Foster Care – and why it is good for your health*

Corey White’s recent appearance on Australian Story has some foster carers feeling slighted. ‘It’s like he’s tarring us with the same brush!’, say a number of women (on Facebook). Good God, former ward of the state! Would you just quieten down with your tales of sexual, physical and emotional abuse whilst in care?

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http://www.abc.net.au/austory/content/2015/s4295597.htm

Fortunately, not all foster carers are like this. There are the ones who grind through the disputes between DHS and agencies with a taut smile. The carers who know their limitations, and subsequently won’t get burned out. People who genuinely want to provide a loving and supportive home, without expectations of gratitude or fanfare. But we’re losing more carers than we’re recruiting. The road to foster care can just be a simple ‘Oh yeah, I’m patient and I want to help’, or ‘We have a bit of money and we’d like to give these kids a good time’ (problematic, might not get what you’re after there mate), or ‘I need to know I’m contributing so I can send my narcissistic self to sleep at night’ (me).

There are always little pricks of awareness, a heat that fills your body begging you to pay attention.  At 17, I had to stay at the Women’s for a bit. As someone who was quite poor, I thoroughly enjoyed drinking juice every few hours. (Or I might just like being waited on. I have donated eggs for IVF several times, and I genuinely think I do it for the sandwiches after the procedure.) During that stay I was in a bed next to a very friendly, chatty woman. Her husband had beaten her to the point of miscarriage. He came in for a quick spell with their four children, where he tried to rape her behind the curtain. When she objected, he roared. No one did anything. He left with the kids. The thought of their faces having to watch this, having to be silent, having to go home with this man, broke my heart. Which is no good for anyone, and definitely meant nothing to those kids.

While it’s good to be wary of being sanctimonious, or proud that you cared – because that is the worst – having empathy is no bad thing. Just don’t brag about it.

As time went on, I met more kids who were being neglected, whose parents were junkies, who were abused by all the men in their life. I don’t know how this happened, as I was in the throes of the world’s longest adolescence. (Why go out and see bands when you can stay home being miserable about that one guy you don’t like or respect? Oh wait, because you’ll feel alive, get to dance and be a part of a community. That’s why.) These kids were looking for anyone, and to my great shame I did not know how to help them.

When I had my own children, worries about other kids intensified. I would lie in bed thinking ‘I wonder how many children are getting molested right now’. Sometimes I would say this aloud to my husband. We did not have sex on those nights. (Dark!) When I was pregnant, I was chatting to a receptionist at the clinic. She was an indiscreet, perfumed woman who told me she was a foster carer. She sounded quite sarcastic about the child in her care, but I assumed that was just her way. Like an older person – firm but horrible. (Joke.) I would see the receptionist around town, and by her side was a sullen, (justifiably) angry looking girl. The receptionist told a story befitting a Today Tonight viewer. The girl was the oldest in her family. The mother was due to have another baby. The other kids were still with the Mum. I looked into becoming a foster carer, but we weren’t finished having children, and they suggested coming back when our youngest turned three. On her third birthday, I began the campaign. My ex-husband is a sensible person; foster care is not really for the completely sensible. It’s an invitation to pain, rejection, bureaucratic nonsense and fear. So I had to use every trick in the book. Which was mostly whining.

We undertook the Shared Stories, Shared Lives training, which was surprisingly terrific. We learned about the effects of trauma on development. The facilitators went to great pains to point out these children would not be ours. We were to welcome them and care for them in a loving environment, but they would be going back home. It was like step-parenting, but with access visits at DHS offices instead. You never know who will make a good carer, as people have markedly different approaches, but during training you knew who would be shit. One woman had pedigree dogs that she brought into the conversation every four minutes. Any vaguely combative child would have sussed that out within two seconds of being there, and promptly kicked those dogs, and their jewel crusted collars. A couple (who may have been there for the free dim sims), sat in a corner, with the male partner nursing a hangover, and the woman so casual she could have slid off the chair.

When learning about foster kids, there’s an aspect of shock tactics used to desensitise you, so when the carers came in with the kids it was a real shock. They were just kids! Bored and funny – like all kids.

Three weeks after we were accredited, we got the call. It was for a little girl, who was six. Her foster care placement had broken down. She had complex issues and reported violent behaviours, and our youngest was only four. My husband, (to his eternal credit) thought it would be ‘alright’, and told me to sleep on it. I woke up and declared ‘Well, as long as she doesn’t stab me, I’ll be fine’. She arrived for a visit later that day. No offence to the children I gave birth to, but she was the most beautiful child I had ever seen. She was a baby toothed Snow White. She had regressed and become angry in her placement, as she didn’t want to be forced to be the (previously) missing piece of their perfect foursome. The foster mother felt this rejection keenly, and punished Snow White with an alarming display of emotional blackmail. It’s like the Brothers Grimm, except with corporate seats and Thermomixes. (She’s still in the foster care game, I might add.)

Foster care isn’t about you. These kids are away from their families, and even if you think their family is dysfunctional and horrible, that’s still their family. The last thing they need are people wanting playground glory. If you’re needy or fragile – go to therapy, don’t make matters worse for these kids. And everyone needs to be open to reports of abuse in the system. It’s like members of the Catholic Church, quietly suggesting that no one come forward with any more pesky priest stories.

Snow White was the baby sister of the sullen and (justifiably) angry looking girl. Three years after she came to us we were granted permanent care. I now have a daughter that’s good at sport!

*It’s probably not good for your health, but it’s definitely good. And if you can do it, you should.

 

Dating sites – with a little help from television. Pt 2

This post was going to be my usual glib nonsense in which I reference vibrators, the waxy sheen of Shane Crawford’s face, and that one time I almost got stood on by a Clydesdale while I harassed Humphrey B Bear for a balloon. (Mulwala, 1989. I also got Twisties. They weren’t chicken flavoured. Thank Christ.)

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But, possibly like Shane in the photo above, I was worn down by words!

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I know Humphrey, Shane and I share many things in common.

Researching Lolita, I read a wonderful book by James Hardy and Ann Martin, Light of my life. In it, they detail the narcissistic, demented (and criminal) Eros as suffered by Humbert Humbert, and also reflect on other notable literary romantic failures. Of the adulterous, constantly displeased protagonist of Madame Bovary, they write ‘Emma Bovary was coarsened by her affairs, made ever more forward and vulgar, whether her love grew or declined’. With that, I quickly stopped my download of Magic Mike XXL. The pang of recognition made my face hot and my heart harden. Or, I was suffering an embolism. But I mostly think it was a Madame Bovary related reality check. Is it not enough that I am tarnished and tainted by divorce and stretch marks? That I have to endure politicians, my Grandma and Bryan Ferry’s constant reminder of the heartache I have caused my children?

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To suffer the indignity that all women with children are grouped into Vicky Pollards or Liz Hurleys?

I am also tiring of the current trend, (in Australian publications) of single female journalists (with kids) being either white-bread soccer Mums, or vaguely rocker Northcote types, who suffer a vague mental illness with vague swearing and vague sexual desires. (I am unsure of how you can swear vaguely, unless you’re saying ‘fu-u-c….ell’.) Where are the earthy, freckle faced Helen Garners? All staggering intellect and sex-as-breathing? Salty women who feel keenly, and piss in the garden? Where’s the functional yet arty Australian woman gone? Probably to Doncaster. Or Florence.
So, in an effort to not become any more vulgar, I am turning to one man. Kerry O’Brien. Sadly, no, I am turning to God. As an atheist you might think it would be difficult to suddenly devote myself to the Lord. Not at all! My one week Work Experience placement at St Martin’s Youth Theatre, taught me everything I need to know about giving yourself over to character. It also taught me how to bundle up pieces of cellophane, and how to be paralyzed by fear at the idea of doing ballet moves across a stage, when you possess the grace of Joe Hockey .

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The internet is possibly the best invention since Savoys with Vegemite, and in an effort to become a nun, it did not let me down.
http://anunslife.org/resources/how-to-become-a-catholic-nun
What a resource! I especially like #2, with the suggestion of conducting ‘Nun surveillance’. I think if I was going to start partaking in surveillance, I’d just stick with RSVP. Next week will now be filled with non-hairdresser related head soaking, and reading the works of symbolists more far-fetched than Winton. Fantastic! But before I call them for a quick chat and slacks shopping, I need to finish my excellent synopsis for a dating show that will undoubtedly be praised as ‘edgy, beautiful, life affirming, produced by Paul Clarke’. (I have spent more time considering how this show could be filmed, than I have on the holes in the plaster in my house. Which are now so big, Joe could perform Don Quixote in them quite comfortably.)

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Firstly, the show will run over twenty weeks, following exhaustive background checks. We do not want any Duggar sex criminal types. I don’t want to be on the front cover of That’s Life with the headline ‘I had my Executive Producer credit taken away when I killed a pedophile – The Single Mum story’. The show will feature fifteen men and fifteen women. There is no prize. The winners are love, and voyeurism. As with life, there will probably be distinct categories – arty man that’s amazing in bed, football guy with ball handling skills and not much else, emotionally repressed architect, people who crap on about coffee, and men that look like lumberjacks but don’t own a chainsaw. The women will be chosen for their disinterest in WAG’s, knowledge of indie music from Brisbane, emotional stability and complete disregard for my faff. The interviewees are quizzed on their dating histories, family histories, hopes for the future and if they own any box-sets of Castle, (immediate dismissal if so). This will not be a crying show. No one is going to have their snot drip onto a perfectly nice bit of cake. The thirty cast members are allowed to contact each other, and twenty other participants. Everything is filmed. There is nothing out of bounds and following dates, the host will ask questions like “Did you try the fish?” and “Do you feel any stirrings?” (I should add, sex will not be filmed.) Seemingly, this is how dating works. You try your luck with many people hoping that you’ll click. I have no interest in that part, what I’m after is whether there is truth in what you think you desire. That, is fascinating to watch.

Dating sites – with a little help from television. Pt1

 

Online dating sites are the most interesting texts you can ever peruse. Hands down. Bar none. They are more entertaining than the Melbourne Comedy Festival, (unless Miss Itchy are in it), offer more photos of drugged animals than PETA ads, and have more requests for oral sex than a Wayne Carey themed birthday bash. In Koo Wee Rup.

(I am sure these men are lovely. The ones on the left. Obviously.)

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My favourite dating profile featured a man declaring of himself, ‘I have a twisted mind, high libido, but a very average penis’. We’ve just had our 5th wedding anniversary. He got me pole fit classes, and I got him a Dickie Knee doll that he’s positioned at the end of the bed, to watch us  reading Flaubert.

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Other than the one created by my husband (Peter Carey), dating profiles are virtually impossible to get right. There should be university courses devoted to it: “Right guys, welcome to our newest creative writing unit – Don’t Mention Shawshank. In Trimester two you can then follow up with No one gives a fuck if you’re a foodie. These courses are partially funded by Sexyland, though HECS may be available for some students”.  The lack of scope you’re able to offer in a dating profile leaves you sounding either very dull, or slightly crazed. So I am suggesting taking something from the past and making it new again. Like the Bible. Or the revamped Sale of the Century. (I always wanted that fricking board game as well.)

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Dictator hatches a plan

Everything on the telly is rubbish, and we have a greater number of stations needing ratings and more diverse cooking shows. (I am predicting – Help, I just cooked my spelling bee champion in a storage unit full of kale and now he has an embarrassing body –  gets picked up by 7mate in 2020. Called it.) We need to make dating shows that are like Perfect Match in their awkwardness, but with the earnest, down-home shots of sunlit grass like Australian Story, but with the night vision tension of Crime Stoppers.  I shouldn’t judge a show without watching it, but The Bachelor is not what I’m after. That seems to be one man dry-humping a lot of boring women in a pool. That show was already made – it was called I’ve been to Yarrawonga too. I’m wanting emotional frailty; Chadstone at Christmas Eve, and telling your parents that you pulled a lot of cones that one summer you stayed with your Gran. And erectile dysfunction. So far – so SBS. However, budget is not going to be problematic for reasons I will tell you shortly. (With the next passage, try and read it as a strong woman with no sense of irony. Like Oprah. Or Matron Sloan.)

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I may be a humble gal, (in the hours from midnight through to 6am) but I will tell you now – I am a God of programming. Not only would I be an excellent show-runner, but I could also perform the theme music, just as long as I can rip off the song from Family Ties. I am just like Louis CK – but without jeans or talent.

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I should mention at this point that I adore everyone on dating sites, and I am not taking the piss. I would love to be a virtual matchmaker, a smaller chested Dolly Parton in The best little whorehouse in Texas… but with less sequins and more broadband. And not running a brothel. So I sincerely love to see people (who are genuinely wanting a connection with someone), find happiness; I just think the current format is all wrong.

So do you have any ideas, or are you just talking shit?

I’ve had several ideas thanks, including one where contestants have to compete, It’s a Knockout style, to win a meal at the Hog’s Breath Cafe. But SBS might have an issue with that, so I am opting for a social-realist documentary format (like Crumb but more with references to Jonathan Coleman) with a touch of Apted’s 7 Up. I am loving it already!

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(I adore this series, and Neil in particular. I do love a clever man who’s brimming with potential, persevering through a difficult existence. But back to the rot!)

So there’ll be a plug for singles on various social networking sites (just Facebook), and to be a part of the show, you have to film yourself in the morning, noon and night. You have to interact with at least three people during the filming to make sure that you are not socially maladroit, or a compulsive flasher.

Cont’d when I’ve hatched the rest…

bon anniversaire

 

At this moment, one year ago, I headed out in the dark without a map

(just keep going left and I’ll get there)

through salt flats and football ovals overgrown

I passed a man in Murrayville asleep on a chair

a straw hat over his face lifted from nostalgia

Iowa in the 50’s and this was the last damn picture show

with no radio signal, I sang to stay awake

pretended to be Dizzy Gillespie

not lose my nerve

I was to meet a man with a promise so great

it could be over in five minutes

at Pinnaroo I brushed my hair again

waiting to be checked for fruit fly

I made it to Adelaide

the car rubbed his gutter

anxiety beating like a deer

I stepped out and my knees faltered

forget murder

I could have been wrong

he could have been wrong

I might only work in print

or the romantic callbacks of latenight

everything might need to be ironed more

I saw the door

a pale foot

art books and kitsch

and I couldn’t look him in the eye

 

he’s lucky I didn’t know him when I was seven

his Mum would have had me moved from his class

forget times tables

I would have spent my days

trying to kiss the shy boy

and if he didn’t tell his Mum

recess would have been the shit

 

when you’re a woman you can’t be vulnerable

show less weakness than a soldier

because the moment a tear pricks your eye

you’re a screaming witch

melting

matted hair and sexlessness

but wait!

there’s a man with an ear made for whispering

who knows strength’s in your bones

so when the bad days stretch on for weeks

and they can, with kids and pipes, lawns and bills

he’s there with his ‘ah, shit’ in a quiet voice

with a warm hand on your thigh

and it’s easy

without the politics of the wrestle

 

I recoil at the nice guys who finish last

with their narcissism and high jeans

cruelty and veiled bitterness

he was never like that

forever moved and quietly excited

he’d cry more in a week than I would in a year

pulls trees out with his hands

so polite he bows unaware at shop assistants

a concubine with knowledge of 90’s hardcore

if you’ve imagined trawling through the ABC archives

(like I have)

there is no need

he can tell you everything

and unlike me

who fights to be seen and heard and understood

because there, I am a melting witch

with every off trapping of my generation

a hardened and hateful wedge unable to drop

(from my Trivial Pursuit pie)

he watches and breathes everything in with a grace I could never conjure

fuckin’ Russian ballerinas or vaudeville magicians

couldn’t conjure it either

 

his kind eyes were seen

an artist who knows bodies and movements

beauty and AFL recruiting

and although there was no chocolate Big M

it was the best recess in the world

A guide to divorce feat. Hugh Grant

*I wrote this a year ago. A whole year after.*

Although I like to pretend that I’m an elderly, manic pixie trope come to life (resplendent in Zimmer frame with Quadrophenia mirrors attached), I’m shamefully a different, even less interesting cliche.

I’m just a girl. Standing in front of a fridge. Asking him to love her…enough to produce a chocolate mousse. (That she didn’t have to make.)

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When my marriage ended it’s fair to say – I lost my shit. I had ten showers a day, just so my clothes had a break from the drenching. I partook in several montages where I walked into the sunset. I stopped eating, but not enough to be a thin woman in a montage, walking into the sunset. I screamed down the phone in a voice so guttural, women giving birth in caves made disparaging faces.  I watched Bridget Jones’ Diary.  (I also watched the sequel and wondered how Hugh Grant slept at night. I wasn’t sleeping at all, so I was fine to judge.) I floated through the days hoping it would end. Suicidal ideation was not the worst fixation though. Now I’m out of it, I can admit to this shameful aspect of my past.

I even googled self help pages on break ups and divorce.

I know! Hideous! When you don’t want to ask anyone for help, or you’re lying in bed and porn doesn’t cut it, and Rufus Sewell in The Taming of the Shrew doesn’t cut it, your best friend google always can! I noticed that most of the articles were for people who were concerned about the threat of violence or the deprivation of money. I wasn’t concerned about either of those. Mine was the indulged brat of loss. Having the last word. Disproving the other’s perceptions. Pain so consuming you’re branded. A metaphorical branding, though in my case also an actual branding. Only I would be foolish enough to get a Tommy and Pammy wedding tatt ironically. (Yes, I do regret this now.) I go to court this week, releasing me from a vow made in front of God. (Which leads me to think that we really shouldn’t worry so much about religious conflict because it’s pretty obvious, God’s not too bothered if you take it back.) Although I’m doing my usual crapping on, I mean it, kids. This list is the real deal. Here’s everything you need to get you through the first year. After that, if you’re still in a bad way, there are a few options – move to Spain, marvel at El Greco, have a lot of sex because you’re in Spain, wear loafers. Look mate, you’re running out of options.

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DON’T MAKE DEFINITIVE STATEMENTS

Well you can, but know you will probably take them back. You’re just trying to give yourself a firm footing, because you’re feeling rudderless. Separation is incredibly difficult to navigate. Although there may be some relief, you will probably feel like you’ve been shot. But shot in a Tarantino film where life slows down as parts of your body fly everywhere, but then speeds up as you take your last breath. (Maybe, and this is a maybe, don’t watch Tarantino for a bit.) I have found the most common statement is ‘I will never date anyone again’. Alright mate, no worries. Good for you. If you’re anything like me,  you will make this statement like the Presidential Address, with the sun shining on your face with thoughts of suffragettes and a desire to learn to surf, only to take it back within two months. Don’t be afraid of the ‘take back’. If you have really condescending friends or family who delight in ‘the shame-faced takeback’, then I’d advise you to get rid of them.

‘But wouldn’t culling people not be a good idea at this point? Wouldn’t that have negative consequences if I need someone, anyone, around me?’

For a lot of people, you’re right, it wouldn’t be the best. But if you do it, don’t do it for a ‘fresh start’ (another definitive statement), do it because you really will need to make you feel better. Also, if you’re old enough to be married, you’re old enough to get rid of tight faced slappers. Even if they’re your Mum.

ACCEPT YOU’RE GOING TO BE ALL OVER THE SHOP

You will have days, months  (hopefully not years) when you feel so horrible/uncertain/unstoppable  you want to  – morph into a potato, drive away in a convertible because you look good in scarves, have sex with all single All Blacks players, have guitar lessons that you regret paying for two weeks later, feel deliriously happy and free, feel desolation you were convinced only happened in Russia, run away, really want to be held, really want to set fire to everyone who ever wronged you, accept fault, blame him/her/his Mum/her ex, declare that pubic hair needs to be grown into dreads, watch films you know exacerbate tear ducts, want to be saved, want to be Furiosa and break some fucking skulls, delight in your acceptance, rage against the injustice of it all, feel sadness and loneliness seep into your pores, feel unlovable, feel so hurt that you’ve lost your best friend, run in the dark, weep in a tornado, let it wash over you, fight it til you burst.

It’s going to happen either way. You can only try very hard to limit the hurt you do to others and to yourself, while you wait for a consistently sunny patch. Or just a slightly warmer one.

DON’T GET A PUPPY

This one is hard to write because I tell you what, Golden Retrievers are like crack for the brokenhearted.

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KEEP BUSY/HAVE TIME/ADVICE ON FRIENDS

Unlike me, who gets to swan about in cow urine and read Cixous until the feminine is overpowering (a terrible and crass joke, apologies), most people work and have many commitments. I had to remind myself to do things, a list of daily tasks that were usually ingrained – See people. Walk and swim and eat. Clean and be functional. Take good care of the children. Be attuned to their emotional states.

Staying busy is not an issue for most. So if you can, when you’re free, do something nice. Something that you would not do with your partner. Walk in the bush, go to a gallery, swim, lie on dead logs, write, tell your children that you want to bring the neighbours down in a match of street volleyball. Google how to play volleyball once this is organised.

A lot of people would like a girls weekend with facials and drinks of fizz, (that are not Sarsparilla), but these are costly and not taking into account the emotional state of everyone there. This can be very tricky because everyone has feelings (and maybe feelings about your former relationship) and sadly, you’re not a ruler. Or Beyonce. So, know your audience. If you want everything to be about you, choose wisely, and know it gets tiring for others very quickly. If you’ve got a couple of good friends that know you’re not usually a tyrant, say to them ‘Today I need you to not be negative about him/her. I just want to be peaceful. If he/she comes up in conversation, I don’t want to dwell on the ending but be happy for what we had’. Or you can say ‘I’m usually a really positive person, but today can we make elaborate fantasties about his nuts in a vice in the woodwork room at school, but I’ve only just learned English and I’m not sure what a plane is for? Thanks guys’.

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KNOW THAT THE PAIN WILL EVENTUALLY LESSEN

This is extraordinarily difficult. People would say ‘This too shall pass’, and I appreciated it, but the hole in my stomach where my life and everything I knew had been, was burnt by acid. There is nothing you can say to make it any easier. Writing that, I want to slap myself, I sound like a weakened damsel in distress. I have to remind myself that pain isn’t gendered. The pain of my husband’s departure was phenomenal, not because I needed him, but because I loved him. It was the certainty in my gut, and not having that reciprocated was like finding out my life was a lie. I longed to have him near me and constantly ached for him. I was missing not one, but several limbs. I made a fool out of myself, in ways that cemented his opinion of me. I was having an emotional tantrum. I refused to believe it was over. You too, will probably do these things, and curse yourself afterwards for allowing your weakness to be revealed. Don’t worry, I’ve probably done much worse. (No really, oh my, the things I have done. There are starlets on coke with thongs stuck to their faces who would snort at me derisively and have to turn away.) It’s just an awful time. You can try and alleviate the sadness but it will sit there, until it doesn’t.

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GET HELP

No one is worth your death. If you can’t find a way to cope with the pain, then see a practitioner. They will probably be crap, so see another one. And you won’t have the energy to do this, and you will want someone to physically take you and whatever ugly cardigan you are wearing to the doctor, but when you realise you’re all you’ve got then you have to drag yourself off there, feeling worthless and judged. Don’t worry about that because, again, no one is worth your death.

DON’T GET ANY ADDICTIONS, TATTOOS, GUN LICENCES, HOUSES, CARS, OR BECOME A FUNDAMENTALIST LIBERAL VOTER

For a year, anyway. Just let it sit. It’s like when you carve the name of a boy band into your arm, and by the time you’ve reached your Beatles phase, you still have the scar. Put the compass down. And stop using compasses for evil, it’s a Maths class.

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HAVE TIME ALONE BEFORE MOVING ON

You might be feeling like you’re ready. You’ve dealt with the hurt and you feel like you’ve learned a lot about yourself and you can see where you were at fault too. You’re just this shining beacon of joy and goodness and goddamn, your teeth look magnificent today. You’ve got on matching lingerie. Dang it all, you’re wearing lingerie.

But still, it’s a no. Or a ‘have a really good think about it’, at least.

This is from someone who is in a relationship. Things come in waves; you get hit at certain times. There’s no way you can not bring your shit into something new, despite how fun sex is. You don’t want to ruin someone, or damage them in any way, because you might be suffering. You might be suffering and you don’t know it. You might be careering forward. Or you might be fine, you really might. But wait until you’ve got something to offer, so you’re not wanting someone to fill your newly released spaces. That was not a sex joke. Though you can also use it in that context. So you don’t sound like a house and land package.

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DON’T INDULGE THE PAIN TOO MUCH

I have children, and I didn’t want them to remember this as a time where I was on the couch weeping, with snot and crisps as my playmates. I devised a system where I would cry in the shower, because I didn’t want to overwhelm their pain, and I wanted them to know that I was still in control. I was literally control crying myself. When they were asleep I was ridiculous. I would watch the most abysmal movies, romantic comedies that would make Ken Loach’s eyes burst. I wasn’t imagining myself in these scenarios. I was looking for hope. I should’ve looked towards befriending the snails in my garden for the good it did me. It just made me cry and know the features of Emma Thompson way too intimately. Give yourself a week of this, and no more. Also, photos of the two of you, do not go anywhere near them. (Also music, films, books. Jeff Buckley is off-limits for everyone, regardless of their relationship status.)

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YOU DON’T GET THE LAST WORD

Endings are brutal for a reason. Everything you’ve felt; ways that you’ve been maligned/misrepresented/reproached, that’s been crushed in a used car lot. You might get a counselling session so you can air your grievances but even if you do, they might not ever realise. All the good you had, and the ways you loved them. What they did wrong, and how they’re unable to see. That’s only your story, and this is not a joint production. It’s very, very difficult. You want them to understand. They want you to understand too, they’re tired of the struggle. There’s only one winner, and that’s Freddo.

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That’s a glib joke. Sorry. But reaching a point of acceptance, as though you are either very spiritual, or one of those women from Sorrento who wears hats and has those billowing white shirts, is crucial.

WHEN YOU ARE GOOD TO GO, GET LAID!

Even if it’s awkward and embarrassing, and everything feels weird and you haven’t had someone stick their tongue down your throat like that since a Blue Light Disco, and even then it didn’t feel so bad because it was distracting you from how awful Toni Pearen was as a singer, it’s all good.

You’ve got a story to tell at the next date.

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POSTSCRIPT

For the moment when you want to message that guy from Facebook, even though you know he’s disgusting and a moron, but you know he’d be a sure thing – here’s some Tony. To dampen your desire, and ensure you’re smiling on the couch alone in no time.

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gatherings

at a party with old people

like you, with the quiet before the quip

preparing to destroy

you’ve got messages in your lap

and you’re thinking

what is he like?

(Neneh Cherry’s for every season)

how he looks in expectation

does he listen to his Mum

how good is his handwriting

if you should meet up next weekend and can you

be arsed with that silence

the expectation of gaps and drinks

all your uni mates around you, doing the same thing

not ageing

our parents stern in front of mantlepieces

Dad in the 60’s with a smoke and a poker

and us now, trying to win

dubbing softcore in French and Marxist theory

it’s a laugh, it’s a laugh, it’s a laugh

we’re sitting in the dark like mice in a toaster

and she opens the door, this firm interloper

and one of the blokes ask her, to make a map for himself

So, how good are you at faking it?

she holds him in place

Sarah, plain and tall

astounding, obviously. I’ve slept with men

and we all deflate

the silliness, the show on repeat

we want the lights to go on or the power to go out

but she’s not bothered

not aware of the mirror and our ageing backwards

she sits by me in her Brunswick clothes and smiles

her tights to be pinched in my fingers

the phone slips off my lap

 

later in the kitchen, when I’m planning the drive

from Corio to Koroop

how her toes will catch the light on the dash

how I’ll steer with one hand under her arse

seduction in a dam

vaguely lecherous farmers close by

how she’ll be sensible and I’ll be be struggling to keep it all in

with so much inside me

she tells me she’s fucking old Julie, and she’d better get going

 

what rhymes with trains and girls?

 

It’s an early start with glass eyed cats and letters in case and three second hair straightening

we’ve been racing to this

a slow train

the final hurrah and I wonder what’s coming next

but we’re here now and our companions are loud laughers
Jim Gaffigan in a wife beater
white down as sunscreen and his small companion dyed to match

I am dispatched, sent to another carriage in case of embarrassment

though the exile is welcomed, I have headphones
I’ve been taking trips since I was nine, past match trees and small towns

I knew the drivers

at nineteen I got a Walkman
travel was finally soundtracked

the first time the train rounded Richmond in the sun, I was elated
I was drugged
it was Simply Red
but I didn’t care
it’s still a luxury
cheaper than heroin and Bali and better for your skin

I smile alone at the backyards of stray tubes and puppy farms
an eagle with a rabbit trying to lift

cows spooked near bedroom windows
racist scarecrows

cubbies for grannies
when thin shadows hit red dirt, I know we’re nearing Eaglehawk
at Castlemaine they board and I am sneakily transfixed

a posh Mum and her son

made in fantasies of English summers and cricket
tea on the lawn
a white shirt and caramel slacks
Julian Sands but softer, she’s a Bronte fan for sure

he holds a deck of cards

no iPad or yelling like the twins in their Dallas Cowboys hats

jolting out of of their seats like springs

the boy is composed, a curator in waiting
she has the sexless ways of the middle classes, a small nothing chest under a normal blouse

ribs of reason

a skirt below the knee and comfortable shoes

everything functional and neat and it dawns then

I’m a man!

an 8 year old Woody Allen with his hand up

a wooden desk

Robert Crumb in a Jamaican dance hall

I like a rumble in a woman

I’ve limited her by positions

but I’m convinced I’m reading this annotated book like a champ
I am picking teacher – leading, maybe DP?
a lecturer
had sex in first year uni to a Michael or a Timothy
they were together 7 months
he went down on her

she had two joints
married her third year boyfriend at 27

her wrinkles bend in place when she looks at him
with his foppish hair and his white shirt
ten, on his mother’s lap and he’ll be consumed by the romantic when he’s older
granite will smash
this love is a big one
she doesn’t address me, I am slighted and puzzled
I look almost completely normal
I have a frock and heels which could be grandma or rockabilly

my husband’s name on my hand!

so trashy it offends and I have to win her back
trump her
she gets out a book about writing
oh I knew it, a faux-intellectual

like me
and I’m furiously scrambling thinking, what I can pull out of my backpack

my ace

he is turning tricks with his hands
camp, this little blonde boy
all my novels are for uni, your basic literary predators

oh, my darling Virginia, you’re in under the stray tampons
and they’re watching each other like they’re art
but I pull out Orlando
and she sees me differently, her neck gives her away

I am smug

she wins the day with ease
she takes out The day of the Triffids and reads to him in a soft voice and I turn my music down to hear
he still leans on her shoulder, but for the first time, faces away
we pass Bap’s Meats

he’s looking past the suburbs as she talks quietly in his ear
it’s so tender, I feel bad for dismissing her

as unfeeling

crap in bed

I smile at her as we arrive in Melbourne, proffered repentance

but she can only see her son

my daughter sees me from behind the barrier but we’re both too short to meet each other’s lips
she is transfixed by the tale of the posh Mum, the blonde haired boy
though she could be indulging me

we deliver sixteen year olds in the city with my feet swelling and me whining like a child to take my shoes off
for once be normal, comes the face
she kisses me goodbye and we walk four kms in bare feet through a sunny city in mourning
the roses are brown and the sky is blue
we walk past the Rhino and a pigeon shits near my foot
my observational skills are militant now

sweaty Chinese youth with symbols

precise and proud with marauding dragons, dance on my eldest’s head

and she makes the same face as when she was small

and a butterfly landed on her
we walk through the growing homeless vying with shtick
I try and shade my feet where I can

the eldest and I are hard walkers

comfortable with the hard chat, we talk of Hanson’s face when she thought a madman was Muslim

the reptilian sneer

the oil spill of our country

the margarine on the broccoli and our shame

I joke about my impending suicide, how ten grand could have saved me

the jokes get blacker than my feet and we laugh our way up the hill

I say goodbye holding her body

like I’m leaving on a train to Georgia

but I’m just taking 16 year olds to a gig and meeting a young woman

more and more goodbyes leave redfin bones in my throat

Madam meets me on the promenade
I could squeeze her shoulders in her little dress and her long tatts and I want her to acquiesce
agree to be my tiny bird

she tells tales of gamblers and artists, but I love the grubby too much
I ask all the base questions
can strippers have pubes and what do you wear and do you end up naked and what can they touch with their man hands and can you choose the song?
the soundtrack’s important
I want to give suggestions

hers is the brilliance I could never manage

with the scalp opened up and the glittering waterfall
she’s got the goods and the frailties
twenty one today
the adventure ends at midnight

my feet in bandages

kids in confetti

party ships and pink lights on the water

 

 

another child smaller

Jill not her real name

would gossip in kitchens

in gloves with suds

telling stories of Mums and beltings

workers and disorders

all under the coloured umbrella of caring

she had the long hair of her youth

pink jumpers and sandshoes

she loved her husband but didn’t like sex

children were her dolls

her sister liked sex

Jill’s mouth pulled toward Christianity

her sister had a lot of problems

they had an uncle who would walk them

away from the footprints in the sand

to where they pulled their bathers down

and waited as he stood

and finished

Jill said her boy cousins dont like sex either

they had it much worse

the uncle lived with them

in fits and waiting

crawling inside them

they can’t have sex with women

they dont know how to behave

Jill said with a sigh, they’d asked her to make an arrest

to come with them

to walk towards him

but Jill didn’t want to bring it up

the uncle was an old man now

on a farmhouse near Ballarat

a threat to no one

a maroon sky above him

the lure

I won’t mean to, believing you

have better things to do

television or holding a small glass

by a turntable

I’ll dip my fingers in sap

and walk you through my woods

you won’t notice

when you’re dancing ahead

the leaves circling your coat

me holding my thumb

to dead bark

marking my way out

 

 

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