Wearing One Another

by Zoe Dzunko

Let me tell you something about us. We do not fumble to remove the other’s clothes anymore. More often than not, we take off our own underwear; lazily, observing stains that have accumulated on an old t-shirt, fingering a new tear in a pair of socks.

Your body is just as remarkable but I no longer admire it with the sense of rapture I once did. Now, it appears to me as the extension of my own: a finger, a toe, and I observe it with the detached causality I would my own torn fingernail. I have never asked how mine appears to you after all this time. The roundness of my hips, the fold of my stomach — a comfortable smile that one enjoys but is not seduced by.

I adopt my position and you soon roll atop me with a practiced proficiency. In the absence of urgency there is time to negotiate comfort, and so I pull together the long, rebellious strands of my hair, tuck them away for safekeeping. You eye me patiently and, although it probably should, your lack of imperative does not trouble me.

There is a moment however, close to the end, where time seems to release its wiry grasp. Your body tightens; the rhythm of your hips echoes that of a wind-up toy, compressed and unable to displace its build up. My stomach swoops and for the first time I can groan without pretence. But it is an eclipse and soon over.

***

Zoe Dzunko is a Melbourne writer and is completing a Masters degree in Creative Writing, Publishing and Editing at the University of Melbourne. Her work has recently been published, or is forthcoming, in journals such as Antithesis, SWAMP, Tide and Rabbit.

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Poppies

by Rafael S.W.

She was getting ready for work and I was watching her cover up her nakedness, piece by piece. Whenever she did this I felt things catching in the back of my throat and they didn’t leave until she had had gone. In my mind I lay on the bed like one of those river cleanup sieves, trash slowly congealing around my wide open mouth. She was beautiful. And every morning I was sure she was leaving.

I watched her this morning, as she worked her way up into clothing. Each step seemed to take her further away from me and further into the world. I wished I could save her. I imagined her at work, one lonely girl in a sea of ties. They wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between her brave smile and her real one. It was cold in these mornings now and she got dressed quickly. She was wearing a white blouse, a new one, flecked with red dots to attract the eye. But then there was something strange, she stopped for a second. “Oh,” she said softly, turning to me, holding her hands to her mouth. She coughed again and I noticed that her hands were brimming with freshly cut poppies, violently red flowers that were already starting to drip onto the floor.

***

Rafael S.W. exists for the glorious stories. He has been giving them out like strange candy for about 11 years. He is studying at RMIT, where he is one of the founding members of their newest secret society- ‘Dead Poets’ Fight Club’. Rafael, the writer of broken-hearted boys and the ocean. Rafael whose soul is electricity and banks.

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The House

by Liz Ryan

The house, two stories high, walls white as bone. The real estate agent, standing before the front door, smiling, teeth whiter than the walls. You approach and she ushers you in, always smiling, teeth flashing as she rushes through the details of the house.

Perfect for you, she says, and it’s clear she knows something about perfect; perfect suit, perfect teeth, perfect hair. You smile, as if you believe her, believe in her perfection.

Your teeth, yellowed by years of sugar and life, stay hidden behind your lips as you walk through the house, tracking dirt on the perfect white carpet. She pretends not to notice.

Beautiful house, you say, as if you know anything about beauty; ugly clothes, scarred face, messy hair, yellow teeth. She smiles, as if she believes you, believes in your beauty.

She goes through every room in detail, showing you the deep closets, big showers, nifty features. But all you see are the scratches in the wood of this door, rust in the bathroom sink, gouges in the floors, marks on the ceiling. The flaws stand out in an otherwise perfect room.

This in mind you look at the real estate agent. Suddenly all you can see are the wrinkles around her eyes, on her forehead, the slightly uneven height of her ears, a stain on her jacket, a flyaway hair.

Too expensive, you say, and walk out the door, leaving her white teeth to try their act of perfection on the next victim.

***

Liz is an emerging writer studying at Deakin University. She spent the first few years of her life toughing out the freezing winters of Waseca, Minnesota. The story of how she got from northern America to southern Australia is long and complicated. Suffice to say she did.
http://twitter.com/ElizabethRyan8

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Jeweller’s Hands

by Amy Han

He has softer hands than mine. Until now, I have always been proud of my calloused jeweller’s hands – here is where the wires accidentally pierce; here the skin has hardened for better grip on findings and beads. My cuticles are rough and thick, like pumice stone. Nails kept blunt and unpolished because length gets in the way and polish doesn’t last a working session. These hands reveal who I am. I am an artist. This is how I make my living, sacrificing the softness of my own touch for the intricately adorned beauty of others. I create beauty with these hands. But he makes me want to hide the fact. His fingertips, with their soft and gentle pads, whisper across my shoulders and make me flinch. I feel the breath of them pressing into my palms and instinctively close in my fingers. He’s reaching. Fingers sliding down my arms, hands enveloping them on the way down. Like the silk scarves I use for wrapping wooden beads. He has all ten of my fingers, every rough-ended, tough, labour-enduring one. He is peeling them open, and kissing my palms. Lips pressing into the centre of the left, and then the right. I shudder.

***

Amy Han is a Melbourne writer who has recently published her first novel, Ru Dreaming. www.amyhan.com.au

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Stained

by Caitlin Gall

The antiseptic perfume hits your nostrils as soon as the glass doors part, like a rolling wave of purity that breaks as soon as it hits you. They say that smell is one of the strongest memory triggers; you believe that now, as harrowing images force their way inside your thoughts, haunting you.

The buzz of the machine is next to assault your senses; it sounds something akin to a dentist drill, but lacks the signature cold shiver down your spine, that sets your teeth on edge.

You step out from under the blanket of humidity that has covered the world with huge, clammy hands; the air-conditioned atmosphere welcomes your sweat-slick skin with enveloping arms.

The bell attached to the door rings dutifully, notifying those who care that you have arrived. Nobody looks your way, and for that you are thankful; the few tears trailing glistening paths down your cheeks will go unnoticed for now. Anyone who does care to look may mistake the errant droplets as symptoms of fear or nerves, but they would be mistaken.

You take a seat, your hands fiddling with the crumpled photo you have clasped so tightly, for so long. It is the only thing you have left to hold on to, and you won’t let go.

The tattoo artist calls your name, and you move towards the chair numbly. You may never hold your baby in your arms, but you will have her with you forever.

***

Caitlin lives in Geelong, and is currently studying Bachelor of Arts at Deakin University. Caitlin likes to collect pets in her spare time.

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Burred Land

by Varia Karipoff

The sole road to Bungarby was stark with its drought-barren fields and thin, closely shaved sheep. Tamara would walk along the still road near the monastery. She always wondered about the houses, hunched down on hills with ugly faces. One day, curiosity overcame her and she began breaking into them. Some of these houses were abandoned, not all like she suspected. Sometimes there’d be bullet holes pock-marking a roughly hung sheet of plaster and lurid words scrawled with what looked like shit. Probably a bored shearer leaving a job for the last time, she’d muse and turn on a tap to watch rusty water stammer out.

She’d sit at strangers’ kitchen tables. She’d imagine pouring tea for a dark haired, reticent husband who’d sit with his elbows on the table, his sleeves rolled up. She would open up tins of Danish biscuits and find children’s drawings or spare keys to sheds.

On the road again, there were old dance halls that once echoed with feet and pre-war teen romances but now stood like weathered carapaces, shelters for CFA meetings. The air would be sharp with cold and she loved how it felt in her lungs. The hem of her skirt would be crowned with burrs, her shoe colour long forgotten under dust. Out here, time was notched by cups of tea and gatherings of the Country Women’s Association. But really the Monaro knew no time; the land had always been steppe-like. And it kept drawing her back.

***

Varia is an arts writer and poet. She dreams that one day she could have the life of a migratory bird and divide her time between Siberia and the Victorian coast.
http://www.variakaripoff.com
http://twitter.com/variakaripoff

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The Falling Man

by Autumn Royal

It wasn’t until he fell off the roof that she saw him for what he really was.

The ladder refused to hold him and gravity pulled his strings to the ground. She understood how this felt, over and over and more and more, until he raised his head and accused her of delaying the ambulance.

She watched as his secret vulnerabilities, trapped too long, too deep in the bone, leaked from the shattered shoulder blade. So, fathers do bleed after all, just as she did for the first time last Thursday afternoon.

She was now a woman and her father, a falling man.

***

Autumn Royal writes poetry and short stories. She lives in Torquay, but prefers to call it Fishtown.

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Sigh-Fi

by Rachael Blackwood

She presses the blade against her lover’s skin, deep into the meeting place of his penis and his balls.

“You’re alien to me.”

“That’s technically not correct.”

“I don’t mean…” She bites her lip. “I really hate you.”

“I’m sorry.” His skin shimmers, blue and green.

“I was sane before you.”

“I became male for you.”

“You couldn’t have created something thicker?” She flicks it with her little finger – floppy.

“I can’t grant wishes.”

“I love you.”

His mouth disappears from his face, like so many times before.

“You gave me this but you never gave me you.” Swift and sharp, she makes two deep cuts and his penis is in her hand. “I’m taking what belongs to me.”

Grey-skinned and bleeding, he reaches down to hold himself. His skin shimmers and he shifts shape.

He looks like her now.  His bleeding wound has shifted into a normal functioning gash.

She rolls her eyes, her fingers wrapped around her lover’s severed shaft.  “You’re not so cocky anymore.”

She puts his member in her pocket, twirls the knife in her hand, and she leaves.

***

Rachael Blackwood writes, reads, loves, and laughs. Her current internet home is here; her Twitter lives here.

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Lists

by Jamie King-Holden

On the back verandah, Thomas Silver Snr., ex-labourer, ex-pilot, ex-milk-bar-entrepreneur, ex-wannabe-‘nam-vet, stands guard beside the smoking rotisserie like something gothic. I watch him straighten his tissue paper hat, a parenthesis wrapped around his leather ears, now, purely ornamental.

Mrs. Alice Silver, part-time-air-hostess, part-time-lawn-bowler, full-time-worrier, sometime-crier, slices boiled eggs and tells us we are all going to die from smoking.

It’s Christmas. Cicadas scream down at us from the river gums and Thomas Silver Jnr. (bigot-council-worker, bigot-father, bigot-Australian-rules-supporter, bigot-astronomy-enthusiast, bigot-bigot) begins to tell us the problem with homosexuals. I poke my ham. I hold my breath and make a list.

Dexterous, oyster, fountain pen, calcium, sex.

Thomas Jnr.’s children are tearing around the plastic Christmas tree like two Aryan tornados. I try to join in on their game.

Arsenic, test cricket, homo sapiens, Napoleon, caramel, partisan, love.

Taking a recently extinguished piece of my aunt’s plum pudding, I retreat to the axe-initialled peppercorn tree standing stoic and bruised on my grandparents’ front lawn.  One street over, a family belts out a drunken rendition of ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.’

The wheelie bin on the curb overflows with Christmas litter.  I swallow my pudding.

Wind chime, alphabet, ink, anarchy, corn flakes, unhappiness.

***

Jamie King-Holden lives in Geelong and studies literature at Deakin University. Her first book of poetry, ‘Chemistry’ was published by Whitmore press (2011). Jamie co-edits the literary zine ‘Windmills’.

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Rain On Mountains

by Rafael S.W.

They packed in silence and although everyone was excited in one way or another, it would almost have seemed rude to talk about excitement. Excitement was for people who knew that what is about to happen is a single moment in a long line of moments. Nina didn’t have many moments left. She wasn’t cute and she wasn’t dying. That was what Nina had heard her father say, and he was right. She wasn’t dying. But everyone had treated her like she was. The class had even made her a card. Her mother, in an effort to be caring, had asked her what she would like before she went to hospital. It wasn’t even extravagant enough to warrant the effort of the Make-A-Wish Foundation; she just wanted to see the snow.

It was autumn. And even in country Victoria, there was rarely snow. They drove to Mt. Buller and as they were driving there Nina’s brother said, “Look! Snow!” but it was only rain. Her father said it would toughen up, not to worry. He took a drink from the thermos and drove with one hand.

***

Rafael S.W. exists for the glorious stories. He has been giving them out like strange candy for about 11 years. He is studying at RMIT, where he is one of the founding members of their newest secret society- ‘Dead Poets’ Fight Club’. Rafael, the writer of broken-hearted boys and the ocean. Rafael whose soul is electricity and banks.

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