Brad Evans


was a good woman,
her place in the home.

was a kind woman,
to everybody:
her brother,

she cooked them all
a roast dinner
ev’ry Sunday …

I ?
I don’t remember
what I did



I have
no reason
to complain

I do, anyway.


for here,
my friend no longer sits beside me,

he prefers a distance,
as our conversation had finally decided

turn to

which I had always wanted it

turn to.


and he asks me the question that some would call ‘personal’
and shy away from,

to protect

their embarrassment of their minimal earning capacity,
or their deepfelt shame of success at the expense of others.



he asks me what I earn and

tell him –

I tell
this contracted nursing assistant
working 12 hr shifts, with minimal, on-site training

tell him

that I’m on 15 pounds an hour,
90 pounds a day, for working a six hour day


while others

who have had four years at university
and have chosen certain courses

deemed valuable in capitalist society
are earning much much more than myself.


and he tells me how much he earns –
5 pounds an hr, as a nursing assistant,

who has no real interest
in wanting to understand the ‘class thing’ in capitalism

in all its ugly manifestations,
but to escape to art

for his sake
having completed an art’s degree

deemed less worthy
by capitalist society

than law or It
or bus. management.

and he distances
himself from me,

grows cold,

as capitalism stings his 5 pds/hr ego
and blames me (at 15pds/hr)

we speak of

in a conversation

which I
had always wanted

something from.


and still
we wait …



a part

we met
through a mutual

and I was
lured to a

New Age hippy
camp-out for the summer

with the promise

sweaty sex

and my mind
focused on the

sweaty sex,

while her car,
and me

headed south for Wiseman’s Ferry
and we found

a place to swim
by a river

with a private bank


and I watched mudcrabs
freeing themselves

she sucked me off

and then
I stopped her …

both of us
in mid-need


and we swam
in the river

before the final drive
to the camp

where we pitched
the tent

and quickly
occupied ourselves

with the
sweaty sex


and then

I went down on her
and stopped

while she waited

I wondered to myself
how she’d lost

one of her

it had been

to a frustrated woman-hating

came before me

to an Australian freshwater

the marine biologists

had not

warned us

Peter deVries


Julia began at Kidsworld on the 3rd of February. It was a new amusement park on the Gold Coast, near Dreamworld and Movieworld. It consisted of amusement park rides and baby farm animals and a couple of movie cinemas and plenty of junk food outlets. Julia was a cleaner, working 4 a.m. to 8 a.m., six days a week. Julia had never worked as a cleaner before, and she had never begun a workday at such an early hour. This was all very new to her.

She needed the job. Particularly seeing her husband, George, hadn’t worked in five weeks and didn’t look like he’d be getting any work for at least another four weeks. The cleaning job had been advertised in the newspaper two Saturdays ago. They needed a dozen cleaners, no experience necessary.

She applied and got the job. The guy doing the hiring wanted to know why a “girl” like her, with a university degree, wanted a job cleaning.

“Money,” she said. He shrugged and told her she could have the job if she wanted it. She said she did.

And here she was, in old jeans, T-shirt, and a pair of joggers. Filling in a personnel form. Details such as date of birth and address and bank account number.

After that it was a quick tour of Kidsworld and what had to be cleaned. She, along with the eleven other new employees, were told that they would work in pairs. Each pair would be given a designated sector which they had to clean in four hours. If they finished before the four hours were up they were to report back to their supervisor, who would then send them out to help in other sectors which might need additional help.

Julia was partnered up with a middle-aged woman called Olga. She spoke very little English. They were given the “cinema” sector. This meant cleaning out the cinemas, the two eateries in the area, the two toilet blocks, and the grounds in that vicinity.

The pair split up and began. They’d been given mops and brooms and cleaning solvents. No instruction in how to use these things. It was assumed you knew.

As Julia mopped out a male toilet she thought about the telephone conversation she’d had with her sister the previous evening. Her younger sister, Rosie. Rosie, who had just come back from two years overseas. Backpacking. Julia had met her at the airport. Her little sister had grown her hair out. She was taller too. She was twenty-one and beautiful. Suntanned. So happy. “But poor,” said Rosie. And she didn’t seem to care.

Last night on the telephone Rosie had asked: “Is everything okay with you, Jules?”

“Everything’s fine.”

“Just fine?”

“Yes … fine. Things are good.”

“With you and Georgie?”

She hated the way Rosie referred to her husband as ‘Georgie’ — never to his face, of course. “Yes,” said Julia. “We’re good.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure. I should know, shouldn’t I?”

“Of course you should. Only …” And she stopped for dramatic effect.

“Only what?” said Julia.

“Only you don’t look happy.”

“I don’t?”

“No, you don’t.”

“Well let me tell you something, little sister, I am happier than I’ve ever been. Ever.”

“Oh,” said Rosie. “Well that’s good, Jules. That’s really good.”

And that was about it for the telephone conversation. Julia had made her excuses and hung up. And spent half the night wondering if she did look unhappy. And then, when the alarm went off at 3.30 a.m., she got up, looked in the bathroom mirror, and said to herself, “Now I look unhappy. Getting up at this time, in the middle of the night.” And laughed at herself.

“What?” came the sleepy voice of George, from the bedroom.

“Nothing, go back to sleep,” she called out.

But he got out of bed. Came into the bathroom, peed, then put his arms around his wife’s waist. “Love you,” he said.

“Love you too,” she said, kissing him on the forehead. “Look, I’ve got to get ready and go. First day on the job and all that.”

“Sure, hon. I’ll see you later.”

And he went back to bed. And she went to work, taking their second-hand car, driving for twenty-five minutes from their rented home in Woodridge to Kidsworld at Southport.

Julia was surprised how quickly the four hour shift went. The work wasn’t always pleasant, particularly cleaning out the toilets. But there was something satisfying in doing such physical labour where you didn’t have to use your brain.

At twenty-three, Julia had little work experience. She’d gone straight to university at eighteen, doing a four year course in primary school teacher education. While studying she had a part-time job at an after-school care centre, working with children. Then three months after graduation she was offered a full-time teaching position at a school on the Gold Coast, teaching grade four.

She taught for twelve months, for the most part enjoying the company of the children in her class. But at the same time she was full of self doubt about her abilities as a teacher. She knew that her classroom management wasn’t all that it should be. She was too soft, too inconsistent. There were certain children who ran riot in her class. Sometimes she nearly lost it, but whenever this looked like happening she managed to control her urge to scream and shout at them.

Then there was what she was actually teaching. She simply didn’t have the knowledge. She was a general classroom teacher, teaching all subject areas. But university hadn’t equipped her with the knowledge to know everything you were supposed to teach. It was impossible. It was something that only came with experience and lots of work and reading.

Julia read a lot. And she spent hours preparing her lessons. But even so, she felt uncomfortable. She still felt she was, at best, treading water. Particularly on days when her kids would point out mistakes she’d made — usually in maths.

“I’m just not made for this profession,” she told George.

“Sure you are,” he said.

“But it just doesn’t feel right. I don’t think I’m good for my children.”

“Hey, hey,” he said gently, “you’re being too hard on yourself. You’re a great teacher.”

George. Always so bloody sympathetic and encouraging. How would he know whether I’m a good teacher or not? He’s never seen me teach. Jesus. And what’s he doing? Answer: sitting around at home for the last few weeks. Not that he’s lazy. He’s been working on the car and fixing things around the house, and I know a few weeks ago he was working on that building site for ten hours a day, six days a week. It’s not that he doesn’t work hard — he does. When he works. But he doesn’t have a stable job. I do. And one of us needs a regular income, right? And it’s sure not going to be him. So it’s up to me. I have to keep this job.

But in the end she couldn’t. A parent of one of the children in her class made a complaint, saying that her son wasn’t being taught properly.

The principal was really nice about it. He didn’t reprimand her. What he did was examine her work plans and observe her teach. He even buddied her up with a more experienced teacher. All of this just added to Julia’s stress levels.

“Complaints are not unusual,” he told her. “It’s par for the course. You’re a new teacher, and I think you’ll make a very good teacher. It’s just hard, the first few years. Everyone makes mistakes. You learn from them.”

But Julia wasn’t so sure. She considered giving up the job. Quitting. Starting afresh. She mentioned this to George.

“Hon, if that’s what you want to do, then do it,” he said.

Always so considerate. So damn nice. Which was why she had been attracted to him in the first place. He was exactly that: a nice guy. So positive and good-natured. The complete opposite of me. Me and my black dresses, listening to The Cure and reading Sylvia Plath. Hours spent alone in my bedroom brooding. The outcast at high school. Deciding to be a teacher because I thought it would make me a better person. A nicer, more positive person.

She’d met George at university. He too was doing teacher education. He befriended her. They hung out together. They were even sent out to do practicum teaching at the same school. It was after that experience that George told Julia: “I’m not cut out to be a teacher, I just don’t have the brains for it.”

Julia didn’t say it to his face, but she agreed. And immediately felt guilty for thinking this. He may not be the brightest guy she knew — just because he didn’t know how many states there were in Australia and just because he thought the population of Australia was 4 million; this didn’t make him a dunce, surely — but he was a nice guy.

“What are you going to do?” she asked him.

He smiled and shrugged. “I’ll get by.” So confident. Not egotistical, though. Just laid back and so positive.

Positive. “I’ll miss you,” she said.

He smiled, then reached out and touched her face. “Hey, I’ll miss you too.”

Something must have shown in her eyes that he picked up on — so he can’t be that dumb — because he bent forward and kissed her, and she kissed him back.

After that it was romance. Twelve months of it. Then they were engaged. He wanted to get married straight away. She wanted to wait until she graduated and had a job.

They compromised: marriage occurred in her final year at university. They rented a cheap house in Woodridge, and had been there ever since.

“We’ll soon have enough for a deposit on our own place,” he’d said when they first moved in.

But even when she got to working full-time as a teacher they never managed to save for a deposit. George was always investing small amounts of money that he managed to lose. They never got ahead.

So Julia wondered how they could possibly survive if she quit teaching. She voiced her concern to George. “We’ll survive,” he said. “We’ll adapt. Hey, you can concentrate on your painting. You’re good, Julia. I reckon within two months you’ll be selling your work.”

She went to the principal of the school and said she was going to resign. He convinced her not to resign, but to take twelve months’ leave. She agreed to this. “Just in case you do want to come back,” he said. Julia told him she doubted that she would.

And henceforth she concentrated on her painting.

Her training consisted of high school art classes and doing a major in art in her teacher education degree. Her teachers had told her she had real talent, but Julia just knew teachers said that all the time. She wasn’t getting her hopes up. She just liked to paint, so paint she did.

She began selling her work at the Saturday and Sunday markets. George framed her paintings. Most weeks she sold a couple for sixty or seventy dollars each. But it wasn’t enough money. Along with George’s sporadic work, they were only just getting by. She knew she needed a regular paying job, so when she saw the job ad for a cleaner, six days a week, she leaped at the opportunity. She figured it was just four hours a day, and because it was so early in the day, she’d work, then come home and paint. It would all work out rather nicely.


The 3rd of February saw Ron travelling to Rockhampton for the last time. In three months’ time he would be retired. Out of a job. No more time spent on the road peddling his wares. Or at least the wares of the art supply company he worked for.

Ron was fifty-five. He’d spent the last thirty-one years as a salesman. The first dozen were spent in an art supply shop, then the rest of the time was spent on the road, selling wholesale to the kind of shop he’d previously worked in. Although in the last few years he was also dealing with newsagents and even toy shops. This was necessary so that his company could turn a profit. They’d gone from just selling paint, brushes, canvases and easels to art supply shops, to selling “painting by numbers” kits and other such crap that could be bought cheaply at the local newsagent. Ron felt it was a sellout, but he didn’t have a say. He worked on commission and he needed every dollar he could get.

It felt strange driving into Rockhampton for the last time. There was one art supply shop there, along with the three newsagents he’d visit and sell the usual to. He’d even try and push a few new products, but doubted they’d go for them. This bunch were conservative. Particularly old Herb, the owner of the art shop. He’d owned the place ever since Ron had been visiting Rockhampton. Of course there was also his wife, Denise. She worked there too, but these days whenever Ron came to town she wouldn’t be in the shop. She hadn’t been for the last twelve years or so. But before then, particularly when Herb was out of the shop, things had been different. Back then Denise had wanted to see Ron. For years she’d flirted with him and for years he’d flirted back. Then one time when he’d been so pissed with his wife for so many things he’d taken it a bit further and next thing you know he and Denise were in the back room making love. Well maybe not love, but having sex. Although Denise must have read it as love because she started telephoning Ron when he was back home, telling him she was going to leave Herb and he should leave Molly, his wife. Ron tried to explain that it had been a one-off encounter, but Denise wouldn’t listen.

Funnily enough, Herb never found out about it. Or if he did he never let on to Ron. But Molly did find out. Because when Ron was on the road Denise would call their home. At first she’d hang up, but when she started thinking that Ron was just trying to avoid her, she talked to Molly. She told of her “affair” with Ron.

“Look, it wasn’t an affair,” he told Molly when she confronted him. “It was a damn silly mistake. If I had my time again I swear it wouldn’t happen.”

Molly didn’t scream and shout at him. That wasn’t her style. She would say very little and quietly stew.

At first it did look like this was the way it would occur. She turned her back on him and walked into the kitchen. She wouldn’t talk to him over dinner. Their kids, Tim and Sally-Anne, knew something was wrong. So they too sat quietly at the table and avoided their father’s eyes.

He had never really been all that close to the children, what with being on the road so much. But he was a father to them. He taught Tim how to play cricket. He went along to his soccer matches when he could, just like he’d try and make it to Sally-Anne’s ballet recitals. But he knew they were closer to Molly.

Ron suspected she even told them what he’d done, because over the next couple of months they grew colder towards him. Or at least that was the way it seemed.

And then, about three months later, he came back from a trip out to Longreach. Molly greeted him with: “I’ve taken a lover.”

Just like that. No more information.

Ron laughed, thinking it was a joke. He just couldn’t imagine his wife having sex with another man. Hell, they rarely did it these days, and when they did she just lay there waiting for it to finish.

But she stood her ground and looked at him. “I just want you to know,” she said. “I’m being honest.”

So she had a lover. And Ron was powerless to act. He tried to find out who the man was, but she would say nothing. He even tried to listen in on her phone calls. And once he even said he was going out on business, but instead followed her for two days. He didn’t catch her with a man.

Then, maybe six months later, she announced: “It’s over. The affair.” He again tried to find out who the lover was, or if in fact there really was a lover. But Molly gave nothing away and Ron became so frustrated that he hit her. Well, slapped her. That had never happened before.

Molly didn’t scream or even cry out. When he’d finished she said: “The moment our children leave home we are going to split up. Understood?”

And she left the room.

Both the kids had left home. Sally-Anne was the last to go, three years beforehand. Ron had expected his wife to tell him to pack his bags.

Ever since she’d made the proclamation that they would “split” , he’d been hoarding money away. He knew that the divorce would hurt him badly. They’d have to sell the house and he’d be lucky to get half of the proceeds.

They had few investments. So he’d been squirreling away a few dollars every week, which had built up into a nice little nest egg. Molly knew nothing of this.

But he hadn’t had to use it. Because Molly had not mentioned the splitting up since the kids had left.

As Ron drove into Rockhampton he considered the advantages of a split. With his half of the money from the sale of the house he could buy a nice little flat. Plus he’d also have the money that he’d been hoarding. He’d invest that in the stockmarket. Lately he’d been studying it a lot. It didn’t look too tricky. He was sure he could make his money grow. And he could do all of this in peace. Without Molly.

Without Molly.

But what about her company? The card games, the backgammon, the scrabble. The watching TV together, making comments together. Hell, they shared the same taste in TV. Watching TV alone wasn’t much fun (except for sport). And then there was the practical stuff like cooking and cleaning. Ron had no experience in these areas. He realised he needed Molly. And wanted Molly.

So maybe he wouldn’t split, not unless she wanted to split. Then, of course, he would respect her wishes and just go.

As Ron went about his business in Rockhampton over the next two days he realised he didn’t want to be alone in his retirement. Being alone in the motel room made him feel lonely. This had never happened before. Previously, he’d enjoyed the solitude, the freedom of being able to eat what he wanted when he wanted. The freedom of sleeping on whichever side of the bed he wanted to sleep on.

But not this trip. This trip he yearned for his wife. He even picked up the telephone and began dialing home.


The 16th of June saw Ron begin work at Kidsworld as a cleaner. He’d retired at the beginning of May from his job as art supply salesman. In his last month he’d been looking forward to the end and planning what he’d do when he was retired.

The first week of retirement was great. He made Molly breakfast. Then she’d head off to work (at least on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, when she worked as a receptionist in a dental surgery). Being alone in the house all day felt good. He started with the daytime TV. He cleaned the house up for her. He even made a casserole or two.

But after the first week time started to move very slowly. So he took to the garden. He decided to start a vegetable patch. He bought seeds and read up on the subject. He fertilised the ground.

That only filled in a couple of hours each day.

“You’re bored, aren’t you?” Molly said at the end of the second week.

Ron nodded.

“So why not look for some part-time work? We could use the money.”

He looked through the job pages in the Saturday paper. He saw the ad for two cleaners needed at Kidsworld. Kidsworld was only five minutes away. Plus the hours were good. He tended to rise at 3.30 or 4 in the morning. Always had. Probably because his parents had. They’d owned a greengrocer store and had to be up that early to get to the markets. The habit had stayed with him. These days he tended to get up at 3.30 and read. At least if he got the job he could get up and earn a little money at that time.

Ron applied for the job and got it. The personnel manager asked him if he intended to stay long-term. “Sure I do,” he said. “When I start with something I stick with it.”

So he began on Monday morning the 16th of June. He and another person. They were told they would be teamed up with experienced cleaners.

Ron was teamed up with Julia. He looked at her and immediately thought of Sally-Anne, his daughter. They were about the same age. “Nice to meet you,” he said.

“You too,” said Julia. “We’re this way.” And she showed him the cinema area and what had to be done. “My last partner liked to split up,” she said. “I’m easy. We can split up or work together, whatever you like.”

“I don’t mind,” said Ron. “Although today it would be good to work together. You know, just so I can see how you do things. If we don’t get along so well, then tomorrow we can split up. Okay?”

“Okay,” said Julia.

They began with litter, picking it up and bagging it.

“So what happened to the person you’re usually teamed up with?” asked Ron.

“I don’t know,” said Julia. “She was here three days ago, then the next day she wasn’t.”

Ron nodded and picked up a popsicle stick. “So how long have you worked here?”

“Since February.”

“You like it?”

“What’s not to like?” she said. “This was always my life ambition, cleaning an amusement park.”

Ron laughed. “Yes, it’s not exactly world shattering.”

“How about you?”

“I just retired. But we need the money, so here I am.”

“That’s a good reason.”

“So what is your life ambition?” he asked.

“My life ambition? I wish I knew.”

“You don’t know?”

“What was yours?”

“Was? I’m not dead yet, young lady.” Smiling as he said this.

“Sorry,” she said, grinning. “What is your life ambition?”

“Painting,” he said. “Or at least it was.”

She stopped picking up rubbish. “Really?”

“Really,” he said. “Only that was a long time ago. I lost sight of that one. Or more to the point, I realised painting wasn’t for me.”

“So what happened?”

“I became a salesman. Art supplies. It was a regular weekly pay check.”

“You know, I paint to. I guess if I do have an ambition, it’s to paint.”


“Yeah, I guess. I tried for six months last year, but I couldn’t make any money at it. I mean I sold a few paintings, but not enough to live off.”

“But you’re still painting now?”

“Sure. Well, when I can. When I first took this job I figured I’d come to work, then go home and paint. Only it didn’t quite work out that way. I’d get home and there’d be the house to clean up and then I’d take a nap. Then there’s the problem of finding a quiet place to paint. We’ve got a tiny house and George, my husband, is usually home and he makes so much noise. He makes things. Furniture and stuff.”

“What do you paint? People? Landscapes?”

“Neither. Or both. I paint weird stuff. From in here I guess.” She pointed to her head.

“I’d like to see your work.”

“No you wouldn’t,” said Julia, laughing.

“I would,” Ron said. “Really.”

Throughout the rest of the shift they talked mainly about painting. What they each painted, and what brushes and paints they preferred. They talked about painters they liked. They even talked a little about technique. Ron particularly talked about techniques in painting portraits, which was what he used to paint. Towards the end of the shift Julia said, “Do you still have any of your paintings?”

“They’re under the house gathering dust.”

“I’d like to see them. Particularly seeing you’ve told me all this stuff about how you painted them.”

“They’re not very good,” he said. “That’s why I stopped. I had the technique, but not that … that thing which separates the true artists from everyone else who can use a brush.”

“I bet your stuff is great. I’d really like to see it.”

“What about after the shift? I’m only five minutes away.”

“Well …” began Julia.

“I can drive you.”

“I’ve got a car.”

“Then follow me.”

“I don’t know …”

“Hey, it’s okay,” said Ron. “I’m not a serial killer or a rapist.”

Julia thought about it: “Okay then.”

And so they went back to Ron’s house. Being a Monday, Molly was out at work. They went under the house and Ron showed Julia his paintings.

She sifted through the portraits. Ron pointed out who each person was. Most were relatives and friends. Julia could see they were good. But like Ron had said, they weren’t great. Except for one — a self-portrait. Ron had captured something in his own eyes that really got to Julia. She liked this one. She liked it a lot, and said so to Ron.

He smiled. “Yes, it’s the best. I caught myself on a day when all the defences were down.”

“It’s … beautiful. Not ‘beautiful’ beautiful, but just … great.”

“Thank you,” said Ron.

They went upstairs and had a cup of coffee. Ron said that now it was her turn to show him her work. He made her promise that she’d bring some of her paintings to work tomorrow. She agreed.

The following day, after the shift, they went out into the parking lot and she showed him three of her paintings. They were the three she was most proud of.

“Gee,” said Ron. He stared, taking in what he was looking at. “This is incredible. So original. So … dark.”

“Yes,” said Julia.

“You should be showing these. In a gallery.”

“I don’t think so,” said Julia.

“If you’ve got another twenty or so paintings as good as these, then you’ve got yourself an exhibition.”

“These are my best,” she said. “The others are okay, but they’re almost like drafts of these three. I’ve got ideas, lots of ideas, but it’s a matter of getting them onto the canvas.”

“Hey,” said Ron. “You’ve got to get those ideas down. I want to see them.”

“You do?” said Julia.

“Yes, I do. Look, if finding a place to work is a problem, I’ve got a studio out the back of my house.”

“I saw that.”

“It’s where I used to paint. There’s plenty of light, and it’s quiet. I wouldn’t disturb you.”

“I don’t know …” said Julia. But the idea appealed. She’d liked Ron’s house. It was in a quiet street, backing onto a park. She could picture herself working there. Painting.

“It’d be great,” said Ron. “Really. I’d consider it an … honour. Yes, an honour. You have a lot of talent. You shouldn’t waste it.”

“You’re really nice saying those things, but I’m not talented, really.”

“Yes, you are,” he insisted.

“But what about your wife? What would she think? A young woman taking over her studio.”

“It was always my studio, not hers. And besides, she doesn’t have to know. Just come and paint on those days when she’s at work.”

Julia thought about it a little more. “Okay,” she said. “Why not?”

“All right,” said Ron. “You can bring your things over on Thursday after work. Spend the day and just paint.”

Which is exactly what Julia did. The moment she entered the studio she felt inspired. She put up her easel, started sketching, then a couple of hours later began with the paint.

Meanwhile Ron sat in the lounge, in the house, trying to read. The studio was at the back of the yard. It was twenty metres from the rest of the house. Yet the whole time Ron kept half listening for signs of what Julia might be doing.

At lunch time he waited to hear the sound of the studio door opening, expecting her to come into the house to use the toilet or to get some food. He’d prepared sandwiches.

But she didn’t come in. She didn’t leave the studio until just before 4 p.m. That’s when he heard the door open, but he pretended he didn’t. He pretended he was still reading when she knocked on the back door and came in.

“Well,” she said. “I guess I’m done. I’m exhausted.”

“How did you go?”

She smiled. “You know I think I did more today than I’ve done in the last month. It’s such a great place to paint. So serene. And all that light, it’s wonderful.”

“Well come again next Monday.”

“I think I will. But only if it’s convenient.”

“It’s convenient,” said Ron.

Julia nodded. “Do you mind if I leave my things here?”

“Sure,” said Ron. “No worries.”

“Your wife won’t mind?”

“No, she never goes in there.”

“Okay,” said Julia. “I’ll do that.” Pause. “Well, I guess I’ll be heading off then.”

Ron stood up and walked her to the front door.

“Listen, thanks again,” she said. “I really mean that.”

He smiled. “It’s a pleasure.”

She nodded. They walked to her car. “Can I ask you one thing though? And I know this might seem rude or even arrogant, particularly considering I’m using your studio … but would you mind not looking at the painting? It’s not finished yet and I guess I feel kind of funny about someone looking at it before it’s done.”

Ron smiled. “Of course,” he said. He crossed his heart and said: “ Promise. I won’t go in there.”

“Thanks, Ron,” she said, and kissed him on the cheek.

Then she was in her car and driving away.

Ron waited a long time before going back indoors. He just stood there, looking at where she’d been standing and where her car had been.

When he finally walked back inside he decided that he’d keep his promise. It wouldn’t be easy, but he definitely would keep it.

Gabriele Pötscher

Twelve out of My Things

Wait in Autumn

I sit and wait, the hours an endless chain,
The minutes sluggish and black against the day,
Like crows in wintry trees, their feathers splayed against the rain,
Stopped in flight, now still as rocks, their passage stayed.

The wait is long, and I a battered brittle leaf,
Blown weak and ragged in this autumn storm.
Let go, or hold, one fills the heart with pain and grief,
The other, harder still, unsuits the norm.

I cannot force the seasons speed,
Nor will the time to fly
The heart might now declare its need,
The days, they have their own design.

Like love, not planned nor plumbed, its course a maze,
These thoughts, no proper closure find, just other questions raised.


I wrote a sonnet once, it seems an age ago
I wanted lovely sentiment, my heart was full
I’d checked in Wordsworth, Auden, Yeats and more
They had their heads in clouds of stars or wandered o’er it all.

My own words, earthbound hens, just wouldn’t lift
They pecked and squatted fat upon the earth
While poets’ birds of love to heaven soared, mine left
Their hennish claws etched firmly in the dirt.

This love of ours, if such it be, behaves just as unwillingly
To soar and flutter skyward, to another plane,
Instead, your constant worries chain you here, won’t let you be
Unfettered, free, a dove, an eagle on the wing.

So we’ll stay, we two, here peck and scratch upon the ground
Glad to find some tiny kernel: love that someone’s left behind.

Young Lovers

Young lovers are fine, they’ve got youth on their side
And you, the wisdom of age. Years don’t matter
You’re told, the wrinkles, just laugh lines, a smatter
Of spots from the sun, skin a bit tired from having a child.
Age doesn’t count, it is the inner values we see
Says youth, as you sit with your back to the window
Faced away from the lamp, dimmed, careful to show
Your face in repose, a hint of a smile, hoping that he
Will just focus on words. So worldly wise these days.
If you laugh, as you know, deep lines will appear
The shock of their depth and to know they are there,
With laughter gone, they will stay. Will surgery pay?
Making love is a challenge of strategy. Don’t stay on top.
Gravity does things to old skin. Makes it droop, pulls it down
Makes it sway. You have jowls now, and lines when you frown
It’ll have to be the bottom now, where you’re nicer facing up.

Today I heard that there’s a place somewhere in outer space
Where time’s reversed, a warp that turns the hours round
Makes them back up, to minutes, seconds, and then they’ve found
Broken eggs can heal again, an order there, what here decays.

Do you think I have enough miles to get there
On my Frequent Flyer’s card?
While you stay here, lose your hair,
Get old and wise, lined and spotted.
In years and years, a girl once more
I’ll leave my warp, come back to you
Admire your wisdom, but wonder too,
How an old man can be so besotted.

Your World

Your world is full of woe and sorrow.
The poor, unfed, unkind
Fill your mind and make it reel,
Helpless now to heal and yet tomorrow
You will find another cause
To fill your head with pain.

The ifs, ands, buts of life
Are thought about,
A circle without end or break
Go a mile, a foot, or stop, it matters not.
My heart meanwhile is paused,
It longs for you. I wait.

I know the choice is mine to make.
To give my love,
And giving it to you,
Might move your life, and mine,
An inch or two.

Or not.

The Warrior

Have you come back yet once again to me?
Your head drooped and steps flagging on the way
A warrior wounded from the fray who now must see
The woman that was me, grown old and slightly frayed.
And I, I stroke your bent and needy head, intuit too
That would I say your youth was still intact
And true would challenge truth
Though saying so would stay our lives
On course, to follow now a long familiar route
A trammelled path of gracious lies.


What makes love fade, do you suppose?
An unheld fart, white socks, a curious taste in clothes?
A nose hair left too long? Or a bit of snot?
Some careless words? Or the sound of those?

Such little things as these,
Are they enough
To make us love or not?
Do we love someone because
He doesn’t fart, wears black socks, or wipes his nose?

Or do the things that once glowed through
Dim and blacken, mere shadows in the dark,
Small and shrunken in the glare
Of a nose hair over time,
Unseen in the cloud of a smelly sock?


Greybeard, my friend
We parry, we thrust
Touch with our thin, thin rapiers
Ever so carefully the skin that’s left free
Just ever so briefly,
Drawing a tiny drop of blood
Barely a scrape, not nearly a wound
But surprised, we draw back
Swords safe in our hilts, bow,
Smile, dab at our cuts,
“Oh, it’s nothing”
Would you care to dance?

We circle about, waltz a few beats
Rumba and cha cha, try the latest,
But fall back on boogie
At arms length, feet flashing
Whirling, twirling past each other
Our fingers still reaching
The last joint joining
We’re too fast for words
The words not coming
They can’t keep up
Our breath too short
To say out loud
You know
And I know
Is true

Coming Home

Coming home today,
A long absence not truly felt,
The return with disinterest at best
To the absent artist who had left
The table set, arranged,
Flowers Japanese simple in the wine cooler
Red wine bottles from trips artfully placed,
A perfect composition of lines and swinging shadow.
My eye delighted, I stood and waited
For the wrenching in my heart
For the slight twinge, a pinch
Just any feeling of missing you.
What came was irritation at the cooler,
No vase at hand? Though we have so many.
Then growing anger at the pile of underwear
No hand to turn a knob, to push a button?
The stains unwiped upon the floor. No rag?
The egg-encrusted pan left in the sink,
You gone.
Where is the man I loved?

Where is the man I love?
The voice not heard. His body elsewhere.
He leaves no flowers artfully arranged,
He writes no words, presented to surprise,
No funny pictures at breakfast,
No calls at lunch.
I lay my gifts before him, adore him,
Profess my love in an empty room
While you speak of yours to my emptiness too,
The emptiness between us solid,
Solid as wood.
Oh would I love you again.


I cleaned up my life today.
I tackled the major things first.
The pencils on my desk
Scattered willy-nilly in a mess
Over papers, books, odds and ends
I took each one in hand
Sharpened them singly to fine, fine
Points, and lined them up with care
Side by side in the drawer
In perfect quiet order.

Next I marched with purpose to the bath
And with an old toothbrush
And several rounded toothpicks
Scratched the scum from around the drain.
And with my index finger enshrouded
In a paper towel, I wiped
Each spitted toothpaste spot
From the mirror, leaving it
Clean, unblemished,
Sharply, reflectively blank.

Bending down on hands and knees
I found the debris
From our two heads
And picked each hair
From the floor
With painstaking care.

I took on the kitchen next
Moved the aging eggs
From their greying, brittle carton
To holders in the door.
Tidied up and put
My wineglass in the sink
Checked the fridge
For ice for drinks.

Slowing down somewhat
From the heat of action
I made my way to the bedroom
Where I found
Some socks of yours.
That I put then in a box
Alongside other things
That you’d forgotten.
Then sat down to rest.

I’m so proud
At how much I’ve done
To clean up my life

Eating Out

You’re hungry and your soft words
Define the menu.
A bit of this, a bit of that,
We’ll savor all the dishes,
You promise.
A starter, main course, sweet and cheese,
A festive occasion this meal will be,
Long and slow, and conscious of each bit,
Some candlelight, soft music,
Serving hands bringing
Delights for me.
Ah, you conjure the sight, taste, smell
Of such a lovely meal.
My very senses reeling.
The real thing one
With this delicious fantasy.
Dinner is served!
You’re hungry.
Ravenous today.
Little time for words
The meal must be served.
At once.
No candlelight, music, wine or waiters.
Formica tables, and food on Melmac.
Let us not stand on ceremony.
Let’s eat!
Oh, it’s McDonald’s now?
No time to even sit
Must we drive by
Grab a bite
From the
In styro
While we drive,
Never leaving the car.
A waste of time
When you’re famished?
Come and get it!
Soon the trough.
We, bent like pigs,
Snorting and grubbing
In the slop.
Grunting over the peels
And rinds left behind
By diners.
Snuffling and grovelling
Glad for a scrap
Then rolling in the mud.
Chow time!

Eating Together

We should be in love.
After all, we’ve just eaten together,
Haven’t we?

I ordered, after careful study of the menu,
Something exotic, perhaps it was rash
To pick an odd dish in a country pub.
It came, you demanded a fork
To poke about in my delicious fish
Picking out the choicer bits,
Leaving me
With undesirable, undefinable things
I will not eat.
Then taking your own spit-covered fork
You mashed about my rice, making piles
And folds, then criticized the sauce
Which you left for me.

Finished now with your archeological dig
On my plate, you belched, turned round
And left
The bill to me.

I should be in love.
We’ve just eaten together,
Haven’t we?


I’m so happy,
This is what I’m so happy about:

My lovely pond, the water soft and green
(So lovely, if not for the algae and their muck).

And the grasses and reeds, rustling calmly
(But scattering dirty little seeds all about)

My lawn, away from the noise of the city,
(But those weeds and slimy slugs do sadden me.)

My spacious house, the rugs and other precious things
(But where did all the dust come from? And bathtub rings?)

I love my life with all the people in it
They’re always welcome to come and stay
If only they could get along, be nice, not fight
And not always find a fly
in the ointment of my life.

Why can’t they all

Just be happy

Like me?

Les Wicks

A Few Poems


A man at the window
is watching quietly,
thinks he’s hidden in the dark.

But I, too, am watching him.

And I have learnt
that men’s eyes will pulse
as naturally as the sun.
Sometimes fierce
& occasionally upsetting.

Like good handymen
we sand, then lacquer
coat after coat
of civilised regulations.

Yet still they are men’s eyes
weaving, dancing
or gibbering to their nature.



“This is worse than work”.

Says the large heavy-boot t-shirt beard & tatts leaning over
his laptop between fags & squinting up
at those ugly-bugger rain clouds to the south
advancing like scabs.

We laugh
as we must here
because like all wars the soldiers mainly wait
& the contestants have ordered roles involving very little.

Called to the pickets
we’re sacked workers, hobos,
folk song heroes
& middle aged middle weight hairy-faced thick glasses
faded denim dungaree detritus
of what’s left of the Left.

Plus three millionaires (embarrassed)
& a surprise five suits on old men
from a time when their decisions are reached with gravity,
last forever like plastic.

A star. Three families. & that was about it.

We are 4 seconds footage on the evening news
democracy at its most tedious,
less dangerous than rollerblades.

To be an obstruction is not a feat, our roles
were scripted in the last century,
but something here lifts us beyond the wire & placards.

To be that blood on the wattle
is no great thing
& too quickly volunteered by those not bleeding …
too many freed of immediacy, but

despite all the diversions & failing/////
the ambition, hate & lies

when you stand together
behind something as quixotic
as an idea

to be human

is hot & heady, plenty
to be proud.



This is Cabramatta Station.
Saturday night.
Crossing the pedestrian overhead
I’ve had 5 approaches
Can I help you?

Neat petite well dressed & friendly
this is a powdered night for the busy ones,
the vendors of small packages.

While down below
platform 1
the junkies wait for trains in downpipe-drip silence
while 2 security guards
like nurses keep the punters
quiet & upright.
They’re built like
& they are
human bulldozers.

But the scene is almost as friendly
as the innocuous wallpaper of
Can I help you. A grey haired shiftworker
is eating enormous steaming cobs of corn.
He’s busy & ravenous but this
is tonight’s only
emotional excess.

This system so smooth
the progress so paved that

you expect the players to shake hands
at the end of each session,
adjourn to some club
to celebrate the game & hunt for winners.



On a bob cut outcropping of volcanic stone
the priest looks out
to an approaching line of thunderstorms
& remembers his washing.

In the bus
the driver is dreaming crimes to
make a cannibal blush until
he’s flummoxed by the smile of a child.

We are having
a complex day.



Wheel out
can-ape-aze, the office cake & cheap champagne!

Spin in my fear-fucker soot,
those polycotton ropes that tie
me to the world of work

are dropping
one by one union dues,
superannuation, e-mail, outcome planning &
CABCHARGE (that small slice of plastic,
its powers of the passage!)

Three drinks, Anita’s speeches
then I’m game to even kiss the leaches
like a fridge cleanout –
no more handing out towels in the brothels of power.
No checking & stealing
of an enemy’s pulse.

& feel the future rise
hectic & eclectic & all inside my head
where it grows like hothouse marijuana.

I race back the computer to finish a last document
then type logout like communion &
escape into a long flagrant spring heat
feeling emotional but regretless. Irresponsible & complete.

Philipp Arno Vajda

Der Mond ist ein Trick der Dunkelheit /
The moon is a trick of the darkhood
7 Gedichte /
7 poems

Speechless Gravity

Bothered by the sun still shining
got a letter from my dear:
“You know, death is just another creature,
howling if he’s near!”
I have no answers, nothing happens to me,
my brain works, you understand,
but i’m down on speechless gravity.

History tells us, Hitler was very shy,
take a look out the window,
wanna kill these people, don’t know why.
I have no feelings, nothing happens to me,
but i’m down, i’m really down
on speechless gravity.

Mein Herz schlägt nicht nach unten

Und wenn ich dir auch alles sage
– jede Metapher zerfällt –
mein Herz schlägt nicht nach unten
es schlägt in dieser Welt.

Und wenn ich dir auch alles zeige
– jedes Gefühl zerbricht –
mein Herz schlägt nicht nach unten
es schlägt in Richtung Licht.

Der Tod

Wo die Stunden sich kreuzen,
stand ich am Schmerzpunkt der Worte
(rote Lippen, Rote Rosen)
und sah in den Himmel,
hinauf in diesen funkelnden, unermeßlichen Himmel.
Und der Stein meines Herzens zerbrach und hörte auf zu mahlen.
(das Moos an der Mühle, das Moos am Rad)

Japanese Noise

Walking down the raised waterline
maybe some strong heartbeat
or a strange feeling called insane.
Going through the big white hole of tomorrow
Behind this magical yellow sorrow.

Listening to drunken trees
nearby visions of shattered fleece
recycling those timeless words of James Joyce
acting naturally
making japanese noise.


Um deiner Sehnsucht willen, möchte
ich dir Sterne pflücken
Um deiner Freude willen, dich mit
tausend Rosen schmücken
Und um deiner Liebe willen, mit
ganzem Herzen dich beglücken.

Aber wiegt dir jedoch manchmal
der Tag sehr schwer
und alles herum erscheint dir
trostlos und leer,
dann lass mich bitte deinen Kummer stillen,
der Sehnsucht, der Freude und der
Liebe willen.


Vergangen sind die Tage, die mich erinnern
an das Haltenwollen
und dann doch das Fortgehen,
Weggehen und nicht mehr
umdrehen wollen.

Fern sind die Stunden, die mich erinnern
an das Lebenwollen
und dann doch das Wehtun,
Aufschreien und nichts mehr
Spüren wollen.

Und jetzt, jetzt Momente, die mich erinnern
An das Liebenwollen
und dann doch das Fühlen
der traurigen Tage
des Haltenwollens
und der schmerzhaften Stunden
des Lebenwollens.

Now Blue

Everytime i see you, i loose my heart
And all the thoughts are running around
not to fall apart.

I want to touch you, kiss you, hold you tight
i just want to make your eyes shine bright.

but all the thoughts i spend for you
can’t truly hide that i feel now blue,
bittersweet and blue
blue for you.

Michael Griffith

The Beachcomber

The Beachcomber brushed the sand from off it. It was another eye stained with seaweed. He rinsed it in a low tide wave that poured crackling towards him, sounding inside his cold cut ear like sherbet exploding over the sands silver tongue.

He’d found many before, exactly like this. Blue eyes marooned in the pools in rocks, browns washed into his previous footprints, green hazel’s stuck in the grip of sea grass.

Pushing himself up to his evolved stoop, he dropped it into his bulging pocket where six other eyes he’d found this morning, blinked.

Back at his thrown together hut, constructed from flotsam brought in on the tide, thousands upon thousands of eyes, adorning one wall, followed his movements around the ramshackle room.

There was a table made from a broken dingy, a wood burning stove that burnt whatever it touched, a cupboard so dark he called it secrets and a window frame that the sun set through.

He hadn’t always been able to find them. For years the only eyes he could find were his own. Now though, through circumstance and perseverance, he had taught himself how to find them even when buried under several layers of sand; discerning, then following a scant trickle of tears, using in place of a shovel, his hand.

On the weekend when the people came flocking, he’d place a sign above his door that read ‘Other Views’. But most he found had only come for the water.

Unperturbed each night he’d pull his overcoat close, lifting its collar to shield his neck, and grabbing his grubby, rusting bucket, trudge down to the waters edge. And as the waves crashed like distant artillery, and the seagulls stood, quiet and at home in the spray, he’d crouch above the freezing sand and observe the tide recess.

Each night the Ocean would discard them there. Litter them in its diminishing wake, where they’d either roll lost into cold crab holes, or blink to reflect the moon spilling stars.

Bucket in hand, he’d feet scar the washes silver skin and begin loading the pail with frightened orbs. Some screamed in silence to make sense of it all, some remained still, watching others tumble in.

Overloaded, and soaked to the skin, he’d leave the ocean to its outgoing journey, and labour back to his shack, weighed down by his bucket’s inconsolable crying.

Sharp night outside the door, he’d place the weeping bucket on the broken table, and after hanging his overcoat up, retrieve from his deep cupboard called secrets a ‘tinkered with’ slide projector. It was a simple grey box, squat with a worn lens protruding out the front, a hole at the back where the lit candle was placed, and an eye shaped slot crudely carved into the top.

He’d take time to position the slide projector on the table, then further time adjusting its adjustable legs, till finally as the night wind wolfed around his shack and his broken table mistook the tears for sea, he’d lean forward, excited in his chair, and plop a new eye in. Alone in the dark bar a few thousand eyes, he’d watch this eye’s owners life unfurl on the screen that was his cleanest wall.

Every night was like this. Recollections pouring forth to enliven the dark with hints and clues and mysteries. Eye after eye wallpapering the weathered wood with life. It would be morning before the last candle died and exhausted he’d crawl into bed.

There were others like him. Dispersed along the forever beach, in little inconsequential shacks, scouring all their secrets found for different angles or evidence. Always aware as they waited and combed, that with one good find; the catalyst orb, every eye you had found to date and all that you were destined to find, would become an eye of vision.

He had found no such eye, only beauty in ones he had. They were presents from the water, gifts from the sea. Friends on the wall, keeping an eye on everything he’d found. Friends that watched, concerned every morning, the rising tide peak a footprint closer. Sometimes he’d wake to sodden steps and know, somewhere closer than the future, his hut would collapse into its grasp, and all that he’d uncovered, including himself, would return in a wave, to the hungry water.

Christiane Stenzel

Erinnerungen an Magda

An dem Tag, als er Magda kennenlernte, trug sie einen Kleiderbügel im Haar.

Es war ein leichter metallener Bügel von der Art, wie man sie erhielt, wenn man seine Kleider aus der Reinigung abholte. Dünn, biegsam und vielfältig verwendbar.

Er trohnte in ihren schwarzen, zerzausten Haaren wie ein umgekehrtes Dreieck und sah von weitem aus wie das Modell einer neumodischen Hutkollektion.

Ihr schmales spitzes Gesicht und ihre lange Nase verlängerten sich zu einem mehrdimensionalen Gebilde.

Er stand vor ihr, studierte sie wie ein Bild, betrachtete die Verlängerung der metallenen Linien, die Stimmigkeit ihrer Formen.

All die anderen schienen in ihre Stimme vertieft, die in einem lauten Schreien durch den abgedunkelten Raum hallte.

Ihr Gesicht wäre ihm nicht aufgefallen ohne jenen Kleiderbügel, dessen war er sicher. Als er sie später zufällig einmal wieder traf wirkte es seltsam formlos und blass.

Aber der Kleiderbügel machte ihn aus einem Grund, den er nicht zu nennen vermochte, betroffen und er blieb bis das Konzert vorüber war.

Die Formen ihres Kopfes – in der Verlängerung des Kleiderbügels – erinnerten ihn an die schlichten Linien Mondrianis. Genau das sagte er, als er sich nach dem Konzert zu ihr an die Bar durchgedrängelt hatte.

Sie sah ihn an, das Gesicht ausdruckslos, die Augen gleichgültig auf ihm ruhend.

„Den Künstler, mein ich.“

Wortlos drehte sie sich von ihm fort an die Bar.

Für einen Schwätzer habe sie ihn gehalten, sagte sie ihm später, für einen von diesen Intellektuellen, denen zu allem ein Zitat, eine Metapher oder so etwas einfiele.

Dabei hatte er sie bloss beeindrucken wollen, allerdings mit ihren eigenen Waffen, wie er später feststellte.

Er hielt sich den ganzen Abend über an ihrer Seite, tat als gehöre er dazu und fiel nicht weiter auf.

Alle schienen jenes Ding auf ihrem Kopf anzustarren. Sein Gesicht dahinter, umgeben vom schmalen Draht des Kleiderbügels, ging in der grotesken Anordnung des scheinbaren Hutes unter.

Tage später noch dachte er an jenen Abend zurück.

Tage, nachdem Magda ihm eine falsche Telefonnummer gegeben, er abends vergeblich in jener Bar auf sie gewartet hatte, nachts die Haight Street auf und ab gelaufen war.

Er hatte sie nie wieder so gesehen. Nie wieder so, wie in jenem Moment, als er sie das erste Mal auf der Bühne erblickt hatte.

So klar herausgelöst aus allem, was sie umgab.

Ihren Namen hatte er gewusst, weil er jemand anderen gefragt hatte. Ab dann wurde Magda das Studienobjekt langer Abende und schlafloser Nächte.

Dann gab es Magda die Traurige, die Unbeherrschte, die Gleichgültige – zu viele Namen, die sie komplex machten. Schwierig.

Namen, die den Kleiderbügel in Vergessenheit geraten liessen.

Auszug aus dem Roman Abstand, AAVAA Verlag.

Paula Hanasz

A Day in the Life of My Thumb

Whack! (thud, thadump, creak, sqush, skadimp)

The body fell, crushing me beneath it’s plentiful bosom (what a way to wake up!). Pins and needles, sharp nails, cuticles galore! Ay, what a life! Next, i expect, little J. Horner will have me thrust into a Christmas pie to pull out a plum (a plum indeed! And a plumbed plum at that!!)

At least my nail is finally being cut (click go the shears, click, click, click). I must say, a shorter, squarer, fingernail is more my style (and quite the vogue).

I tell you what, in the olden days it wasn’t so hard. A thumb could get some peace and quiet once in a while (go overseas, see the sights, a real thumbs up, it was). But now, oh now, only a dislocation means rest for a while, some time off to relax. But at what price? My pride. I think not, i pride myself on my pride and …

No, these aren’t the days of pomp, pageantry, show and shame, gentleness and gentility, immortality, immorality. These aren’t the days of Gloves (creamy, peachy, suede, silk, beaded, embroidered, pretty gloves). These are the days of gloves (smelly, sticky, powdery, plasticky) surgical gloves. And that’ll be the day when i dress up in a mutated condom!

Today is harsh (that’s for sure). I long for those moments (those happy, brief, long-gone moments) when i still had the right to twiddle with my left (oh, sweet creature) and not stick out like a sore thumb (gratuitous pun intended) because i work harder than any of those other four i call my subordinates.

Beasts. Cruel, crude, calculating beasts they are, those fingers. Rude fingers, all of ’em! Not an inch of decency among them, getting the hand on whatever they can. Insufferable digits! Those that incessantly tease and taunt me, hit and beat me. They say i am opposable. But it is them (opposable, that is); They oppose all that is different and original; all that is striking and individual, all that is nonconformist and revolutionary. Revolutionary?! Evolutionary! If not for me, they’d still be picking lice off the hairy back of a primate. Intolerable digits! They are the majority, they are the ones who can pick on the weak and the small (regardless of the fact that i am bigger and stronger than them). Nonetheless, i don’t protest, i suffer in silence as has been my lot.

Poke, prod, pat, penetrate, pinch. The daily routine goes on. Swoosh, swindle, sit, stray; fondle, flick, frolic (ha!), fist. The hurdles and turmoils of the day. It’s a thumb’s life. Little tasks, little jobs, all amounting to so much work, all for nothing, really. Who cares? Who really gives a pinkie’s nail whether i’m here or not? Just wiling away the hours, seemingly productive – i’m sure ultimately destructive.

Who cares nowadays if you’re double jointed? People want hands on experience.

As the great Thumb Upstairs would have it, i’m stuck next to a nose picker. Twelve million odd hands and i get stuck with a fungus finder. I tell you what, this isn’t my idea of heaven (soft cushions, moisturising soaps, gentle creams and nail polish in all the colours of the ’bow. And a bit of nookie now and then with the other thumb. Even now the closest i get to covert activity with another thumb is a serious bout of thumb war which i inevitably lose (oh, my nerves, my nerves!)).

What i wouldn’t give (what would i give?) to be rid of those four fiends, those fingers. But the fact of the matter remains, i couldn’t work without them, nor they without me. (it’s a love-hate relationship, that’s for sure). The hand would be virtually useless without me, or i without them. (How would one wipe one’s bottom? Or play piano?).

Yes sirry Bob, one hand washes another (lazy gits, couldn’t do it themselves). Oh, that reminds me; haven’t washed in a while and it’s din-dins soon. I think of everything! No, no, my hand (despicable, deplorable, demoralised) is not disgusting, not a vessel for dirty disease (as opposed to clean disease). Yes, it is i, King of the extremities, lord of the wrist, patron of the hitchhiker, i, the humble thumb, which ensures the cleanliness and hygiene of my office! I, i alone, take the responsibility for keeping the nails groomed, the palm moisturised, the life lines accurate! No, it’s not the middle-management job everybody deems it! (that rude middle finger would say i am taking credit where credit is not due, overcompensating for my own complexes and feelings of inferiority, hogging the limelight, and in a typical finger fashion, stickin’ it right up there. Bloody rude, says i to that!)

(Admittedly, i take responsibility for some erroneous actions committed by me in the past that may have, perhaps, led to certain, ahem, foibles (for lack of a better word) and indiscretions. But till the day blood stops flowing in my arteries and veins and i paralyse with rigour mortis, i shall not be held accountable for the Lost Marbles incident! My enthusiasm has unfairly been branded ‘incompetence’. The losing of ones wits, like the losing of one’s marbles, is strictly one’s own affair, and i am a firm believer that no responsibility ought be placed on the guiltless extremity. So what if, perhaps, i did strike with undue force, must undue force fall prey to all sorts of allegations? Ahh, what’s the use? There’s no justice anywhere.)

A thumb knows his/her time is up, (his hour gone, his 15 minutes expired) when the cunning game of strategy and wit, ‘heads down, thumbs up’, is no longer played. From thence he/she can only look forward to the interim between the decaying present and putrescent destiny. The interim known as the ‘time between sunset and complete darkness’ years.

Yes, in these turbulent times of chaos and anarchy, when lives are a jumble of forged feeling and electronic emotion, no-one has time for the simple things, no-one pays attention to the little guy, let alone admit his importance and strength.

Yes, it’s a thumb’s life!

Dieter Sperl

Letters from Vienna

Whenever I had set about it as a sixteen-year-old, when as a twenty-year-old, now as a thirty-two-year-old, so when I was a seventeen-year-old, when as a seventeen-year-old I had got to know someone, a woman, a child, a man, a warm expanse, or moments of a taut movement, absently lying in the sun, or just parts, individual parts, an individual part, jet of water, when something fell into me, took me with it, a desire set itself free, a desire which set me free, for hours perhaps only minutes, perhaps there was no desire, I don’t know, never known where it came from, why it came, a strand of hair perhaps, perhaps there was no desire at all, but what then, I wrote a letter in my head, I went through streets, through a wood, I wrote a letter in my head, whenever it was a love story, perhaps it was never a love story, always something else, I don’t know, just like now, I don’t know, people don’t write letters like this, people don’t write letters like this, even now people don’t write letters like this, come in the children in the train compartment call to their mother who is outside the compartment smoking a cigarette, come in or you won’t come with us, hunt with hounds periods of being in love, perhaps, give yourself up, you had to betray the rules, and not occupy any more room, simply break off, simply break off now, three further cats say there is water, this radical claim to completeness is shattered, I don’t ask, where does it come from otherwise, a fascistic line, I don’t ask where does it come from otherwise, where do these catatonic effects come from, on this summer’s morning I can’t listen to any more music, it’s an attack of affection for this world, at a table with plants on it, walk to a mountain, when we hadn’t noticed each other, walk along a mountain, everything as if all at once, what a body, which then draws me to just in front of this world, what a body, and when I then went to the front of the house, we were looking in the same direction, the window opens, the difference throws us into our own monologue, and with my feet frozen into the ground, so much time between the noises, I said to the doctor, and raindrops between the wind, a car driving up, I don’t know, cold on my temples, cold on my skin, raindrops like ice crystals all over my body, you creep through the grass like a Red Indian, suddenly the drops tear through the trees, the drops tear because I’m not even nearby, other realities speak quite normally, as if I had caught a letter between these drops, between the crystals, caught a letter, but what is the difference actually between people who live on their experiences and those who live for life, at the beginning there are intensities, then time comes along and takes us with it, then fears come along and take us with them, we are permanently making compromises to bear it, as a child I was always sad when it stopped raining, looked into the puddles of water, out of the window, between the curtains, with my head between the curtains, dragged across a table for just a few minutes, so infatuated with this absence, I don’t know, I’m only imagining it, when all traces have been torn up, and brush the first snow out of the window, then go hunting, then go hunting, when it breaks out, as pain, it then breaks out again and again, with the fur boots, like a joke, then hurled against the wall, with these frozen fingers, fallen back like this, a seventeen-year-old beginning a letter, like a thirteen-year-old, or later as a twenty-year-old, I never began this letter, this letter never needed to be written, because you would like to say something which reaches beyond itself and actually stupidly enough stayed at home, only here, only here, never look for the answers who you are and where you are, this body, which is painful perhaps, you’d like to be so far away here and now, these desires which grow out of physical attacks, and what they end in, these fingers, when we change our position in the morning, take our first steps and take stock of ourselves, in the smallest movement, like storm clouds brewing, always to say now, although you’ve already lost yourself with those earnest movements which only make us look ridiculous.

as the saying goes

to give your sheep or your cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him.
shunryu suzuki

then whenever there’s a light or there isn’t a light or the darkness on your head the cars driving or the lights the lights which they cast in behind the curtain through the curtain when they cast in lights movement between the dogs sit in the forest and stay between the leaves lie until it’s morning rapid wingbeats of a magpie cold wind on your ears but a certain a certain very slow rumble is closely interwoven with the spring you can perhaps hear the steps in the glass if you could only hear better the steps in the glass between the plants and the stones just towards morning past the bird on the roadsides it was always winter then or autumn never summer with your coat open no longer right in the head as the saying goes everything forgotten perhaps a few seconds or less perhaps you only imagine it now one voice now another that was your childhood they’ve given it up no questions not even any more questions the old conversations when they come and force themselves into the here and now how are things they ask just as how things are we answer when they come and ask us in me in the plants and animals in this october as if they were dancing the fishes before lively rainy days quite near where they’re at home and the sounds of grinding from the dismantling section they hang at night over the suburbs as if they were dancing from the side into the holding stack in the smell of hot hotplates you put off your happiness to a day in a sun outside the city just towards morning to tear off farther and farther away on so many car journeys at night when it was raining above all at night when it was raining with your head pressed to the window the wipers in your head feeling the lights of the cars driving by before it had become sunday in the car in the morning on the way to work in the traffic jam before the car finally got warm before it finally got warm in the car you were usually already there on the tennis court in the midday heat only the bodies they’re still running no animal in sight only a car is standing there abandoned you don’t know you only imagine it with a yawning abyss your feet in empty space someone is screaming someone is having convulsions in my chair until the days are almost exhausted the faces behind the houses along the walls on this morning people are going round so close is it the strong wind when something makes the body vibrate when things get noticed everything almost dies out after a day such weak traces and flies under your palms that the bodies between the trees from day to day quite suddenly begin to flutter the hands on the hunt then on the hunt then to question to look to question on and on to continue like this on and on when steps suddenly move into a corner death follows another christmas never comes never comes push the pram through the countryside on and on to question to continue like this on and on the heart flickers on the screen go to another town sitting down in the sun be overlooked in streaming rains and push the pram through the neighbourhood start a file of what you’ve done wrong something like memory and dream or the clouds then towards morning all the appearances which are being spoken do an about-turn and come towards you step by step there is no reason to do something every day to wheeze tongue hanging out to grow up like this what’s been contained for so long when it forces itself with superior strength it suddenly forces itself out everything lies out in the open and plunges down into the staircase on my head cactuses are growing two dogs are running fast entangled in the snow to the point of being totally surprised blue window-openings veiled women often in black children playing almost everything grows here like each pulse-beat the minutes or seconds then one keyword then another girls show off their dolls after they’ve been beheaded always long since somewhere else each pulse-beat marry or not have children aiming straight for the goal without a break to force forward like this at our feet now one childhood now another a few steps a few steps still acceptable long seconds only sun and dirt limited to a few parts of the body only the flamingos leave behind their attitude to the rain in the night I had built a bird cage without moving a finger tongue hanging out when we come to perch in front of the mountain of work tongue hanging out with whole heart and body on the tennis court behind the house father’s superior at work a tall man with a black beard and affected movements is playing against a small boy but he’s stuffed himself so much that he’s pulling strips of peppers out of his mouth and throwing them in the rubbish bin with stimulated hands caught up in such weather with all this hair just a few hours now one birth now another at this hour this place now and no reason to reach a particular state tongue hanging out

Translated by Gordon Burgess.