Category Archives: writing

Day’s Reflection – Poetry


Day’s Reflection – Poetry

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JK.Leahy©

A reflection mirrors today

In trapped waters, blue melts white light

Finding its way as water may,

where leafy dense could not steal this sight

Far beyond, a rainbow display

as if to say, blue sky has come to stay

Things My Mother Obsesses About – Story


Obsession JK. Leahy memoir

The kitchen in Bellbowrie house was marvelous. It’s Wednesday today, but the kitchen also looked marvelous on Tuesday and Monday.  I simply wanted to make chicken soup tonight, but I was afraid to dismantle this piece staring at me.

I looked at the stacked white cups, plates, and silver bowls that made this strange beautiful body and then the cutlery that made its arms and legs. Each item was part of another. It was a tidy dishwasher look without all the sections, except it was arranged to come together as one piece. If I had built a kitchen sculpture like that myself, it probably would have already unraveled when I got to stacking the spoons and the forks. And right now, if I tried to remove one cup or spoon to use, the rest would come crashing down like a dismantled sculpture. My son Nathan washed our dishes sometimes, but this was not his work of art – it was clearly my mother’s. My mother is obsessed about cleanliness and obviously tidiness. She has her own unique way of doing it.

Our kitchen has been so clean and different in the past six weeks since my mother has been with us in Brisbane that I’m inspired. I made a promise to myself; I could live up to this new expectation after she leaves. May be I could cut down on writing, art, a job, the garden, birds…It was not that we lived in a dirty house, but when my mother does something, especially cleaning, she takes it to a higher level, and makes you feel really good about it.

I could not have made this kitchen any cleaner in the past five years. Mother was not only obsessed with cleanliness, but getting any job done. Her gardening was the same and she began early and worked long hours. She was determined to clean the whole area and I reminded her some parts of our place was meant to be bushy for the animals. My siblings had asked me to bring our mother away from PNG to rest – but you think she would listen to me – no. She loves working hard. She attributes her strict work ethics to her parents, nursing, and her early learning from the Germans and Americans after the war.

I was grateful for her help now, but I fear when her holiday ends, this kitchen would return to the way my sons always left it; filthy with empty containers, piled up dirty dishes, peeled purple onion shells and spilled beverages. I clean it but it was never easy to maintain that pristine state for more than two days.

I took out the thigh fillets and started making chicken soup for my mother, my younger son Chris and I. Nathan had cooked his own meals for nearly a year and since he started a special fitness programme.

Across from the kitchen, my mother was folding the clean washing. Her knitting was on the dining table, colourful and laid out in neat bundles of colours. Mother folded all our clean washing like the way a machine would have done. We did sit and tell stories while we folded, but I soon gave up folding with her because she tended to unfold and re-fold the clothes I folded. And, if I told her she wasted her time because the clothes were meant to be worn again, she just giggled and said she preferred they were ‘properly folded’.

As I watched the boiling pot of chicken soup, I pictured Mother laying out all her medical tools on the shiny trays and pushing them from ward to ward on her tall shiny trolley. She is staring ahead with her white cap and apron crisply ironed and sitting in the precise position on her green uniform. She walks with her head held high and exuding a presence of authority when all around her is turmoil. I wondered if anyone had ever messed up her display of shiny metal pieces on the trays when she was a nurse. I once asked and she told me – never!

I think Mother’s cleaning and folding obsessions started from the hospitals and later, H.C. Leo a Chinese clothing manufacturer in Port Moresby hired her to fold completed garments. She was so precise with her craft that customers thought the cellophane packed and sealed shirts were done by machines.

My mother’s dedication to what she loves doing is second to none.

(To my regular readers – I wrote this draft/story yesterday, a part of a longer piece for Isabel D’ Avila Winter and our last Creative Writing Workshop group next Tuesday in Kenmore). If you expected drama while reading this – well there is, but it is in the rest of this story in the memoir – thank you for reading).

Reality versus Fiction


Reality versus Fiction
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Watercolour image courtesy of haruki-murakami.com

You have not posted on this blog for ten days, (Oh my! Was it that long?) How time flies when you are pursuing reality; trying to get as much out of my mother for a memoir after 50 years or so of your life and finding that you still can’t get her to talk about EVERYTHING, applying for many jobs and getting no response and it is ok when it should not be (because you are worried about your mortgage and your bills and what your family is going to eat), trying to stay positive while the news about how your country (PNG) is going to waste away at the hands of politicians, university students being shot by police because they want to voice what is right, and another bright young student loses his life to Malaria when he could have been saved, receiving sad news that one of your heroes (Mohamed Ali) has died…and the list goes on.  

Many writers are faced with reality versus fiction every day. Sometimes it can be hard to separate the two, and it makes you think hard on what is real and what is not. I also found it interesting that my perception of some important things I remembered when I was a child was different from what my mother told me today. Sometimes, in our recent discussions, I even realised it was not even the reality versus fiction, but a different or two conflicting points of view – hers and mine. Perhaps I found myself thinking too hard about this topic in the past few weeks that I needed to write something about it. 

Anyway, I’m rambling, but glad to be writing here again and I have a piece here from my friend Teresa Buisman about 1Q84 written by Haruki Murakami which I think is relevant to what I am writing about. A few days ago, Teresa watched the documentary I posted on tribalmystic blog about Haruki Murakami and his work of fiction. 

I was surprised to learn that Teresa had read 1Q84, a trilogy I bought for my son Nathan two Christmas’s ago, but he never read the book so I read it myself. The only complaint I have about this book is that, it really strained my finger muscles while reading it in bed, (it is of 1300 pages and heavy) and if you are into this kind of story, be prepared to lock yourself in a room where no-one can disturb you for five days. If you ask me if I slept at all – I probably didn’t, but I can’t remember anything else except the story. This piece on reality was written two years ago as Teresa was reading the book.

On Reality by Teresa Buisman

I’m reading a book called 1Q84 by Japanese author Haruki Murakami – I love his writing; it gives me food for thought. One of the things that he’s making me think about this time is the perception of reality. The book is set in an alternative 1984 and whilst some things are the same as “normal” other things are completely different.

For instance, there are two moons in the sky – one is the regular moon as we know it, the other is a smaller green moon that sits beside it.  You would think that people would notice such a change in the night sky but it seems that the majority don’t.  They keep living their normal lives, going to work, doing the shopping, moving through their days as they always have.  Our heroes, however, are experiencing changes at the core of their reality. I don’t want to spoil the book for those of you who want to read it but it struck me that reality is perception just as much as perception is reality – does that make sense? What is real for some people is far-fetched and out of reach for others.

Look around you, there are examples everywhere. Take the lady on Hay Street this morning: a very chilly morning for Perth at around 2oC.  She’s there on the street with her little sign asking for your spare change. The sign tells you she’s homeless, suffering with MS and has no money. She’s got a blanket over her knees, she’s shivering and dishevelled. Her eyes are dim pools of hopelessness, she’s given up. This is her reality.  Does she ever see that there could be another reality for her?

As I pass I drop a few coins in her collection box, hoping that other people will also be kind and that she’ll find warmth and comfort to help her through the chilly days ahead.  I don’t know what to say to her, she’s from a different world to me as I head off to my corporate job in a swish glass and marble building with warm drinks on tap and wonderful views down to the Swan River.

Do I feel guilty about the relative affluence of my reality? Perhaps I think I have worked hard and deserve my good fortune? Or perhaps I feel bad for only giving her enough coins to buy herself a coffee instead of slipping her a quick $50 that I probably wouldn’t even miss? Or maybe I just take it for granted and don’t think about it at all?  But whichever way I look at it, the MS lady and I live in very different realities – in the same town – working in the same street.

Do we make our luck, our own reality, or is it fate – destiny? Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the affluence of the western world have the opportunity to make our own reality.  But what about the MS lady? What’s her story? She’s from this same westernised affluent society isn’t she, so what makes her reality so different?

Reality is very subjective.

 

Latin Skirts of Orchids – Photography


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When the Cattleya orchid bloom, the petals remind me of watercolour on paper. Translucent layers, flow the streams into each other. Lights, waiting to burst in unseemly angles. The orchid’s veins like fine ice crystals are so delicate that it bruises to touch; such a complete contrast to its thick leathery dull green leaves.

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Inside, many secrets are kept. But who is to know…

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When you are up close to a Cattleya, there are so many things to look at and the mind can play tricks on you. I get lost in the ‘skirts’, the twists of the lines, and ruffled ends of its petals that tilt like a Latin dancer’s skirt. Sometimes the ruffles can look like bird feathers.

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It is not hard to see a Latin dancer stretch her legs and throws the ruffled hem back, leaving the wind and the music to take her. Round and round in her twists and turns until the last note, a high-pitched violin is played to bring her home.

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That note is also the mosquito humming in my ear as it bites me.  I know I am staring at the orchid under the tree outside my house. Show is over.

 

 

The Yam Hole – Oral History


Yam Hole Part 2 JK.Leahy memoir series

What the distinguished audience of Lae city that evening did not realise was that 35 years later, a huge development would take place on this particular land, and the question of ownership would become a significant dispute. The speech I gave at age 15 included many important references and landmarks my grandmother constantly repeated to my cousins, aunts and my mother instilling what was ours. None of these important references were documented. Many of our eldest, including my grandmother have since passed away at 89 seven years ago. Still living are her three brothers – Mambu (age 93), Karo and Mendali both in their mid to late 80s. Uncle Max is the eldest son of Mambu Baim.

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With Abungac Medali Baim, my grandma’s youngest brother.
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My sons are in this picture with Abungac Mambu and his Karo. Two of my grandma’s brothers.
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Uncle Max far right and Mam Malimpu – both are my mother’s first and second cousins.

Oral history as told by Awagia Hampom

As the story goes, “Awagia Hampom is the eldest granddaughter of Iapo Ankwa and her mother is Awelu Yalecsu.  Awelu Jalecsu and Geyamtausu Ngongwe are the two biological daughters of Kemampum Iapo. As a result of a tribal warfare at the time, Kemampum, originally from Kamkumung Village sought refuge at Wagang Village. At that time there were main groupings of people already settled at this place in Wagang Village; such as the Wakangbu and Malacbalum and Ong clans. Kemampum and his family hid themselves on a piece of land within the vicinity of the Wakangbu people. He pleaded with the original settlers if they could agree to grant permission for him and his family to settle on a small piece of land called Ambisi, translated as a ‘yam hole’. This was how this portion of land got its name. The Ambisi borders with the neighbouring Butibam clam.

The name ambisi is referred to a hole that is left after yam harvest.

Read the next part here, on this blog soon.

Moon Games – Poetry


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Moon in Bellbowrie. JK.Leahy picture©

Moon Games – JK.Leahy© Poetry

She waits for the day’s end

To let her luminous games begin

When yoke slips beyond horizon,

where naked eyes sees reflection,

she watches the day’s lingering torment

In his reluctance to let go of moment

The day throws hues of fire and gold,

across the massive body of water

And tiny fallen stars appear

where sand banks glisten sapphire

Dusk performs and summons night

to what we call evening.

She smiles, time is right

As shadows define, reaching tall,

the moon reveals herself, but only,

to be captured by wandering clouds

 

Small Celebrations In November – Family


November is a very busy month for our family and usually it is full of celebrations.

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My niece Joycelin Kauc, (picture with my mother) celebrates her 17th today (Nov 10th) in Lae, Papua New Guinea. Happy Birthday!

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Photo by Leela Rashid. Chris Harris, JK. Leahy and Nathan Harris

We celebrated Chris’s 17th birthday last Thursday, 6th of November.  We will celebrate Nathan’s 20th birthday on November 16. People ask me how I have managed to have my sons in the same month and on the 6th and 16th. I used to joke that it made it easier for their father to remember their birthdays. I also had many other answers of course, but my favourite response is, they were both Valentine’s Day babies. Let’s leave it at that.

In this picture from last Friday, we did not plan to, but we all wore grey the morning of Chris’s birthday. Families do, do strange things sometimes. I enjoy most things in life and am very grateful for them, but I must say, being  a mother is my ultimate achievement – especially when I see my sons grow into good people.

Chris’s girlfriend Leela Rashid (below right) joined us in a breakfast celebration before school. At birthday mornings, I rise early to cook a pancake tower and dress it with as many sweets as I can. This time, two of us were on diet so we had to settle for strawberries, blueberries and light cream.

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Chris will graduate from high school next week and I have a few small projects to finish up, so I will take a short break (a week) from this blog and respond to any comments when I return next week. Thank you very much for reading Tribalmysticstories.

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The only breakfast to celebrate a birthday. Rich, creamy and sweet.

The Carrot and the Eggplant


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Chris the carrot (left) and Ethan the eggplant.

The carrot and the egg-plant showed up at our house today. In actual fact, the carrot slept in our house and the eggplant came to meet his fellow ‘vege’. These two ‘vegetables’ were preparing for the Year 12 free dress day at Kenmore High School, Brisbane. My son Chris and his friend Ethan have almost reached the end of high school. The dress-up is the beginning of the ending. These two had to dress as a vegetable that shared the first letter in their names. That’s why the boys used the letters “c” and “e”.  Now, who could have thought of such a thing?

Watching them from the window as they were painting their limbs, I thought they were heading in the right direction – they had the right colours. After an hour, I came down to photograph the boys and started to laugh. Instead of two vegetables, two aliens were peaking back at me behind large bug eyes.

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“You don’t look like vegetables, at least not the real vegetables – perhaps the futuristic vegetables,”  I said.

They were not impressed with my jokes. ………………………………………………….

Next post – 150 word story.

The Fate of Little Luigi – Short Story


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Picture credit: Barbara W. Beacham.

Mondays Finish the Story is a flash fiction challenge by Barbara W. Beacham. The story requires 100-150 words (excluding the first sentence). The challenge runs from Monday to Sunday. Here is my short story for this week’s prompt based on the first sentence below and the picture.

The Fate of Little Luigi – JK.Leahy Short Story©

The family had no idea that little Luigi would grow up to be a…murderer.” 

The shock was too much to bear as police led Luigi away from the courtroom. He caught his sister’s gaze and his terrifying eyes softened. Martha turned to her mother; they both buried their faces in uncle Dino’s old, smoke-soaked coat.

“It’s not him, it’s not him – I know… I know,” Martha cried. She felt the 65-year-old Dino’s grip tighten as he led them to his car, barreling through the flashing media cameras and the crowd. Many had come to see New York’s District Attorney Martha Luciano’s brother sentenced today.

“Grim Day for Luciano Family”, headlines screamed across the streets in earlier hours.

Three days later, Martha brought Luigi the aged Polaroid of the family that he had asked for.  Her eyes salted as she tried to smile. Trembling, she leaned closer to her beloved 26-year-old brother.

“I can’t Luigi…you can’t go to jail for me,” Martha sobbed.

(You can read my other short stories by clicking on the top menu on Tribalmystic Stories home page)