection, an image on a still lake, a backwards carbon copy covering the surface of where you’ve been.
Angela Peita is a spoken word artist, youth worker, workshop facilitator and live art producer. She is co-founder and co-director of Ruckus Slam, the hugely popular Brisbane slam and arts company.