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