Stretching rainbows

By Vita Forest

Sitting under hats around the table

Blindingly silver in the sunlight

Waiting for the ripening buds of leaves

to burst into green shade

Two ten year-old girls creep closer

Slatted against tree trunks

Pressing their grins into calloused bark

Stifling laughter

Remembering them at six, at seven

When their mouths held gaps and Tahlia astonished

with her description

of a dog’s soft wet nose

And their two heads bent over a stretch of rainbow

Building waves of red and yellow and green

When their hair was longer

And their legs were shorter

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Eryldene 2018

By Vita Forest

Under the red pavilion

In the quiet of the garden

Brushing my pencil over the white to

Build the retreat out of triangle and square

Stretching up a pink angophora

from the bottom of the page

Listening to the lorrikeets against the softly misting rain

And the scratch of the brush turkey beneath the camellias

Under the deep roof of the verandah

Sipping tea

Cosied under a knitted posy

Spreading scones with cream and jam

And coaxing out the rough bark of a jacaranda

As I chat to Kate

Sipping coffee and eating scones as

she waits for her paint to dry.

Fox prints

By Vita Forest

Have you read Margaret Wild’s Fox?  It is a searing tale of friendship, jealousy, temptation, grief and loss.  Did I mention it’s a children’s picture book?

My class has been examining it closely.  Noticing the similes, the use of present tense, the metaphors, the personification, the colours used by the illustrator Ron Brooks, the layout of the pages and the unusual scratchy lettering.

This week,  after a boring old handwriting lesson (“check your pencil grip, stay on the lines, sit up straight, trace slowly and carefully, form your letters in just the right way”) we changed gear to explore how Ron Brooks’ lettering contributed to the story.

He experimented and took some time to get it just right.  Brooks ended up writing the text by hand and using his left hand (he is right handed), hacking out the words, tracing some of the letters over and over, writing them down and then up the sides of pages, on diagonals, in capitals (screaming).  In short, breaking all the handwriting rules.

We looked at the book again and focused on the writing, looking not at what it said but how it said it.  The kids had a play on little whiteboards, swapping their usual writing hands, using capitals where they should have used lowercase, reversing their letters, looking away when they wrote, turning their boards upside down, writing over and over in the same space.  Then they chose a piece of coloured paper, a handful of oil pastels and went away to make their marks as one of the three characters – half-blind, trusting Dog, griefing, wary Magpie or sly, jealous, lonely Fox.  The stipulation – they could only write the name of their character, nothing more, nothing less.

Miss Sadie, rather cheeky and daring, stared me in the face and screwed up her paper into a ball.  I stared back at her and said, “Yes!  If you are Fox, that might be just what you would do.”  (They have witnessed one of their classmates do this same action on a rather regular basis when he is distressed and in the midst of a meltdown).  Suddenly, there was scrunching, there was ripping, there was smudging, there was scraping.  Some of them wrote their character’s name just once, others repeated the lines over and over and over again.

Another happy accident occurred when I handed out some black mounting paper that I had cut in half to what I thought was a good size to frame their work.  It turned out it was too small.  “Stick it on an angle,” I advised.  And the artworks looked better than they would have with a neat black border.

The next day, we sat in a circle and held up the artworks for others to see.  The students went around the circle and explained what they did, how they did it and why.  Amongst the “I did it coz that’s what I felt like” there were some gems.  Kelly left space around Magpie’s name because she was left all alone.   Sharni wrote Dog’s name without looking at the paper because Dog was blind and Lana ripped away a piece of Fox’s signature because his heart was broken in two.

Don’t tell me kids can’t understand difficult stories…

Domain concert

By Vita Forest

Remember hanging upside down

sweat blooming behind our knees

hair a trailing shadow flame

hands trailing the ground in surrender?

The fig leaves have heavy bodies

Snap when you bend them

snap and spray

They have solid reliable edges

Like the bats

journeying above us

black umbrellas darting  over

pink seashell sky

I lie back on the picnic blanket

and watch them as fireworks glitter overhead

and ants get drunk

in forgotten gulps of champagne

There’s a poem in that

By Vita Forest

There’s a poem in

The way we hate vegemite

And the way others don’t

The excuses she makes for missing

every single meeting

The vibrating cat that sits perched on my lap

Like a humming loaf

The scarlet red of the flowers on the coral tree and

the way they fall apart if you remove them from the tree

The smiling girl in the photo who just last week

tried to kill herself

The rock that you step over on the path

In the shape of a heart

The shriek as we leap the channel surging back to the sea

And land heavy-heeled in the retreating water

The light patter of rain

On the hood of my new black raincoat

The bowl full of  shells

That sits in the middle of the table.

Poems

everywhere.

Meditation

By Vita Forest

In the quiet of the afternoon

after the children have left

I glance up and see

the movement of the sunlight

piercing the branches

of the wind-tossed trees

streaking over my head

onto the stripes of the hanging dress

the dress my daughter wore

when she was nine

the light swivelling and dancing

in time with the jangle of the wind

bucking through the trees

 

This week

By Vita Forest

Near Woolwich Dock, Sydney

This week or so I have been

WRITING

READING

  • We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
  • La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

LISTENING to podcasts on ABC Radio

WATCHING Killing Eve on ABC iView

Woolwich Dock

WALKING around

  • Willoughby
  • the Lower North Shore
  • Hunters Hill and Woolwich

Cherry blossom in Hunters Hill