Friday, 18 July 2014

Burgers. Sidewalks. The Ukrainian Poet.

Last night I stepped out of the car and laid my feet onto the streets of Newtown. Newtown is where my brother lived and where he died. The first thing I saw was exactly how I felt:


It was dusk. Dave saw me take the photo and said hon, can you even see the fukt in the dark and I said yeah hon, I can always see the fukt in the dark.

We were on our way to the poetry jam in Marrickville but right on a whim I said let's go to Mary's in Newtown, they're supposed to have the best burgers in  Sydney.

I've never really liked Newtown. Had some awful, seedy experiences there. It's always given me a case of the yuckies but it's so cool and hip and vibrant. Of COURSE Cam would live there for most of his adult life. He gotst the style, my brother.

I looked around and I saw this. It was also how I felt.


The last time I was in Newtown was the night of Cams wake, nine months ago. I've doubly avoided it since then and of course it's been the only place I've wanted to go. It hurt to walk through a place that would be so familiar to my brother, as familiar as the cracks and turns in Katooomba sidewalks are for me. I looked down a lot.

Did Cam ever see this?


What were the exact things he was feeling when he looked at this?


Actual hurt. I cried, openly, not caring. I almost said to Dave let's go, cannot handle, cannot deal. But I really wanted to try the best burger in Sydney. I just really like burgers.

I'm in Cams hood I'm in Cams hood I'm in his hood. 

In the car on the way down I told Dave about how at lunchtime I went into a cafe after therapy and saw my gorgeous friend Rachel Besser sitting there talking to someone. The cafe was packed. I walked up to her table, threw my arms open and sang,

"Do you want to build a snowmaaaaaaaaaan???"

Without missing a beat she stood up and sang,

"No I motherfucking donnnnnnnn't."

Because it was freezing and we hugged and she had a hot jacket on and I loved her. I had to explain to Dave about this movie called Frozen and how all the songs have thrust themselves into popular culture. He laughed so hard. I love making him laugh.

He didn't realise at first that I was basically sobbing, walking through Newtown, searching desperately for Mary's because grief needs fuel, mofos. When he clocked my wet face he grabbed my big hand with his even bigger hand and sang low and gently into my ear.

"Do you want to be a snowman?"

That guy. He always, always gets lyrics wrong. I laughed. I love this man. Sometimes I try not to but you cannot stop love from doing what it does.


During the sadwalk on the sidewalk I was delighted to add to my penis graffiti collection.

                              One cock'n'balls picture can tell a thousand words. 

We got to Mary's. I cried about 50% of the time, sitting there with the cool people, not caring when the waitress noticed. Looked for Cam, looked for his friends. Not finding anything except the best, the BEST burgers in Sydney.



Dave loved it. I love watching him love things. I love making him stop, look around, look deeper. I text Phoebe to thank her for minding the boys and to tell Max to look under his pillow (jar of Nutella.) We got the bill and time to leave. Straight back to the car, eyes down, not looking at much. Newtown was on fire I had to get out of there as quickly as possible. Drove, on our way to experience the Blue Space Poetry for the first time. Held at Scratch Art Space, we followed only the best sign ever!


I was incredibly nervous - more nervous than when I went on Wheel of Fortune. I think it was the Newtown fallout but fuck that burger was good. As soon as the poets started telling their words I felt soothed because words are a balm.

It was my turn. I did my three pieces. It feels good to share what's in my heart and incredibly humbling to be listened to. Every human on earth wants to be listened to.


I really like how my neck looks like a tree trunk. Seriously, I really do. It's a strong neck. Michele Seminara, thank you for taking this photo. The words are blue droplets, trickling down onto my page as I read them out. Thank you for letting me be heard.

During the open mike, a young woman got up to speak. She didn't have her planned poems on hand so she had to rely on memory to recite one she'd written last year as the crisis between Ukraine and Russia was getting into full swing.

She was Ukrainian. She was AMAZING. Her poem was amazing. On how we stand on land that is never really ours. On rats on leaky boats headed to Australia, on standing in the past, on wrong history books and squeaky clean new maps. Blurred borders. She talked about how her Ukraine grandmother spoke so limited English that she wouldn't even know Australia used to take its babies away too. She made me feel and she made me think. It was fucking brilliant and I went over to her afterwards and told her so. She thanked me, said:

"Your poem on your brother killed me. Oh, wait ... poor choice of words, shit sorry. It's like when I told someone the other day that the Germans really blitzed Argentina in the soccer."

We both laughed. I told her I want to read everything she writes. I hope I hear her again one day.

As I write this, the television is showing images of a burning Malaysian plane, presumably shot down by Russia, exploding over the Ukraine. Carrying people from countries all over the world. Blurred borders. Horrific. Huge consequences. I don't even know what a surface-to-air missile is but I know I REALLY can't wait to hear the young Ukrainian poet speak again. I think her name is Maggie. She'd have a lot to say.

So, that's it really. Survived Newtown. Realised it's not the only place on fire. Sometimes, the whole world is on fire. Ate the best burger in Sydney while actually crying. Spoke. Listened. Spent vital time with my husband. Met some beautiful people who read my blog. The most important thing I need to do today is play a game of Monopoly with Rocco because he MADE me do a pinky swear before he trotted off to school this morning. Then I'll make some dumpling soup for dinner. Sweep the dirty kitchen floors. Collect firewood. Feel sad for people in pain from burning planes AND leaky boats.

Admire my tulips, and my blessings.


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Write to be understood, speak to be heard. - Lawrence Powell

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