Congratulations to everyone who entered the Pens Against Poverty Writing Competition in 2016. The quality of writing was outstanding and proof that the ACT boasts very promising young writers!
“Australians are generous – at a distance. We give money, then wipe the problem from our minds.
Giving money is good. But to write well about poverty means that for a short while you try to become the people that you write about. Giving with our hands, our hearts, and our pens, knits the fabric of our society together in a way that only giving money never can.
Australia’s national character is made up of our attitudes as well as actions. The entrants in this competition have given a gift to all of us. They have made our nation just a little better. Tomorrow, and in years to come, I suspect they will do far more”
– Jackie French
Read the winning entries below.
- Winner: Reshmi Senanayake – Canberra Girls Grammar School
- Highly Commended: Ella Stone – Canberra Girls Grammar School
3/4 Short Story:
- Winner: Macy W – Sacred Heart Primary School
- Highly Commended: Amelia Bell – Turner School
- Highly Commended: Kiran Varendran – Canberra Grammar School
- Winner: Estella B – St Jude’s Primary School
- Highly Commended: Alice Minogue – St Bede’s Primary School
5/6 Short Story:
- Winner: Anuja Sriravi – Harrison School
- Highly Commended: Josephine Connors – St Bede’s Primary School
- Highly Commended: Anna Bolton – St Jude’s Primary School
- Winner: Renee Roberts – Burgmann Anglican School
- Highly Commended: Margret Mupangure– St John Paul II College
7/8 Short Story:
- Winner: Ben James– Melrose High School
- Highly Commended: Eleanor Crnkovic – Burgmann Anglican School
- Winner: Evonne Johnston – St Francis Xavier College
- Winner: Leo Barnard – Canberra Grammar School
- Winner: Japneet Kaur – Merici College
- Highly Commended: Anita Donaldson – Brindabella Christian College
The Journey of Slavery
I say, let’s go back in history,
We shall talk about the time of slavery,
Why was history like that, well that’s a mystery,
Now here we shall talk about a journey of bravery.
Years ago it began, when the white people barged in,
Into Africa they went, with no invitation whatsoever,
They kidnapped Africans for slaves, committing a terrible sin,
Stripping away their rich African culture – for them, gone forever.
The black people were taken to North America to be enslaved,
Forced to work in plantations till their backs would ache.
The slaves prayed that someday they’d be saved,
While the whites hoped there’d be more to take.
The slaves slowly adjusted to their new horrible life,
The whites making sure they worked hard and well,
Some in the plantations, some in the kitchen with a knife,
If their work was poor, the owners would sell.
Families were slaves together until someone was sold,
They’d be separated with loved ones gone,
Such misery for the blacks made their souls cold,
Everything was miserable for them, their hearts torn.
So many severe punishments like being whipped,
Tired and fed up, they decided to take a stand.
Not again would they let their hearts be ripped,
Now they took their destiny in their hand.
This is when they started to sneak out,
Such as running through the Underground Railway,
Doing whatever it took to get out and about,
Helping others escape from a world where all is grey.
People such as Harriet Tubman, helped others,
Excited for a future where their worries would be gone,
Reunited at last with siblings, fathers, and mothers
No longer they felt down, no, not anymore.
Arriving in good places, at last singing with joy,
They felt happy, haven’t felt that for so long,
At last free, giving voice for every enslaved girl and boy,
Now they wanted to show what’s right and wrong.
It is now that slavery is proven the wrong thing to do,
Thanks to Martin Luther King Jr, Abraham Lincoln and more,
We know Martin’s famous dream has at last came true,
We’ve heard their journey of courage, how they’re now happy galore.
We’ve learnt to treat nobody with hate,
To show people we really do care,
That we want to put them in a happy state,
BY SIMPLY PLAYING FAIR!!!
I Share My Light
The moon up high,
In the autumn sky,
Has no own light,
But I shine bright.
The moon is as special as a star,
In the sky up so far,
It seems distant and alone,
As if it is on its own.
I share my light,
When it gets dark at night.
To help the moon,
Shine softly soon.
Now the moon orbits around,
Safe and sound.
When I look at its face,
The moon seems content in its place.
It seems only fair,
To be your best and share.
Any happiness you can give,
Creates a brighter place to live.
“Just one more Mentos Betty” Sheila the tallest quail shrieked with excitement as the coke bottle began to shake and splutter. Then there was an almighty explosion as the coke bottle top flew off. Betty the smallest quail flew in the air and off the coke bottle then landed on the ground on her feet. Brian the leading quail went to fetch the goals (the goals that were quail size) and put them on each side of the field. “Sheila and Betty get to your places” Brian said with enthusiasm “the game is about to begin”.
Brian the leader of the quail pack started with the bottle top doing flips and somersaults. He headed straight towards the goal and was about to score when a greedy bower bird swooped down and stole the bottle top off him. “Hey that’s not very nice Mr Bower Bird” exclaimed Betty. Mr Bower bird just ignored her. “Little quail that’s not how you score a goal” Mr Bower bird explained to Brian trying to sound smart. “Can you please give back our bottle top” Sheila cried crossly. “Only if I can play” Mr Bower bird bellowed. “Alright” Brian replied “you can be on my team”. “AL righty then” Mr Bower bird said boldly. “Let the game begin” said Brian.
Brian passes to Mr Bower bird then Mr Bower bird flew in the air and swooped right past Betty and Sheila kicking the bottle top into their goal “score” yelled Mr Bower bird. “Hey that’s not fair” said Sheila annoyed. “Yes it is” shouted Mr Bower bird “it clearly went in.” “In Mighty Giants no birds are allowed to fly, it`s against the rules Mr Bower bird” explained Brian. “Just play on it’s really no big deal” Mr Bower bird said as if he was quite enjoying stopping all the time.
The next game they played Sheila started with the bottle top. Sheila was about to pass to Betty when Mr Bower bird swooped down and stole the bottle top off Betty. He pushed her over and Mr Bower bird headed for the goal and scored yet another. Betty, Sheila and Brian went into a huddle. “We have to do something about Mr Bower bird” whispered Brian. “He keeps on cheating and not playing fairly” said Betty. “He pushed me over and I don’t think we can have him in the game if he keeps on cheating and bullying us”.
The three quails thought of a short plan and then they went back to the game. This time Betty started with the bottle top and when Mr Bower bird was about to swoop down, Betty, Brian and Sheila flew onto each other’s backs. They got hold of Mr Bower bird’s legs and swung him around in the air and suddenly let go. He smashed into the brick wall and then he flew away. The quails finally played their own game and they never saw Mr Bower bird playing unfair again.
Her face was solemn. Her skin was as cold as ice. She slowly turned her head and looked over at the trees that once were full of fruit. Slowly she got up and found herself on her back against an old fruit tree shivering. A single tear fell from her eyes and she watched it slowly glide and then finally pop. Her eyes gently closed as she lay down to rest. She had been walking for days nonstop.
She dreamt of people like you and me eating a cooked dinner every night with roofs over our heads. She dreamed of friendship and love and being allowed somewhere she didn’t belong and being able to forget and leave the unsafe world. Happiness was all she wanted in life alongside a friend. Her friend didn’t need to have a home. In fact her friend could be homeless as well. Happiness was all her friend needed to give. Her country did not own happiness and neither did she.
Her eyes slowly began to take in the sights around her. Her legs began to hold her up and her arms began to carry large loads of wood that she then used to build a raft just big enough to hold her and nothing else. She went over to the tree on which she rested and thanked it.
She kept waving goodbye to the country until it was out of sight then slowly she turned to face where she was heading.
After around one hour of traveling she reached a small village. There she was given food and water and a nice place to stay, but that place was not where she belonged. After staying in that place for around a month she left on foot.
As she left she carried a bag the village had given her, full of everything she needed for her journey.
Suddenly she heard a sound in the bushes that made her jump. She ran and ran until she heard someone cry, “Stop!” She did as she was told and a girl came up to her and she just stared until finally she asked, “What are you doing here?”
“I’m Rachel,” said the girl.
“Oh no, that isn’t what I meant,” she said.
But before she could finish, Rachel had taken her by the arm and ran to a forest nearby.
“Why are we here?” she asked.
“This is where I live,” said Rachel. And suddenly she knew where she belonged.
NORTHERN KENYA, (TIME UNKNOWN)
A helicopter hovered above the small village. The roads in the town were dirt, houses made of log walls and straw roofs. Lush green trees with khaki-coloured trunks stood proudly everywhere, sheltering the village from the boiling hot sun. The inhabitants of the village heard a voice speak out from the helicopter. “This is Drent 5, we are entering Village 8, nothing to report, over and out.”
Soldiers with desert camouflage clothing stood in the Chinook’s wide bay where infantry were carried to and from the small villages that littered the Kenyan landscape. The helicopter slowly hovered down to the ground and landed with a slight bump on a dusty patch of grass that was in the centre of three small shacks. The soldiers started to search the village. They had dark skin that was mostly hidden by their clothing. The villagers had dark skin as well, and were usually very thin from the recent famine that spread all across Kenya when the rebels came a few months ago. At one house a soldier stopped and peered through the faded brown door. He could just make out a few shapes of bodies in the dark light of the house. The door creaked and brown dust floated to the ground as the door opened. There were three bodies in the house. A woman, a man and a boy. All three were dead. An insignia was branded onto one of the walls. “The rebels! They’re here!,” cried the soldier, raising his gun and charging out of the house, looking at the Chinook as it exploded in a ball of bright orange fire.
U.S.A, NORTH CAROLINA, (TIME UNKNOWN)
The TV newsman was reporting on some Kenyan war when Jacob fell asleep. Who cared about some dumb fight going on in a ‘village 8′? He had been staring at the TV for two hours when he decided that he’d had enough. The remnants of his dinner was sitting on a plate next to him on the couch. Mum had yelled at him for five minutes when he didn’t want to eat anymore. Jacob sleepily moved himself to the window and peered outside. It was slightly cold, since a few snowflakes had drifted lazily onto cars, roofs and streets. There were almost no trees to be seen, and rows and rows of houses stretched along streets. White and grey were the main colours outside, save the white and red lights of passing cars and the soft yellow glow of street lights. After a while, Jacob slumped down on the couch and slept.
NORTHERN KENYA, VILLAGE 8, (TIME UNKNOWN)
Mago was shoved roughly against the wall of the building. He should have been thankful for the one meal that he had got, but for some reason he was angry. Angry at the rebels for chaining the children to walls and watching them starve and sweat. Angry at the government who did nothing. Angry at the world. Angry at the Americans.
THE DARK AGE
The horses’ hooves clattered on the damp cobblestone road. People dressed in brown and grey rags walked about, but stopped and stared as the royal carriage sped past. In the horse-drawn carriage, amongst many red and blue pillows, lay a man. He was tall, with an ivory complexion, and he wore a crown of pure gold that had been polished many times. He was the King of Direr. The carriage bumped and swerved as it flew speedily across the alleyways and roads of one of the many villages that were on the road to Direr Castle. Villagers yelled at him as the carriage shot past. “Oi! You think that we are going to put up with this stupidity for much longer? You use our money to throw parties all the time! You don’t care about us! You are stupid!” Who cares. My parties are brilliant. Those ignorant peasants don’t know that if my parties didn’t happen, my reign would start crumbling. Then there would be war, and all these villages would be smoking ruins, thought the King, pretending to not notice the cries of the angry people. After hours of zipping along the rough dirt road, past green fields, many villagers and lone shacks, the carriage skidded to a halt. Two guards dressed in green and purple armour opened a wide iron gate. Beyond this gate were rows and rows of buildings. Unlike the villages, which had wooden walled houses with straw roofs, the houses here were stone or brick walled, with oakwood roofs. This was the majestic Direr Castle. The carriage rattled and bumped again as it made its way down to the keep of the castle. Four guards wearing green and purple armour, this time with a gold helm, opened a large, creaky steel gate. At last, the King sighed. Home.
Well, this is great, thought a guardsman as he looked at the furious thirty or so peasants that were banging on the gate. They were furious at the King’s new party. Tax cost had shot up, and many were now starving whilst the King, the royal family and the rich feasted. By no means was it fair at all. “Guardsmen! Over here! These people are going to smash the door! Swords at the ready!,” he cried. Five guardsmen dashed up to him, and drew their swords at the peasants. The gate smashed. The peasants had armed themselves with hoes, sticks, daggers and bits of hard brick. The guardsmen rushed forward to stop them entering the keep. Steel crashed and people fell down to the ground. More guardsmen tried to control the furious people, but it was no use.
The King sat comfortably on his throne when the peasants flooded into the throne room and cut down all inside. The King yelled and tried to escape, but was grabbed by hateful hands and was torn apart. The people grabbed the King’s money and left the keep, joyful. For them, all was at last, fair.
A snake, a lizard, a life is slain,
upon the orange-red sand.
The snake slithers back, into its hole,
covered by a thistle branch.
The land does not play fair.
A cyclone, then flood,
A father’s blood,
Lost to save his daughter.
Her leg needs care,
Though does not compare,
To a child, without a mother.
The land does not play fair.
Strong brumbies walk,
Towards a lake,
The sun is beating down.
The stallion rears,
A terrible fear,
For a sniper, has shot his mare.
The land does not play fair.
Beneath the gums,
The forest is full of sounds,
A wallaby falls,
A bowerbird calls,
A fox creeps out from the shadows.
The land does not play fair.
The barren land,
One tree still stands,
Fences all around.
Sheep are dying,
Not for lack of trying,
To find food for their young.
The land does not play fair.
A hiker walks,
Atop a cliff,
The mountain is so high.
He ventures close,
The edge crumbles,
Into a vast space beneath.
The land does not play fair.
An echidna waddles,
Across the highway,
A car rockets past.
A few seconds later,
Another car comes.
And there lies the echidna.
The land does not play fair.
A billabong dry,
An emu’s cry,
For he has lost his nest.
The mother returns,
Leaves, and doesn’t come back.
The land does not play fair.
A lone eucalyptus,
Magpies sing their song.
A kiss from the wind,
The tree has become many,
The land does not play fair.
A mob of roos,
Red against the grass,
Leap and bound towards a fence.
A joey gets stuck,
Her tail cut,
The mob doesn’t turn back.
The land does not play fair.
A deadly drought,
Brings beautiful rains,
Washing away the pain.
The grass is green,
The land has come alive.
The land plays fair.
“Goodbye Jacob” I hear from my mum,
I guess that means the day has begun.
I take a step then one step more,
I reach my hand out to open the door.
I see all these children running around,
There goes a tall boy leaping off the ground.
I look to my left and see a big board of rules,
This must be a playing fair school.
I gain the confidence and begin to stroll ahead,
I look to my right and see a wooden shed.
I’m sitting in my classroom anxiously looking about,
Then Mrs Dennis starts to call names out.
There’s Ava, Grace, Tom and there’s even a girl wearing a nice dress,
But in the corner of my eye I see a girl looking at me, friendless.
I walked over to her and sat on the overstuffed chair,
Then I remembered those rules about playing fair.
Number One: Always smile,
I look over and it takes a while,
But soon enough she returns my smile.
Number Two: Give everyone equal rights,
I see a boy standing alone,
I walk over to make sure he’s not in his own.
Number Three: Don’t stare a people because they look different,
I see a boy sitting in a wheelchair,
Then a girl whispers “Look at that kid over there”,
I feel so bad so I walk over to show that I really care.
Number Four: Don’t tease people about their beliefs,
A mum and her daughter were talking about their prayer,
Then a group of girls gave then an odd stare,
I told them to stop because that’s not playing fair.
The bell rings which signals the end of the day,
This is definitely a playing fair school
So I jump up and down and shout “HOORAY!”
Some years ago, in Sri Lanka, there was a boy called Thanush. He only had his mum and one sister. The dad died before Thanush’s sister was born. The dad was killed by the tsunami. His sudden death gave a severe shock to the family.
Since then, Thanush’s family has been very poor. The dad was the only bread winner. They lived a hand to mouth life. They had no savings for the future. They had enough money to send Thanush to school, but they were homeless.Thanush was sad everyday since his dad died. His lonely mother was helpless.
Thanush’s mother listened to the advice of some good people. She applied to migrate to Australia. The application was approved. Thanush came to Australia with his mother and sister as refugees.
The family settled down in Canberra. They found Canberra a very expensive city to live in. The family had no money to take a house on or rent and to pay for food , clothing, medical expenses and schooling costs.
The family suffered a lot for some months. The assistance they got from Centrelink was not at all enough for a good living. The mother did not have good knowledge of English to go to work. She also had to care for a small daughter. She had no means to send the daughter to child care.
The teacher at Thanush’s school observed Thanush looked always tired. She understood he was poorly fed. Other students found Thanush weak and started to bully him. He felt very depressed. He even wished he could go back to Sri Lanka. The new environment scared him very much.This gave a lot of worry to the mother. The mother sought advice from many people on how to get over the problem.
Thanush’s family is a Tamil family from Sri Lanka. His mother applied to Tamil Senior Citizens Association of Canberra for assistance. Tamil Senior Citizens Association interviewed Thanush’s family. They were satisfied that the family was genuinely in difficulty. The association helped them to obtain a community house at cheap rent. They also undertook to look after Thanush’s school expenses, on condition Thanush had to attend school regularly and show good progress in his studies. Thanush and his mother agreed to this condition.
All this helped Thanush’s family a great deal. After this Thanush did well in school. He made some good friends. He enjoyed playing cricket with them. The family was very happy that Australia had good anti-poverty measures. The family was very pleased they were helped. Thanush’s mother wished that Thanush’s dad was around to see how well the family were going and how happy they were in Australia.
The mother is now very brave. She is not scared of the future. She started attending classes to improve her English.
Thanush asked his mum because he was good in school whether she could allow him join a cricket club.His mother said “Ok, now I have enough money to send you”.
lsalamu ‘alaykum (Syrian for “hello”), my name is Adnan and I am eight and a half years old. I live in a country 13,788 kilometres away called Syria. I am the eldest of three children and Sami was only one when both our uncles were killed in the war. It was chaos when we decided to escape. Where my school once stood, there was now a pile of rubble and every day hundreds of people died. Ma and Pa collected all the money we had and together with some neighbours and friends we paid a very nice man all we had for passage on a ship and for someone to meet us at Antalya, a port in Turkey. He said he had contacts and everything would be all right. Early one morning, when it was still dark, our family and thirty-six others crept on to a very small boat. The boat was poor condition and had water in the hull. From now on we would be refugees.
For the first few days, the sea was calm and the sun was bright, but then the sky turned grey and an angry storm arrived. Huge waves crashed down on our little boat. We were all terrified but Ma hugged us tight and assured us everything would be okay. But I could tell through her trembling voice, that she wasn’t quite sure.
It seemed like the storm lasted forever. When it had finally calmed down, we were stranded in the middle of nowhere and our boat was sinking. We frantically tried to bail the water out. All appeared to be lost. We realised the “nice man” lied to us.
Fortunately we saw a ship belonging to the Greek coast guard heading towards us. We all screamed, shouted and waved our hands in the air. The ship saw us and rescued us. When we got on board and dried off. I hugged my little brother and sister because now I knew we were now safe.
The next day we arrived in Greece. As soon as we got off the boat we were told we were being taken to a refugee camp. Neither my siblings nor I knew what a refugee camp was, but it certainly didn’t sound like our new home. Whist we were walking to the camp I looked over at Ma and Pa and saw their worried faces. For three months we were in the camp with thousands of others and nothing to do. Again all appeared lost.
At last we were selected by an official party from Germany and resettled in Wiesbaden, a town near Frankfurt, and Pa got a job in an electronics factory.
I now realise that many people in the world do not play fair, lying and cheating like the “nice man” and the people that caused the war that forced us to flee my home country. But there also are people who do play fair and helped us find our new home, Germany.
Dear Jackie French
My letter isn’t the best but there’s a story inside and here it is. Hi, I’m Sarah and this is my entry into the writing competition where the topic is Jackie French, who is my favourite writer. I was going to write my own version of Pete the Sheep-Sheep or Dairy of a Wombat but then my friend said it had to be about Jackie French, so I wrote a story about her. But the day before we had to send it I gave it to the teacher and she said that wasn’t the topic and it was ‘play fair’ so I went to Kayla and said “you said the story had to be about Jackie French but the teacher said it had to be about playing fair”, she said “oops, it’s due tomorrow” and she left.
As soon as I was at home I started writing. I had written millions of stories they were all so bad so I left to get some soda water and came up with an idea to write a letter. I had started so many letters but in the end I fell asleep with the letter on my face and the pen on the floor. I woke up at 6am and went to the computer and started writing again. Then mum came past and said “you could write a story about how you wrote this letter”. “Yes, mum” I said and deleted three hundred and ninety-two words and started writing this letter and in no time I had this. I hope you like it and I hope Kayla plays fair next year.
Love from your number one fan.
Eating without you
You tell me you are not hungry
so I can eat your food
but I can hear your tummy growling
You tell me you are not thirsty
so I can drink your water
but I can hear the dryness in your throat
You tell me you are not cold
so I can have your blanket
but I can hear you shivering
You tell me you are happy
so I can lean on you
but I hear you crying
You tell me we are fine without daddy
so I can sleep
but I hear you wide awake looking at the pile of bills
You tell me that you’re okay getting remarried
so I can have a bigger family
but I hear you being hit
You tell me you are well
So I think that your fine
But I can hear you cough
You tell me that it’s not serious
so I think you will come out of hospital soon
but I can no longer hear you.
I now see why you wanted me to have everything, so when you were gone, I would still be alright.
But I am not.
One thing that needs to be kept in mind
Is what friendship, fairness and your values define
You stand around, fun waiting to be shared
To show others your standard of care
Grasses of green, clouds of grey
As it seems like someone has rained on your parade
Immersed within your own negative thoughts
With ‘you throw like a girl’ and ‘you can’t play sports!’
That one person who ruins everything, it seems
Clouds your brain like a bad dream
You walk home feeling disappointed and defeated
Your head on your chest like a national anthem you’re singing
Religion, ethnicity, gender or race
It doesn’t matter… You stop.
You feel like you are on the brink, of tears that you can’t cry
So all you do is sigh. To yourself.
‘I was never blind, I was never disabled’, you say
But all you feel like doing is crying the insults away.
But playing fair is about unity… Respect… Trust? Isn’t it?
Or is it about you looking like the bigger person to seem ‘cool’ and ‘funny’?
Aren’t those the key words of this particular subject?
Mum… Aren’t they? You taught me how to play fair
Not that it can be an absolute nightmare.
Angriness boils over you like a pot,
These are my true friends but true friends they are not.
You feel like you’re at a BLM march, you chant for your freedom, pride, fairness:
“There’s blood on the streets, no justice, no peace
No racist police, no rest till we’re free”
You once heard a famous singer/songwriter quote.
You think about rewriting these words, but you’re not going to devote….
Your time to that. You devote your time to those keywords
Freedom, fairness, pride
And the quote that your mother always taught who?
“Worry about those who worry about you.”
Thus proving my point, my point is there
That it’s always empowering to play fair!
And remember the golden rule that is undefeated
Always treat other how YOU would like to be treated!
“See there? That’s where I used to play when I was a boy,” He waved his arm towards the edge of a city block. “And there; that’s where I fetched water every morning with an old bucket. It took two hours to get there, fill the bucket and lug it back, and my brother would never help me.”
He watched her questioningly, gauging a reaction. “My house was right in the middle of town, near the market,” he pointed to a couple of apartment blocks. “Several times a day a stranger would run inside our house, with angry people chasing him. My brother said the strangers were bad people and to hide whenever they came in.”
The girl listened silently, shaking her head. She nudged a pebble off the edge of the building and stood for a minute, watching it fall. “I live on the top floor, in a building where your… house used to be. There is a mall nearby for food and we have plumbing for water. Do you not see how better things are now? You don’t need to worry about the past.” She nodded, and gazed across the new cityscape.
The crane above them shifted stone into place. He sighed and sat down, leaning against the beginnings of a pillar. “Things are better for the rich. Thousands of people lost their homes to make the country look better. To look richer. But now the streets are flooded with beggars.”
“That is true. But they’re getting evicted from the streets soon.” She looked down at him. “The government is cleansing the country thoroughly.”
“And when they are gone? What then? Where will they go? They will be imposed onto other countries, which will then turn them away, or keep them in detention centres. A life in ‘sanctuaries’ is what’s ahead of them,” He shook his head. “It’s prison, and their only crime is misfortune.”
A loud crash echoed over the site, followed by angry voices. She looked over, frowning. “I’m sure they have committed their fair share of crimes.”
“Crimes they needed to commit to survive. Crimes they would not have had to resort to if everything they owned wasn’t destroyed. If the government had supported them, they would not have broken the law. The rich are just the ones who break the law best.”
“No. That is not true. The politicians and the corporation CEOs all are honest people. All you are thinking of are the mobsters and casino owners.” The angry voices increased in volume.
He stood up, brushing off his faded jeans. “No, I am not. Politicians do not hesitate to manipulate and work just outside the law. Corporations are the worst; their workers are basically slaves. Not much these people do is legal.”
Her eyes widened, and she turned back towards him. “Surely not all of them do that.”
He inclined his head. “No, not all, but most do.”
She nodded. Gunshots rang across the construction site. “Come on, let’s go.”
“Play fair,” said the eagle to the mouse one day.
The mouse, running from the eagle, paused. “What do you mean?”
“Play fair,” the eagle repeated.
The mouse eyed the eagle, not sure whether to flee while he had the chance. “Play fair?” he squeaked. “I always play fair.”
The eagle coughed politely, a throaty ahem that caused the mouse to jump. “Excuse me, but, no, you don’t. You tiny mice always hide in small crevices where I can’t reach you.”
Despite the current circumstance, the mouse suppressed a laugh. “How is that not fair? If we do not hide, we get eaten. You cannot blame us for not wanting to be your lunch.”The eagle glared at him. “It is not that. It is a matter of principle.”
The mouse blinked. “A matter of principle?”
The eagle rolled her eyes. “Yes. A matter of principle. Do I need to repeat myself every time I speak?”
The mouse bristled, but remained tight lipped.
Sighing, the eagle preened herself. “If I were to engage in a fight for my life,” she started. “I would not hide under a rock. I would march right up to my opponent and strike him with my claws. It would not be fair to him if I were to run away when he was demanding a fight. So I want you, little mouse, to show me the same courtesy. I want to have a proper fight for my food, one where I can see my prey, and they can see me, but they won’t scurry or hide. They will face me like a proper opponent. That is playing fair.”
The mouse frowned. Then he squeaked, “I’m sorry to contradict you, but I disagree. That is not playing fair.”
The eagle raised one feathery eyebrow. “Oh? Do tell, little mouse. What is playing fair?”
The mouse fiddled with his whiskers. “Playing fair is adjusting one another’s limits and advantages so that they are equal to each other.”
“Take us, for example. If I were to do as you said, and face you in combat, you would be the victor, simply because you have all the advantages. You are big. You have wings and sharp talons. But if I hide, you still have some advantages, like your keen eyesight. But the odds are even. I can scurry on my fast legs and hide. You can still corner me and eat me. But now it depends on each other’s cunning, not on each other’s strength. That is playing fair.”
The eagle narrowed her eyes. For a moment, the little mouse thought that she was about to gobble him up. But then she nuzzled the mouse and said, “I should never want to fight you, little mouse. Folks say that elephants are wise, but an elephant has never convinced me not to eat its hide before. I shall play fair, cunning mouse, from now on. Farewell.”
With that, the eagle spread her wings and flew far away.
Popcorn Chicken, a currawong and I
The heavens had opened up
The dim lights of KFC fighting against the mist
A yellow eye staring down its beak
Two green responding in kind
Silence. Flickering lights.
“Give me one” Yellow eyes said
Another ball of flesh popped into the mouth
A voiceless ‘no’
Fingers grazed the bottom
Yellow eyes stared
Green responded in kind
A peace treaty given
One eyebrow raised; daring
Beak slightly open
An inclination of the head
Quick as a flash
The peace treaty gone
The mist grew, the lights dimming
Empty boxes and empty chairs all that remains
Discrimination is the soil on which our world is built on,
Dig deeper and deeper and you’ll find naught but grime
Emerge from the abyss you’ve made and find the world tilted
You can’t change what’s been done but only what happens next.
A man in the sky once said to build houses on stone
That our houses will stay strong through wind and storm
How is it that our lithosphere lies unused
Our homes built on the sands of injustice?
In our hyper competitive capitalist way, we suffer
Our need for money grows, we crave it
We toil endlessly for a glimpse of chartreuse bills
Digging the same hole into the core of our universe
An economy built upon tragedy, schadenfreude at its finest
Every thousand dollars earned for one is a thousand lost for another
Though some have banks filled with millions while other have less than none
There is no equality between these vaults nor these people.
Our society is changed completely, past tragedies come anew
All that we’ve done all and that will be done is done for money
We live in the shadow of finance, and that dread mountain looms tall
To end the inequity we need to remove that mountain, a need realer than money.
It started with a game, sharing our friends,
That’s all it took, to become who we are.
We learned ‘ours’ instead of ‘mine’
And that’s all it took, to become who we are.
When we played basketball, we shared the courts,
When we were in class, we shared our pencils.
When we went out, we shared our food,
And when we partied, we swapped clothes.
So we were fair, at least we said so to ourselves,
We believe that we share and therefore we care.
And yes, we share, we share with our friends and they share with us.
We are fair to our friends.
But our friends are those we move around with,
Our friends are like us;
They have a roof on their heads, food on their table,
And they have clothes to wear.
Our friends move in the same circles,
They are of our own class,
And with them we share,
With them we play.
We are kind, and we are fair,
We share and we play.
And we tell ourselves that we are good people,
We are well-mannered and behaved.
Yet we are the same people, who turn around on the streets.
We are the ones who ignore the look of hunger in someone else’s eyes.
We share food with the well-fed, never with the hungry,
We swap clothes with the clothes, not with the naked,
We invite into our homes, those who come from their own,
The ones lying on the streets, are left there alone.
And no, it’s not fair, and we need to change.
We are fair only if we are fair to all,
We are not fair when sharing with our friends,
We are fair when we share with the ones who need it.
The people we are, are not fair unless we don’t discriminate,
We don’t see their bank balance when we share.
And when we share we do not do favours,
When we share, we shall open our hearts without hope of return.
If we share our food with the underfed,
If we share our clothes with the naked,
If we share our homes with the homeless,
Then maybe, one day, we can tell ourselves; we play fair.
The large clock chimed through the city, awakening the sounds of slammed doors, and the pattering of black leather shoes. It was the usual time where honks and sirens rang through the atmosphere, and the smell of sweet coffee beans circulated through the air. I sat up straight on my worn blanket, resting my head upon a cold metal railing and watching frantic faces skim through waves of other frantic faces. It was the same routine for everyone in the city, people like me who had nothing would crowd around a certain area begging for food or money, as the frantic faces before us lifted their noses up in disgust of our presence, or shoo us off to some other polluted area of the city. Occasionally I’d question myself why I was in this situation in the first place. It wasn’t my choice to be swept into a corner cowering away with nothing but a few crumbs of bread to munch on, or for my “career” to be begging for money, rather than sitting in a pristine office watching as my bank account flowed with an increasing amount of money.
Instead my life became this way, without any say in the matter. I used to work for a business that had not prepared for economic downturn which lead to the fall of their company and the waste of loyal workers such as myself. Jobs were hard to come by in the city, I began to feel that circumstances had stolen not only my job but also my freedom and future. Though I eventually adapted to the minimum amount of things I owned.
Occasionally I’d have a few sunken faces come towards me to throw a few coins of hope, but it started becoming a once in a while scenario when people felt there was nothing else they could do. Opportunities felt so far out of reach for me, yet for these people they seemed to be expected. Opportunities seemed to fly towards them, just the same way misfortunes flew towards me.
I’d wonder now and again whether getting help was an option for me, whether it would turn me into these frantic faces filled with opportunities and arrogance? Food and shelter would no longer become a scavenger hunt, and money and work would no longer become a twisted dream. Help felt like a soft glimmer of hope over the horizon, far and blurry, almost as if falling into the unknown – scared yet desperate for another way out. Even though negative thoughts about getting help circulated through my head, a fight for social justice seemed a much worthier cause than begging on the streets for false hope.