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2000 - Saloni M goes South

Helena Spyrou

Helena Spyrou is a writer, publicity and promotions person. Her work has appeared in a number of literary journals and magazines, including Visible Ink, Going Down Swinging, 3RD Magazine and Inside Indonesia Magazine.

She has been an organiser and publicist for literary events, human rights fundraisers and conferences, including a fundraiser which attracted 200 people, at Brunswick Town Hall on 30 October 1998 for Inside Indonesia Magazine to raise funds for Indonesia's economic crisis and East Timor's independence, and an education conference, where over 100 educators attended on 15 October 1999 for the Central Metropolitan Regional Council of Adult Community and Further Education and performances at Brunswick Mechanics Institute, including Knockknock Theatre Company's productions of Panayiota and Locked In.

In 1999 she co-cordinated and performed in Saloni Mediterranean, a two week art exhibition and performance night which attracted over 700 people, on 18 March 1999 at Fitzroy Gallery. Helena was also involved as a writer/performer in the Vic Writers project Tales of the City at the Builder's Arms in June 1999 and in Flightpaths - 'In Transit' at Chapel Off Chapel in August 1999.


by Helena Spyrou

This story was read at Saloni M goes South, September 26, 2000, and subsequently published in Meanjin, Vol. 60, Issue 1, 2001.

photo by Bill Mousoulis

What is it about lanes? What stories did you conjure up when your curious eye peered through the cracks of rusted corrugated back fences? What feet did you imagine trampled on bluestone surfaces?

Carlton lanes were your playing ground, your secret knowledge of the neighbourhood. You checked out the washing that hung on the line. You counted how many houses had vegie patches and fruit trees.

You marvelled at how the whiff of jasmine that draped over fences, concealed the stench from outside loos and soil rich with manure. You inspected the muck and shit, blood mixed with grease, that spilled out of terraces and backyard shops and settled in bluestone gutters, glistening in the sunlight.

The woman who killed chickens in her backyard and let them run headless, was your aunt who lived in the next street. The man who grew the tallest tomato trees lived three doors up, and he caught you one day, your hand ready to pluck his best tomato from its stalk. And your mother beat out her frustration on the bedding and rugs that she aired every Saturday on the Hills hoist.

On the way to school, you made a bet with your girlfriend that the sagging prick would be waiting for you in the Mary St lane anxious to catch the thrill of shock in your eyes. And yea, you'd be right. There it was pink and fleshy cupped in his hand and you'd stare and tell him to put it away and then run till you reached the light where the lane met Drummond St.

When you were 15 your favourite lane was the one behind the Nicholson St shops. After school, you came into the lane via Pigdon St and when you got closer to the back of the Blue Room, your heart started to pump when you saw Knackers waiting for you. Your crush on him was big, even though his front teeth were missing from too many brawls in Bourke St on Friday nights. For weeks you wanted him to 'con you off' and one day he did. He pinned you up against the corrugated fence and mauled you with his tongue, when all you wanted was some fantasy of what a passionate kiss might feel like.

When you came back to your neighbourhood, after many years away the lanes were still there but the textures and smells of your memory now live in the bluestone under your feet. Most of your relatives and neighbours have moved to Balwyn or Box Hill. And the new residents have pulled down the corrugated fences and bricked in their privacy with eight foot high walls.

Their back doors are solid wood now with deadlocks and they lobby their councils to keep their rear end clean.

Looking to Catch the Air

by Helena Spyrou

In the red earth your footsteps make a deep impression and you take long and slow strides towards your beginning. Catch the air and lift yourself up. The changing wind whirls you towards him to smell his flesh hot and taste his tongue move across your skin. Reach and take his smile with a kiss and swirl in a sweaty haze as you merge wet between his lips to kiss him there. Catch the air and fall back. Listen to the rhythm of your breath and hasten your walk towards your past. Catch the air and let it throw you on the smell of Eucalypt. Lean on its twisted and sturdy trunk cool to touch and smooth on your fingered skin. Dismiss this memory the daring intruder. Move into the city scape. Become the fear. Remember when you looked for him. Remember the love. The desperate I'll do anything kinda love.

I remember trembling as I catch the train to travel across bridges. I'm looking out the window and I'm watching the sun descend behind terracotta rooftops where orange drowns grey. I'm looking for my distanced lover over people's shoulders and they push and shove me and I'm looking to get off the train. I'm walking along darkened streets and I'm picking up the pace to keep up with the rhythm inside. I'm looking to dump my thoughts but like memory they dare to challenge. I'm in his street now and I'm looking at his house and the blinds are down now but I go to the door and knock. Iím trying to catch my breath. Iím trying to walk away but I keep on thinking that Iím hearing voices. So I knock again and again.

Then silence falls and I catch the final sound in the air. In the dusk I turn and start walking towards the red brick tower. Looking to see him. Looking to remember him.

Altered city

by Helena Spyrou

altered city alterior city moving with the times for your
benefit city concrete city a madmouse citylink can't miss it
when you blink your 'international gateway to Melbourne'
with new art red phalluses Grollo towers a symbol of
'cultural values' and 'civic pride' sanitised city cover the
unsightly city shadow your houses city block in your poverty
city with a big grey bypass on the western side next to the
Flemington high rise to cut off your piece of the sky while
we sit cocooned now in warm cafes with lattes and chats on
the 'pretty' side of town we don't want the city linked to our
front door

© Helena Spyrou, 2000.

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