SOUNDS OF A FULL MOON
© Elizabeth g. Arthur
endless cooees piercing the night.
its excitement crescendo allegretto.
out of sync with the dawn.
they own the river bank.
amplify like tumbling rocks.
The shadecloth wire,
a metallic zip whistle.
The follow spot,
an orchestration of silence.
In the booth at the back...
my pen flies
across the page...
and in between, I sip...
Le Café Latte
I like a long one -
on a saucer with a
long handled spoon.
I like a long one -
wrapped tightly with my hands
on a winter's morning.
I like a long one -
dark and strong,
froth foaming across my lips.
I like a long one -
here with you, side by side,
cosy and secret...
Copyright Elizabeth g. Arthur
Award winning poem
MOSSES, AIR, WATER...
© Elizabeth g. Arthur
Like a street urchin's locks,
Then finely combed
To unfold like a northern lights curtain,
It hides bark faces from my prying eyes.
Like someone's great grandma's perm,
Clinging to rock, crimped and frilled.
It tempts my gloved fingers
To trace its tiny cups.
Like a beaten man's beard
Filled with days of debris,
Its history told within the crevices,
It repels my glistening face.
Cliffs bleeding water
Weep at my feet,
Infuse my worthless shoes,
Seep through my toes
And pool under my step.
The air thins,
My breath is staccato,
A damp wall hovers beneath me,
It exhales and settles
Like a billowing quilt.
I'm cold but warm,
My pulse races, my heart bangs
And the rain beats against my back.
I pull at my hat, wet wool smell...
And return to another world.
BEYOND THE BREAKERS
©Elizabeth g. Arthur 2017
Fellowship of Australian Writers Queensland
2018 Literary Competition winning short story
They pour down the steps like an overflowing drain in a tropical deluge. A flash flood of stress onto the
Suits, jeans, skirts, dresses, swirl around her. Colours blur and dissolve towards the prized yellow line.
After shave, arm pit odor, unwashed bodies, over washed bodies, nicotine pores...
Cold air streams through the tunnel, rubbish takes flight from the tracks. The 8.30 arrives, groaning, rattling, ringing, screeching. And then, for a moment, everything is still – like the instant before the outgoing tide becomes the incoming tide.
The carriage doors open and commuters bore through the floundering yellow line people.
She scratches a rash on the back of her hand. Notices a stain on the front of her faded blue uniform. Her head aches.
She closes her stinging eyes. Closes her sense of smell. Closes her ears. Sees pale golden sand – smooth, virginal. Gentle lapping sea – end of summer warm. She feels the early morning sun on her face…
She catches her breath. Starts at the sound of silence. She snaps open her eyes. The electronic display screen counts down the minutes until her train arrives. She doesn’t want to go home to her cramped flat.
She wants a coffee. Not instant coffee like they have in the cleaning equipment cupboard which masquerades as a kitchen on the top floor. But real coffee, in one of those fancy takeaway cups she sees the young executives nursing in their hands as they cross the gleaming foyer towards the lifts.
She stands, brushes her hair off her face. Hoists her bag onto her shoulder and climbs the silent steps.
She clutches a twenty dollar note as she hovers at the back of the corporate crowd like a fledgling seagull waiting for stray chips. A voice says, “Are you in the line?” and doesn't wait for an answer. The espresso machine squeals and another voice tells the barista he'll “pick up in five.”
She takes a deep breath and moves forward ˗˗ lost in a sea of black.
An elbow stabs her shoulder.
Her heart seems to be coming up her throat. She orders a cappuccino.
The cup is brown. With a white plastic lid.
She leans on the end of the Go Expresso bar until someone sidles in next to her and spreads his arms wide as albatross wings. She stands to attention and slurps through the sippy thing.
Removing the lid she runs her finger around and around inside the cup and scoops the remaining froth. She breathes into her hand and sniffs. Coffee breath. She smiles.
Her head starts to spin. Her pulse kicks up a few beats.
Holding the brown paper cup in her hand like an offering, she allows herself to be swept along with a group of school girls – private school, their uniforms from another age. They giggle at their mobile phones more than they watch where they're going. They talk about clothes, boyfriends, parties. The beach.
She feels a swell of unfamiliar happiness and imagines a picnic of tomato sandwiches, well seasoned with salt and pepper. Purple grapes. Ice cold Coke. She’d dig a hole in the sand with her feet and watch the life savers. The surfers. The tourists. And ice cream. She must have ice cream at the beach. A double scoop in a waffle cone – chocolate and...she'll surprise herself when she gets to the ice creamery.
She winces as a sharp pain zaps her hip. The ticket barriers. Red light. She sees the last three girls running to catch up with their group on the other side. They tell the world they’re going to wag classes today and go swimming.
The empty cup crushes as she tightens her grip. She tosses it into the General Waste bin. Feels abandoned.
She rubs her side as she enters the labyrinth of shops and booths. Trains come and go above, oblivious to the food and drinks, coffee, magazines, cheap souvenirs and dresses suitable for Mardi Gras or Carnivale. A tobacconist. Barber – cheap haircuts. Tattoos: she’s always wanted a mermaid on her leg.
She needs a smoke and heads out the nearest exit. Lights up and feels better with each inhale. She stands out like a contaminated beacon, alone at the edge of the footpath until two women ˗˗ office workers, wearing tight black skirts, collared shirts and fancy wristwatches ˗˗ join her at the kerb. They share photos on their phones as they smoke, and laugh about a wild party up north in the sand hills. Pedestrians flow away from them as though they’re a huddle of lepers.
She glances up at her tower of monotony where the next shift starts at 2 a.m. She should get some sleep.
Her mouth is dry. She could catch the 9.45 if she hurries.
A giant billboard in front of her warns that paper tickets – like the one in her purse ˗˗ won't be accepted soon. She shrugs at the warning and buys a block of fruit and nut milk chocolate from a mini mart for breakfast. She unwraps it and pops two pieces into her mouth, lets it melt. She breaks off two more pieces as she walks. Bites into these as she stops at a travel agency. Its windows are filled with beaches. White sand. Golden sand. Black sand. Sapphire sea. Emerald sea. Turquoise sea. And cruise ships. Maryann, her boss, regularly goes on cruises and tells her cleaners that if they do their internet homework they can get a last minute deal.
Her throat is raspy. She sees a drink vending machine. Pulls some loose change from her jacket pocket, feeds coins into the slot and presses buttons. A bottle of spring water catapults down to the collection point. She sips. She drinks half the bottle.
In an instant she is swamped by a wave of commuters crushed together like flotsam and jetsam. She surrenders into their slipstream until they peel apart and leave her plastered against a wall.
Her hair feels flighty. She drinks more water. Checks the time.
People jostle for the yellow line. Carriage doors open. She’s swept along in the turbulence, lands on a seat near the door. And as the announcement begins that the doors are closing, she stands and pushes her way through the crowd. Back out onto the platform. Hurries up the stairs, breathing hard.
She locates a ticket office. She stands in the line. And then turns away. Shrinks back as two women walk up to the window, pulling along trunk size metal cases on wheels. They laugh and speak in another language as they wait for the machine to spit out a receipt. Then hurry away to find their platform.
She feels shaky. She needs another smoke. She steps up to the window and asks for a ticket to the beach.
“Which one?” the bald headed man behind the glass partition asks.
North, where the sand hills are? Or south, where she overheard the schoolgirls were going for a weekend at a private cove? When, for a few moments, surrounded by their enthusiasm and youth, she began to feel that living was possible.
“South?” she replies.
“How far south? Last station’s˗˗”
“The last station, please.” She pulls at the hem of her uniform.
“No. Just there. One way.” She slides the money to the man before she changes her mind.
As the train hurtles through the suburbs she pulls the remainder of the chocolate from her bag and eats
it hungrily. She folds the silver paper and wrapper as the last two pieces melt on her tongue. She’s light
The carriage relaxes. People doze, read their computers, put their headphones on.
The bush flashes past. Sky and space. Rainforest, dark and damp.
And then, below, is a ribbon of sand, a sparkle of sea. She wants to stop the train. Get off and climb down there. She stands up, presses her forehead to the window. Sees her own reflection. Doesn’t recognise her face.
She gasps when the ocean spreads out below them. Deep sapphire blue. Ships on the horizon.
The carriage empties.
She walks down the road towards the beach. She inhales, smells the briny air. Feels the breeze. The sun relaxes her head.
She crosses the road, crosses the grass to the sandy track. Takes her socks and shoes off. Buries her toes in the sand.
She runs to the water’s edge. And wades, flicking her feet at the breakers. Her uniform is wet. Her uniform is ballooning around her. Her feet leave the bottom. She walks in the water. She walks towards the ships.
copyright Elizabeth g. Arthur
Sleepy blue haze drifts,
no breeze to play with.
The air is quiet
as, rubber gloved in primrose yellow
I pause, leave the popping suds
in the sink.
Mirrored and smudged,
camphors plunge deep into the river.
They mock the current,
push it further downstream
to where it resuscitates,
gurgles and ripples,
the dead casuarina dictating its course.
I peel off my gloves,
they ping, unsettle the kitchen.
The blue haze is horizontal,
it blends with the mountain
and in the distance
across the autumn afternoon
a mudlark calls.
TILL WE DEPART
© Elizabeth g. Arthur 2016
1,000 Words Or Less Flash Fiction Competition 2016
Award Winning Short Story
The young woman with bougainvillea red hair licked her silver encrusted finger, and giggled as she turned away from the passengers jostling each other beneath the DEPARTURES board.
She shrugged her shoulders, in a this-is-delicious-try-some way, towards the young man seated opposite her. He glanced up, and as he crossed his feet awkwardly, his yellow fluoro socks dazzled the underside of the table. His thin face blushed to match the woman’s hair – then he continued reading his book.
The young woman moved her chair around the table like a die being rolled to the next player. She inclined her head towards the tabletop's decorative seaside scene. The young man lowered his book. He spluttered, trying to loosen a ragged piece of phlegm.
“Excuse me, but what do you want?”
The young woman looked up sideways into his mouth. She held a piece of cake icing delicately between her fingers.
“Try it,” she whispered, as the cacophony of 'please make your way through security to gate lounge thirty six', and the rattling of cups and saucers and early morning coughs boomed around the food court. “Don't worry, it hasn't got any evil marzipan on it. You don't like marzipan either, do you?”
The young man tried to speak. His book slid off the table.
“Ssh,” the young woman said, and delicately pushed the thick, satiny, white confection into his mouth.
“A wedding cake,” she stated as she peeled foil and plastic wrapping away. “Imagine...one of those ten storey sky scraper cakes with a miniature bride and groom supervising the reception.”
The young woman's fingers crept around the distant corner of the cake and retrieved two icing rosettes.
“One for you and one for me.”
The overpowering sweetness of the rosette tingled along the young man's teeth as he bit into it. Its sugary petals melted over the roof of his mouth. He smiled. He pulled at his shirt collar.
“Have you been to a wedding...”
“Ssh,” the young woman said. “The cake is dark, rich and moist…” She broke off a piece and placed it in the centre of the table. She opened her mouth, rolled her tongue along her bottom lip and leaned towards him.
“Eat,” she urged.
A wave of pull-along bags and noisy passengers rippled past the seaside-scene table.
“Are you going to...”
“Ssh,” the young woman said. She took the young man's hands in her own and gazed into his eyes.
“I must go. My flight's about to leave,” he croaked. Small beads of perspiration shone on his forehead.
The young woman turned the cake slowly, like a doll pirouetting in a music box, and pointed to a rosette clinging to the edge, as though it had thought twice about falling off.
“Go on, you have it. You really enjoyed the other one. Didn't you?” She grinned nefariously, wrapping the cake until it was an anonymous, shiny, sealed slab. She stood up and turned to leave.
“Excuse me, your cake, you forgot your cake,” the young man said hoarsely. His hands were trembling.
The young woman put a finger to her lips, and shrugged.
“Ssh, it's not my cake,” she whispered, and hurried away.
The young man broke off one rosette petal after the other as his plane raced along the runway.
Award Winning Short Story Till We Depart is published in the 2016 1,000 Words Or Less Flash Fiction Collection 2
copyright Elizabeth g. Arthur 2017
My head's blown up and I'm tortured at the waist. Hips like tractor tyres and legs like those long balloons carnival buskers squeak into dogs and giraffes. I'm skinny and tall – as though I'm standing on stilts. I ripple and sway. I'm everywhere. I jump, I twirl. I go on to infinity. All of me dances with chorus line precision.
I pull my mouth wide, poke out my tongue and frighten myself as a hollow faced creature stares back. I marble and fade. I scream and run towards a fat me. Turn and see my legs have shrunk. I laugh until I have hiccups. I'm in the mirror maze at Luna Park. Ten years old and invincible.
Metal plates crash and clang behind me. A symphony of fitness.
I mix heaped and over heaped spoonfuls – salad server size – of protein powder with milk, juice, food. Drink it. Eat it. Blend as many shades of green as the spectrum offers. Close my eyes as I gulp it down. Transforming, transcending.
One pill. Two pills. Lost-count-of -the-number-pills. I'm flying. I float. I run and my feet don't touch the ground.
Fifty kilos. Sixty kilos. Seventy kilos.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, I love you.
I'm wired. The weights are cold. Ropes swing like vines in the jungle. Wheels spin like propellers in flight. The music is loud. I can't hear the beat. I may incinerate. The mirrors are moving. I wish they'd stop. I can't walk straight.
Stale sweat. Sweat drenched nylon. I can't breathe. My feet are glued to the floor – a floor of mosaic glass. I look up. Hundreds of me on the ceiling.
Swimming pool chlorine stings my eyes. Echoes bounce around me. Steam clouds float past. Chit chat from the showers is broadcast for public ears. Black lines rise from the bottom of the pool, slither over the edge like thick pieces of licorice and the water recedes – fast, as the sea does before a tsunami.
Where is the door? I try to speak. Nothing happens. I try to run and can't. Like in a nightmare.
The mirrors on the wall are slowing down and look like the carousel I remember from the beach; gleaming all around its centre, tinkly music playing and me riding a purple horse.
A glass wave is looming towards me. Banging, crashing, groaning, pounding. Someone's yelling. It's me. I'm shattering and can't get away from myself.
Heavy voices, like a vinyl record slowed down, all around me. Spoons ding like cow bells.
The waitress puts my tea down as though she's trying to make time stand still. I lift my head and see dark flecks in her eyes. She smiles a never ending smile. Perfect teeth.
My hands are pins and needles, can't lift the cup. My legs hurt, feel like they've lifted half a tonne. Can I stand up? Find my way out.
The waitress moonwalks to the door. Opens it. Waves me goodbye.
Red lights. A silent gap in the traffic. I'm on the footpath dazzled by the midday light. Screen addicted pedestrians weave around me. A train rattles into the station across the road. I buy a ticket.
The monotonous security of metal rolling over the rails. Clickity clack, clickity clack, taking me home. Suburbs of apartments blur. A clover leaf motorway in the distance...
I clutch my ticket – one way – and feel a childish excitement. I want to dance up and down the carriage. There's so much space again. So much green. Trees. Cows. So much clarity again.
The doors slide apart and I breathe in the recent shower of rain.
The daylight is fading. I can hear laughter from the garden. Jane's laughter. She sounds drunk.
I follow the path closer towards the house as Jane's seductive brogue pulls the crowd around her inside.
Shadows jostle over the lawn as people move towards the oak table, fill their plates, top up their glasses, then return to their chosen seats. Do they realise I'm outside? I smile. I laugh. I run around the driveway, the sensor light catching me when I dash past the front verandah. I cartwheel across the damp grass. One, two, three perfect arcs. I'm dizzy and can't find my bag. I don't care. The moon is rising. Yellow, big, beautiful. I have never felt so free.
A temperamental wind races across the dam. Ripples wash against a pile of rocks. The old dinghy thumps the jetty pylon.
Leaves tumble about my feet like runners to the finishing line. I gather a handful, bury my face in their eucalyptus and then scatter them as the moonlight guides me along the worn boards to the rusty ladder. I take off my shoes, tuck a sock in each one. Put the shoes neatly to the side. I take off my jacket, fold it – as though it is brand new - and lay it next to my shoes. Discard my shirt and jeans over the edge. I take off my underwear and trail it along the jetty as though I'm a mannequin in a Victoria's Secret parade. I'm deliriously happy.
The silver grey water takes my breath away as I dip my toes in, slither my legs down the rungs. Tip my head and look into the moon's face.
The wind drops.
I lower my eyes and follow the last ripples across the glassy surface. To the middle, where we could never touch the bottom as kids. Where the moon is looking back at itself.
Releasing my grip, I propel myself over the water. I'm flying. I seem to fly forever. And then the cold hits me. I gasp. Forget to breathe.
My legs kick out and I swim to the lunar circle. Swim around it. Swim into it. Lie back in its luminescence.
Bliss. Peace. A long cloud passes over the moon above me. Down, down, I fall through the fading light...