These paper boats of mine are meant to dance on the ripples of hours, and not reach any destination... Rabindranath Tagore

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past...F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.
On the way to the river are the old dormitories, used for something else now, with their fairy-tale turrets, painted white and gold and blue. When we think of the past it's the beautiful things we pick out. We want to believe it was all like that.
--from Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid's Tale

Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another's skin, another's voice, another's soul.
- Joyce Carol Oates

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Promised Land

The Promised Land - Sushma Joshi - in ITCH - Journal of Creative Expression - Issue 6 - 29th June 2010.
December 16, 2013 I was moved to see all the Mandela memorial events this week. And it reminded me that I'd had a story published in ITCH, a South African journal, in 2010. So, in his memory and with South Africa on my mind ...

beyond today

Umesh Acharya, only son of an illustrious family of judges and diplomats, inheritor of lavish acres of land in Banepa, and owner of two centrally located Kathmandu apartment buildings, decided to leave for America a week after his marriage...

beyond the valley of home

But Umesh, who had watched all his friends leave Kathmandu one by one...

could the light be brighter

if he attended community college for a year and improved his grades, he could transfer to a better college...

could I learn more

Umesh reached Ohio in the middle of September.

but the leaves are turning

Welcome to America," he said, taking out Umesh's Samsonite suitcases and dragging them into the narrow, carpeted hallway. It smelled of old cats.

the warmth is dying

"Its expensive to live alone, so all eight of us in the college share the rooms," Abhisekh explained

we cannot be what we were

All of us work these kinds of jobs. Remember Kundan-Sir?" "Our physics teacher?" "That's right. He is stacking boxes at a supermarket right now in New York. Remember Suresh? He was a batch behind us?" "What about him?" "He pumps gas at a station in Idaho." "I don't believe it," was all Umesh could say. "Remember Ranay?" Abhisekh continued pitilessly. "Ranay who wanted to be a doctor?" "Ranay works at an Indian restaurant now, waiting tables. He dropped out of college and is illegal."

we cannot become
more than we were

Was this the America that all his other friends had gone to, or had he arrived at a special nightmare version?

we have lost 

'Have I come thousand of miles and paid ten times more for an education that was worse than a public college in Kathmandu?' he thought. 

I have lost

"The Promised Land," said somber ochre letters outside the funeral parlor where Purna dropped him off.

I can only

the ashes

Shelling Peas and History Lessons - Mascara Literary review

I intercepted her words with side-track poetry
which becomes my review

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The End of the World

The End of the World - Sushma Joshi. 8 short stories. 2008.

the sweetness of
could not save Nepal
from Civil War


and in the south
even in Calcutta
the British Empire
was under siege

in a world of black monsoon clouds streaked with silver

in a black world of Maoist blockades
without the silver

thoughts of world ends
a special kind of


foreign cheese

Cheese is the first short story in this collection.
It spins a surprising tale of cheese from Switzerland.
Gopi dreams of tasting this cheese for the first time.
For many years he dreams, but then, when the moment comes
it felt almost as if it wasn’t him who had eaten it — it had eaten him. p.23


  The End of the WorldThe End of the World by Sushma Joshi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The End of the World is the title of one of the 8 short stories about late 20th century Nepal and those who live there. But, as the title of the whole collection of stories, it suggests that each story symbolises some kind of ending in progress - without the relief or satisfaction of closure. The people struggle with new tastes - Cheese, unravelled friendships - Betrayal and the dark side of power - Law and Order. The monsoon season could almost be a welcome distraction. There is little time to get to know any characters. There is just the ragged moment mirroring little sign of fulfilment. The collection could represent a negative view of this world, struck down by shifts in political circumstance. But then there is the enigma that we hope, we keeping hoping that such chaos of personal identity and purpose must tire, must end sometime.

View all my reviews

Cameo Dramas in Nepal 
Imagine when cultures collide in political mayhem, what chaos and confusion follows, the emerging questions of right and wrong and the sticky web of values. These short stories are like an inside glimpse of a remote mountain country smudged by the modern world. The characters are like lost souls wandering some wild future desert, seeking some comforting sign of who they are and what they could be. Who can possibly imagine that cheese from Switzerland could become a prize, a gift, a quest, a nightmare. The first short story leads the way into the lives of disillusioned Nepalese. For those of us who know little of the ways and cultures of the people in this high country, there is simply not enough in each story to appreciate the how's and the why's of these worlds.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens. 1843

Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it. 

Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern 

He carried his own low temperature always with him

 he iced his office

 and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

not many knew
that the rich Scrooge
was once a poor child
a lonely child
trapped in a colourless world

were meaningless ghosts

he himself had
no meaning

he could be a ghost

he could not connect with

Scrooge the cold child became the cold man
absorbed in wealth
not spending it
not giving it
hoarding it

but this year
the ghosts of Christmas
would awaken
what he could have been
what he could be

he faced his own ghosts

they awakened his heart
they found rest
and stirred
his spirit

 the secret of finding joy
is giving joy

Images adapted from Works of Charles Dickens. Avenel Books. 1978.

 A Christmas CarolA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is easy to get caught up in the colour and mystery and intrigue of the Christmas ghosts of A Christmas Carol. But I have read this story - usually at Christmas - a number of times. For once, I found myself pouring over the Christmas past - the 19th century London Scrooge as a lonely child, little more than a ghost himself. Somehow the older, selfish monster that he became was a sad reflection of why - perhaps a sad reflection of why many today still lock out the Christmas spirit. The story is an enchanting carol, celebrating a possible transformation from ghost to spirit.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens. 1859.

In front of it, seated in chairs, as in a garden of public diversion, 
are a number of women, 
busily knitting... 
 Dickens, Charles A Tale of Two Cities (p. 233). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

Therese Defarge
bold leader of the knitting sisterhood
missed the game

but let me begin at
the revolutionary

it was
the best of times to see
the worst of times

Madame's benefactor
(her damaged sister)
paid The Ferryman

and Madame 

was able to watch the game
right from
the preliminary finals

was there
to muse
when Doctor Manette
emerged from his tower prison

was there
to plot
when spies

was there
to grind her own axe
when the doctor's daughter
cried for her Charles Darnay
for treason

was there
to turn

She watched many games
and played along with them

She missed
the grand final

the grand moment
when Sidney Carton
 idlest and most unpromising of men,
 took the place of Darnay
on the scaffold
and rose to glory

her final revenge

the switch of

too busy with
her own

Images adapted from Works of Charles Dickens. Avenel Books. 1978.

Linking to:
Imaginary Garden With Real Toads - Open Link Monday

A Tale of Two CitiesA Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many years ago, I had to read this book as a school text. I was in Year 7 at the time. I remember being mesmerised with the knitting theme (knitting round a guillotine haunted me) and totally disenchanted with Lucie Manette, the Doctor's daughter. For some reason, I thought of Shakespeare's Desdemona - syrupy and tragic, bearable but not totally warm and likeable. All these years later, and my views haven't changed, but I have noticed other features in this story. Dickens is adept at personifying the weather and the countryside. The personifications subtly add tone and mystery and depth to unfolding dramas. He shaves off a few layers of character and storyline and then moves on. So frustratingly delightful. And he is also adept at seeing beyond external characters. Sidney Carton, the ugly, insipid loser of the whole narrative, becomes a tragic hero of grand proportion. I read the whole book in two sessions over two days. It still enchants.

View all my reviews

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Song of the Slums

Song of the Slums by Richard Harland
Allen & Unwin. 2013.

a gas filled airship
leers over
Swale House 
swollen with the warts of wealth

she played a harp in those days

but chance
 Astor into
the beauty of gang music

in the slag heaps of Slumtown

and she finds
the drums

Astor through
Granny Rouse's world
gives her the friendship of
the eerie Mav
the dynamic 
curious excitement of

and the 
chance for a role in
the Rowdies

she lives
the drums


a world cluttered with
steam-powered charabancs
stream-lined velocipedes
basketwork rickshaws

swollen with militia
and political mania

slum music 
the tiaras and
conventional pomposities

stirring the soul of the street

giving it a voice

giving her
a voice

a drumming soul

Linking to:
Poets United - Poetry Pantry


Song of the SlumsSong of the Slums by Richard Harland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's the Age of Steam with a vibrant heartbeat growing in the slums. Astor has been groomed in the harp, but when she is left in the wealthy Swale household under rather strange marriage circumstances, and escapes, she inadvertently grooms a whole new lifestyle with matriarch Granny Rouse and her slum gang. It is there that Astor finds her real music, her real rhythms and her soul.

View all my reviews

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Red Shoe

The Red Shoe by Ursula Dubosarsky
Allen and Unwin. 2006

red shoes

stories of thoughts
and emotions
laced by
red shoes

think Dorothy
travelling in a parallel land
pushed into life by 
multiple tornado effects

Matilda craves her mother's red shoes

chance lets her  feel them
in the bush

but one is lost
when she climbs a tree

fresh echoes of war
like some angry ghost

polio outbreak
all framed by
the Petrov affair

newspaper clips
drift by

Elizabeth is brushed with a kind of madness
and cannot go to school

dreams of growing up
and loses the friend
she imagined she would marry some day

Mrs Petrov loses
a shoe
as she boards the plane

the girls' mother
receives a gift of red shoes
when her husband returns
from war nightmares

his brother Paul could not help him
but fortunately
the swinging rope
this time

think post war 
and stars

think the Land Oz
with many Dorothys

and red shoes

Linking to:
Poets United ~ Poetry Pantry

The Red ShoeThe Red Shoe by Ursula Dubosarsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The scattered debris of post war worlds is all here. The headlines of the day cut into the home lives. Disturbingly, perspectives of home mirror the crises on larger scales. This is not a novel based on a traditional, linear narrative sequence. It is like mini memoirs co-existing spiced with flashbacks; mainly the memoirs of children growing up in a world they barely understand. The effect is mesmerising; a sense of sadness grappling with the right to find some kind of happiness - with a little help from some red shoes that could be magical.

View all my reviews

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Purple Threads

Purple Threads by Jeanine Leane
University of Queensland Press. 2011.
Winner of the David Unaipon Award.
David Unaipon (1872-1967) was the first indigenous writer to be published in Australia in 1929.

 of women and dogs
in the flood prone world of Gundagai

of living in a ramshackle hut
graced with a tin roof
ideal for hearing the sound of rain

of living with aunts and a nan and a sister Star
while Mum Petal tastes the colours of other worlds

of living with sheep and wildflowers

of knowing too much about worldly discords
and the unprovoked abuse of a neighbour

of loving the Aboriginal niche of my childhood
though the civilised may never understand

I was born in the purpleness of October

I am Sunshine
You can call me Sunny

Linking to:
Imaginary Garden With Real Toads - Open Link Monday

Purple ThreadsPurple Threads by Jeanine Leane
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Layers of stories tumble from the worlds of a ragged home in Gundagai in southern New South Wales. A young girl is buffeted between stories from past and present worlds - her aunts' versions. But she is intrigued. She loves her different world, close to the music and moods of the earth. Only humans strike the wrong chords, but the other music plays in the background. Her purple threads - the earth colours of an Australian October, her birth season - keep her connected. Sunny is an Aboriginal girl being what she can be. The narrative becomes a series of many cameos of Sunny's world and those with her through the seasons.

View all my reviews

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Refugee Boy

Refugee Boy - Benjamin Zephaniah
Bloomsbury Publishing 2001

I'm Ethiopian
  I'm Eritrean
  I am cursed
  I walk the line

like a lonely piece of flotsam
  in a sea of coloured skins
  I bob around east London

Sheila, Pamela and Mariam
  foreign faces 
  become my guides

I'm African
  I'm a refugee
  I'm uneducated
  I walk the line

a family moors my life
  my small room means a large view
  and Ruth becomes my sister

I'm African
  I'm just a teenage boy
  I want to learn
  I walk the line

I find friends I did not know were friends
  young friends
  school friends
  willing to march for freedom
  willing to walk my line

I am Alem
  I want to give
  I want to be 
  a light

without the line

Linking to:
Poets United ~ Poetry Pantry

Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Perhaps this book disappoints- not outlining the tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia, not fully exploring and explaining the work of young Alem's parents, but the book is about the boy; the boy finding his own journey and his own rite of passage. We feel the incredible confusions he must feel - an alien culture and climate, a Refugee Council, a foster family, a new school and the whole disturbing, temporary arrangement of it all. And in the midst of all this darkness, appear some rather special miracles. Young people dare to face and challenge legal strongholds. An apparently indifferent girl becomes his sister. This book bridges and casts a rainbow over the many tragic chasms in our world.

View all my reviews + My liberation haiku, inspired by this book, is posted on my Haiku Songlines blog.

This story became a play - BBC Review 14th March 2013

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Art of the Engine Driver

The Art of the Engine Driver by Steven Carroll was published in 2001 - Flamingo Press.
It is an Australian novel.

Vic knows
the art of engines
but knows little
of the art of family

Michael is
the engine driver's son

he dreams of beauty
family beauty
in just a snapshot

he was there
walking the night with them
to a party

this night
the wreckage of this night
become a mantra
for Michael

he returns
and returns
and returns

in dreams

and wills
another journey

Michael knows the art of cricket
but knows little

he knows little...

The art of the engine driverThe art of the engine driver by Steven Carroll
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A book that tantalises and frustrates! Tantalising thumbnails of characters drifting through a season in their lives. The just outside Melbourne setting of the 1950's is like a weigh station - taking stock of past and present before moving on. Initially, the sense of place is beautifully described and quite haunting. The linking thread is an engine driver named Vic who hopes that his steam driving worlds may move on to the electric worlds of the Spirit of Progress. But his driving worlds are overlaid with fractured realities that haunt his dreams. And Vic himself is one of those fractured realities. He and those living in the same street are on their way to an engagement party. Like a Canterbury Tales scenario, these pilgrims bring their stories with them. But the frustrating element is the spasmodic reference to a comet in the skies...perhaps symbolic of an upheaval of life. And when the upheaval comes, the drama seems to confuse, the characters seem to fizzle and maybe peter out. The art of the engine driver seems to become a little weathered.

View all my reviews

Linking to:
Imaginary Garden With Real Toads ~ Open Link Monday

Monday, January 14, 2013

Walk In My Shoes

Walk In My Shoes (2004) - Alwyn Evans
(Teacher resources HERE!)

Am I free?


I can't see Dad's face any more


I know too much about trauma

New Australian camp worlds are strange


It's not Afghanistan of my childhood

And I'm still a child
To a point
(I sew my own doll's clothes
But I've been connecting with Abdul
For a while now)


Do I need Afghanistan?

From a strange world view

Perhaps Afghanistan needs me

To make a difference


Am I free?

I'm working on it

 Walk in My ShoesWalk in My Shoes by Alwyn Evans
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nessa's Afghanistan was a tortured world, a world living the fear of The Terror. And the fear stays alive in her mind, even when her family ventures to the Australian unknown, seeking some kind of freedom and life. Like some ugly Medusa, old realities become nightmares, recurring in jagged, disjointed fragments. But the land of "red dirt and blue sky" heals the thirsting spirit - slowly.

View all my reviews

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...