On performing gender

by Sandra Renew, Issue 4 editor

Welcome to Not Very Quiet Issue 4, Performing Gender. It has been exhilarating to read the 202 submissions to this issue (around 400 poems) from Australia and many other countries.

This issue is dedicated to Judith Butler whose philosophy and theorising about the complexity of gender performance was our inspiration for this collection of poetry.

Performance of gender is the struggle every one of us undertakes throughout our lives to ‘get it right’, to refuse and rebel against confining restraint, to present our conservative and radical selves to the different worlds we inhabit. Performance of gender is universal, lifelong, playful, serious, a life and death concern that, like the weather, is always already there. It demands our thoughtful engagement within the social and political structures of all households, communities and governments.

Selecting poems for this issue was extremely challenging and strongly debated by the editorial panel. We looked for ‘good’ poetry that moved us, that reflected widely and inclusively many possibilities of intersectional gender performance.

The poems selected use many poetic forms to engage directly with the choices made in living and performing gender, sexuality and desire. They give us fresh, new content and poetry that is memorable and thought-provoking, from perspectives reflecting class, race, gender identification, age and other social divisions.

I’d like to thank the other founding editor of Not Very Quiet, Moya Pacey, and Guest Editor for this Issue, K A Nelson, for their belief in Performing Gender as a substantial and provocative theme, and their enthusiasm for reading to find excellence through the blind selection process.

A new section for our journal showcases a poem from each of our editors, Sandra Renew, Moya Pacey, Anita Patel, Lisa Brockwell and K A Nelson, demonstrating their different relationships to the theme.

A very special thank you to Production Manager Tikka Wilson, whose new section, a photo-essay on performing the feminine, has contributed hugely to making this exciting Performing Gender theme accessible.

I am just a girl

Pissy and smoking a cigarette walking down Troy Avenue in my stomping boots.
Dead-broke shouting at the ATM on Lincoln Place, crushing my bare foot outside
The worst bank in all of Brooklyn. I am small.
You can find me too proud to ask for help
Clothes pooling at my feet in front of a near stranger. Dinners of white wine
All my writing shoved into a heavy manila envelope.
Hanging with the big dogs, thick whiskey and fish eyes
Dice game on a piece of cardboard, working all the time.
Look at me, losing my lighter to an old friend
Pissing between cars
Addicted to smoke and neon. I can talk trash with the best of them.
I am not afraid of death. I am not afraid of walking home at three in the morning.

Joanna Acevedo

 

Joanna Acevedo is a writer living and working in New York City. Her work includes ‘What Do You Know About One Night Stands’ (Seventh Wave Magazine), ‘Indianapolis’ (Rigorous Magazine) and ‘Pigeon Apocalypse’ (Flying Island Literary Journal).

© 2019

Weed Garden

Every morning I oil up
in ribbons and mask

enacted as dance in the garden
watering can waving

a patch of weeds left to grow tall
Chickweed, Queen Anne’s Lace, Sorrel

unadorned, fed with defiance
self-seeded, leaning towards light

bite down the envy, spin and spin
until I’m too dizzy to speak

stifled to meekness, this private
performance made public

inside spent and made up
a picture of compliance

tomorrow I will wake and walk and walk
not stop until I’ve left the farm

lost my body with all its false softness
broken to sinuous fibre
too tough to digest

Magdalena Ball

 

Magdalena Ball is Managing Editor of Compulsive Reader. She is the author of several novels and poetry books, most recently, High Wire Press (Flying Island Press 2018). She has shortlisted in or won a number of literary prizes including the Queensland Poetry Festival Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Award and the Newcastle Poetry Prize.

© 2019

Variations on Women Inside an MRT Car

From one terminal to the next, they cannot be touched;
city regulations cordon off these landlocked sprites.
A burst of jasmine scent and tinkling of sun-bleached shells
abound in this section. When a station guard sees them,
he feels dizzy; his soul is unhinged.
These women thrive in their fragrance, in the slow jazz of their limbs.
Their grip warms steel handrails.
They birth dream words and spout nymph breath;
they bask in the day’s ashen dew and barter stories
with train-kin using their satin sleeves.
Their workbags are their chalices;
their coin purses their sewn poems.
They are baptized with names they carry only in this ride:
Landfall, Spark, Bavarian, Allergens, Thorough,
Arctic, Berries, Canopy, Meander.
No one is yet conjured by the
automated doors to bear the name, Trellis.
We wait.

Eve Beisinger

 

Note: MRT stands for Metro Rail Transit, a train line that traverses the Philippines’ EDSA, which is the capital’s busiest and most congested highway. One car in every line is reserved for women, children, and senior citizens. Here, they feel safe.

Eve Beisinger (née Gubat), born Filipina, is an aspiring poet and worked as a magazine writer, editor, and proofreader. Aside from her feature articles appearing in magazines, her poems saw print in Ateneo de Manila University’s Heights literary issues, in the literary magazines Philippine Graphic and Philippines Free Press, and in the following print/online anthologies: One Hundred Love Poems (U.P. Press 2004), In their Own Voice (Paper Monster Press,  2011), Quiet Shorts (Quiet 2012), {m}aganda (UC Berkeley 2012), Under the Storm (.MOV Int’l. Film, Music & Literature Festival 2011) and Brine Literary (The Pickling Poet 2018).

© 2019

The Last Alexandrian Mathematician

mathematical introduction to philosophy
includes understanding of the division of objects
to discrete and continuous

say, lions act separately, each at its own
the same for a philosopher finding a way
through inexplicable
whereas a mob is the whole body with a singular mind
provided the mob has mind and conscience

hence the division of mathematics into arithmetic
geometry, harmonia and spherica and discussion
of the significance of these subjects for the philosophy study

she taught Platonic philosophy in Alexandria
wrote commentaries to Diophantus and Apollonius
not a lion herself against early Christian martyrs
vice versa
in her name one can hear a hint for a horse:
hippo – Hypatia

arithmetic is the first of them all for it was conceived
by the demiurge as a cosmic model and exemplary design
for all things and sciences
creator relied to it to produce
and arrange everything else to perfection

perfect order and desire for scientific knowledge
was lost to her time
the library once famous for its collection
was desolated near to chaos
Hypatia worked in the only remaining
library at the Serapis temple

at the same time it is the last and the final
because not other science without arithmetic is possible
with its disappearance they all disappear
while it remains even after their loss

they came from nowhere
they came from rough desert
radicals and fanatics
led by a lector named Peter
called to the city by the bishop named Cyril
they thought her being a witch
huge number of them on one wise old woman

the objects mathematics studied
are ideal and at the same time material
because they are meditated in the ideal world
also existing real and forever in the material one

they pulled her out of a cartage
dragged her by a street to an old pagan temple
converted into a church
and murdered her violently
as if she was the greatest villain
as if they were shearing a sheep

the number is the ordered basis of everything
number one is the beginning, the root, seed and mother of all
numbers, odd and even, prime and compound, perfect, friendly
figured: triangular, polygonal, pyramidal, plane and in volume ones

her death shocked the empire
the last library was destroyed
philosophers turned away from the church
Alexandrian sciences finished there

ascending from perceived things to eternal and unchanging ideals
comprehensible only through reasoning
one climbs the stairs from the corporal feelings to high soul and mind
the rational part of the soul instructs its unreasonable part
binds straight impulses and attracts the soul to the eternal identity
this is the goal and virtue for a rational man
and a woman

Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya

 

Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya was born in former Soviet Union and moved to Australia in 2002. She is an author of a great number of publications in Russian. Her texts in English appeared in The POEM; Rochford Street Review, The Esthetic Apostle, Cagibi, etc. Tatiana is also an exhibiting visual artist.

© 2019

Another dream

Michelle Brock

 

Michelle Brock is a Canberra poet and short story writer. She is a member of the Limestone Tanka Poets and her tanka, tanka prose and haiga appear regularly in Australian and overseas journals and numerous anthologies. Her recent publications include Ebb and Flow (an anthology by Friday Writers 2018) and Dissolving (with Gerry Jacobson 2018).

© 2019

In Which the Poet Inhabits Her Fears and Desires

Sometimes she did not know what she feared, what she desired. – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Dandelion stems are braided into my hair, here. I am naked on a chaise of moss near a creek. The fawn beside me gnaws her spotted coat into place—no, I am dressed in cornhusk and flax silk in a leaf-littered field, overlooked by a bridge where steam engines rumble, hauling tons of smudged stones, casting shadows and gravel over the air above my exposed body.

I am reading and rereading Anna Karenina. The grass prickles. Its ticks and weevils kiss my feet and fete my wrists. I turn the page.

A distant engine remains distant until I feel its aim. I am here, alone in this field, until her body arrives next to mine. Her petticoats slow the descent in the way air cradles a sheet of paper to the floor. Anna Karenina undresses down to her parchment skin.

Anna opens a book to the chapter in which Kait Burrier is sitting inside a screened-in porch.

Kait looks out over one-hundred acres of farmland, then at her phone, combing through phrases: tick and bite, chance and survival, risk and protect. She finds a pair of page-white socks and sprays repellant from sole to knee.

A clumsy ladybug thwacks into the locked door. She bristles. Again: knee to sole.

A train approaches. Anna lets it blow open a new chapter.

Kait backs up from the platform’s yellow ledge. She tenses at the click of a track, the sight of lights in a tunnel. A tender thunder calls throughout the station, cautioning. Or is it an invitation?

Anna and I strip the blanched tongues of daisies down to their golden nipples and toss aside loves-me-nots.

We save the good petals for each other.
I dress her in loves-mes.

Anna licks a finger, turns a page.

Kait’s young thumbs polish a bouquet of pressed pennies that her mother harvested from train tracks as a kid. Kait quiets the stretched faces of dead men on the coins. Her mother whispers: make a wish.

Anna reaches for a flower from the patch that has sprouted next to my rosy thigh. She does not check its petals for insects. Anna tucks the plucked body into the binding of my story. A frond is caught on the raised ink of the words train and track. She closes the book. Her eyelids relax.

She does not tell me the ending. We do not search each other for poppy-seed black, burrowing freckles, for white larval interlopers, for thick, brown buttons that bury and plant disease in the meadows of flesh. A train approaches. We do not flinch.

We read.

Kait Burrier

 

Kait Burrier writes poetry, reviews and to-do lists. She curated and hosted Union Square Slam, wrote as artist in residence at Lemons Brook Farm, and holds a M.F.A. from Wilkes University, where she received the 2013 Wilkes-Etruscan Press prize. You can find her poetry online and in print.

© 2019

Baby Alive

a paper bag of cereal
for my 1975 Baby Alive
spills across Mrs Sullivan’s
new Mercedes Benz upholstery
her rear-view mirror scold
burns through me

‘Naughty Baby Alive !!!!!’ I cry

Tammy Sullivan next to me
smiles a small smile
in empathy
of mess makers

Baby Alive speeds
down our backyard
makeshift flying fox

Baby Alive screams ( I scream )
as she falls fast into bindii filled grass
limbs intact
Baby Alive

survives

Baby Alive neglected
left inside
exchanged for tiny skink lizards
warm and smooth on skin
and wild swings
on rusted fire cables
down valley cliffs
to river bank hideouts
and squelching mud

Dead Baby Alive
no new batteries
a cupboard relic of the girl
who preferred
the scent of wild fennel

Robyn Cairns

 

Note: ‘Baby Alive’ was a doll introduced by Kenner in 1973 and later reintroduced by Hasbro in 2006. It was battery operated and could eat, drink and wet. Mine had a movable mouth.

Robyn Cairns is a Melbourne poet who writes many forms of poetry including; Modern English haiku, haiga, senryu, tanka, haibun and free verse. Robyn’s short form poetry has been published in Australian and overseas poetry journals and she has had two chapbooks published by Ginninderra Press: In Transit (2016) and The Drifting (2016).

© 2019

All models slashed

This woman has 6 airbags fitted for your protection. This Stunning New
2019 Woman 4×4 double cab has air conditioning, making those summer
drives a breeze. Looking for a family woman that will accommodate every
member? Look no further than this 2019 woman. This woman has been
designed to cater for all kinds of trips. With voice recognition and hill
holder, this woman has rear grab handles and a rear vision camera. This
woman has cargo tie down hooks. Park assist will give you that peace of
mind. She has brake assist and rollover stability control. This woman has
a storage compartment in her centre console. She is spirited in
performance and features. She is an impressive workman style vehicle.

Monica Carroll

 

Monica Carroll used to hold the hose for the concrete mixer but now she writes. She is author of I Wrote This Book for You (Dark Cave Press 2018). And the creepy poetic work Isolator (Recent Work Press 2017). She writes hard and clear at monica-carroll.com. Her reviews and essays are listed on monicacarroll.com.au.

© 2019

Watching My Mother Love

She fed you
cleaned the dirt from your feet
ignored the voice too high to be Dale’s
coming from the garage.
Mealtime sorrys were spooned
on your plate.
Upstairs her shrine of dolls
porcelain & curled
stand watch over the railing
each petticoated dress pressed
perfect
each quilt draping heavy
on its wooden ladder.
Her vanity holds a mirror
to magnify every pore
show every line & hair
she sits for hours
plucking.

Harley Anastasia Chapman

 

Harley Anastasia Chapman is a poet and artist working toward her MFA at Columbia College Chicago. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Euphemism, Storyscape Journal and Columbia Poetry Review.

© 2019

Two stroke (or more)

So I’m watching Judith Butler on YouTube,
talking about gender and performance,
and an ad for power tools come up
somewhere across the middle of her,
and I think why does Google analytics
(or whoever) think I am interested
in power tools, notably chainsaws?
I have never wielded a chainsaw,
never even mowed the lawn (swoon),
although I have arranged many a gnome,
stuck flamingos in the grassy sward
like candles into green-iced cakes,

but,

perhaps because I often Google cars,
and muscle cars at that, the harvestbots
assume that I am male, and therefore,
must have an abiding interest in the tools
they hung like a noisy garland around Judith Butler?
By this stage I have totally missed
whatever it was she has been talking about.
So I will watch her clip again, responsibly.
Next time will there be chainsaws?
Or perhaps three inch stiletto heels,
sharp as the spikes on which lawn-birds
spend their pink-flocked flightless days.

PS Cottier

 

PS Cottier is a poet who lives in Canberra, who knows nothing of the internal combustion engine, but loves her car. Also her canaries.

© 2019

Bald Hill

Her mother’s weighty Ladies Handbook of Home Treatment
always opened at the same page; a female, pregnant
and nude showing layer upon layer of internal organs fitting

neatly behind the ribcage. The flaps were lifted and refolded
countless times. She devised a devious method of climbing
cushions and books in the dark to remove and replace

the volume because her childhood pilgrimage required torchlight
and absolute privacy; a bated breath, singular encounter
mysterious and thrilling, connected with later struggles

at daybreak, attacking an arduous track to stand in long grass
and leaf litter, fathoming relationships on headstones, the brief
time-gap of burials, and reasons for placement on the western side

of the hillcrest, as if the interred could appreciate panoramic views
at sunset. Why were the graves untouched by the earthquake
yet ravaged by aftershocks? Reports claimed tinkles followed

an almighty boom as graves, no longer intact, tumbled down
the hillside. With the natural order upset there were traces of subsoil
topsoil, humus, bedrock and weathered fragments. Some locals

believed trees at the base of the hill possessed satanic power
drawing remains of corpses and coffins down through rabbit burrows
sewer pipes, aquifers and conglomerate into the root systems

of mighty Moreton Bay Figs. Whatever space a tree’s canopy covers
a similar amount or greater, is taken by the roots. Ancient trees
have anchors, twisted and interlocked as arthritic fingers in prayer.

Just as brain neurones zip and cavort, a party occurs at the base of trees.
Imagine the zesty frivolity underground as millions of microbes
jest and gossip to connect with mates, faraway in the forest.

Jan Dean

 

Jan Dean, a former visual arts teacher, lives in a suburb of Lake Macquarie. In 2018 she was awarded life membership of Poetry at the Pub, Newcastle. She has a distinguished service award from the Fellowship of Australian Writers, NSW.

© 2019

Secret, Safe

I don’t wear make-up
But I do wear a mask.
A pleasant smile,
Polite expressions
Of agreement
Keep me secret,
Keep me safe.

JL Dunkley

 

JL Dunkley is an unpublished writer from Canberra ACT, who has been writing her whole life. It’s taken over 30 years to get brave and she is now submitting her work for consideration by total strangers who will be judging it’s quality. She’s o.k with that now.

© 2019

called up

 

Anne Elvey

 

Anne Elvey is author of White on White (Cordite Books 2018), Kin (Five Islands Press 2014) and This Flesh That You Know (Leaf Press 2015), and with Massimo D’Arcangelo and Helen Moore co-author of Intatto-Intact (La Vita Felice 2017). She is editor of hope for whole: poets speak up to Adani (Rosslyn Avenue Productions 2018), and managing editor of Plumwood Mountain: An Australian Journal of Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics.

© 2019

My Mother’s Necklace

Amethyst fell
from my mother’ s throat—
her birthstone, scattered
in the garden. She’d never
counted her mauve worlds,
couldn’t tell if she’d restrung
the frail balance around her neck.

One bead hides in her garden—
observes how the iris
resembles sculpted hair.

Alone and unthreaded,
it calibrates those soft explosions—
jacaranda
jacaranda
jacaranda

Each naked blossom
like a girl snug in her doona—
before she doubted
the properties of mauve.

Susan Fealy

 

Susan Fealy is a Melbourne-based poet and clinical psychologist. Her first collection, Flute of Milk (UWAP) won the 2017 Wesley Michel Wright Prize, the 2018 NSW Society of Women Writers Book Award (Poetry) and shortlisted for the 2018 Mary Gilmore Award.

© 2019

Boy Shoes

By the time I splashed along a creek among the pollywogs and muck
Cigar box stuffed with dead stink bugs tucked under my arm
Lizard in my hand on its back while I stroked its dragon silk belly
While I whittled and gutted trout with my jack knife
I liked being a Tomboy

My older sister was a girl
Would sit in front of her pink plastic vanity
Smile at her reflection in the shiny aluminum stick-on mirror
She tried to teach me to bat my eyes and wink coyly
To become the kind of woman a man would want to fill with babies
It pained my face, put sand in my eyes

Before I sprouted boobs, my friend and I dressed up in glamorous clothes
Green eye shadow smeared clear to my brows
False eye lashes glued to each lid, fake fur tickling my chin
As I swayed from side-to-side to mimic the sexy hip rocking
That real girls make look effortless
My leather mini skirt barely held its place on my plank body
Arms stiff, lightly raised from my sides
Outriggers to keep me from capsizing
I hobbled the mile to Telegraph Avenue in stiletto black pumps
My feet ached, but I felt like a real woman, sexy and beguiling
Outside the Cafe Med we sipped our cappuccinos
Stuck out our pinky fingers as we lifted the cups
Paused mid-sip, so everyone could admire our beauty
How we were things to gaze upon, to desire

A drifter looked at me slowly from head to toe and back again
He smiled
My poofed-up wig itched my head, but I liked the way it softened my square jaw
I felt as female as I’d ever felt

‘You look like a drag queen’, he said

Sometimes it only takes one sentence to kill a fantasy

In high school, I studied how to be a girl
Hung around the bathroom, chattered about boys
Pretended I had cramps
No matter what I did I was a natural at being a boy
Was cast in male parts for plays
The old Chinese servant man in The Dragon Lady’s Revenge
Fleance in Macbeth, young boy who survives by running away
My girl-tits bound in bandages for every show

I gave up on the theatre after that

I can still hear Banquo yelling
‘Fly, good Fleance fly, fly, fly!’
And the sound of my boy shoes
Slapping against stone

Rebecca Fish Ewan

 

Rebecca Fish Ewan is a poet/cartoonist/founder of Plankton Press. Her work appears in After the Art, Brevity, Crab Fat, Hip Mama, Mutha, TNB, Punctuate and Under the Gum Tree. A zinester who teaches landscape design at Arizona State University. Her publications include two books and chapbook: A Land Between, By the Forces of Gravity and Water Marks.

© 2019

A terrain I recall

I can’t help but study her
deep fissures in the crags
of her heels, rough terrain.

Have you ever come across
someone whose shape echoes
some forgotten landscape?

The weave of her sandals
cuts across those cliffs
like a badly made fence
cuts across, strange
dusty feet
so hard
for one
so soft
in nature.

Anna Forsyth

 

Anna Forsyth is a poet and editor from New Zealand currently living in Newcastle, NSW. She is the founder of Girls on Key, a feminist poetry organisation and her work has appeared in numerous journals online and in print. Her latest collection of poetry is entitled Beatific Toast (Girls on Key Press 2018).

© 2019

Boyhood is Girlhood is Boyhood is Girl

On the yearly Gangday
they laid out property lines with stones
in the broken grass of Bohemia.
At every boundary they would beat three small boys
because when you are beaten
over nothing
you remember it the rest of your life.
When there were arguments over property lines
years later, like they counted on
they would bring in one of the beaten boys
as a witness.
He would remember where the stone lay
that held his boyhood blood,
they could all get back to owning
what they owned.

Mo Fowler

 

Mo Fowler works as a lumberjack and cleaning supplies saleswoman in Chicago, where the oil in her car is low but her stock of scented markers is not. Her work has been featured in Words Dance (2015), Zone 3 (2018), Motley Mag (2018) and Sinister Wisdom (forthcoming).

© 2019

One Doll Less

I waded out past
small waves repeating

instructions
released the doll

in its straw-hat boat
into a heft

of blueness
Over my shoulder

there were only
low slung caravans

beyond a fallen tree
deep rust lines

of weed
at slight diagonals

on the beach
of dark caramel

I was to wear the hat:
I was to love the doll

But dolls
were dead to me –

cold skin
and mirrors for eyes –

I made sure the end
was gentle

but I was still judged
harshly

Jane Frank

 

Jane Frank lives and writes in Brisbane. Her poems have recently appeared in Stilts Journal, Takahē and the Heroines anthology (Neo Perennial Press 2018) and are forthcoming in Antipodes and Forty Voices Strong (Wisconsin-Whitewater University Press). She teaches in Creative Industries at Griffith University.

© 2019

Woman Quits Femininity

She is hanging up her mask,
colourful as it is,
they say “easy on the eye”.
Let the glances fall where they may,
they won’t touch her.

She is taking off her heels.
No, they won’t make her
reach the stars, no more
tiptoeing through life.
Time to put her foot down,
stand her ground.

She is throwing out her razor,
it’s no longer appealing
to throw out time and money. Instead
she will sharpen her tongue
to cut off opinions not called for.

She is stepping off the scales –
they can’t measure up to her.
She will feed her hunger,
no need to deny herself
humanity.

Irina Frolova

 

Irina Frolova is a Russian-born Australian poet who lives in Lake Macquarie with her three human and two feline children. Irina’s poetry is intercultural, feminist and largely auto-biographical. Her writing explores human psychology, cultural identity, womanhood, relationships and connection to nature.

© 2019

The Politics of Tango

He keeps her leaning in.
Too close
for comfort?

He will lead
her backwards
on her toes.

He reserves the right to change
everything: direction, weight
from one foot to the other.

He will step
into her space –
the sacada.

Forward ocho, back ocho:
feet trace a symbol of infinity
of her attunement,

body twists, focused
on him, the centre
of their gravity.

A flutter of stilettos –
ethereal, never meant for standing
on her own.

Irina Frolova

 

Irina Frolova is a Russian-born Australian poet who lives in Lake Macquarie with her three human and two feline children. Irina’s poetry is intercultural, feminist and largely auto-biographical. Her writing explores human psychology, cultural identity, womanhood, relationships and connection to nature.

© 2019

The Gioconda Smile of Betty Crocker

She never had to pick up
a dead field mouse with the palm of her hand.
She never had to deal with her cat
bringing in a dead bird in its mouth.
She never dealt with bedbugs,
bitter people who didn’t get what they wanted from life.
She never had to deal with people who told her
if you listened to me, everything will be okay.
She never had to worry about doctor’s appointments,
wondering if her insurance will be cut off
or hoarding medication just in case.

She dealt with glasses of Tang,
women who wanted Tiffany Boxes,
making butterbeans on the stove.
She gave children sour apple lollipops
but warned them ahead of time they might not like the taste.
She never scampered off to a job she hated
never had mud flung on her calves on a rainy morning
or had her hair mussed up.
She had the Gioconda smile of a woman who never knew a bad day
when it was always 75 degrees and sunny outside
never burned a meal
and cakes always turned out perfect.

Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons

 

Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons has been published in Salon, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Stereo Embers, The Billfold and Bird’s Thumb. A recent MFA graduate from Vermont College of Fine Arts, she lives in Central California and is working on a memoir.

© 2019

Eggshells

I imagine the egg shells of my childhood
stacked carefully one on top of the other
in a room with doors as tall as a quarter.
The little witches bustle to and fro.

There must be a control room
with maps of every ocean lining
the walls, the floors, the ceilings.
A cockpit for a tiny band

of exiled, mocked, and troublemaking
women-sprites. And all the eggshells
that I never broke will spell
the end for countless ships

and boats and even rafts —
if floating now, these masterminds
could sink it. Using toothpicks
for their paddles, a fleet approaches.

The captain cannot see them coming.
The first mate feels a lurch, the cargo
swings across the hold, starboard bound.
“A leak! A leak! We’ve sprung a leak!”

All chaos, all confusion, men like rats and beetles
scurry up on deck, hold each other and the mast,
spray splashes sailors as they shimmy up the rigging
eyeglass clutched to chest — what rock, what iceberg?

No red sky greeted them that morning,
no soul dared whistle at the wind,
no woman hid in breeches.
They were so careful, so considerate.

Rescue crews are baffled by the wreck.
Above the ship, now many leagues below,
a perfect round of eggshells floats,
each halved, unbroken.

Zoe Guttenplan

 

Zoe Guttenplan lives between New York and Vermont. Her work has appeared in BlazeVOX17, Ratrock Magazine, 10011 Magazine Online, Remembered Arts Journal, Bombus Press, and Feels Zine: Anger. She is the recipient of a SELEF prize for poetry.

© 2019

Intruder

Today there’s a newcomer to the aqua-robics class. She’s edging into the coveted front line. Into somebody else’s prime real estate. Outrageous. Furthermore, the new woman is wearing a shower cap! One of those disposable handouts from a motel bathroom. Can you imagine it? The rightful owner looks at other front liners with eyes raised to heaven. Her supporters do the same. It’s a harrowing business. Hard to concentrate on exercise when there’s a trespasser in the midst.

Blissfully unaware of her misdemeanour, the intruder is having a great time. She’s a strong, blonde woman with an angular face. Eyebrows that haven’t been plucked properly. Legs betraying many shaves. She’s splashing and smiling at everybody. Her face is filled with light.

dusk settles ―
high in the treetops
no perches left

Hazel Hall

 

Hazel Hall is a Canberra poet and musicologist She has published haiku, tanka and free verse in a number of Australian and overseas journals and anthologies. Her latest collections are Eggshell Sky (2017), Step By Step with Angelina Egan (2018), Moonlight over the Siding (2018) and You are Her Words with Karen Bailey (2019).

© 2019

Letter to a Bride to Be

Thank you for sharing with me the newest (yet quite retro) issue of Vogue Bridal
Patterns. I love that off-white shot silk you brought back from your travels and think it
would suit your complexion perfectly. It looks much better than the Nora white organza.
It’s also a tribute to your integrity and I hope I’m not reading too much into your choice of
colour. But before you start making the dress, I urge you to indulge in a little intertextual
journey around your maiden room, if I may say so, for I’m not sure you know on what
galère you are embarking. Mark my words. I don’t mean gondola, or anything romantic,
but galley, a low, flat ship with one or more sails (glad you opted for a visor instead of a
veil) and up to three banks of oars worked by slaves. First, as an artist, you must re-read
Tennyson’s ‘The Lady of Shalott’ against the grain. Then turn to Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘The
Gentleman of Shalott’ and Jessica Anderson’s Tirra Lirra by the River. I studied both in
year twelve (wish I’d paid more attention). Finally, and this may surprise you, especially
coming from me, read Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House, a work your father drew on to devise
our home. Deep down, I now think Ibsen understood the difference between need and
desire; desire and love; love and lust. Your father would disagree, of course, but I would
maintain that Ibsen was really a proto-feminist writer. Wink. One last thing: beware of
identifications. With two (anti)heroines bearing your Christian name, you wouldn’t want to
become unduly hystericised. Much love. X

Dominique Hecq

 

Dominique Hecq is a bilingual poet, fiction writer and scholar. She grew up in the French-speaking part of Belgium and now lives in Melbourne. Her poetry appears in English, French, Dutch, Spanish and Chinese in literary magazines and anthologies. Often experimental, her writing explores love, loss, exile, and the possibilities of language.

© 2019

Shaq Shoes

I saw them
and I knew—
mine
my shoes
they looked like me
(the me I knew)
mine
Shaq shoes
black
white
stripes with blends
between the two
for boys!
others seemed to know
for me.
i knew (inside)
my mouth
stayed silent still
lips in line
as i climbed
to hide atop
monkey bars outside.
i wanted to
look down
to see my shoes
dangling
beautifully
but underneath
they huddled. loud.
for boys!
not girls
like you.

Kaity Johnson

 

Kaity Johnson is a writer and activist living in Atlanta, Georgia. When she’s not busy attempting to raise her two daughters into kind human beings, she’s usually downing coffee or obsessing over trees somewhere outside.

© 2019

Where We Go

C’mon, let’s go with our attention depending,
with the ardour of late afternoon’s pink horizon,
its cloud tendril, bird scrawl, and our questing
attachments – ‘there is such beauty’ – but
it’s the ‘such’ that contains a caution about
our exhausted hair or souls or the still sanguine way
we negotiate September’s impatient buds
along the terraces, and our way through
another discussion at a corner, all the busy figures with
swathed loads and tenacity, what choices – a stop/go giggle
or something serious about the quickening splendour
of the road, its corrugations shining, a place indeed
for a hungry soul, or at least destiny full of flare,
where wires hover, machines quiver as if they know
who really owned all of this here, it’s not for you and I,
not even the late shit rolling across the path, plastic
shit with purpose – there was a cost, we missed it –
the tentacles of the program spiral from the mall,
from the phones, ‘it all seems so smooth’, you say,
and what can I reply, what can I gesture at
that’s not the same lie as memory, that’s now in
the program, you say ‘see, even the dresses
watch us, demand something from our bodies’
but I don’t follow your eyes there, I take your hand,
‘c’mon’, I want to say, we can hitch onto a vision
outside the city’s halls, past the parks, the river curves,
past the future to somewhere a bit like this as if
it’s actually intense, routine and baffling like that place
where we go everyday. C’mon, let’s find such
beauty among our bodies and common splendour.
Jill Jones

 

Jill Jones has published eleven books of poetry, and a number of chapbooks. Recent books include Viva the Real (UQP 2018), Brink (Five Islands 2017) and The Beautiful Anxiety (Puncher & Wattmann 2014), which won the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry. She is co-publisher, with Alison Flett, of Little Windows Press.

© 2019

her

you had stubble in
my dream

I couldn’t see it and only
when you took
my hand and placed it
on your cheek could I feel
the prickles and see the
golden hairs

it was grafted on
you said
your words made it so

my hand brushed the
spiky bristles and then
your breast and I
imagined

kissing

you

still an abstraction
even in dreams

Sophie Juratowitch

 

Sophie Juratowitch is a social worker. She is interested in feminism, social justice issues and anything written on a page. She lives in Melbourne, Australia.

© 2019

Superwoman

I always dreamed of
saving my dear ones by
being there on time

just to get over the nightmare
of admitting my baby in the ICU
after a rickety rickshaw
ride into the darkest night
in the hills.

In my to-do list,
I still have to learn
using a first-aid kit,
administer a CPR,
and save a few people

– from strokes.

Now that the two men I loved
died without even giving a hint,
(one died without any struggle,
another, face down on his quilt
with a big bump on his head)
I am spared a night-drive,
a CPR, and perhaps, vomiting.

When you understand that
things cannot work the way they do
in movies, you will witness death
as an angel plastered on church walls
in a half-orgasmic, half-grievous face
of Pieta,
and perhaps,
that’s not even the kind
of expression a super woman
should wear.

Babitha Marina Justin

 

Babitha Marina Justin is from Kerala, South India. Her poems have appeared in Eclectica, Fulcrum, The Scriblerus, Inlandia, Constellations and many other journals. Her first collection of poetry, Of Fireflies, Guns and the Hills was published in 2015. Her first novel, Maria’s Swamp: The Bigness of Small Lies, will be published in April 2019.

© 2019

As the World Turns

The morning after her honeymoon,
she grimaced into her Playtex girdle,
heaving and wincing
into the dingy polyester.

Six metal garters swung
free inside her slacks,
sprung from the elastic hold
of her silk Sunday stockings.

Her power-net tummy panel
braced her flurried steps
as she flung the Hoover
over the beige, wall-to-wall

living room carpet.
The cord curled around her palm
like the poised hand
of a nimble dance partner.

Everywhere else she swept
and lashed each linoleum square
with a Comet-crusted rag
until every scuff surrendered –

just in time
for ‘As The World Turns’
and three blessed
Old Gold filtered cigarettes.

The rigid swell
of her belly cradled
a silver-rimmed
crystal ashtray

still fragranced
with cedar
from her claw-footed
hope chest.

Lora Keller

 

After growing up blocks from Wisconsin’s Fox River, Lora has lived in New York City and Kansas City and now lives in Milwaukee. After college, she was a scriptwriter, public relations executive and educator then owned two small businesses. Her poems are published widely and include a Pushcart Prize nomination.

© 2019

Adornment

I don’t want my body
to be a rose puckered impossible duvet, don’t want

commentary to hang on it, like a too loose shirt I’ll just cut up
into rags and clean the kitchen with. I want

to be a Douglas Fir, left well enough
alone, fuck all the festive ornamentation

glimmering on my too scraggly limbs. I’d be better
suited for kindling

anyway. Just immolate me
please, I’d rather warm a house

than be its welcome matt or sense
of decorum.

Emma Koch

 

Emma Koch is a writer and divinity school student living in Chicago. Her work has previously appeared in Glassworks, Bright Wall/Dark Room, The Quail Bell, and Slab Literary Journal. You can find her being a sports nerd at @emmathekoch on Twitter.

© 2019

closeted

i. red and blue flannel shirt

buttoned up to the neck / this love precedes / me / soft looks / shaking hands / her
red blush / his blue eyes / i wish myself into / a straighter line / into pixie cut /
dangly earrings / black mascara / skipping lunch / it works / if forgetting is an answer
/ and if want / the only question

ii. ripped black skinny jeans

double cuffed at the ankle / my unshaven legs / twenty years old and still /
unravelling / i grow my hair long / shave half of it off / a kind of proclamation / see
the skin laid bare / see / purple lines / holes held together by threads / the fraying
edge / of a mouth / made perfect for secrets

iii. oversized denim jacket

stolen out of dad’s closet / sleeves hang down to my fingers / permission / to wear
want / rainbow patch over breast pocket / a blaring siren / or / trick of the light /
denim covers curves / i hide beneath my words / cross and uncross my legs / into
wish or promise / or consequence of want

iv. brown timberland boots

rip-offs from target / heavy on my feet / i walk until a blister forms / and i too am
broken / in / an old identity thrown out / with the heels / i try on labels / see what
fits / gay / straight / bisexual / or / a feeling as old as the pink flannel shirt / in my
closet / i name the line between knowing / and denial / i call it / home

Kaya Lattimore

 

Kaya Lattimore is a Filipina-Australian writer and performance poet. As a queer womxn of mixed ethnicity, she writes to express, explore and ultimately reclaim all facets of her identity and lived experience. Her work has appeared in be:longing, Umbel & Panicle, The Brown Orient and Cicerone Journal.

© 2019

Interview With The Actress

Can I take off my heels?

Yes.

the actress sips her lemonade & asks me what I’m thinking. I say, guess.

Light breaking into hospital rooms.

Blue lipstick.

Game shows.

I laugh like a dog. The actress crosses her legs, [redacted] and uncrosses them.

Are you going to ask me anything?

She lights a cigarette like a man. Like she loves her wife. Like her wife is pretty. A conversation starter.

I let the light tenderize. I bite the pen’s plastic & look at her hands. How many times has she washed them in the entirety of her life? I smell soap.

What made you want to become
an actress?

She watches the lamp flicker as her dream bleeds back into her consciousness.

She was a small boy in a big church.

The actress uses her heel as an ashtray and breathes in,

I was always a sensitive child.

Jasmine Ledesma

 

Jasmine Ledesma is a sophomore at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City’s tender heart. Her work has appeared in the Accolades 2014 Poetry Collection, Freedom Whispers and The Carson Review. She was selected as Poet of The Week by Poetry Highway.

© 2019

A girl dies each night on TV

Displayed like small paintings of horror.
Unearthed by bulldozers; revealed

from scrub, and ditches –
the face down nakedness of the form.

And something in us wants this.
A re-enactment on the night streets,

the men behind the cameras blowing
in their hands; the parked cars and

the lights, the storefronts
showing their bright interiors still open.

(To see the detective triumph
the girl must die first – the strong

female detective triumph. We stare
at her lips as she stares at the girl.)

Something in us needs to hear
the sound of footsteps; the CCTV

footage. To play her back then forward
to see her last moments, to wind her

and wind her. To wear her out.

Wes Lee

 

Wes Lee lives in New Zealand. Her latest poetry collection Body, Remember (Eyewear Publishing 2017) was launched in London as part of the Lorgnette pamphlet series. She has won a number of awards for her writing, most recently she was selected as a finalist for the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2018.

© 2019

Women in Lingerie!

Italian lingerie knows how to flow
Toward women naturally defying ‘firm’.
(— — Are females being hardened for study? — —)
Their intimate line’s not to be confused
With staunch American-made underwear
That fears the radiant center cut
Of genitals, scrubbed clean so anxiously.

Italians realize that clarity
Is never lingerie’s intent. Who needs
Materials’ mirror humbling curves each time?
Italian figures sing, remembering
Years diets didn’t grow to shame the girls,
Surrounding fuller figures with solitude.

As long as nude is lewd, demands we make
Of lingerie accumulate. It must:
Create distracting corners for the eyes
Alive to friction of soft thighs, and be
Aware of where your lover’s driven mad.

It’s sensuality that fights the shapelessness
Of flabby life with fresh hormonal fruit
Called opportunity that writes all scripts — —
With half-dressed bodies as its landing strip.

LindaAnn LoSchiavo

 

LindaAnn LoSchiavo has had her stage plays produced in the USA and Adelaide, Australia. Her journalism has appeared Down Under in The Australian Women’s Weekly, Cleo, etc. She dotes on fiction and formal verse.

© 2018

Motherhood in Cut Time

at five o clock the ladies all rise and the
heels on their shoes all click them goodbye

not too long after someone shatters
a vase of orchids on their way out

we sweep them up and they’re shut
under the dinner table now

office women shudder as they face each other
with utterances of wishing well

the most of the day is over but always
it keeps going and we go home

mama flicks the switch and the light hits
the kids goodnight

vile things in the cupboard like wine
and old cereals dying lying in coffin-like boxes

‘what’s it like to be a mummy’ little girl says
in the hum of after-supper

and mama, with her hand on her hip,
‘something so innocent you trip right over it.’

Julia Love

 

Julia Love goes to university where she studies visual arts and art education. When she isn’t drowning in studies, she writes. She writes about everything knocking at her heart, and she tries to do it as unapologetically as possible.

© 2019

Suicide Note of an Abandoned Wife

Dear World
I never learned
How to burn belly fat
Train a rat to massage my feet
How long a body takes to turn to blancmange
How to cast a spell on the neighbour’s wife
How to be good on top
Convert a chimney into a man trap
Read Shakespeare in original Klingon
What is Wolverine gay porn
When will World War III begin
Can you get cancer of the heart
Who let the dogs out
How to cook a human thigh
Why my dog is the only one who shares her thoughts with me
Dear World
I never learned how to talk to my son
But I know how to stalk someone
What is pretty
Where can I sell a kidney
How many capsules does it take
How to dispose of a body
Delete my history?

Julie Maclean

 

Julie Maclean is the author of five poetry collections – Lips That Did (Dancing Girl Press 2017), To Have to Follow (Indigo Dreams 2016), Kiss of the Viking (Poetry Salzburg 2014), You Love You Leave (Kind of a Hurricane Press 2014) and When I saw Jimi (Indigo Dreams 2013). www.juliemacleanwriter.com

© 2019

Disarming

The girl is told that she is a bomb
at nine, or ten, or thirteen or when
men want to do what they want.
The girls is told that she is a bomb.
Her girl-bomb-body explosive, she makes the
men want to do what they want.
The girl is told that she is a bomb.
Her spark of existence will light the fuse,
set explosion in motion beyond their restraint.
The girl is told that she is a bomb
that makes men say things, makes men do things,
makes men do things to her.
The girls is told that she is a bomb.
They gave her this power so that the men can
do what they want without consequence.
The girl is told that she is a bomb,
so it’s just and right that she pays the price.
Look what she made them do!
The girl wishes that she was a bomb
whose eruption’s destruction for men too close,
men who touch, men who are rough.

The girl is told she is not that kind of bomb.

The girl is told that she is a bomb
and must disarm and use her charm
so no-one gets hurt.

Jacqui Malins

 

Jacqui Malins is a performance poet and artist. She has featured at events, including the Woodford Folk Festival. She released her first book, Cavorting with Time (Recent Work Press), in 2018. Jacqui co-founded Mother Tongue Multilingual Poetry in Canberra.

© 2019

Orient

I know this world, my otherness.
I recognise its fingerprint upon my flesh.
Within a whorl of worlds

*

it is unique,

adjacent to the fold and to the flex
of your experience and time,
but not the same.
It’s particular. And it is mine,

though I hesitate to state that it belongs to me.

It’s more a culmination of alignments and desires,
its destiny the ratio of fate to chance:
a rising sun on any given day, a tidal slap,
the algebra of birth, an oyster’s seed. To me
this world is perfect and continuous as π.

You look at me, but only see my otherwise,
at odds with you. This is my burden, my disturbance.
It is the very much of me, that fragment which resolves
the worth within my unshucked shell. In my mind
there lives an inner eye/I which borders the irrational,
at once absorption and reflection, yin and yang.
If you must define the who of me, the x or why,
the whence from which my –ness is born, divine me
in the river’s sinuous meandering, the humming

of a single string, the murmur over sand of secret
nothings which relate to nothing else except

the syncopated rhythm of the sky, a lotus bloom,
the weight of water on the moon. In my mirror, I
am I, no other than the restless play of colour
on the surface of a pearl. And you, within your
certainty, who are you to judge the purpose
of a piece of grit?

I know this world …..

Victoria McGrath

Note – Orient:
1. of the East;
2. the iridescence of a pearl;
3. to find one’s position in relation to surroundings.

 

Victoria McGrath has been widely published in journals and anthologies in Australia and the US, including Best Australian Poems (twice). She was shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize and nominated for the Best Of The Net award. She lives in Yass, New South Wales, and is finalising her first manuscript.

© 2019

Upstaging Shakespeare

Boy, you were fierce.
‘Let’s get on with it’ you hissed,
your undertone a sting, sharp as
a flick knife at my ear, next
your teeth whipping my face.

The lighting crew above licked
smoky lips, younger kids
at our school play writhed: sex
was quite new, real or faked:
they were eager to be shocked.

And you aimed to convince!
Latched on, intent as insects
milking flowers, the clinch
was ruled by your proboscis,
My flower for yours, O Prince.

Kate Miller

 

Kate Miller is an English poet and winner of several awards including the Edwin Morgan International Poetry prize in 2008. The Observances (2015) is due to be followed by a second collection in 2020.

© 2019

Country House

Slipping through the back door of Parliament House
My courier bag glides down the ministerial wing
I see………………………………………………………………….
Paper to be sorted; TV faces by an elevator;
A painting of the Dreamtime, on the days I take the stairs.

There’s the secretary who always buys
the fundraiser chocolates (her husband likes TimeOut)
A row of chiselled cassowary heads to exchange nods with in passing
And a beautiful Elton Wirri watercolour hanging
in a minister’s office, though his portfolio is far from the Arts

Dotted dents are visible in the polished wooden floors
when the sunlight glances off them……………………………
a million tiny stiletto heel steps
as women try again, and again
to carve themselves out a home here………………………….

I am not sure I belong in this country house.
But when, for a moment, there’s no one around
To wonder why I’m pausing; why
The wheels on the bag are halted
with no minister’s office in sight

I lean in the warm sunlight streaming into the glass walkway
And watch the skirts of the foliage blowing against the walls
The reflections of gum leaves dancing on the great glass doors
Before returning to my rounds.
……………………………………………………………………………………………..

Rosalind Moran

 

Rosalind Moran has written for anthologies, websites, and journals including Meanjin and Overland. She co-founded Cicerone Journal and was awarded 2018 Undergraduate Awards Global Winner for her research into biopics. You can find more of her work through her website, Ganymede’s Mirror.

© 2019

 

Camille Claudel

Your yearning. A weight
you birthed over
and over. You hauled

yourself through bronze,
from every version of exile
an arc

of limb, your hair
knotted with fury
and gleam. You were too savage

in your grace. Untamed,
too much a man in the colossal
precision of your hands.

How suddenly
they held nothing
but the white-air

of asylum. Fog heavy
as marble, still
as death.

Gemma Nethercote Way

 

Gemma Nethercote Way is a Creative Writing student at the University of Canberra.

© 2019

August in Lahore

This thick heat swaggers
rolls its way over the canals, the bodies
of boys burned earth brown
glistening with sweat and water
as they dive among the refuse
clogging the city’s waterways.

We cannot swim here, us college girls
in our cars and delicate clothes.
Not for us the raucous play
of boys who weave across the road
to their filthy oasis half naked
in the afternoon sun.

On the phone my father tells me
he used to play in the canals once
back when they were cleaner
and the sunshine less dusty.
He makes no wish for me
to do the same.

My starched muslins and lawns melt
into my skin and the days wrap
around me like wet sackcloth,
a dragging, dripping weight that air-
conditioning cannot lift. I think
of the boys moving in the dirty water
and wonder why staying dry feels
like drowning.

Nadia Niaz

 

Nadia Niaz is a writer, editor and academic ‘from’ Melbourne via Pakistan and many other places. She has a PhD in Creative Writing and Cultural Studies and teaches at the University of Melbourne. She’s a member of the West Writers Group and the founder of the Australian Multilingual Writing Project.

Items a 14 year-old named Alexandra might shop for on-line.

See Me Smile Sunglasses
in Black

Wanting and Waiting Earrings
in Gold

A Halo Hair Straightener

A Fortnite Galaxy Hooded Sweatshirt

A Nike Chicago Bulls NBA Jersey

A Kate Von D Everlasting lip-liner

A Listen To Your Heart Hairclip
in Red

A Born and Raised Playsuit
in Mango

A Look to the Future Dress
in White

A gc2b Chest Binder Extra Small
in Nude.

Rosa O’Kane

 

Rosa O’Kane was born and grew up in Northern Ireland and now lives and works in Canberra. Her poetry has been published on-line, in print and on a bus. Her poem ‘Hydrography of the Heart’ was commended in the 2014 Hippocrates and Medicine Anthology and she was short listed for the ACU Poetry prize 2018.

© 2019

Nights with Arthur

Arthur is my brother we spend a lot of time together we both
wear each other’s shirts trousers skirts dresses three piece
suits denim jackets drain pipe jeans high vis vests skinny jeans
crocheted hats leather gloves singlets tailored high waist
trousers waistcoats monocles shotguns watches riding boots
driving goggles macs coats capes cloaks shorts thongs t shirts
rash vests wet suits sweat shirts jumpers anoraks evening
dresses upset stomachs headaches wigs toupees glasses short
hair long hair pony tail moustaches leg hairs we both have leg
hairs. We both have moustaches. We both have such thin
arms.

Christine Paice

 

Christine Paice is a poet and writer. She has published blah and blah and will be published in Poetry Ireland Review in 2019. She is currently working on her compulsion for long grass, the pulling up thereof, and the next instalment in her acclaimed memoir, The History of Suburban Driveways.

© 2019

Cathedral

Once or twice in her life,
a woman’s spirit is split
open by a test of faith.
A cross-section of the architectural damage
may reveal: internal fissures, leaks
of self-belief, loneliness that
grows thick in the walls and eaves.
In that moment of stark vulnerability,
we are humbled by truth.
The half-collapsed pulpit
and pews where her dignity
gets crushed by doubt.
The aumbry of love,
which sometimes fails to lend patience.
And the questions, the many questions
laid out on the altar.
You’ll look away, of course.
Staring at grief is impolite.
And if she’s still able to surprise you
after all this — after you see the pillars
of her guts smashed open, bare and rough —
she’ll pull out from her lungs
(the pipe organ and choir-stalls)
a dry laugh that kindles hope.
Finally, if she’s like the women I know,
she’ll calmly dip her fingers
into a bowl of holy water
and grab a spade and level
to assemble herself again.

Melissa Payne

 

Note: The imagery of a woman’s body as a cathedral alludes to Saint Augustine of Hippo’s Tractates on the Gospel of John, where he describes a woman as ‘a church not yet made righteous’.

Melissa Payne grew up in a small town in South-East Queensland, but has also spent time living in Europe, as well as Brisbane. She is a poet with a Bachelor of Creative & Professional Writing from the Queensland University of Technology.

© 2019

Hunger

I read somewhere that Saint Thomas Aquinas said that only man can possess the full
image of God, that woman is impure, unfinished: spirit is to flesh as male is to female.
When I touch her hair, her body, I feel its intricate history tremble through my fingers.
Not just clay and dust and ache, but warm texture, the swell of 100 trillion living cells,
inhaling and exhaling across three million years. She lays open before me as I trace and
lick every crease, all surfaces blushed and shivering, aching contentment. Her organic
form, soft and wreathed in folds. The wild glistening. Scent. What is this in-between,
unselfconscious space I’ve found, but a benediction to the miracle of living, breathing
flesh? Vulnerability is itself a prayer.

Melissa Payne

 

Melissa Payne grew up in a small town in South-East Queensland, but has also spent time living in Europe, as well as Brisbane. She is a poet with a Bachelor of Creative & Professional Writing from the Queensland University of Technology.

© 2019

Pirate party

on the dashboard the petrol pump icon red
I drive further to avoid the locals
to the quiet gas station in the next town
filling up, I’m glad there’s nobody to see

my head scarf, eye patch and mascaraed moustache
dirtied face, baggy shirt and swashbuckling trousers
the guy at the counter smiles and takes my money
the stache doesn’t really suit you

loud music and chatter spill out the open door
Captain Tony swigs a frothy beer from a tankard
a buccaneer in blousy white and a tricorn hat dances
with her teenage son in a black skeleton leotard

the hostess wears a pink curly wig
my big-hug girlfriend of twenty-five years,
she’s stand-offish, scans my one eye
not quite able to place me

amongst the throng an ex-boyfriend and ladies’ man
looks at me with an unfamiliar face of disinterest
jumps in surprised recognition, I thought you were a bloke!
then avoids me with suspicious eyes

the young woman who admires my costume
is the baby I watched enter the world
now twenty-one she points me out to her friends
that guy’s a chick

first prize for the best dressed pirate!
I win a pillowcase to fill with ‘loot’
the donated second-hand goods on the floor
pick out a cosmetic mirror, two-sided, magnified

Sue Peachey

 

Poetry, permaculture and pottery are the preoccupations of Peachey. Sue lives in Canberra and is from New Zealand. She has published previously in Westerly, Not Very Quiet, Eucalypt, Haibun Today and Kokako.

© 2019

Thirteen

This year she has a swagger, shoulders squared
swaying without her hips.

She’s shed her first-feathers, now
white or black, rolled and crushed.

On-line she has permission
not to be the nest, there are hours

of soaring, school and suburb
distant dots.

Rainbow hangs in place of a poster,
its folds crisp and sharp.

Meredith Pitt

 

Meredith Pitt is a Blue Mountains based poet. She is largely self-taught and remembers often sneaking off to read the poetry section in the Childcraft books in her primary school library. Meredith was recently awarded the Verandah Literary Award 2018 and was published in NVQ 3.

© 2019

Cocoon

Missing the edge that defines a body
as it loosens its hold;
toes mingle, breath is shared.
Dreams skip between heads.
Roses drip into each other.
Darkness allows and disbelieves,
there is only liquid.

Backstage we change costumes, finding
feathers that fit, and hats that don’t.
Who we are today, fits with how the clouds
formed last night, the hail yesterday
and the movie full of dance.

We find parts of ourselves
that don’t belong or fit into our sleeves.
Yet inside the human we are jazz,
riffing time,
picking our way through;
blindly becoming or pretending
past the line of self.

Meredith Pitt

 

Meredith Pitt is a Blue Mountains based poet. She is largely self-taught and remembers often sneaking off to read the poetry section in the Childcraft books in her primary school library. Meredith was recently awarded the Verandah Literary Award 2018 and was published in NVQ 3.

© 2019

One-liner

It’s a lesbian!
The essentialist exclaims.
The sun rises and sets,
The audience laughs and cries,
The joke becomes lisible.

Shale Preston

 

Shale Preston writes in Sydney. Her poetry, fiction and essays have been published in a range of literary journals and anthologies. She is the author of Dickens and the Despised Mother: A Critical Reading of Three Autobiographical Novels (McFarland 2013) and the editor (with Duc Dau) of Queer Victorian Families: Curious Relations in Literature (Routledge 2015).

© 2019

Police Sketch of a Woman

Jessica Regione

Jessica Regione has poems published or forthcoming in Dialogist, Frontier Poetry, Stone Highway Review, and The Summerset Review. She was a semi-finalist for the 2018 92Y Discovery Contest and is a recipient of fellowships from Summer Literary Seminars. She lives in Brooklyn and is a Senior Managing Editor at Penguin Random House.

© 2019

Fallacy of the predicate

The ‘doer’ is merely a fiction added to the deed (Nietzsche)*

Nietzsche warns:
There is no ‘lightning’

that strikes
There is only the striking

No – thing performs this action
Only action itself

[She understrike] acts the part
And is stricken from the page

She is no longer subject
She was never object

She is all action
and reiteration

She is repetition
She is the sum

of all mirrors
repeating

an infinite version
A vision

of herself
for which there is

no original

[She strikethrough]
has out-done herself

[She] is all doing
and undone

[She] is in-deed
a fiction

written in
after-

thought

How can she
continue

To remain
Only energy

Light
particle

When will it be time
to strike

[She] senses
a storm brewing

Sarah Rice

 

*  Judith Butler quotes the above from Nietzsche’s: On the Genealogy of Morals, and adds ‘There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender’ (Gender Trouble).

Sarah Rice’s poetry collection Fingertip of the Tongue (UWAP 2017) was recently shortlisted in the ACT Publishing Awards, and her work extensively published in journals and anthologies. Sarah won the Ron Pretty and Bruce Dawe, co-won the Writing Ventures, and Gwen Harwood poetry prizes, and has been shortlisted in numerous writing awards.

© 2019

To the Witches of Salem,

I have not forgotten you,
though the world turned
the charred ash from your bones to ink,
turned your torture into ghost
stories for children to read
by the fire—

You left this world the way you came
into it, burning
in desire, they said, you had to be a witch.
How else could a woman think for herself?
Speak for herself? They torched
the fight out of you, tied
rocks to your feet, sent you

sinking

No survival in a phantom magic,
point their fingers—blame,
the widow,

the stubborn child,

the midwife,

the beggar,

the slave,

Like a stain on the Reverend’s shirt,
they blotted out the unclean
from these chapel walls, justified
with holy conviction.

I will not forget you, instead,
I will raise Salem’s army

from the ashes, brand myself—

witch,

tie myself to the pyre, strike
the match,

for I am a

nasty woman,

angry woman,

raging woman,

won’t shut up

and sit still woman,

unruly woman,

disobedient woman,

I will spark my own flint,
raise my own chaos, give them
a holy reason to suffocate
in their own paranoia, for
righteous fury is more terrifying
then rumors of Devil’s magic—
my wrath will be biblical,
and it will
drag them all

down.

Amid the rubble, I will leave
an offering of hollyhock
on your unmarked grave

Chaise Robinson

 

Chaise Robinson is an English Writing student from Kentucky. My previous publications include: ‘We Were Once Strangers’ and ‘She Will Always Amaze Me’ in Kentucky’s Best Emerging Poets (Z House Publishing 2018), ‘Home’ and ‘I Have Fallen’ in Aurora: Online Literary and Arts Journal (2017–2018).

© 2019

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Lunching Alone, 1987

The waiter was polite but firm about extra butter. Good beginning, she thinks and scribbles an impatient note on the back of a dirty grocery receipt about the over-importance of smiles. Her ice tea is cold; the waiter is cute. She momentarily questions how she knows these things. Food comes quickly in the middle of her studies. All around her: Good face. Bad face. Face to bruise. Face to kiss. In the far corner two faces across a stained table endlessly fall into each other again and again until they are nothing but laughter and remembrance. She tilts her head and measures love in the way some measure overnight rainfall. Her sandwich is stuffed with suspicion and excess. It tastes of desire. She considers the empty space between a mirror and the reflection before eating. Shifting, she mumbles the declension of hunger as the most banal desire and pushes away her plate. Banal desire grows inside her fire bellows steam-blows through the corridors of her patience. Bad middle. She crosses and then uncrosses her legs again. Poor idea. Good idea. Little idea that worms its way into your head and just whispers and whispers. She is still too hot warm bursting, sweat runs down the curve of her back like August. Wiping away the excesses that give way to worry, she raises a finger and asks for the check. As the waiter evaporates into the dimness of too many voices she touches her face and is astounded when her fingers do not burn.

Danielle Rose

 

Danielle Rose lives with her partner and their two cats in Massachusetts. She is the managing editor of Dovecote Magazine and used to be a boy.

© 2019

Re-imagining a rape

“… Fatema, a Rohingya refugee says she was raped after her husband was murdered. The 16-year-old now doesn’t know whose baby she is carrying.” (CTV News, May 21, 2018 )

 

Neither a single hoot
nor a bird-cry that night
resounded through the pregnant fields
while our sister slept groaning
in the bloodied arms of our brown mother—

rain quails and eagles
hunched their heads low
while ancient river fairies
tried to wash her wounds with
prayers and warm tears of the clouds—

there were but songs echoing, of lovers
and heartbreaks, dripping endlessly
into the night sky from the radios
of the trucks and jeeps in the dark:
what wrong have I done to lose your love?

When the dark shadows left
with frosty feathers, tiny fishes plopped
desperately and offered their dance for the day—
the sun came up, the day went on, and
the world, strangely enough, stood perfectly fine.

Abhijit Sarmah

 

Abhijit Sarmah is a writer, poet and screenwriter from the North-east Indian state of Assam. He has one chapbook of poetry, The Voice Under Silence (February 2016), to his credit. He has contributed to various journals, including South 85 Journal, Salmon Creek Journal and others. His next collection is due for publication in 2019.

© 2019

The Strongest Girl in the World

“So. How do you trim ya pubes?”
She was sparkling, I was mumbling, stopped thick
as I realised that this boy I picked had told,
told them all, in this shocked hard heart-beat teenage lunch –
“I dunno,” I said. “I don’t do much.”
“Still,” she smiled. “You wanna give ‘em a bit of a trim.”
(And my throat sealed up as the walls roared in.)

When I was four I had a hero.
She was the
STRONGEST GIRL IN THE WORLD!
PIPPI LONGSTOCKING, vaulting the gable-pole,
long brown legs
like a wheeling shot of hot kinetic energy she
hurled policemen up through the sky, and with a
bright “So long!” she
flung the bullies face down in the shrubbery.
Four years old, she drove me wild – I went crazy,
jumping up and down in front of the TV: Pippi! Who,
with a running jump sailed over the cliff –
plunked down, without a scratch –
because she couldn’t conceive she’d be hurt
had not once launched
a chastened trajectory.

And it was Pippi
who moved in me then, worlds later
in the teenage dark
strangely detached and half-afraid
but in the centre
of that cool, still calm SHE stirred: a flame.
I was virgin, fearless, hairy like a little wolf
My innocence didn’t pull me back but
pushed me, moved
not by affection, or
by attraction, but:

because I was brave.

I think of little girls. I wonder who they’re watching.
My little cousin, she loves
MERIDA: who rips off the hood to reveal her bristling hair, she loves
PONYO: alive, defiant, striving, right
to the top of the wave.
I can only hope they’re with her,
when she’s old enough to make that jump.
When she has to brace her back
in the face of cruel humiliation,
when her time comes
to heave off the titan weight of shame.
When she has to be
the STRONGEST GIRL IN THE WORLD –
I hope
she turns out brave.

Eugenie Scarlett

 

Eugenie Scarlett is a poet based in Canberra, Australia. She’s interested in pre-modern Chinese poetry, border ballads, ABC Kids TV and all the plants of the Aranda bushland.

© 2019

woman in the lines

some days it is all you are
a shine of starch
lacquered on the inside

boots scuff hallways
long-laced veins
pull end of ties

torment or discipline
let the difference be trained
toes grip tight
to an orderly ledge

what irks us is right
left then right again
we fast on defiance
burn of the old thread

just the same
I raised my right hand
to iron out the sting
the cheek of my mouth

far away as home
we rhymed on a pull-through
winged sheets
fold and folded again

beneath the camouflage
our sights wiped clean

Ellen Shelley

 

Ellen likes to read at poetry at the pub in Newcastle. She is a member of HWC and FAW. She has been published in numerous anthologies and has won a prize in GRIEVE.

© 2019

Folly

I really loved the ‘60s and ‘70s when life
was so simple and you could slap a woman
on the butt and it was taken as a compliment,

not as sexual harassment (1) I think it is time for us
alpha males to stand up and refuse
to apologise for our gender (2)  Women are just

an interest group (3) You have got this bunch
of basically frustrated women who have decided
that if somebody is nude and she is on a poster,

well it’s offensive (4) Men should be trained for war,
women for the recreation of the warrior. All else
is folly. (5) What do you think you’re looking at,

sugar tits? (6) I will not be harassed by journalists,
even by pretty ones like you. Nick off (7) I don’t
have an adverse attitude to women, except

those who are bitches, including my ex-wife…
When she left me she took all the furniture
except the marriage bed. When I woke up in the morning

the first thought I had was, ‘Who’s going to get my breakfast?’ (8)

Melinda Smith

 

Notes

  1. Kirk Pengilly (former INXS band member), 2018
    https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/former-inxs-star-kirk-pengilly-says-he-misses-slapping-a-woman-on-the-butt-20171130-gzwd06.html
  2. Sen. David Leyonhjelm, during an appearance on Sky News’
    Outsiders program, interviewed by Rowan Dean and Ross
    Cameron, 1 July 2018.
  3. Mark Latham, Federal Labor MP, 2002. This and the quotes noted below are all public statements nominated for Ernie Awards for Sexist Behaviour (http://ernies.com.au/) in their respective years. Full details in The Ernies Book: 1000 Terrible Things Australian Men Have Said About Women (Meredith Burgmann and Yvette Andrews, Allen & Unwin 2007)
  4. Mark Patrick, Advertising Agent, 1997
  5. John Justice, President of the Campbelltown Branch of the Young Liberals, 1997
  6. Mel Gibson, actor, 2006
  7. Paul Keating, former Prime Minister, 2007
  8. John Phillips, Pensioner, 2002, who unsuccessfully sued the NSW Attorney General for harm inflicted on him by up to 100
    women in government departments.

 

Melinda Smith is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Goodbye, Cruel (Pitt St Poetry 2017) and Members Only (with artist Caren Florance, Recent Work Press 2017). She is a former winner of the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award for poetry and her work has been widely anthologised and translated into multiple languages. She is based in the ACT and was poetry editor of The Canberra Times from 2015 to 2017.

© 2019

Baby___Joy__

 

Melinda Smith

Note: This poem is an erasure of a media statement made by then-Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on 13 February 2018. Film of the second half of the speech can be viewed here: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/video/2018/feb/13/barnaby-joyce-makes-public-apology-to-family-partner-and-voters-video

 

Melinda Smith is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Goodbye, Cruel (Pitt St Poetry, 2017) and Members Only (with artist Caren Florance, Recent Work Press, 2017). She is a former winner of the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award for poetry and her work has been widely anthologised and translated into multiple languages. She is based in the ACT and was poetry editor of The Canberra Times from 2015 to 2017.

© 2019

broke a nail

it’s all such a giveaway,
isn’t it

it’s all of what you mean at once
it’s none of what you mean at all

it’s
all of the days
I hide things from my sister

it’s all of the days my sister hides things from me

it’s the things my mother says sometimes
things she was told in a different context and now as she tells them;

it’s the confusion, the sadness

it’s making sense of all the women in my life;
the ones who have treated me well
and the ones who haven’t.

Abeir Soukeih

 

Abeir Soukieh is a Lebanese-Australian poet and writer from Canberra.

© 2019

On not being a grandmother

It is enough
in December sunshine
to listen to the buried gurgle of water
over stones in the tangled gully.
It is enough
to breathe tangs of moist earth,
heavy moss, spices of eucalypt
that quench the petrichor of a sudden shower.
It is enough
to watch crepuscular rays
steaming with motes and insects in a flurry,
creating dappled patterns that shift and sway.
It is enough
that you are with me
on this day

Carmel Summers

 

Carmel Summers is a Canberra-based poet with an interest in a wide variety of forms. Her poetry, especially tanka, has been published in journals in Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Japan and UK. She has been shortlisted in the Blake Poetry Prize and her collaborative poetry book, The Last Day Before Snow (Malicorne Publications, 2016) was awarded the ACT Publishing Award in 2017.

© 2019

A Found Poem

Displayed in a glass vitrine in the foyer of Parliament House, Sydney, NSW.

“If she be permitted to vote and to send someone else to Parliament the natural corollary to that is that she must be permitted to come here herself.
Today there is a disinclination on the part of many girls to marry, because of the mediocrity of the type of men on offering. That being so, we have the right to create new avenues of employment as far as possible, and the occupancy of a seat in Parliament or upon the bench surely should not be excluded from a woman. Will any Hon. member suggest that a woman could not do as well in our courts as some of the men who are presiding there?”

Hansard, 2nd Reading Speech, Women’s Legal Status Act
Mr John Storey MP, Member for Balmain, Leader of the Opposition,
25 November, 1918


The Visitors’ Gallery – Question Time
18 September, 2018

among the suits
a scatter of women in red
one hundred years later
the Hon. members (female)
expose the rate of progress

protesting nurses
in the Gallery arouse
the Speaker’s wrath
mayhem below but they
have no right to make a sound

Gillian Telford

 

Gillian Telford is a Central Coast, NSW poet with two published collections: Moments of Perfect Poise (Ginninderra Press 2008) and An Indrawn Breath (Picaro Press 2015). Her work is widely published in print and online journals and anthologies including Not Very Quiet, Issues 2 & 3, 2018.

© 2019

Reading the signs in FNQ

i. Vows at Paronella Park

The girls wear sorbet or gelato. Soft frothed fabric, tart
and cool and sweet. Foamed with egg whites.

Their hair, blonded or blacked; their pale shoulders inked
with birds and skulls and butterflies. As if artifice
could exceed themselves, celebrating here
in the mossy turrets of someone else’s dream.

They smile in front of Mena Falls; in misted spray, suspended.
And lean on the wall of the pool, where the crocodile stirs, hungry.

ii. Hens’ weekend Palm Cove

In the swish cafe by the hotel pool
the chicks sit (well-plucked and exfoliated) nearby
the bride-to-be, in mock tiara (rhinestone stilettos).
Her long dark locks; the very straightest of them all.

The chooks (and cheque book) sit apart, all
highlighted roots, and black and white linen.
Italian sandals, of course (sensible heels).

Along the beachside strip, Saturday Harleys promenade;
slow enough to wobble. Cocktail lychees bob in melted ice.
Prawns wilt on plates. Sauces grow skins.

You can read those same signs on the beach, ten steps away
from the chapel. CROCODILES inhabit this area. KEEP AWAY
from the water’s edge. DO NOT ENTER the water, no matter
the size of your engagement ring.

Helen Thurloe

 

Helen Thurloe is a Sydney writer. Her poems have won national awards, and appear in several anthologies. Her first novel, Promising Azra, was published by Allen & Unwin in 2016.

© 2019

Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

The Trial of Andrea Yates

That’s all I thought about, she said to him,
Of killing. Constant thoughts of drowning five
Children in her bathtub. Her mind’s unwell,
A unique case of postpartum depression,
The jury said.

Her doctor disagreed.

He testified his views—she meant to kill
Each one. She was deliberate;

Prepared.

Her interview was used as evidence.
He explained that, during questioning, Yates
Expressed no thoughts of motherhood, regret,
Or grief; only desires of being free.

And as the jury deemed her not guilty—

Insanity

Her poignant voice stuck in his ears like wax,
A constant hum, that’s all I thought about.

Tina Vorreyer

 

Tina Vorreyer, graduate of Lawrence University (Appleton, WI), received her BA in Theatre Arts. She’s been published in three anthologies, Lingering Memories, Wisconsin’s Best Emerging Poets (Z Publishing), Watch for Broken Glass, Illinois’ Best Emerging Poets (Z Publishing) and Scrabble, America’s Emerging Poets 2018 (Z Publishing).

© 2019

Interpolating Acne

‘ideology “acts” or “functions” in such a way that it “recruits” subjects among the individuals (it recruits them all), or “transforms” the individuals into subjects (it transforms them all) by that very precise operation which I have called interpellation or hailing, and which can be imagined along the lines of the most commonplace everyday police (or other) hailing: “Hey, you there!”

… the hailed individual will turn round. By this mere one-hundred-and-eighty degree physical conversion, he [sic] becomes a subject’ (Louis Althusser)

‘limits are always set within the terms of a hegemonic cultural discourse predicated on binary structures that appear as the language of universal rationality’ (Judith Butler)

 

At fifteen I lost my voice:

I had a fever—shakes, too.
After two weeks bedbound, finally
I went to the doctor, symptoms scribbled
on a pocketed scrap of paper.

He—the doctor—ushered me in
and gestured: chair. I sat, obedient, waiting
to be asked why I was there.
Instead, the doctor asked,

So what
shall we do
about that acne?

Then he was scribbling a script he tore
brusquely from his pad, and before
I knew I was out in the corridor, blinking hard
at his prescription—also my diagnosis:
a cure making me re- cognise myself sick.

The paper was so white, clean, corners
crisp, the etched-in signature so
official: a legislation, judgement, a decree.

Still blinking, I stashed it in my pocket,
discovering as I did the other paper
I’d never taken out: my symptoms
didn’t matter now. In fact
there was appeal in remaining
bedbound another week or three.

Had the doctor thought it odd
that through the whole consult
I spoke not one word?

Or was that simply to be expected
from a girl marked as I was?

 Amelia Walker

 

Epigraph sources

Althusser, L & Brewster, B [trans.] 1971, ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards anInvestigation)’; Butler, J 1990, ‘Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity’, Routledge, New York & London.

Amelia Walker has published four poetry collections, most recently Dreamday. She also holds a PhD in creative writing from the University of South Australia, where she is presently employed as a lecturer.

© 2019

Dra(a)g

I’m fascinated by drag—this word passed mouth
to mouth, down and across frayed lines of shifting time/s
and cultures. Like lovelust, hate, hope, ache, cry, queer
and wonder it can be both noun and verb, act/ion and
object(ion). For centuries in English, writers and speakers
have dragged, have called things drags—yet differently:

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, dragge
and draggen were tied to fishing—dragnets and grappling
hooks or grapnel: Swedish, dragg, from Old Norse, dragga,
meaning load. Today, when we drag, we bear a weight. Yes,
even when we carry it off, it can weigh us, wear us down.
But like fishers, we are searchers, braving beyond shores
and surfaces, sifting slippery treasures from murk into shine.

By the fifteenth century, drag had gathered force
—and violence—towards not only pulling, but also, away
as rule-breakers and demonstrators are at times pulled
and locked away (let’s not forget the World War Two pilots
arrested in Georgia for wearing pants after dark).
Yet dragging away—pulling and (a)parting—implies counter
pull(s) back: resistance.. retardation…. slow… ing…….. down…
as Shakespearean actors in heavy skirts were slowed
—perhaps why we speak of drag kings and queens today.*

Or… could drag as performance be cut, somehow
from the same cloth as dragen—the Dutch verb
for to carry or wear?** Ik draag kleren means I wear clothes
(of any kind). From this comes gedrag: behaviour—a way
of acting, though not a formal act. Wangedragen is mis-
behaving, acting up, and verdragen endurance: surviving.

Amelia Walker

 

Notes

Unless otherwise stated, all etymological facts in the poem are drawn from the Online Etymological Dictionary’s entry for ‘drag’.

9 Women Arrested For Wearing Pants, (C Conger, 7 November 2014, Stuff Media LLC). See also MD Sankey, MD, Women and War in the 21st Century: A Country-by-Country Guide, ABC-CLIO, California, 2018, p. 278.

* This theory, taken from the Online Etymological Dictionary, is one among several regarding how drag came to be used in the sense of drag kings and queens. Another common suggestion is that it was an acronym for ‘dressed as a girl’—something I have not explored in this poem, because I find it less interesting, and because it somewhat erases the long history of drag performers who wore men’s clothing.

** Wiktionary: dragen

 

Amelia Walker has published four poetry collections, most recently Dreamday. She also holds a PhD in creative writing from the University of South Australia, where she is presently employed as a lecturer.

© 2019

Red Carpet Interview

Tonight
I am wearing
my white wedding-night lingerie,
under the dress I sewed for the steampunk ball,
under my grandmother’s yellow silk dressing gown,
under the tartan kilt of my old school uniform,
under the turquoise blazer I bought for my first job interview,
under the team t-shirt from my Missions trip to Greece,
under my first bikini, designer, with pink flowers,
under my favourite stretchy pregnancy pants, with the really good waistband,
under the Chinese green silk blouse I scored last week at Vinnies,
under my waitressing apron,
under my doctoral gown,
under my gardening clothes,
under my skin,
under my bare skin,
under my own bare skin.

I am not wearing shoes.

Susan Wardell

 

Susan Wardell is from Dunedin, New Zealand. She currently lectures in Social Anthropology at the University of Otago, while raising two small humans and a few potted plants. She has been published in Landfall, Takahe, and Ecological Citizen. She won 2nd place in the Landfall Essay Competition in 2018.

© 2019

Plastique in Brazil

The poor have a right
to be beautiful.
The poor suffer so
from asymmetry.

But with a little help, Luisa’s face
cuts through the cash economy.

She rises, winged, aerodynamic
cheeks his masterwork.
I ask: what kind of capital
is beauty? What can it buy?
For those that have no name
and no books to fill their brain
but oh body!
your beat and heat, your wile.

When boys dream of soccer scholarships
and girls finger their fat stomachs
and cry. When NGOs go into the favelas
with retired models and cameras and teach
the girls to stick out their
assets, smile.

And if they don’t the girls just go down the street
a mile, to the same place Luisa bears his cold hands
at her breast, this god, his cuts a promise
an escape.

The poor have the right to a straight nose.
To big, perfect eyes.
The poor have a right
to rise.

Susan Wardell

 

This poem is an interpretation of the ethnographic context of plastic surgery in Brazil, as presented in the journal article Edmonds, A. (2007). “‘The Poor Have the Right to Be Beautiful’: Cosmetic Surgery in Neoliberal Brazil.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13(2): 363–81. The line ‘the poor have a right to be beautiful’ was drawn from the article’s title; all other wording and narrative details are the author’s own.

Susan Wardell is from Dunedin, New Zealand. She currently lectures in Social Anthropology at the University of Otago, while raising two small humans and a few potted plants. She has been published in Landfall, Takahe, and Ecological Citizen. She won 2nd place in the Landfall Essay Competition in 2018.

© 2019

self-portrait that is not a self-portrait

After Orlan’s The Reincarnation of Saint-Orlan

there’s much to be said
for becoming something

else than what you are,
but as I read about

The Reincarnation of Saint-Orlan
who underwent a series of

‘performance surgeries’
inspired by Western ideals of art

I think of how we all live

within our own
circumferences, our bodies

drawn by a compass
point that pulls & pushes

us to our limits, but still
leaves us birthed within ourselves

Kim Waters

 

This poem is inspired by Controversial French artist Orlan on the Creative Mapping website.

Kim Waters lives in Melbourne. She has a Master of Arts degree in creative writing from Deakin University. Her poetry has appeared in The Australian, Shanghai Review, Verge and Antithesis. She won The National Association of Loss and Grief (NALAG) 2nd Award in for the Grieve Writing Competition in 2018.

© 2019

Sworn Virgin

In that land where mountains climb each other’s backs,
balancing on one another’s shoulders for a better view –
gods and acrobats whose throats of dolomite,
vanishing in overbearing winter skies, thunder threats
and visit avalanches, blizzards, snow and ice on paltry
human lives imperilled far below; where death is but
a single breath away on any given day – it is unthinkable
for girls or women to walk out alone; to ride a horse,
to sing a song or play an instrument; to wear a watch,
or wield an axe, to let their hair hang loose and long;
it is forbidden by the Code for women to speak
out of turn – before a man has spoken; or to eat
before a man has dined; to choose a husband;
worst offence of all: to wed for love. The value
of a woman’s life is half that of a man’s. (The value
of a man’s life, fixed by blood feud, is twelve oxen.)

The elder village males appoint the time to marry off
a daughter – someone else’s or their own. They leave
a cartridge at her door – a sign her father can’t ignore,
a token for her dowry, a grisly keepsake taken
to her marital abode, where she will do the bidding
of her husband’s clan. Should she not find favour
with her bridegroom’s kin – perverse as their demands
may be – her husband may dispose of her.
The symbolic bullet serves as practical solution.

If a girl cannot abide such strictures, she may take
an oath to live as honorary male: “sworn virgin”;
whereupon her hair is shorn, her breasts are bound flat
to her chest, she dons a man’s attire, assumes a name to match.
The hard life of the village and the mountains wears her down.
The girl who scorned to be enslaved, oppressed by the male gaze
is exiled to the confines of her skin.

Only on her wedding day is a bride permitted
to sit astride a horse – under the duress of a male escort,
a posse of grim village men (an entourage of wolves)
who lead the rider to her groom – a white goat herded
to the fold, hemmed in, her face opaquely veiled
so that she cannot see the road; will not remember
her way home (for there is no return);
only the dim visages of mountains
bearing down like doom.

The poem references a mediaeval practice that lingers to this day in remote regions of Albania.

Jena Woodhouse

 

Jena Woodhouse’s most recent published collection is the chapbook Green Dance: Tamborine Mountain Poems, the debut publication from Calanthe Press (2018), inspired by the rich diversity of the Tamborine Mountain rainforest on the Scenic Rim of an extinct volcano in south-east Queensland: now threatened by the impacts of urbanization.

© 2019

Waiting on Imran Khan

I knew they were trouble the moment they walked in.
I was eighteen, bookish, I’d not yet learned
to build a public face. I was laid open like an oyster
on a salted plate. The uniform was no help,
nylon trousers cut into my soft waist and thighs,
standard issue, there was no bigger size. Summer – the dozy

lunch time shift. Office workers, pensioner couples
sharing, before the cool waterhole of the cinema.
Then, eight or nine men all preening, careening,
igniting against each other. Who was the roughest,
who had the biggest, who was alpha,
and who was his bitch.  With my greeting (guinea pig

tentative, I kick myself now), I became the pitch
for a practice hit; a boy’s own way to rejig
the middle order of the Pakistani cricket team.
I’d never admired Imran Khan as a cricketer –
too cool and vain – I preferred flashy and passionate
like Dennis Lillee, or stately and dignified

like Clive Lloyd, but even so, it should have been
a thrill. I’d been following the Test series,
a fan since Dad and I sat on The Hill.
For a young man they might have been jovial,
but when I seated them they broke into a dirty laugh,
staring hard at parts of me. I delivered their tray of Pepsi,

my hands shaking so the glasses sang like bells;
not one of them took pity. Imran Khan sat
at the centre. He said something I did not understand
and some of them hooted, one snarled, their eyes
were hot monsters, some swearing softly,
gesturing at me. I met his eye for a long moment

and saw carefully manicured disgust
at the humiliation I was heaping upon myself
by being a young woman, by walking the floor
in my awful uniform, my flat, black lace-up shoes. Yes,
I was walking the floor: earning my own money, slowly
forming the dense quartz of my opinions, polished and patient.

Lisa Brockwell

 

Note: This poem was Runner-up in the 2015 University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize and appeared in the prize anthology, 9 September, 2015.  First published in Earth Girls (Pitt Street Poetry, May 2016).

Lisa was the guest editor of Not Very Quiet Issue 3.

At the single women’s camp

Molly, Biddy, Addie, Bess and May don’t care
about the grey beards sprouting from their chins.
They couldn’t give a wild fig about their matted
hair, old scars, husbands, lovers, the living or the dead.

They burn wood, hotwire seeds for necklaces,
mark time, paint dots on canvases. They’re laughing
at the antics of the dogs or one more whitefella
who comes with questions, other kinds of wanting.

In their small circle behind this broken fence,
they’ve done with looking after, finished mothering,
silent now and wise.  Their only wish?  A decent feed,
a lift to country when things are ripe: wild passionfruit,
bush tomatoes, bush bananas, ininti seeds.

Let the young ones hunt echidna and goanna.

After all their gathering, these women are content
to sit, sip tea, eat what we’ve packed in eskies
or a box.  They’ve stopped bleeding, crying, caring,
wanting anything . . . except trips to country,
ceremony.

Look!

Molly, Biddy, Addie, Bess and May are painted up!
The ochre patterns on their bodies map their country.
See how they gently stamp their feet and sway?

Listen!

They’re singing up hills and soaks and dreaming
sites with bare breasted dignity, knowing limbs,
ochre lines and circles the language of the land.
Each woman’s body is their country and a songline
they’re passing on to younger women, kin.

KA Nelson

K A Nelson is the guest editor of this issue of Not Very Quiet.

The girl who said NO

Her name was Patricia.
She was in my class at junior school and one day she said NO
to the free school milk in the glass bottle that stood all morning in its crate in the hot summer sun.
NO she said to the teacher.
NO she said to the headmaster.
NO NO NO.
Oh Oh Oh
She ran from the line-up,
out of the playground,
out of the gate.

It was the day I heard the venetian blinds rattle in the classroom.
Watching each slat cutting the day into long thin slices.
Blinking at patterns of dark and light.
Thinking this moment might go on and on
and on and never end and I was trapped
not like Patricia and her NO.

But I didn’t say no.
Not to warm milk,
or to boys with hands that were wet to my touch,
or to the man on a train who sat too close,
or to the man in the car smelling of tweed.

Moya Pacey

 

Moya is one of the founding editors of Not Very Quiet.

Vanished

My wedding dress disappeared
mysteriously – to my mother’s
consternation…
so many hours had gone into
its creation – this frothy concoction
of Italian lace and pale pink ribbon
(reminiscent of handmade
party frocks from my childhood)
She had folded it carefully into
a Chinese camphor wood chest
(owned by her mother)
smoothing gossamer
billows into submission
pressing them gently
into the comfortable
darkness of ancient wood –
but one day when she
peeked into the dimness
it was gone…
all of the creamy, flower
embossed sweetness
vanished…
like flimsy dreams
for a cherished daughter
who, strangely, did not share
her sorrow at this loss
but gratefully received the
empty, teak hard, box
carved with galloping
horses, swaying trees and
boatmen crossing a stormy river…

Anita Patel

 

Anita was the guest editor of Not Very Quiet Issue 2.

coming out in our town

on the cusp of coming out, there will be a muted, collective sigh of relief from all those who love her. it may be that her friends in that side street café have been wondering why it took so long for self-awareness to kick her in the guts.

what I know she may not want to hear, she may not want to know, that it’s been bleeding obvious since we all sat on the hot, sticky vinyl benches across the Laminex table from each other in the company of flies and warm milkshakes.

her hair teased into beehive shock, purple black painted nails chewed to the quick, and us, looking like boys in our loose work pants, shirt sleeves rolled back, pretending we can blow smoke rings as a matter of course.

we’d just read Audre Lorde and June Jordan and we know, as if for the first time, that dykes have a voice, increasingly loud, and these dykes are talking to us.

and we know, as if for the first time, that there will be a time for girls like us …

on the cusp of coming out
there will not be
it may not be
unless you put your hand on me
what I already know
you may not want to tell me

Sandra Renew

 

Sandra is one of the founding editors of Not Very Quiet.

Performing the feminine

You cannot separate what it means to be a ‘woman’, often used to mean a performance of acceptable femininity, from the conditions that decide what is and is not acceptable across time and space. We all do this kind of performance of ourselves, be it our gender or race or social class or national identity or culture. As we are doing it, we are always negotiating with powerful ideas about what constitutes a woman. (Tressie McMillan Cottom, Thick: And Other Essays, 2018, pp. 61–62).

These photos, found online in no-known-copyright collections, show thirteen women performing woman in their particular historical times and places. All but one of the photos are posed – composed – by the women themselves, the photographer, by-standers and others outside the frame where we cannot see them. Many of the photos have props or backgrounds against which we are meant to read the women’s performances of the feminine. Many of the women are public figures, some are unknown. Dates range from the 1880s to the 1930s.


Woman seated side saddle on a highly decorated camel.

Unidentified woman on a camel, ca. 1880, Queensland. Source: State Library of Queensland, hdl.handle.net/10462/deriv/112217.

 

Four women on a beach with bicycles.

Four young women with their bicycles on the beach, Moruya, New South Wales, ca. 1900. Source: National Library of Australia, nla.gov.au/nla.pic-vn4587429

 

Woman in a very long dress struggling to board a tram.

Woman getting on a tram, Brisbane, Queensland, 1910-1920. The sign on the No. 30 tram reads ‘New Farm, W’Gabba, Boggo Rd’. Source: State Library of Queensland, hdl.handle.net/10462/deriv/56304

 

Woman showing her marching costume.

Unknown woman who marched at the Chicago suffrage march, 1916. Source: Library of Congress. Part of a Chicago Tribune photo essay on the Chicago 1916 march.

 

Film actor Helen Twelvetrees and her 1935 Pontiac, Cinesound Studios, Sydney, 1936. Helen Twelvetrees was one of the first American women to star in an Australian film. Photographer: Sam Hood. Source: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales: acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemDetailPaged.aspx?itemID=153778

 

Woman wearing a beret.

Louise Thaden, aviator. Source: Women of Flight Special Collection, San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive, WOF_00353.

 

Woman dressed in a fez with a cigarette.

Ella Wesner, male impersonator, ca. 1880. Photographer Napoleon Sarony. Source: George Eastman Museum, accession number 1981:4078:0016

 

Woman with very long hair.

A photograph of Emma Barker, the daughter of Elizabeth Baldwin Barker and niece of George Baldwin. Source: Tyrell Historical Library, AC339-016-021-001.

 

Ida B Wells

Investigative journalist and civil rights campaigner Ida B Wells, c 1893, Chicago, Illinois. Photographer: Mary Garrity. Sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

 

Miles Franklin wielding an umbrella.

Miles Franklin, author, 1901, Rozelle, Auburn St. Goulburn, NSW. Source: State Library of New South Wales: acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemDetailPaged.aspx?itemID=448208

 

Anna Pavlova sitting very still on a deck chair.

Anna Pavlova, ballet dancer, on board ship, Australian tour, 1929. Photographer: unknown. Source: State Library of NSW, acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemDetailPaged.aspx?itemID=441900

 

Gertrude Stein seated, arms crossed.

Gertrude Stein, author, 1913. Photographer: Alvin Langdon Coburn. Source: George Eastman Museum, accession no. 1979:4010:0001.

 

Five women in fur coats.

Scenes on the Western Front, Drivers of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry in their fur coats. Source: National Library of Scotland, digital.nls.uk/74548028. Photographer: John Warwick Brooke. Reproduced under Creative Commons licence BY-NC-SA 4.0


Many of the institutional collections (from which these images are sourced) participate in the Flickr Commons project. The Commons aims to catalogue and make available public collections of images for which there are no known copyright restrictions.

Tikka Wilson

Tikka is the production manager and a founding member of Not Very Quiet.