Peach Cobbler

It’s a pretty familiar scene for just about everyone: family dinner. Some families do it every night, some maybe once a fortnight, if that. Or just when everyone’s free. Y’know, if you can make it, it’d be really lovely to have you over – mum’s making roast lamb. It’s tradition, the family get-together, everyone has a bit of a laugh, your mum will have a crack at you for swearing so much, and you’ll leave having eaten a bit more than you should have.

For Peach Cobbler, you’re led in to someone’s dining room, and it’s instantly familiar to you. Mum hands you some crockery – don’t just stand there, go help your brother set the table. Dad’s already sitting there, craning his neck to watch the T.V. on in the living room. Your sister is there, having had to move back home for a bit, but can we not talk about that? Do you have to bring that up? Here, open this bottle of wine.

This isn’t the Joker hanging out of a police car window, and here… we… go-style, though. This is just family dinner. Over the next three-quarters of an hour, playwright Laura Desmond’s family’s dirty laundry gets aired – brother Dan, father Gary, Carol, the matriarch trying to hold it all together, and Georgia, back living at home for a while. You get the feeling that this dirty laundry never really gets washed, and the topics of conversation – light, airy dinnertime subjects such as why feminism has gone too far, nationalism, misogyny, how it’s unfair that indigenous students always seem to be getting handouts – aren’t exactly on their first lap around the washing machine, and definitely aren’t on their last. That’s what gets to you about this show, the excruciating familiarity of it all, how you instantly know these people, how you don’t realise you’ve been clenching your jaw for twenty minutes. And then it ends, gradually, but suddenly. A long, drawn-out abruptness.

This show is like sitting on a chair that’s tilted fifteen degrees too far in one direction, at a desk that’s tilted fifteen degrees too far in the opposite direction. The light is 15% too bright or too dark, and the window just won’t open enough to get any of the breeze through – just like some family dinners you’ve absolutely been to, having to listen to racist aunt Mary or Uncle Dave who thinks that girls really should behave or dress in a certain way if they want to be taken seriously.

There isn’t a whole lot of things I’d give five stars to; Jawbreaker’s 1993 album 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, inter dismantling Barcelona in 2010, The Puma Suede… But this show is definitely one of them.

5 / 5 stars


 

Words by Mikey Della Porta

Peach Cobbler is on until March 13

For more information and to book tickets, click here

‘Greenwood’- By Paul J. Laverty

She parked in the driveway. She didn’t open the car door, just sat there. The house looked different. Bright red gutters replaced the old, peeling green ones. There was a new beige garage door. Yet the garden, the street and the suburb surrounding it was much the same.

She tried to think of the last time she’d been here. Boxing Day. Four years ago. After that Danny didn’t want to. Especially when his real habit crept in.

She remembered their last year of high school. She used to spend most nights here. In his room, drinking homebrew, smoking cones, watching Wes Craven movies, listening to Queens of the Stone Age. Making love. That was fifteen years ago, but it felt like a lifetime.

Mummy, when are we going in?” her six-year-old, Hunter, asked from the backseat.

Mikhaila lit a cigarette. She immediately regretted it as Val would smell it on her and add that to her shit list. She was already wearing a black sleeveless top that couldn’t hide the love heart tattoo which Val had never disguised her disdain for. The one her son had designed.

In a minute, hon.”

She reclined the seat slightly and took a drag. She might as well finish it now it was lit.

Back in high school she was seen as a good influence. Their Daniel had never got anything but D-grades. All he wanted to do was skate. And then she came along. Pianist. President of the student council. Plans to study medicine. Singer in an up-and-coming local band. Danny’s marks moved up to a C. His parents liked her. For a little while, she felt, anyway.

Mummy, I’m thirsty,” her four-year-old, Courtney, whined.

Her band got signed. Got on the U.S. festival circuit. She didn’t want him to come. It was work, after all. But he did. And with a lot of time and a little money on his hands, the soft drugs became hard.

Then quick as it began the band ended. Artistic differences, youthful arrogance. Their visas expired. She and Danny returned home. Settled down. Somehow their relationship rolled on. They had one kid, then another.

She wanted to get married, she wanted to take his name. She knew this would make them happy. She saw how they treated Lauren, Danny’s older brother’s wife, once they’d married. She couldn’t even have kids. But Lauren was a respectable primary school teacher, not a former frontwoman of a failed synth-pop band who flashed her legs (and occasionally her tits).

Danny always had an excuse ready and loaded about not conforming. She even got the blame for not baptising the kids Catholic even though Danny said he’d take care of it. She wasn’t even Catholic but she wanted to. She knew how it would make his parents happy and her life easier.

I’m hungry,” said Hunter.

I’m bored,” said Courtney.

They moved down south. She got a job in a clothes shop. His tattoo venture didn’t get off the ground, and he couldn’t cope with the normality of just existing. Of being a partner. A husband. A son. His addiction took hold and knowing he was failing at all that mattered he chose to take his own life on the one night she’d come back up to the city to have dinner with her remaining friends.

Mummy, can you hear us?”

Last month in the Family Court it all came out. Val claimed it was Mikhaila who had turned her son onto the pipe. That she was unstable, she was an unfit mother. Val even alluded to how it was Mikhaila’s fault that her son had ended it all with a leather belt tied around his neck.

Val didn’t mention how Mikhaila had never touched serious drugs. How Danny had lost them the home she paid for, her car, her job. And left her a bereaved single mother at age 31.

The judge gave the grandparents one weekend of visiting rights a month.

The front door opened. Mikhaila stiffened, quickly put out her cigarette and opened the window. But it wasn’t Val. She saw the dark greying features. The strong jaw. The dignified gait. It was Brian, Danny’s dad. Almost exactly how Danny would have looked if he made it to 60.

Hello, love.”

Grandad!” the children squealed racing out the car to throw themselves at him.

Hello, Brian.”

She’d always liked Danny’s dad. He wasn’t a strong man, but he was a nice, quiet man who, in his own way, and faced with great adversity, had tried to stick up for her. Mikhaila saw the curtains twitch and spotted Val’s stern features gazing through the glass. Her eyes bore right through Mikhaila and then softened when they settled on her grandchildren.

You doing okay?” Brian asked.

We’re getting there.”

He reached into the back and lifted Hunter and Courtney’s backpacks. “We’ll drop them back Sunday night.”

Thanks.”

I know it’s hard, but it’s important we do this. For the children.”

The kids waved and disappeared through the door. Mikhaila reversed down the driveway. Drove down the quiet street, parallel to the street she grew up on, and made it out of the suburb. The narrow-minded suburb where nothing ever happened, which she’d tried her whole life to escape, but never could.

It wasn’t until she hit the freeway that she realised she had nowhere to go.

 


Photo by Ryan Graybill on Unsplash

Words by Paul J. Laverty

Paul J. Laverty is a Scottish-Australian writer. Emerging from University of Melbourne with a Graduate of Diploma of Arts, he was shortlisted for Overland’s 2018 ‘Fair Australia Prize’, and his work has been featured in publications such as Underground Writers and Better Read Than Dead.

 

SANSA, DANY, ​AND THE FEMINIST AGENDA

(Image: HBO)

Spoilers for S8, Ep.1 ‘Winterfell’ are coming.

You have been warned.

Game of Thrones has long been praised for its portrayal of complex, multi-faceted female characters, who are every bit as honourable or conniving as the men they scheme and fight alongside. The show, however, has not been without its critics, nor has it been spared from criticism, including of a sex scene that was seen to normalise rape during its fourth season.

When the long-awaited first episode of the eighth season aired on Monday morning (or Sunday evening, for those in the northern hemisphere), reactions to what unfolded filtered onto the internet in a near-endless stream of memes, GIFS and play-by-play social media posts. Many of these centered around the first meeting of Daenerys Targaryen (and her impressive slew of titles) and Sansa Stark. In line with the Game of Thrones tradition, it did not go well. In fact, Sansa’s side-eye had never been fiercer, and Dany’s inherent self-righteousness remained strong as ever.

She [Sansa] doesn’t need to be my friend,’ Dany says to Jon. ‘But I am her Queen. If she can’t respect me…’ and then Dany trails off ominously. But Sansa’s frosty reception was an issue for more than just the Mother of Dragons. Many people online are dissatisfied that the two characters, who have both survived and overcome the challenges that have faced them, particularly as women, were instantly pitted against one another.

This Sansa/Daenerys shit is so unimaginative and dull and so clearly the idea of men,’ said @annehelen on Twitter.

STOP PITTING WOMEN AGAINST EACH OTHER.’ @juliekosin agreed.

This discussion falls into the larger context of the long-standing tradition of television and movie screenplays, where two women on screen together are often engaged in conflict, or are at the very least failing the Bechdel test. With this in mind, having two well-developed female characters with their own motivations and flaws at odds with one another might be interpreted as a step back from the strides forward Game of Thrones has made.

But I have to disagree.

Though their meeting crackled with all the tension that Dany’s uncompromising will and Sansa’s hard-earned abrasiveness had to offer, I think this is a good thing. In order to stay true to their character development, having the two in conflict with one another is in line with what we know of them.

Dany, after all, was set to invade Sansa’s home, and all of the Seven Kingdoms. We witness her smirk as her dragons frighten the silent Northerners who regard her suspiciously. We are reminded in the same episode of Dany’s inflexibility with Sam’s realisation that she has killed his father and brother for being unwilling to bend the knee.

Sansa, for her part, has long since learned to keep her guard up. Winterfell, and her family, have only just become a part of her life again after so many years of being alone. And, as Sir Davos reminds us, ‘If you want their [the Northerners] loyalty, you have to earn it.’

In light of this, Game of Thrones has done a service to both Sansa and Dany’s characters by putting them in conflict with one another, rather than forcing them into an instant camaraderie just because they are both women.

There is also the further context of Dany’s positive relationship with Missandei, and Sansa’s with Arya, which is reinforced during the course of the episode.

Where were you before?’ Jon asks Arya after they’re reunited. ‘I could have used your help with Sansa.’

But far from siding with her favourite brother, Arya reinforces Sansa’s position of defending their family. To me, this serves as a reminder that Sansa and Dany’s actions are not born out of girl on girl hate, nor from some misguided sense of jealousy, but rather from an incompatibility of experience.

After all, two women in power need not like or even respect each other, but it becomes a problem when such a pairing is seen as the norm. In this case, I do not think that Sansa’s distrust of Dany is a continuation of an outdated mentality that sees women on screen deferring to the more complicated storylines of men. Rather, I think it is a continuation of Game of Thrones’ commitment to Sansa and Dany’s characters, whose motivations and actions are both real and flawed.


Words by Rachael Stapleton

Header image: HBO

Rachael is a fantasy writer, an arts student, and a professional procrastinator. She spends most of her time watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, teaching her cat to play fetch and thinking about writing. You can find her on instagram at @rachaelstaple

‘Botanical’- By Sarah Ingham

 

There she was, her beautiful, beaming face complete with deep smile lines and ‘happy wrinkles’ as it always had been. The large photograph, while in colour and in focus, didn’t even come close to giving her justice. Where was her loud, echoing laugh and warm, squeezing hugs? Where were her comforting words that always seemed to fix the world, no matter how crazy it got? Where was her permanently lingering smell of cooking and home? Alas, all her quirks and comforts were to never be seen again, because she was buried in the family plot at 2pm.

Grief overwhelmed me absolutely. The world was covered in a grey haze that I couldn’t break through. However hard I tried, I couldn’t utter more than a few words without the energy of speaking being too much for my heart to handle.

I opened the squeaky wooden door into the big house. The silence opened into oblivion, twisting and turning into darkness beyond. I could hear the dust settling all over the house. Emptiness filled me like concrete. I morphed into a solid state, sinking slowly onto the well-worn sofa. Even the sofa didn’t feel good enough for my raging emotional state, it was too soft. I needed something that would make my back hurt.

I don’t know how long I sat for, on that sofa. Seconds surely. Hours maybe? I got up, feeling dehydrated. At least I could feel something physically, that was a plus, right? I found myself in the kitchen, getting a glass of water. It was probably the first thing I’d had in days.

Filling the glass up, because I felt like I should probably drink something lest I starve, I headed back to the couch. This time, when I sat down in the place where my butt had left its indentation years ago, I noticed the few changes she’d made since I had last been here. A new TV, a few new ornaments and some new picture frames. A picture of me I had sent to her from my last trip to the beach. Something I’d thought so trivial, yet she had treasured it to the point of framing it and placing in a prominent position upon the mantle.

I looked around and saw her prized Peace Lily plant resting in the corner of the room. Observing the brown and drooping leaves, I moved my gaze to the other plants. All almost brown and distressed, they looked like they were sleeping. Her stupid plant collection had been the one true love she had, besides the love she had for everyone she met daily. Just looking at the sad things made me think about how unfair life was. These plants, with expected life spans of a few years, had outlived the greatest woman who had ever lived. These plants even got to see her right before she died. Bloody things. Stupid plants. I placed my foot on the small stand holding one up and pushed. The glorious sound of breaking terracotta made me smile with absurd glee. Dirt sprayed the floorboards and the stem of the tree-like plant snapped.

That was more like it.

*

Waking in the small hours of the morning, I realised had passed out on the couch. I peeled myself off of the cotton blend cover. The still-full glass of water sat on the table, both taunting me and reminding me that I had I was still neglecting myself. I knew I wasn’t going to drink it though. I just didn’t care enough about me, and my insides still boiled with anger. It was probably going to sit there and laugh, so it went into the nearest pot plant.

Clearing out her stuff was the hardest part. Hours upon hours of seeing photos and knick-knacks that must have been so very sentimental. Entering her bedroom and inhaling her scent, my heart started beating like a hummingbird. It was just as she had left it, like most things that the dead leave behind. Bed unmade, underwear and socks that had nestled in crevices and been stuffed hastily into drawers. The curtains were wide open, and I could see more plants still scattered on the windowsill. The stupid things were just growing and growing, unaware that the world was now hollow. Their carer and provider was gone. They didn’t need to grow anymore. Their purpose was done. Kneeling on the lint-ridden carpet, I became a vessel for the thousands of memories poured over me like rain. My mouth opened and a raspy sound escaped me. She was gone. She was in the ground, entombed in a wooden box. In the next few weeks she would be lying there, just waiting for the worms and beetles to bury through the wood and into her body. This was not fair. How could such a beacon of light just be snuffed with the flick of a wrist? Her place was here. I needed her more than the burrowing bugs. My wet face leaked onto my shirt and the surrounding furnishings. The tears had burst through my emotional dam, flowing from somewhere deep within. She wasn’t here, so I settled for curling up on the ground that she had walked on.

Although most of my anger had left, sadness had taken up residence in its place. I wandered from room to room like an unsettled ghost. Physical pain broke through my haze and I yelled expletives as I jumped backwards. A shard from the broken pot had embedded itself in the soft arch of my foot. Removing it slowly, my eyes were drawn to the tree that once dwelt inside. The plant still lay, snapped and broken, on the cold floor. A wave of sympathy washed over me. The plant didn’t do anything, and I had taken delight in its death. I knelt and gathered up the grubby remains.

In her messy shed, I placed the plant in another terracotta pot and filled it with soil. The top of the plant was already brown, so I snipped it off with secateurs. As the small nub of the remaining tree sat there, I smiled. For the first time in weeks, I smiled. I had caused this plant to die, but I had also revived it.

*

After taking care of my cut and sweeping up the dirt, I brewed some tea. Nestled on the couch, I sat next to the newly rescued tree and noticed something. The plant that I had carelessly tossed my water into was reaching high towards the ceiling. The leaves that had looked so pathetic and lifeless yesterday were a brilliant emerald green, and a few of the white tear-drop buds had opened. I stared. Were these things so easily satiated that a few millimetres of water was all that they needed?

I found a small watering can and did my rounds of the house. Within the next few hours, the majority of the little things were looking a touch happier. Within weeks, they were back to their usual selves. Within months, they were thriving.

The caring of the innumerable plants kept me busy. The places that mum had them worked out well. The watering and moving kept my mind in the present, whilst also reminding me of the past.

The memories of my mother and her passion for plants came streaming back. Her careful hands caressing the green growth and tending to them daily. Her obsessive movements and belief that her plants were sensitive to our moods. The music she would leave on when no-one was in the house just so they wouldn’t be bored. As my knowledge and love for these strange sprouts grew, so did my sense of awe for my mother’s green thumb.

These things that she had loved, I would take care of them for her. I had never understood before, but the care of such a small thing was so rewarding. The fresh air in the house, the excitement when hours of hard work paid off with a tiny bloom or new leaf. They taught me to check in with myself, make sure that I was watered, happy and getting enough sun. The healing process was long and tedious, nevertheless, I finally flourished in the world without my guiding light. The world would never be the same, but at least I wasn’t completely alone in this new stream of life.

The legacy lived on through the maintenance and love that I would pour into these sprouts. They would become my beloved prodigy, just as they were hers.


Words by Sarah Ingham

Art by Tom Murton

sarahI’m Sarah Ingham, and I’m completing my first year of a Bachelor of Professional Writing and Communication. I have folders of unfinished writing, and I am so glad that I can put my ramblings to use! Being a part of Tulpa Magazine has made me feel like I can release my full artistic voice, and I love it dearly. I hope that I can continue to write my way into a writer, editor or publisher position after finishing my degree. Until then, I hope that you enjoy my imaginings.

 

Tom Murton is an illustrator and graphic designer, with an Honours degree in the Creative Arts from Flinders University. His work includes illustration for the comic series Hail, the short comic Stranger,professional graphic design work, as well as a library of personal sketches and illustrations.

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme

Kristin Martin

Illustrations by Joanne Knott

Glimmer Press 2019


 

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme is a children’s poetry collection, the first published with new publishing company, Glimmer Press. Written by Kristin Martin, the collection is divided into rhyming and and non-rhyming poems. The poems are open, visual, and easy to follow for young readers. Accompanied by Joanne Knott’s delicate illustrations, To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme easily captures the imagination.

Taking on a naturalistic bent, the poetry is told through the eyes of a child as they experience the world around them. From frogs and lizards to backyard cricket against a backdrop of the setting sun, everything is fascinating to the child narrator. Martin’s writing oozes with imagery as it reflects the world in which she lives, celebrating the beaches, the family holidays, and the wild-life in her own backyard.

While some of the poems are little sparks of light, fun rhymes, and experiences we’ve all had growing up, others are more educational. In some, Martin examines cloud formations and the rain cycle. In others, she takes young readers though explorations about different types of animals, drought, and how simply shifting your perspective can take you to an art-gallery in the sky.

Knott’s illustrations are realistic, intricate, and instantly recognisable. They are a beautiful and well-chosen accompaniment for Martin’s poetry without distracting from the imagery that comes from the words themselves.

For older readers, the book is a reminder of what it is to be young and captivated by all of the things we now take for granted. Martin’s poetry is a reminder of the time when we saw the trees and the sky and clouds as something magical. Through her words, we remember how captivating Australian wild-life is. To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme puts us back in touch with our inner child and reminds us to pause and appreciate the world around us.

A teacher herself, Martin’s poems are a perfect way to introduce children to the beauty and versatility of poetry and the written word. As the book progresses, different kinds of poetry are showcased, beginning with, as previously mentioned, rhyming and non-rhyming poetry, and advancing to non-rhyming poetry which plays with format and shape.

Easy to read aloud and boasting the type of mesmerising imagery that helped me fall in love with reading myself, I can’t wait to show my nieces and nephews.


Words by Kayla Gaskell

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme is available to purchase through Glimmer Press.

Promoting Diversity in Comedy

“Hey Mum, I want to quit medicine and follow my passion for stand-up comedy.”

With a tone of disapproval, mixed in with unconditional love, my mother replied, “you da very funny man!”

As a son of Vietnamese refugees, my duty as a son of migrants was to “study hard, get a good job and start a family”. My parents escaped war-torn Vietnam in search for a better life and freedom. They left Vietnam on a tiny, wooden fishing boat with 250 other people, including my older brother who was only one month old.

What would compel my parents to take such a journey and risk not only their own lives but that of their first-born son?  What would compel me to risk my professional reputation and job security, for the laughs and adulation of an anonymous audience at the local open mic night?  My own leap towards artistic freedom and self-expression can never match the danger my parents made from Vietnam to Australia.

I can understand my parent’s strategy to put me on the path of higher education and job security. However, the wider Australian audience have progressed far quicker and further than that of the Asian community. The local Adelaide comedy circuit has been very supportive of me since day one, but I feel as though the Asian community are still behind when it comes to supporting the local arts.

Historically, the Asian community simply do not appreciate paying for the arts, let alone comedy. Only since I’ve become an artist, do I now understand that a $15 entry fee to a local show does not feed me physically, however, it does feed my soul (and my hunger to perform).

In Asian culture, comedians are normally portrayed as buffoons with buck teeth, or the village idiot. Humour and laughing at oneself is seen as a vector of shame, dishonour and loss of face to your family. Entry into medicine, law or engineering are seen as respectable tickets towards success. However, I know countless Asian doctors, lawyers and engineers who are dissatisfied with their life choice in their chosen fields. Many have found my story of breaking the mould, inspiring. It is hard as a person of Asian descent to find the courage to resist the wave of expectation of not only your parents and family, but your community.

Truthfully, as a minority grouping, finding our place in society, we need to be open to other occupations, especially in the arts. We can start changing our narrative, by coming out to support artists not only Asian artists at Oz Asia festivals and Lunar New Year, but the arts regardless. Only through bums on seats in the comedy rooms and pubs around the city, will this translate to bums in arts courses.

Gerard Matte in the Australian Journal of Comedy highlighted, “If comedy is a way of saying the forbidden, if it is, in Freudian terms a way of disobeying the internalised parent – the internalised authority system, then multicultural comedy in Australia has evolved to deal with two separate authority systems. One authority system is the culture of the country of origin; the other is that imposed by the local culture. The ethnic comedian has, in effect, two sets of parents, two political imperatives. One imperative is the pressure to respect and conform to the culture of the natural parents, the other is the pressure imposed by the wider culture to reject the natural parents and become part of a wider more homogenised society.”

Last year, I produced and promoted a comedy show dubbed “Pho Real”, featuring a line-up of all-Vietnamese stand-up comedians. It was an experiment to see if there was an audience from within the local Vietnamese community. To my delight, many of my Vietnamese friends and family came out to show support and enjoyed the night. I felt even more validated, that there was a row of Caucasian audience members who came because they simply loved comedy, regardless of the race orientated theme of the night.

If you would like to support local and interstate Asian comedy acts in the upcoming Adelaide Fringe here are my top three picks.

 

MJ Wong: In the Wong Family

MJ Wong was born into the w(r)ong family, then he fell in love and got married to the w(r)ong woman.
Will he ever belong, will two w(r)ongs ever make a right?

https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/mj-wong-in-the-wong-family-af2019

I have a show! Come see me!

Patrick Golamco is a regular on the Sydney open mic scene, performs improv comedy, and studies sketch comedy and scriptwriting. He has been a finalist in several U.S. scriptwriting competitions that recognised his knack for capturing the absurd!

https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/i-have-a-show-come-see-me-af2019

If You Laugh It’s Comedy And If You Don’t Laugh It’s Art

Fresh from Point Blank Music School (London) Loc Tran presents ‘If You Laugh It’s Comedy And If You Don’t Laugh It’s Art’, part comedy show, part DJ performance incorporating such hits as:

https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/if-you-laugh-it-s-comedy-and-if-you-don-t-laugh-it-s-art-af2019

 


Words by Dr Kim Le

Dr Kim Le is an Adelaide based psychiatrist, TEDx speaker and stand-up comedian. He will be performing with Adelaide Comedy’s Next Generation show, featuring a diverse line-up of Adelaide’s best up and coming stand-up comedians. His parents will be at his show.

Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash

‘The Silent Door’- By Dan Cardoza

After grandmother passed away, grandfather, a very stern and dignified gentleman, would routinely join us for our late afternoon supper. Mother would make sure he was not disappointed. The last meal I recall was a braised rabbit, fresh from the butcher shop, complete with a special wine sauce, fennel seed, and a sprig of rosemary, followed by a memorable dessert.

Rarely was there an occasion that demanded the use of the massive brass lion’s head door knocker ––a piece of classic Art Deco elegance. Most guests at our home simply knocked in a staccato, contemporary fashion, more suited for twenty-first-century knuckles. Grandfather, who would not have it any other way, cherished any event that he thought demanded a grand entrance. His hallmark knock became almost legendary.

Every Sunday around 1:00 P.M., we would fox our ears in anticipation of his two heavy-handed thwacks. His knocks upon the lacquered chestnut entrance door resonated in the woody bellow and melody of a stately gavel, complete with a formal Sound Block. We fancied our home in Lombard, a Chicago suburban castle.

We loved his company, his long visits. He was a fascinating man. He would hide envelopes in the family room, while mother and I did dishes in the cramped kitchen. Behind mother’s needlepoint pillows, under the large armed comfy sofa, behind the ornate Vienna Stuchy clock set atop the chunky redwood mantle, just about anywhere, and everywhere. Of course, mother and I never acknowledged that we were aware of his secret gifts until granddad left following super. As soon as the front door closed behind him, I would search for the envelopes as if they were painted spring surprises. The gifts of kindness frequently included fifty dollars, one hundred, it varied. Mother would religiously call him once he returned home to thank him for his graciousness, with her best surprised-daughter voice, and sincere appreciation. The following Sunday would always relent to another troupe encore. But this time, there would be no following, Sunday.

Three, maybe four years after grandmother passed, we noticed that the deep knocker tone faltered. We imagined the sound more abrupt, maybe a little harsh. Mother and I found humor in the transformation, saying grandfather was just impatient to enjoy his pre-dinner coffee and cognac.

Following super, grandfather would begin to shoot questions toward mother, an easy target. This evening would be no different.

The questions I found hurtful, even the ones that seemed to miss the mark. Have you heard from Jim? Maybe there is a reason he left? Why don’t you move closer to the city for improved work opportunities? Mother never answered quickly, sometimes not at all.

During the times of our frequent visits, grandfather invariably picked up dessert, which he would serve himself, usually after finishing his after-dinner coffee concoction. Dessert would be the evening’s crowning event. The last one would be no different. Grandfather’s choices varied. On any occasion, he might present a freshly made key-lime pie, with a hint of bitterness. Once he even brought blood orange grapefruit serving it with a ghost of sugar, never sweet enough for our taste. Following the last shared meal, grandfather brought a sour cream peach pie. He was the only one to savor an extra slice.

It’s been some time since grandfather passed. Mother misses him sometimes.

I will never forget one late winter evening. In the grip an infamous Chicago snowstorm, mother asked if I would do her a favour. Put on my warm parka, go outside and rap the lion’s head knocker, two times in succession, and if I would please do this intermittently for a short while. I never thought to question her.

I enjoyed the snow, under any circumstance, but after a while, my arm grew tired. It was then that I slowly opened the door, and peeked through the glowing crack. Mother’s face was shining brightly in a wash of yellow light thrown by the tall family room lamp. She was fast asleep in her favorite corduroy high back chair, wearing a shallow smile.


Words by Dan Cardoza

Photo by Dương Trần Quốc on Unsplash

‘The Day I Stopped Looking at the Stars’- By Cameron Lowe

The day I stopped looking at the stars was the day I stopped imagining. I used to spend many nights watching Alpha Centauri sparkle, spy onto the surface of Venus through my telescope, and imagine UFOs flying through the cosmos. Most of all, I would wonder what planets were circling around those distant stars. Were they ones full of life like our own planet? Were they barren wastelands like Mars? Gas giants like Saturn? This mystery fuelled my imagination. I found myself telling stories of new worlds and alien life to everyone I knew.

So why did I stop looking at the stars and imagining extraterrestrial worlds? One simple word: reality. Becoming a teenager, they started telling me to stop living in a fantasy land and start living in reality. Their vision of reality was simple: study hard, get a job, buy a house, get married, have children. To me, their version of reality was a living nightmare. It was primarily based on luck and left little time for imagination. I ignored their lectures and continued to go out and look at the stars, allowing their red, yellow, and blue surfaces to inspire and comfort me.

One day, they told me I was no longer allowed to look at the stars. They deadlocked the doors, gave away my telescope, and kept me from going out. They said it was time for me to grow up and face reality. I put up a fight to keep my imagination, but they fought harder to destroy it. They drained my imagination of its many weird and wonderful worlds through lectures of how important a good job was and keeping the door locked.

The last few strands of my imagination were torn up the day they got me a job at a local shop. The wage was bad and couldn’t even cover my weekly expenses, but they said it was a start and would one day get me a house. I did all I could to get out of there. I applied for countless better paying jobs, but got none of them. That local shop closed down not long after my fortieth unsuccessful job application, leaving me jobless. Their version of reality had backfired, leaving me worse off than I had been when my imagination ran wild.

I went out to look at the stars again. Tears formed in my eyes as I looked up at Venus. Seeing it again brought me back to, a time before reality had set in. I remembered all the nights I spent with my telescope, exploring the surface of other planets, looking for UFOs, wondering what else could be out there. Looking at the stars again, all those dreams and possibilities of life beyond our own planet returned. As they did, my imagination reignited. Stories of first encounters and journeys to the stars ran rampant in my mind.

The day I stopped looking at the stars was the day I stopped imagining. Now, looking at them again, my imagination has returned. Now I write down what other these alien worlds look like, weaving them into stories that make them real. They continue to try and crush my imagination but now use them as motivation to keep me going. For as long as I continue to look at the stars I will continue to imagine, something reality doesn’t offer.


Words by Cameron Lowe.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Bridge of Clay

Bridge of Clay
Markus Zusak
Picador 2018


As a fan of Markus Zusak’s previous work (The Book Thief, The Messenger, and When Dogs Cry) there was no doubt in my mind I’d love Bridge of Clay when I read it. Yet Bridge of Clay raised a number of questions about the book and the evolution of Zusak’s prose style. For me, this book was a change from his others by the sheer literary feeling of the writing. If you’re unsure what I mean by “literary”, perhaps the simplest way to describe it is writing that screams writing. The first page caught me off guard, but it didn’t take long to appreciate the style and story.

If I weren’t a fan of Zusak—or if I’d read the blurb before I jumped in—this is definitely a book I would seek out and read. I am one of six children and so I’ve always been fascinated by large families in fiction and on screen (Cheaper by the Dozen, Septimus Heap, etc.). Seeing someone portray the lives of five brothers is fascinating to me. A lot of these moments and interactions just felt truly authentic and familiar. Although, my family was never quite so wild.

The story is told by Matthew, the eldest Dunbar brother, and follows the younger brother, Clay. Clay has spent his life training, but training for what? This question appears at the beginning of the novel and is repeated throughout. While the others drive, he runs. While jockeys ride horses on the nearby racecourse Clay creates his own race-course or obstacle course, complete with local tough guys charged with keeping him from completing his race. But Clay doesn’t care about winning—the only race he cared about was won and done, the family reluctantly one mule richer for it.

About a third of the way through it becomes clear that Clay’s training isn’t to win at anything, it’s simply a way to help him survive the ‘murder’. The boys, much like Justin Torre’s We the Animals, are a united front against their remaining (and absent) authority figure, their father, who they refer to as the murderer. When the murderer returns, he upsets the entire household, effectively tearing a brother away with his plea to help build a bridge. Clay makes the decision to leave Matthew, Rory, Henry, Tommy, all the animals, and his almost-girlfriend, Carey, to build a bridge with his Dad.

While the novel tells the story of Matthew, Clay, and their brothers, it also delves back into history to bring the story of their parents, Michael Dunbar and Penelope Lesciuszko.

Zusak creates a full and authentic story with his Dunbar boys and the stories of their parents. This is a book that will stir your emotions; it will call up fear and anger and grief. You will grow to adore the Iliad and Odyssey, fall in love with Carey, and wish you could know the Mistake Maker, just as I did.

For readers of The Book Thief, particularly for any readers who dislike or struggle with literary fiction; I would approach this with awareness that this is quite a large book and it may take a chapter or two to find the rhythm. Regardless, this is an utterly beautiful testament to childhood and simply being Australian. This is the story of boys, horses, and surviving whatever life has in store for you.

3.5/5 stars


Words and photography by Kayla Gaskell

In Conversation: Malaika Gilani

In 2016 Malaika Gilani published her first poetry collection: Untold Journeys. She was seventeen. This year she has been a part of the global anthology, I Bared My Chest, comprising of 21 phenomenal women telling their stories. Recently I had the chance to interview this Melbourne-based poet and talk about inspiration, writing advice, and poetry.  

 

Could you give us a brief overview of your current published poetic work? What are its themes and what would you like your audience to know before reading it?

 
Untold Journeys is about everyday life. Things we all experience: friendship, family, body issues, and so much more. There is at least one poem in there that you can connect with. If the poems aren’t giving advice then they are there to show you that whatever you are going through, you are not alone. Someone is going through the exact same thing too.

 
What was it like publishing a poetry collection at seventeen?

 
It was amazing to be doing something that not many people have done. However, there have been rejections because I am too young and inexperienced. But who cares, life is all about the good. If we start focusing on the negatives then we won’t be able to live at all. I’ve loved it. The support from my family and friends has been a huge part of how I got here. They help me stay humble and enjoy this experience at the same time.

 
What inspires you to create poetry?

 
People, their experiences, and their lives.

 

If you could sum up what you would like your poetry to evoke what would you say?

 
You are not alone. We are all going through the same things. In the end, it’s the things within us that make us more alike than we will ever know.

 

Could you tell me a bit about I Bared My Chest? What was it like working with and collaborating with other artists to create this anthology?

 

You could say it was an interview of 21 authors in book form. All participants were given a series of questions to answer, to show people someone else has gone through the same thing as you and to show people that artists are not [all] geniuses. We are [people] like everyone else, anyone can achieve what we have.

It was amazing to work with people who are so much more experienced than I am. I learnt so much from them and was in awe of how wonderful and cooperative they were. Most importantly, I realised we were all normal humans – we disagreed, we celebrated, we got sad and angry and happy.

 
Have there been any books/authors/poets that have deeply inspired you? If so, what are they?

 
Sue Lawson and Jackie French.

Sue came to my school once when I was in year nine and has been in contact with me since. And Jackie is such an amazing and inspiring lady. I contacted her to review Untold Journeys and she has been a huge part of my life since. I email her and she instantly replies, giving me advice and encouragement.

 
What advice would you give to other poets and writers?

 
Rejections make you want it more. It makes everything more meaningful too. I appreciate my work and others’ so much more now because I know what hardships we all have to go through.

 

What has been the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

 
If we start focusing on the negatives then we won’t be able to live at all.

 
Are there any upcoming projects that we can be excited for?

 
For now, I am on hold. I am starting university, so I am going to focus on that for now. However, once I am done with my psychology degree I will think about whether or not I still want to focus on writing and continue my writing journey.

 


Gilani’s book is available for purchase on Amazon and you can follow her journey on both Facebook and Instagram.

 


Interview by Georgina Banfield.