Chantal Moclair: 'Ano Novo Sem Vozinha'

Chantal Moclair reading ‘Ano Novo Sem Vozinha’

From the 21st floor, you see the beach. The sand stretches alongside unevenly spaced huts, where you’ve been known to stop for coconut water (and Bubbaloo when the kids were younger). On the other side, the ocean sparkles under the hot sun, except for the dark patches where it looks like ink has been spilled. And you’ll get to the beach soon. Ainda não.

The hammock next to you sways with the breeze, unoccupied, and now you’re feeling it. You’re missing her. It’s the first New Years without your grandmother, and though you’re lucky she lived until you were in your fifties, it doesn’t stop you from wishing she was here.  You miss the way she took out her dentures to scare the children, her mashed potatoes, her smell. The way she bandaged you up when you were bitten by a Pekingese at the age of seven. How she covered for you when you weren’t hungry for dinner because you stopped at the bakery on the way home from swimming practice. O que voce não deveria fazer.

She was more of a mom to you than your own mother, even though she was your vozinha.

You walk back inside the apartment, the floor smooth and cold against your feet. You see that the kitchen is busy como sempre.  Your vozinha lives on in the recipes she passed down.

Your mother sits you and ‘the kids’ (who are in their late twenties), down at the table for breakfast. One of your aunts has made a stack of buttered tapioca with fried cheese, the exact breakfast your daughters go crazy for when they’re away from home, o que acontece frenquentemente.

Your mother opts for a coffee with Leite Ninho and a few chunks of papaya, wearing that look on her face, the one that says ‘Nao digo nada.’ And you can’t shake the teenage rebellion that seems to reinstall itself in you every time you’re around her (even though you haven’t been a teenager for a long, long time). You take a tapioca and the biggest slab of cheese for yourself.

Before leaving the table, you pluck seven single pomegranate seeds from the fruit plate, counting them the way your vozinha counted her rosary beads, a prayer with each one. You wrap them in a tissue and tuck them in your pocket. They’ll go into your wallet later.

You help clean up, bumping elbows with your aunt (the grumpy one, but the one who took the most care of your vozinha). She tells you to get out of the way, but she laughs at the same time, and there’s a softness to her. She pretends to be tough, but you can see through it. Just like you, she’s hurting. How do you move on when someone you love is gone?

But your vozinha wouldn’t want you to be sad. To grieve for her. So, in this moment, you don’t. Instead of the coming new year without her, you think about what you want most from it. Peace, the uniform of white you’ll wear later, is non-negotiable. But as you look at your drawer of undergarments, you’re presented with colours, with options. Blue for harmony, purple for inspiration, green for health, pink for love. Your mother will choose yellow (for money and prosperity), you know this. And because of that you steer away from your own bright section. But only for a moment. You could use an extra buck. You choose a lemon-coloured bra, but  pink underwear. This year, you want love, too. You’ve spent the last few years wearing green thanks to your cancer scare and now that you’re better, you can focus on other things. You’re grateful that she was around to see you improve. At least that. E que ela mesma nao sofreu.

You blink with the sun as it sinks into the horizon, and you start getting ready. Your lucky underwear, your white beach dress and sandals to match. Your hair is up in a curly ponytail, but you let it down. It looks better this way. You share the bathroom with your daughters and aunts, fighting for space in the mirror as you put on your makeup. They tell you that you look pretty, and you know you do. But you’re missing her voice, the way she would say ‘cheirosa,’ when she took a whiff of your perfume, and even when you smelled like nothing.

They grab the champagne and the flowers. As you follow your family out of the apartment, they split into two groups. You squeeze into the elevator with the first, and as the doors close, you swear you see her, hunched over her walker, waving that she’ll be down in a minute. But you know she wouldn’t have come anyway. She would have watched the festivities from the balcony with one of the maids.

You wait outside the building, and when everyone is accounted for, you follow them through the streets of João Pessoa. It’s only a few blocks to the beach but it feels like an obstacle course, with the pavement split and dented, the mosaics of shattered glass bottles, and the cars whizzing around corners, ignoring the lights. (Que luzes?).

But you get there safely, and that’s what matters. The beach is crowded, even though midnight is still a few hours away. The party rivals that of Copacabana beach and you don’t care that you’re not in Rio. You’d rather be closer to home. Time passes; you watch the crabs scuttle along the sand. They’re lucky they’re out on the one day when no one wants them for dinner. (You must move forward not sideways in the New Year).

People approach the water’s edge with their offerings to Iemanjá – mortal wishes in the hands of the goddess of the sea. They present strings of beads, white flowers with stems that have had their thorns removed (precautions to better their chances), toy boats carrying mirrors and messages sprayed with perfume. The tide is high, inviting, which makes everyone around you hopeful. But you hesitate, you hold on to your gift. You can’t let go just yet.

The white of the moon matches the clothes of those around you, and together with the light of the candles floating out to sea, brighten up the darkness of the beach in a way that’s only peaceful instead of eerie. Showers of rice fall into the water from eager hands, igniting fireworks in the sky. The colours explore the dark before ebbing away como agua viva and before you know it, it’s midnight. The countdown has come and gone. You’re in the New Year.

Champagne bubbles foam like ocean spray in the clinking glasses around you. Toes in the sand and in the sea, your daughters jumping seven waves for luck, happiness and prosperity. Laughter and cheers and ‘Feliz ano novo!’ and silence.

Now, it’s your time. You lay a white flower to rest, your token released to the mother of waters. You take a deep breath; you say your prayers. But you don’t wish that your vozinha was back. She wouldn’t want that. You wish that she – wherever she is – is at peace.

You smile. Your flower is gone. Iemanjá must have liked it.

Glossary (new page)

Chantal Moclair has a master’s degree in Publishing from Kingston University in London, England and has worked in the publishing industry for over three years. She is passionate about travelling and writing, and often uses her travels (to seventy countries) as inspiration for stories and articles (several of which have been published on Born and raised in Canada, Chantal partially grew up in Northeastern Brazil with her mom’s side of the family, and has studied in Canada, Hong Kong and England. Her itchy feet brought her, along with her identical twin sister Carolyn, to Australia on a new adventure.

Find her on Instagram: @Identicaltravels

Chantal Moclair: 'Ano Novo Sem Vozinha' Glossary

Portuguese WordPronunciationEnglish Translation/Meaning
Ainda nãoAy-een-da Now (with nasal inflection)Not yet.
Ano Novo sem Vozinha Ah-noo, no-vo, say (with nasal inflection) Voz-een-yaNew Year without granny.
BubbalooBubba-looBrand of bubblegum.
CheirosaShih- (as in shin) roz-aSmelling good.
Como sempreCo-mo sem-preyLike always.
Como agua vivaCo-mo ah-gwa vee-vaLike Jellyfish.
CopacabanaCo-pa-ka-ba-naBeach in Rio de Janeiro.
E que ela mesma nao sofreuEh Key el-ah miz-ma now sof-reyuAnd that she herself didn’t suffer.
Feliz ano novoFell-ease ah-no no-voHappy New Year.
IemanjáYem-ahn-jahGoddess of the sea in Candomble religion.
João Pessoa.Jo-ow (nasal inflection) Pess-o-ahCity in Northeastern Brazil.
Leite NinhoLay-tee Nee-nyoBrand of powdered milk.
Nao digo nada.Now (nasal inflection) Dee-goo Nah-dahI say nothing.
O que voce não deveria fazerOo keh vo-seh now (nasal inflection) dev-air-ee-ah fah-zairWhat you shouldn’t have done.
O que acontece  frenquentementeOo keh ak-on-tess-ee fren-qwen-ta-men-teeWhich happens often.
Que luzes?Keh loo-zeesWhat Lights?
RioRee-yoShort for Rio de Janeiro.
TapiocaTah-pee-ock-aPancakes made with manioc flour.
VozinhaVoz-een-yaNortheastern Brazilian term of endearment – small granny. Used very affectionately.

Angela Costi: 'Night Shift Crescendo'

Angela Costi reading ‘Night Shift Crescendo’

The rain is slapping her window
harder, harsher
Stamata, stamata…
She knows this warning well.
The wipers are trying to fend off the slaps
Beesaw, beesaw…
The intersection is amber light
and proffers a U-turn 
to five minutes ago
Evans Street, Lalor, Melbourne, Australia
or five years since
mud path, torn village, Hartchia, Cyprus.

One home has her
gulping her coffee like medicine
covering her lips with mavro kerasee
forcing her thick curls to conform
fighting with the shadows for her car keys
leaving her kids to their toothpaste battles
to their adopted bed-time stories.

Walking the dirt carpet to her tired Capri
igniting the engine to deafen the dialect
Stile me mana
haunting the radio announcer’s slumber
with the song of guilt at the village well
when water was carried like a secret lover
Stile me mana sto neron
Na su do fero dhroseron

The older home has crept into the car
in the back seat, blowing into her ear
lyric, seed, graft, sprout
Yunaika kai sklava, bunta na eimai
with the rain turning into the water
brimming with threats to spill
Stile me mana sto neron
Na su do fero gatharon

There was that one path
her bare feet knew
like her mother’s command
Beyene yrioyra, koree mou
and now she is stopped
at a green light
wanting the rain to drown
her horn of rage.

Glossary and Notes for Greek and Cypriot-Greek dialect

Note: All spellings are phonetic

Stamata: (Greek) stop
Beesaw: (Greek) go back
Hartchia: (Cypriot) a Cypriot village in the North of Cyprus
mavro kerasee: (Greek) black cherry lipstick
Stile me mana: (Cypriot-Greek, derived from classic Cypriot song) Send me, mother
Stile me mana sto neron,/ Na su do fero dhroseron: (Cypriot-Greek, lyric derived from a classic Cypriot song) Send me for water, mother, do,/ I’ll bring it back so cool for you
Yunaika kai sklava, bunta na eimai: (Cypriot-Greek) I’ll always be a woman and slave (a statement of inner discontent)
Beyene yrioyra, koree mou: (Cypriot-Greek) Go quickly, my daughter.

Since 1994, Angela Costi has been publishing and performing her poetry in Australia and abroad. In 1995 she travelled to Greece to study Ancient Greek Drama and perform at Amphitheatre sites as part of a travel award from the Australian National Languages and Literacy Board. Her poetry, stories and essays have been published in a great range of print and online journals, including Southerly, Meanjin and Cordite. She is the author of three collections of poetry: Dinted Halos (Hit&Miss Publications, 2003), Prayers for the Wicked (Floodtide Audio, 2005) and Honey and Salt (Five Islands Press, 2007). Honey and Salt was shortlisted for the Mary Gilmore Poetry Prize 2008. She has written eight produced plays. She utilises both her law degree and arts background at Victorian Human Rights Commission, where she delivers a storytelling approach to legal education for newly arrived communities.

Helena Arnold: 'Starvation Song'

Helena Arnold reading ‘Starvation Song’

I saw a farmer
open his door to emaciated souls
sharing his last few potatoes
within weeks he died

Голодовка, Голодовка
усюди роздутий люди

I saw my friend
refuse to steal food
from unsuspecting people
within days he died

Голодовка, Голодовка
усюди роздутий люди

I saw my sister
prostitute herself for food
to feed us
she did not die

Голодовка, Голодовка
усюди роздутий люди

I saw orphan children
roaming in packs
looking for victims
they ate human flesh

Голодовка, Голодовка
усюди роздутий люди

I saw my emaciated school friend
desperate and hungry
caught cooking her husband’s dead hands
imprisoned and sent to Siberia

Голодовка, Голодовка
усюди роздутий люди

I saw the look of madness
in the eyes and faces of my neighbours
hope lost
they became the walking dead

Голодовка, Голодовка
усюди роздутий люди

вмирают, вмирают,
вмирают, вмирают

I saw my Ukraine
in the depths of the Soviet genocide

Famine 1932
усюди роздутий люди

вмирают, вмирают,
my parents, my family
my friends, my neighbours
три мільйони мертвий

Glossary with Transliteration

Голодовка, Голодовка – Holodovka, Holodovka: famine, famine
усюди роздутий люди – usyudy rozdutyy lyudy: everywhere swollen people
вмирают, вмирают, – vmyrayut, vmyrayut – dying, dying
три мільйони мертвий – try milʹyony mertvyy – three million dead

Helena Arnold uses a diverse range of styles which incorporate biography, memory, family and twentieth-century history. She writes about grief and intergenerational trauma.

Helena was born in Germany to two Ukrainian post-war immigrants. She pursued a career in visual arts as a painter which informs her writing. This is evident in her painterly writing style.

Introduction to AMWP Issue 3

Our third issue features some familiar voices as well as some brand-new ones and, for the first time, includes short prose as well as poetry.

What all the writing in this issue shares in common is a deep engagement with the stories and histories embedded in each of the fourteen languages represented in this issue, and what it means to find oneself carrying these into an uncertain future. In these pages, you will find writers speaking of their parents’ pasts, their own present as they move between languages and negotiate a sense of self within them, and the challenge of raising children who retain a connection to their parents’ languages and cultures while thriving in Australia.

Each writer has put great care and attention into creating an audio version of their writing. I encourage readers to experience the nuance, texture and depth these recordings add to the poetry and prose in this issue.

In its first year, the AMWP has put out three issues, a special mini-issue with the Emerging Writers Festival 2019, and a live showcase at the Generations Festival with the generous support of Multicultural Arts Victoria. None of that would have been possible without the ongoing support of a growing community of writers, editors, academics, language enthusiasts and readers. Thank you to everyone who has contributed their time and energy to the AMWP along the way. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

-Nadia Niaz

Bree Alexander: ‘Cruzando’ Translation and Notes

Contigo y sintigo I began
until I arrived at a point sin ti
(sintigo is grammatically incorrect but an error I used to make, sin ti is the correct way to say ‘without you’)

Eres guap@ became
¡Qué guap@ eres!
and in a particular moment
¡Qué guap@ estás!
(Following an English word order in the first instance ‘eres guap@’ and later learning the order more commonly used as well as the difference between the ‘ser’ and ‘estar’ forms)

I was not sure if el cielo era azul
o naranja until I realised that
era azul, y estuvo naranja
from time to time
(the difference between the ser and estar forms, ser as a more permanent state)

Me siento en otra dimensión became
como si estuivera en otra dimensión
(I feel in another dimension became as if I were in another dimension – learning everyday uses of the imperfect subjunctive) 

vino vino vino…what?
Yes…it’s missing the uve sound
(highlighting the ‘uve’ as distinct from the English ‘v’)

Panuelo panuelo (incorrect spelling/prounounciation of ‘tissue’)
Does anyone have a pañuelo?

Rosa rojo Roma reloj rama perro (words meaning pink, red, watch, branch, dog, all with the ‘rr’ sound)
(don’t confuse it with pero o porro) (words with similar sounds – pero = but, porro = joint)
repeat ‘til you have it
on the tip of your tongue

Ascensor, piscina (con θ) (lift, swimming pool with combinations of ‘s’ and ‘θ’ – more difficult to pronounce)
Yeah…I will practice that one
a little more

Estar ser estar ser (the two verbs for ‘to be’ in English)
el problema el sistema el poema el idioma (all irregular masculine words ending in ‘a’)

Conservativo…quiere decir conservador (conservativo sounds more like the English ‘conservative’, but when used to describe a person in Spanish, ‘conservador(a)’ is used)
don’t confuse estar caliente y tener calor (estar caliente may seem like a logical direct translation from English of ‘I am hot’ but actually means ‘to be turned on’. ‘Tener calor’ is the one to use)
Voy a por ella y tengo una de cosas esas (Combinations that are specific to Spanish and different word orders to English)

aunque sea un ridículo
aunque es encantador
(Uses of the indicative and subjunctive, showing possibility vs a sure thing)

I love the subjunctive
for those subtle distinctions
es una pasada
(It is great)

Menos mal que sigue el aprendizaje (It’s a good thing learning continues)
I will never reach perfection
pero cruzando sigo (but I keep crossing)

Bree Alexander: ‘In गति’

Bree Alexander reading ‘In Gati’

The first sensation of गति, my आज़ादी
rolling out, humming away
the rush to get here is washed away
the दिल्ली buzz, the crowd, the smog
I am stripped of it all as I lay my sheets down
stretch my body out, legs bent
लंबे लोग weren’t made for this bed
as the gentle side to side motion begins
rocking in crescendo as we glide forward, onward

the gentle sway, mesmerising dance
that will go on for days
that drives me to meditate, into an altered state
brings me into a शांत place with my प्यार
for this compact space, this flow, this flux
that will see me embrace my dreamscape
release my clenched fists, my downward gaze
let it all go, a state of calm, 
I surrender, let the गति take me

this solace in stillness I cannot taste
only ज़िंदगी in गति will see me sleep so deeply
as time and space take on another meaning
hours later when I wake, opposite me
auntie and uncle are seated खाना ready
packed and wrapped, they release their चपाती
सब्ज़ी in one टिफिन with another for अचार
my stomach is jumping, I lift my body slowly
feeling in my bag for foil, undo the पराठा       

that मेरे दोस्त had prepared at 3 o’clock that morning
You can’t take a train trip without खाना!
their fine work still holds warmth, rolled with their care
I tear away small pieces, wanting to savour it all
as I ruminate on धनिया, हरी मिर्च, आलू and गोबी
the मसाला of the आम का अचार made by रितु की मम्मी
I close my eyes, see the flavours all the more intensely
before I wrap it up, curl up once more
finding my dreamscape once more, captured
in a state of surrender, only in गति

Word/phrase Transliteration Translation
गति gati  motion
आज़ादी āzādī freedom
दिल्ली dillī  Delhi
लंबे लोग lambe lōg tall  
शांत śānt peaceful
प्यार pyār love
परदेशी paradēśī   foreigner
ज़िंदगी zindagī life
खाना khānā food
चपाती chapātī  A flat bread from the subcontinent  
सब्ज़ी sabzī  vegetable
टिफिन  ṭiphin tiffin – a metal lunchbox
अचार achār pickle
पराठा parāṭhā  layered version of चपाती madewith oil
मेरे दोस्त mērē dōst my friends
धनिया dhaniyā coriander
हरी मिर्च harī mirch green chilli
आलू ālū potato
गोबी gōbī   cauliflower

Bree Alexander (also Lika Posamari) is a multi-form Australian writer whose work has appeared with Eureka Street and Westerly, among others. She studied for a semester in Delhi in 2015 and continues to learn Hindi as she spends significant time in northern India. She was shortlisted for the Overland Fair Australia Prize 2018 (NTEU category) and she is the author of a poetry chapbook The eye as it inhales onions (in case of emergency press, 2018). She tweets sporadically @LaBree_A and blogs (mostly about films) at Roundly in the Eye.

Rosalind Moran: ‘You’d probablement detest this poème’

Rosalind Moran reading ‘You’d probablement detest this poème’

Fondée en 1935, notre mission est de normaliser et de perfectionner la langue française
-Académie française, Twitter

Most languages evolve – and then, we have French
Punished for growing older, going out « le weekend »
To drink socially with friends and imbibe some jeunesse
Through new mots, new argot. But no! Changing blesse.

So an institution formed: l’Académie française
Trailing obsolete grammar rules like so many sickly children
Pedantic, yet inventive; and I am fond of it, I respect it
takes a labour d’amour to carry language losing ground

Indeed, it must be hard being l’Académie française
Its motto À l’immortalité undermined by le franglais
and simplified speech; ’cos like, personne ne dit
« l’accès sans fil à l’internet » au lieu de « wifi »

Oh, Académie. Conservative, proud, and mocked
Eyes wide and staring as you sandbag crumbling shores
L’eau lapping like langues, tongues of water
Breaking over your linguistic seawalls.


le weekend: the weekend
jeunesse: youth
mots: words
argot: slang
blesse: wounds/hurts (verb). [It’s a play on the English word ‘bless’ in the context of this poem]
l’Académie française: the ‘French Academy’, a linguistic institution which presides over the French language and decides which words, phrases, and rules are official and accepted.
d’amour: of love
À l’immortalité: To immortality
le franglais: French/English patois
personne ne dit: nobody says
« l’accès sans fil à l’internet »: access without wire to internet (i.e. wireless internet)
au lieu de instead of/in the place of
L’eau: water
Langues: tongues/languages

Rosalind Moran has written for anthologies, websites, and journals including Meanjin and Overland. She co-founded Cicerone Journal and was awarded 2018 Undergraduate Awards Global Winner for her research into biopics. Learn more at her blog or follow her on Facebook.

Rhea Kuruvilla: ‘Enne Ariyamo’

Rhea Kuruvilla reading ‘Enne Ariyamo’

I cannot speak this language.
It is not mine, but my father’s
Not mine, but my mother’s
It was lost to me long ago, hidden
In a secret space, deep in the wells of my memory.
This language is not mine. It is another’s.
But sometimes
It floats from this long-forgotten place
To the surface of my tongue.

Enthe peru Rhea. No, say ende
Roll your tongue back to the roof of your mouth.
Come. Let me teach you. 

Ma is for mazha
Tell me: how does it feel on your skin?
This is the water that birthed you.
That beat on the roof when you were ill
Mad with grief, trying to get in.

Enne ariyamo?

Aa is for antharjaanam
veiled-headed, bare-breasted
Crouching silent in the lamplight.
Eyes moving unknowingly
over these words.
The hunger takes her. For her sins, again
She goes into the water.

See how she looks at you.
See how she sees you
through the fog
of time
and circumstance. Ahankaaram.
Be grateful for what we have given you.

How bad did you have it?
Did they beat you, rape you, starve you?
All of these things, and more
they have done to me.

But I stayed, and was buried in the womb
From which I had sprung.
And yet you: free woman, cold woman,
have betrayed your mother
To suck at another’s breast.

Come back, come back.
It is not too late.
The earth and water still know you
as one of their own.
Your sisters are calling
Come back, they are falling
Va chechi, nammudoppam

Enne ariyamo?


Enne ariyamo? (ennay ariyamo): Do you know who I am?
Ende peru (enday paeru): My name is Rhea
Mazha (mara): rain
Antharjaanam: literally translates to ‘one who lives inside the house’. It was a term used to denote upper-caste Hindu Brahmin women in ancient Kerala, who lived highly restricted lives confined to the house.
Ahankaaram: arrogance, insolence
Va chechi, namuddoppam uranukka: come older sister, sleep with us.

Rhea Kuruvilla is a Canberra based Indian-Australian writer. She was the inaugural winner of the City of Casey Young Writers’ Competition in 2009.

Kathryn Hummel: ‘Buried Even Under’

Kathryn Hummel reading ‘Buried Even Under’

‘Khachar bhitor ochin pakhi kemne ashe jay…’
-Lalon Fakir

Never had the taste to travel in pairs
have I : I let the sheet of each country
slip off me

Bondhu! what it used to be is not 
where it once lay on this
skewed board of play : I try
moving in lines, smooth as the Queen

Each shift shows how far from arrival 
am I : bountiful the time
when thought sketched the shape
of my imprint, the rearing heads of its pattern
buried even under the crust of Kushtia
or some other dust of its ancestors : inlaid
like innocent grain in the decadent earth

Loneliness is the same
wrote he : a pillar 
as constant as five elements 
seeing off six seasons, the peeling away
of their limited embrace

Down to the river to cry me
a lesser one : this way went the
flow : no ache remained
but the rainbirds seeking water 
long before barsha : 
saturated with the stains of
birthing, a lep skimmed 
the current : in its discardment,
a cleansing

Sounds heard but never recorded :
tearing masalina into fine strips: the 
pull of water through the iron pump : the
crack of rat’s bone in kitten jaw : red
yarn unravelled and re-bound: the
swollen clatter of a ghungur : the
creak of the rosy descendent sun : a
break in the music for the azan : the
turning of earth under delicate hands : flames
snapping within their ring : the
foot-drop of the last to depart : or
the first to rise, following 
the dark-brewed dawn


Khachar bhitor ochin pakhi kemne ashe jay: the unknown bird in the cage, how does it fly in and out?
Barsha:rainy season
Ghungur: circlet of bells used in song and dance

Kathryn Hummel is the author of four books of poems, with Lamentville (Math Paper Press), splashback and A Few Franks for Dearest Dominic (Prote[s]xt Books) forthcoming in 2019. Uncollected, her creative and scholarly works have been widely published/presented/translated/anthologised/ recognised. Recipient of the NEC/Meanjin Essay Writing Competition prize and the Melbourne Lord Mayor’s Dorothy Porter Award, Kathryn’s writing has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, The Atlas Review’s Non-Fiction Chapbook competition and Overland’s Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize. A former writer in various residences, Kathryn holds a PhD for studies in narrative ethnography and edits non-fiction and travel writing for Verity La.

(Photo by Omar Faruque)