Off with the faeries

I haven’t been able to stick with projects very well this year. I’ve got too many on and around my desk unfinished. The general theme in my art is in viewing things with more thought and recognition than they’re usually given. The everyday world. Real life considered more thoroughly. For its beauty, potential, irony and unrelenting perpetuation. In recent months, I’d gotten tired of life. I saw it for its volatility and its cold hardness and it felt safer hiding from it in bed watching history and mythology docos and period dramas on Netflix. Anything that wasn’t now and wasn’t of this same world. In that time I started this little faery illustration as another form of escapism.

Little Fae (2018) pencil and acrylic on paper

The celts believed faeries lived in the Other Realm, which could be accessed when one strayed from the forest path. They believed that the fae would lead men astray, having them join them in the Other Realm where it was always summer and everything was in abundance. They would, of course, be enticed, but a day spent there was a year spent here. It was the reason they gave to people abandoning their regular lives. They’d gone off with the faeries.

In the cold gloom of this dreary house, I wished for that bountiful summer place for a time.

But that world is a fantasy and I’m a realist. So I got up and started doing things to achieve a better life and set goals so that when the summer does come again, maybe I will have already felt my soul warm before its arrival.

Fantasy is an entertaining indulgence, but real fulfilment comes from not straying from life’s path in favour of distraction, keeping what matters in mind and powering my will forward as perpetually as time moves itself. I can’t afford to relent.

When I was five I heard medieval music coming from our garden regularly and swore it was the faeries. I think maybe magic isn’t so unfamiliar with our own world. You just have to keep your mind open and your heart lit up. I think we too are capable of flight.

Shift Turnover

Light of the darkness,
pray you, rest.
For I have seen you do your best
all through those chilled moony hours,
out above that irking blue.
Your graveyard shift is finally through.

Overseer of the sea,
you are lone but vital.
Now my rising dulls your strength
but trust until I lay again
That I’m relieving you.

There’s little more that you can do,
now that I insist.
So give in. Dim. And then some more.
You’ll come alive to evening’s shore,
the stars all shining back.

The night was made for dazzlers,
the day, for those who better slept.
So little beacon, calm your sway.
Surrender to the light of day
for no more pitch black must you face —not for now at least.

Stay nestled in that refuge spot,
grounded on that cliffy plot
where from all lands they’ll stop to see,
thanks to this place,
there’ll never be
a world shrouded entirely
in apathetic dark.

Shift Turnover (2017-18) pencil, graphite, ink, oil and soft pastel on paper. Reworked and renamed from “Byron Lighthouse” and also reinspiring words to flow

Unfadable

I convince myself time again that there is still something of you in the smell of your unworn clothes. I do it as much as I convince myself otherwise. I pull them out of the Woolies green bag which kept the scent of you safe from corruption for a good year until time began to wane on the particles. It was incredible how long I got to keep a piece of your material presence around like that… but all good things fade –well, sometimes they don’t. Fading leaves the sweeter of bitter aftertastes. It offers time for us to process our pain, our loss before it’s completely gone, so we can appreciate it with the awareness that its existence is evermore ephemeral with each breath we live. Things either fade or they career abruptly and uncontrollably towards a screeching, chilling, blindsiding halt. Grief is a mental car crash. I went flying through that icy air after you left; after my body had shattered the windscreen upon discovery. I slammed into the metaphorical asphalt at eighty kilometres an hour, limp and agonised but living in wake of you dying. And you died because you were tired of how it hurt to live. Because living can feel like dying anyway.

I felt like I was in a film where that scene kept being rewound, paused at different parts and replayed from a random time before jumping to another part after an indeterminate length of footage; the worst was hitting that hard-set tar.

Thank goodness it got easier, but my grief only faded to the point where I am a moderately functioning human again. I actually think two years has felt worse than the one year mark because leading up to it (about three months or more leading up to it) I have missed you intolerably—no. That’s not the right word. I will always tolerate missing you. I will always tolerate this grief. Because as that Death Cab for Cutie song -which Jolie and I totally bonded over but I know was never your thing- said, “I knew that you were a truth I would rather lose than to have never lain beside at all”. Despite the fact that DCFC probably shouldn’t have left 2010, I still like that song and I think of those words a lot. I miss you incorrigibly. Maybe that’s the word I need. Because it’s come to a point now where it doesn’t shift or numb—it’s just there.

And I’m there, picking up debris.

When I’m not telling myself to stop imagining that there’s still some small part of you in your clothes, I’m insisting that there is; that your clothes don’t just smell like any unworn clothes, they smell like yours. How strange I would look if anyone saw this battle I have with myself, stuffing my face in your shirts and inhaling them so fervently my nose might vacuum them up. I’m only hoping to one day confirm it for myself totally but then what? Back in the bag they go? In any near belief I gain, the priority has been preservation, so I can pick them up again one by one, in two months’ time and go through the same doubtful/assured sniff-fest again.

Today, I pulled out your Ralph Lauren dress shirt that came from the op-shop, so typically. I brought it to my nose and did believe I could detect something of you there— but I put it on anyway. Clothes are after all, made to be worn.

I spent today celebrating you. I celebrated t-shirt bras and Harvey Birdman, beanies and Puckle St. I ate dessert for lunch. I went to our old favourite op-shop and that Smiths song that used to be on one of your playlists came over the speakers. It’s too much of a coincidence that at least one song that you love plays every time I visit. I know you join me there. I often don’t realise I’m talking to you aloud until someone gives me a look.

I got a tattoo after that, of your pretzel signature. I went to the art gallery at RMIT and dreamt, like you, of studying there. Then I went to Coles and bought some of your favourite snacks. They don’t make chocolate wheatens anymore so I got the McVitie’s digestive biscuits instead. I know you’d indignantly refuse those as a substitute if you had’ve lived in today’s sans-wheaten world but mate, they taste the fucking same and with the packaging removed, I just imagine they are the real thing. By the way, how did you eat like half a pack of those per day along with at least one V and have such a flawless complexion, what the fuck. Like, who gave you that gene, Aphrodite??

Well anyway, I did everything I wanted to do for you and myself today, rounding it off with this millionth note to you whilst listening to AFI and eating lime and black pepper chips. Your shirt still smells like you after I wore it and had it in my bag, even. When I left the house today I was anxious. I realised that comes from home being neutral and leaving being where you risk having a bad day instead of a nothing day. But outside is also where good days are born and today was good. I love you. That’s another thing that will never fade.

Forever,

your little babe.

PS. If you’ve got special powers now, can you magic my skin into being as milky-perfect and pimple-free as yours was? It can be my birthday present. Ta ❤️

Mueck’s monument: Mass makes art appreciators’ minds tick and for social media, cameras click.

NOTE: I should’ve posted this earlier, I suppose, when the Triennial was still showing but alas, I’ve missed the mark. Still, I like this review so there you go.


 

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Just part of Ron Mueck’s Mass (2016-17)

Ron Mueck. The Australian artist prolific in the international visual art community for his large-scale hyperrealist sculptures has once again outdone himself with his newly featured work, Mass(2016-17). Commissioned for the NGV International’s first Triennial, showing exclusively in Melbourne until April 15, it is Mueck’s largest work yet.
The installation encompasses a large room of the gallery usually designated for featuring 18th Century aristocratic portraiture. A selection of these remain hanging in areas, staring back at a colossal one hundred hand-cast skulls, each one unique compared to another.
Before encountering the full work, you’re greeted by a teaser: a singular skull placed centrally in a space two rooms away. It’s a cheeky little lure to prepare and excite gallery goers over what’s soon in store for them. Given the heavy publicity of this particular artwork in the Triennial’s promotional material, many of us may know already what lies ahead. Others may be going in without any knowledge of what will be revealed in Mass. Either way, the placement of this first solitary skull is effective at evoking curiosity and excitement as well as a reflectiveness that comes with an image of death. From this room you can peer past the work in the room adjacent and into Mueck’s through aligning archways, making it difficult to really stop for long at any of said work along the way. As you get closer, the immensity of the installation’s scale comes into realisation. I for one, was left gob-smacked before even entering. These clever sneak peaks allow a viewer to ease into the room as those before it ready them to experience its impact. Described in a press statement as, ‘an immersive and overwhelming experience for the viewer’, I would imagine, without this pre-empt, Mass could hold the potential to shock certain viewers into strong unease and believe this is a sensitive decision from the curatorial team.

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Solitary skull preluding to the main feature.

The skulls are piled in organised haphazard; a phrase which may seem oxymoronic but upon viewing, can be understood. It’s a heap which has identifiably been meticulously stacked to convey the thoughts, and issue the emotional responses the artist had hoped to: Calculated imposure. 
Mass
is a particularly political piece from Mueck and arguably rawer for it. “The skulls recall the Paris catacombs as well as the mass graves resulting from human atrocities…” according to the press release.  While he has involved himself in themes such as life and death before in such works as Dead Dad (1996), A Girl (2006) and Youth(2009-2010), Mueck has always sculpted his figures with an emphasis on whole-humanness carried by facial expression and body language to build pathos. Here, he strips one hundred heads back to the bone where one might assume they’re devoid of expression and yet each one of them still has their own personality, though inanimate; their own life, though dead; their own identity, though faceless.
The fact that we are so able to relate to these skulls and so strongly associate an anatomical replica with the notion of a person’s life still being attached is a testament to the medieval concept of memento mori; the reminder that we all have death still to come and that corporeal life, in all its vanity, is only a fleeting moment in time. Mortality unites us all. So sociologically, we can all innately relate to this style of art and this is one large component of what makes Mass so successful.
The ambitious scale, attention to detail, and dedication to craftsmanship is what makes it stand apart. The skulls, each about a metre or taller, dominate all thought in the room and demand interpretation. Each one is individual, be it slightly starker or duller in its shade, what teeth it is missing, what cracks or chips out of the bone it bears.
Where it would’ve been much easier to simply cast one mould and use it for all of them, Mueck has realised the nuance that this individuality brings. This is prominently what gives the skulls their personality rather than appearing as a sterile product of an assembly line.
The title alone inspires different sentiments, “mass” in reference to the sheer size of the work, the mass graves they represent, and the catholic union of Mass; my favourite to unpack. For through all the hype and astonishment we might find in viewing this artwork, I still found that the room had a sombre feeling that comes with the seriousness of a death symbol. It asks for respect. For reflection. This installation, we must remember, is a memorial to those of the mass graves and catacombs. Those piled unceremoniously into unmarked pits after their murders. This work is for acknowledging the unacknowledged as the 18th century bourgeoisie types, inspirers of colonialism and genocide, either vainly look through them or continue on in the scenes within their gilded frames, oblivious to them. Denying them validation.
And here, the irony is too strong. We have this feeling of sanctity in the representation of a grave site resulted from war crimes. But in history we know one of the root causes of essentially every war is religion, and largely Christianity. Coincidentally, what faith can we assume those pasty characters in the portraits follow? Memento mori was a catholic concept but has seemingly only proved important to the uncorrupted of us, regardless of if we hold to religion or not.
Proving this point further is the way audiences respond to the work. So many visitors mirror the neglect towards respectfulness that the blank-eyed aristocrats on the walls show, only in a more modern sense. The vanity still shows through. As seen through the whole exhibition, many gallery-goers seem to come less to appreciate the art and more to show they went. Posing for photos with the art because apparently the work alone wasn’t artful enough without their faces in there too. An artwork like Mass, so profound, so effective, with subject matter asking, pained, all through history to be recognised and understood turns into merely Instagram aesthetic. Sacredness denied once more. Mueck exposes the lack of care society still shows.
Thankfully there are art lovers of whom Mass still speaks volumes to but I fear for those who can’t leave their selfie sticks at home or abide by the basic gallery rule of ‘do not touch’ when viewing art. It is both despite these people and because of them that Mueck’s work is still effective overall. Since, as the press release suggests, “it demands consideration of human mortality and meaning.”
I just wonder what this technology-intense way of viewing exhibitions means for art in the future.

Ocean Words

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Beauty and Havoc – Chloe’s Sea (2015)

My big sister had a near-death experience two and a half years ago and she wondered why I didn’t meet her bedside more.
I did go; twice. Not nearly enough considering I was coming to Melbourne from Ballarat every fortnight to stay with my then-boyfriend without stopping by the hospital. The honest answer was that it was hard to see her; near amputated arm, swollen and sullen all at once and delirious with pain and drugs– when conscious, anyway. That was the first time, at least. The second time she was more herself, having recovered significantly in my absence. It was just much easier at eighteen to escape to St Kilda on a weekend rather than face such reality. It was selfish. I knew it then. Words from a fight years before, where she branded me as such, echoed in my mind.
So I drew this for her. For the girl caught too often between the playful splashes of a shore and the calm of a flat, deep ocean. That part in the middle. Where the tide lashes out at its visitors, and wave after dumping wave leaves you traumatised, exhausted, gashed, sandy and cold on escape.
But Chloe liked the sea. She taught me when to jump over those waves so I could reach the quietude that came past the breakpoint. Even in knowing full well of its temper, she wouldn’t shy from embracing this vast, volatile, all-encompassing beauty of a natural wonder.
My big sister had a full-death experience one and a half years ago and I still wish I’d visited more. Talked more. Shown her that I loved her more.
For the next year that followed I went through a repetitive cycle: numbness, crash, repeat. I’d hate to stretch this analogy so far that it turns cliché but those numb times truly felt something like being in a bubble, underwater. Distanced, the world muffled and moved around me but I wasn’t a part of it. I was in my detached coping world looking out passively with warped vision. The longer I stayed this way, the more aware I was of the impending, overwhelming, crushing moment where this comfortable bubble of relief would pop. Then, reality would flood through with fresh upheaval to drown me again. As soon as I’d grow aware of the time I’d spent numb, I would then feel guilt for my absence in living. For my muted emotions towards my grief:
I haven’t cried in three weeks. Who is this disassociated non-feeler? Do I not care?
Upon this thought is when that vacant-making anaesthesia would start wearing off. So, wading in the undertow, too late to avoid it, I’d anticipate the wave.
Change and I weren’t on the best of terms and I was intensely afraid of just how much life favoured it over what control I could muster. But somewhere, I remembered a certain Shakespeare quote with renewed clarity. The one that always stuck in my head. The one I decided was my favourite for reasons unknown to me back when I was seventeen:
“Doubtful it stood, as two spent swimmers that do cling together. And choke on their art.”
And it dawned. I’d forgotten that when the waves are too high to jump over, you must dive through. The only other option is to struggle. Fighting forces you have no hope of controlling will only postpone the inevitable, leaving you more exhausted when it comes.
Through hesitation for the new, I’d missed my opportunity to dive. The gasping, thrashing bob of the clinger proved to be an insufficient lifestyle choice.
Submission was the obvious and last viable plan. Letting go of fear. Succumbing to the flow.
I breathed in. It hurt. But the only oxygen there was compounded with that which suffocates.
I accepted the words fate spoke: “This you is over. But dare not worry, the next one’s coming soon. You’ll like this one. She’s better, promise. So off you go, into blue. Deep. Down. To where the first souls found their bodies. You won’t know how far there is to sink but it’s enough to start anew. Then up you float, you’re bursting through. A fresher you. Reborn but wiser from travelling that old current. An evolution, revolution, resolution of yourself. Embrace it, for no one can swim forever unless it’s a life of survival you choose, over one of living.”
And yes. I rather like this new me now.

Refracted Light

I prefer less saturation of societal impressions,
since through my sight, what parts of me seem white?
My eyes, perhaps, the ends of my nails. My teeth? Not quite.
The lighting’s highlights.

What is black amidst trillions of browns?
Perceived shadows encroached on pure towns.
Skin toned dark need not convey
foreboding,
——as night against the day.

Should I fear those tan-toned folk
when pain is what leaves them to leave all they know?
Safety, a change, is all they desire
but we must refuse them for their veiled attire.

The process of sight is an explosion of refracted light, so how
does a spectrum become a scale indicating a level of acceptance?
Colours are not classist, people are but no one here’s opaque.
Is this some hypocrite’s mistake?

I can’t, shan’t, never shall box diversity’s beauty away,
pluck one piece and say,
“Those others?  We hate.”
“We want an ethno-state.”
“We’re a white nation
—–founded by and for the white man—”
——————-No, fuck your racist shite, Sam.

Let all bloom and not wilt,
Let no conscience feel guilt
Over constructs so arbitrarily built
In fear. “In difference, we must fear—” We must not!

There are greater things to rock us than the tone of one’s skin.
Forget my count of melatonin, hear the tone in my voice. Take your medicine
from Dr King:
“Not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
And so, if gracious and loving you be,
To me, your dearness gleams regardless of genes.

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Meeting Place (2017) Watercolour, pencil, acrylic and soft pastel on paper.

Search Elsewhere for Your Damsel

Oh, lively boy of inexperience,
who lives a simple joy without intent
to harm. Please calm your hype, your heart’s intense.
You know not much of me at present.

But hold one moment sir, you’re rather sweet,
It’s rare to find a gentleman today.
There’s more in you than firstly thought, so meet
our lips, for hours ‘midst the flowers lay…

Us? Low! No, something’s off. I wish not to
be coddled, bottle-fed, for I am able,
not merely cute. In case it hath escaped you,
I’m fine, yet soothe you try– am I your doll?

It’s fantasy that holds you here, not me.
I feel none for your touch. I set me free.

Let me put on my wanker hat and talk about art for a sec.

bottle (2)

Discovery Collage (2013-2017) ink, watercolour and acrylic on paper and canvas.

Many people search for the meaning in art: symbolism, representation, the way each brushstroke was brushed has some imperative significance vital to understanding the work fully. It’s true; often there’s plenty to unpack. What the artist intended, their concepts, the key events which shaped them and therefore shaped their practice…
Studying art in high school, they told me a lot about viewing artworks with more depth. It’s so you can identify it for more than face value, gain a better understanding of what the artist possibly meant. I got told less about where to stop doing that. Less about understanding that sometimes, it’s more about context than concept. See, it’s harder to write an essay about that. It’s much easier to discuss why Michelangelo’s speculated lifestyle choices made it difficult for him to paint a woman anatomically in proportion. How Bill Viola’s near-death experience in a lake influenced the involvement of water as a recurring motif, symbolising life and regeneration. Manet’s Olympia (1863) recognisably features a prostitute. The clues are in her state of very near total undress but with shoes and accessories still adorning her as remnants, reminding us that she was, before, dressed. A contrasting element against the traditional Virgin, depicted in nature and entirely untouched by societal constructs such as clothing. Pure.
See, I could’ve told you all of that when I was eighteen but I couldn’t have confidently explained Pollock to you. Expressionism just wasn’t concrete enough to me, despite having dabbled in creating work along those lines for years. I could tell you how I felt doing it, but not why someone else decided on it. I was looking too deeply into it because that’s what I’d been taught…
Gosh darn.
Wasn’t I missing the point? It’s more about feeling than thinking. It’s about the moment the artist does it; the moment the audience views it. Most importantly, it’s about appreciation and exploration.
The creation of the artwork above came about over the course of four years with a significant break in the middle. The bottle centred is reminiscent of July 1st, 2013: my first experience with ink other than ballpoint. One of many times I became a student of my sister’s. When I look at it, I think of the time I was doing it. On the pad I was working off, there was a bunch of watercolour testings to the side from a previous art session. I decided to combine them. This piece is an exploration of mixed media. It’s about where the paint fatefully fell, where the scissors severed the paper, how my hands tore the parchment. I wasn’t thinking of symbolic interpretations or subtle hints towards a greater message. I was just thinking of how it felt to follow my impulses and instincts over what felt right in the moment. If something didn’t sit with me well, I’d leave it until what I should change became clear. I tried to frame it initially, with some horrendous dark blue backing I was never contented by. I needed four years to realise that what it needed was not containing, but more freedom, passion and emotion in an explosive splatter of paint. Oh, how exciting to team ink, watercolour and acrylic! It’s an appreciation of colour, texture, form, balance, contrast, harmony, composition and positive space. And that’s absolutely all the dissection it needs. Art doesn’t always need that person questioning, “Yes, but what does it really mean?” It suffocates the simple beauty of this sort of art. If you try so hard to decode every element, then you end up with puzzle pieces instead of a piece of art. I suppose it might be a bit ironic to end with a kind of moral here but there is one thing I learnt from making this artwork. As is with life, if you accept you don’t know the answer now and don’t stress it out, the answer will come in its own time.

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Working on the artwork (1/7/2013) Photo: Chloe Day

 

 

 

The Keith Kronicles: Nancy’s Neglect

As an exercise in collaboration, groups of us were given five different pieces of prominent Australian photographic art to reimagine into linking short stories. My group agreed on an early 70’s stereotypical Australiana vibe and created a character named Keith to feature in all our stories, sort of fulfiling the archetypical bushranger legend story. Keith is the type of man whose life is so steeped in rumours that these wild imaginings stirred by question and suspicion have become attached to the truer events. But what is true of this fictitious character’s life and what is the sensationalised fantasy of the other character’s in it? I’m thinking of writing more stories of Keith but here’s the first. I was given Petrina Hicks’ work, Shenae and Jade (2005) as stimulus. We got inventive with names before viewing the title, so that became unapparent to the story. I wasn’t really prepared for how dark and druggy this story got but there you go.

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Petrina Hicks, Shenae and Jade, 2005

Nancy’s Neglect

This poor love, Nancy; she won’t age well. Sure, she looks a picture of youth now, with her long lashes, speckle of freckles, wrinkleless skin… but by the time she’s fifty, she’ll be sure to look sixty, if she’s lucky, that is. If she’s lucky to get that far at all.
See, things haven’t worked out so well for Nance. She’s a bit bipolar? Like, actually though, it’s a real situation, not just meaning, a bit insensitively, to call her bat-shit… but it has kind of led her to be fairly bat-shit, I s’pose.
It’s mostly the drugs. She was just into the dope for a bit – a good bit, I will say. It was just a nice way of letting go, you know? But then it started making her a bit agro after a while, after the come-down. She just wasn’t fun old Nance anymore. Then she got onto the acid and God, then it was all downhill. Off her bloody nut all the time, trying to escape.
See, she married pretty young? And they really didn’t think it through. Keith made things worse –that’s the hubby. It was a bit of a Bonnie and Clyde story, except another version where Bonnie’s this timid, submissive little mouse with the tendency to get real worked up in high-stress situations. Safe to say, Old Mate Keith started keeping the less-than-by-the-books side of his work to himself. And well, that happened to be all his work. So, Nance would just stay home, isolated in their modest little miner’s cottage just out of Strathbogie and, well, what else was there to do?
The other messy part is there’s a kid too. A few years back, and thanks to all Keith’s crap, Nance got a bit caught up in some slight gang mess. Well, it’s a dull existence being a housewife stuck in the bush while your husband’s nicked off with the car to do God knows and well, one of the bikies, Trev, started showing her a bit of sympathy. They hadn’t been at it for long before she was preggers. Of course, Trev had to assume it was his and dropped her on the spot. A remarkably and thankfully discrete conclusion considering the usual behaviours of a one-percenter but then, they’re still on her for the money she owes.
Keith doesn’t know. It’s his daughter for all he could guess. But she’s out of the picture now anyway. No big surprises there, we’re not looking at mother and father –ahem, ‘father’– of the year. Still not too sure what happened to that darlin’. Makes you wonder…
But, since she hasn’t had the responsibility, Nance has let go of the world completely.
Of course, there are days where she still has to pretend to function, like today. Had to get all dressed up and go to her nephew’s baptism. No idea why they’d want her there but you know, “family’s family”. She’s tried her best to stay off everything for a while but acting like she’s not having major withdrawals all day is exhausting. She ruined it anyway. Made a scene. So now she figures what’s the point? It was just hard looking at a baby because she’s been waiting to go on her rags for two months now. She knows what’s up but she’s quietly hoping with all the abuse to her body that it’ll… sort itself out.
She’s sitting alone now on the living room floor with four used tabs scattered on the coffee table. She’s been thinking of that new money stash of Keith’s she just uncovered. There had to be five grand there. Bastard’s always hiding his loot. She thinks of taking some and buying some good shit. Fuck it, make it heroin, take enough at once and go out with a bang.
For now, though, the effect has kicked in. She lets go and watches the room swirl ‘round her. She begins to melt. The big release is coming –if not for that fucking bird!
Nancy’s other problem is that with all this twisting of her worldview, she’s gotten a bit paranoid schizophrenic. Her bigger problem now though, is this bastard budgie, hanging off its cage, shrieking and mocking her from the corner of the room. Who knows how the thing’s still alive but it seems to dedicate all its energy into taunting her and getting in her head. A bit like that Poe, “quoth the raven” shit or something?
She’s getting worked up now. Gee whiz. Sometimes it takes her to a hellish place. But “nevermore”, you could say because Nance has had enough. With a sudden burst of energy and manic thought, she advances towards the cage, reaches in, grabs the bird, shakes it. With the stress, the bird goes stiff  –stunned– and she stuffs its head in her mouth and bites down until the neck snaps.

A wave of confusion comes next. She flails down onto the floor beside the golden brown, velveteen couch. It feels like softest animal fur to her heightened senses. The corpse of the half-decapitated parrot lies forgotten, centimetres from her limp hand on the balding carpet. Tears stream down her cheeks but she’s relieved now. The squawking’s finally stopped.
Just at this moment, here’s old Keithy-boy walking through the door. He assesses the scene, speechless. Stunned as the parrot. As you would be, I mean, what would you do? This is a new low for Nance and it’s pretty apparent that his girl isn’t in the same world as the rest of us anymore. He walks around the house, with her oblivious to his presence, and collects his most important belongings for the road. He leaves one grand out of the five for his wife, takes his Akubra off the hook and closes the door behind him. He’s never coming back. Nancy stares vacantly at the images that only she can see before her. It’s the vision of a doting husband and two young kiddies competing for her affection. A dazed grin appears on her blood-drenched lips. She’s good here; it’s safe. And it’s the closest thing to home she’ll ever know.

 

27 Today

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Dear Chloe,
Hey you, what’s going on? You’re not meant to be ageing still. Time is only a mortal thing. I guess that’s alright for you but for me, it’s just weird. Because if you’re left to remain twenty-five years, seven months and seven days old forever, well that’d mean one day, that I’ll be older than you. That’s not right, no. Why?! I’ll give you why: because you’re my big sister and I’m your Little Babe and it doesn’t work the other way around, you duffer.
Well, I suppose it could be that you’re not any age at all anymore. I’d feel better with that. Because if you’re ageless, then we won’t have a problem once I’m twenty-five years, seven months and eight days old, will we? No, because that’ll just mean I will have lived longer than you… but that’s still sad… I don’t know how to make it not sad, it just is.
But I don’t cry so much anymore. I can think of you and be happy, nice memories and such. But there are still days where I sit, staring at the woodgrain of the floorboards letting the concept that we’ll never be physically together again baffle me. See, it’s just too beyond comprehension, this foreverness.
Well anyway, I bought you a cake. I remember that one time, six years ago to the night, when we were camping in Noosa and you, Mum and I all realised we should get a cake for your 21st, last minute. I believe it must’ve been in the back of my mind. I surely could never forget about timely dessert. But with those trusty supermarket mud cakes, you can never go wrong! Except, of course, when you don’t have any plates or cutlery about… but didn’t that make it so fucking funny? Man, I swear the fact that we were cacking ourselves over having to gouge handfuls out of this cake, sitting on a picnic blanket outside the tent in darkness, but for the salvation of a dim battery lantern, made it taste even sweeter. And then I think about how I don’t really remember a time in your adult life where you got much healthier than you were then and yet, you were still in pain. It also makes me think about how now, I’m that age, and yet you seemed so much older than I feel now, back when I was fifteen…
People think there’s a limit to grief. Like it’s on some timer and once it runs out, that’s it, it doesn’t affect you anymore. All the people who seem to think that have a different assumption of how long that timer’s set for too. Prime example on The Bachelorette the other night –it just came on, I swear, I’m not avidly watching it, okay?— well, they decided they’d add a bit in, to trivialise death because trivialising love isn’t enough already. So this guy was opening up about his mum dying and how it made him fear pursuing other relationships that could end, and stupid bogan mouth, Sophie Monk goes and says, “Why do ya think that is, d’ya think you still haven’t gotten over it?”
Ha! Safe to say I had a good hard scoff at her and changed the channel. Can you believe people would think you just build a bridge and then it’s all fine again? You would die if you heard— oh, well, turn in your grave— or tousle about in a frenzy of ash in the sea, if you heard the crap people come out with.
The grief of a death doesn’t just end. It just gets more manageable. And I wish I could tell more people stories about you and them not get uncomfortable over even the happiest memory, just because they know you’re dead now. I love you Chlo, and I wish I’d told you that more. No matter how much you age, or don’t age, or whatever, you’ll always be the older one. Though you left early, you got here before me. So happy birthday, you old fart and it’s okay; I can eat your share of cake too, so don’t worry.

Lots of love,
Kaela xx