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Amber Lights

The boys at school and I

disappeared between classes

passed tobacco between our hands like water at the well

smoke signals provided translation

between multi-coloured kids

wagging in a vacant lot

We met there between family and school

felt most at home in the no-man's land

where the old and the new worlds couldn't find us

we even met there for fights

first kisses

swigs of alcohol on weekend nights

It's even where my friend Mark told me

about how our friend Omar had died

and I found the truth somewhere between the explanations

Us kids grew up in that vacant lot

between being Greek



and Australian

Knowing we were no longer truly either one

but somehow both

Migrant kids are like rivers

always moving

but somehow still enough

to be given a name like Wog, Nip, Fake - hyphen - Australian

So of course when we learnt how to drive

we'd ride for hours

in the only place where we felt like we belonged

somewhere between points A

and B

between the green and the red

I learnt to love the traffic lights

when they turned amber

because I realised our teachers also

slowed down on their approach to us

and tapped their feet impatiently for our answers

I've learnt to rest my head in the elbows of my lovers

somewhere between their hearts and their hands

like the moon I keep my distance

because it's the only thing

that makes me look like I'm standing still enough to get close to

So now I write my best work in transit

in hotel rooms where the linen is transparent

and the paintings by no-one

I write so the silences between my words can begin to make sense

and I exist somewhere between the surface of the page

and the tip of the pen

so I wrote this piece - I the margins

but the whole thing is the TITLE

at dawn and at dusk

somewhere between the ridges

the pinnacle

and the cusp

So when they tell me I'm not political enough

not Greek enough

not Australian enough

not a poet enough

not street enough

or not me...enough

I tell them I am a star

and I exist somewhere between

you seeing me shine

and realising

I'm already dead to you

I just let you witness some of my burning

I am not a hyphen

I am a 100-metre dash

between my history

and your make believe

between White-Australia policies

and being saved by the colony

between having to drag my past, kicking, back into my present

and then hide it behind my back in your presence

So be careful when you place that hyphen in my name

or I'll use it to cut your throat

just to show you how much I love this country

but that I will always have some Sparta in me

I may be the amber light

but amber is the only gemstone

that is a living, flowing liquid permanently fossilised

that keeps itself warm

that is used as medicine

that smells sweet when it gets burnt

that in Roman times was worth more than a slave

that was used to decorate Mycenaean tombs

that was named 'elektron' by the Ancient Greeks

a precursor to the English word for electricity

because they discovered that if rubbed the wrong way

Amber will always create a spark

and amber is only ever increased in value

when some of us

are discovered stuck in it

So of course us forgotten ones

the in-betweens

the most rare

would gather around the fires in that vacant lot

tell stories in our silences

of how our friend Omar

was sent flying

between the hood of a Holden

and the wall of a house

like a shooting star

I'm just glad we got to witness some of his burning...