Paul is a promising young poet, film maker and critic. He currently studies Film & Television at Swinburne University.
If memories are here I’m thanking my pedigree
If they could watch me move between these walls easily
Everything smorgasbord, innovated for efficiency
I promise I’ll stay
If we’re on an energy
Wake up against your walls
I would tease your skin apart to see
If you’re only a glass half full
What, for this absurdity, could you give me
Ease has got me thinking I could live and never leave this small room
On the fifth floor of this building
But if memories are here, they’ve got me mourning
These lives unfurling
Even if everything is fine
My dad’s father died two weeks ago
My mum’s father is in that vast place’s antechamber right now
And reports received tell of something slipping past that door all the time
My mother says she’ll be ready because she’s been mourning for a long time
My mother’s father left us minutes before I finished writing these lines
Got me asking if this process is imprinted on every moment passing by
Atoms like beads
Certainly, easier to picture on strings
Doll horses on a course
Probably, always disappearing
That branch, in the park, holding the leaves close while the wind tugs
Would the atoms that are bonded like to plead with something
Or are they in on it
That we’re recycling
Pretty or ugly, sometimes I can’t see a difference
Are these truths or thoughts?
While a thousand truths, suspended, flicker so quickly I can’t see
The right choices
The right feelings
Did your privilege make you doubt putting more children on this earth? Or,
Did it consolidate your compass?
Did you love with all of your heart?
Did feelings exit as the bulb blew in slow-motion?
The vanishing act, with no prestige, is brutal and sad
But beautiful when met with the grace that comes from kindness and courage
Accepting, even when it shouldn’t be the case
Which you both did
Oh but, I only know mourning full lives
This is an interrogation
Shine the light on your face
From the roof, from the end of the tunnel,
was it worth it?
And right at the end –
Could you put words to it?
Because we don’t openly
We talk about funny things around a table
Wish we were the wiser
The women who chose you
The children you raised
And your children’s children
Was that a comfort, oh god
Sometimes I can’t sleep because I’m restless, and I think
Everything I dream could only be real with everything symphonically
Or everything I see is only real in this patch of space-time simultaneously
And I’d be a vessel acting for you
An old canvas brand new, to you
Was I a reflection,
or an echo,
Or a refraction,
random and unknowable
A tag with obligations
Or a glass for the soul
The space between
Page one, and the last
I maintain, some things must be worth working towards
Is it moral?
And if, when I know
I hope the right words, and grace, prise me free
We will talk again
Though you might’ve never said anything of the like
Don’t disappear please
Memories are here
Still warm, still with me
I’ve got some kind of a hold on
The both of you
Hon Dr Andrew Leigh M.P
Andrew is the Federal Member for Fenner in the Australian House of Representatives and holds a PhD in public policy from Harvard University.
There was a light rail from Gungahlin
Whose creation caused plenty of brawlin’
Now the ride is EPIC
And mightily quick
Shout the passengers: this thing is haulin’!
Lips painted crimson.
The same as my silk shirt. I let the heavy curtain fall against the wall. She promised she would be here, seated middle, front row. Amelia kept her word. My fingers shook, from nerves, from the desire to play. Another glimpse into the audience, the judges sitting in the centre of the room, illuminated by the ambient glow from the stage.
‘Henry Thorn will now play Chopin Polonaise Op. 53 in A flat minor,’ a disembodied voice read. I smoothed down my shirt and walked into the pool of light that engulfed the piano. Silence in many shades of anticipation. Respect, curiosity, desire, expectation all governed the demeanour of each person in the chamber. I bowed, not daring to search for Amelia’s eyes. Instead I pretended we were in the college music room, her body laid out on the floor as she listened.
She guided me to the keys and told me to play. I did not need more encouragement to begin than the urge to speak to the music and let its stitched together sounds whisper back. This piece had been my tormentor but now it was going to save me.
‘Again,’ my father said, newspaper crinkling in his hands. Eight years old, and a pair of notes reversed by accident. I flicked through the pages, finding the start of the piece and began again. My ears strained waiting for the sound of the newspaper: that short sharp crackle. I couldn’t hear the music anymore; my fingers did as they were instructed, leaping between keys to the thrum of the metronome. Halfway through, not another mistake made, my father stood and took the paper away.
He returned to hear the final notes.
‘Excellent job son,’ he said, ‘I have a treat for you.’
A smile. A true smile of joy. Years later when they called my father an abuser I would shake my head. He loved me. When they blamed him for my breakdown I wished I had the ability to convince them they were wrong.
The treat, ice cream and a new cassette to listen to in the car, one without classical music. Playing for him was terrifying but at eight the rewards were immense.
He played part of a piece I was to learn. ‘Do you hear it? What the music is saying?’ he said.
I listened as his fingers scaled the keys. There was his breath, metred, the creak of the piano, random. And then there was the musical instrument’s inner workings.
‘What do you hear?’ I relayed the sounds. He shook his head. ‘The music. Listen to the music.’
Eyes closed, filtering out other sound. An ebb and flow of music. I could hear it speak, telling a story. Let’s reach a crescendo. The harmony tremors. Feel your heart pounding in your chest in time with the accelerando? Will you let me live, breathe, share this sensation?
The music stopped and the voice fell silent. Startled, I opened my eyes.
‘It had more to say,’ I said, ‘You didn’t let it finish.’
‘I can’t hear the words Henry. That is your gift and why you must free the voice.’ His hand clasped my shoulder.
I needed to keep that beautiful voice alive.
Amelia sat on the seat beside me, a hand on my thigh, head resting on my shoulder.
‘Where did you learn to play?’ she said, eyes half closed.
My fingers continued to sweep across the keys. Her voice blended with the melody.
‘My father taught me to play,’ I said, ‘When I was twelve I played at the Conservatorium on my school teacher’s suggestion. My father agreed, he always wanted to share me.’
‘I think he just wanted to show you off.’
‘He got his wish, I guess. A scout watched me perform a few years later and I won a scholarship to study in America but my father wouldn’t let me go.’
‘But he is the one who wanted you to play?’ Amelia said. Her brow furrowed.
‘I was fourteen, he was just protecting me.’
‘Oh,’ she said, pausing, ‘Well, I’m glad I had the chance to meet you. If you had gone to America-’
‘-It would all be very different.’ A laugh split my lips, something more musical than what an instrument could capture. Amelia chuckled in response, resting her head on my shoulder.
Chopin Polonaise Op. 53 in A flat minor was one of the more complicated pieces I had ever played. But I loved the story it told.
The music whispered to me and I spoke back. I was setting it free.
Let me take you on an adventure. A grand journey. Off we go.
Run down the hill. Let the breeze catch your clothes and your hair. Roll through the grass. Lay down in the sun.
Mother and father are here. Smiling. Brother and sister. Grinning.
We play and eat. Listen to the cassette in the car. Fingers stroking phantom keys.
It starts to rain.
Run up the hill. Bags and shoes. Shoes and bags. Laughter. Fear.
What a grand adventure.
I play the final notes, force behind each stroke. It is alive. The room can feel it. Every person has been satisfied, hearing what only I could share with them.
Pause then applause. I stand. I bow. A new kind of music. I search for Amelia’s face but I can’t find her. There are no judges either.
As I walk off the stage it feels like I’m forcing myself to plunge into icy water. Why can’t I stay in the warmth where I am loved, cheered even? But I have shared my gift tonight. Any more would spoil that magic.
In the brightly lit corridor behind the stage I noticed my hands. Oh how Amelia loved my soft, slender hands. Time was a cruel master.
A woman guided me back to the change room. She was young, speaking into an earpiece. Her job done once I was seated before the mirror. The truth returned as if having been on some long winded holiday.
Amelia was gone. I was old, alone, unable to pass on my gift. Wrinkled face, veins protruding on the back of my hand. An Amelia that was no more than a figment of my memory.
A series of coughs shook my body. Had I done my father proud?
A flash of colour in the mirror caught my eye.
Crimson painted lips.
In a little village nestled in the hills there was a good Wind that kept watch. It made certain that the kites and flags would fly and that there was always the scent of the meadows blown across so that every day was sweet and enjoyable. Every summer when the weather was just right, all the children of the town would run about in the blustery Wind and fly their kites. The Wind would hold the kites in the sky and lift them until they were little pins floating amongst the clouds. Every child would save their pennies all year for a kite to fly that summer.
One day, when the Wind was especially good for kite flying, the children crowded around a yellow kite that was being held by a boy in a yellow cap. The boy had created the kite himself, as he had no pennies of his own, for he was very poor, and he was quite proud of his work. He had spent all winter working on his creation, he had gotten the poles from one of the posh houses where the wooden lattice had broken and was thrown out onto the street, and the fabric itself was a fine silk stitched together from off cuts at the dressmaker's shop, where the owner had felt sorry for him and given him the golden yellow scraps from one of the upper class gowns. The finishing touch, the string, was gotten from the pedlar who upon seeing the kite thought it was such a marvellous creation that the pedlar gave the boy string to hold it and fly it at once. Once completed, the kite was a work of art. The boy had worked very hard on it, putting every effort into it and after hours of toil, it was finally ready. The kite had stories woven into it, from the string of the cobbler, the wood and the silk - each were from a different place and every part of the kite yearned to see these places for itself.
The Children talked as the boy prepared to loose his kite, would the kite really fly? Not one of the little children knew if it would. As the boy ran along, holding up the Wind for it to take, the boy spoke to the Wind, “Please, please let my kite fly!” he whispered. The Wind rushing along beside the boy heard him and lifted up the kite to fly among the others. The boy ran along, laughing as he chased his kite. The boy flew the kite every day for several weeks, each day crying to the Wind “Please, please let my kite fly!” and each day the kite flew.
The Wind liked the kite for it was made with love. Every stitch sewn with care, it was as if the kite was made with the heart of the boy himself.
Higher and higher the kite flew each day, and one day, so high did the kite fly that it hid amongst the clouds, peeping out every so often, pulled back into view by a taut string. The boy, alarmed that he might lose the kite he made cried to the Wind “Please, please keep my kite safe!” The Wind rushing about heard the boy and pushed the kite away from the others, however, unknown to the boy the Wind was also listening to the kite and had heard that it wished to see the world and travel the skies. Not wishing to let either of them down the Wind untied the kite from its string and murmured to the boy, “I shall keep your kite safe, you must trust me.” The boy had not heard the Wind for he was not listening and too upset at the loss of his beautiful yellow kite.The poor boy was left only with the kite’s string.
While the kite was gone the boy cried for three days and three nights, so sad was he that his kite was gone. Everyone felt sorry for him and comforted him. The boy then raged for four days, angry that his creation should leave him, and everyone was wary of him and avoided him. The boy had lost the kite that took him weeks to make and was devastated that his time went into something that left him so easily.
The Wind and the kite took a year to travel the world and everyone marvelled at the kite with no string. The scholars in Florence wrote about it, “A kite with no string!” they remarked, “how unnatural!” The children out in the summer sun tried to catch it, “A kite with no string!” they cried and ran about it. The priests and the church goers saw it, “A kite with no string!” they nattered, “A kite with no string …” The kite was having the time of its life, the Wind was its companion and the sky was the limit. Even the beasts of the wild marvelled at the kite with no string, the caribou of the north saw it as they were lolloping along, “what a strange speck!” they cried to one another, yet the kite could not understand them having been made by a boy. The geese flew alongside it in their little formations, “what a strange speck!” they remarked, much to the woe of the kite it could not understand them either. The dogs in the city barked at it and the cows in their paddocks stared at it. Wherever the kite went it became a spectacle, talked about across the globe.
As the kite flew and viewed the world it became tired of travel, it's threads were beginning to show and its vibrant colour faded. The Wind took the kite back to the village it came from. “Here you go little kite,” the Wind said when all was done, “there is your village.” The Wind then lowered the kite down in front of the boys house. Unknown to the Wind, the kite was showing it's weariness, so much so that once the wind was gone and the excited boy picked up his worn out kite, it fell apart. The wood fractured, the silk frayed and the sewing undone. The only thing left of the kite was the string the boy had kept from when the kite had run away.
The boy, saddened brought the kite inside and placed it on a shelf taking only the string with him as he went outside to the village in pursuit of a new kite.
Paul is studying Film & Television at Swinburne University
in japan nieseko i felt numb
it marked the end of my gap year
i knew there was more life
but my belief in change was faltering
without change there are only endings
nearly convinced myself the world outside hadnt been
a mirage or a dream
looked at my parents suspiciously
dont know where im from
so i dont know who i am
if youve been watching tell me
be my mirror friend jury
loneliness makes hard to tread lightly
time to be still time to laugh - be young touch be touched
tonight the promise of a memory is stuck in my gums
and your drinking in another house
slipped into a dream you were the main character of
couldve been anybody
kiss me these wallsll get bigger
kiss me explore this room freely together
fuck in shadows fuck without imagination
make my lungs balloon can you feel
through me see-through you
anew - weve missed beginnings
this city swings
about a dead needletower
beneath it: a mirrormaze:
of students just like me but not quite;
slot-machine double degrees
and bared knees in winter.
i’ve lived with sociopaths and naturopaths
worked at maybe-mafia restaurants
and taken schrodinger’s film-photos
of willingunwilling friends.
on our off days we drift about the city
amidst megafauna goon sacks
in and out of nightclubs with floors as stick
y as inertia
(outside is cold winter past-midnights)
amidst the air-ice, like
kangaroos on the powerlined othermountain
rose-gold clap-powered lamplight;
there’s a liminal lake named george
and another called burley griffin
that sprays its toxic water at highway cars.
capital capital -
this gap of a city
has been left to run amok.
this gap of a city
is where i’ll learn to grow up.
Monologue from the collection Paper Cuts: Comedic and satirical monologues for audition or performance by Kirsty Budding, originally published by Blemish Books, Canberra www.blemishbooks.com.au
I met Gertrude at the bingo. She’d lost her glasses and couldn’t see her numbers; I was the lucky man who got to help her guide her pen. Every time my hand brushed hers, she giggled like a sixteen-year-old. Made me forget I was in a retirement home. I was so happy; I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that her glasses had been on her head the whole time.
The next morning, I walked down to the corner shop to buy her some flowers. I thought of her giggle every step of the way. But by the time I got back to the residents’ lounge, the seat next to her was taken.
It was Mr Willoughby – that smooth-talking Lothario from 29a. He’s a retired British officer who wears a tweed suit and has the straightest back I’ve ever seen. Hardly any arthritis. He sounds like David Attenborough and he can dance – not just a slow dance; he can do the twist, the jitterbug, the tango.
He’s next to Gertrude telling jokes and she’s giggling away, saying, “Oh Mr Willoughby, you are funny!”
Cad. (Confiding a secret) Last year, there was a scandal involving Willoughby and Mrs Smith from 28a. That’s right: Mrs Smith. Mr Smith was in the rehabilitation wing recovering from a hip replacement and Willoughby was ready to provide comfort, if you get my meaning. No one was surprised when Mrs Smith died of a heart attack; it was the most action she’d had in thirty years.
Then there was Mavis. And Betsy. And Doris. All decided they wanted a happy ending. I tell you: with Willoughby around, “assisted dying” has taken on a whole new meaning.
And now he was after my Gertrude! Well, when I was young, I’d have walked away. But I’m old enough to know if you love someone then you should just bloody tell them. I wasn’t going to let him take her back to his parlour without a fight! So I shuffled over, holding my flowers like a schoolboy, and I said:
“Gertrude. I’m old and I can’t dance and it took me an hour to get you these flowers from the corner shop, which is 400 metres away. I have a crooked back and I don’t sound like I narrate nature documentaries for the BBC, but I love you.”
“I can also assure you that your life expectancy will be significantly higher if you choose me. So, if you want a few minutes of excitement followed by a heart attack, then Willoughby’s your man. But if you want someone who will wear you down gradually over a number of years before you finally die peacefully in your sleep, then take these flowers, and be my sweetheart.”
Willoughby sneered, but Gertrude giggled and took the flowers. Then she took my arm – and as we left the lounge like two teenagers off to the pictures, she whispered:
“I knew the glasses were on my head.”
by Louise Blessington
Mosquito whines, winds
up hunting dinner: red wine,
A rabbit, Warren,
confused, winds up in a hole
of his own making.
Christmas, Eve bakes an
apple tart, wonders what all
the fuss is about.
Boxing Day, packing
up the year’s regrets for next