Forest Unknown

I am most proud of who I used to be

and never more scared of who I am

becoming—all I can offer my past or

my future is disbelief, the promise

of pretty trees, and a love that skims

the surface only for fear of what lies

beneath

but the roots are strong, there is hope

of streams and cold mornings, a place

where the breeze finally touches the trees

and proves me wrong

where I will hear the wind change and

smile for it, cutting my hand on a severed

branch, a bloodletting, a scar

altering my path

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I Give Up To Summer

the cats have left claw marks

in my curtains, and when the sun

is high in the sky they cast pinholes

on my desk—nothing here is mine, and I don’t

have a cool place to sit this time of day, but

I think that’s okay, I think I will stay put

and let the sun scold me

with odd, lived-in patterns.

Home

“I was young. All old men are young—they are seven, and twenty-three, and seventy-eight all at once. Standing at the peak of that hill, I was ten. Double digits were new to me, and I was wearing them in like new sneakers.

‘Yew!’

I took off, soaring past my friends still struggling their way to the top. They would have watched me as I passed, feeling the whoosh of the air as I went, my calls becoming distant as I disappeared into the tree line. They would have remembered how that stream of cool air feels on a shiny face and pushed forward, knowing the climb would be worth it.

‘Yew!’ I yelled, so my friends nearing the top of the hill could hear me.

A seagull had perched on the bow of Captain’s dinghy to watch him eat his breakfast. It was early morning on International Waters, and the Great Garbage Patch swayed as the town slept. The houses had been salvaged from the mess left over, from tarp and tin, and they moved with the wind and the currents. Storm clouds sat on the flat line of the horizon, waiting.

Captain sat in his ship, a carved-out stream twisting through the mess ahead of him. They used the stream for transport between towns, because now there were towns—dozens and dozens of them spread across the sea. Some he could see, and others he didn’t want to see. The morning mist covered them all, sometimes hanging around until late afternoon, when neighbours turned into strangers, and the children started to cough.

The seagull on the bow squawked.

“Cap!” a boy yelled from a nearby house. It was Opa. Captain waved in the boy’s direction but didn’t break eye contact with the bird.  The gull’s eyes were round and yellow, with pinpricks of black at the centre. It closed them in a flash, unaware of the game. Captain only chuckled, handing it the last corner of his sandwich.

“Cap!”

Opa clambered to a stop beside the boat, and when he noticed the small seagull perched at the end of the ship he bent down to pet it. The bird clamped down on the bread in its red beak, its head dipping under the boys touch.

“My parents need more samples of the water today, Captain.”

“To save the world?”

“Yessir.”

The boy stood to attention. He was a scrawny kid with shaggy hair, prominent ears, and a brown face scattered with sun-born freckles splayed like wings over his nose and cheeks. He stood straight as a poll until Captain nodded, and he relaxed into his usual slump. He scooped the seagull into his arms so that its yellow feet dangled out from under his elbow. The bird was perturbed but not particularly surprised.

Opa caught sight of something and froze.

A group of kids was approaching. Ruth, with her frayed pigtails, was at the head of it. The others swarmed behind her like little birds in a V formation, all in the same weathered and mismatched clothing. Opa threw the seagull from his arms and it flapped in a panic, landing behind Captain, puffed up to double its size.

“Oi,” Ruth yelped. She stopped in front of Opa and the others followed her lead, their skinny arms crossed over their chests, their noses in the air.

“You aren’t supposed to touch the birds,” she said.

“Yeah,” said a boy at the back.

“Yeah,” said the girl flanking her right.

“They’re diseased,” Ruth said.

“Yeah.”

“Yeah. They’re gross.”

“Shush Ellen,” Ruth said. She turned to Opa. “They aren’t pets.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

“They sure act like ‘em,” Opa said.

Captain smiled.

“Hey!” Ruth barked, her cheeks red. Opa shrunk behind her, cautious of getting caught in the crossfire. She looked down her nose at Captain until he frowned.

“Are you ready?”

He nodded, and with a wave of Ruth’s hand they moved into action, swarming around the ship.

“Ready?” Ruth said.

“Ready.” Opa said.

They felt for their footing in the rubbish. The stream was narrow and difficult to navigate because the waves didn’t always agree with the path the towns had made. It was too neat, and the ocean wanted chaos. So, as a well-wish and a routine, it had become tradition to launch Captain on his voyage. In the beginning it was about exploration, because a home never felt like a home until he had found its hideaways, its nooks and crannies, the spaces that made it a worthwhile place to be. Now it was about being in motion, and collecting whatever he could salvage, because sitting still made him older.

The kids shouted as they made their way downstream.

“How’s it down there, Cap?”

“Ellen, keep up!”

It was the towns wake up call. Parents poked their heads through windows, bed hair drifting in the cool morning breeze.

He didn’t look back as the boat picked up speed. He looked to the sun. When they let him go, the kids cupped their hands over their eyes, but he was just an outline: an old man and his boat. So then they scooped their hands around their mouths and hollered.

“Don’t forget the water,” Opa called out.

“To save the world,” Captain said to himself, saluting the sun.

Continue reading “Home”

A Second Chance

I put all my hope in

a good hair day, bending over

the bathroom sink on second thought

having misjudged the distance

I could go without shampoo, I don’t

go as far as to condition at

midnight in case I alarm the house

and I don’t go as far as to cut

a bob, which promises just one night

of wonder and many mornings of

regret, all I want is to be clean

which is close enough to being new

—dark wet hair, a pale face at night

Tempe Tip

All The Best episode #1843 Buried History

A garbage tip once engulfed a Sydney suburb that is now transformed. But there are still remnants of the past — buried beneath walking tracks and ponds. Now an oasis close to the city, Tempe residents still remember their time at the tip.

With help from Evana Ho and Allison Chan

Pictured: Laurel as a child sitting a table and chair set made out of wood from the tip

Music: ‘Adventure Island (Theme)’, ‘Adventures of Superman (Theme)’

Almost Done

I’m three pages out from finishing my current journal, and the last time I graced the miscellaneous section of this blog I was finishing the one before that. I’m accumulating an impressive pile of unassuming, plain black notebooks on my bedside table–so many that they will have to be moved somewhere else eventually. It’s impractical. I remember seeing a video of Tavi Gevinson locking hers away in a safe, which is exactly how dramatic I would like to be one day about the importance of my words.

I’m not sure who I’m writing for anymore, if I’m honest, apart from myself. But when I get close to the end of a journal I get so excited to start another one. I’ve already mentioned that I start them with quotes (2015-17 was Kurt Vonnegut, 2017-18 was Tavi) because I like to take a guess at an epigraph. In novels these are usually done afterwards, or at least during. Starting a new era of my life by taking a chance, guessing those words might mean something to me in the future, is hopeful. It assumes a future that doesn’t always seem so sure. This time around, it’s George Saunders: “There’s a moment of truth where you let everything you actually are to the table. And you may not even know what that is, and often I think you don’t even like it. But the stuff that you maybe unconsciously have been trying to keep out of the conversation is the stuff that saves you–if you’re brave enough to let it in.”

In a lot of ways I feel like I’m back where I started. I’ve neglected writing because I’ve been tired, and sometimes doing this is sadder for me than not doing it, because I remember how good it makes me feel and I kick myself for not making the time. Making the time isn’t even a strong enough phrase. Fighting for the time, or tearing back the time, or raging against the night, losing sleep, crying, screaming, going hungry for the time. However, I am doing something. I’m cycling through eras, bridging several volumes of scrappy journals, a lot of the time so tired that it’s visible in my script. And I’m nagging myself more and more, because I’ll be turning 23 next year, and 24 after that, and no matter how hard I try to pull the brakes through all this documenting, it isn’t going any slower.

I have become that person who wishes something so hard that they expend all their energy on the wishing, rather than the doing. There’s a reason I write so many god damn poems about sleeping.

sit alone and watch your light

falling asleep, thinking of how the world slipped through

my fingers—how I was unable to hold it tight to my chest

the way I’ve been practising this night and every night

spent curled tight until my knees are so close to my nose

so close they might just touch when I cringe, thinking of the

failures and embarrassments that I now have to carry with me

when I walk out into the world and when I close my eyes.

and I do this instinctively until one day I try to recall something

different before I rest—different, private, a memory shy of the world

but booming: dancing to Queen knowing the downstairs neighbours

aren’t home, making a ruckus to the voice of Freddie Mercury, and

it’s a calamity, this memory I’m making and remaking in my bed

the kindest of things I subject myself to…