‘…scribbles, comments, glosses (annotations), critiques, doodles, or illuminations’

We are the marginalia of history,
biting at the big heels
of heroes and presidents, popes
and PMs.
Not so much pitbulls
as their annoying fleas.
See there?
That’s the woman who made tea
for the Big Three at Yalta.
She’s chatting to another
who serves food to firefighters.
(Yellow-clad slayers
of massed man-made dragons
must sit for a moment,
must drink and eat.)
Jackaroos of all hues talk horses,
motorbikes, choppers and utes
far from the pastoralists
who raked it all in.
There in the corner?
That’s the woman who fed sheep
in another corner
when the usual manger
contained a slim, quiet baby
visited by lesser dignitaries than he.
And hear that coughing?
That’s all of us in the chorus
losing our lungs to the smoke,
as our own Neros fiddle
and Australia burns up.

Note: The title comes from Wikipedia’s definition of marginalia.

PS Cottier


Listen to PS reading ‘scribbles …’ (1:34)



PS Cottier will have two poetry collections published in 2020. Monstrous is about Frankenstein’s monster, evil fairies, gnomes, and other horrors, and Utterly, which is about climate change, the environment and more personal concerns.

© 2020, text and audio


Ominous clatter from the shed door
threads pockets of silence, dry as sticks
gathered from the dead plum. It’s primal, how more
of this bang – pause – bang slowly constricts
feeling. Reduced to a trunk with no limbs,
just heart, I can sense the wind dive and lift.
I long to join it, tear the door from its hinge
and keen like a coyote — loose and adrift
in the night air. But that won’t do. Instead
of this wild dream I’ll recheck each latch,
tidy the kitchen once again and catch
myself holding a book I’ve already read.
How can this wind leave us so unchanged?
In here nothing but ourselves, outside the rain.

Dagne Forrest


View Dagne reading her poem on Vimeo (1:05).

Dagne Forrest lives and works in a small town just west of Canada’s capital. Spacetime, nature, and the smallest details in life provide her with jumping off points and inspiration. As a poet, she’s particularly intrigued by playing with form. Her work has been published in K’in Literary Journal and Prime Number Magazine.

© 2020

Self-portrait in the Bathtub

After Frida Kahlo’s, What the Water Gave Her

Hers was a wash with water
of a certain shade, telling
this portrait
after the fact
mine is now a bloodless scene
a wash with no colour at all
signifying the lack.
If I hold my breath
it could be a ghost story
zooming in
on the murky ripples.

It is the silence
the feet out of water
that chills in those movies
the slow creep
of water circling.

The director knows
the power of stark white tiles
negative spaces, outlines, shadows
the terror of the unspoken shade
nothing to see here, now
no telling Daliesque reenactments
just the same foreboding drain
just feet

Anna Forsyth


Listen to Anna reading ‘Self-portrait in the Bathtub’ (0:58)


Anna Forsyth is a poet and editor originally from New Zealand now living in New South Wales. She is the founder of feminist poetry organisation Girls on Key Poetry, where she is the editor of the small press. Her work has appeared in print and online, including in FourW, Not Very Quiet, Poetry NZ, Headland and Landfall. Her latest poetry collection is entitled Beatific Toast.

© 2020, text and audio

Stay or go?

Unanswered texts
like the agapanthus
that didn’t flower
last year,

a removalist van
coinciding with dark
between moons:
guilty spells

of silence, the twin
trees redder in
drought than ever
before as if

making a plea for
the decade to come –
the best yet?
Frangipani boughs

are clocks’ hands
exploding pink at
dawn, never still
until the leaves fall

Jane Frank


Listen to Jane reading ‘Stay or go?’ (0.33)


Jane Frank’s poems have appeared most recently in Hecate, StylusLitMeniscus, Cicerone Journal, The Poet’s Republic, Grieve vol. 7 (Hunter Writers Centre 2019) and the Heroines anthology vol. 2 (Neo Perennial Press 2019). She was joint winner of the Queensland Poetry Festival Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Award in 2019 and teaches writing and literary studies at Griffith University.

© 2020

Going Home

i.m. J. O’Flaherty

She breathes the air of her forebears
and walks the muddied path to the ruins

of the Cleared Coast, the hills lit by ling
heather. She hears of crofters once turfed out,

of their evictors wasting basins of milk,
yes, milk to douse the fire in the hearths

of homes in Boreraig. And of the wailing
and wandering by the waters of Loch Eishort.

But now in the southern spring sky of her
homeland, walls of flame lap at the edge

of old rainforest—the heritage house ablaze
and tumbling—and all the burning sears her

here as streams channel down by granite, and
gleam by bog myrtle, blaeberry and Scots pine.

Kathryn Fry


Listen to Kathryn reading ‘Going Home’ (0:56)


Since moving to Belmont New South Wales, Kathryn Fry has had poems published in various anthologies and journals, including Antipodes (2016, 2019), Westerly (2019) and Not Very Quiet (2017, 2018, 2019). Her first collection is Green Point Bearings (Ginninderra Press 2018).

© 2020, text and audio

Ode to Sybil Ludington

Sixteen-year-old girl who rode nearly 40 miles down unfamiliar roads in order to rouse sleeping militiamen at the beginning of the American Revolution.

history let it happen / forty billion invisible hands /
the swift bend of a silversmith / wet fingers on a glass rim /
will always hear the whistle / they are looking for /
a non-circling / vulture still sniffs at the air /
say you were a girl just sixteen / say you volunteered /
say you rode ten miles by the time your father called out /
blue-coated & red-faced / there is no bell tower /
no plinking rhythm / to settle in to /
George Washington wrote you / congratulated & praised you /
licked your stamp / clean / because he liked the taste /
now even the Daughters have abandoned /
you / a wild horse / no one chooses to believe in

Taylor Garrison


Listen to Taylor reading ‘Ode to Sybil Ludington’ (0:59)


Taylor Garrison is an undergraduate at Muhlenberg College. She is pursuing a degree in History with an emphasis on Women’s History. Her work has appeared in Catfish Creek and Outrageous Fortune.

© 2020, text and audio

writing home

writing home
without accent marks –
internment camp
dark blotches carve countries
on an absent snipe’s eggs


I would like to dedicate this tanka to the memory of the late poet Miklós Radnótti who died in the Holocaust in 1944.

Judit Katalin Hollos


Listen to Judit reading ‘writing home’ (0:10)


Judit Katalin Hollos is a teacher, poet, playwright, translator and journalist. She graduated in playwriting and screenplay writing at the Theatre and Film Institute in Budapest. Her short stories, poems, translations and articles have appeared in English, Swedish and Hungarian in a number of literary magazines and anthologies.

© 2020, text and audio

In the doctor’s rooms

They were saying words, I think
Though I couldn’t be sure
I forgot what words meant, forgot how to speak
Couldn’t say anything except for
One question. Why me?
Two words. Why me
Three letters. Y M E
No other words because there are no words


float . . . . g

Just . . . . . . . . . llett


s tha

t fa




t . . h e n crashintoeachotherunexpectedlyand


X . .   . letters strewn everywhere

E . . . . . .      . all around me . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . O

  chaotic abandon . . . . DE

I picked up the ones I recognised



. . E

I kept them close
I soon learnt that if you rearrange them they spell

devastation desolation isolation

There’s not much else you can do with them, Y M E
In time, I realised my letters must be broken
for they only knew how to spell broken words
I threw them away and started again

Steph Lum


Listen to Steph reading ‘In the doctor’s rooms’ (1:13)



Steph Lum is an emerging poet and intersex human rights advocate. Steph recently founded and edited YOUth&I, an anthology of poetry, writings and artwork by young intersex people.

© 2020, text and audio

The patriarchs

Jacqui Malins


Listen to Jacqui reading ‘The patriarchs’ (1:50)


Jacqui Malins is a stunt poet and artist based in Canberra. She has performed at events including Poetry on the Move (Canberra, 2019) and the Woodford Festival (QLD, 2018–19) and released her first collection Cavorting with Time (Recent Work Press) in 2018. She is the co-founder and organiser of Mother Tongue Multilingual Poetry events in Canberra.

© 2020, text and audio

Distance Blurs

I look out the window and watch clouds act as lens filters while everyone else attends to bigger problems. Rain-dancers have their beliefs suspended as every hill wears a different robe of brown and cumulonimbus are all talk and no action. Trees stand majestic in once-lagoon ovals, and follow the curves of glitterless water. Smoke is rising from the coast where wet can still be dry enough to burn even after a thousand years of rainforest. On the hill farthest from the front lines, generals bicker about optimal denial. The man beside me reads Tolkien. I want to tell him the good guys win in the end, but I can’t remember.

Amanda McLeod


Listen to Amanda reading ‘Distance Blurs’ (1:03)


Amanda McLeod is a Canberra-based creative with fiction and poetry published in many places, both in print and online. She is the Managing Editor of Animal Heart Press, a small poetry press. A fan of quiet places, she’s often outdoors with her dog, looking for the perfect spot.

© 2020, text and audio


An amber striped curve with shrieking back legs is blown
on to my windscreen and there are so few of you Another
bee buzzes around a window Flyspray too conveniently
at hand I squirt Mistaken identity the blowflies awakened
with the warmth I have often wondered if flies hibernate
Not so Undergo diapause Like the more permanent state
of insect parliamentarians

Lizz Murphy


Listen to Lizz reading ‘Diapause’ (0:48)


Lizz Murphy writes between Binalong NSW and Canberra ACT in a variety of styles. She also loves art & text. She has published thirteen books. Her eight poetry titles include Shebird (PressPress), Walk the Wildly (Picaro/Ginninderra) and Two Lips Went Shopping (Spinifex). She is a former Canberra Times Poetry Editor.

© 2020, text and audio

collateral damage

Trump orders withdrawal of American troops that are a buffer
between Bashar al-Assad and Erdogan protecting the Kurds
Hevrin Khalef a senior feminist Kurdish politician
Secretary-General of the Future Syria Party
that believes in pluralism and equal rights for women
in a democratic home to millions of Kurds
betrayed by Trump who left them to the wolves / a war crime
soon forgotten / six years work undone in six days

a barrage of bullets / head riddled with gunshot wounds
some close range / shots to the back / face fractures
hit repeatedly with the butt of a rifle / both legs broken
dragged by the hair until it parted with her scalp
executed at a checkpoint in Syria by Jihadists mercenaries
former ISIS prisoners who believe women inferior to men
shouting film me film me as they shoot already dead bodies
Turkey claims the vehicle struck by the Syrian Air Force
sensationalist Italians’ report raped and stoned to death
fake news to further debase a clever and gentle woman
the Turks broadcast Khalef neutralized! a success!

jenni nixon


Listen to jenni reading ‘collateral damage’ (1:31)


jenni nixon is a sydney writer − readings at diverse venues include Sydney Town Hall, writers festivals, pubs and bookshops – ‘swimming underground’ published (Ginninderra Press 2015) – recently in Southerly, Cordite, 6 poems Rochford Street Press.

© 2020, text and audio

The Former See-Saw

At the playground there’s a see-saw bolted to the ground on both sides, so perhaps I should say a former see-saw. Two teenagers are sitting on it and nothing is happening. Instead of a teeter-totter it is now a teeter-teeter or a teeter-notter or, really, the most accurate way to describe it would be two unmovable chairs, facing each other.

Jessy Randall


Listen to Jessy reading ‘The Former See-Saw’ (0.33)


Jessy Randall’s poems and other things have appeared in McSweeney’s, Poetry, and The Best American Experimental Writing. Her most recent book is How to Tell If You Are Human (Pleaides 2018). She is a librarian at Colorado College and her website is http://bit.ly/JessyRandall.

© 2020, text and audio


A couple kiss over an arcade
game, their image
fixed from gelatinous print—
silver halide draws light
through shadow.

Hoi An.
Sky lanterns cast
ascend, drifting though
mountain cloud pass
they firelight your phone.

The bedside table’s forgotten
photo—its faded Kodak
and the tooth there, small
yellowed, covered in dust.

A stretch of coastline—
mornings flood bone
the northerly billows
curtains and with it,
blisters of sea.

You dress. Pulling work
over your head—tying
yourself into sailor’s knots,
no longer able to pause or delay.

KA Rees


Listen to K A reading ‘Pause’ (0:49)


KA Rees writes poetry and short fiction. Her poems and short stories have been published by Australian Poetry, Cordite Poetry Review, Margaret River Press, Not Very Quiet, Overland, Review of Australian Fiction and Yalobusha Review, among others. Kate live in Sydney.

© 2020, text and audio

The Moon and the Teapot


The moon rises benevolent.
It has been dark for an hour
now and he sleeps after all
that has been said and not
done. Accusations hurled
like an axe across the room.
How she raged, jabbing
her grievances home
one by one until he let fall,
unwittingly, into the still
centre of their storm,
the truth of how he saw
himself and them.


The sun is up, the teapot
is warm and as she pours
his tea she fancies there is
a gleam of malice in his eyes.
But is it for what she said
or what she heard?

Debbie Robson


Listen to Debbie reading ‘The Moon and the Teapot’ (0:48)


Debbie Robson has been writing poetry since the 1990s. She has performed some of her poems on radio, at Sydney poetry events, in the Blue Mountains and more recently as part of the Women of Words project in Newcastle. She has also been privileged to have one of her long poems performed by an actor as part of the Southern Highlands Art Festival.

© 2020, text and audio


Years ago

In some gap in school time – I can’t recall –

I was rouseabout to the shearers taking the wool off our Border Leicester flock.

They were over-large – the sheep, I mean; (the shearers weren’t happy).

And they were wily, alert, not sleepy and dull like the poor Merino

curled coif styled backward to block the eyes
so that they feel their way, bouncing against one another
like dodgem cars
or moving in one surge
fluid, a formless motion only
with no directing will.

The Border Leicester, though, is the urban skinhead of sheep breeds,

Head shaven, bullet-like and hard,

Ready to force himself, brutish, through the smallest gap.

He stands in the pen with head poised, eyes hunting

For an opening.


Before the machines start the shed is quiet with breathing

The clicking of cloven hooves on wooden floors

The staccato of little hard beads of shit falling through the grating

Once or twice a low guttural complaint.


In those twilight moments between work and work

The iron corrugations high above

let little pinpricks of light through to beam on the dusty floor

spent holes once fixing the tin to some other shed
barn house haystack
dog kennel –
Iron reincarnated over years and years
And now a temple for the flock.

In that silence, there is smell;

that sweet-bitter incense calm of lanolin piss shit sweat
and Lister oil

That by the end of the day clings to my shirt my jeans my shoes my arms

Me and the floor and the air around.


But on the clock the motors buzz and silence is the echoing memory of thought.


Union rules – every sheep is counted and marked up in chalk on the wall

and every moment is money.

Each shearer keeps his own tally – an adult task, it seemed



outside my experience

to me, a child, that the boss would also keep a tally

and the pens outside would be cross-checked

ancient and robust accounting, but also entirely now.


Then it is scooping the fleece, unwieldy, prickly with burrs or maybe heavy with dags,

in the same way I would pick up a sheet
before throwing it over the bed.


When I throw the fleece it isn’t a pretty sight; not the smooth reverse quilt of wool but a ragged

patchwork, perhaps half missing the table.

Am I not tall enough?

Was it the shearer/did the comb cut up the fleece/did the sheep writhe and struggle and tear

the clean lines of the run?

I’ve never known/never been told.


The broom I can do but best do it quickly. Don’t want that short, sharp ‘broom!’

like a slap
if you’re an over-careful girl.


Best of all, for me, was pushing the fleece into the press and, finally, pressing it down

in our old, manual press
with its cables carefully untangled then
threaded through and turning the lever with the ratchet clicking until
it can’t reach the next gear

then letting it up again, a third of its size.


As far as I can tell

It’s all a matter of timing; above all, never leave a shearer without a sheep.

The holding pen, forcing pen, catching pen – all are full before the start of the day,

and throughout the day.

There is no excuse for the shearer to be chasing around the pen for a single sheep.

And I feel years of unionised labour curse harshly at my cluelessness

if I am sweeping throwing skirting packing pressing anything
other than filling the pen.

As if the 1891 strikers are glowering through the lean years

propped on the fence, cigarette drooping from tired lips
eyes disappointed or hostile
or hungry

because I, stupid, don’t know my job.


Sheep aren’t really our thing; they’re just the clean-up crew

Brought in to level the stubble,

To balance the crops and the cows.

Sheep aren’t really my thing, and the deep magic of the shearing shed

Wasn’t passed to me through my mother’s milk

Or any of the other meals I cadged along the way.


Now that shed is ruinous

not gone – maybe that would be better – but left to fall apart.

I see it from the road – the owner doesn’t live there or anywhere near here

but calls by phone or occasionally visits from the city
if the animals need water.

The oiled floor is open to the rain, and that ancient iron lies

strewn around
yards derelict
high windows fallen in
doors broken and now only open

to the wind.

Francine Rochford


Listen to Francine reading ‘Rouseabout’ (5:09)


Francine Rochford lives and works in rural Victoria.

© 2020, text and audio

The Bus

Outside it is snowing, and not a little bit,

The kind that makes you want to stay indoors,

The kind that gets down the neck of your coat if you are not,

that clings and melts against your skin.

The kind that is lovely in December and truly awful in March,

The kind that makes the car slide out from under you, towards that tree,

or that ditch or worse yet

that person, just standing there, waiting for the bus.


Heidi Slettedahl


Listen to Heidi reading ‘The Bus’ (0:31)


Heidi Slettedahl is an academic and a US–UK dual national who goes by a slightly different name professionally. She has been published sporadically in small literary journals, including  Picaroon Poetry, Vita Brevis, Dream Noir and I Want You to See This Before I Leave.

© 2020, text and audio

The Wedding Suit

‘put on a diaphanous Ossie Clark dress and throw myself off Beachy Head’ — Pattie Boyd on her marriage’s difficulties

Marriage never held any appeal,
a momentary overwhelming of beauty,
stutter-stepping forward
into the silken fall of unknown.

I chose to remain firm-footed,
a jeans and booted plain Jane
tramping that same landscape,
coupled but truer to myself.

Separation doesn’t come any easier
without the gold band,
wanting or deserving nothing.

Alone, the dress feels hard-won,
soft wings to hold me aloft,
and the white cliffs less of a sheer drop.

Gerry Stewart


Listen to Gerry reading ‘The Wedding Suit’ (1:03)


Gerry Stewart is a poet, creative writing tutor and editor based in Finland. Her poetry collection Post-Holiday Blues was published by Flambard Press, UK. Hedgehog Poetry Press will publish her collection ‘Totems’ in 2020. Her writing blog can be found at http://thistlewren.blogspot.fi/ and @grimalkingerry on Twitter.

© 2020, text and audio

Click-click needles

The click-click needles knit apart my wrong
as Daddy’s gavel echoes in the thread,
as soft as spiders’ silk but twice as strong.

I felt my sins announced with clang of gong,
scrub, scrubbed potatoes – teenaged fingers bled.
The click-click needles knit apart my wrong.

While knit one, purl one, knit one sings its song,
“Adopt!” the nuns’ mad mantra haunts my head,
as soft as spiders’ silk but twice as strong.

I flagellate myself with memory’s thong,
its welts a plea she’s happy, safe, well-fed.
The click-click needles knit apart my wrong.

Oh guilt that ever-sharpens flashback’s prong!
The smell of steaming spuds still triggers dread,
as soft as spiders’ silk but twice as strong.

As tokens of maternal love grow long,
her absence tastes of bile and tears of red.
The click-click needles knit apart my wrong,
as soft as spiders’ silk but twice as strong.

Robyn Sykes


Listen to Robyn reading ‘Click-click needles’ (1:52)


Robyn Sykes is published in journals and anthologies nationally, internationally and online. Her work draws on her fascination with nature, human behaviour and the idiosyncratic. The entertainer and science graduate has studied crocodiles, peered down electron microscopes and lived in Japan. Robyn lives and works on a farm in south-west New South Wales.

© 2020, text and audio

Refusing disaster (a survival plan)

The fires blew in ahead of schedule and were gone, and next came the dust and then the storms and then the hail. We unplugged the downpipes we had plugged, scooped dead insects from the pond. Each afternoon you dug out the jews harp I gave you the year we turned twelve and had it hum and buzz that Nick Cave song about loyalty, the one we danced to, off our tits, the year we turned eighteen. Holding the music in your mouth, breathing out the song. They phone to tell us the funnel webs are on the move, and we laugh it off, say everyone is on the move. Still, the world is growing bigger. I am building a sleeping platform between the shivered trunks of trees while you craft a halcyon garden using only pebbles and ash. They phone to tell us the fires have turned and are heading back our way, and we laugh it off, say that’s not very likely now is it.

Jen Webb


Listen to Jen reading ‘Refusing disaster (a survival plan)’ (1:30)



Jen Webb is Dean of Graduate Research at the University of Canberra, and co-editor of the scholarly journal Axon: Creative Explorations and the literary journal Meniscus. She researches creativity and culture, and her most recent poetry collections are Sentences from the Archive, and Moving Targets (Recent Work Press, 2016, 2018).

© 2020, text and audio


Monks douse saffron robes
with accelerant, exchange prayer beads for a lit match,
and offer themselves as human candles.

Our daughters carve into their skins
like wax engravers, loosing blood
to the river until tender veins rust.

River gums tilt on root axes,
let through flint-sharp slants of sun
so oil-infused leaves buckle and smoulder.

My limping, praying mother resists evacuation
asking, where else there is to go
other than here, other than now.

Trees surrender their arms en masse to a molten sky,
release bark-wombs to ash, and propagate inferno
from sacrificial funeral pyres.

The greed mongers scrabbling for coal would
sever the non-complacent tongue,
lobotomise even the dawn chorus—

And the universe, gagged and bound, must now transmit
in panic code;

Flames flicker and curl, flicker and curl,
poised for plan B.

Sophia Wilson


Listen to Sophia reading ‘Flicker’ (1:35)


Sophia Wilson is an Australian New Zealander. Her poetry/short fiction recently appeared in StylusLit, Ars Medica, Poems in the Waiting Room, Hektoen International, Corpus and elsewhere. In 2019, the manuscript for her first children’s novel, The Guardian of Whale Mountain, was selected in the top ten for Green Stories (UK). She was shortlisted for the 24 Hour National Poetry Competition (NZ) and the Takahē Monica Taylor Prize and was a finalist in the Robert Burns Poetry Competition.

© 2020, text and audio


Every freedom song
is chanted by a traitor
who attacks her own tribe

Every freedom
is slave to
silly wisdom

Every woman
needs freedom
from disguise

but nudity
only chains her
to outsiders’ grace

Every woman
is an old castle
like philosophy—

torn between stones
and art—

Every woman
stops the world
but cannot stop men

Her sewn-up vagina—
cropped clitoris—
is the blood
of screams

Freedom from god
enslaves woman to man

Freedom from man
enslaves woman to woman

Every woman is
the child of enemy-oppressor

Every woman is
the child of enemy-oppressor

those who claim suffering
justifies silence—

Every freedom song
is chanted by a dictator
who replaces another

Every woman
is freedom in disguise—
a terror song

Bänoo Zan


Listen to Bänoo Zan reading ‘Burqa’ (2:42)


Bänoo Zan is a poet, librettist, translator, teacher, editor and poetry curator, with 200 published poems and poetry-related pieces as well as three books. Song of Phoenix: Life and Works of Sylvia Plath, was reprinted in Iran in 2010. Songs of Exile, her first poetry collection, was released in 2016 in Canada by Guernica Editions. It was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award by the League of Canadian Poets in 2017. Letters to My Father, her second poetry book, was published in 2017 by Piquant Press in Canada. She is the founder of Shab-e She’r (Poetry Night), Toronto’s most diverse poetry reading and open mic series (since 2012). It is a brave space that bridges the gap between communities of poets from different ethnicities, nationalities, religions (or lack thereof), ages, genders, sexual orientations, disabilities, poetic styles, voices and visions.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/banoozan/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/banoo.zan
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BanooZan
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/banoo.zan/

© 2020, text and audio



Now this—
not our first
conflagration, but still,
the biggest yet. The timbered hills
in drought conditions, heat waves and winds
that turn, and turn: fireballs, incineration, flammagenitus—
a cloud—volcanic properties, mind of its own,
its temper rising, turbulent
then cooling.
Ice can
play a role and so
can rain—it’s not well
understood—outgassing gas
on particles of ash and if it rains,
can put its fire out!  I confess, the role
of lightning, jet stream, water vapour is
tinder in my brain, waiting
for a spark.

Is there
a politician in power anywhere,
willing to address this summer’s mass
cremation?  As citizens cry out
for climate action, they
promise ‘evolution’.
What we get
is spin &

K A Nelson


Listen to Kerrie reading ‘Crematorium’ (1:10)


© 2020


All this lost summer, I check
my phone for ‘Fires Near Me’:
Namadgi, Currowan, Badja
on repeat in my head
like a hollow prayer.
I monitor road closures,
watch footage of fires tear
across the screen and listen
to journos, dressed as yellow
firies, deliver the latest toll.
Pungent, acrid, eye-watering
smoke invades my city;
the sun flames red over the lake.
I have cash in my wallet, a car filled
with petrol, water, and bag packed
ready—waiting for the message
to leave, but who can tell when?

I walk around my empty suburb
wearing my P2 mask feeling
like an extra in ‘The End of the World.’
Neighbours put out water in buckets
for our mob of refugee ‘roos.
One with a joey in her pouch—
head popped out; front legs
folded at right angles above pricked
ears—waiting for the message
to leave, but who can tell when?

Moya Pacey


Listen to Moya reading ‘Waiting’ (1:10)


© 2020, text and audio


In this stolen summer of cinder and
smoulder and blaze and ash …
I watch a woman pull a fish from the
ocean—foil flashing flutter against
the evening sky—a shiny fish flag
unlatched quickly and flicked
into rush of sea on sand …
I see the silver of it disappear gratefully
beneath the cool swell …
Fish and sea and sky and woman
and my smoke heavy heart salved
(for a moment) in this stolen summer …

Anita Patel


Listen to Anita reading ‘Moment’ (0:54))


© 2020, text and audio

Playing us

Fire tracks us for days along the city’s edge, like a wild camel on the dune-top, shadowing our movements, waiting for the moment to maraud and rampage in amongst our domestic smallness.

Our bush capital, a recent discordant note in historical time, settlers unsettled in the territory of fire, trespassing in a place claimed by flame. Burning takes its own time, plays its own game forever, makes its own weather.

Emissaries of smoke are sent on each wind change, it glows malevolent on satellite maps, taunts, turns burning fingers towards us, then pulls away, back to the wilderness where we cannot follow,

leaves us breathless, waiting, for the next turn, the next heat spike. It plays, we tense, it threatens, we watch, it runs and storms, we retreat. Days pass … still it tracks along the western hills, looks down on our intruder city.

Smoke covers streets and houses, enters every breathing body, camps out in hair and carpets, hangs between us and the sun. My fire is out there it says, stringing out our dread, playing us, a game of nerves.

Sandra Renew


Listen to Sandra reading ‘Playing us’ (1:55)


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