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Monthly Archives

February 2018

My Connections Home

By | The Coast

By Rosemary Brunker

How can I stand apart when I am implicated in your fate? As you tell your stories, I am one with you, branded homeless, hobbled and handcuffed. We struggle to find our way. The road turns in on itself. Is there no exit? No light ahead? We cling to hope – a sign? A guide? We are lost and alone, denied a compass to point the way home.
   We did not ask to travel this road through homelessness. The blows of our loved ones, our husbands, wives and lovers, drove us from home. It was war, our children and us the casualties, sleeping in refuges, sleeping cold and scared in cars, in parks, tossing on friends’ sofas, dreaming of a hot shower, desperate for food. We lost our jobs, our homes, our families.
    ‘Give me a drink, give me a shot,’ we cried to deaden the pain of being alive. Traumatised, we lost the skills to live. We spiralled down the black hole. Some did not come back.
    We wanted to get our lives in order. The stigma of homelessness was writ large across our foreheads. Employers, accommodation providers, relatives – all turned away. We felt like the scum of the earth. Abandoned by family and friends we learnt love does not exist here. How can our lives be scrapped so quickly? We did not see homelessness coming, did not choose to be homeless, did not choose to be victims. Life stripped us bare. The process was unrelenting. Naked in the storm we had to survive as best we could.
    To read the stories of the shell-shocked as they journey through homelessness is to grieve for the irreparable loss they felt. I am outraged that such suffering exists in this city of plenty. I respond with tears to the dignity and strength the photographs express of subjects willing to expose their private lives. I am heartened by the reflections many make on the experience of homelessness as with new insight they nurture the seeds of a future they begin to see as possible. They make plans to work with counsellors to reclaim lost parts of themselves; to study; to recognise the cost of wrong choice. They hope life for their kids will be better.
    MY CONNECTIONS HOME frames the stories of many journeys through homelessness. I hold the book and marvel at the silken feel of its cover that tells not of pain, failure and struggle but of warmth and hope. Light rises in the cover photograph under and around strong hands that are supporting the hands of another. The photograph takes us to the centre of the journey through darkness. Darkness exists but has not triumphed. It has been relegated to the background. I turn the book over and experience joy in the embrace of the man and his dog, in the power of a relationship that says ‘we have each other.’ People and tables of food surround them in parkland. The environment is alive. It marks a hopeful stage in the journey through homelessness.
    Pivoting between the hopelessness of a non-existent future and the hopefulness of a future with meaning, the stories impress me with the simplicity of their reporting style. Their directness carries the stamp of truth. I am proud to know these people. I laud the restraint shown in the editorial process and the sensibility and aesthetic awareness of the many who contributed to the wholeness of the book design. I am awed by the scope of human experience within its covers and the support of people that can kindle new life.

Homeless in Kindy

By | The Coast

By ??

In 2009, six weeks into the school year, my kindergarten class was in full swing and into an established routine. It was a routine which made a number of assumptions. It assumed that students lived in a home where meals could be prepared; lived in a place which had adequate light to practice the reading of their leveled books and revise their sight words; had access to a bathroom where they could wash to maintain personal hygiene; had laundry facilities and a toilet; had a safe place to play and a bed which allowed for a good night’s sleep free from fear of assault.
    So when Bonnie arrived in week six I was obliged to rethink these assumptions. Bonnie’s mum, Natalie, explained that the family were living in their car and she was finding it difficult to manage.
    ‘I suffer from depression,’ she explained averting her gaze. ‘My husband is a hard worker but he can’t read so well, so, he needs manual work. He has just got a job but we haven’t been able to find a place yet. My two older kids are at high school but they hate it. Kids can be so cruel.’
    I thought of Bonnie’s siblings turning up at school where they were confronted with yet another set of assumptions and expectations. Natalie had done her best to dress Bonnie in the school uniform but the lack of laundry facilities soon became evident. The family was relying on relations to assist them but ‘it is strain to accommodate the five of us’. And so they were obliged to negotiate the logistics of finding shelter each night.
    Bonnie was at once excited and anxious to be starting Kindy but structured literacy activities proved a challenge. She much preferred to play in the home corner where she practiced mothering on the assortment of dolls. Whenever playdough or other craft materials were available Bonnie’s eyes would light up. But it was apparent that she had had little experience in using scissors or pencils.
    As Natalie’s depression deepened, Bonnie’s attendance dwindle. The school had yet to commence its breakfast program which in the following years provided food and fun in a nurturing environment for children from struggling families.
    An economist friend once informed me that the average wage earner was approximately six weeks from bankruptcy if they lose their job. I considered my own situation and thought ‘Yep. Without the support of family and friends that would do it.’

Drifter.

By | The City

By Ellen Shelley

The world spins
an awkward apparition
changes step only when the wind swirls
riding out the storm
gathering up your waif frame
finding peace,
a crutch within your veins.

The rain is the city
a melodic trance
tapping your walls
weeping acceptance like
music on hollowed reeds
your skin blisters then falls
marking your beat.

A cold gust of night
urges your shift

smoke engulfs              your face
invisible on swollen streets
a thorn in the wind
lost in all directions.

Homes fit for heroes?

By | The City

By Christine Bramble

I learnt recently that work will begin soon to (yet again) make a start on renovating the former Newcastle Post Office, that grand but sadly neglected Federation era sandstone building on the corner of Hunter and Bolton Streets. In preparation for the work the colonnade has been fenced off to deter the homeless from sleeping there. This latest episode in its history reminded me of the role that the Post Office has played in almost one hundred and ten years and how its treatment by government since its closure is a metaphor for another kind of neglect.
    At the time that it was built and throughout the twentieth century the Post Office was an important piece of community infrastructure supporting communication for commerce and for private individuals. This was where you went to buy stamps and send letters and postcards, business letters, bills and telegrams before the age of electronic communications. By virtue of this role and its dominance in the streetscape it was – and is – a landmark, during the Great War an easily identifiable meeting point for displays of patriotism such as marches. This is why a memorial to Newcastle men who died in that conflict was installed outside the Post Office in 1916.
    There is no way of knowing whether any of the homeless people evicted from the Post Office colonnade in 2017 were returned soldiers from Australia’s more recent involvement in overseas conflict. But there is no doubting that war is a great disrupter of lives and often leads to homelessness. Something that ought to disappoint every Australian during the centenary years of the Great War, when more than half a billion dollars is being spent by Australian governments and corporations on the commemoration – far more than any other participating country – is that the emphasis of commemoration has been on battlefields and heroes and has almost completely ignored the wider story of the war.
    Long before the Armistice in 1918 soldiers deemed medically unfit began returning to Australia. They were often unable to find work either on account of illness and disability or high unemployment caused by the global downturn in trade. The war at sea made it more difficult for goods such as coal to be moved around the world and exports to enemy nations were curtailed. Unemployment made it more difficult for people to afford suitable housing. One reason for the difficulty in finding accommodation was profiteering by some landlords who sold their properties for a profit then invested in War Loans which were free of taxation. This reduced the stock of housing for rental and pushed up prices. Times of crisis bring out the best and the worst …
    One solution to providing both homes and work for returned men was the Soldier Settlement Scheme. In NSW the state and commonwealth governments combined to create one such at Frenches Forest in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney. Here volunteers worked to build houses for homeless soldiers who were eligible for loans to buy small holdings that would support them and their families. Many other settlements of this sort were established throughout the country over the years. They were on the whole not a success. Some who took up land had no previous experience of farming; the nineteen-twenties in Australia was beset with especially extreme weather; and often the land provided was not really suitable for small-scale agriculture.
    In 1919 the Australian Army had the task of repatriating several hundred thousand men from various theatres of war. Newspapers began reporting on groups of returned soldiers sleeping rough in the public places of the big cities and towns, a situation that continued for years. In Sydney it was the Domain. Under the headline “Homeless and Starving” it was reported that in May 1922 – three and a half years after the end of the War – thirty returned soldiers were sleeping in the Domain and that the Red Cross was stretched to breaking point in attempting to feed them. In the short term the NSW Government stepped in to provide more funding for the Red Cross. One of those sleeping in the Domain was hauled before Sydney Police Court on a charge of begging. He told the Court that he had walked all the way from Queensland, looking for work along the way without success and that he had sometimes not eaten for three days. The Commonwealth government was eager to send Australians to the horrors of the Western Front but there were no effective plans for their long-term care and rehabilitation on their return. And all too often the solution defaulted to the hands of voluntary organisations. The Limbless Soldiers Association of NSW resorted to fundraising concerts towards paying for a hostel for those of its members who were homeless.
    It was not only returned men who became homeless as a result of Australia’s involvement in the Great War. In May 1917 the Sydney Sunday Times featured the story of a mother of four whose husband had joined the AIF. With no breadwinner to support her family she was living in a humpy, described as a “poor, makeshift tumbledown of a house”. For people of “enemy alien” status it could also be difficult to find work and accommodation. Communities on the Allied side of the conflict were outraged when a German submarine sank the American passenger liner Lusitania in May 1915, with the loss of 1,200 lives. The truth was that the liner was carrying armaments as well as civilians and was thus a legitimate military target, but the censors didn’t let the truth get in the way of a good bit of propaganda. As a result some industries in Australia went on strike until any Germans in the workforce had been sacked. This was the fate of mine worker Bruno Domke who in June 1915 was sentenced in Newcastle Court to two weeks in gaol for vagrancy.
    Perhaps the saddest story of homelessness amongst returned soldiers from the Great War comes from the German side of the conflict. By the end of 1918 the German economy was on its knees and its government in a poor position to provide meaningful help to returned men. The London Times Berlin correspondent reported that a returned German soldier, unable to find a cottage, had put skills learnt in the trenches to good use by building himself a dugout in a field. So just as our once proud post office has been effectively abandoned to the elements, governments and communities wave off the young and the strong as heroes to fight on their behalf but when they return damaged in body or in spirit either cannot or will not care for them.

The opinions expressed in this piece are the author’s alone and do purport to represent the opinions of any other member of the Hunter Writers Centre.

 

[i] Honest History website:  David Stephens, http://honesthistory.net.au/wp/stephens-david-constructing-emotions-centenary-spend/ & Douglas Newton  http://honesthistory.net.au/wp/newton-douglas-first-world-war-centenaries-that-really-matter-are-looming/

[ii] Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA : 1910 – 1924), Thursday 4 March 1920, page 2, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/106503069

[ii] State Library of NSW, Soldier Settlement Schemes & Emma Brown, ABC Country Hour “First World War veterans faced ‘ongoing battle’ with farm resettlement scheme”

[iv] Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Wednesday 17 May 1922, page 1, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article223949010  Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), Tuesday 16 May 1922, page 7, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20543748Northern Standard (Ulverstone, Tas. : 1921 – 1923), Saturday 20 May 1922, page 6, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article232741490

[v] Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), Saturday 15 July 1922, page 9, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54008031

[vi] Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Friday 29 July 1921, page 10, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15933244

[vii] Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW : 1895 – 1930), Sunday 27 May 1917, page 2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122789373

[viii] The Guardian Australia, 1 May 2014, “Lusitania divers warned of danger from war munitions in 1982, papers reveal”, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/01/lusitania-salvage-warning-munitions-1982; National Archives UK, “Propaganda 1914-1918”,   http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/britain1906to1918/g6/background.htm;  Bramble C, “What will you give? – The Home Front”, in Broadmeadow to Villers-Bretonneux, Newcastle Regional Museum 2002, pp38-39

[ix] Reported in Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), Monday 21 March 1921, page 1, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article84745193

Bargrearse

By | The City

By Grant Palmer

My name is Bargearse,
Death made me homeless,
My head is full of shit.

Every night for 17 years,
Dreaming of shit,
The shit of death.

A shitty tropical town and angry Jesus,
The shit that comes from BBQ’d children who
prayed,
Splattered brains leaving me deep in the shit.

Jesus who wanted to kill me,
Was he the Jesus of the BBQ’d kids,
The family on the moped now know if Jesus is
real.

Miranda wouldn’t listen,
Two others tried but couldn’t,
But none of them understood my shit.

Alone was best,
Drinking and smoking away my shit,
Angrier and more isolated each night.

A Graduate Of Duntroon
Shelldrake,
A Superintendent in the mines.

“Dont run you’ll panic the troops”,
Not any more,
There was nowhere to run.

$5 a clean skin, $15 a night,
Smokes at $20 a pack,
Killing myself slowly on $35 a day.

Driving my car over a cliff,
Just like the road to Alieu,
How fast does my Prado go?

Ashamed of being a GOD,
Shelldrake long gone,
Superintendent no longer.

I had my shit though
There every night,
Death would be welcome.

Finally it snaps,
GP didn’t get it,
I was lucky someone else did.

Sent down to the nut farm
“You’ve got PTSD,”
Says the nut farmer named Pete.

“No shit” my response,
Thanks Jesus,
And I no longer have a home

My big sister packs up,
Red letters and phone calls each day,
$300 a fortnight means I cant pay.

My home now the nut farm,
Confined with the door left wide open,
Just in case of self harm.

Inedible food,
It’s full of crazy people
Just like me, all dealing with our shit.

The nut farm’s my home,
Confused,
Angry.

I knew what to do when confronted with death,
BBQ’d bodies, angry Jesus,
Brain splattered rock.

Homeless and powerless.
I don’t know what to do,
The Nut Farm social worker knows jack shit.

Homeless people are a States problem,
The Commonwealth sent me to war,
DVA does nothing except offer to pay part of
the rent.

If you can get somewhere to rent,
$300 a fortnight,
Fuck all chance of that.

Couch surfing at a friends place,
She couldn’t handle my shit,
So she threw me out.

The RSL, $350 million in the bank,
A nursing home in Sydney,
Is the best they can do.

It was something I know,
Whilst Don paid his mortgage with that cash,
So fuck homeless veterans

State Government forms
I can’t do words any more,
So how do I fill in those forms

It is a five year wait,
Maybe you can try to get private rental,
Yep! On $300 a week?

But you can help fund the Supercars,
Take envelopes from developers,
And pretend to run a mine.

Vets before refugees
I was homeless before refugees hit the
headlines,
Where were you then?

You ignore us just like we don’t exist,
Yes, I am angry,
With a head full of death and shit.

Protection

By | The Bay

By Dael Allison

A team, that’s what you are part of. A she-team. You repeat those words under your breath like a mantra as you stare at the notes in front of you, the report you will soon present.
    The dot points blur.
    You can do this. Show these women you can cope. Prove to them that this is where you need to be. Working in this team, protecting other women, ensuring they don’t have to live on the streets, that they have a safety net against physical, emotional, potential and real violence. So many vulnerable women. And children. Children who think instability and danger is something they and their mums just have to put up with. Kids need to be safe. They should have a future.
    Your throat tightens. You glance around the long table. No one meets your eye. Three women at the far end talk quietly together, others riffle through the agenda papers, some simply sit, preoccupied. Everyone waiting for Hanny to arrive so the meeting can start. Hanny, still in her office, talking with the police.
    You want this over and done with. To have said your piece, shown what you have learned, proven you can step up. But doubts press in. Nothing at uni – work placements, case studies, role plays, reams of reading – none of it prepared you for what you have experienced in these three months of internship. Women young, old and in-between, alone or coping with bruised babies, frantic toddlers, angry primary-schoolers, sullen teenagers. They come with depression, resentment, fear. They come damaged, undone by violence, betrayal, poverty, mental illness, lost jobs, failed mortgages – their possessions jammed into a car or stashed with sympathetic friends or stuffed into carry bags. Despite all this, some can still breeze in and make your day seem wonderful. Women who drop by to show you an op-shop treasure, an ugly glass butter-dish like one their mother had, a pair of leather baby shoes. Who might bring you a gift, a little pot plant, a Coles muffin. Essie re-appeared last Monday with a dozen books squeezed into the top of her battered shopping trolley. ‘Two dollars the lot,’ she’d gloated, pulling out Jung, Doris Lessing, a volume of poems by Neruda. ‘Stick this up on your bookshelf. Like an affirmation,’ she’d said, handing you a dog-eared copy of Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children.’ She added, ‘The title’s ironic of course’.
    Essie intrigues you. She is hard to place in emergency accommodation because she fears tight spaces, and most refuge houses are old, with narrow hallways. When everything is full, or there’s no room she’ll accept, she’ll say, ‘Another train adventure!’ and sail out the door waving away your apologies. You worry about her on the station late at night. You worry about her on the train. She’ll catch the last one to Sydney, sleep on it and return to Newcastle in the morning. She is well educated, invariably cheerful, but she has lived on the streets for years and you often wonder how she manages, sleeping on trains, in parks, to keep herself looking tidy. Once she asked if she could borrow some tweezers – you’d noticed straggling grey hairs under her chin. ‘The bathroom’s good here, it has a bright mirror,’ she’d said, though you knew the appeal was the room’s spaciousness, and it opened off a broad corridor.
    Grace, too, struggling on her allowance but always beautifully presented.
    Don’t think about Grace.
    You let your mind follow a loud rumble, something big passing in the regular grind of traffic beyond the building’s stout brick walls. A bus perhaps. Outside will be people walking beneath the newly budding street trees, getting on with their lives. Outside will be a normal, busy, noisy city day. Here, inside, nothing feels normal.
    Grace. The burst of colour whenever she appeared in the office. The shiny fabric of her clothes, the scarves she twisted around her head so flamboyant people often missed the scars that corrugated one side of her face. Fading machete scars. Yesterday she sat vividly beside you and gently rocked the stroller where Happiness peacefully slept. Beautiful Happiness, with her rounded breast-fed cheeks and lips, her liquid brown eyes, the tiny knots of rusty curls that covered her head. Grace, at forty, hadn’t wanted a child. Hadn’t wanted attention from any man. The name she chose for her daughter spoke volumes. You’d found it hard to pull your eyes away from Happiness in the stroller, her satiny brown limbs beneath the frilly pink nylon dress. Until Grace showed you a creased photograph. Sent to her by an aunt, back in Sudan. A village of round buildings topped by conical thatched roofs. Bare earth, a few twisted trees, brown and white goats, a scatter of chickens. In the foreground, a clutch of village children jostle to be centre of the picture. Torn clothes, skinny limbs, beaming smiles. Tears seeped down Grace’s furrowed cheek as she named three of them. Her three killed children.

Acid wells in your throat. You drag your eyes back to your presentation notes. ‘Nothing formal,’ Hanny had said, when she suggested you put something together. ‘An overview of what you’ve learnt so far, how you are travelling in the job. A chance for us to give feedback, help if you need it.’ You’d worked on it every night for a week, exhausted after long days of counselling and absorbing story after sad, disastrous story, determined to show you love this job and want to keep it, that you can broaden your role.
    Hanny rushes in apologizing profusely. She plonks beside you in the one spare chair, announcing, ‘The agenda can keep until later, and I’ll update you then on the meeting I just had. It’s been a hard morning for us all, particularly for Jaz as I’m sure you all know, so I think it’s best she gets this over with, don’t you?
    There is muttering agreement, smattered applause. Hanny turns to meet your eyes. You nod.
    The women here daunted you at first. They all seemed so in-the-know, capable, clear of purpose. Some daunt you still, but they have accepted you into their team. They feel like talismans. An image of dingoes flickers in your mind – the golden she-dingoes you often saw in your research year with desert communities, west of Tennant Creek. These women are like that, a pack with similar connections of responsibility and support. Similar tensions, loyalties, tolerance, willingness to share their wisdom. They have the same fierceness. Fighters, all of them, protective of their own but tolerating no bullshit. In this pack of experience you are an adolescent pup. Will they find you wanting?
    Yesterday Grace quietly told you that the bare, brick-walled room where she and Happiness stayed was isolating. That she feared she could never adjust to life without a village.
    Yesterday Grace nodded when you suggested she and Happiness get outside more. Take advantage of the spring warmth, sea air, fabulous views and explore some of Newcastle’s coastal walks.
    Yesterday, instead of taking the usual bus home to the refuge, Grace pushed her daughter in her stroller over four kilometres, all the way up to Strzelecki Lookout. She climbed through the barrier fence with Happiness in her arms, walked to the edge of the cliff, and fell.
     ‘Go on, Jaz, you’ll be fine,’ Hanny says softly beside you. Blinking back tears you pick up your notes, stare at the dot points. A bland list of demonstrable learning. Around you is your pack, women who want you to succeed. Are you here to tell them what they already know? Here for the pat on the head?
    In your gut unease turns to fierceness. You crumple the notes in your hands. Stand up to speak.

World War 2, Germany

By | The Bay

by ???

I first met my father when I was 7 years old. He was a prisoner of war and he’d been released to come home.
    Before he came home there was only my mum, my sister and me. It was during World War 2 in Germany. My mum would often go away for days at a time to barter for food. We didn’t have much to eat, sometimes only potato skins to make soup. There was not real school because everything was bombed; we learnt what mum taught us. We would have to stay with neighbours and if the air raid sirens went off we would all have to run. One time they went off and I couldn’t find my sister. I made it to the shelter and when I came home I found my sister hiding under the sink.
    When my dad came home, everything changed. I didn’t like this strange, stern man that would look at me with his mean eyes. It always seemed like I did everything wrong.
    My mother would often stay in her room for days at a time and I remember my father telling me not to upset mum. We didn’t know it then but she had bi-polar and would later go on to take her own life.
    When the war was finished, eventually we were able to go to school and I liked school. I didn’t have to be home and sit in a quite house under the disappointing gaze of my father.

Homeless

By | The Bay

By Grant Palmer

I’m Mum, my kids Jack and Jill
I fixed up mangled bodies
Soldiers, women and kids.

Now I am fucked in the head
With nightmares each night
Mangled kids that look like my own.

And I left them with their father
When I left to serve
In Screwedupistan against the Taliban.

Their father left when I came home
He couldn’t handle my shit
I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t touch his dick.

The money from Screwedupistan
Paid off his debts so he’s no longer bankrupt
Won’t take the kids, he fucks another woman.

Society isn’t ready for me
A female veteran
All screwed up.

“You cannot wear your father’s medals
On the left hand side”
In the RSL they say.

“Fuck off their mine”
I angrily retort
Burning tears like acid pissing from my eyes.

I cannot work that is all to hard
Who wants a broken women
Tearing up as she cleans the room.

A final repossession notice, screaming red
Is in the mail today
I can’t get a rental and I cannot feed the kids.

I went to DVA starting 18 months ago
Paperwork with legislation I don’t understand
“three months to work out that you served.”

Sclerotic bureaucratic impenetrable
Are you sure you cannot work?
Aged Care Nursing perhaps?

“A nurse” you say “near dying people”
I’m not sure that’s a good idea
I have had enough of that.

The only Pysch available doesn’t take DVA
$250 a session Medicare pays $130
I need that TPI you pricks.

I need help to feed my kids
Try the Salvos they say
A leaner not a lifter.

Looking through wanted ads, anything
Escort and brothel jobs
Melbourne CBD immediate start.

I ring the number mentioned
“Can you do an interview?
You’ll need to strip down naked”

I decide I need to go
“To old” at 30
Says the mutton dressed as lamb.

Fuck her I decide to go alone
I call up some of the others
To learn what I have to do.

I buy a new phone
Cheap lingerie from Kmart
Place an ad.

Text preferred
Incalls prior arrangement
Outcalls hotels only.

Fuck and a blow job
$300 an hour cash
No judgement in return.

I have never done fucking for money
Fucking meant something once
Scared and confused I need to feed the kids.

He sends me a txt, a hotel room at $120 a day
The Pysch’s session Medicare gap $120
Yippee $60 for me.

I hope he is clean
I hope he isn’t fat
What if he wants bum sex?

Do I ask for the cash up front?
Does he just hand it over?
Don’t negotiate a price at all!

The hotel room
Clean but showing its age
Just like me.

Cheap black lingerie brazilian neatly trimmed
Porn silent on TV condoms by the bed
A part time Juliet for Romeo

Fuck you Taliban
Fuck you my ex
Fuck you DVA.

The knock on the door
Ready to be fucked
To feed and house my kids.

Annette

By | The Bay
By ????
I lived with Mum and my little sister for the first part of my life. Dad was in jail and we were waiting for him to get out.
    Mum had a house where my sister and me had a room each but it belonged to a man and he kicked us out.
    We would stay at lots of different places with lots of different peopled and mum would work all night. In the mornings I would
have to yell at Mum right up close to her ear because she always had her eyes shut and looked like she was asleep sitting up.
    We stayed with a couple once and they had a little girl. The lady made us dinner -vegetable soup and sausages with mashed potato
and vegetables - it was so yummy. We would have dinner, a shower and get to watch TV then go to bed while Mum was at work. It was 
really good.
    But Mum took off and didn’t come home for a few days so we had to leave. They were nice people.
    We moved next door and the man was mean. I never went to school and I would look after my little sister.
    Dad never did get out of jail and Mum ended up going to jail. I never saw my sister again because we got split up when Mum went to jail.

The Utterances of a Child

By | Read, Write, Love

By Cassandra O’Loughlin
                       for my granddaughter Claire


Surely the song-larks on the Hay plains heard your call
on the landline, and the birds in the atolls of light
on the Murray. The bright-eyed quolls would have stopped
to listen in the mountain’s deep-scented shade.
Certainly the koel in the fig would know it was you,
and the restless boobook that twirls curlicues in the fog.
Your voice sends out light from every syllable, every vowel
and consonant . . . there is no one who can explain this.
Rain falls on my face, on my hands, as I wait for your next call.
The household words gathered in your four years are sweet
raspberries at my breakfast table, wrens on my pillow.