every girl I’ve kissed

seeking shelter from the night
when I was just a little girl
they put a spell on me
on every song I’ve sung
every girl I’ve kissed

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Molly #37

I opened my eyes to find myself surrounded by darkness and a feeling of disorientation. My fuzzy mind wondered if I was still dreaming and falling through the night sky. Any moment I thought I might float through a cloud and land on the ground with a thump. Then I heard a whooshing sound and a long screaming whistle before the full moon suddenly burst into view as the train emerged from a long tunnel. The click-clack of the wheels on the track brought me fully awake and suddenly remembered that I was on my way to visit Grandma for the school holidays. I looked out the window and could see the moonlight sparkling on the dark water of a river and then I was plunged into darkness again as the train entered another tunnel.

I could feel Mum’s leg pressed against mine as she slept in the seat beside me. I rested my head against the window and closed my eyes again. I knew there was still a long way to go because Mum had said we wouldn’t be there until morning, so I curled my legs underneath my bottom and wrapped my arms around Mrs Bear to keep her warm.

I tried to go back to sleep but the rocking motion of the train kept waking me up every time I started to slip back into my dream, so I decided to just look out the window instead. Every now and then I could see the lights of a farm house in the distance, and I wondered about the children inside tucked up in their beds. I started to think about Ellen and hoped she was safe and happy. It made me sad because I knew I would never get to see her again now that she had moved so far away, but I hoped she wouldn’t ever have to worry about getting bruises on her legs again either.

Slowly I noticed that the sky was getting a lighter outside my window. There was a thin band of dark purple starting to appear through the trees, even though the stars were still shining in the blackness above. As I watched, the purple gradually turned into a light pink like the colour of my fingertips.

I looked at Mum’s face where she was sleeping beside me and wrapped in a blanket. There was enough light now for me to be able to see a little smile on her lips as she slept. I smiled too because I thought she must have been having a nice dream to smile like that in her sleep.

The sky was slowly turning orange as the train crossed another river and it slowed as we made our way up a long hill. There was a loud blow on the whistle and Mum opened her eyes. I could tell she was still sleepy because she didn’t move and just stared out the window with that little smile on her lips.

As Mum slowly woke up, she turned her head and smiled even more when she saw I was watching her. “Good morning, sweetheart. I think we must be nearly there. Have you got everything?”

I slid my feet down off the seat and felt for my backpack where it was resting on the floor. I put my book in the bag and held Mrs Bear tight as Mum stood up to wake the other girls.

The train was sliding into a little railway station and coming to a stop beside the platform as I followed my sisters to the door. All of a sudden the door was open and Mum was helping me jump over the gap between the train carriage and the platform and then I was standing in front of Grandma and Grandpa. It had been so long since I had seen them that I suddenly felt shy as Grandma started kissing everyone hello.

“Oh Molly, you keep growing all the time,” said Grandma. She wrapped her arms around me in a big hug and kissed my cheek. She smelled of soap and hairspray. I didn’t know what to say so I just hugged her back. “What’s the matter, Molly?” she said, “Has the cat got your tongue?”

Grandpa was busy picking up everyone’s bags and putting them in the boot of the car, and then I was squashed in the backseat between Jasmine and Catherine and we were on our way. I couldn’t see anything because the seats in Grandpa’s car were so deep that I had no idea where we were going, but eventually he pulled up and when I climbed out I was standing in the driveway of Grandma’s house.

Since we had been here last, Grandpa had built a little bedroom at the back of the garage and I slept in there with Mum. It was just like having a little house of our own and it made me feel important that I wasn’t just in Grandma’s house with the older girls. Rather than sleeping on a mattress on the floor like I usually did, I had my own bed covered with a beautiful quilt that Grandma had sewn. I sat on the bed and looked at all the little panels of the quilt and tried to work out the story they were telling. There were lots of pictures of cows and tractors and other farm things and I thought that maybe Grandma had made it to remind herself of the farm she used to live on with Grandpa all those years ago when Mum was a little girl.

in my head the song is never over

she had crazy hair and read comics
no wonder we fell in love
lonely girls don’t make trouble
they recite poems like they are living
extra kisses at the end of her texts
and she laughs like the morning sun
gentle hands of milk and honey
eyes closed she calls my name
in my head the song is never over

Molly #36

One afternoon I came home from school to find Stephen laying on his bed and listening to the radio. His hands were behind his head and his eyes were closed. There were clothes carelessly thrown all over the floor.

“You’re home early,” I said as I threw my school bag on my bed. Lately he was getting really down in the dumps and I was worried. He didn’t normally throw his clothes all over the floor like that.

He opened his eyes and turned his head to look at me, sadly I thought. “I lost my job today, Molly. They just told me they were putting some people off and I was the newest starter so I had to go first.” I didn’t know what to say so I just gave him a little smile.

“Well, at least we can play together again, can’t we?” I said hopefully. He just looked at me for a moment and then turned his head away and closed his eyes again. I didn’t know what else to say so I just sat on my bed quietly and read my book.

After a while he sat up and put his feet on the ground. “I’m sorry, Molly,” he said. “Do you want to go and play in the tree house?”

I closed my book and we both went outside to play. The afternoon sun was still hot, but it was nice and shady in the tree house. Stephen helped me climb up first, and I sat on the platform with my legs crossed while he climbed up the ladder.

“What do you want to do?” I said.

“Oh, I don’t know. Why don’t you just play and I’ll watch.” I watched his face but he had closed his eyes again and was leaning back against a branch of the tree.

I started playing with a doll, making her climb up the tree, but every now and then I would look up to see if Stephen was watching. He kept his eyes closed for ages, but then he started talking about going away somewhere, maybe to Western Australia to work in the mines. Mum had recently received a letter from an uncle who worked over there and he said Stephen could easily get a job there if he ever wanted one.

“But you don’t want to go all that way, do you?” I didn’t like hearing him talk like this. Usually he was so happy and fun to be around.

“I might have to if I can’t find any work here.”

I was worried about him going away, but a week or so later he found work picking fruit at a local orchard. He took me with him one weekend, out amongst the green leafy cherry trees and the hot red dirt between each row. Stephen showed me how to pick the cherries by twisting them with my fingers and then putting them in a tin until the farmer came to collect all the full tins.

After a little while my fingers began to hurt so Stephen said I could stop picking. I sat on the ground under the shade of the tree instead and started to read my book. Every now and then I took a cherry out of the tin and popped it into my mouth. They were different to the mulberries I had eaten before. Some of the cherries were a little tart and made me pull a face. In the afternoon I got tired and lay on the ground and watched Stephen climbing on the ladder way up in the cherry tree. It reminded me of when I watched him climbing trees when I was little. I closed my eyes for a little while and all I could see were red cherries dancing before my eyelids.

The cherry picking lasted for a few weeks and then Stephen started working for a builder. He told me he spent the day carting bricks and things around. It seemed like everything would be okay and he would be happier, but then he got put off by the bricklayer because there wasn’t enough work around.

Soon after another letter arrived from Western Australia to say there were some apprenticeships available. I saw the forms spread out on Stephen’s bed and he just stared at them all afternoon. It was a few days later that he came home and filled the forms in.

“I just can’t bear being out of work any longer, Molly,” he told me in bed that night. I lay there with tears forming in my eyes because I couldn’t bear the thought of him going away.

He was really excited a couple of weeks later when he got a letter to say he had been accepted. I found out he was to start in a few months time after being cleared by a doctor and some other things. At least that meant he would still be at home for Christmas.

Then I got a letter from Ellen; she told me that she was going to stay in Melbourne with her mother and wasn’t coming back. To top it all off, Dad came home one night and said we were moving again.

I was very sad and confused when I went to bed that night. Everything seemed to be happening at once. I sat on my bed with my legs crossed and started to write a long letter to Ellen to tell her my sad news, but every time I tried to use my pen the page was blurry with tears. I wanted to tell her that I would be her friend forever and would visit her in Melbourne one day.

Stephen came and sat on the end of my bed. “Don’t worry, Molly. I won’t be gone that long. Once I’ve got some experience for a few months I’ll be able to come back here and get a proper job.” He gave me a big hug and I left wet tears all over his shoulder. Eventually I finished the letter and popped it in the mail box.

now she needs another dance

colour of the human spirit
woman sparkles in the night
when she wants to
gives her heart to the past
how love changed everything
moved the world
now she needs another dance
not swallow his shit

happiness is fleeting

happiness is fleeting
so are quiet reflective moments
when that thing inside me kicks
I no longer feel in control
of my body or my life
but I say nothing
just smile vacantly
I can’t locate the sensation
a dull ache somewhere
in the pit of my stomach
I stare at it
wishing I could see
what is inside my body
all I want is to be held
the way we used to dance
before the doubt, uncertainty

Feminist thoughts: Women in music

I was 12 years old when I first discovered music. I mean really discovered music.
The kind of discovery that had me madly devouring everything I could listen to with passion. The catalyst was getting my first radio. It had been my brothers and when it came to me I discovered top 40 radio. Then I started pestering mum and dad to buy me CDs for presents. Can you imagine my excitement when I unwrapped Fearless for my birthday that year? I took over the family stereo each afternoon when I got home from school and sang along with Taylor until I knew every note. At night I would listen to the radio with it hidden under my doona so mum wouldn’t know. There was just so much exciting music out there – Rihanna, Amy Winehouse, Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry! The list goes on.

But then I gradually began to realise something more. I felt like for each one of my favourite female singers there was at least a dozen songs by men. Sometimes I would listen for an entire hour and not hear any female singers. This just felt so wrong to my young ears.

In 2008 the top 100 Billboard hits in the United States featured 37 female performers. In 2017 there were only 26!! What has happened that the number of female performers releasing hit songs has actually declined over the past 10 years?

A google search on ‘sexism in the music industry’ brought up 1.32 million results. The top search results were mainly magazine articles. GQ, Glamour, Marie Claire along with other media outlets have all run articles talking about sexism in the music industry.

Despite all this talk, it is still the consumers of music that are contributing to the overt sexism in the industry. It is about the music we seek to listen to, the songs we buy, the performers we vote for in Triple J’s Hottest 100 each year.

In January 2018, 51 songs in the Hottest 100 were from male artists or groups, 25 from female solo artists and all female groups, and 24 were from acts including both male and female artists. What distorts this last figure is that many of these combined acts were actually male artists ‘featuring’ a female singer. In other words, all the royalties and most of the accolades goes to the male performer.

How can you do your bit? It’s up to you what music you listen to but maybe it is a time to broaden your tastes. We become so conditioned to listen to a particular style that we don’t open our ears and minds to new music. So my challenge to you is try having all-female performer days. Demand the radio plays more women, listen to more women, hear more women. How else will we see any change?

Have a great feminist week!

Molly xx

Molly #35

A few weeks later Ellen and I were sitting on my bed reading books. I was laughing at a funny passage in my novel and Ellen was smiling at me because I kept making her laugh. Sometimes we went on like that for what seemed like hours, but Ellen was always the first one to get bored with reading. This day she seemed a bit restless and her smiles looked a little sad. I wasn’t sure what was wrong but I didn’t want to ask and upset her again so I just tried to find funny parts of my book to read out so that she would laugh with me.

“Mum and I are going to Melbourne for Christmas,” Ellen suddenly blurted out.

I looked up from my book. “What?”

“I said, Mum and I are going to Melbourne for Christmas. I wanted to tell you earlier but I couldn’t.”

“When… when do you go?” I wasn’t smiling anymore. I had thought we were going to be together for the whole summer holidays. I didn’t know whether to feel happy for her or not but I knew I felt unhappy for myself.

“We catch the train after school on Friday. Mum said that she wanted to visit her sister. I haven’t seen Aunty Vicky for years… I’ll write to you every day, Molly.”

“I’ll write to you as well, but I’m really going to miss you, Ellen.”

“I’ll miss you too, Molly, but you have to promise not to tell anyone, at least until after we’ve gone.” I looked at her face closely. I felt like there was something she wasn’t telling me. How come she had never mentioned going to Melbourne before, and why the secret?

“I won’t tell anyone,” I said, “I promise.”

She looked happy; no, more relieved than happy, and gave me a hug.

“It’s going to be all right,” she said. “Mum and I will be safe. Aunty Vicky lives on the beach just south of Melbourne.” She had become chatty now, but I was still worried.

“I remember going there a few years ago,” said Ellen, “It was when I was little and it was really pretty and colourful. These little wooden houses were on the edge of the beach and we walked on the sand every day.” Ellen stopped and looked at me thoughtfully. “You’ve gone quiet, Molly.” She kissed me and I put my arms around her neck and she leaned her head against the curve of my arm. There was so much I wanted to say to her but I just couldn’t think of the words. I closed my eyes to stop the tears from falling.

As we sat there silently for a moment, I tried to think of myself in Ellen’s place. There were no secrets between us and my mind ran with thoughts of rabbits and bruises as I tried to understand Ellen’s struggle. We sat there clinging to each other for ages until Mum called out from the kitchen,

“Molly, Ellen – it’s time for dinner.”

“You mustn’t tell anyone,” Ellen whispered as we walked out of the bedroom.

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