from the editor's desk

Alexis Lateef

‘Photo Day’ by Alexis Lateef

With the support of The Copyright Agency‘s Cultural Fund, and in partnership with Margaret River PressWesterly delivered our inaugural Writers’ Development Program in 2016.

Five talented emerging writers were offered professional guidance and support in developing their work for publication in Westerly, both in print and online. We are now delighted to be able to showcase their work here at the Editor’s Desk, and look forward to their inclusion in our upcoming print issue.

Photo Day

Alexis Lateef

Does she remember us or do we pass
only like dreams of dark figures,
some with different hair or deep voices,
or merely countless hats hanging on pegs…

Dorothy Hewett, ‘The Dark Fires’

Another homeroom in the hall—
the photographer
adjusts his tripod.
Teachers stand, puffed
as pelicans,
faces shining with amusement.
Our grimaces tumble
into their wide gullets,
as Victorian collars
are painfully released from
underneath tunics.

We scuff our shoes against tiles,
scowling in green and white,
old-fashioned sleeves
buttoned at the wrists,
the way our feelings
are fastened and contained.
This uniform has not changed
for a hundred years—
if it weren’t for our hair,
it could be 1846,
the birth year of this school.

Reflective windows mock
our sulking selves.
Only we acknowledge
that it is 2004,
and the White Stripes
are playing on our radios,
that we drift
about the streets in our jeans
on weekends,
wondering who we are
outside all of this.

The camera flashes.
We are no longer
just teenage skin,
fragile blood vessels,
no longer just headed
for accidents,
heart attacks,
unhappy careers,
a divorce or two, dementia—
the things that dreams
are not made of.

We are preserved in the amber
of this photograph,
as perfect as we’ll ever be.
I marvel at the thought.
A hundred years from now,
some girl will walk
through the school library,
and scroll through archives
to glimpse our frozen,
awkward faces.

I will be dead.
Where is the comfort in that?
The photographer signals
for another shot.
I squirm in my seat.
There is no comfort in that, I think
as we escape the benches.

And yet, somewhere
in the vague haze of history
after History,
there I am, squinting at a camera.
If not for anything else,
then for this photo today.
I peek at classmates,
wonder if anyone else
has figured out the significance
of this measly school rite.

The thought is lost,
in the flurry of talk,
in the excitement of exit,
in the frenzy of collars rearranged.

Another homeroom files in.

Alexis Lateef is a Perth writer. She has a BA (English Literature) from The University of Western Australia, and has worked as a tutor, bookseller, reviewer, and library officer. Her work has appeared in Westerly, Australian Poetry Journal, Southerly, Island, Australian Book Review, Cordite, Collapse Board and in other places. She is currently editing her first collection of poetry.

Westerly thanks both The Copyright Agency‘s Cultural Fund and Margaret River Press for their support of this program. 


CA W and MRP panoramic

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