The Medicine Cabinet

Her grey hair floated on the still water, twisting from roots to tendrils and dancing towards the rocks. Her navy blouse was dark and heavy with water, pressing against her stomach and weighing her down. Water lapped at her sneakers, but above her were green leaves and a sunrise peeking through the foliage.


She looked for her husband and there he was, blinking at her from the inside of a tree, his cheeks shining under a bathroom light. She could see parts of him—his face, his neck, his shoulders, the leather pilot’s jacket he’d insisted on wearing. Not the rest of him—the shiny shoes he only ever pulled out for mourning, his pressed pants.

He watched her through the medicine cabinet in their bathroom, where there was an ordinary basin and toothbrushes, a bath. A plastic stool in the shower, a metal railing beside the toilet seat. But on her end of the medicine cabinet there was a forest.

“How’d you get in there?” he said. “I’ve been looking for you.”

“George.” She smiled at him, only to turn back to the trees swooping overhead.

“I was looking for the Antivert,” he said. “My heads gone funny.”

He poked his head through the medicine cabinet to scan the grass beneath. An assortment of tubs and boxes were scattered over the ground, each one medicine-white and glistening with dew.

“Is it by the toadstool?”

“No,” he said.

Continue reading “The Medicine Cabinet”

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


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


“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.


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.


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?”


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. They’re gross.”

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



“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”


it’s all about scale, climb and rest and climb again,

just to turn around and see the scale

the hills, more than hills, when you grow up without them.

now they are heights to climb—can’t see Perth this way

without a light plane and a pilot’s license

who knew the clouds cast shadows that wide, or that from afar

the Earth crawls with life, all of us ants on an apple

—you knew, you all knew—

but no one told me, not in those words

there is a kangaroo at the top of Mt Taylor, staring,

so seamlessly tucked into the bush I barely notice him

until he snarls

looks at me, knows I don’t belong,

but I want to stay with the sky a little longer, push my luck,

waste my time. is there something over the peak?

down in the scrub? anything beyond those hills?

double check, triple check.

I leave him be, standing on the edge of the field in the brush

and I do what I’m told to do, Take It All In, think up something worthwhile,

because nature has a tax, nature makes you think, nature gives you ideas,

nature gives you stillness, a chance—

meadows look better far away, and so do cities,

unless you find the flowers,

for which you have to look close, quick! there!


Lover Lover

I say I like honesty, I tell myself

I like honesty because

I keep making friends with lovers

with one-sided feelings


I know how those go, I am a girl

who lies on her bed in the daytime

earbuds in, staring into the middle-distance

watching a second life play out like

shadows on a sheet during a storm


I am a cautious person in life and

in imagination, knowing all too well

how the two fool around with one another

and at sixteen, how a thing between a boy

and me can turn my insides out


here I should admit, I am unlikely

and in all my state I attract people

who are all smiles and false impressions

who are my friends, my very best friends

until they admit otherwise


I can be bitter, even at my calmest

when I am told over the Internet

from age sixteen onwards, that I am loved

in a way I do not reciprocate

and that a relationship I thought

—dangerously—was equal, was not


I have lost too many people

to feelings felt, words unsaid for months

and months and months, amongst it all

I’m rarely spoken to in person

about feelings so personal

they ought to inspire intimacy


this is where I leave most, because

I haven’t been met with the chance

to share feelings, but instead have been stuck

receiving them, dealing with them

addressing them


if I am that girl for you, on the bed, daytime

through the blinds and eyes staring off

at something an arm’s length away

then you will know, because I will tell you



I Misheard You

For a long time I misunderstood the chorus of David Bowie’s song Changes – I misheard the lyric “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (Turn and face the strange)” for “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (Turn and face the strain)” and went on singing and dancing to it in my bedroom at 1AM, fully dressed and fully awake. And I LOVED that misheard lyric – it was about pushing myself out of my comfort zone, wading through mud to get to a better version of myself.

I noticed my mistake after Bowie died, when I pulled my headphones over my ears and listened to the song at full blast. I heard the “ge” and had a little pity party for my belated understanding. There was a physicality to that lyric that I mourned when I learned it wasn’t the right one. According to Google, strain means “to force (a part of one’s body or oneself) to make an unusually great effort” – that’s the type of motivation my masochistic, overworked brain likes to hear!

Continue reading “I Misheard You”