Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Before sunrise, Before sunset

The secret in that curve
the detour from the frown
apparitions of some forget-me-not
a postcard that returns like a boomerang
and hits you hard, curving, spinning
until it is caught on your lips
the shy outline of a smile
that holds the before sunrise
the before sunset
the before midnight
of a memory

glorious mirages of perhaps
a projection or a hologram
or a sketch that your desire drew
with dark shadows where the mystery lies
and quick, lascivious strokes
imaginings of love
the heirloom of so many
romantics past
whose ideas you plagiarise
and claim as your own
you are captain cook
and you have just discovered
a place to store the convicts of your heart
where you can unleash them from their chains
and brand your name on its earth

you and grace
grace and you
the name and never the lyrics
of that buckley song
that swedish guy sung
when you told him who you were

so you walk the lanes of your past
the alleyways where you exchanged
more than just introductions
or the verandah of rehearsed lines
that you still fell for, while you knew
you were falling

and the guy from the overnight train
who smuggled cartons of cigarettes
through borders, walked you quietly
to your hostel and said to drop by his restaurant
all day you dawdled past
the waiters and the cobble stones
and the tourists with their sunglassed eyes
hoping he would be there

no names now
no numbers now
just that boomerang smile
that hits you
every now and then
on a train
or in a lane
by an alleyway
and sitting on a verandah
when the hands rewind

before sunset
before sunrise
old time grows young again
behind those moonshine eyes

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Change it

Over two years ago, the beginning of the Christmas period in 2010, I first stepped foot in Darwin detention centre - a place where people who seek asylum (that is, have applied for refugee status but have not yet been recognised) are held in what is essentially a prison. The crime? That they wish to remain alive and have done all that they could to do so, to keep their children safe, their family out of harm's way.

The month-long experience of volunteering in that detention centre was one that, more than the entire year I spent in europe, changed my life. I had little awareness of government policy on asylum-seekers, other than the headlines that screamed 'queue-jumpers' or 'boat people'. I was familiar with the rhetoric, the fear-mongering of the major political parties and certain media outlets and yet, there was a piercing and consistent siren going off over and over in my head that I could not shut off. It was the alarm signalling a truth I knew to be true on the most rudimentary level - it was wrong.

For those of you not from Australia, you might not be familiar with our famous infamous policies dealing with a few thousand of the world's most vulnerable people who have braved wars and borders and treacherous seas to ask us for asylum. We lock them up, we send them offshore to other countries, we spend billions of dollars trying to keep them out of sight and out of mind. 

It's not all bad news, though. There have been innovative public awareness campaigns aimed at educating the public on the truth about seeking asylum versus the popular notions born of fear that many politicians and conservative shock-jocks cling to. There was Go Back To Where You Came From there was Dumb, drunk and racist there was Amnesty International's Rethink Refugees campaign and the fairly recent organisation Welcome to Australia's efforts that include rallies, consistent social media updates and the like. 

Despite this, the myths of illegality persist, the suspicion surrounding their right to be here becomes more entrenched and the fear - always the fear - of who they are, why they are here, what they want is fed by morsels of misinformation. 

It's enough to make me scream, to rant, to pull out my hair, to feel physically ill, fatigued and perhaps even apathetic. History can sometimes be the surest way to lose faith in humanity by seeing what lessons we refuse to learn no matter how many lives are lost in teaching it to us; on the other hand it can be the surest way to regain courage and take up arms once again by knowing that there are those who have come before us, frustrated with a change that seemed would never come. A change that did.

I remember reading somewhere that change is like molasses. Change can take a lifetime, a generation or even a few. So in times like these, when the current Labor government passes an immoral, irrational and completely absurd bill that only a few years beforehand they had fought against when the conservative Howard government proposed it, I remember that change is coming

It might not seem like it, the future may look bleak, hopeless even, but history was never made by those who decided that it was too hard, too long, too little, too late. It takes somebody everyday to stand up for what they believe to be right, in a million small and big ways, for change to be realised. It might be every day for twenty days, or every day for twenty years or every day of your life until it comes to fruition. 

Even then, there are many advocates, revolutionaries, change-makers that did not live to see the fruition of their dreams and us here who enjoy the results of what always begins as an idea of what is right and what is wrong.

Never give up on what you believe to be right, because one day history will prove to be on your side.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." ~Martin Luther King Jr 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Rolling Stone

It's hard to stay where you are when you feel like you should be somewhere else. It's difficult to face the fact that the resolutions you made a year or two ago may no longer be relevant to your life, because your mindset has changed, because you no longer have the will power or desire for the things you used to swear by.

When you "go away" for a while you come back and you are not fundamentally different, the world you inhabited has not undergone any metamorphasis. For my cousin who lives in Barcelona and my best friend who resides in Shanghai, the world of Sydney, Australia continues unperturbed. The same events, the same feel, the same circle of friends that will go on with or without them in it.

And so it is again this time round. I will "go away" for a year or two. And then I'll come back. And it will be as if I never left. Except that maybe I'll feel different and maybe act different and think a little different too. And I'll try and hold on to the difference as long as possible. Try to remember why I don't want to be the same.

You don't change the world, you change yourself.

Every time I go somewhere I come back determined not to lose the new mindset or challenging ideas or strong motivations that have led to a difference in opinion, lifestyle, behaviour, mentality etc. Change lasts for a while but everyday life is a tide you can't fight without getting worn down. You are the environment you are in, the people you live with, the food you eat, the clothes you wear. All of these, same or different, matter. You are the life you live.

So you have to choose wisely the life you have, where and when and who and what and why. And you have to be okay with the same or with different - as the situation arises.

I keep coming back to the idea of life in flux, out of grasp and unable to be set in stone, regulated, static. Things change, things stay the same. People change, people stay the same. Life changes, life stays the same.. and I gotta be a rolling stone. The inertia of movement that just keeps moving, not necessarily forward but not always backward yet always in motion.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Latin America

Nosotros, los de entonces, ya no somos los mismos.
Ya no la quiero, es cierto pero cuánto la quise.
Mi voz buscaba el viento para tocar su oído.
De otro. Será de otro. Como antes de mis besos.
Su voz, su cuerpo claro. Sus ojos infinitos.
Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero tal vez la quiero.
Es tan corto al amor, y es tan largo el olvido.
Porque en noches como ésta la tuve entre mis brazos,
mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.
Aunque ésta sea el último dolor que ella me causa,
y éstos sean los últimos versos que yo le escribo.

- Pablo Neruda

I have a lot of words for Australia, a lot of love for spain and yet for Latin America I have nothing. or next to nothing. small, curious ideas of what it might be like that I already know are probably wrong and that aren't worth investing my imagination into. 

Before I went to Spain I had expectations and loud, flashy hopes of everything I wanted to happen. Some of them did, some of them didn't. Mostly so many things happened that blew all of what I thought was going to happen out of the water. 

So this time, I'm just letting it happen. Whatever happens, happens. Que será, será.

Monday, May 6, 2013


Say Australia to somebody overseas and more than likely their eyes will light up. We are far enough away yet still enough of a presence on the international stage for people to recognise the name and still find it exotic. The land of economic prosperity among so many recessions, the land of the never-ending sun amongst so many european winters.

Just as I fell in love with spain, people can fall in love with the idea of Australia. It's easy to do when you're a foreigner that has a home to go back to and is seduced too easily by the surface of what you experience living or travelling through another's borders.

Australia is not perfect, although there is a lot to be grateful for when compared to the rest of the world. We have never had our 'own wars', when our politicians disagree they shoot each other only with words, we have medicare, land to spare, job opportunities, support networks, a national disability scheme - the list goes on.

On the other hand, we have to confront the truth of ourselves as a nation, like any nation. We are not perfect and we need not suppose that we are. There exists racism, bigotry, xenophobia, moral panic, discrimination, a history of colonial genocide and the white Australia policy and today we see a morally bankrupt approach to some of the worlds most vulnerable people - those who seek refuge and asylum.

Yet I love Australia. I do, I love this country - even though there is still so much that I find enraging. Maybe that's why I find fault or have an aversion to patriotism because it treats the nation as a faultless entity and too often an excuse to act in ways that might not be deemed acceptable if it was not for supposed and all consuming 'good of the nation'.

I love this country despite its dark history and moody chapters that are too often glossed over still. Despite the shameful debates and policies that continue to discriminate, to withhold a recognition of other people as deserving and human as those that reside legally within the borders of this nation we call Australia.

I love this country, not because as any patriot claims of their country 'it is the greatest nation on earth' (to suppose greatness achieved implies a lack of imagination and a failure to recognise shortcomings, the many steps forward that are lacking) but because of its possibilities.

I am grateful for my right to vote and aware that it has not always been this way. A female asian woman participating in democracy was unthinkable only a few generations ago in Australia. I am happy just to be here.

It goes without saying that I will miss this place when I leave, but today I'm here and feeling a little bit sentimental about this big ole island and its tiny little specks of other islands.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Graduation Day

All the feathers in the world
are not congratulations enough
nor the champagne or 2pm tequila shots
that taste like so many end of essay thursdays
enough to conciliate the student within you
that can't help but ask, is this it?
once more, with feeling
is THIS it?
this is it?

why didn't anybody tell me!
piece of day old cake
slice of life's jokes
knock knock who's here? there?
we're not anywhere yet
and that's the punchline

still, well, still
your day is a palindrome of
smile, sigh, drink, sigh, smile
a canteen sandwich of
drink, smile, drink
a morning tea routine of
sigh, drink, sigh

the future and all that
but first - champagne! 
and second and third and fourth

the sentence of your life is punctuated
by these moments
a semicolon, a hyphen, an ellipsis
where you are waiting for the champagne
and drinking the champagne
and wondering, yet again, when is it time to drink champagne?

today, yes today,
is a champagne day
so punctuate it
with an exclamation mark
because the next mark is a question