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Hunter Writers Centre


By | Read, Write, Love

The Spoon

By | Read, Write, Love

By Grant Palmer

It is a spoon. Not just any spoon. It’s my spoon. I have had it for 31 years – part of the kit I was issued on 22 Jan 85. That’s a long time for a spoon and it’s all I have now to remind me of those early years. Its friends – the knife and the fork – are long gone, the holy trinity of cutlery now only one.
 The spoon lived in my army webbing those 32 years, webbing worn comfortable with time, travelling the world with its mate, the Cup Canteen. Everything one needs to concoct the gourmet delights of ration packs Type A, B, C, D, and E: cheese in a can, Corned Beef Hash, Instant Potato with Onion, and biscuits, always smashed; cuisine that would put Heston to shame.
    My spoon. Essential to life in the dirt, a “must have to deploy,” we are told. Endless kit checks making sure that we have our spoon. If we didn’t, we obviously weren’t fit to deploy.
    My spoon went to Timor, a veteran it now is. Nine months of enforcing the peace. Dining each night, smashed lamb, fish as chewy as armoured vehicle track pad, and Sara Lee butter cake our dessert.
    “Can we get some cheese cake?’ Murray hopefully scrawls in the mess suggestion book each night.
    Eventually, a response: “Of course.”
    We look forward with anticipation as another week passes. Then one night, the menu announces “Cheesecake!” much to our delight. And there it is, in the bain marie at 70 degrees: Sara Lee Butter Cake sprinkled with cheese and placed under the grill. Lucky I had my spoon for so sumptuous a feast.
    Now, retired from adventuring with no more stories to make, the telling getting louder and larger, more distant and vague. But one thing still with me, after 32 years: “Stay low, move fast, don’t eat anything bigger than your head … and always carry a spoon!”

PLAISIR D’AMOUR’ Played on Wine Glasses

By | Read, Write, Love

By Jean Kent

Today a suede summer evening comes back to visit
the brie-creamy buildings behind
saffron-fringed trees
above the stirred-green sleep of the Seine.

Although already dusk in dark overcoats
has been stalking the foreign lovers,

today a suede summer evening comes back.
Today walking out their steps in time
no longer annoy
twilight’s soft nap. On Pont St-Louis
that man whose mist of music
swirls at twilight from his fingers

is running them again lightly rippling the air
over a little world of goblet-trapped lakes.

Sighs dropped into the water are silvering
scars dissolving absolved

as all the strolling city stops
grave as deer
in a pale, still forest of stone

accepting for one somnambulent hour
‘Plaisir d’Amour’ ―
a faint, tender swoon
fingered out carefully over glass.

Don’t Give Me Chocolates

By | Read, Write, Love

By Anne Blackwell

By the time I was three years old I had already had two white nannies. One broke her neck diving into a swimming pool and the other was German who taught my twin sister and me to ‘Heil Hitler.’ My father came into the nursery one morning and we both threw our arms into the air and cried, “Hi Hidler.’ That nannie was fired on the spot.
Then, like magic, Pie slipped into my life. Pie was coloured, which in South Africa meant a mix of black and white. In the pecking order of racism, coloured people were slightly superior to the blacks. I had no idea of what Apartheid meant until I grew older and saw what it was doing to Pie. It was something that crept under my skin as a small child, but it was never talked about openly. It simmered silently in the background and, as I got older, left me feeling confused as to how I should react to Pie.
From the first instant I adored her. My love for her was very intense and demonstrative, with lots of puppy like behavior such as climbing and rolling all over her, hugging, kissing and sucking her face and folding myself into her soft body and being completely uninhibited. One day my mother walked into the nursery looked at my sister and I playing with Pie and her whole body went ridged and her face turned red.
“Carolyn,” she said, “don’t let the twins do that to you.”
Pie got up slowly disengaging herself from us and said, “What Madam?”
“Letting them climb all over you like that and . . .” The atmosphere in the nursery turned cold and, even at four years of age, I could feel that change but I was not sure why.
“Now let’s sit down at the table and show Pie what good manners we have,” my mother said, leading my sister and I to a small table.
Pie was a mother to me, my constant companion; my security blanket and I loved her deeply. I remember her smell, it was a mixture of coconut and cinnamon, I think it was whatever she put in her hair, the feel of her soft body, her crinkly brown face and her soft voice with its thick Cape accent. She got us up in the morning, fed us, scolded us, read us stories, and played with us, and put us to bed again at night. In the evening we were taken into the lounge to say good night to our parents and my mother would say,
“That will be all, Carolyn. We will ring for you when it is time for the twins to go to bed.” My mother sat in a comfortable chair looking gorgeous dressed in a silk jade dress. I watched Pie leave in her white starched uniform and cap back into the kitchen.

When I was nine years old, I stole a box of chocolates from my dad to give to Pie on her birthday. They were in a golden box with a lovely red ribbon and I was certain my dad would not notice. My mother had already left the house, so I met Pie outside the front gate and gave her the chocolates, as she left for her day off.
“Oh, Miss Ann, where did you get these?” She asked shocked.
“One of Dad’s patients gave them to me,” I lied.
She looked at me in a funny way and said, “Thankyou, my precious, but I had better hide them or someone might steal them on the train to Soweto.” She tucked them inside her coat.
On Monday morning Pie did not turn up to make my parents tea at 7am. My mother raged about and her cries of “where the hell is she? And ‘they are utterly hopeless’,“ echoed through the house. My stomach churned and I could not eat my breakfast. I was terrified someone had happened to Pie.
At 11am the front door bell rang and standing on the veranda was a white police officer.
“Is this your servants Pass Book?” He asked.
“Yes, is there a problem Officer?” My mother asked.
“We found her beaten up at Soweto station last night and she has been taken to the native hospital. “ He replied.
“Oh, My God, is she alright?”
“Yes, I think so,” he said. “But we found this box of chocolates hidden under her coat. You can’t trust any of these kaffirs, they steal everything.” He handed mum her Pass Book and the chocolates and walked down the driveway.
I fell to the floor yelling.
“I stole the chocolates, I gave them to her.” I was heartbroken and filled with rage and blubbered on. “Oh, please, it wasn’t her.”
My mother put the chocolates under her arm and turned and looked down at me and said, “Get up at once, Ann, and stop being so silly. When Carolyn comes back these chocolates are coming off her wages.’
“But, please mum, I did,” I cried. But she walked past me and was gone leaving me feeling humiliated, guilty, angry and completely helpless.
Pie returned a few days later and I could not look at her. She came into my bedroom and said, “Thank you for the present, Miss Ann, but don’t steal for me,” and left the room with my laundry under her arm

Going One Way

By | Read, Write, Love

By Kathryn Fry

Among the fortunes of the Lane Cove River,
its shaded shrubs, its wet–weather falls,
a place for breathing long and deep
and flannel flowers, holding what winter light
they can and bringing you

to my thoughts. And in the Berowra Valley,
lobelias rise from fire-grit, blue in their hair-fine
greenery. This country is a sandstone song
that’s flowing now with boronias spreading pink
under angophoras and gums.

It shows me a fern I’ve never seen before
how the creek widens here (its ancient sands,
its stone-crush of ochre at the edge), adds
rapids there, how cocooned it all is from
the sky. In my heart I show you.

Grasstrees crown the slopes with patience.
The track brings a treecreeper, a party
of wrens, a pair of yellow robins. They sing
the score these waters write from sky
to sea. All day I walk, my bones singing us.

It’s the music of you I walk with. In August
wedding bush is white brilliance and lace,
eriostemons could be bridesmaids though
their pink is everywhere. Red grevilleas
are fists-full of hope, as winter slips its grip.

At noon, descending to Galston Gorge in mid-air
I want us, you and I, in mid-life’s heat and peace.
Isopogons near a sun orchid, mat rush
by the track. As if I see more, knowing you.
Pea plants in bud, the cluster of christmas bush

to bloom twice (white petals, sepals in red).
Later near Crosslands with the tide ebbing,
the light slanted thin and the day effortless
it seems as the birds, those two flying over,
only where they know.

For My Father

By | Read, Write, Love

By Patricia Green

You sat there tethered to the wheelchair by a belt to hold you upright, incapable of standing; your left arm a leg of beef, useless, heavy; half your body gone; unable to comprehend; able only to cry as our eyes met. We could not show our devastation. The bodies you gave us obeyed our brains. We stepped on feet that danced. Our skins were plump with youth and wrinkle free.
    We did not lose you to death—not then. We lost you to that terrible struggle for rehabilitation, therapy to exploit what remains of the brain after the implosion—making good the detritus. I watched you seeking absolution despite our love—making tea for mum using only your right hand, insisting on independence to prove yourself a worthy partner and father, trying to shuck off the barnacles of life’s failures.
    All our lives you had been the anchor, despite so many setbacks. A young man of twenty-six returned from the war full of confidence in the future. Then, another fight; so many mouths to feed, so many children to educate, the world a whirling uncontrollable cycle of failure and new beginnings, always cheerful, always covering up the hurt. We were like parasites leaching all your energy, your hopes, your dreams as you enveloped us with your unconditional love.
    Now, you despised yourself. “Weak as a baby” you spat out, in frustration. We could not show how overwhelmed we were. We were bereft. The initial loss was your stroke robbing us of the person we knew. We hid our pain; its violence would have suffocated you.

In years following, I avoided flaunting my wealth – my total control over my body, my strength, my energy, my mind. I tasted shame for my good fortune. Now, as I age, I dread the annihilation that arrives with the loss of independence. I dread living in a body, refusing jumps that once were easy. Now I tread the steps you left behind. I believe I understand.
    It was cruel to ask you to step up to the plate as you had done so many times before and become whole, become your old self. We hid our sorrow behind the smokescreen of jokes and bustling activity.
    Your death ten years later was as powerful a blow despite our awareness of your deterioration. The pain was as acute – a piercing, piercing loss. We found the words for grief foreign, heavy in our mouths. We had never practised them with each other; had never explored our feelings with each other. We were always too busy pretending nothing had changed.
    Now, not one of us could name the sorrow, name the loss. So used to banal jokes, we smothered our grief in platitudes—“He’s at peace now”; “It’s been a long journey.”—and yarns about a vital, laughing father, forever young in our memory. Grief and love trapped inside each one rendered us mute.

Love Is Where You Find It

By | Uncategorized

By Julie Suna

If you exclude parents, my first real love was my first husband. If you exclude children, my second real love was my second husband. Then, at the age of 52 came my third real love…Betty.
    Full of energy and drive, great to look at and how she loved to share the good times with me. 250 cc, shiny and all mine, Black Betty became the object of my desires. I kept her clean, I kept her polished, and after a bike maintenance course for women, I checked her tyre pressure every week. But as sometimes happens in relationships, the attention slipped and she started to feel less cared for. One day, a red light at the top of a steep hill threw up a new challenge. Then came our first argument. Still in the early stages of love, she protested by throwing herself on the ground. A passing policeman settled the dispute. He picked her up, and after a quick chat, she came back home with me. However, as a result of her increasingly languid demeanor, we drifted apart.
    I sought company elsewhere; 650 cc, bright yellow and exciting, Sunshine had me from the very first ride. We travelled everywhere together, sometimes just the two of us, other times in a group. Once a month we would get together with the Girls Ride Out women. Ah, the adventures we had with them. We were rained on, hailed on, and almost blown away by wild wind gusts, but I enjoyed all 100,000 kilometres with her. Our early days together changed me. At 20,000 km’s, we went away to…I guess you would call it a relationship course: Superbike School. We learnt to take the corners well, that’s where I lost my chicken strip. My tyres never looked the same again. But, though we were good together, we too drifted apart. Maybe it was our one and only argument. On our way to Mt. Victoria, she slipped in the gravel. A passing policeman (yes that’s right a passing policeman) saw us. He picked her up but forgot to put down the stand. She fell over again! I don’t think she ever forgave me.
    I wasn’t looking for a new love, but apparently that’s when it happens. I saw Blackie. We were a wonderful fit and she brought out the best in me. Tall, dark, beautiful, and a little on the racy side, I introduced her to the Old Pacific Highway, and several times a week we would ride through the exquisitely predictable 45’s, holding the line on one corner before swaying into the next. When they lowered the speed limit to 60 kilometers per hour, we were both devastated. Old habits are hard to break and we still took the corners at a faster speed than was recommended, staying just under 90 to avoid a possible loss of licence.
    We’ve been together now for 93,000 kilometres. We still enjoy the wonderful times and I would like to spend the rest of my life with Blackie, but I fear the age difference could become a problem. I know the statistics for 3rd time marriages aren’t great, but so far, we’re holding up well.

Last Poem

By | Read, Write, Love

by Magdalena Ball

Every moment is risky.

There’s no mistaking the signs
fingers crawling about
in bed, a sigh, another sigh
the ennui of loss
tossing me left and right.

It’s easy to dismiss all this as
my neurosis
and you’d be right
as you’re always right
but you know
though neither of us has words
to say it, my vulnerabilities
as intimately as the inside
of your own wrists
and cherish them.

You can wave a finger
and I might cry in the bathroom
but at the end of the day
when I choke out the last poem
we’re fighting the same fight.

Writing as I breathe
until I can’t

itching and fighting
grief has always been
the flipside of love
the deep current in the ocean
water flowing always
even as we age, we crumble
our bodies already dust.

Those long nights
between wailing and motion
these long days
of peace and pain
a memory only, an imprint
and permanent.