Archive for February, 2015

Poetry: Monsoon Night … Northern Morning

February 21, 2015

My friends in the North have been battered and bruised by the elements once again – but survived. Yes, Australia is a dangerous and terrible place – it’s also beautiful and special, especially the Northern Territory. Today I have a couple of poems for you written as part of a longer series about life in a particular Northern town.

darwinbats

Monsoon Night

Up there, in thick black clouds

Beyond the fat moon, far above the tree tops

the storm gathers, growls

smouldering away.

 

Clashing noises from the Gods

rumble and thunder across the patient night sky.

Winds rush up streets

slamming doors – open and shut

rattling vases, knocking down pictures.

A sudden and vicious gust.

Before the rain whips in

hard and vertical

marching in a line up and down streets

first on one roof and then another

precisely covering each suburb

of this hot little city.

A swift-savage downpour.

Crashing on iron roofs

flooding gutters

filling swimming pools

washing possums, dogs, cats

from their resting places in trees, gardens, parks

Scattering bats across the clouded skies.

 

Waking babies

wake their mothers,

who walk the night

fill bottles, offer a breast, change nappies

Sooth unsettled children, startled babies.

Then sit on bamboo chairs on elevated verandahs

Alone, to watch the night

The wondrous storm

taking in the cool of the air

deep into their lungs, their pores

feel their being change, becoming

part of the confluence of nature

part of the storm

pulled into its current.

Faces cleansed with rain

nostrils filling with freshly released perfumes

bodies bathed in breezes

Calmed by the rain.

Spirits soothed by the storm.

 

A mother’s breath exhales, and her home eases.

Storm-disturbed children

sigh and settle back to a dreamless sleep.

Men shuffle down passages

Feel the change in the air

visit the fridge

the toilet

stretch and scratch, snuffle and snort

returning to bed for a restful sleep – a deep slumber

before the day arrives to send them back to work.

 

A man

A woman

stand abutting their verandah railings

flesh to naked flesh

rain splashing skin

Looking into the night

the arcs of light across the sky

the shadows of cloud across the moon.

Nothing moves except the sky.

No sound except the thunder.

 

Above

High overhead

the storm moves away

rumbles mumbling out to sea

lightning now flashing feebly

over the black-blue water

losing passion

losing power.

A spent storm

Now all still over this northern most city.

 

Northern Morning

Still dark now

People waking, emerging from dreams

slip from ruffled beds, disentangle from sleeping partners.

Garbage trucks begin their guttural rumbling trek through

a snoozing suburb.

Light-creeping night-falling

sun fingering in through dawn-clouds

Streaky bacon sky.

 

Alarm clocks shrill

clock radios spring into life

walkers, runners, riders invade the streets

silently pounding, arms swinging, regular breathing

swimmers plough up and down backyard pools

The day begins.

 

Light floods

the flat blue horizon

Storm clouds roll away across the heavens

leaving the suburb coolly sighing in the moments

before the sun bursts upon them

firing up the day

firing up the week

firing up the temperature

so that by the time people step

from their morning showers

before they can even dry the water from their bodies

sweat is rolling down their skin.

 

The morning smells sweet

clear, crisp, lighter than the night

Light-blue smells

not the

velvet blue-black smells of the night.

Inhale the refreshed gardens

the flowers releasing cleansing perfumes

filling the nostrils of the waking streets.

Later, children strolling

spilling from cars

will breath in this morning air

smile and be revived for the week’s work

All – children, workers, mothers, babies, students, unemployed –

as they find their way in the world today

will be buoyed by the night storm

the fresh smells of their suburb

the bright blue of the sky

and go happily about their business today.

 

But now dreams are scattered with the early morning light

lost, taken with the dispersing clouds

only snatches left,

disturbing tendrils to bother and mystify throughout a day

busy with the needs of work, of other people.

Ah, to sleep the extra five minutes

to save the lost dream

the door to the soul, to dark wishes and desires

the book of ideas and inspirations

the path to the future (Images from Private Collection & Google Images)

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Stories: A Small Flirtation

February 14, 2015

A story for Valentine’s Day – a bit of romance and betrayal, passion and lust. This first appeared in Red on Red, an Anthology of Northern Territory Writing. Happy Valentine’s Day.

A SMALL FLIRTATION           

Jack.

I kissed her. Properly. Finally. Well, she kissed me and I didn’t hold back. Well, I did. A bit. I didn’t kiss her the way she wanted. I wanted to. When we were sitting in the pub I knew something was coming. She touched my hand a couple of times, kept looking at me, held my gaze: smiled. She’d grabbed my arse before we left work: I knew what she was thinking. Said she’d had another dream about me. Erotic again. She dreams about me a lot. I like that. I like that she dreams about me and tells me. I wonder how explicitly. She hints. I can guess.

So I went for a drink with her and Cam. I s’pose I shouldn’t have. I know she wants me. Would I fuck her? Perhaps if she was a bit thinner, perhaps if we weren’t married. I don’t know. I think about it. I like cuddling her, touching her, the smell of her. But anything else is too difficult. Judy would kill me this time. But we went for a drink – couldn’t hurt, not with Cam there too. But she played up to me, smiling, listening sympathetically to my woes, swirling her ice in, it sounds stupid, a very sexy way. I was really aware of Cam, like a chaperone, there with us. He seemed not to notice her attentions, but he’s used to her flirting: he has coffee with her every morning. Perhaps she doesn’t like me that much? Perhaps she plays us all like this? I watch her. She pays more attention to me than Cam: it’s my hand she touches, it’s my gaze she holds. She stays in her seat as Cam moves to go. So do I. Is she waiting for me, watching me? I expected us all to leave together. But Cam leaves and neither of us move so we’re left alone in the pub.

Her drink is almost empty. She wants another. I don’t. I’m frightened what might happen if I drink too much. I offer to buy her a drink. She will if I will. I won’t. She doesn’t. I feel nervous. I should go. Judy and the kids. It’s eight o’clock. She won’t stay without me. We leave together. I feel better that we’re going. It would be too easy to stay. Outside the door she slips her arm around me, tucking her shoulder under mine. My arm goes around her. I don’t even think about it. We walk like this so often. I like the way she feels tucked in close.

We stop at my bike. I put my helmet and gloves on the seat. She stands in front of me. Close. Expectant. We don’t often stand face to face. She’s quite short really. No heels. Her head fits neatly onto my shoulder. I know this from before. Before that scene in my office, when we used to cuddle too much. She puts her arms around me, around my waist. I know this is stupid. I should have got on the bike and just gone. I shouldn’t have put my helmet down. She’s waiting for something to happen. I put my arms around her. She looks up at me. She wants to kiss me. I want to kiss her. I’ve kissed her before, on her hair, her tinted blonde, soft hair. And a peck on the mouth, once. She wants more than a peck tonight. I bend down to her mouth and we kiss. Mouths slightly open, enough pressure. She tries to move her tongue into my mouth. I can’t do that. She pulls away. Pissed off. I’m glad. No, I’m not. Shit. I don’t know what I am. I want her but her tongue at my teeth scares me. I can’t open my mouth.

She rants and raves a bit. Understandable. Do I lead her on? Have I encouraged her? I don’t know. I do like her. I like the way she feels. But she’s married. I’m married. I know her old man. I tell her I like him too much, her too much. It’s not much of an answer. I put on my jacket and helmet. I can’t go any further with her. Although I probably want to. Where would we go for God’s sake – her car and have it stink of sex and Gary know something was up because that smell is unmistakable? I hug her and go. I don’t even look back to see the lights of her car or if she’s okay. She’s okay. She’s pretty tough really. Must be to like an arse-hole like me. I try not to think about her as I ride home. I lick my mouth tasting her lipstick. I don’t think about her body pressing into mine, her eyes on me. I put tomorrow out of my mind.

I wipe my mouth carefully before I go into the house, remembering the shit her lipstick on my shirt sleeve had caused last month.

***

Kim.

He kissed me. Properly. Not really passionately but it wasn’t a Platonic kiss. He held me and he kissed me. He just wouldn’t let his tongue respond to mine. I don’t know why. But as I think about it now it wasn’t all me. My mouth tingled from the stubble around his mouth, so the pressure was there. He tasted of beer and smoke, sexy, making me think of years ago. And as he’s so much taller than me and I wasn’t wearing heels and I wasn’t on tip-toe he must have bent to kiss me. So he kissed me as much as I kissed him.

I can’t remember how tightly he held me or where his arms were I just know he stayed behind when Cam left and he put his helmet down when we got to his bike. He’d spent the afternoon with me, sat with me at the function, got me drinks, told me stupid jokes. I told him I’d dreamed of him again. That always gets into him. But I was surprised when he agreed to go for drinks with Cam and me after work. He usually pisses off really early. I was pleased though. I knew something would happen. Six months of this, the year nearly over. Something had to happen.

I watched him when Cam made going home moves. He just sat. Cam seemed unsure. Didn’t seem to know what was going on. He sort of hesitated, then left. He waved at me through the window. Did he raise his eyebrows? Jack did not move an inch. He stayed still. Sat with me. Alone together. It was fine and then he seemed to get cold feet. Jabbered on about getting the kids to bed and getting home. Me too, I said. What’s the hassle, I thought. So we left. I put my arm around him and he hugged me to him. We walk like that a lot. I like it. I like the way he feels. Big, strong, but soft. He’s beginning to run to fat in there somewhere. Who am I to say! We stop at his bike. He puts his helmet and gloves on the seat. He stands there. Me in front of him. I can’t help but cuddle him. He puts his arms around me. Well he must have. I can’t really remember this bit. I didn’t have that much to drink, perhaps I should have had more, perhaps we would have fucked then!

But we kiss. Open mouths, some feeling, some fire, but he won’t respond properly. I feel stupid. Idiot. My mouth tingles from his stubble. I taste his beer and cigarettes in my mouth. I step back. Shout at him. Made a fool of myself again over you. How nice for your ego, how nice for you. What stops you? I want to know. He throws out come-ons, winks, smiles but won’t go the distance. Why have a drink with me, kiss me and then kick me in the face? I hate him. I feel so fucking stupid. Because I respect you and Gary too much he says. I almost laugh. What a fucking stupid thing to say.

He stays calm. I hate it that he does that. Gary does that too. He puts on his gloves and helmet. He puts his key in the bike. I hang about. I want this resolved. He comes back. His mouth is covered in dark pink lipstick. Mine. I think I should tell him to wipe it off but why bother. He hugs me. It sort of stems the discomfort I feel, the bile rising in my throat. He isn’t a complete arse-hole. Not quite. I go to the car. He roars past me. Gone. I can’t go home. Can’t face Gary after that. My head spins, my mouth still tingles, I can still taste him. I go and see Caitlin and get blind.

***

Kim

The day after the kiss was fine. He was easy with me, smiled a lot, chatted a lot. We seem to have a secret, a nice secret between us. There seems to be an understanding about Tuesday night, about us. I feel calm around him, sort of happy, like we’ve moved to the next phase of this idiotic non-relationship of ours. I feel like we’ll progress like this, slowly but inexorably towards fucking each other. It seems an inevitability of being around him. Things will happen if I don’t force anything.

Caitlin thinks I should talk to him. It didn’t work last time, why should it this time? I don’t want to talk to him in his office but he won’t come to mine. Patience. I shall try patience. Today I think I can wait forever for him. I assume this serenity won’t last.

***

Jack

I’m not sure what’s going on. Kim is all sweet and calm. No hassle about Tuesday night, yet we seem to have seen a lot of each other at work: intimate sort of chats. It’s like we have a secret. Well I s’pose we do. Where to from here? When she smiles at me and touches me I do want her. I’m sorry I didn’t fuck her the other night. I could do it now – take her into the photocopy room and fuck her there. Just do it.

I had a strange conversation with Cam. After Kim had been with us, discussing next year’s intake. I didn’t think we’d flirted at all, but he did. He was cryptic but I got the message. I’m not as thick as some think. Too much gossip, not good for the place, for me, for her. But I don’t want to talk to her about it. What do I say? Look as everybody thinks we’re doing it we may as well. There’s a thought. Listen, you’ve got to keep away from me. But she does. She only sees me when she has to, she just tends to stay for that extra five minutes. We can’t talk to each other at all? A solution, but not a preferred one.

I should have fucked her. Ages ago. Made all this shit and angst worthwhile.

***

Kim

He’s been transferred. I don’t believe it. He’s going.

***

Jack

They’re transferring me. I don’t want to go.

***

Jack

Kim came into my office after Cam announced I was going. She looked terrible. I felt terrible. She wanted me to shut the door. I said no. There’s been enough bullshit around here the last few days. No closed doors. She just left. I s’pose I was a bit harsh. I saw her about twenty minutes later in the corridor. Looking sad. I must have too. Our eyes met for a moment, a long moment but we said nothing. What is there to say now?

She was leaving work as I was, just in front of me. I called her back: Kimberley. Sometimes I call her that. She only lets Gary call her that. What does that mean? I want to talk, want her sympathy, her support. I want to know how she feels about me going. I feel absolutely shit-house. She’ll give me a hug, help me feel better, make leaving bearable. There’s no-one around.

Instead she savages me. What happened between yesterday and now? She’s pleased that I’m going. Personally, I’m glad you’re going. You’re such a bastard. You’ve tried to say this is all me. It’s not all me, not just in my head. It’s you too. You stayed on Tuesday. You sat with me. You kissed me too. You could have left. You know how I feel about you.

I can’t handle this. No hugs, no smile. No comfort here. How much truth in what she says? She’s hurt: about me going, about how I treat her? I’m hurt. Can’t she see that? I hate her for this. I don’t want hysterical scenes. Not as I’m leaving, not ever. I have done nothing wrong. I was just being friendly. I can’t see her eyes behind her ray-bans but she hates me too. Her chin is set against me. She gives up. Suit yourself. She’s gone. I drive away too fast, feeling bad about the whole mess. Fuck her, fuck her, fuck her.

Fuck the company too.

***

Kim

I cried as I left work. I didn’t want a scene like that. Not so close to the end. Not with him. But the bastard wouldn’t talk to me and then he was an arse-hole in his office, eyes all steel and cold, as I don’t know him. They went like that again in the car park. But in between they were soft and sad, lost blue eyes. Blue eyes I think I love.

No, I don’t. That’s just being sentimental, dramatic, so stupid.

But I felt a real bitch after. I felt mean and nasty and low. In town after I’d done the order for next year and posted my Christmas cards I bought him a card. I thought a long time about what to write. I used my best black pen and wrote it out a couple of times before I wrote on the card. I left it on his desk first thing Friday morning, with a chocolate Father Christmas. He’ll be late. So he’ll get the card before seeing me. He’ll be softened and I’ll be half shot after the champagne breakfast. I’ll have to try not to cry all day. And not to make an utter idiot of myself. Not again.

***

Jack

The new place is horrible. I don’t want to go. Why can’t the bastards leave me alone? Why can’t they leave me here? Everyone is being so nice this morning. Lucy, the receptionist, cried. Sandra, Cam’s secretary, gave me a hug and a kiss good-bye; early she said, before the rush from the others. As if Kim could seriously think that I liked Sandy as I like her. When I finally got to my office there’s a range of packages, a fax from the department, official written notification and a card from Kim. Simple. Sweet. So she felt guilty about yesterday. “Love, Kim”. Oh, yeah. Does she love me? She’s never said. But she wouldn’t. Why would she, I’d just screw it back in her face. Shit, I’ll miss her.

I don’t want to go. Fuck ’em!

***

Kim

I didn’t see him until lunch time. He was cooking sausages on the BBQ. People everywhere. I’d had about two bottles of champagne since 7:30. He had a beer. I went straight out to him and hugged him. He kissed me. On the mouth, in public. Several times. I apologised for being a bitch. I asked about the new place. He’s resigned to it. I’m happy that we’ll end as friends. I still like the way he feels: so good to hold.

Lunch is a long pissy affair. I tidy up my desk slowly, wondering about saying goodbye to Jack. Caitlin is taking me home but she’s busy washing up. I don’t feel so desperate any more. By the time we start again next year this will all be forgotten: he’ll be gone, there will be no more gossip. Well, not much anyway.

I wander through the front office saying goodbye to people. I kiss Cam, hug Rob, then look for Jack, hoping he’s in his office. He’s not. He’s standing by Lucy’s desk. I don’t care any more. I’d like a private goodbye but it doesn’t matter. Not any more.

I’ve come to say goodbye before it’s too late. It’s 2:30. We hug close and tight. We kiss hard but friendly. I burrow into his neck. God, I’ll miss you. My head is buried in his shoulder. His face is in my hair. I love you, too, he says.

I walk away quickly, putting on my ray-bans so no-one can see me crying. Bastard! How dare he say that now! How dare he say I love you? How dare he say such a thing as he’s leaving!

***

Jack

It’s gone. The last box is in the car. I can’t believe I was only there for six months. I could have stayed forever. I’ll miss Cam, the others, Kim. I will miss Kim, but … If I’d stayed it would have got messier. She looked lovely today; all Christmas, balls in her ears, tinsel around her throat, her wrists. I watched her through lunch. I know why I want to fuck her- she uses her body the whole time, she smiles continually, she’s noisy and bright and I want her next to me, naked and lush with me inside her. I don’t care that she’s a stone over-weight, I don’t care that we’re both married. I care that she wants me. That she might love me. Christ! I should have fucked her when I had the chance.

She came to find me after lunch. I wondered if she would. I wanted to be in my office alone but I was talking to Lucy. I expected Kim would take me into the office. I was surprised when she didn’t. Perhaps I’ve been too rough with her. Not given her enough out of this strange game we’ve been playing.

So we said good-bye. I held her tight and she buried her head in my neck, kissing it as we were lovers alone. I kissed her hair and we kissed again, hard, too much feeling. God, I’ll miss you, she said. I hope she does. And I said, not thinking, not even sure if I meant it, but said it perhaps because finally it was the only thing I could say, I love you, too. I held her a moment longer. Close. Intimate. And she was gone.

As I left I over-heard someone say Kim was crying. I almost went to her. Almost held her tight. Almost took her away. Almost.

Stories: Life, the Universe and Cancerous Things

February 7, 2015

This is the story of my cancer journey – 12 years ago now. It was early February that I found a lump in my left breast, just starting at a new school, just moved into my new lovely house on the Tamar River. Oh, my was it a tumultuous year. This story won an ABC Short Story prize and appears on their web-site somewhere!! Enjoy.

Life Happens

Life, the Universe and Cancerous Things

I am 42, which according to Douglas Adams in The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the answer to the question about the meaning of life. In my case the answer is cancer. Breast cancer and I have a feeling that Adams might just approve of such an answer were he still alive to hear it.

I am slightly younger than the average age for this encounter, but not uniquely so. Every day someone is diagnosed with cancer. Every day someone dies from it. Recent statistics have us all lasting a lot longer. Early detection is the key to survival, as is treatment. There are still those of us living in denial who, on finding a lump ignore it, hoping it will go away. I met such a lady during treatment. She ignored her lump: now it is huge and the cancer has spread throughout her body. Why did she ignore it? She doesn’t know.

I found my lump during dinner one Saturday evening in February. A slight pain near my left nipple and in rubbing it better I found it. My lump. Not small, not indistinct – clearly something that shouldn’t be there. I felt sick, worried all weekend and rang my doctor on Monday. How long had it been there? Had I been ignoring this, not examining my breasts regularly or carefully? But I was sure it was new, that it hadn’t been there in December.

Time then did strange things, as it has been doing ever since. My GP moved quickly, ordering scans, biopsies: an appointment with the specialist. Onto the cancer roller coaster I stepped, taking my family with me. Once malignancy was established the choices narrowed. It had to go. How much breast was to go with it? As it turns out over a third has gone and I have a seven inch scar from left to right, making me look something like a cream bun on the left and a normal round full jam donut on the right. It is not a pretty picture in the bathroom mirror.

Chemotherapy followed surgery. A decent interval apart. In fact it seemed too long at the time. I just wanted it to be over. All treatment completed and behind me so I knew what was to happen for the rest of my life and then get on with it.

Don’t let anyone lie to you: chemotherapy is hideous. It makes your hair fall out, your skin reacts, you ache all over, you’re constantly tired, you feel nauseous, constipated, or the other extreme and your predilection for infection rises dramatically. Yes, chemotherapy can kill you.

Six treatments were set at two weeks apart. During the course of treatment I contracted two chest infections, my veins collapsed and I had to have a transfuser port inserted into my chest. Some days I felt so bad I thought that to die might be easier. Chemotherapy is a blunt instrument and it amazes me in this age of medical advancement and miracles that a regime, which seems to just kill everything indiscriminately in its path, is so commonly used. Is in fact, integral to successful treatment.

Radiation on the other hand is refined and specifically targeted. I am measured up, tattooed and then zapped every day for six weeks. Some discomfort, on-going fatigue, but nowhere near the trauma of chemotherapy.

I am nearly through the initial cancer woods. Drug therapy and follow up checks and tests with my doctor’s lay ahead. Is the cancer through my system? Has it spread from the breast through the lymph nodes to other vulnerable parts? I won’t know for some time. Five years they say until the “all clear”. And then the numbers are on my side.

Douglas Adams made it to 49, perhaps that was his answer to the question of life, the universe and everything? I hope my answer is a much bigger number than that.

PS: I remain cancer free, check ups have been all clear since that terrible year.