The FNAWN Board and award judges are proud to announce the winners of the 2019 inaugural FNAWN Literary Awards.
Short Story Award:
The judges for this category were Jared Thomas and Rachel Bin Salleh.
The prize is $2,000.
The winner is Alexis West for Young, Beautiful and Free.
There were no entries for the under 30s category.
Aunty Kerry Reed-Gilbert Poetry Award:
The judges were Lionel Fogarty and Yvette Holt.
There were two division prizes for this Award category:
Under 30s, with a prize of $2,000
Won by Jazz Money for Transit of Venus (false gods).
Open age, with a prize $2000
Won by Luana Towney for Our Protests for Our People
Young, Beautiful and Free.
By Alexis West
Young beautiful and free, the wind blowing my hair back and tickling my arms, the sun so warm on my legs and left side of body I could see the red in the chocolate brown of my smooth skin. Free! At least I told myself this morning I was free for the weekend. My boyfriend behind the wheel an Escort Red dangling from his lip’s dark glasses on with the stupid fluorescent green sun visor on. I smiled mine was a matching fluorescent orange. Same-same but different. So, the conviction of being free was being in a couple where we both were free. I was 19 co-dependant and still trying to figure it out. Now after almost 20 years I can look back and know what co-dependence is.
Driving South along the coast to camp on the beach and fish off the jetty. A whole weekend to ourselves where I didn’t have to share my man with all his friends. I was stoked. I adjusted my legs peeling my legs off of the vinyl seat covering they were glued too and positioned them so my thighs wouldn’t look so huge. Sexy I reached out with my right hand so my fingers could tangle in the curls at the back of his head. He looked across at my chest with my bright orange and purple bikini top then ran his eyes over my whole body he ran his hand up my thigh and into my crotch. I wriggled into his hand Def Leppard blaring on the tape deck. We were gonna have so much fun this weekend! I pulled a smoke from the packet and lit up soaking in the view and my life.
We turned off the main road towards the Bay stopping at the corner shop that sells bait putting it straight into the esky with ice and alcohol. We drove onto the beach, the anxiety in my belly began, it looked like tent city! We were late! Where were we gonna find a spot. So many people! Ugh! We drove through the neighbourhood nice and slow so we wouldn’t run over toddlers, doggies or beach balls. The dream of having a beach all to ourselves was smashed. We got to the outskirts of tent city, parked the car to start unloading and setting up. An exercise in team building that we both passed with flying colours. Simple really, I just did what I was told and used my initiative. I clocked the two young men who were camped out with their family and wanted to look like the ideal sexy girlfriend with tight cut off jeans with sweet buns. This was my element, where I shone! My brown skin, thick thighs and juicy arse looked great with no competition from blonde long-haired goddess’.
Home away from home! Bed with comfy mattress, camp stools, esky, drinks, rods, bait, food, firewood. We were set! We packed cones punching them back while we watched the sun sink into the blinding golden water. The stars came out, the air got cold, the fire was started, and the layers came on. I drank more cider. I was buzzing. We were dancing, singing, laughing with the car radio blaring. We were ‘those’ people.
A cold rush of wind caught into the crevices of my clothes and a moment of sobriety and consideration breathed into me. I turned off the car radio and began whispering with paranoia. We should go out on the jetty to fish. My boyfriend always up for an adventure immediately began the preparations. I went to find somewhere to squat. Id drunk a lot of cider.
Bucket, flashlight, esky, smokes, drinks, rods. We were set. We began our not so quiet trek to the jetty, tripping and stumbling through the quiet village keeping our chuckles and snorts to what we thought was an acceptable noise level.
The wind was picking up the closer we got towards the carpark leading up to the jetty and it was cold. We reached the edge where the pylons meet the land looking out towards the end of the jetty. The wind began to forcibly push us back. The T junction looked miles away, but that was where we were headed. Schools of fish apparently. I was regretting my suggestion already longing for the tent to get out of this cold ferocious wind. He was invigorated, fishing was his passion, not mine.
I paused to spark up a fag, the pause turning into a lengthy delay trying to use my hands, my jacket, his body as a shield to get the damn thing alight, finally, here we go. I was glad it was dark as we trudged along, I always got vertigo walking on jetty’s, I can never stop myself from looking down and
the gaps between the wood and the ocean spin me out. It was the fear of being blown off into the jetty into the sea that was freaking me out instead. I walked in closer to him having to walk double time to keep up with his 6’3” stride. We passed a few groups dedicated fishers; I kept my head down
to avoid making contact.
I’d finished my smoke and we weren’t even halfway there as I flicked it away from me casually using the ocean as my own personal ashtray the bucket flew from my hand. I’m a clutz! I began chasing as it continued to roll out of my reach, the sprinkling of rain began. Reach, roll, reach, roll, reach, roll.
Fuck this let the night have the damn thing! I stood up straight preparing myself for the wrathful taunt of his scathing tongue, I was gonna verbally cop it for this one. I drop of rain spilt down my cheek pre-empting the tears that were likely to fall later. I took a deep breath in.
“Sin Chow, Xin chao” I looked across at an older grinning Vietnamese man holding the bucket he’d rescued out towards me. I gave a grateful smile and thanked him profusely, he patted my hands kindly as he looked over my man returning his gaze towards me. “Can than, can than.” I thanked him again as we continued on our journey. My boyfriend mocked him repeating “can than, can than,” embarrassed I turned to look back, he was intent on checking his crab nets.
Why all the way to the end? Can’t we just fish from here. The fish are everywhere beneath us, but no, once he decided on something, especially when drunk, there was no going back. We’re committed now. Head down, one foot after the other, the cold air off-of the ocean sobering me up,
lets just catch some fish and get off this thing.
‘What the fuck’ I looked up loosing balance and grabbing onto his arm which he pulled away from me in dismissal. Confused and hurt I looked at his angry face then the direction he was glaring towards. A tarpaulin shelter had been set up off centre of the end of the jetty blocking anyone else access to fish from one end. The whole T-junction was a private domain with their own private jetty. The rain was steady, I pulled the hood of my jacket further over head and hooked it over the stupid sun visor I still modelled. Great! Cede defeat and return to our tent’s I was chuffed. I didn’t want to cramp their style. Three men with cans in their hands spread out strategically staking their claim.
But no, he wasn’t going to be defeated, he’d come this far, he was gonna fish, at the end of the jetty and that was that. He led the way despite the hostile looks they gave us. We parked ourselves in a space between them. A fourth man stumbled laughing out of the man cubby with an unopen can in
hand spotting us he made his way towards us. Here we go.
He looked me up and down, I felt like some prize catch he was weighing up, ugh, he looked at my boyfriend and grinned. “Want one” my boyfriend, always an opportunist when it came to alcohol was happy to oblige.
“How bout you love?” “I’m right” I replied feeling that nervous anxiety in the pit of my gut. The small talk began as we set ourselves up rain falling randomly letting us know it wasn’t going away.
Pippi on the hook I cast into the inky darkness ignoring the men as they talked to him and looked me at me sideways. I felt like a lone tuna surrounded by sharks, my man was the chum. I tried lighting another smoke attempting to seek help from my distracted partner, one of the rotten toothed men cupped his fish smelling hands around my mouth grazing my lip, on purpose I’m sure, the lighter worked and my smoke kindled, I pulled away from his hands. ‘Thanks’ I mumbled. I looked towards my bloke to see if he’d witnessed any of that intimate interaction, he was oblivious as he checked out a shiny reel one of them were showing him. Useless. I was alone. I protected my smoke with my hand and puffed madly away staring into nothing but hypervigilant to every movement around me.
No bites and him three cans down. I was done. He was just revving up, the fishing forgotten in the haze of drunken male bonding. The wind was relentless and the rain consistently off and on. I was nervous about asking to head back, I know how he gets when he’s on a roll with his mates, even new ones but I’d had enough. We should head back, it’s cold’. ‘Nah we’re right’ ‘Have a drink love’ as a can was shoved into my hands ‘No thanks’ ‘Go on have it’ I was outnumbered 5 to 1 with my boyfriend leading the peer group pressure to stay and drink. I took the can and opened it feigning a sip, no point fighting.
The rain got steadier and the wind picked up. Surely, we’d trek home in the dark now. Nope they were inviting us into their lair. My body was riddled with fear, they were creepy, this was creepy, and my man was certainly not in any capable state of saving me if these goons tried anything on me.
My boyfriend behind me and the other men surrounding me shepherd me into the tarp smelly cavern. It reeked of beer, bourbon, vomit, stale cigarette smoke, body odour, urine, fish guts and rotting teeth. A flashlight blinded me, I tripped falling between bottles, cans and a stinky swag. “You right love? Make yourself comfy, She’s on your swag Pauly ya lucky bastard.” They laughed. Finally my boyfriend sensed that something was amiss and fell beside me, claiming ownership of me, he groped me and kissed me with force and messiness. I pushed him away with a false laugh thinking up an escape plan. A man sat on my other side; Pauly I’m presuming. He sat too close.
I looked around me, where they were placed and where the exit flap was memorising it. Pauly pulled out a tin with the pungent smell of buds wafting up into my nostrils. He packed me a cone and shoved it at me. ‘Thanks’ I took a quick obligatory toke and passed it to my man, he was already to gone to be much help to me now.
The talking, leering, drinking and laughing continued as I edged myself further and further away from them all getting closer to our belongings and closer to the exit. The rain poured down sagging the roof, the wind making an eerie whistling howl through the gaps in the jetty and tarp. I was spooked. Making out I was fishing I baited my hook and set up in front of the half open gap casting my line out keeping the men in the corner of my vision. Let them talk. I felt shark eyes on me… I was their prey, they were circling, my man’s head was nodding up and down onto his chest. I could feel their cold eyes on me.
One of the men came crawling my way with slurred words of groom and sleaziness. My insides were frozen. My boyfriend tipped over releasing a resounding snore like a bolt of energy coursed through me. I grabbed one of the eskies and pushed it towards him blocking his pathway to me and the exit. I had to flee. I jumped up yelling over my shoulder ‘just gonna take a piss’ an arm grabbed my leg pulling me down. I grabbed the top of the tarp to try and hold me up bringing down the roof and all the water pooled in it. I was soaked and so were they. Swearing and yelling they struggled in the
mess, I couldn’t hear my man’s voice amongst the rage. Blind pass out drunk. I untangled myself and leapt forward sliding as I attempted to sprint Cathy Freeman style away the bucket handle somehow in my hand. A man stood up from the mess ‘fucken bitch’. The water from the rain blinded me I ran straight into a body. Oh no!
The man behind tried grabbing me, the owner of the body pushed me, the momentum forcing me to move my legs towards the shore and safety.
I heard ‘Xin chao, Xin chao’ behind me. The Old Vietnamese man. He blocked my pursuers path. I kept running.
The rain was coming down hard, the wind behind my back forcing me away from the predators. Away from my saviour. Would they be alright. I kept going too scared to look back.
I finally reached earth panting and sweating. I looked back at the empty jetty. I hadn’t passed another soul on my sprint to freedom and safety.
I hoped the Old Vietnamese man was okay.
He’ll be right. Or not. I didn’t care.
I pulled my mini mag light out of my pocket and made my way through the quiet wet campsites back to our tent.
Safe-haven. I made it, unzipped the flaps, stepped in, threw my bucket in the corner, zipped back up and clambered into the opposite corner shoes on and pulled the quilts and sleeping bag over me shivering. I was too weak and scared to undress. I fell into a deep sleep.
I woke to the faltering drunken attempts of the tent being open. It was light outside. “Hey baby” he mumbled at me as he staggered in heeling off his shoes. He wriggled in under the blankets to my warmth bringing in all the wet, cold and darkness with him. He snuggled into me. I was frozen. To
exhausted to fight him off. I closed my eyes and went back to sleep.
Transit of Venus (false gods)
by Jazz Money
a vessel to follow a goddess
stinking boards and mouths with rot
floggings of one in five
odds are high
to never set foot upon sand soil loam
as though by god given grace
that ship through storms
more stars to follow
as disease to the pearly flesh
that tears through the idle
it’s all green cast ashore
a paradise of course
20 miles across and the time so vast
yet square white clouds
a waking nightmare come real with brass buckles
telescopes and fine shining lenses
here yes that goddess promise of
love beauty sex desire
emerges from a grand clam shell
the cries of her kind hidden in night
but fertility with sickness
that plants a deep seed
does venus only love a white woman
a small black spot and the three pointed hat
failed to quantify the stars
a false transit
but in the small scrawl footnote
stamp and seal with crown
another goddess is promised
hidden lands to scorch and claim
terra australis incognita
what lead to the goddesses of your skies
to guide by night to this shore
our stars speak of all time
they wake in the east and chase a sky long
here, the whole world is enough
venus goddess of war
whose brand of love brings fire
steel poison and flag pole
brunt again soft skulls
boiling water deep underground
the reef is a fertile loving expanse
graciousness looks like calcification
a million pulsing polyps
no soft white cheek and glittering advancement
a furthering endeavour
snatching hands collect seeds and grains
rope and basket
a never forgotten
foul ship first theft
and promise of an empty land
cook was unsure down to the forty-second second
and no crown could own the size of the sky
but a transit
the end of many worlds
the first ghosts of a pox ridden army
landing upon shell shores
transit for glory
without a captured star
but poles that grow from greed
flag of strange relation
to end the world
and a great hungry mother
guiding to destruction
venus was a traitor to the south
Our Protests for Our People
by Luana Towney
It’s our culture not a costume,
We can’t take it off at the end of the day,
When we’re sick of playin the part,
What else can I say…
Blackface just aint right,
White people been making fun of
Our traditional skin,
They can wash that colour off,
Then for them it’s alright.
They took the children away,
Assimilate them, breed out their colour,
Bit of luck,
They’ll be acting white at the end of the day.
Stop black deaths in custody,
Been locking up our people,
and killing them continually.
Change the fucking date
It’s the day they changed our fate,
Stole, took, killed, raped, claimed terra nullius
Ain’t no day to celebrate.
From little things big things grow,
One person can rise up,
And change the future,
By being strong and brave against their foe.
The way to move forward
Show us respect and dignity,
Walk with us, talk with us,
Show us you care.
Stand up and be counted,
Don’t shy away,
Stand strong and tall at the end of the day.
It don’t matter if you’re black or white,
Do the right thing and fight for our rights!