Jenny Pollak| Portrait inside a portrait
Octopus, she is all legs,
peripatetic, asking to go home, home.
Octopus, she is all arms, reaching
for she does not know what, touching unfamiliar
rocks and coral of the hospital ocean.
She asks me to bring her more nighties,
notebooks, pens, more pens, and nothing serves
to satisfy, and men come in, she says,
and look at her with her clothes off,
and no, she won’t take her medication,
three doctors told her to throw her medication
in the rubbish bin, and I see she has three hearts
now she is an octopus, three conflicting hearts
speaking in different moments
through her one mouth. Mostly brain now, she thinks so hard
of how to get home, doggedly doing exercises,
the physio’s ticket out, though no specialist
will release her into the wild, in octopus ink
she makes notes of everything with shaking mollusc hands,
her colour-changes flash distress to me,
when I tidy her grotto her threat-display pulses livid,
don’t touch my things, she yells, and inky thunderclouds
roar out from her, and as I drive away
the adrenaline of relief is as exhausting
as the adrenaline of duress. I emerge from ocean
into her empty house, and, going through papers,
find an old drivers’ licence it’s prudent to destroy,
and cutting it up, her head splits into three,
the paranoia, the fighting animal, the love,
love has her dear face, but she is pelagic
and at abyssal depths, I have no line to hook and drag her up,
and would she then be saved, or drowned in air.
Esther Ottaway | My mother becomes a cephalopod
Beauty Tips for Survival - Tug DumblyOur Father's Hands - Elizabeth Anne Gleeson
Feeding time (or something) - Jenny Pollak
European Union - Dominic Symes
Depth Sounding - Ella JefferyFolkways - Tug Dumbly
Forestry — and my father - Shoshanna Rockman
From the banks, or a bough - Alisha Brown
Fuschl am See - Kerry Greer
Outside the chicken shop, near the station - Tug Dumbly
portrait of an artist as a 21st century woman - Samantha Bews
The Futon Perspective - Melanie Birtchnell
The Hunter's Child - Suzi Mezei
Note: Highly Commended and Commended poems will be available in the Woorilla Poetry Prize Booklet 2023 available March 2024
Naomi Ling | Still Portrait of Dementia
In A-ma’s recurring dream,
she brazenly holds on
as I arc over the sky.
My body is a domesticated goose—
my mouth slender & yawning.
A-ma stretches out both arms
to latch onto something real, something tangible
she can bring home & simmer in soup.
When she wakes
she scolds the egg yolk moon
at her window, cowering like it’s forgotten
her name. How could it? Like the wind
that’s carried her for years
trailing off steadily
in an exhale.
I introduce myself, give her prayer beads, dress her in layers.
A-ma complains of head lice
so I sift through her hairs, wisp by wisp,
all uprooted from Guangzhou soil.
Her scalp: a small child in my hands
with an umbrella for the rain. I insist
she looks young, she does, and she beams.
I like to meditate on what motherhood is—
a fortune cookie, maybe,
with nothing on the slip of paper
but a promise to one another.
Simple, really, the lines etched
on her face. When I gaze for too long
they spell out something
I don’t want to know, don’t want to hear.
By noon A-ma recalls
what she left behind, all those moons ago:
her brother swaying under a cherry blossom
tree—or was it the other way around?—
the lone abacus on her grade school desk.
Math was never her strong suit
nor mine, but she begs to teach me
anyways. Chives peppering paper
as she multiplies with calloused fingers,
I don’t tell her I finished my homework hours ago.
I don’t tell her everything,
just enough to get us by.
Did I tell you I dreamed, and you were a goose?
I’m laughing & shaking & sifting through
memories as I reply. The wind hears me
ask her to tell it again.
Tiffany Aurelia| Gili Vignette
like paper boats sailing the expanse. I love the way
water holds the shape of the body — tender with
urgency as if to protest weightlessness, as if to hold
the heart against the hippocampus. I am synonymous
with the water, synonymous with memory, which means
I was everywhere. Anywhere, really. So I swim down,
resurface into the backseat of the family minivan,
where I hear a mid-solstice folk album for the first
time and run the radio down to its last chord. Somehow,
I’ve learned to hold every melody before it fades
into requiem. Recognize the Bali Sea dripping with stars,
the horizon sleeping against time. Where I am six again,
in a jumpsuit the color of spring canaries and braiding
every tree branch between the seeds of my palms.
Across this land, I leave sand-scaled footprints and
recall my future. I am young — everything is magic.
Yogita Sharma | Unraveling the unspoken
i bleed emotions thicker than the quicksand that consumes my ever glowing heart
those same beetles that die and grow, wither and flow, on the same bedrock as the dreams i hadwhen i was sixthose same ants that creep up the table just as your vines crawl through the nooks of my unguardedmindi cracked the knuckles of my broken bones in a forgotten haze of what happened the night beforemaybe one day i will learn to leave things alone
Angelina Mei | A surname of plum blossoms
2023 Awards Ceremony
Terms & Conditions
Competition Opens | 1st June 2024
Competition Closes | 30th September 2024
Awards Ceremony - Hybrid Event:
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