Poetry – Tomorrow

Hey friends,

I hope all is going well. For my part, I have been having a pretty rough time as far as my mental health is concerned. I’m taking a day off work to collect myself tomorrow though, which I desperately need.

Here’s a villanelle – you just try and stop me from writing this cheesy-as form of poetry – I (mostly) wrote on the train into the city last Thursday, heading in to see a student’s State Drama performance.

I’m still having trouble with setting up the endings of these poems at the beginning (which I think is hard to understand unless you try and write one), so I guess I just have to keep on writing them!

Happy reading!


Tomorrow, I’m going to
let my old thoughts fly,
find something else to do,

and hold onto the fading image of you –
But in my thoughts I’ll look you in the eye.
Tomorrow, I’m going to

find one small thing that’s true,
search through it, and see the hidden lie
find something else to do,

destroy its beauty too,
and watch me as I cry,
“Tomorrow I’m going to

see how much you’ll go through;
see how hard you’ll help me try
find something else to do.”

And when all is done, they’ll see we two
hand-in-hand; eyes towards the sky.
Tomorrow, I’m going to
find something else to do.

October 2019 – Furious Fiction Submission

Oh man!

I thought I was in for a shot with this one for at least getting long-listed. Alas, it was not to be.

I couldn’t think of a title for this, but it’s a nice little horror piece that I am quite proud of, which draws on H.P. Lovecraft in a modern kind of way. The prompts for this month were:

  • Each story had to take place in a LIBRARY or BOOKSTORE
  • Each story had to include AT LEAST SIX of the following 20 words – each taken  from the openings of the previous 20 Furious Fiction winning stories:

I managed to use nine of the words in my story, which I am quite proud of.

Happy reading!



“How much is this one?”

I looked up from my phone to see a customer standing in front of me, flicking nervously through the pages of a book. It looked old, as if it had been left untouched for years and as she ruffled the brown leaves specks of ancient dust crossed the room and were struck by the stream of light that sneaked in through the front window as it always did at that time of day. The pungent aroma wafted towards me, and smelt – like all old books do – of cake.

“Hey, how are you today?”

When no answer came, I continued, my retail instincts leaving me unperturbed by what I thought must be a shared rudeness between customers the world-over, “I’m not sure, let me have a look.”

I put down my coffee and gestured for her to hand the book to me.

“I-” she said, “I can’t. Can you just tell me how much it is?”

I hadn’t noticed how drawn-out her features were becoming and it occurred to me then that she wasn’t blinking. Her empty stare was burning a hole in the bookshelves behind me, her shaking hands gripping the sacred tome.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t even know what book you’re holding,” I said, the exasperation in my voice barely concealed. I wiggled the store computer’s mouse, clicked out of the browser game I had open from earlier, and opened the stock-list, “But if y-”

She was already halfway across the counter when I noticed her diving at me, and in slow motion I saw the black-gold of my freshly-brewed coffee propelling itself towards a box of unreleased pop-fiction hidden from the customers’ view. When time started to move again, a number of things seemed to happen all at once: she grabbed my wrist with one hand and pulled me forward; my chair jettisoned itself from below me, unprepared for the sudden movement, and was propelled backwards; and she swung the book with her other hand, losing her balance and glancing the computer with her now broken finger.

We both watched as her treasured text tumbled spine-first towards a glass display cabinet, travelling through the case and knocking over expensive figurines with a level of accuracy would have impressed any professional bowler. Glass tinkled melodiously as she slumped to the floor, no longer spell-bound, and I awkwardly struggled to pull myself off the counter.

“What the fu-” I started, before I heard the door to my store slam shut.

My wrist hurt, and the adrenaline that would have been useful a few seconds earlier made it difficult to walk steadily, crunching past the miniature heroes, and over to the culprit that had seemingly displaced my would-be customer’s sanity.

It lay closed on the floor, and twelve letters glowed ominously on the front, fading quickly: Necronomicon.

I picked up my phone and keys and left, locking the door behind me, never to return to that now cursèd place.

~150 hours later – Blog Post

Hey everyone,

I thought I might just spill some thoughts here about what has been going on in my life recently. In particular, the thing that has led to me working an extra ~150 hours at least in the last 6 months (or just under 4 extra working weeks) unpaid, and absolutely willingly.

The following blog post will be a tad self-indulgent, so bear with me.

About a year ago, one of my colleagues – my “work Mum” – decided she wanted to run a musical at my school for the first time in 25 years. I immediately jumped on board, and became the Assistant Director of the damn thing, and it began to snowball at an alarming rate.

In Term 1, we planned and got the teachers together, and that in itself was arduous, but then the came bringing the kids on board. Now, I teach at a fully-selective public school, and while my students are beautifully well behaved for the most part, the stereotype is that they are not particularly interested in the creative arts. Boy were we wrong.

70 students auditioned, and we picked around 20 students as performers. Rehearsals began, and went on, and on, and on, and the longer we spent with the kids, the better we all got to know them. We eventually got a band together, and (almost too late) after 7 days at school in the most recent school holidays, and every preceding Sunday 2pm – 5pm and Friday afternoon in the last 6 months (along with multitudinous before and during-school rehearsals) we had the performance ready to go.

By now, I had sat with and comforted the kids while they cried after forgetting their songs or dealt with friendship or family dramas, I got annoyed at them when they wouldn’t focus, and I bantered with them constantly to help keep the moral up. It was all very fun.

Now most teachers will tell you that “it’s about the process, not the product”, and I would agree for the most part – seeing and helping the kids learn how to sing and act was wonderful. But for me, the thing I will never, ever forget is the look on their faces after they came off the stage at the end of the universally sold-out 5-show run we did over 3 days. They had a buzz I had never seen in students – an innocent excitement that seems to have disappeared from my life. They looked like, for a moment, they might just pop. At the end of the last show, the air was quite seriously vibrating with the adrenaline, and happiness and melancholy of something that was over. I may have been exhausted (and I still am, the last show was at 7pm on Saturday and we didn’t leave school until 11:30pm that night) from doing stage-hand stuff and managing them so that they would be ready for the performance or the next act, but I know that I have given them something they will never forget. That is an indescribably feeling.

How can we do anything more special as teachers? More meaningful? More real? It’s not about the content for me, and it never will be. I might like English, but as far as I am concerned, it’s way more important to be able to give these kids experiences. Even if others will just write them off as “nerdy maths kids” who “can’t be creative”.

I may, and probably will, fade into obscurity for them. They may not remember my name, or the fact they called me their “musical Dad”. None of that really matters.

In the end, if you want to be a teacher, and not simply teach, then this is the stuff you do. It’s about them and it always will be, and if you can accept that, then you’re on the right track. But you have to accept that it shouldn’t be you they remember.

Having said that, the card and the flowers and the “Hulk” T-Shirt are all nice, and I will forever be graced with the memories of an amazing set of kids who had the commitment and the drive to put in ~150 hours to perform a show for fun and for each other; and even when the oversized XXL shirt works its way to the bottom of my dresser, the flowers die, the card goes into the “reasons I’m a teacher” box with all the others, and the kids have forgotten me, this will always be a reminder of why I do it.

For them.


Flowers from the kids
Bonus “Nala”, because she is cute.

Writing of the Past: An untitled mini-memoir told by my father, remembered by me

Hey all,

here’s a piece I wrote a while back for a competition. I didn’t finish it in time, but having tidied up a few elements I thought I would post it here.

A year ago, I thought this piece was actually unfinished, but I like where it ends now. Something about these fragments of my life are just itching to be told, so I am reconciling myself with the fact that I should probably tell them and let them be free.





He didn’t often smile – it was one of those things about him. Never in photos, not when he was laughing, and only occasionally to me.

But he smiled when he told this story, and I couldn’t tell you how many times he’d told it to me.

“… and when he left,” he paused a little too long like he always did, making you feel like you needed to ask him to go on. I have never been sure if he intended to make people feel off-balance when they spoke to him, or if I was reading into it too much. He tapped his cigarette on the half-full ashtray, just as I drew breath to ask him to go on, falling for his trick again, “we put an alarm clock in the space behind the chalkboard.”

“Behind the chalkboard?” I had asked, the first time he told me the story. My father went on to tell me that in the ‘50s and ‘60s you could bump the chalkboards up and find a little cavity behind them, where you could hide things if you were a troublemaker.

“And, of course, the fuckwit never knew that we could do that,” he said though a smirk – he was coming up to the good bit.

He always told me that he was the one who rewired the clock to go off every ten minutes, for ten seconds, and I always believed him. Even if I couldn’t if I’m honest, I still do.

“So when he came back, we just waited while he said dictation, and we quietly copied our notes into our books, until-“

I don’t think he’d ever made the noise when telling me the story, but in my mind I could hear the sound of this old-fashioned alarm clock going off – the kind they would strap to bombs in cartoons.

“The clock went off, and then,” he said, drawing from his Dunhill Red, and spoke the next line with smoke filling the air, “he just stopped, mid-sentence, before saying: ‘Who did that?’, and we just sat there, looking confused, and not reacting.”

Another smirk, and another pause. Another puff of smoke into my eight-, ten-, fifteen-, eighteen-year-old face. Maybe a sip of scotch or wine, or morning coffee.

So, my father’s history teacher went on with his lesson for ten minutes before it went off again, for another ten seconds. Another question more aggressive this time, followed by bewilderment from the class, as if nothing had happened, and then another ten minutes of class. It happened twice more before-

“The fifth time he just stormed out, and ran off to get the headmaster – the principal – and in the few minutes he was gone the alarm clock came out of the wall, was turned off, and was safely hidden in someone’s bag.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“They’ve done something to the chalkboard,” the teacher had said, storming into the classroom, “every ten minutes. Just listen! They are pretending not to hear it!”

The teacher had gone red, and was sweating like a pig. 

They all sat in silence for the next five minutes, waiting to see what happened. And then it did.

There! Did you hear it? They’ve done-“

“Hear what, John?” the Headmaster was confused – he hadn’t heard anything. The clock was off and packed away.

“The alarm clock! Didn’t you hear it?” John was desperate now, because he knew he had.

“Boys,” said the Headmaster, “is there anything you should be telling me.”

“No, Sir,” they replied in unison.

It was then that my father, fifteen at the time, spoke up and gestured towards the flustered teacher, “But he has been going on about a ringing sound for an hour.”

The other boys nodded in agreement.

As their teacher was led out of the room he was almost yelling at the Headmaster, telling him that he’d been set up, framed by the students.

Once they were out of earshot, and the door had been carefully closed, a quiet cheer erupted from the boys in the class, and they shut their books for the day.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“He never came back after that. I think that was the last straw for him,” he said, and chuckled at the thought. I always laughed too, it was one of my favourite stories. He took another long pause before, in almost every telling, he continued. 

“He was close to going nuts anyway, but this time I really think he went mad.”

The first few times I asked my father how he could have kept hearing the sound, and he told me that if something is repeated often enough, and if you are sure it is there, you will hear it. And that’s what happened to my father’s teacher – another had been found wanting, and had paid the price.

Sometimes Dad would tell me that if his teacher had gone mad then, he may have heard that same clock for the rest of his life.

In the last few years, I always imagined my father saying, with the same glee, that he hoped he had.

Writing of the Past: Ten-Metre Rock

Hey all,

Just a couple of points to go with this piece:

  1. I wrote it when my depression and anxiety were at their height (depth?) in April last year (not the first or last time since then that that’s been the case, might I add – just ask my psychotherapist). It’s not pretty, and there are many things wrong with it, but it is a reflection of what was going on for me back then, and I feel far enough away from it now that I think I can post it here (just to note, my “partner” in the story went quickly to fiance from there, and is now my wife)
  2. know it’s full of clumsy self-reflexivity and self-reference. I know it’s not good. It’s not a reflection of where my writing is now. I just want the damn thing to be able to breathe, because stories should be able to breathe.

Judge me if you want. I don’t care really. It’s not the me now you’re judging anyway, it’s me from 18 months ago.


Ten-Metre Rock

He remembered on that day he sat and watched the sun fall below the horizon. In his mind, the rock stood ten meters tall – if he had known what a meter was – and he could not get down. This was reinforced by his big sister’s words, said sternly in such a way that made him freeze in place.

“Stay there and don’t get down, we’ll be back for you.”

She was seven at the time, and he was only three. To him, her word was the law, and the fate that awaited him if he broke that law was worse than what would await him if he stayed on that rock in the bush as the glaring summer heat turned into a humid summer night.

As the sun continued on its transit past his line of sight, Richard thought he saw a monstrous, dark, and menacing shape on the horizon but before he could figure out if it was real the shape had gone and twilight had arrived.

* * * * *

How many things could weigh him down before he sank? Richard sat in front of his computer monitor, head in his hands, trying to figure out what was wrong with him.

His hands felt heavy on the keys as he wrote – his readers would never know of the drivel he just deleted, only to be replaced by equally angsty, self-reflective nonsense. There is a great chance that none of this would be read, and even if it were, for how long would it be remembered. What is the point? Where can we go? How can we build ourselves into monuments that will be forever-lasting? Why does it even matter?

All he knew is that he had to write. In his writing he would find his meaning, and when he found that meaning he would be free.

* * * * *

Back on the rock, Richard felt free – although he didn’t really know the feeling.

The thing about freedom is that we only have it while we are ignorant of it, and once we know it we chase it forever, constantly held back by our need to have control. Freedom was the zip-tie that held our hands behind our back, while we tried to grasp what was just in front of us.

But none of that was important to Richard at that moment. Of course, he was a prisoner on the rock. And the sun had set. And he was feeling a little hungry. And if he moved his sister would be mad and even if she wasn’t he was sure that the fall would hurt and Richard did not like the idea of getting hurt.

But here had been no moment in his life so far in which Richard had been truly alone, and in the true quiet of the bush at the end of a fire-trail, at the end of a road in the mountains. There was no reason to walk here, no way to drive here, and no way that anyone in their right mind would come out here by choice at this time of the night.

Hell, Richard wondered – such as he could at his age – whether his sister had gotten lost on her way back to the house herself.

Richard felt truly free, and so he did the only thing he knew to do.

He stared at into the Milky Way, lost in the light and dark, and he cried.

* * * * *

That’s a relief, our dear author remarked to himself, for days I have been wondering what to write, and it was right there in the depths of my mind the entire time.

He pushed down the anxiety, the self-doubt, and the ever-present sense of depression that had plagued him for years now, as he continued to write his life, for his life, hoping the readers might find something in it that he had not and hoping that they could remember him for what he was.

If only he could figure that out as well.

* * * * *

One of the things Richard thought about while he sat on that rock was his father. He looked down what he thought was the path and imagined he would see him walking towards him with open arms and a smile on his face. Richard imagined being embraced, picked up from the prison to which his sister had bound him, and carried to his bed for a hot milk and a nice sleep.

There were a few things wrong with his image of the future though: firstly, it was too dark to tell where the path really was; and secondly, when help did arrive what felt like an hour later it was not his father, but his mother that walked stoically down the path, who picked him up and embraced him, and who freed him from his prison, taking him to the hot milk and bed. His father merely trailed behind, feigning a level of capability and endurance that he had never had.

* * * * *

The real question is not “should I write this”, the real question is do I have the right?

It was a fair question, and Richard wasn’t sure of the answer. There were a number of major issues.

The first and foremost was that if he was honest with himself – and let’s be honest, that was not a skill that Richard had yet acquired nor, he imagined, ever will – no one would care about what he was writing. A sub-par writer, if you could ever be called that, writing a mediocre story about a boring life: who cares but you? And let’s be real mate, why do you even care about it?

The second issue was that of memory. Richard’s memory of events twenty-two years ago was less than clear. He had even started to question if they had even happened, and if they had, what about the details? Who could really know?

And the third issue was one that he felt he could deal with here and now: his father did not deserve a story.

Is this really a story about him? Isn’t it about me?

* * * * *

Grandad was a great man.

Mum used to tell stories of how he would get so angry at her, my Aunty, and my Uncle that he would wordlessly punch a hole clean through the dining room’s fibro wall into my Uncle’s bedroom which, as a teenage boy, I’m sure caused a great deal of frustration for my Uncle. Of course, Grandad would fix the hole a week later, the fist-size opening a reminder of a good man pushed too far. He would then sit back down at the table, having made his point clearly and concisely, thank Gran for the dinner she had made, and eat in silence. It was on those nights that my Uncle ate his greens without complaint.

Grandad was great, considering what he went through. I remember proudly telling people about the “Local Hero” award he won, much to his displeasure, not for doing any one thing but just for being Grandad. He didn’t want to give a speech, and he never spoke of the award again. For the rest of his life the award sat meekly on the shelf in the corner of an unused room.

I remember asking who his brothers and sisters were and getting no response. It was only years later that I found out that he had left his home and gone to live with his Grandmother at the age of ten. I met them at his funeral and understood why he left.

I don’t remember when he found out about Mum and Dad. I’m sure that he wished he had a fibro wall to punch then, but instead he just created a new hole within himself that opened up whenever he had to see my father and smile at him, wondering how one person could destroy the lives of so many others.

Before Grandad went into hospital I remember working on the old mower with him. He showed me the park plugs and how to replace them, and we tried to get the “bloody thing” working. We managed to get one more run out of it before it died again. Mum put it in the skip when we sold the house.

I remember when Grandad died. He lay in his bed, skinny and emaciated and he smiled when he saw me. Before going in, Mum had told me that his organs were failing, and that he wasn’t going to last. We talked about university, and he held my hand. As I left he said to me that “It’s okay, my time is up. I’m going to see Gran. I love you,” and hearing that for the first time I knew I would never see him again.

I didn’t look back, and I didn’t cry for months.

* * * * *

That section reminded Richard why he pushed back the sad memories. How was he supposed to function when all he had was the sadness of the past and the sadness of the present?

He took a breath, cracked his back, and tried to channel the numbness that he managed to inject into his life in almost every moment.

Maybe this is why I have a hard time writing, he thought to himself, numbness is good, but how are you meant to write anything worth reading without any emotions?

He chuckled to himself, then again, who wants to read that emotional crap anyway? Real literature is written to make you think. Look at Orwell, Asimov, Wells, and Clarke – they didn’t pen this nonsense, and if they did they’d have cursed themselves for wasting paper and thrown it all out. If you want to write feelings write poetry. Don’t waste people’s time with this. At least poetry is short.

Richard took a breath, sighed, and pressed on as his inner demons pounded at the door.

* * * * *

He was not averse to poetry. Quite the opposite, he loved it.

A poem could capture a heart – and in his case, it had – or start a movement. A song was a poem with melody, a rap a poem with beat. Take a short story, add some line-breaks and there was your poem. But in its freedom, poetry felt like a cage to Richard, and quite early on he made a decision – no matter what he did he would become an author.

He would be remembered, he would be analysed, and he would find his own meaning. So, he sat down and started a book. It was going to be the new Brave New World, the new Time Machine, he would capture the world with his characters and landscapes. He would show them the Australia of the future.

For months he wrote: he showed drafts to his friends and they showered him with praise. His partner loved it. He even considered showing it to his father. But then the well ran dry and the momentum was gone. Not a word was written for months and the book lays unfinished – a series of binary digits etched into a hard drive on a computer, only existing so that Richard could claim that he is “writing a novel.”

* * * * *

Richard looked at the page again and wondered if there was anything else to write. He thought about his mother and his father, his Grandad, and his partner.

For the first time since starting, the words appearing on the page didn’t seem to fit. He could feel them flowing like gum tree sap from his fingers, oozing over the keyboard while he tried to fix an image in his mind with which to end, but he felt trapped again, held in place by his mind – more afraid of the punishment than the fall.

And through his older eyes he saw the twenty-two-year-old view of the sun setting on the horizon, the ominous shape in the distance, and the stars appearing one by one until they formed an endless universe in which nothing could be done, but anything was possible. And as he looked at himself staring into the unknown, free for the first and final time, he began to cry.