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A.S Patric
A.S. Patric A.S. Patric writes in Melbourne and is a St Kilda bookseller. He is featured in Best Australian Stories 2010 and has also found publication in literary journals like Overland, Wet Ink, Quadrant, Etchings, Going Down Swinging, Page Seventeen, The Victorian Writer, The Diamond & the Thief, Blue Dog, (untitled), Blue Crow, Miscellaneous Voices, Dot Dot Dash, The Lifted Brow, Blue Giraffe, Stop Drop and Roll and the Australian Poetry Centre’s publication, Dear Dad. His novella, The Rattler, was recently shortlisted for the Lord Mayor’s Creative Writing Award and received a High Commendation.

Music for Broken Instruments his first collection of poetry, was published in June 2010 by Black Rider Press.

Alec is co-editor of the online literary journal, Verity La

In Defence of Blind Ignorance
By A. S. Patric

every now and again
every again and now
someone offers you
                               everything
you’ve ever dreamed of
the trouble is
they take it
                                          away
more often than not
reconsidering and rethinking
on second thoughts on second
                               asking
so here we are again
another miniature betrayal
left empty of everything but
                                          promises
here we go again
into exile and solitude
about to be forsaken and
                               lost

but there’s this as well
this that might have been
the everything you’ve always
                                          wanted

an idiocy that is sweet
a stupidity that is lush
a foolishness of trust and
                               hope
the space in between
the time it took to travel
from nothing to heartbreak
                                          dwell
there another moment
feel the expectant push
taste the thrill and rush
                               here
and find in itself this
was a thing worthwhile
a charge clean and full and
                                          gone

tasted without a bite
drunk without a sip
smelled without the flower
                             seeded
                         growing
                             deep
                                    in the back of your throat
                                    in the back of your mind
                                    in the corner of your eye


Published in The Diamond & the Thief – November 10

Voice of the bee
By A.S. Patric

Leni cut her foot in the bathroom on a piece of broken mug. She dripped blood while she squeezed her eyes shut and thought, OK, the pain will go away. It won’t last forever. Promise, promise, promise.

She hopped along, to the third drawer down of the vanity unit, and pulled out the bandaids. She put one on the ball of her foot knowing that it wasn’t likely to hold very long. Not in that spot. She put another six bandaids wishing that it would. She limped out of the bathroom and into the lounge.

Daddy was sleeping on the couch, half naked and hairy like an ape. The television going. Some religious show from America was on, so he must have fallen asleep during the car racing. Which was earlier. She’d been asleep also but she’d had too much juice at dinner, starberry milk and too much ice-cream as well.

She wanted to go straight back to bed but she couldn’t now that her foot was throbbing. From the bit of mug her mother had broken in the morning. Dropping it and screaming. And now mum was in the hospital, and dad was drunk. Because he was snoring and he never snored unless he was drunk or very tired.

That was something Leni heard her mother telling her friend Lesley on the phone. Talking about all the things wrong with Graham. That was her dad’s name. Leni went to the fridge and opened the door. She sat on the kitchen tiles there by the open door, letting it make her feel cool again, because it was so hot every night this week.

She also liked the little light in the fridge, that made everything around it feel neat and clear. It was still a pretty new fridge. Nothing had gone bad in it, and it smelt like what she imagined white smelled like if a colour could have a smell. Nothing bad had ever happened in the fridge. But her mother had been crying about things her father had done that were bad. And she listened because she’d never really thought of them like that. Two people like anyone else out there on the television.

The bandage was starting to bleed through and drip again. Maybe she would need to go to hospital now as well. For stiches. She could be in the same bed as her mom. And maybe she wouldn’t be so scared this time. Everything so sharp and in pain at hospital and everyone rushing over her and falling down.

The phone started ringing. Leni didn’t move, because a phone ringing in the middle of the night meant grandma died or something like that. It couldn’t be good because everyone should be asleep.

Her father got off the couch and picked up the phone, blinking into the fridge light like he couldn’t see Leni sitting there in its open door. He listened a long time to a voice on the phone.

Leni could faintly hear the voice like the sound a bee makes against the glass outside on a quiet day. He started crying with a strange smile on his face, looking down at Leni, sitting on the tiles in the open door of the fridge. How does it feel to have a little baby brother, he asked her.

Published in The Diamond & the Thief - December 10

Professional mourners
By A.S. Patric

It’s been a long time since Leni knew who she was. Since she could look around herself and understand where she was, and what world this was. Because no one ever knows what a finely crafted box of precision mirrors the brain is until its dropped. Until you hear the rattle in every thought, you will never know how many reflections in just that one name — Leni.

  But she was born Magdalena Goode. No middle name. Which was a strange choice by her parents wasn’t it? She felt like there was something in error about her through primary school. She had no secret name. One to be embarrassed about. Or one that had a story to it. No crack between who her parents were and who everyone knew at school to fall between. It was just Magdalena Goode, until everyone forgot it was Magdalena Goode, and it just became Leni. Leni, and her secret name became the whole thing. Somehow hidden within plain sight.

  A man comes and goes. Adjusts her blankets when they don’t need adjusting. Her hair over the pillow. His palm on her forehead. She knew his name but it’s gone now. Now she knows him by his shadow. His smell and the sound of his breathing. It’s the space his body takes up in the air above her bed. When it came and went.

  They spend hours together and neither can bridge the gap of a few millimetres. Words get lost in the fibre of flesh and the clutter of bones, or just get trapped in those pink murmurs of separation. Mouths empty of everything but noise. But he goes on sharpening his tongue and looking for a way to cut through to her buried heart… which never was a thing hidden in her head like it is in him.

  Leaving the hospital room and returning, like he was escaping and being recaptured in this cage she was bait for. This man that lifts her hands to his whispering lips, like he could pray with her palms, but not his own.

  Her forgetting was almost complete now. But forgetting wasn’t the same as never happened. Because everything that had happened, went on happening in the grey whorls of her brain somewhere. Or was it happening somewhere else, and her brain was like the stuff within the box of a radio? A thing of mirrors, but also barely understood circuitry and unexamined microchips and unimagined star technology. Seeming like she was just stuff in the box because the frequency is all she could ever hear. The one radio announcer. Speaking into the room from eyes open to eyes closed. Getting hoarse now. Getting down to whispers against the microphone, and then just breath. Breathing. Letting in the voice of the world with death.

  A phone is ringing outside in the nurse’s station. Tugging on the tendons between her muscles, and then settling her bones down into their sockets. Three times the tug and settle. There’s a perfection of tone in those three sounds. The delicate balance of emergency and a simple soft request for connection. The sound of two voices about to meet and merge on barely breathed puffs of air. She wishes she could hear them talk, about whatever they had to talk about, and in letting it go, finally finishes with wishes.

  Forgetting everything, but all of it still there, somewhere in the stuff filled box. Almost done even with that.

  There’s an image of Egyptian Professional Mourners that she can see like it was cast out from the flickering projector of her fluttering eyelids against the hospital walls. Those women from the tomb of Pharaoh Ramose becoming her mourners, shedding their paid-for tears, dancing around her paid-for dying bed. For Leni now. Singing their songs ceaselessly, hours on end and singing all the way back to Egyptian sands sliding down their walls and sending them into a desert of oblivion. Singing eternal songs of life in which we all have ever existed together within the lies of our voices of separation.

  Balthazar should be thanked for these women. He should be kissed on the forehead, or as she used to like to do, on the back of his neck, so that she could take in the smell of his body at the same time. And he should be hugged and have his name whispered warmly into his ears. So good to have thought to bring these beautiful women and array them around her as though they had come just for her. The Professional Mourners in the walls. The walls like pages. Their eyes as attentive as readers.

  Outside it is raining, and there are those droplets of water running and catching and running again on the hospital window. That water collecting the light of anonymous street lights outside, but that she’s been watching her whole life. Those droplets gathering and running again. That she’s painted so many times. She’s never understood why really. The explanation was too basic, and it wasn’t about what it meant, but what it did within her, those running droplets of rain on cold thick glass.

  Her old body is still swaddled in the white sheets that stink of her death. The pillow below her head imbued with the breath of those who have died before her. She tugs away from the fibres of her body, getting loose of the neurons that let out a few dying sparks.

  Years it’s taken, moving through the round of days — Mondays to Sundays, to end up here on this afternoon that had nothing to do with any of those names, Mondays to Sundays — leaving her on the shore of a new moment never to be named anything. Or it had a secret middle name that no one had ever heard, something that made this sentence make sense. Life Death.

  Because outside the names for them the Days had to be thought of as things in themselves. There were so many of these Days to be taken into account if they weren’t part of a set that could be blurred into packages of years, to be filed under the general title of a life. Each one of those Days a thing in itself, and for itself. A place where Leni had lived and breathed. Had been able to look up into the sky at the sun or the stars. Soon each one of those about to liquefy and run away into the endless abyss of the world’s past.

  Yet here she was, at its lip, ready to go over, but wanting just want more thing. If she could only remember what it was. It wasn’t an object. It wasn’t a thing that could be left behind. Maybe an image. Something she’d seen a long time ago. Perhaps a vision.

  Everything got forgotten as she got closer to this. Who everyone was. Even her one son. Who’d whisper while holding her hand. The paintings he brought around, asking, ‘don’t you remember painting these,’ could have been anyone’s, and just seemed like so much wasted paint and dried up time stuck to canvas. She didn’t remember doing them, but he brought them anyway, as though they were more dear to her than his face.

  All forgotten. Where she had come from and where she was going, and what the trip had meant and who’d shared the seats around her, all going out the windows like their voices spoken into rushing air. Leaving her with nothing but the impression of the window. Not even the view outside. Just that glass, shivering in the movement of this transit through days. Beads of water catching and releasing, like a different system of timekeeping belonging more to angels than men.

  To finally get here. A withered body, with crushed breasts, and broken hips, and shrivelled lungs, and a toothless face drained of blood. Eyes gone deep behind the elephant skin eyelids. Gone forever now.

  Her boy, her only son, outside and alone, walking the hospital halls praying against the will of his atheist heart, silent prayers even he can’t hear, for her to find more hours and days… and what then, weeks and months? But what then? What more does he wish for? That Annihilation pause before it is complete, and the hopeless wish that it take with it the parts of his heart that could never let go of his mother.

  But wasn’t it strange? This man closer to her now than birth, gradually being erased at his edges, wearing glasses just that bit stronger every year now, had learned in his time that there was nothing to any of this, that behind the constantly unfolding explosion of life lighting up this particular ball of dirt adrift in dead space, was actually nothing? Strange because in his face Leni had most clearly seen the eyes of God, sending His vision through her until her soul was cast like an x-ray of the sun across the black sky. Her only true vision, given to her in the absolute exhaustion following over twenty-one hours of labour. The first time she’d seen his blood spattered blood swollen face, when she closed her eyes, and her baby’s life moved through her and caught a hold of her heart with those desperate little fists.

She let the name go. She let him go. She let the body go. All of this that was gathered, she lets it all run across the glass. And then she watches the beads gather the light, turn the colour within their microscopic hearts, and feels them turn back into stars.

Published in The Diamond & the Thief – January 10