Tag Archives: Brisbane New Voices IV Launch Tuesday April 23

Brisbane New Voices IV: Mother by Vuong Pham

With one sleep remaining until Brisbane New Voices IV makes its way in to the world, I am excited to give you a ‘first taste’ from Vuong Pham’s micro-collection, Refugee Prayer. Vuong’s work is deeply spiritual and celebrates the strength of the human spirit. Mother is the opening poem from his collection, and it too, sets the tone for the remainder of the work. I think you will find the honesty and sense of hope that drives this poem will resonate with you long after reading…

Last tickets can be purchased for tomorrow night’s launch here.

BNV IV Refugee Prayer

Mother

I know now, as I did in my childhood wonder
that my mother dreamed of a paradise
one unbound by war and exodus.

On the living room carpet we sit
I pluck her grey hairs and ask:
‘Mother, what ever was your passion in life?’
She smiles—that eternal smile
a question suspended in mid-air.
Her neck tilts like a sunflower
too heavy to meet the sky.

Gardening is the reply I expect.
My mind’s eye turns to childhood, to shadows
stirring beneath star fruit trees
rows of cherry tomatoes growing over fences
a call to supper while sleeping
amongst lotus-dotted ponds.

‘Teaching was my passion,’ she says, ‘high school.’
I smile in agreement. And as I do
jigsaw-puzzle pieces of memory
lock together, my past made whole.
‘A literacy teacher,’ I exclaim,
she smiles, remembering with excitement
the moment I arrived home from school
with a certificate of improved literacy.

I continue to pluck her grey hairs
our conversation lingers on
as the soft daylight illuminates us.
I know now, as I did in my childhood wonder
about mother’s youth, before the bloodshed in Saigon.

I picture her driving a yellow scooter
on the road to school, the freedom
of her hair, a glimmering smile; spiriting past
street markets, the soothing aromas
of Pho and lychee tea; that familiar
crescendo of rickshaws, bicycles and scooters;
landscapes of water buffalo, ploughing
the flooded paddies from cloud to cloud; each one
picturesque from her classroom window; and all of which
was the city she will no longer call home.

More grey hairs fall, the past realigns itself and
I know now, as I did in my childhood wonder
that the teaching legacy passed down to me—
I knew the responsibilities of providing
for her children outweighed
university-degree teaching aspirations.
That in mind, I tell her:
‘Mother, this week I taught my students Wordsworth
saw thousands of daffodils and thought of you.’
She smiles and I’m taken back to a halcyon-time
in childhood that reminds how she stitched floral
pyjamas, tablecloths, bedsheets together
using a sewing machine for less than $5 an hour
to afford rice, pork, Asian vegetables
and help pay for my tuition
so I could learn to spell ‘persistent’ correctly—
praying that I might speak an unbroken English tongue
and never be confined
to the labours of factories.

I know now, as I did in my childhood wonder
what it must’ve been to mother, there
among the refugee boat’s thrum, the faces
of Saigon watching—eyeballs ribboned with flames
incandescent, a disorder of diaspora animate
in the missile storm.

The homeland was a mist, the cerulean
depths of sea stirred on the horizon like some agitated womb
boats wet as one long vowel, as the city crumbled
and my mother among them fled
with nothing but me, growing inside.

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Brisbane New Voices IV: Women and Cars by Trudie Murrell

With the launch of Brisbane New Voices IV only two days away (Tuesday April 23), the excitement is building like a storm. Once again, if you are anywhere near this fine city of Brisbane, I hope that you are able to join us on the Riverbend Books deck as we welcome this collection into the world. Tickets are selling fast, but there are still some available here.

As part of the ‘build up’, I want to share a ‘first taste’ from both poet’s collections. So let’s start with Trudie and the title poem from her debut micro-collection, Women and Cars. This poem kick starts the collection and its freewheeling energy resonates throughout the remainder of the poems. For me, it is one of those poems that once read/heard, is never forgotten.

BNV IV Women and Cars

 

Women and Cars

For three generations the women
of my family have held
an abiding love for their cars.

No trading up or trading in
for this lot. They name their cars
Bathsheba, Aphrodite, Boadicea, Regina.

Call on them, count on them
trust and depend, festoon them
with tokens of adoration
because their cars are the opposite
of their men.

It’s not about speed
or even prestige —
I don’t think any of us
has owned a car with more
than four cylinders.

It’s about freedom.

A car can mean a quick get away
or at least a change of scene.
It doesn’t matter what
sort of a day you’ve had —

maybe your man
didn’t come home again
or got drunk or dropped dead
or fucked your friend on your favourite sheets —
Egyptian cotton, fantastic thread count
and now you’ve got to burn them.

It doesn’t matter, you still have Cleopatra
the 1973 2-door Celica
and if you have a car you’re free.

It’s a little room
a place where you can go
play loud music and watch things slide by
until you’re somewhere else.

Maybe there’s a touch of the
gypsy in us – we’ve  just traded the horse
for horsepower.

So the next time you see a clapped out shit box
beetling down the highway
woman behind the wheel singing like she means it
kids strapped in the back while the crayons and
board game pieces roll about the floor
forming alliances and rifts
with every undulation of the road

give the lady a wave.

She’s probably one of my mob and even though
she’s barely pushing 100 km/h, in her head she’s flying.
She’s going somewhere, anywhere
and believe me
she’s free.

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