Monday, 26 November 2012




The Americans are coming. They arrive in big white safari cars that make my ears hum and the gazelle break through the scrub like fork lightning. We are used to Americans because Americans built the orphanage and the school. Sometimes groups of Americans arrive in trucks to look at the school and stand in front of it with their thumbs pointed at the sky. I used to worry that the Americans would unpeel the timber from the walls and load the school back onto the trucks and take it away again.

            The Americans leave their safari cars in a long snake tail along the road. They unload tools and animals that I do not recognise and carry them to the chieftain’s hut. The chieftain pokes at the animals and hits the tools against the dust.

            He lets the Americans stay.




The Americans assemble tents by the river. They unfold chairs and build a fire then sit down and watch it until dusk. They talk loud American. We lie in the scrub and listen for words we recognise.

            An American gets up from the fire and walks towards us. He fumbles with his crouch and his torchlight jerks about in the grass like a dying lizard. My friends giggle. They get up and run away. But I am entranced by the whiteness of his penis as he urinates into the grass.

            He has tucked it away when he notices me. I can feel his eyes over the blackness of my skin and the tick-like braids in my hair.

            “Hello,” he says in American.

            “Hello,” I say.




The man takes my hand and brings me to the fire. The Americans stare at me. They smell of flowers and drink from long glass bottles. They speak in American for a while then lose interest in me.

            The man speaks my language while reading a book. His name is Sam. I ask him if he is here to see the school and he laughs.

Then he asks about me. It excites me to be a curiosity. I tell him about my mother’s death and school and about the work trucks that will take me away next year to the farms. He nods as he listens. He licks his smile and picks skin from his knuckles.

I ask him about America and his smile widens. He leans into the dust and draws long tree trunks poked with windows. He says that America is a forest of trees and he lives in the top-most window. He says that everyone owns a car and they drive over bridges made of steel.

He says that you can have whatever you can dream of in America. The problem is deciding what that is.




The Americans don’t leave. More Americans arrive until there is a whole village formed by the river. We watch them sit and talk and bring supplies back from the horizon. Gossip has begun as to why they are here. They say there is a war being fought. They say fire fell from the sky onto America and the Americans fled like ants from an anthill.

            They say the Americans are refugees.




I ask Sam if this is true. He laughs and says yes. But he says that America will recover. He says that America is an idea and ideas can’t be beaten from his mind. He gives me a slice of chicken meat and I nibble it into fine threads.

            Then I ask if he will take me to America with him. He laughs and laughs.

He says yes.




There are new Americans in the village but these Americans are different. Some have yellow skin like old paper with slits cut for eyes. They don’t speak American but a strange bubbly gibberish. Others have dirty brown skin or pale white skin and sunny hair. Soon there are tent villages on all sides divisible by the colour of skin.

            Sam says the tents by the orphanage are the Asians. There are the British by the game reserve and the Russians further along the river. There are more people but they are more names for me to forget. 

            Then he stops smiling and his face becomes frightening. I can see creases like war paint fold across his cheeks. He points at the Asians. He tells me they are dangerous because they don’t agree that people should be allowed to have whatever they want.

            He says they dropped fire on America.




In the night-time I drop fire on the Asian tents.




The Asians must have known I would come. They put out the fires with long hoses as I watch from the scrub. They shout at themselves. They shout at their friends and the darkness and the shouting spreads from tent to tent until the village is surrounded by snarling and barking of vicious pack dogs. Out of every safari car comes guns. Guns are fired into the air and the sky screams back in agony.

            Men from the camps come into the village holding guns and fat torches. They shout at each other in their region’s American. We hide in our huts and watch. I see Sam with his scabby fist curled around a pistol and the torchlight catching in the creases of his cheeks. He is shouting American into the night.

            They shout until the grey fuzz of dawn nibbles at the darkness. They speak in hushed tones until light.

            By evening the safari cars are packed and gone.




Sometimes I sit in the dust where Sam’s tent once was with flowers against my nostrils and know that Sam will come back for me when the trees sprout again from the ash bed of American dust. I imagine ridiculous things, like drinking from long glass bottles and placing one shoed foot against the pedal of a safari car as it follows the other cars to wherever it is that people go.

            Safari cars drive along the road but nobody stops to look at the orphanage. Sometimes, when my mind is weak, I wonder why people who have everything ever bothered to stop at all.

Around me

The city is wrapped around me like a blanket tonight. The cars wait in long cues for me to pass by shopfronts and hookers and office windows that shine down on me like stars. I see shadows in the darkness that reach out and pull me through doorways into empty bars and sex clubs and parties of strangers huddled around the heat of a cigarette in lofts over empty banks and open planned warehouses that dement the soul and pump out babies on conveyor belts. I am drunk, stoned, depressed, on a train in the darkness going around and around and the people around me stare at their reflections in the windows and see only the city as it wraps around them like a blanket and slowly they dissolve.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

To my doona

How can you recluse from something you’ve never seen.
Life doesn’t live in darkness.
It throws coins at the homeless and hates the government
and finds love and loses love so it can find love again.

Come with me. Come outside.
I will tuck you around my shoulders as we drink coffee and talk to Margaret
(remember her? You liked her).
We can laugh at all the different types of soy milk.

So what if people talk about us? People talk about a lot less.
People will talk about anything. You will learn that quickly.
And they do it with their heads held high
as the wind cuts into their necks.

Maybe we will start a trend.
Then you can tell all your new friends
that you were the first doona on the street.
Then you will know what it actually feels like

 to come home and really feel tired,
to lie with me and really feel warm.
I need you, doona. And you need me
because without me

 you’re just a cotton bag on a bed.

Saturday, 10 November 2012


You and I ascend the painted nights
and sail adrift from isles of smearing lights;
Beneath smooth gentle waves cavort
strung to my unconscious thought.

Alight our solo voice entwines,
Memories twist around the dotted lines;
And elated we distort remiss
reflections on the steel abyss.

Sullen stills of life abide
and blur into the perpetual tide;
At nil but peace, where we begun
You dissolve against the morning sun.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Tails and Fins and Angel Wings

Let’s say that my life is a work of fiction. If this is true then it has a structure: a backbone to which hundreds of years of evolution have attached tails and fins and angel wings. Now I, Chelsea Moore, am a construct designed to fulfil some purpose. Every time I miss the train or get called scag in the corridor or even breathe, it means something, like God is twitching my limbs with his pen.

            Now maybe I can make sense of it all.

            My story ends simply. I am lying on the tiles in the toilets bleeding thought bubbles from the back of the head. My eyes are closed. My mouth hangs open like the lips of a milk carton. I am not dead but I should be. And since this is fiction, let’s say that I am.

            There is Gloria Cupbottom shaking me, lifting my head then not knowing what to do with it, retreating as the blood edges closer to her school dress. She has an epiphany. She starts to cry.

It doesn’t matter what she does next.

I spend so much time in those toilets but I don’t remember a thing about them except that the bowl smells like the canteen’s Tuesday chicken rolls and I can see my fat cheeks in the water’s reflection before I throw up.

That’s where I am when she finds me. I don’t even know she is there. Something just grabs me under the arms and pulls me up and everything goes white and squiggly, like someone is changing the channel behind my eyes. I am flying. My legs go limp and something—the roof—hits me in the back of the head and I die.

I don’t know if it is chance that she finds me there, but this is fiction so let’s pretend she followed me. She has followed me since she the story’s beginning—when we sat me down in the canteen at the start of lunch. She opens her bag and pulls out two sandwiches. Ham and cheese and lettuce and tomato and mayonnaise on sourdough.

“I noticed you never bring lunch,” she says. “So I thought maybe we could eat together.”

I’d like to pretend that I’m poor, that I got into this school on a scholarship and my dad doesn’t have two slices of bread to stick together with peanut butter. But that wouldn’t explain why I say no.

I say no because she is a loser. She’s a loser because she has no friends. She has no friends because she doesn’t try to make friends. She doesn’t try to make friends because she’s fat.

“I’m really worried about you,” she says. “You’re so thin.”

“You know nothing about me,” I tell her.

“Oh come on Chelsea,” she says. “Everyone can see it.”

I stand up and everything turns squiggly. I try to walk away like nothing is wrong.

So that’s it. Now I have a character trapped in the walls of a story. Now I can pull apart the letters that hold her together and pass judgement on her like the idle gossip of the lunch-time corridor.

No. Here’s a more interesting story.

There is a girl who thinks that stories can exist without someone to read them. She thinks life can be summarised and changed and that it amounts to something more than a stream of thoughts that are thought of and forgotten. She can write and think and pass the day until the next day begins and she will stand on naked on the bathroom scales at 7:15 worrying about the weight of her thoughts until the needle stops and she sighs zero grams of relief. She can grow skinnier and escape into books but she will never leave her own head.

In the end she puts down her pen.

The Girl Under The Bed

I know this girl. She lives next to me in a ramshackle house where the front door doesn’t fit in the doorway and the floorboards are full of holes where nails should be and the last time they tried to mow the lawn the grass was so thick and long that it jammed the mower blades. Sometimes I play at her place. She is a total tomboy. We play-fight in the backyard and hide and seek and pretend to be adults. Sometimes she stays over at my house. She likes to sleep under my bed. We never tell my parents.

            One night when the stars are all shining and the moon is fat and heavy in the sky, she appears at my window.

            What are you doing?

            Nothing, I say.

You can’t be doing nothing. That’s impossible.

Then I was daydreaming. Daydreaming about the moon.

Where do you think the moon goes during the day?

I think it lies on the ground somewhere, and it gets ready for the next night.

Do you think people fix it?

I don’t know. I don’t think so. It’s full of holes.

I’ve built a rocket ship, she says. It’s in the backyard. Do you want to find out where the moon goes?


She disappears from the window and I follow her down the lattice where the vines grow thick and twisty and across the lawn and then through the gap in the fence that dad is always complaining about at dinner. Her garden is lit up in the moonlight. She takes my hand and her skin is soft and damp and she pulls me into the grass that grows high over our heads and the stars dance between the blades and I can’t see where I’m going but follow her tugging on my hand and everything around me is dark and the dark pulls away into more dark and then we come out at a clearing where the clothesline hangs overhead.

There, she says. And under the moonlight is a spaceship, just like the ones off TV. I follow her inside, to a room where the walls are buttons and the floor is sloped and through the windscreen all I can see is sky.

Do you know how to fly it?

Of course I do, she says. With her back to me she taps at buttons with both hands and the spaceship lurches.

Hold onto something, she says and then the machine jolts and sputters and we are flying high above the grass, then the estate and the city and the country, but I can’t see them because we are pointed straight at the moon.

Do you think it is made of cheese? I ask her. And do you think there is a man in there? What do you think he will say when he sees us? Do you think he’ll be nice? Like that man who hangs around out the front of the milk bar?

I don’t know, she says. We’ll find out.

The spaceship is slowing now that we are getting close. I can feel the smile on my face pulling back my cheeks and I am almost laughing and my hands just keep moving but I can’t stop them. I think about my family, asleep at home, with no idea what I am doing now. I can’t wait to tell them in the morning.

We’re here, she says. She taps at some buttons and the spaceship stops sputtering and the door opens and the whole wide moon is there before me.

But there is something not right as I walk out onto the ground.

There is no cheese here, I say. And there is no man, there’s no-one at all. And I can’t walk, I’m floating.

What are you talking about? She says.

And the moon can’t rest on the ground because the world is round.

No, it’s not!

And it can’t go anywhere at night because it is always night up here!

Please, she cries. Just stop it. Stop saying these things. And she is crying and I feel like crying too.

And your space ship is just a cardboard box!

And then suddenly I realise I am upside down and I fall out of the sky and I am falling into nothing, looking up as she looks down.