How I spent my 18th year

After I leave acting school (drop-out)
I take a job as Operations Manager at an electronics store
and start rehearsing how to be normal. I grow
my hair and nails out and learn the difference
between ash and honey-blonde highlights. I fall for
the floor manager who is 15 years older than me
and once was a trainee for the NBL but he rebelled
to go to the beach one too many times. He said he
got a spiritual connection to the sand, man,
that he measured in wrist bands from Bali
and his tan. He might go back to basketball
sometime, but his life philosophy is take it one
day at a time, like the surf, it comes and then it goes,
it flows, I flow, you know?
So day after day
I print price stickers, re-label computers, I get
manicures with the cashiers and adopt
their wisdom never get both gel tips and colours;
only girls from the northern suburbs would wear
two different animal prints; 5-inch heels are sexy,
6 inches is slutty.
When we go out for Friday drinks
with the kids from the Carrington store I drink
Jaeger Bombs until I’m ready to stand in a circle
and come on Eileen, oh I swear (what he means)
then its midnight and I go back to the floor manager's
to sit and smoke and he plays Red Hot Chilli Peppers
and ‘Under the bridge’ was written for me, when I listen
it’s like I’m listening to myself
. When I wake up
there’s permanent marker on my legs, an arrow
pointing enter here, and we laugh. No-one
ever asks why I left acting school, but if they did
I would tell them I never wanted to be on the stage
I only ever wanted the taste of other people’s
words in my mouth. Something to chew.

Caitlin Maling (Western Australia)
From Conversations I've never had (Fremantle Press 2015)


When I think we girls,
I think Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. Our summer,
when we caught the train back from playing pool
with the US sailors in port
and I fell asleep on your lap
the sailor hat I’d earned wedged on.

Back home, you have that hat with all our treasures lined up,
like the kewpie dolls Roo would bring Olive
back from the canefields.

I remember being in Innisfail after Larry,
the thicket of palm leaves and sugar cane capturing the road
and on the TV that night a man crying, dead bananas at his feet:
me Dad started this farm and now me sons wont be able to work it.

And I wish someone had taught me
to hide photographs in bottom drawers,
a lock of hair under my pillow. The three of us
kept ours in different colours — red, blonde and black —
us pretty girls all in a row.

Where I live now, bananas cost 70 cents a pound.
I have no way to explain how precious they are.

Caitlin Maling (Western Australia)
From Conversations I've never had (Fremantle Press 2015)

 Severe Tropical Cyclone Larry, Queensland, 2006


  1. A nissologist is someone who studies an island on its own terms. What are the terms of an island?
  2. Australia is often called an island continent, sometimes the only island continent. Its terms are of being an island.
  3. If Australia is an island continent, then so is Antarctica. Australia is changed to the only inhabited island continent.
  4. Gondwanaland is an ancient super landmass. Australia and Antarctica were the last two pieces of Gondwana to separate.
  5. When I was young I thought islands floated on the surface of the ocean. Like glaciers. And that Antarctica was an island made of ice.
  6. A few years later I grew concerned about islands floating away from one another, of Australia losing its place. I decided there must be a thin rope of land tethering Australia to the sea-floor. An anchor.
  7. Often we speak of ourselves as being anchored to a particular place. A home. Anchors and roots become indistinguishable.
  8. I read in a book: ‘Down Home is a psychological geography.’
  9. From Houston I always refer to Australia as down, or below.
  10. Sometimes I picture myself standing, sending roots right through to where I imagine Australia is. In this image Australia becomes the sea-floor.
  11. When we look at the moon, we always say we look ‘up at the moon’. There are no directions in space. So really we just look at the moon, and it happens that we tilt our head.
  12. In the same book: ‘Moons bind all islands in two ways.’
  13. Often from an island the moon is the only other landmass visible. The moon also sets the tides. Tides form the littoral boundaries and edges of islands.
  14. I have most often looked for the moon from the beaches around Perth. These beaches are collectively known as the coastal plain.
  15. Australians are known as plain-speaking people.
  16. The best way of interpreting these two statements: Australians speak the language of the coast.
  17. I have no terms to explain what I see off the coast nearest Houston. From Kemah I can see land opposite me. It’s possible this land is an island. It’s impossible this island is Rottnest.
  18. Collectively, we have no terms for what came before the big bang. If time emerged in the big bang you can’t use the words before and after to describe the immanence of the Universe. It just is.
  19. My husband tells me to picture a piece of paper. To draw a circle on it. That’s our universe. Then another circle. A hypothetical other universe. He says none of our laws apply outside our circle.
  20. I say they look like islands.
  21. He also describes parallel dimensions using pieces of paper. He lays one on top of another. They touch, almost occupy the same space but aren’t connected in any way we are capable of seeing.
  22. This is like the squirrel I saw squashed flat on the road in Houston. There was no way for it to actually become the cement.
  23. We don’t have squirrels in Australia.
  24. Deep down I know I can’t touch Australia from Houston.
  25. All the words I know for winds come from the coastal plain. Easterly, Westerly, Northerly, Southerly. All our terms are directions for things coming to or leaving the island.
  26. On the coastal plain we tell time these by winds. The sea breeze means it’s the afternoon.
  27. When there is a wind in Houston I look for the coast that isn’t.
  28. One of the terms of our Universe is that light travels at 299,792,458 metres per second.
  29. The sun sets directly over the ocean on the coastal plain approximately 43,200 seconds before it fades over land in Houston.
  30. In a total vacuum, particles will randomly pop in and out of being. This means that there can never be such a thing as a total vacuum.
  31. Similarly, in our universe even if there is emptiness, there is always time.
  32. In her kitchen my mother has an egg timer which measures minutes in grains of sand.
  33. I haven’t been down to the coast in 20,563,257 seconds and counting.
  34. There is no term for how many grains of sand I won’t have touched.

Caitlin Maling (Western Australia)

Homesick song

I miss you sea-shallow with blue-sky flotilla
of surf-spray above the armada of adolescents
at the pylon dive-bombing the sea-bottom
below the tea-rooms all sea-shell ear-rim mauve
in the long sea-depth darkness of the pines
and has there ever been a comfort more
than your sea-salt pine-sweet sea-air
where the coconut oiled sea-swept hair
of everyone you have ever known
makes the twilight as viscous as the sea
and you need your whole eye to see
to the end of the sea-pier past the pelican
on the shark watch tower to where the sea
parts for the break with tenderness

Caitlin Maling (Western Australia)
From Conversations I've never had (Fremantle Press 2015)

Hurricane Season

Babies born into arctic dark —
24 hours of night — have minds
more easily widowed of sense.

Now, Gulf, wrap your humidity around me,
your currents and flocks of migrants,
in your September. Beached, let pelicans

animate the sky, my lips to curve
and eyes to wonder, keep me,
my feet, whole in the mud of the flats.

Sky, dear yellowing, failing light,
fat with rain, blow the winds
that stop the egret mid fish-dance;

allow me one more season of sense,
of knowing the names for these:
stone-turner, curlew, plover, hawk and gull.

If you take one roof from the houses,
take them all. Open the suburbs up.
Make rockpools from the cul-de-sacs

where I cling mollusc-like
to possibility; to shore:
an idea of a horizon, where

after rain, in the eddy of brown waters
at knees, at waist, you rise,
you raise me up, remind me

that I was born to dry heat, drought,
on the grit-banks of a river widening
through limestone, seeking salt, seeking

sea, in September,
lightning strikes outback of the breakers;
the horizon appears in an instant.

Soon darkness.
Soon, light.

Caitlin Maling (Western Australia)
From Conversations I've never had (Fremantle Press 2015)



Johnny Depp’s dogs on death row
The killings were carried out at 12.30am local time, on the prison island off the coast of Java
Alleged dog smuggler could face ten years in jail
Abbott rules out live cattle ban
Russell Brand pleads for clemency
Are you in a relationship with a narcissist?
Submissions to parliamentary enquiry claim halal is a scam
Puppies sold for drugs
Australian cattle ‘sledgehammered to death’
Tied to crosses and shot
There is a suspicion in some circles this may be related to the war on terror
Record year for live cattle exports thanks to strong Indonesian demand
Asylum seekers kept on board boat for a month
Fears Johnny Depp’s dogs could be rendered stateless if US refuses entry
Asylum seeker near death in Perth hospital
Elephant herd rushed to help collapsed calf
The puppies are currently being cared for at a Yokine veterinary clinic
Darwin boy asks Q&A why his friend with autism should be deported
School teaches women in de facto relationships are cheap prostitutes
Skyping with the enemy: I went undercover as a jihad girlfriend
Americans more likely to be killed by toddlers than by terrorists
Australia votes Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein as FIFA president
The seven habits of great investors
Ten decades, ten of the hottest looks
From the suburbs to Syria: twelve jihadi brides
Girl’s sweet sixteen birthday party ruined by faeces falling from the sky
Man’s epic bucket list for faithful friend: takes dying dog across US
Mother found pushing dead son on playground swing
Andrew Chan ‘ended well…a winner in God’s eyes’, says widow
Johnny Depp’s dogs show evolving notion of animal citizenship
Jamieson joins Glory exodus
Winter is coming: Perth prepares for storm to hit
The end of Australian exceptionalism
Inshallah, she’ll be right mate, Shanti

Matthew Jamieson (Western Australia)


Not that far away

The large dressed stones of the landing wharf and the
curving away ditch of the never completed canal
are what remains. Ash saplings grow along
the uneven embankment and what might have been
intended as a bridge now has a blue
tarpaulin draped across.

Darkening trees have grown all around,
serpentine roots seeking down the joints between
the stone blocks. A van, tyres sunk among old leaves,
has its thin bonnet raised and one back door open.

Deep tractor tracks lead away from two oil drums.

The bottom of the tarpaulin is mud-splashed, its folds
green with algae. A cock pheasant flaps and croaks
not that far away.

Sam Smith (UK)

A walk defined


brown of weathered stone. A curve of a clay-pipe beak, the chorus of death at sunset. Alone at midday in spring colour,​ the herald of storms.

Meadow Pipit

snow with smoke grime when seen from below. A call in conifers too young to kill sunlight clearings. A see seet under blue sky. The cuckoo boarder.


​​shells and bones from a sea of dragons when the moon danced daily and sun tears trapped wind kissers.


high, flat, flat with the cracks of streams, here a stumble of rock, rock round and fire made, rough with prayers, dark lines of mud-peat, yellow gorse and black burned bushes.

I walk the flat. I jump the streams. I live in the smoke dust. I am born in the wind. No one is the moor. The moor will sink in a sea of eyes.

Mountain summit

a place of stones, lamentations for a time of sighing, winter rests waiting for the fall of leaves, the brown ripeness to rot.

I wait for the moon to show the secret sliver road. Breath clouds gather in night.

John Alwyine-Mosely (UK)