The Officeworks Footy, Ellen A. Williams

Newcastle, 2012

‘Reckon we should chuck that footy out?’

Red, waterlogged emu egg. More a garden ornament than a toy. It’s quite a good imitation of an Aussie Rules Sherrin football and I feel a little guilty for having never kicked it, hoping the kid it belonged to didn’t go back looking for it in Throsby Creek where we found it long before footy season had even started.

‘Yeah’– James’s confirmation after he carefully finishes the last of his hamburger. I’m already onto my next train of thought, of how you don’t usually get all the salads on a chicken schnitzel burger. I thread back to my question. James licks the redness dripping down his fingers. I know with that kind of certainty that comes after five years that he won’t wipe the glob on his chin. I smile to myself. I’ll give him two minutes.

The footy waits in a triangular patch of sun, its orbit around our little square of backyard decided by an arbitrary toss during mowing. The brilliant red foam and blue Officeworks logo are foreign beneath the cavernous trees, lurid against the native honeysuckle’s white brush of spikes. Flick, kick, thwack. Rainwater shoots out against the sun chair’s mesh. James wipes his bare feet on the grass and grins.


Sydney, 2008-9

Two years of weekends in Sydney. James travels south from The Coast to visit me instead of north to Newcastle. Two years of parks. The names will be lost but the images will remain. Luscious greens against the exciting sparkles of the harbour or leafy Inner West substitute backyards. A picnic blanket and Triple J on the transistor radio. Canoodling like tiny plasticine park-goers in a Jeannie Baker book. And a footy, always a footy. James practises handballing, I fail miserably at drop kicking. We take more of an interest in each other’s code of footy.

Two years of parks; moments of relaxation in the busyness of the city and life as a beginning teacher. But it will never be home.

‘You’ve got sauce on your chin.’

 ‘Of course I do. I’m such a loser.’ The usual self-deprecation.

 ‘You’re such a victim,’ I continue the joke.

HOOOOG. You could easily forget that the harbour is just four hundred odd metres away. Not me, not when you’ve grown up in the western suburbs.

Two long horn blasts followed by one short. ‘What’s that mean?’

‘It’s overtaking on the starboard side,’ James answers, self-conscious pride in his recent maritime education flashed in his direct look. I recall the same look, the one that listened intently above the pre-band din of the Northern Star five years earlier; the look that stuck around despite months of my refusal to have a boyfriend; my refusal to have someone to miss wherever post-university 2008 took me.

 I think of James coming home to this cosy inner-city suburb, to the house we own, not borrow, hints of salt and grease in his tousled curls from a day skippering tugboats. But for now, we continue to mull over a working holiday in Canada– a ‘Got to do it before it’s too late’. Thirty lingers unreasonably close with a sense of foreboding; that it is more than just the cut-off age for youth work permits. We are in the twilight of backpacking years, Settling Down is knocking. We know the horror of starting again, living at home broke and unemployed still sharp in our memory. On this day though, burgers in the backyard, we are unaware that ‘our’ house is to be sold. The Canada possibility will become a reality.


Salzburg, Austria, 2010.

A Munich-sized hangover, one of only a handful we will suffer in our ambitious thirteen-week traverse of Europe, smothers our brains like the clouds that hide the mountains we came to see. In our hostel, Stella, fifteen years younger than she looks as a result of a horrific life, shouts us dinner, a ‘gift from the Victims of Crime agency’. Wiener schnitzel. We gratefully eat the veal, a nice change from salami and cheese sandwiches. Later, I’ll be glad to have eaten at least one local dish. And thankful for my safe childhood.

I collect the dropped toppings of my chicken schnitzel burger onto the white paper bag. ‘Sn’ distinguishes it from the hamburger. I laugh.


‘That’s not how you spell schnitzel.’ I recall the uptight Viennese we had encountered. No doubt they would be insulted by the misspelling. It occurs to me that the American hotdog franchise Wienerschnitzel is much more offensive than the phonetic spelling born of a takeaway shop on Hannell Street.

James pretends to hurl the footy at me quarterback style then tosses it underarm instead. The gigantic stress ball lands at my feet like a soggy Newcastle Herald. Ironically, it hadn’t been waterlogged the night we found it bobbing against the breakwall. The night of the storm. A Monday night. I was tingling with wine and appreciation of my life as a no-longer-permanent teacher. Dinner was moved onto the deck to escape the heat of a February kitchen. As the flashes behind the wattle screen intensified we grabbed the red and ran out into the electricity. The barnacled stairs leading into the harbour tributary provided a front seat to the lightning show. For awhile anyway, until our sense of adventure was swallowed by fear of electrocution on the metal stairs. We had left with a wine bottle and returned with a football.

I wonder where it came from. Had it washed across from the housing commission townhouses? Was its owner a kid escaping the recognisable uniformity of burnt brick and sick-coloured weatherboard? Or was it a casualty of the wind and a wayward kick on this side of Throsby Creek? A kick from a child on the opposite end of the socio-economic slide, their backyard the waterfront park skirting the artfully distinct terraces of the Linwood Precinct. Had the football come from Officeworks itself, or perhaps a junior Black Diamond Aussie Rules game? It had been a surprising find– any Sherrin, actual or imitated is uncommon in Newcastle, rugby league heartland.

 I squeeze the remaining wetness from the cheap foam and think about the children who were discovered hand-sewing Sherrin footballs in Indian slums. Blue flecks of the Officeworks logo catch under my nail. On the reverse side a maze of cracks widen as I squeeze. ‘Probably from sitting in the wet grass,’ James tips.

‘Got to be the sun,’ I argue. The irregular islands in the splitting foam are identical to those of blistered land in the far west. Down the cracks, the foam continues its same tomato sauce redness. Artists call it cadmium scarlet. I would call it fire engine red or postbox red. The colour schoolchildren use for my hair in drawings. The eye-burning guernsey of the Sydney Swans, or ‘Bloods’ as you call them if they’re having a good season and you want to pretend you followed them in their previous incarnation, South Melbourne.


Sydney Cricket Ground, 1997

A glorious Sunday afternoon in winter and a swollen crowd to watch last year’s grand finalists, the Sydney Swans. My brother, fourteen and myself, twelve. Mum or Dad, depending on whose weekend it is. My sister is older, eighteen and absent. She’s not a sports kind of person. We’ve caught the 6:30am train to nab the best seats in general admission. We still have to crane our heads though, to see the replays of Plugger’s marks. Later in the season we’ll be with Dad (luckily) when Plugger kicks his hundredth goal for the year. Dad will let us rush the field with everyone else. I’ll discover the Minties in my pocket gone when I am back on the spectator side of the advertising.

We’ve been enticed to the SCG with Swanslink tickets: return train travel and entry for a few dollars per child. My brother has been playing in the NAFL (Newcastle Australian Football League). Our family has jumped ship, burnt from the politics of Super League in the rugby league.

The V neck collar of my prized new Swans guernsey scratches around my neck. Beneath the leg of my jeans, a daringly large red love heart is drawn in permanent marker on newly shaved skin. It prickles into goosebumps as the ghostly ‘Syd-ney’ chant swims around the grandstands. Jarrod Simpson will never know of this adornment above my ankle. I have not and will not ever speak to my brother’s teammate.

The permanent marker will outlive the infatuation. Red Artline chisel point– the family ‘good texta’. Squashed but not destroyed under the sole of my sister’s Doc Martens in what became an unusual all-children-present activity– the construction of our own goalposts in the backyard. Two long, two short. Narrow treated pine from BBC Hardware, before it was swallowed by the all-consuming Wesfarmers in the guise of Bunnings Warehouse. The goalposts will be a short-lived enjoyment for me as the two-year age gap between brother and sister becomes a merciless outmatching of strength and patience.


Sydney Cricket Ground, 1999.

We are on the waiting list to become Sydney Swans members. We’ll be accepted next year then leave in disgust nine years later after a hundred dollar price hike. For now, we make the most of the failed attempt to relocate North Melbourne Kangaroos to Sydney. My brother is a heated North Melbourne fan and infamous bad sport. I’m glad they’re not playing Sydney.

Wet weather and apathy for the relocation has left the illuminated SCG largely empty. This thrilling clash against St Kilda will become famous in our family’s lexicon for our appearances on the VHS recording. After two Quarters of rain, Mum stays under cover while my brother and I venture to the boundary. His giant foam hand, all but the middle finger tucked down, will be easily spotted by Channel 7 cameras in the rain-abandoned concourse.

A tackle in the wet grass transfers the fifty-metre line to the seat of a player’s white shorts. ‘Stick a plug in it, ya girl!’ a peer-influenced shout comes from behind us. My fourteen year-old ears burn scarlet in embarrassment, shame, indignation. I don’t dare look at my brother. I try to forget my inability to use tampons.

‘Wanna go and kick the footy?’ James handpasses the ball to himself, striking the base with his fist.

‘I don’t think my back’s up to it.’ I try not to feel sorry for myself or unfairly young to have back problems.

‘How about a walk then?’ he asks without disappointment.

 We walk against the one-way traffic of our street, smiling politely at the resident longneck drinker leaning over his low fence. His intense stare makes him look creepy. He’s probably just lonely. And short-sighted.

We wait for the lights at Hannell Street. The busy dual-lane entry into Newcastle is set to incorporate the aptly named Industrial Drive under a new name, James Hannell Drive, to celebrate one hundred and fifty years of local government. We cross the divide into rich Maryville. ‘Rich’ would suggest the other side is conversely poor. Many of the blocks are small and the miner’s cottages peeling but the renovators are well on their way to gentrifying this mixed zoned suburb. Perhaps we have crossed into ‘richer’ Maryville. James Hannell, philanthropist and Newcastle’s first mayor, would be appalled that his namesake now splits his beloved Maryville into two distinct classes.



Woolsheds instead of terraced houses along Woolshed Place. Wool, five bales high, sits patiently, waiting for the war to end. The grounds of James Hannell’s Mary Ville are a fraction of its former twenty-one acres. The once dominant Moreton Bay Figs are long since demolished, for the sake of the tramline. The trams will be gone in a few years, along with the grand two-storey Hannell residence; generations of memories reduced to a pile of bricks that will be used as foundations for the new petrol station.

We consider stopping for a Slurpee at the 7-Eleven. Maybe on the way home. Instead we cross through the landscaped terraces and onto the cycleway that follows decontaminated Throsby Creek to the marina. The afternoon breeze creases corrugations in the gentle water. Salty air settles in the back of my throat.

A tinny rattle of mudguards approaches from behind. A retro fixie bike ridden by a suitably retro woman overtakes us. Somewhere along the row of terraces a screen door quivers open and snaps shut. The rider approaches the bridge to Carrington. Climp-clomp, climp-clomp. Her tyres pucker over the wooden underpass. Below, barnacles cling to the support stumps like a rock caught in an emu’s throat. She weaves through the maze of fishing lines and their beer-toting owners and disappears towards town.

Historical information signs dot the waterfront. We stop to reread one a few metres from where we found the Officeworks footy. I’ve never seen anyone read them. Perhaps they already have, or don’t want to break their run. Maybe they just aren’t interested in the history of the place they use so often.


The Coquun, less than 250 years ago.

Awabakal people dive for lobster and gather shellfish. Along the sandy shore, possums and wallabies are hunted amongst the honeysuckle. Not too far from the river mouth, Yohaaba, this sheltered position brings Awabakal and Worimi people together for corroborees.

 Shattering events are yet to unfold for the unsuspecting groups. In three generations many will have died, the rest living out marginal lives subjected to assault and discrimination under strict government controls. But before that, Muloobinba is to be claimed as King’s Town and used as a second penal colony for reoffending convicts. Many will try to escape. Some will live with Worimi people who believe them to be reincarnations of deceased family. Others will be caught and traded for blankets and tobacco.

Later, Muloobinba will be reclaimed as Newcastle in a hopeful bid to discover coal like its namesake in England. Much later, Australia’s largest KFC will sit, gratuitously red, over evidence of the oldest human settlement in Newcastle.

I look to the retaining rock wall where we’d found the football and imagine it washed up on the sandy bank prior to 1804; a precisely shaped emu egg, soft but firm. A colour brighter than the reddest ochre traded from the Kimberley, deeper than any flickered watja light. Would it have been kicked and played with? Perhaps the Awabakal people too sewed possum skins into egg shapes to play Marn-Grook like in the south.

We wander further to the thin strip of sand (and shells, shoes, beer cans) exposed by the low tide. A couple sit on the edge of the path and watch their dog dig in the sand.

‘If we were back in the Manc, they’d be sunbaking.’

 James laughs. There’s a sniff of warmth in the air; the perfect temperature for bare-chested Mancunians who, in Piccadilly Gardens, laid deathly still as though if they moved, the sun would miss their pasty skin. ‘The Pod’, our space-age apartment in Manchester was the first place we lived together. I check myself for the homesickness I felt for it on our return home. A whiff of fish guts floats over from the boat ramp. In the distance, twin white cranes straddle the Forgacs floating dock, my symbol of Newcastle. Home.



A summer’s night

The cycleway is all but empty. Schhhhh. Tyres grip and turn over the pebblecrete. Televisions glow behind glass. A plop from an unseen fish echoes across the still black. Beyond the twisting mangroves, orange lights outline the coal loaders. They glow in the salt air; friendly, mysterious.

We streak through the night; patches of yellow, patches of shadow, patches of yellow, patches of shadow. The dim lighting could be dangerous on foot. But we are pedalling fast, not our leisurely daytime pace. It’s not spoken between us, we just know– in the dark, we own the night.

Bright red taillight flashes are left in our wake. We have helmets and the necessary lights but schooners of Old fuel our adrenalin. The cycleway is our path home– from the bowling club over the bridge that sent hand-written letters begging for patronage; or from a harbour side pub at the other end of the Honeysuckle redevelopment.

My faint headlight projects enlarged diamonds of my basket mesh. James’s LED is much brighter; he should be in front. But that’s not how it ever ends up. Later, when we make it to our empty, darkened street, I’ll stand up like a kid on a bike with no gears, riding as fast as I can to our miner’s cottage. The real threat of a car from a side street will be lost in the rhythm of tyres. Puffing, exhilarated in the disco blink of taillights, I’ll apologise for taking off. James will grin. ‘That’s OK, I was riding in your slipstream.’


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Helike, Claire Catacouzinos

The gods are amaranthine, and so is their wrath. They are the controllers and doers of the land, they know their place, and the mortals know theirs. They decide when to thread life with a needle through their canvas, to place a stitch here and another over there, when to sail horizontally, travel diagonally, to enjoy life in a straight line or go tumbling vertically down to the depths of Hades; perhaps another colour to play with, just to test the mortal’s piety? And if a stitch is removed from the canvas, a place vanishes from history; lives are taken away; the canvas shall be remodelled, in time, when the gods decide to do so. For they are the controllers and doers of the land, they know their place, and the mortals know theirs.

The Gulf of Corinth 373 B.C.E.

In the month of Anathesterion, Alethea the daughter of Mikkos of Helike is spinning her wool in her family’s marble house when the floor beneath her bare feet begins to shake. He has come back, she thinks, moving in rhythm with the quaking earth, her body is tossed against the wall, sinking to the unsteady floor. She presses her ear against the mud brick wall, feeling the vibration of the earth ringing in her ears. Why is Poseidon angry? She hears her stool tapping against the floor. The chimes hanging in the room jingle together like the storage jars that shimmy across the room. She forces herself to stand, to do something, anything! Her sister is screaming in the opposite room. She hears the outcries of Helikeans outside; children crying for their mother’s protective arms, animal’s footsteps are clapping against the cobblestone pathways, fathers hollering for their families to get inside their houses. Is it safer inside or outside? The earth shaking, Alethea waits for a moment, her body still against the wall, when it stops. Poseidon’s anger has abated.

‘Alethea!’ she hears her sister weep. She pushes herself from the wall, and runs to locate Adelphia. She finds her amongst the pallid blankets in the corner of her room.

‘Are you alright?’ she asks. Adelphia’s curly brown hair is tangled like vineyards, her complexion that of a terrified child.

‘Why is Poseidon Helikonios angry?’ Alethea grabs hold of her sister’s hand and helps her up, still hearing the screams of the citizens.

‘Perhaps the city has unwittingly been impious to him?’ For she knows she has been for many years.

‘Father is at his workshop, do you think he is alright?’

‘If the gods have willed it,’ Alethea says.

She hears a hoarse voice outside her window and clasps her sister’s hand. She moves towards it. A tall, white-bearded man is talking to a clan of Helikeans, where more, one by one, approach to hear him speak. ‘My good citizens of Helike.There will be a meeting tonight in the market place to discuss this matter. I advise all of you to be there.’

Alethea turns away from the window. She looks at Adelphia, thinking over the past years of how they have been deprived of their mother. She knows Poseidon has not been angry with her city since the day he drowned her mother at sea. They had been returning from a visit to the Oracle of Delphi, across the Corinthian Gulf. She remembers that it had been the annual festival of the Theophania, celebrating the return of Apollo from his winter quarters in Thrace. She had been twelve at the time when the turbulent waves of Poseidon had rocked the boat. Little by little each wave grew, becoming stronger and stronger until they had risen over the surface of the boat and crashed down onto the deck, taking many helpless victims. Had Poseidon been angry with them for paying homage to a god who was not their patron? Is that why he had killed her mother? Is this why he is striking again? She knows that the only gods she prays to are Hera and Zeus, ever since she became betrothed to Elpidios. Is the quake her fault? She takes her sister’s hand and squeezes it; they look at each other and Alethea knows she has to do anything to keep her sister safe.

That night, under the lunar light Alethea and her sister arrive in the market place, joining the crowded Helikeans. They surround the area like fire flies, holding their torches. They have not heard from their father for the whole day. Perhaps there was an accident during his travels to Aigion today, to deliver his new crafts?

Alethea feels her sister holding her hand tightly, just like she did that awful night when their mother was swept away. She turns her attention to the white-bearded man – a magistrate of the committee for the safety of their city-state. He is standing on a stool in front of the Temple of Poseidon Helikonios, ‘My fellow citizens,’ he begins, ‘the quake is over. Poseidon has relinquished his wrath on us. But we shall sacrifice a bull to him tonight. We shall soothe his anger.’

A tirade breaks out amongst the Helikeans.

‘Why is he furious with us?’ They ask. Some are blaming the politicians for their corrupt ways; other citizens are frantic, holding their children closer to them, their eyes fixated on the magistrate.

While Alethea watches, she can feel her fear of Poseidon rising, deep down she is sure she knows what he is up to. She hears her betrothed speaking her name. She lets go of her sister’s hand and embraces Elpidios. Her arms wrap around him like Penelope did when she hugged her Odysseus for the first time after twenty years. The warmth of Elpidios’ skin calms Alethea’s thoughts.

‘Where have you been?’ she asks.

‘I was fishing in the gulf when the waves started tossing our boat. We capsized and had to swim to shore.’

‘Thank Hera you are alright.’

Agapi mou, of course I am alright, it would take all the gods to rid me from your side.’

Alethea refuses to ponder over the matter, for she knows, if the gods willed it, they could kill anyone. She kisses Elpidios as he wraps an arm around her and she leans into the curve of his chest and shoulder. She can hear the Helikeans still shouting at the magistrate, when he announces, ‘I have with me the Priestess of Poseidon Helikonios, our dear Elpis. She will save us by slitting the throat of the sacrificial bull.’

Alethea watches as Elpidios’ sister wearing her white shawl, holds the dagger to the thrusting bull’s neck and begins her prayer, ‘Patron god of our city, Poseidon Helikonios, Shaker of the Earth, I humbly succumb to your presence and will, to accept this sacrifice as homage from your people.’ The crimson blood from the bull is purged and gushes forth upon the marble altar, and slowly drips down on the cobblestone. ‘For now, we hope he will give us another day for his Panionia festival tomorrow, so we may be pardoned for our misdoings.’

At midnight, the god Morpheus enters Alethea’s dreams. His presence awakens her deep thoughts on Poseidon. The spirits of Morpheus’ Oneiroi envision messages of dark roaring waves and high-pitched screams of civilians running inland. Animals are stampeding amongst humans, squashing those in the way like insects. Alethea finds herself amongst the waves, drowning in the ocean. Help me, help me father, Adelphia, help! Elpidios, where are you? She thinks. Her eyes are stinging as she tastes the bitterness of salt on her tongue, her nose inhaling the waves, suffocating her. Why does Poseidon hate her? He reveals himself, his white mane covering his squared face, the sharp ends of his golden trident pointing towards her, condemning her. His cerulean eyes are fixated on her, mouthing words to her, words that never enter her ears, the sea water has already deafened them. And all she can think is, You, you who are the saviour of our city, you the god of the sea, the earthquakes, the rivers, the floods, the droughts, how could you? You, you who are the Patron of our city, Poseidon Helikonios, oh why? What have I ever done to you?

She awakes from heat, sweat and dried tears. She looks over at her sister sleeping beside her, their father did not return that night. She turns her head and looks at the starry night sky through her window. Help me Hera, oh help me, she thinks. She feels the heat and notices her blankets are lying on the floor. Is it not winter? Why is it so hot?

The next evening Alethea finds Elpidios upon his fishing boat alone. The sun rays of Helios lightening his dark skin and his obsidian hair. She watches as he packs his belongings from the boat onto the deck.

‘I thought I might find you here.’ She approaches him wearing a thin shawl. Her hand fans the heat away from her face.

He looks up from what he is doing and their eyes meet. ‘I thought you would be preparing for the festival tonight?’ He places his hand upon his brow to block Helios’ rays, his eyes squinting.

‘My father has not returned home since yesterday. I fear he has left my sister and I, the coward within him is too scared to return to Helike.’

‘Why would you say such things?’

‘He knows from the earthquake that Poseidon’s rage will be thunderous soon, yesterday was only the beginning.’

‘Alethea, you know my sister would have spoken to me if she knew Poseidon was going to punish us.’

‘Have you not heard the cries since yesterday? Something happened a few nights ago when the Akhaean League formed an agreement. There is gossip in the street that Poseidon will strike again tonight.’

‘You should not fill your head with discontent Alethea. We have appeased Poseidon with our sacrifice and today we shall rejoice in celebration of him.’

‘We ought to leave before he strikes again. We must travel inland.’

He lifts himself out from the boat and clasps her hand. ‘You should not be scared of him. Can you not see he has blessed me today with all these fish?’

Alethea’s eyes look upon the carcasses stacked in a net on the boat. Their scales silver, their black beady eyes looking up to the heavens. ‘I cannot stay; I have already sent Adelphia inland to Tritaia. Many people are leaving the city today.’

‘Are you going to leave me?’ he asks, wiping his hands on his tunic. Alethea smells the odour of fish, and breathes in the scent, remembering all the times she has been fishing with him. How he catches a bundle, kisses each of them, and thanks Poseidon for the blessing. Out in the ocean, this is where he had kissed her for the first time. On their patron gods territory, when she was only fourteen years old, the same ocean that killed her mother. Why is Poseidon doing this now? she thinks.

‘You need to come with me. I want you to leave with me.’

‘I cannot go,’ he says.

‘Can you not see the animals are fleeing? Even they know Poseidon will release his rage soon.’

‘My sister is the priestess, you are defying our patron.’

‘Then why have the wells risen? The air soaring with heat when it is winter? The fate of our city is in turmoil…Elpidios, please?’
‘No Alethea, I am to stay here in the city with my family. I have an obligation to them. If I leave them I will lose my honour.’

‘There will be no honour once Poseidon has had his way.’

‘You do not know if he is to cause any misfortune. Elpis said Poseidon had sent us a message yesterday to strengthen our piety for the festival today.’

Alethea closes her eyes, and takes in a long breath of the salty air. She could go and leave him here. He could suffer the wrath of Poseidon if he wanted. She could find a new partner, marry a different man. And yet, all she wants is to be the mother of his children. She wants to be with him.

‘Agapi mou, you are being suspicious because of your mother. Please stay for the festival tonight?’

She did not know what she was doing. A part of her wanted to run to the hills, to jump onto a cart and ride to Tritaia, further and further away from Helike. And yet the other half of her, yearned for Elpidios, for him to stay with her. Perhaps Poseidon would not strike tonight. Perhaps tonight, the festival would soothe his rage, and they would be left for another night.

The festival that night is triumphant; the athletics start with men and boys competing against each other in honour of Poseidon. At dinner time, four fat bulls are sacrificed by the Priestess during the procession. Libations of silky milk, red wine and honey are poured in honour of Poseidon Helikonios. The Priestess performs her fluid dance, choirs of boys and girls sing in praise. And to Alethea’s shock, there has not been another tremor. It is not until midway through the next pouring of libations and dancing that the ground begins to shake.

She jumps from her seat, grabbing Elpidios’ hand and runs away from the festival, her body shaking and moving with the rhythm of the earth. She can hear people screaming, panicking – run, run for your lives! Have mercy on us! What are we to do! Keep running! She hears thunder above her head. He has awakened. She keeps running. She needs to find safety.

‘Alethea, wait!’ Elpidios shouts, catching his breath. But she cannot, she is terrified, her heart pounding in her chest like her fists banging on dough. Her eyes watch the buildings around her shaking; some are swaying side to side, and others she can see are forming cracks. She keeps running, with him behind her. She runs, and runs, and runs all the way outside of the market place, pacing through the cracking buildings and animals thrashing from their chains. She hears outcries.

‘Help me!’
‘Where is my mother?’
‘Where is my father?’
‘Oh Zeus help us! Where are my children?’

And then. It stops. And so does she. She bends down, and inhales a long breath of air. Oh help me Hera, she thinks. That’s when she turns around and sees Elpidios is still there. Scared like her. But, her eyes look above him. She sees a huge wave. It is rising up, up, up towards the sky, as when she had lost her mother.

She cries, ‘Oh Hera! Please, help us!’ She tilts her head up, watching the wave; it just keeps on rising, it just keeps on rising. ‘He’s got us, he’s got us!’

Until, in a split moment, as she holds her breath, it hits its peak…and then, like the speed of Zeus’ lightning bolt, it rushes towards the city of Helike.

Elpidios grabs her. He clutches her as he whispers in her ear, ‘Signomi agapi mou, s’agapo.’

The tidal wave crashes down upon them. For the gods are the controllers and doers of the land, they know their place, and the mortals know theirs.

[For] you will remember, for we in our youth did [many] things, yes many beautiful things. Someone will remember us, I say, even in another time.
– Sappho of Lesvos Fragments 24A & 147


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Anathesterion – February/March
Agapi mou – my love
Oneiroi – dark-winged spirits of dreams
Signomi agapi mou, s’agapo- I’m sorry my love, I love you

Fidei Defensor, Cameron Wood

Stephen ran his hand through his bushy beard as he stared at the wooden chest. He knew what was inside but he could scarcely believe it. Slowly lifting the lid, he winced as he heard the creaking sound of the chest opening. He quickly shut it again and took a step back, feeling the crunch of the snow underfoot. What have I done? Placing his hands back on the trunk he threw the lid open and stared inside.

‘God be praised,’ he whispered as he bent over to touch the bible. A crashing sound could be heard as Stephen peered through the falling snow and saw the wool merchants throwing logs onto the fire.

‘Hans!’ Stephen called out to the monk who was standing in the clearing with the merchants. ‘Hans come here.’ Stephen watched as the monk began trudging through the snow.

‘It is all there?’ Hans called out.

Was it? Stephen turned over the cover of the bible and saw a message from Tyndale.

Hans gazed into the chest and his blue eyes swelled with tears. He reached in and ran his rough hands over the wooden engravings on the cover.

‘Did you pay them?’ Stephen asked signalling with his eyes toward the merchants.

Hans could only manage a nod.

The translation and printing of the bible in English was an illegal offence. I’ll get treason for this – they’ll have my head. Turning away from the frail monk Stephen contemplated burning the bible and taking off. He knew he’d only have one chance. But before he could decide, he heard the sound of a trumpet behind him and the calls of men in the distance. It’s Thomas. Slamming the chest shut he clambered up the hill towards the road.

‘The Archbishop of Canterbury!’ called a knight.

Bowing as was customary, Stephen heard the hoofs of the horses stamping into the rock underfoot.

‘Stephen, my lad!’ Cranmer called out from atop of his regal black horse.

‘Master Cranmer.’

Stephen held out his arm to help his master dismount. Cranmer had unusually short legs and his gray beard, which hung down to his waist, made his legs look even shorter.

So Stephen tell me – how was it? Cranmer’s gaze was imploring. By that, he meant, did you get the bible?

‘Master, I have it.’

‘Ah my lad!’ Cranmer roared. ‘You continue to be a true source of joy for me. So then tell me, how was Saxony?’

Stephen smiled and led Cranmer down to the chest.

‘Tis well Your Grace. The Lutherans still roam free – but I fear for Tyndale.’

Cranmer stopped and looked up at Stephen. ‘Is he safe Stephen?’

Stephen listened as the wind howled darkening discontent through the oak trees in the distance. He nodded.

‘Have faith my boy, after all we thought they would get Luther.’ Cranmer then took off his soft, broad-brimmed hat and brushed the snow from it.

Stephen pointed out the chest to his master and went to open it, but Cranmer grabbed his hand. ‘Allow me, lad.’

‘Oh my –’ Cranmer gasped. He dropped to his knees and Stephen watched as snow soaked into his beard and purple robe. Cranmer reached in and like a father to a baby he picked the bible up and held it in his hands. ‘Exquisite, isn’t it?’ He ran his gloved fingers over the wooden engravings as Hans had earlier. His fingers lingered over the engraving of Christ hanging on the cross. After Cranmer placed the book back down he got up and laughed at the water imprint on his robe.

‘Looks like even the archbishop couldn’t hide his joy,’ he winked at Stephen. ‘Well my lad, it’s time for you to be shaved, for tomorrow you are to meet her Majesty.’

Stephen looked past his master to a bird which was jumping from branch to branch in the distance. I wonder if I should envy you?

Stephen scurried down the candlelit hall. Under his arm was the bible wrapped in the archbishop’s red cloth. He did not take his eyes off the book even when Queen Anne’s maids passed by. Stephen let out a soft chuckle as he thought about what a Count in court had named the maids, The beset blondes.
When he came to the door he felt his heart quicken and his palms moisten.

‘Enter,’ came the confident call of Cranmer.

Turning the handle he instantly smelt the lavender petals which decorated the table Cranmer and the Queen sat at. Cranmer spoke with great enthusiasm to Queen Anne, who was dressed in an elegant French gown and corset, which accentuated the auburn in her hair.

‘Speak of the devil!’ roared Cranmer.

The Queen turned her head slowly to greet Stephen. ‘This must be him then?’ she spoke with a hint of an accent, harking back to her days in the French court.

Stephen bowed and felt his Adam’s apple rise in his throat.

‘Come sit my lad.’ Cranmer rose and pulled a seat out from the table.

Stephen placed the bible down on the table and sat. ‘Your Majesty,’ he whispered and then frowned. A whisper? You meet the Queen of England and can only whisper?

She briefly smiled at him and then focused her jade eyes on the bible. Taking a cue from Cranmer, Stephen slid the bible across the table towards Queen Anne. ‘It is from Tyndale – Your Majesty.’ He couldn’t tell if she ignored him or just did not reveal anything without first deliberating on the correct response.

‘He’s well then?’ she finally responded after opening the bible.

‘Yes Your Majesty,’ Stephen replied. He looked watchfully at his master’s face. Give me something to say Thomas, please. ‘May I speak freely?’ he heard himself ask the Queen.

She nodded and tapped her long nails against the table.

‘I’m not sure he’s, ah, safe. He is around Englishmen but I fear they will have him hunted.’

‘I see.’

There was a moment of silence. It lingered until it was snatched by the Queen, ‘Thomas, what do you think we should do?’

‘Well your Majesty, I propose that Stephen and I go immediately to his Majesty.’ Thomas leant back in his chair, relaxed his chest and looked at the young man who had been his pupil for the past five years.

‘Master Cranmer?’ Stephen asked, feeling his lips quiver with fright.

Thomas fixed his eyes on him and Stephen knew what would come from Cranmer’s mouth; fear not man, Stephen.

‘Well if I may interject gentlemen?’ the Queen interrupted. Stephen watched the corners of her eyebrows rise, forming a delicate triangle on her forehead. ‘I may only be a woman but surely a wife knows her husband best… and this I know’ Anne paused and looked at both men carefully. ‘He has never spared a woman in his lust, nor a man who has attracted his anger. Therefore, you will need to wait until the morning. I will dine with Henry tonight and persuade him of your necessary audience with him.’ She opened to the inscription on the first page.

May your Majesty bestow upon the English people what is rightfully theirs by your Majesty.
Your humble servant,
W. Tyndale.

‘Lovely,’ the Queen hummed. ‘I think that I should like Tyndale to return home as soon as possible.’

‘Yes, your Majesty.’ Cranmer responded, before nodding to Stephen, prompting his exit.

Stephen bowed to the Queen again and quickly rose to leave.

‘Take the bible with you,’ Cranmer ordered.

Stephen lowered his head to hide his rosy cheeks. He wrapped the bible hurriedly and left.
Times were easier than this back home… before Father agreed to help Tyndale. This shall be it, I’ll finish this and then beseech for leave. Thomas will be saddened, no doubt. And he will surely tell me,
‘Don’t be like young Jonah, Stephen, you must do the Lord’s bidding.’

‘Excuse me young lad –’ the voice broke his train of thought.

‘Yes?’ Stephen turned and saw a man in a black robe with a distinguishable gold chain.

‘Might I ask who you are and your business?’

Stephen watched his dark eyes.


He had black hair to match his eyes and it looked as if his hair had been trampled by a plough-horse.
The man smiled. ‘Stephen. Is it just Stephen then?’

He felt his fingers moisten again as he held the bible against his chest. Just tell him you need to be on your way!

‘Stephen Fitzroy. I work for the archbishop.’

‘Yes, of course. Glad to greet you Stephen. I am Sir Thomas More, Chancellor to his Majesty.’

Stephen courteously bowed and gazed down the hall, praying Cranmer and the Queen would emerge.

‘Tell me Stephen, do you know about your name sake?’ More asked casually as if he had nothing better to do.

‘My namesake? Well my family is from –’

‘No not your lineage – the apostle,’ he said.

Stephen felt a drop of sweat trickle down his forehead. He nodded slowly.

‘Pray then tell me what is it that we remember of the apostle Stephen?’

‘He was the first apostle to be martyred, Your Grace.’

More nodded slowly and grinned. ‘Very, very good. Now one more question, do you know the term his holiness the Pope gave to his majesty the king?’

Stephen paused. ‘Fidei Defensor.’

‘Quite. You have a knack for languages. Fidei Defensor – defender of the faith. It’s a grand title, isn’t it?’

‘Yes, Your Grace.’

More took a step closer and Stephen felt his warm breath. ‘As a servant of the defender of the faith I intend on defending the faith entirely. Do you, Stephen?’

Stephen nodded and took a step back. ‘I must be going the archbishop is waiting for me.’

More lowered his head before turning and striding back down the hall where the Queen and Cranmer were.

Hearing his shoes clank against the stairs played tricks on Stephen’s mind. Fear not man, he told himself as he listened to hear if another set of footsteps were following. The wind howled up the staircase at him, sending shivers up his spine.


Stephen pivoted to find where the voice had come from.

‘Caught!’ crowed a black bird from the window next to Stephen. Putting the bible on the window ledge Stephen swatted at the bird and hissed at it. He pressed his hands over his ears and began muttering a Psalm to himself.

‘Caught!’ The crow was louder this time and Stephen watched as the bird seemed to turn its head and look at him, its blood stained beak glistening in the moonlight.

‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…’ he cried at the bird as if debating his right to live.


Stephen spun to hear if this voice came from the top of the staircase. Who? Are they footsteps?


He grabbed the bible and took off down the dark staircase, unable to see the stairs beneath him. The chilly air of the night filled his lungs and his body begged him to stop. As he clambered further down the staircase he suddenly felt his frost bitten knees lock beneath him. The stone stairs crashed into his body and he felt a fiery sensation shoot up his spine. Lord save me, he pleaded before everything went dark.

He heard a voice ring in his ears and felt the stench of rotting flesh crawl up his nostrils but Stephen couldn’t respond.

‘Alright then, throw the water.’

The cold water stung the wounds on his body.

‘Don’t make this any more unpleasant Stephen…’

‘Where?’ he whispered, tasting the thick blood in his mouth. He saw the man slip out of the moonlight, which trickled in through the barred windows. Where am I? Am I hanging?

‘Light the candles,’ the man grunted. ‘Hurry about it.’

Where am I? He tried to tilt his head back to see what he was tied to. His arms were tied to a rope which hung down from a scaffold above him. ‘What – do you …’ Stephen groaned before being interrupted by the vomit which rose in his throat. The man approached and stood in the pool of blood and vomit unfazed. His dark eyes haunted him, reminding him of those of the bird in the stairwell. The bird… the stairwell… the bible… The flickering candlelight now gave him the ability to make out the gold chain around the man’s neck.

‘What I want, is for – ‘

‘More?’ Stephen muttered weakly interrupting the chancellor.

‘Indeed. Now as I was saying, I want you to tell me where the bible is.’

The bible… the stairwell… ‘I don’t know,’ he spluttered, more blood oozing out of his mouth.

‘You don’t know? Or you won’t tell me?’ More cried out, punching Stephen’s swollen rib.

‘It doesn’t have to be like this Stephen. I don’t know where you went astray, but I implore you, for the sake of your soul, to return to the faith.’ More stalked around him and loosened the ropes.
Falling in a heap, Stephen felt the icy stone floor soothe the bruises and cuts on his body.

‘I’ll ask you once again,’ Stephen listened to the footsteps. ‘Where is the bible?’

‘I don’t know!’ Stephen cried out in pain, his anguish causing More’s young assistant to slink to the back of the dungeon. Where? Where? The stairwell… ‘I left it in the stairwell.’

‘Liar!’ More yelled as bits of saliva rained down on Stephen.

‘Jonathan, you searched the stairs, did you not?’

‘Y-y-yes,’ the boy spoke through his chattering teeth.

‘Then lift him up and take him to the chair.’

Stephen felt Jonathan’s skinny arms wrap around his arm pits but the boy struggled to pull Stephen towards the chair.

‘Leave him you useless peasant!’ More shouted and then shoved the boy to the ground.

‘Cranmer,’ Stephen muttered nonsensically.
‘Your Cranmer can’t help you down here, Stephen.’

‘Now Stephen,’ More continued. ‘You are going to enjoy this chair, after all that time you’ve been hanging.’ He lifted Stephen to his feet and held him upright next to the chair. Stephen looked down at the metal spikes which were evenly spread out across the chair. He whimpered and cried out for mercy. There were too many spikes to count, but the six large spikes on the base drew his attention. More slowly lowered Stephen into the chair, giving him time to anticipate the torture.

‘Argh! Please, Your Grace! Ah!’ Stephen yelled in agony as he felt the spikes of the chair pierce his skin. He tried with all his might to lean forward to avoid the spikes.

‘Where is the bible and who gave it to you?’

‘The stairwell! The stairwell!’ More bent over and wrapped his arms around Stephen’s back so that he could look Stephen in the eye.

‘Who wrote it?’

‘Lord have mercy!’

‘Tyndale?’ More asked. Stephen’s head dropped and all that could be heard was a groan.

‘It must have been him. Let me tell you about Mr. Tyndale, Stephen. Mr. Tyndale is a criminal of the foulest breed. He rejects Christ’s Holy Catholic Church. And for what?! A heretical belief fed from the devil himself! But Mr. Tyndale will pay the price.’ He lifted Stephen’s chin. ‘And you know what else Stephen? You will pay the price too.’ There was no response. More watched as Stephen’s eyes rolled to the back of his head. ‘Come now Stephen, you cannot die yet.’ Stephen stirred but could not speak.

‘Jonathan, fetch the knife.’

‘No –’ Stephen muttered and gasped for air. More kneeled next to him and whispered in his ear.

‘Ready to talk?’

‘I see now.’ Stephen lifted his head and his blood shot eyes looked up at the roof.

More gritted his teeth and struck Stephen’s face until it dropped again.

Stephen slowly lifted his head. ‘I see the Kingdom of Heaven.’

More snatched his arm, which lay limp by his side, and shoved it through the metal clasp on the arm of the chair. He did the same with the other arm and then pulled the chest strap tight across his chest. Whatever blood Stephen had left oozed out as the spikes sunk deeper into his flesh. His lifeless eyes remained fixed on the roof.

After a few minutes, Stephen’s eyes closed and his head dropped. Blood now flowed from the chair and covered the stone floor. More eventually placed his fingers on his neck to check for a pulse.
‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them,’ Stephen whispered before he breathed his last.

Outside the castle walls a man could be seen roaming across the courtyard, his arms wrapped around a book. Above the man crowed a bird.

Download a pdf of Fidei Defensor

Pandora, Catherine Edwards

These poems are inspired by the evils, which escaped from Pandora’s Box into the world and into our lives creating chaos: ‘Secrets’ (death), ‘Ten Fingers Ten Toes’ (passion), ‘Today’ (illness), ‘We are the Same’ (hatred), ‘Battle of Caffa’ (war) ‘Famine’ (famine), and of course, ‘Clay Figure’ is based around Pandora’s creation


Clay Figure

she opens her eyes

crafted of clay, water smooth, shapely
earth made, for mankind
blood pumps warm veins

brown clay, thick lifeless.
I study the edges of the cube,
size, feel the weight
in my rough hands

dip the tips of my
fingers in warm water
gently rubbing my
moist hands over the
smooth grains of the
dry, crackling clay

I grip the handle
of the sharp scalpel
slicing her soft silhouette
she begins to grow

clay dries on hands
filling the groves of
tree ring fingerprints
lines on palms
I become a part of her creation

I am gentle with her,
lightly I stroke the clay

I must be patient, precise
knuckles rocking gentle on the clay
shaping her hips, breasts
The curve of my index finger marks her
eyes, lips

I place the small figure
in the heart of the fire
a volcano, turning mud
into rock, into vitreous
burning her into life

she takes a breath
raises her chin, eyes flicker across her
feels the curve of her narrow chin

beauty, beyond imagination
grace desire
cunning as a deceitful crow
vixen defiant
crafts defining femininity
weave sow


I place a gilded box in her slender arms
a white veiled bride
a gift to man
she takes a breath

ghosts seep into the world, creating chaos




She whispers a secret she knows he
can answer

he watches, through purple shadowed-eyes,
as naked branches bare fruit,
he seeks the blushing Corella
deep lines dig out a map,
upon his palm.
blue eyes illuminate
wrinkled white-paper skin

He takes her on bushwalks
she demands her pink gumboots
he watches her squeeze
the blossoming wattle buds
in her tiny hands
sniffing the yellow cotton
expecting a delicious scent
she sneezes twice and
continues on her way

He puts a finger to his lips and points to the
old weeping willow
out of place among the squiggly gums
a fat green tree frog with a white, puffed out
suctions his toes to the slippery leaves
she giggles at its throbbing throat

He prunes his Cleopatra roses
rubbing his fingers on each velvet petal
he opens the deep folded layers
she is impatient to see inside the closed bud
slips her button nose in the rose petals and
sneezes twice

black and red rubber snakes
litter his garden, strategically placed
a metal cage made of wire and wood
armed and ready, he watches on like a child
to scare or catch Myna birds, he doesn’t mind

Balancing on the balls
of her purple polished shoes,
his soft chestnut ear hair flutters
against her dry lips
the hem of her black dress has been dipped in

Curious eyes painted on her porcelain face
trace the stiff curves of the dead tree
the piano breathes
a final note

She whispers a secret she knows he cannot
open your eyes Grandpa, what do you see?



Ten Fingers Ten Toes

I rest my head in the crook of your neck
your breath warms the night chill
my cheek feels the slow pound of a heart
that is not mine
my fingers twist through black chest hair
I trace the velvet hairs that cover your pink
they tickle the groves of my fingertips
I stifle a giggle,
scratch the rough edges of your shadowing
you lift your chin arching your neck

white lace curtains flutter against the
light swims across the room, like ripples in
I tangle my feet within the sheepskin rug

Lick the curve of your jaw
slip my tongue between your wet lips
I stroke your pale torso, muscles tense
under my light touch
drink in your greedy grin

In the deep folds of my flesh and bones
I can feel her grow
I know her
before she takes a breath
before she opens her eyes
before she meets her father
the small life is already a part of me
she hides in the darkness of my ribs
among the bone cradling arms of my body

Pools of blood leak into white linen
cramps contort toes, spreading down my thighs
jaw clenches, teeth grind together
blonde hair drips salty sweat
violet nails dig deeper into palms

A single cry in a blanket of white silence

She is saturated in my blood outside
and in

The sky blue water is calm
bubbles break the clear surface
light reflects green and brown
Her small hand rests in mine

Grains of sand sear our feet
soft and tender from winter
we climb the dune digging in our toes
the hot air dries our skin, thick in our lungs

Rainbow frills cover her swimmers
they sparkle in the rising sun
white wide-brimmed hat shadows her
small face, brown eyes cast down
I rest her warm body on my hip,
auburn hair swings at her shoulders,
she cuddles her face into my neck

She points a stubby finger to the sea,
‘Mumma, bath time now?’





He makes friends,
at the beginning of year seven.
I watch him take his school to state,
for throwing the furthest discus.
He pulls apart motorbikes,
puts them back together

The anesthetists have put
him under twenty-four times.
They take tests, from his bone marrow.
Stick tubes down his jugular.
Poison is the only cure
only hope

He camped at Brogans Creek
scaling thick branched fig trees
clinging to smooth limbs, sweating fingers slipping.
Caught tadpoles in plastic bottles, laughed at their wiggling tails
Felt the burn of a campfire on his face,
the familiar smell of musty smoke and aerogard
Listen to the rain, fall on the tight canvas roof

His tissue paper skin bloated, stretched
His favorite drink makes him nauseous
Dead strands of straw-like hair cling to
a sunburnt pealing scalp
His bed a prison, confined and locked

He stands knee deep in salty water, calves tense
his feet grip smooth pebbles
The tip of his finger tightly pressing the cord of his fishing line,
waiting for a small tug, a nibble
He flicks the rod back, frantically reels the line
Thrashing on the hook is a mangrove jack

Dad cries for the first time
We visit him in a bed with labels and
stained sheets.
Like a black shadow disease will follow
him for the rest of his life



We Are The Same

                             we celebrate with lamb roast
they are appointed by the people
we are born into privilege
collecting tears with mothers fingertips
now we are seen by all
free speech and choices to control
no concern for forgotten land
loud voices heard over crowds
I have an advanced education
we have life
bright blue skies open horizons
eyes open to technology
we are tucked up in silk sheets
we are safe during the night
born in Chicago
with a water view apartment
adored by eyes of parents
I have no responsibility
young girls have cul de sacs to play in
small pale faces laugh with glee
gently wash skin with lavender soap
watch as I change my future
I was a lawyer like my father
given names identities
the world is a small place
gave me a Barbie Dream House
soundless sleep sweet dreams
surrounded by digital beeps
governed by selfish power
teddies softer than clouds
red lipstick makeup on child pageant queens
painted clown faces
meet brothers for a big brunch
family wedding fight over cost
forced lollies, lick, suck cavity
free medicine for everyone
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different

                             we eat scraps with dogs
they are cruel powerful dictators
we are born innocent privilege
tears collect with leaking blood
no one sees us
silenced choices no control
no connections to justice
silenced voices lost in crowds
I wish for an education
we have to hope for life
deserted brown dilapidated land
clouded eyes weeping
we are stolen from our beds
we are afraid of nightfall
born in Uganda
with eager hunting rebels
taken from eyes of our parents
I feed the little ones
young girls have been raped forced sex slaves
small black faces watch in terror
skin whipped torn from flesh
I have no future
I was a fisherman like my father
given a green and grey uniform
not an important world issue
gave me a gun to kill friends, neighbors
terrified sleep abducted from homes
surrounded by child soldiers
governed by threats and dictators
bodies don’t belong to the soul
mutilated scars burning skin
thousand faces with empty eyes
meet brothers again in heaven
we murder our parents
forced to fight in the LRA
addicted to drugs trapped in this place forever
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different



Battle of Caffa

Battlefields make me giddy
I soar through bright skies
humans sweeter than any meal
specks scattered in vast landscapes
vibrating call, screeches across open skies
wings beat in unison

Smoke clogs the air
flames burn dried grass
black eyes twitch, searching
mesmerizing metal, flickers in light
guttural, chocking noises escape
creatures wide-eyed withering faces
sticky liquid saturates soft feathers

the first feats
the scent is sour
rip juicy bubbling bumps
marks left by other feasting animals
they burrow through hair and skin
latching on deeper sucking harder
delicious blood
I use my beak to tear through weak flesh
I peck brittle bones

White cloth wrapped around human mouths
they leave me to my feast
I watch the creatures
they lift my meals into their contraptions
they fly like us over stonewalls




Hollow brown stick thin limbs
Hang from a stone-like belly
A final whimper
Mothers milk dried to powder
In weeping eyes lay maggots
Mother cradles empty blankets
Her child cradled by soil and earth