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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Six Nov-Dec 2023.
Remnants, poem by Angela Costi.
Among the coffee-stained overdue bills, postcards from Queensland, cards for birthdays and Christmas, and the various Aged Care brochures, there’s a diary. It’s black, spiral-bound, made-in-Australia and titled, Dimitris Neophitou Book of LIFe.
Steph holds it as far away from her body as possible, dangling it with her two pressed thumbs, almost throwing it over to her older sister. Leah opens to the first page but stops to quieten her pummelling heart. Shuts it. Breathes.
Do you want me to read it or burn it? She asks Steph.
Burn it. No. I don’t know? I don’t want to know. Steph leaves the room, announcing, I’ll clear out the linen closet.
Leah is left in their father’s back room. The air is still full of his smells. The couch, carpet, even the TV, carry his scent. She looks out the window to where his lemon and olive trees are left to grow gnarly. Who will take care of them?
Leah’s blood splashing the sink red, Steph’s face an open scream, their father upturning the dinner table smashing platters of slow cooked lamb shanks, oven potatoes, roast chicken, dolmathes, their mother thrusting the empty bottle of Metaxa up at the sky as evidence. These fractured images glaze into a warm numbness as Leah gulps one more shot of the Cypriot brandy before staring down at the diary, lying in the box. It’s hard to imagine her father of action sitting to write anything. He could tell a story or two. The same ones about travelling on a miserable ship to get to Australia or how his first boss, Mr Kasimatis, would yell at him for not saying Thank you. Maybe this is all she would find, stories about him surviving the grit. Leah sunk into the chair with the book. She opened the first page as if it were a band-aid being ripped off to expose a wound.
Sunday was a very nice day hot and windy. We didn’t go to church as always but my wife had a lot of things to do––––––– Her father’s voice entered her head, thundering through to her stomach. Leah shut the book, put it back in its box, closed the wardrobe door, and left it in the dark with the other stuff she would get around to sorting.
unday was a very nice day hot and windy. We didn’t go to church as always but my wife had a lot of things to do––––––– Her father’s voice entered her head, thundering through to her stomach. Leah shut the book, put it back in its box, closed the wardrobe door, and left it in the dark with the other stuff she would get around to sorting.
Three lemon trees, two olive trees and sprawling jasmine are still alive despite scant rain and Leah watering them rarely. Although small, the lemons are yellow, begging to be picked. Leah has already filled one bucket and is searching for other buckets, or boxes, anything to put them in. She’s in her father’s garage. He loved this space. This is where he listened to the horse races, played backgammon with his cousin, prepared the lamb for the spit, made phone calls out of earshot. There’s a chest of drawers, a fridge, a table – parts of her father to unravel and sort.
In a drawer, she finds old photos. Her father in his early twenties, before he met her mother, when he was working at the delicatessen in Sydney. Smiling at the camera behind the counter. Pouring milk into a milkshake maker. Another photo of him smiling broadly wearing a white shirt with black bowtie next to what could be his old boss, Mr Kasimatis, standing outside the deli. Another photo of him with his arms around two women. One is definitely his younger sister, Effie, the other is an unknown woman who is looking longingly into his eyes while he is staring straight at the camera.
My name is Dimitris, they call me Jimmy. I arrived in Australia when I was 15 years old and we lived in Sydney. In a few weeks I found a job working in a milkbar in Petersham for Mr John Kasimatis. As soon as I started working my father left me and he was gone to work in North QLD cutting sugar cane and I wouldn’t see him for 6 months. I like my job but sometimes my boss made me cry and I go up to my room…
Leah shuts his diary, knowing there is need for more days before she is ready to continue.
© Angela Costi
Angela Costi is the author of five poetry collections including Honey & Salt (Five Islands Press, shortlisted for Mary Gilmore Prize 2008) and An Embroidery of Old Maps and New (Spinifex Press, awarded The Book Prize for Poetry in English 2022 by the Greek Australian Cultural League); together with nine produced plays/performance-text. She received the High Commendation for Contribution to Arts and Culture, Merri-bek Award 2021. She is known as Αγγελικη Κωστη among the Cypriot Greek diaspora, her heritage. She lives on the land of the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation (Melbourne, Australia). See https://www.facebook.com/AngelaCostiPoetics/ for further information about her writing.