bath bomb



by Carly Waller


This piece was awarded first place in the second 2022 Swinburne Sudden Writing Competition.


The bathroom bench is dirty; no one has cleaned it for months. There are splatters of white from my broken dry-shampoo bottle, bits of grey hair from when Dad shaved for his new job but forgot to clean it up, and a million little bits and pieces: hairbrushes, scrunchies, bobby pins, toothpaste and tweezers.

When it’s night-time and everything is calm, I notice how gross it is. My eyes zero in on each speck of dirt and grime, and I wonder how we’ve been living like this and no one has said anything. Usually, Mum will berate the entire family for the dirty surfaces – bathroom, kitchen or lounge. But she’s been busy, up before me and home after me. I know she’s gone because when I step into the bathroom for my morning shower, she’s left her pyjamas on the floor.

The bathroom has now become a place to be by appointment only. I’m up at 5:30 so Dad can shower at 5:45 but make sure Jack is in there by 6. I think Mum had a shower at 3, but I never heard her. She slips out silently each morning and I think about it too much – how she’s perfected the art of overworking. We hold secret meetings when Mum is late, her dinner plate sitting at the table without her. We talk about how she’s gone, why she never comes home on time and how we worry. Mum arrives home tired, eats dinner and announces, ‘I need a bath.’

If I’m annoyed that she chooses a bath over family time, I won’t say it. Instead, I buy her bath bombs and hide them like Easter eggs: one in her bathroom drawer, one by the bath, one where she always shoves her pyjamas on the floor. She doesn’t say thank you, but I see pink residue left in the bath. It’s just another dirty thing I notice when I brush my teeth at night.

Our bathroom is disgusting.









Photo by LeeAnn Cline on Unsplash


deere in the headlights

by Cael Gorozidis


Content warning: This piece contains descriptions of injuries and a motorbike accident.


A name. It’s who we are. Even if we don’t know who that is. No matter how you wear it, it’s how we define one another. Like paint showering mundane objects with a different perspective and coating us in colours that we can call our own.

I wear a name on my skin, but it’s not mine. Above the nipple closest to that strange organ. The one that tricks the ears with a thunderous pulse – that alerts me when she is nearby – that flutters uncontrollably. It is where I hope she’ll stay.

She reminds me why I’m alive. To be apart is like feeling the sting from both sides of a double-bladed sword. In other words, the ink that paints our love only fades if she is not around for me to speak her name, and vice versa. I have frozen the burning of our love by giving it a name. And in the end, her name will always be a part of me. Even after death. The scar she whispered into my ear the first moment I met her shall never heal. And I hope it never does. Momentary suffering for a lifetime of happiness.

Does it make me selfish? This gift is one I keep, and for my own benefit. To win her trust. Or is it simply the least complicated way to make her smile?

I hope she likes it. Maybe I should’ve waited until after I met her parents, but I just couldn’t wait. This should welcome quite the odd conversation over dinner. I really hope she feels the same way. I don’t care what anybody else thinks, nor should I take any insult for expressing the way she makes me feel. If she doesn’t like it, I guess…Well, I guess I’ll just have to find another woman with the same name and try not to creep her out next time. Although finding your name tattooed on a stranger would creep anybody out. I hope she knows who I am.

Don’t worry about it too much. Focus on the road. It gets dangerous out here at night, and the nearest hospital would most likely be a vet for the wild animals that get mangled by trucks or even tractors. It’s their land, not mine. I should be easy on the throttle. No, it’ll be fine. I mean, motorbikes are nimbler, more tactile than cars. There’s a reason why they are called car crashes. Right?

I’m just so nervous. I hope she doesn’t mind I’ve taken the bike to come and see her parents. Presentation is the most important aspect of meeting new people. The last thing I want is for them to look down on me as a pathetic nobody who’s worth even less than this gift of self-harm. Don’t want to make that impression. Death trap. Once they see the bike, it’ll be the only two words planted in the back of their minds every time I’m in their presence, with their Wendy. If that wasn’t bad enough, there are only such limited ways to dress yourself on a motorbike, and my appearance and choice in gifts suggest that I don’t have much money. Or any, for that matter. But there is no way around that. I hope that they’ll just accept me for who I am.

Maybe something should smack me really hard in the head for what I’ve done. Instead of buying her something as simple as roses, I got another fucken tattoo. What’s the matter with me? Then again, roses are expensive. The way I see it is that a tattoo is more intimate and everlasting than some overpriced tradition – not to mention a tradition that has gotten a little too predictable – that she’ll probably just chuck away after they die. What kind of asshole would give a girl something that doesn’t last? No, my gift is eternal. Myself. It’s the only gift I can afford. Even if it does mean scarring myself. To make her smile will make it all worthwhile.

Her smile – I hope it’s still the same. It is the only reason I’d ever do something so crazy. She reminds me of who I’m supposed to be, even in the darkest of times. Does the insanity that motivates such a love to exist make me crazy, or just an extension of her? Isn’t this what love does to people? Two people losing themselves completely over each other. Well, in that case, I’ve made sure she’ll never have to remember who she is. And she’ll never have to worry about me losing track of who I am.

I can see her house now. My heart is beating way too fast. Like standing right next to a massive drum pounding so hard you mistake it for your perception of time. With vibrations that send ripples through tired eyelids and strike the soul with a barbaric clap that blocks out everything but the sense of sight. The more I think about it, the faster it goes and the harder it becomes to breathe. The harder it becomes to think. My head – is that a tractor on the road? – churns. My mind bends slightly like the road beneath me, and the house follows suit. All I know is that if this doesn’t kill me it’s going to—

• • •

Grass tickles. Tall and long, it hangs from the sky like a puppeteer’s strings, jerking my mangled body to check if I’m still alive.

Concrete pinches. It breaks my focus, cracking the eggshell that separates my brain of yolk from the harsh new world it had collided with.

Metal kisses. It is a cushion I bury my head into, saturated with the seeping liquid of conspicuous wetness that streams from the right side of my forehead.

Plastic shatters. It is a whiplashed blanket, bent, cutting the face. An unrecognisable imprint is left on the Deere – it looks bloody tired.

Harley is totalled and she’ll never walk again. That deer was strange. It isn’t dead, and its fur is green with a yellow streak on its broken side. However, its blood is black and smells like the same oil that leaks out of Harley.

Memory is blank and strange as the moon. I check the rest of this body that is apparently mine, and I find one wound that has already scarred. Near the heart. It has a name.

I must be with her. The only memory in my narrow mind bank – worth saving, apparently – that could lead me out of the mess I’ve put myself in. The last shred of my mysterious self. It gives orders and shouts at my legs to move. My body is in pain for a reason of a different kind. Like breathing after having your lungs steamrolled to the shape of flattened earth. Something tells me I’ve really done it this time.

A house reveals itself on the hills, surrounded by tall grass. My destination. In some kind of fucked-up convenience, my hand is already tucked into a ball, and I knock on the door. An unfamiliar woman opens it.

‘Hello?’ As she turns to look at me, all the bags she’s holding slip out of her hands. They hit the floor, revealing a needless excess of clothes. ‘Look what you’ve done!’ A moment of time can’t pass fast enough as she frantically picks them all up. ‘Now, may I ask for the name and business of the asshole who stands by whilst a lady picks up her clothes at this time of night?’ More time passes, but not quick enough, as she inspects the clothes on my back. ‘Tell me, who hides behind this dreary outfit and what is his business here!’

My jaw shakes, unsure of whether to vomit or not. I let my body talk instead.

She squints her eyes, getting a little close for comfort. ‘Wendy…Is that permanent?’ She traces the name with her finger, then pulls back. ‘Where are my manners? I’m Zara. And you look like roadkill. So, Roadkill,’ she adds a rasp to her voice, ‘I’m starving, and we’ve been waiting for you. May I ask what took you so long to get here?’


‘Oh.’ She touches the only visible part of my face, being careful to not cut herself on the shattered visor of my helmet. ‘No, honey, you must be mistaken – there are no deer in these parts. Must be suffering a concussion.’ Zara then fiddles with her fingers through the straps of the bags she holds. ‘Please, sit down and get comfortable. I’ll go get Wendy.’

Time doesn’t pass right around here. The more I wait, the more I close and open my eyes, wrestling against sleep’s stranglehold for dominance. Bare footsteps on floorboards are heard in a dream too real. Upon opening my eyes, for who knows how long they’d been closed, a well-dressed young man starts talking – or had been talking the whole time – and asking me rapid-fire questions in a manner that expresses that he doesn’t care to hear the answers.

‘Who are you?’ he asks most frequently. ‘My name is Giorgi. I think you need some new clothes. I’d give you mine, but they would be too small and, besides, they wouldn’t suit you anyway. Wouldn’t want you staining them. It’s almost dinner time. You were late, remember, and we are all starving.’

I think I’m speaking fluent gibberish in response, having gained the awareness of such foolishness like a sixth sense, pinpointed by the slight shake of my tired cheeks and the tremor in my tongue. Pain’s overwhelming grasp guarantees that I’m not making any sense.

I blink and I’m alone. Until an older woman made of sparkling glass emerges from the darkness behind my eyes.

‘Wendy will only be a minute.’ She seems disappointed. ‘You made her sad when you didn’t show up.’

‘There was a deer.’

‘So I’ve been told.’ She looks right through me. ‘You can call me Mrs Swarovski. Now, come on, we should start eating before the food goes bad.’

I blink again and she takes me through the house to reach the back where the kitchen and dining room are. This part of the house is only lit by candles that peek from behind the cracks of doors. They float by my dizzy gaze in large numbers, like sun-struck fingers over a river of calm but unstoppable water that rises in the peripheries.

Bursting through a door seemingly at random, the glimmer of silver on a man’s wrist overwhelms me. It clicks to the beat of my heart, measuring its very own blood pressure. The silver is part of a man who seems as though punctuality is the oxygen that gives him breath to keep on ticking.

‘You’re late.’ He frowns. ‘My daughter has been slaving all day for you to make this meal fit for a king.’

‘I’m sorry there was this—’

‘Yeah, I’ve heard the excuse.’ He grinds his teeth and I hear the sound of gears. ‘I’m Wendy’s father, but you can call me Tag. I’m only going to tolerate you because you mean something to her for some reason.’ He tactically changes his face. ‘Here she comes. Stand up. Don’t crack under pressure now – what are you doing? Stand up!’

Wendy. There she is, freckles and all. In her hands she holds a platter with a deer’s head on it. Or is it just a reflection from the cloche that encases tonight’s main course? An animal yet to be revealed as the prey. All I know is that its eyes blink with a dispersed hue of static comprehension. This deer is alive!

‘I hope you all like it. I’ve been working all day on it,’ says Wendy.

‘Remember, everyone – small bites.’ Tag deepens his breath. ‘A minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.’ He smiles at his daughter. ‘It’s delicious, sweetheart.’

‘Thanks, Dad.’ She turns to me with her chin tucked into her chest. ‘What do you think, John? Have you ever tried deer before?’

Memory clashes like lightning, and I remember who I am.

‘No, but I think I love you.’



Photo by Diana Parkhouse on Unsplash.



by Matilda Bolt 


This piece was awarded third place (tied) in the 2022 Swinburne Sudden Writing Competition.

The rain fell steady as my friends were married. The manicured lawn was mud; the gutters overflowed; droplets balanced on suit shoulders and strands of fly-away hair. And now, in the dark, it patterned the surface of the lake before me.

I stood alone beneath a tree and watched the ripples spread over the inky water. I had been drawn here, down the hill from where music blared and people danced, by loneliness. To seek comfort in the rhythm of the water, the patter of drips on fallen leaves.

As I stared at the water, I saw a shape in the ripples, like a great body swept the bottom of the lake, the water reflecting the mass below.

I leaned forward, but as soon as I saw it, it was gone. My eyes playing tricks.

A bubble of laughter burst behind me. Gold light spilled from the open door, revealing the guests dancing in a conga line, the rhythmic circling of a snake. None of them noticed me.

I turned back to the water. How selfish of me to be so miserable at a wedding. While everyone celebrated joy and love, I stood in the rain, alone. What if someone came down the hill and saw me? How would I explain this, my obsession with my own solitude, never shown to the world?

There, that same pattern in the water. A stirring of something beneath. I squinted through the black, but again, it was gone. I could only see the surface of the water, lit by the moon. Everything below was darkness.

I must be drunk, I thought. That is why I am so sad, because I drank too much. It has nothing to do with couples intertwined on the dance floor, not laughter, not love bared to witness.

The water stirred again.

I thought, it is more than the absence of a person. I have no one who truly sees me. Why do I long for someone to come down the hill?

And from beneath the water, shining light from below like the moon from above, opened a great, pale eye.






Photo by Michael Podger on Unsplash.



lemon tree


by Sarah Cirillo


This piece was awarded first place in the 2022 Swinburne Sudden Writing Competition.


The lemon tree stretches its arms out wide, boughs heaving with fruit. Underneath, there is a graveyard of rotting lemons, sickly sweet and buzzing with flies, and I gag as I reach under her. All the ripest lemons are there, but all the thorns are there too. They await my bare arms, ready to tear at my skin­­­­­­­­. I think it’s her revenge for taking her fruit. She works so hard and then she gets pissed on by Dad and Nonno. It’s good for the lemons, they both say. Men and their bloody dicks, Mum says.

Lemons are my favourite. People hate them because they’re bitter, but if you dip them in sugar they taste like lollies. Nonno taught me that. We cut them into small wedges, drenching them in the tiny granules. We grin as we eat them, and sticky lemon juice drips down my chin and onto the floor.

Nonno’s house has a huge lemon tree. We always climb up to the highest lemons, fighting to get the best ones. We play for hours, sometimes hopping over to the fig tree. She’s even bigger than the lemon tree, with twisted limbs bearing budding, milky fruit. I wonder if she gets pissed on, too.

It’s summertime and lemons hang like a lady’s jewels. Knobbed branches are marred with wrinkles, grotesque knots twisting this way and that, just like Nonno’s hands. Dad is the same, leather on bone, stubbled like the pricks on the lemon tree. They work hard, Mum says as we watch Dad and Nonno pruning the lemon tree. To the bone. Her branches fall to the ground uselessly, decorating the graveyard beneath her. I wonder if she knows she’s treated like nothing. She bears her fruit like she bears her soul, and all she gets back are broken limbs and piss.

Mum calls me over to help her make dinner. Salt dribbles onto my lips and I lick it away, turning to Mum as she sets out the cotoletta. She stands over the bench, back bent, like the trunk of my lemon tree, only Mum doesn’t get pissed on – we just take fruit, leaving her bare.

Today, Nonno taught my cousin to piss on the lemon tree. Men and their dicks, I think. He’s thirteen, and at lunchtime his friends play scopa and yell about the girls they want to fuck. They probably piss on their lemon trees too.



Photo by Angélica Echeverry on Unsplash.


i still haven’t got my breath back

A prose poem of “found fragments”, compiled by Julia Prendergast in homage to Swinburne student readings: ‘Tell me’ / Sudden Writing Spoken Word Event, 13 April 2022.


I don’t understand you and I don’t wish to

She wanted to paint him… her brush swelled with paint

…wet paint in sunlight

Yet here I am… both the abductor and the abductee

I was finally made of stardust

Into the void… my reflection is nothing

Squirm and struggle

The glimmering thin sense of the 21st century

Then there were the books – there were the books

Give me a second to think… when I’m thinking I walk… when I’m stressed, I run…

I’ve lied…

If I date you… how did you get that scar on your elbow?

Tell me all of it. Tell me your 3am feelings.

Your sister – the nice troubled one…

I don’t ever want to leave this room

It was cold and we were chest to chest. Rocks and twigs.

I sobbed as bits of me were dragged under water

An invitation to intertwine hands – for so long I had to wait for you to return

Watch me walk – I’m not moving anymore

The leaves make a different sound when they’re dry… That crackling skittering sound

I’m not in a cave, though sometimes I wish that I was… That’s what happens in what you think is your world… I live down, down below

The boys tumbled out of the sea

She looks back at the road and thinks very briefly of her own blood

More important than any of those, it’s her favourite sound… she taught me to find beauty in the mundane

The most important thing for us was honesty and communication

You baffle me.


Photo by Noah Black on Unsplash.

journey to the end of the line


by Jarryd Worland 


Studying at uni has afforded me the luxury of working-class travel on Melbourne’s suburban rail network. Growing up within arm’s reach of both school and the shops (thanks to access to a personal taxi service: my parents), I’ve never had to rely on public transport. There were only a few exceptions – occasional trips to the city for Dad’s Christmas work parties, or visiting the aquarium, zoo or museum with my family.

Due to Swinburne University’s Hawthorn campus surrounding Glenferrie Station and living on the wrong end of the Monash Freeway, ‘train-ing’ to uni every day seemed like the obvious choice – especially with a concession Myki. As of January 2022, my round-trip to uni consists of two 90-minute walks followed by the bus and train, costing just $4.60. Early on, I discovered a second advantage: if I’m already paying under $5 every day to go to uni, why don’t I use my Myki to explore Greater Melbourne for, essentially, free?

Over my six years at Swinburne, I’ve grasped the opportunity to take a train towards the end of every electrified line, just to explore and see what’s there. From the forested Hurstbridge and Belgrave stations to beachside Sandringham and Williamstown stations, Melbourne’s diverse landscape and towns are readily accessible by public transport with each line hosting its own distinct charms. It was always a pleasure to take an afternoon to explore and see what was there.

In my most recent adventure, I spent a cool, summer day travelling to the end of all 15 electrified train lines in Melbourne – within 24 hours. I followed a planned route that had me span Metro Trains, SmartBuses, local buses, trams, and even a V/Line train, accompanied with a little bit of walking (and some running!).

With my recently acquired knowledge of each end-of-line station, I have put together some ideas for your next cheap, daily excursion:

Hurstbridge Station

The leafy, Northern suburb of Hurstbrdige. It’s a quiet place filled with farmland and a park that has a Veteran’s monument. You can find a shopping strip along the main street selling refreshments, but I would call this the ideal space to read a book – or the latest edition of swine magazine!

journey to the end of the line    journey to the end of the line

Lilydale Station

Lilydale Station has recently been rebuilt as part of the Level Crossing Removal Project, and it stands out from the surrounds. The old station building is currently being refurbished as part of the new station forecourt. In the meantime, you can check out the local shops that surround Maroondah Highway, or if you’re feeling adventurous, go on a long walk along the rail trails and creek trails that take you to the surrounding Yarra Valley destinations like Healesville, Coldstream, and the Dandenong Ranges.

journey to the end of the line    journey to the end of the line

Sandringham Station

They don’t make beaches like these ones: a small trot down from the cliff face to the water, before you reach what feels like a secluded space for a swim. Even if you’re not a fan of sand, you can walk or cycle along the coastal shared path connecting Webb Dock into the city, all the way down to Parkdale. Just make sure to keep an eye on the path while you’re fawning over the view!

journey to the end of the line   journey to the end of the line

Williamstown Station

A station home to the serenity of the shores of Port Phillip Bay, you can smell the salty sea breeze and feel the cool winds from the nearby ocean. While it’s not the best place for a swim, watching the view on the grass of Point Gellibrand Coastal Heritage Park is ideal for meditation and relaxation. You’re welcome to bring along a picnic basket or take a short walk to the nearby botanical gardens and embrace the Australian past time of fish and chips by the sea, watching the ships go by.

journey to the end of the line

Glen Waverley Station

The heart of multi-cultural shopping and cuisine, at least for an end-of-line station! You won’t be disappointed by the countless options for food and drink. To top it off, The Glen Shopping Centre is nearby for your shopping needs, and on the other side, Village Cinemas Century City for your screen entertainment.

journey to the end of the line  journey to the end of the line

Have you got a favourite destination, a train ride away? Or, perhaps you are inspired to find your own spot on Melbourne’s train network? If you’re feeling adventurous, why not take the challenge up yourself and see how far you can go in 24 hours? Or, go and check out the regional destinations Victoria has to offer via V/Line.

Follow Jarryd Worland on Instagram @_pokekid_ or Twitter @JarrydWorland for more adventures.



Photography by Jarryd Worland. Feature image by Pat Whelen on unsplash.