Mothers A. I can lose myself between bed and mirror cot and door lamp and window I can merge with the suckling at my chest the train snoring at my side the call of the lonely magpie, still I drain into the miracle. The dark, the shadows, the moon my mind his growing mind evoke koonia bella, swing my baby hither, koonia bella my voice quivers in rhythm with the window panes while they recall it’s raining, it’s snowing, God waters the statues other nursery rhymes fight for the match, one lights the wick to melt the candle that fills the room with the smell of my one dolly I thought I had lost. We used to play balamakia, let’s clap our hands, clap, clap, clap daddy will come and bring us sweets, kooloorakia for our biscuit tin Lyrics come stomping up and down the hallway knocking at the door, waiting for no reply they barge in to slap away sleep to open the mountains and oceans of pages found on the shelves of children’s libraries. On page 53, the room is a country. Is it the lion or the witch seducing the wardrobe’s clothes? On 203, an expanse of history. Swords and shields march the walls, the baby’s cry heralds the battle, running fast over pages to escape death we rest with the parable of the lion retold by my grandfather. He who listens to the mouse knows pain is the best teacher. The roar will be restored once the rope is nibbled and frayed and the wounded nipple will become our well, our fountain. B. One fontanelle may cradle my heart’s tremor but I count hundreds of swaddled bees, eyes filmy blue stalking the nipple’s shadow still I feed and I am fed become stronger carry my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother and all mothers before her drained of our stories as one. C. The tug and surge the squeeze and gush as liquid love fills baby two and I fall into serene. My hair gently stroked by mother multitudes. We eat to keep ourselves plump tidy the bedroom of dropped clothes, toys, nappies… read the local paper. And come night breasts bared. Yiayia is Swimming in my KeepCup “… none of us leaves our personal stuff at the door, that we are always seeking to replicate structures from our childhood … we can each do our work but not expect the organization to solve the wounds of our childhood.” Jerry Colonna, Podcast Can you really bring your whole self to work? From my spinal cord the spirited child swings up through my lungs and leaps from my mouth with words like unruly curls, despite my hair stretched into submission, and pale blue, buttoned-up shirt defying my grandmother’s colours of roar and bleed. The child is listening to Yiayia Γιαγιά: Grandmother as the data morphs into ένα δύο τρία ena dyo tria: one two three as the fluorescent light holds a firm, old hand resting on my shoulder reminding me to eat my lunch. Ee glossa tis miteras Η γλώσσα της μητέρας: the mother tongue wafts from my moussaka disturbing those lunch packs with food of calm and order, my language of birth with values to live and reasons to die sits hunched as if tending to an open fire, as if retrieving water from a smelly well, my legs fated to walk uphill even in stockings and heels. At branch meetings all staff are grafted to their family’s tree, their words drop like fruit from the lips of the dead, their ideas no more than leaves of retired ancestors. She travels the length of my report using pen to mark her birth tongue, scolds with her dead father’s voice, “Critical deficiencies in negotiation,” he enjoys squeezing her soul. After Dinner 7.50 pm, 3 August 2020, Coburg, Victoria Her name is Filomena, I call her Fil, strangers and reporters call her Pyjama Mama one night, after rinsing and stacking the dishes, she sprayed Lemon Myrtle throughout the house fear continued to permeate the living room as the news spread its grime all over her couch that night, she didn’t sync her iphone into doom-scroll, she failed to perform her part in the family’s chorus she didn’t sneak nor march towards the front door, it was as casual as going to the shop for bread at first, the silence was gun fire— startling, there were no cars charging the street like a red flag the ambulance siren was a sweet whistle of care, the night sky was an empty casket of dreams and she walked in the middle of her street with spotted zebras nibbling night’s air. 8.05 pm, 8 September 2020, Coburg, Victoria She keeps walking in her pink bunny slippers passes the red post-box, turns into Lever Street as if pulled by a thought, another follows her with lip-stick poodles pattering the breeze flannel carves their bodies into canvasses of cotton creatures rippling with joy another middle-aged mother, another woman with a computer fighting with laundry-time they become the neighbourhood’s lullaby, an unrehearsed choreography of comfort pink tigers, red pandas, stripes and swirls follow the poodles, following the zebras through a grid of carved bitumen and grass, their slippers silence the day’s crescendo. 8.35 pm, 30 September 2020, Coburg, Victoria The wind slaps our faces, twists our hair, dogs lunge at us through ravaged fences the moon cowers as a tree grows arms, even then, we are like posties or soldiers we are the mothers feeding the night with our milk curing sores and aches our walk is an allegory before bedtime, a sip of chamomile with port or whisky unlike our day made of survival’s tenets, there is no talk to drill rules into hearts Fil is our quiet, useful bookmark turning each street into a page as we pass, some windows offer clues to once-upon-a-time. 8.45 pm, 16 October 2020, Coburg, Victoria the boundary road is never crossed, it’s our river Lethe, our warning a semi-trailer blares its horn of stress, we recall a key used to ignite speed we circle back carrying our animals as dreams designed to coax sleep.
Angela Costi is known as Aggeliki Kosti among the Cypriot-Greek diaspora of her heritage. She is the author of five poetry collections including, An Embroidery of Old Maps and New (Spinifex, 2021). In 1995, she received an award from the Australian National Languages and Literacy Board to study Ancient Drama in Greece. In 2009, she travelled to Japan with support from the Australian Council to work on an international collaboration with the Stringraphy Ensemble. In 2020-21, she received two arts grants from the City of Melbourne to creatively document existence during lockdown due to pandemic. Her poetry, essays and video poems are widely published, including Rochford Street Review, Cordite Poetry Review, Hecate and The Blue Nib. She works in the social justice and human rights sectors.