When Not Writing A Book #2
The 109 tram has a man on it that smells unpleasant. He is wearing dirty jeans and sneakers. He has bloodshot eyes with dark bags underneath them. He is standing at the front and not standing still. ”I need to get to the corner of smith st.” He says to nobody in particular. I am sitting up the front and he lurches as if to fall over the rail that is in front of me. I try not to wrinkle my nose too obviously, as his odour gets closer with the lurch of his body. the driver tells him when to get off. I feel a bit fearful as I realize he is getting off at the same stop as me. I wonder where he needs to be so urgently? I speculate idly. I do not think he has a date. Probably going to meet a ‘mate’ for some ‘treats.’ I hate that I am scared. I hate that it is growing dark and this adds to my fear. I find myself regretting my tiny size. It makes me wonder if I could shrink all the gross sexist asshats, to my size for a few weeks. Would that change how they act in the world? Would it make them more aware and sympathetic to the power imbalances that exist and that they seem unable and unwilling to see? Why cant they just use empathy and understanding? The man is not getting calmer as the tram goes forward. People get on and avoid sitting up the front of the tram. I keep my face half in my book and half on the rather intimidating man that continues to twitch and fidget in front of me.
Monday morning I am woken by a kiss on on my head or the area of hair that covers my head as most of me is snuggled under a doona. The kiss is not enough to get me out of bed. I go back to sleep. It has been an emotional weekend. Lots of crying and shouting. My tears. My shouting. It is getting better now. It is just that it is becoming apparant that I have never been in a relationship that has lasted this long. It is so strange to me that someone has stuck around for as long as this person. Im starting to feel like I can ask for what I need. I never felt like that in the one and only other relationship I ever had. I no longer feel the need to be a ‘cool girl” all the time. It is a revelation.
It is hard work. I fail at it as much as I nail it. It takes me ages to get going that day. I am not just sad and emotionally drained for no reason. Once again a woman who dared broach the subject of violence against women. A woman who calmly and beautifully tried to explain that Australia has a terrible problem with the Boys Club and its affects on a culture that needs to be far more vigilant, in its fight to dismantle such a pervasive mentality. This woman was called Hysterical and more over she was talked over. It was on Q and A and the wonderful thing to take out of it was to get to witness Clem Bastow being articulate and brilliant in the face of utter insensitive and ignorant Steve Price. I want to know how that man could hear a young man in the audience share his awful and gut wrenching story of loosing a sister at the hands of her partner, when she was just 23, and ignore that persons question, only to defend his horrible fellow boy club members and their awful comments made throughout the previous week. I had seen the clip and been pretty depressed about it. It hit home too much. Not because I come from a violent family. I do not. But, this stuff always makes me think of my brother and the awful jokes I have heard him make over the years. Jokes that he must think are fine and funny because nobody has ever told him otherwise.
He may not hit his girlfriend. But, he certainly has said things to me and my sisters that baffle and concern me. I have heard my brother say in the past such horrible things as
”Silence equals consent.’
”Fat chicks need love too.”
Or the thing that bugged me the most. When my sister had her first baby a little boy. My brother would whisper in our nephew’s ear ”Your mums a bitch.” Not great humour, right? Or am I simply being over sensitive and ‘hysterical’ as well. Whenever the president of Colongwood Football club says something horrible and racist and sexist. It makes me think of my football loving brother. What does he think of this stuff? Is he laughing about it with his mates? The mates who all look the same? White heterosexual cis gender men with brown hair and similiar builds. Do they scoff at the oversensitivity of some women? I would ask him. If I thought the conversation would help ease my fear. I know it wont.
So, when I saw that the go get em wonderment that is Karen Pickering, was holding an event that very evening and needed someone to be a door person and take money and cross people of a list, I put my virtual hand up straight away. This what I had been needing, a way to take action: productive and positive action.
Are you sick of the Steve Prices of this world? Wanna raise a bit of cash for the organisations working hard to end violence against women? Hang out with your fellow femmos and watch an amazing film over a few drinks?
Donations gratefully received with funds going to DVRCV, CASA and Shakti directly
I decide to offer to sell some of my poetry books. The money can go straight to the cause. This makes me feel excited. It also makes me wish I had a bigger name so that I could sell more books than I believed that I would. I put 4 copies of my poetry book Tongue Between Teeth in my 5,6,7,8’S tote bag. I got it in Osaka and it has an illustration of a vacuum cleaner on it with the words HOOVERING THE 5,6,7,8S and in smaller writing underneath it says
LET’S GET YOURSELF TO BE BUSY HOOVER!
I love it.
I text my person and tell them that my feminist bat bell has rung and I must answer it. I will eat the delicious soup that they have made, on my return home. Before I leave I drink a cup of tea and eat 3 oreo biscuits. I take a cranberry and almond bar to eat at the movie screening,
I get to watch a great documentary for the second time. I get to hang out with women who laugh sincerely at my jokes and who make me laugh even more. I get to drink two ciders for free as thanks for helping out. I get a hug from Karen Pickering.I get to meet her tiny little human and feel positive for the next generation. How can I not? When woman who I respect are bringing children into the world and teaching them all the important stuff. I feel that familiar twinge of unexplainable emotion. The twinge that always wells up and bursts when I am around babies. I let it stay. I play with it like it is a cute little toy: this feeling that canot be explained. I play and I hold it and let it get comfortable. I take a breath, hold it a moment and then, I let the breath out. What it is is what it is. I sell two of my poetry books. They go to good homes. The homes I want for them. The homes of women. It makes me feel good to help with my time and to be able to help with cold gard cash as well.
I go home and eat some soup. It is delicious.
Wednesday I start writing properly and it is hard. It is difficult to write about something that involves someone who is a distant memory. I call my sister and the conversation inspires a poem. I ask her if she remembers calling me when she was 16. It is a very important conversation for me and it surprises me that she has no recollection of the call at all. She has three children now and one of them is in the back round as I talk to my sister. The 3 yr old takes the ham from the fridge and proceeds to eat it in handfuls. It is so cute. My sister puts my niece on the phone to talk to me. ”Are you being good for your mum?” I ask.
‘Yes.’ She says.
”How is ballet? are you good at jumping yet?”
”Yes.” She says.
She is a very optimistic 3 year old. Not a big talker. When I get of the phone. I start to refocus.
I write and munch of wasabi peas from a big can that I got from an asian grocery.
That evening is a poetry book launch at Hares And Hyenas, on Johnston st. The poet is Ellen Van Neerven of Mununjali and Dutch heritage. Her first book: Heat And Light was published in 2014. This poetry collection: Comfort Food is her first. I arrive early and so do some other people. We gather around the entrance to the small bookstore and bar. It is dark and quite cold. Once inside there is a whiteboard to sing up for the open mike and I do this without even knowing what to read out or if i will bother reading something old. I kind of want to do something that does not require me to hold my phone screen up to my face so close it seems like i am kissing it.
There is an open mic session up first and I am relieved there are at least ten names already written before mine. They are by enthusiastic and unique souls who are brave for getting up and laying thier hearts bear. I start to want to do something different. I see a gap in the type of performances that are taking place and I want to fill it. There is a poem about sexual assault that nearly makes me want to cry. That person is not simply a poet. That person is a survivor. In the break before Ellen comes on stage for the Q and A and book read. I get a glass of red wine and sit trying to settle the nerves that are dancing and hopping in my stomach. I read some of the poems in the book i just purchased. Ellen has such a strong, sexy and erotic voice. The poems stay embedded inside you for a long time.
When you get to see a poet read their words out loud. It is like peeking behind a curtain when you know you should simply wait till it is time. You feel incredibly lucky to peek under someones literary skirts and see the underwear. She is articulate and well spoken with a very seductive reading voice. The kind of voice I can imagine wanting to hear in dark corners at soft lit pubs when the weather outside is stormy and wet.
”Marmite or vegemite?” Ellen is asked.
”I have never tasted vegemite.” She answers.
She reads some of her poems and everyone is totally spellbound. There is not a sound save for her voice reading her own words.
”Can I say / white people really bore me sometimes/to be exact”
The second open mic session starts after a short break. I decide what i am going to do as I hear my name get called and I step up the three steps to the small stage with the opulant wall paper and velvet couch. There is a bright stage light that hits you directly in the face. I swear into the microphone about the light. Ice broken, decision made, I begin. It is something that has not even been written down yet. It is something true and embarrassing. The two important factors that drive most of my creative output. I get people laughing and i know that they are laughing with me. It is short and sharp and cynical and there is clapping as return to my seat. I feel lighter. Like I have just shared something that was a heavy heavy stone in my pocket. It feel like the stone is gone and replaced with extreme savvy and sassy devil may care.
When I get home someone has tweeted me. They were there in the audience and had seen my off the cuff spoken word poem.The tweet is in caps so you know it is high praise indeed.’ JESSICA KNIGHT, YOUR ‘READING’ TONIIGHT WAS FANFLIPPINGTASTIC’
I guess I should write that baby down. I think as my heart swells and im a bit giddy with how happy this makes me.