Tag Archives: Express Yourself workshops

The beginnings of a short story?

The last Express Yourself writing workshop was held yesterday. I wrote a poem about the memories of my five year old son. It may contain the kernel of an idea – or it may be a sow’s ear Why do we malign the sow? I must investigate the origins of that expression. In any case the poem as it currently stands is not fit to share. Our second exercise was to describe a journey, which I uncharacteristically undertook in prose. Arnold Zable felt that it might be the beginning of a short story and suggested that I use the ‘daring’ approach of moving to the second person when discussing my ex-partner’s role.  Weave the story of my escape from the mountain with that of the relationship – and, indeed, a second escape. Here is what I wrote yesterday – clearly it’s a draft. What do you think?

Leaving the mountain
The air escaping the back of the car is even hotter than that around us. And that air is the hottest I have ever felt. Sweat evaporates before it has even thought to exit the glands on my skin. I cannot smell the smoke but above me the sky is tangerine or perhaps blood orange. Why do we so often seek edible metaphors? For, unlike the fruit, this sky contains no moisture – only refracted light and ominous promise.

We load the car with tubs of photos, dutifully packed before the first day of tremendous heat and sinister wind. I cannot lift them. I am spent from a morning preparing for such an eventuality. The pump stands primed, ready. Hoses are uncoiled. Buckets, mops, torches, radios and countless bottles of water are positioned around the house. Clothes are ready. The plan is on the fridge. Preparations made, we calmly pack the car.

I am breathless. Belly swollen, the baby due in a mere three months. He is quiet now. My son is at my feet. He has finally stopped screaming, his face slick with shiny red goo. The remains of the placatory red icy pole offered him. He has been woken from his nap. He is tired and frightened. I have no time to comfort him.

Now I plead with you to leave.

I have never been happy that you wish to remain. Your misguided masculinity. Your sense of self bound up with the notion of being a hero. And yet, you are so unprepared, your psyche unlikely to withstand the coming inferno.

So I must leave you. Photos, laptop, a few toys and clothes jumbled in the rear of the car. I throw the woolen blanket out of the boot. A stupid, careless gesture since its purpose is to protect us from radiant heat if trapped by fire. When the blanket is found five days later, ember burns pocking its blue check, we realise it has saved your life.  There are times that I will wish I had taken it with me.

The car noses its way out of the driveway. It could drive this road itself.  I say no goodbye, do not look back and head into the uncertain.


With this poem I hope to express one aspect of therapeutic writing – ordering and processing the grief, pain and loss. The action of writing it out creates meaning, allowing a deeper understanding which, for me, brings a sense of calm empowerment. However, one friend’s take on this was that I sounded like a victim – the blanket like Linus’. Quite the opposite of how I feel and what I want to convey. Please let me know what you think.


With this pen I write
words course onto the page
ink the colour of my veins
curlicues, serifs, pen-strokes all

Marks on the page
created by hand
each thought a neurone
extending from cortex though fingers

Ball of string within my chest
dissembled, tangled
its mess binding
heart, lungs and mind

Words set free
dance upon the page
transformed, a salve
comforting blanket of
woven twine

Today I’m off to another Express Yourself Writing Workshop with Arnold Zable. Five hours of quarantined time to write, talk about writing and to listen to the experiences and writing of others. Best hop in the shower…

My first reading

I am both excited and daunted by the opportunity to read one of my poems at the Community Celebration of the Into The Light exhibition. The exhibition is featuring works created at the Express Yourself workshops supported by the City of Whittlesea and the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund. Here is what the organisers say about the event…

Into the Light is an art installation and community gathering to celebrate the coming of spring.
Developed in consultation and collaboration with local community members and artists, the installation is an exhibition of works created by local people, artists and participants of creative workshops offered to those living in and around Whittlesea, and will reflect on the journey of change experienced over the past two years. Audiences will enjoy a visual and aural ‘walk’ that will take them on a journey of change, from the dark of the winter and into the light, and a community celebration as its launch, with a lantern parade by local school children, performances and food stalls.

Choosing the right poem for the reading has been somewhat challenging as many of my ‘favourites’ are not really suited to an audience of young children and one which is likely to include other survivors of bushfire whom I do not wish to traumatise all over again. We have decided that I will read ‘Home’ which is, fittingly, the first poem I wrote in this journey I am making. The celebration is from 5pm to 9pm at the Cattle Shed at the Whittlesea Showgrounds. I would love to see you there.




Four walls, a floor
A roof over one’s head
Windows framing a view
Repository of memories
Safety, a haven
And yet, it is not
A blackened mess of iron
Detritus of life
Fragments only, the whole
Torn asunder
And yet, it is not
Four chambers, a muscle
A place for courage
Of love, hope, meaning
Repository of memories
Safety, a haven