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2020 Highly Commended entrants

In 2020 two entries have been highly commended by our judges: 'Billy Collins' Online Writing Course: Lesson 4' by Louise Nicholas and 'The Diamantina' by Kevin Smith.


Billy Collins’ Online Writing Course: Lesson 4

by Louise Nicholas 

“Write about something you did yesterday,” he says.
So I take it to a coffee shop – that day now passed –
and set it into middle distance. I stare at it, as we did
those 3-D Magic Eye books back in the day, and wait
while it lifts like a stain from the grey wash of days.

And yes, there we are: Jill and I at the Strand:
Jill picking the tomato skins from her gnocchi,
me pernicketing over an underdressed squid salad,
Two women well into their invisibility, glad
our daughters aren't here, their lips pursed, or
smiling their tetchy little smiles. Either way,
they're grateful not to be us. Nor will they ever
become us, they think. Let alone the woman
in the nylon crepe blouse and elastic-waisted skirt
who's just now parked her walker and, bending over
the cake display, forced the ghost of morning teas past
to overflow her waist band.

But that's today. Back in yesterday, Jill and I have split
the bill and are sitting in a movie theatre, in seats
with easy toilet access, tut-tutting over the endless ads
and hoping the crisp packet sitting two seats along
meets a sudden death in the first scene.


The Diamantina

by Kevin Smith.

Though you cannot see or hear them
they walk the dunes through channel country.
They shift among the ghost gums
and walk tall with cloud and move
like wind through gidgee, bustard and brolga
stepping through the grasses beside them.
Something of them was left among you,
something fallen from the parched
pockets of time, that birds and mammals
built their nests with, something reforged
in fires they have lit. White
as you are, you cannot know this. The birds
you know by given names only. Footprints
in sand tell the way bilbies
have come and gone, and when. But you
are no kin to them, nor ever
will be. On your way back
across the dunes from the lake you find
a stone ground over millennia. You lift
it from the sand, heft it in
your palm and search the landscape for
an answer, then set it down again
and go on, emptied. Time announces
itself in dunes, in creek beds and mesas,
in stories you’ve never heard—stories
sunk into land by time too deep
to comprehend. When you sit
in your car in blinding heat a whirl-
wind spirals to life. It lifts dried leaves
from the claypan and dies before
you notice it. At night, lying under
the stars, the blackness a well you drown in.