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Called or shunned by Vietnam war conscription

7 Comments
09 November 2015 | B. N. Oakman

ConscriptionI'd never met a Vietnamese, couldn't figure what we had against them. But we were raised in shadow of returned men, the shimmer of lapelled bronze, a presumption we in our turn would go when ordered ... Most of us dodged gap years of sweat and khaki, missing madness, maiming, napalm, agent orange, learning how to kill and to piss ourselves out of fear. Instead we were granted head starts with women, front marks in the greasy pole dash, a less congested clamber to unremarkable lives.


School reunion cracks the amber of middle age

6 Comments
05 November 2015 | Barry Gittins

Stylised clockI never thought I'd do the whole high school reunion thing. Yet here I am, nametagged and ready to face the music, along with 50 of my fellow 1985 alumni. I recognise some straight off. Others mystify. Teenagers trapped in the amber of middle age. High school was genuinely hard for many of us. Some have died. Some entered Boggo Road's then-penal walls. Some are still paying for decisions made back in those mid-80s. Memory propels the sail of our union and we've left safe harbours.


Nigerian poets showcase

1 Comment
26 October 2015 | Femi Morgan and Ajise Vincent

Femi MorganA first child is a road child / He paths the field of joy / Phantasmagoria of moments / First panic, first pain, first cry / That tears the joy in your father's eyes /There is more to life / Than Sponge Bob and Ben / Be wiser than the tortoise / They may go extinct / Except in books and stories / Be careful with the holy communion / Of the boys / That dark sparkling liquid / That bitter-sweet music of the times.


My autistic superpower

9 Comments
25 October 2015 | Paul Micallef

Original artwork by Chris Johnston shows stylised 'Paul' trying to match faces to emotionsMy brain lacks a degree of 'pre-programming'. I am naturally open-minded and non-judgemental. When asked a question I immediately (often dispassionately) think of many possible solutions. This is great for questions like 'How can we improve this system?', and less good for questions like 'On which body part do you wear your pants?' The secret to learning social rules is in understanding emotions. Knowing what is 'appropriate' often comes down to how it makes the other person feel.


Pity abandoned on the banks of the Parramatta

6 Comments
20 October 2015 | Sarah Klenbort

UnicycleA young man introduces himself: Ashley. He has sandy blond hair, a lithe body and an ease and grace with the kids. The lessons are free, but my daughter doesn't wait to for this explanation; she's already picked up a unicycle. 'You need a helmet first,' Ashley explains, and I tap my daughter's arm and sign, 'Helmet'. 'Does she read lips?' he asks. 'If you could just look at her when you're talking,' I say. 'Okay,' he says with the slightest trepidation. 'She's d-d-deaf and I have a stutter.'


Persian poetry pastiche

4 Comments
19 October 2015 | Paul Smith

Portrait of HafizWhere is one who through friendship will be faithful to me ... who with a reprobate such as me will act kindly, mercifully? / Real friendship is so difficult to find because it means of the other thinking more than oneself, loving the other, sincerely. / True friendship means equality, listening, putting oneself in the other's shoes and seeing out of those eyes ... differently! / Friendship that matters is not one-sided, lacking in interest: a lasting friendship is one of selflessness, a thing of beauty!


Learning how to die with chimera Montaigne

13 Comments
13 October 2015 | Patti Miller

Montaigne's Les EssaisI have always felt guilty about an inability to commit to any belief system. So when Montaigne said 'Only fools have made up their mind', I felt an enormous sense of relief. He knew that those who are certain are the ones to shut down newspapers, lop off heads, blow up planes, burn books. There is a thread throughout his essays, too, of him finding sex undignified and therefore unfitting for grown men and women. It is one of his many contradictions and confronts me with my own contradictory attitude.


Windows to grace on the school bus

6 Comments
12 October 2015 | Brian Doyle

School busI am present in the kitchen window at 7.39 exactly if at all possible, to be given the gift of a kid licking his window, or a kid waving at me, or one little kid inarguably and thoroughly picking his nose. You wouldn't think that a boy picking his nose would be a glorious and poignant and thrilling and joyous sight, something that seemed truly and deeply holy, but it sure was, to me. All children are my children and yours and the bus bounces down the street every morning and we are not dead and all is grace.


Growing old in Australia is a difficult business

9 Comments
06 October 2015 | Gillian Bouras

Older hand clasped by youngerWell, I know the dehumanising rot began to set in a long time ago. I have a vision of George Orwell sitting on a cloud and wringing his hands in renewed horror, for now the business model and associated language appears to have taken over the world. In short, the changes in aged care could be counterproductive, as the aims of streamlined access and equity may result instead in the development of barriers and more inequity. Growing old clearly means more hard work, and more adjustment.


The red wheelchair

3 Comments
05 October 2015 | Sue Cook

red wheelchairSo much depends upon a red wheelchair lined with black canvas beside the front doorstep. Even more depends upon two ramps to convey a red wheelchair into the world outside.


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