Sunday, February 17, 2008


I pretend I’m not here. I don’t look into the eyes of the men who watch me. Leering, lustful eyes – almost the raincoat brigade. Sometimes they touch the girls, making the excuse of poking money into their bra or g-string. I stay back far enough from the edge of the stage so they can’t put their paws on me.

I’ve learnt to gyrate in a way to rouse passion. I take off enough of my costume for their jaws to fall open. I touch my own body. I hate every move I make and every face watching me.

The place is seedy – you should see it in the day light hours – ugly and dirty, but at night with the lights and the mirrors it looks glamorous enough. Most of the other girls earn themselves a bit of extra money on the side – easy to do – just let them slip their fingers into your bra or g-string and accept their invitation. There’s a room at the back, with a constant flow of traffic all night long.

I won’t do it. The raw sex that is on display and on sale here has put me off for ever I think. Its all empty – the sliding up and down the poles, the flaunting of the body. The sex I think would be soul destroying.

Because I appear to be a bit stand off-ish the ‘musical director’ decided I could have a special spot. Sort of sex cloaked in innocence. I wear pink tulle, a skirt like a ballerina would wear. They slide the mirrors in a bit closer and angle them around me and my pole. The music is tinny and repetitive. I’m supposed to look like a little girl.

I rise and go on my toes – all that ballet training finally coming in useful – I hold my arms up and pirouette around and around. I can see myself reflected in the glass. I go away into the image as I shed my costume and my innocence – I’m a music box dancer, so pretty, so young. Tinkling, tinkling music. I see my music box, my white music box with pink flowers painted on the lid, and I remember lifting the lid and the dancer – so young, so innocent – rising up and turning round and round. Her face was blank when you looked closely and she turned and turned on demand.

I am the music box dancer.

Nelma Ward
December 2007 ©


You’d like to know my favourite place – I can’t tell you one. For me, its places. And times. They are linked somehow, to make a place a favourite. Some of them are geographically impossible to locate. I could not take you to them and say ‘This is it’ – all I could do is say ‘Somewhere around here, on a special day, at a particular moment, when I was feeling this certain way, this was a favourite place of mine’. The ones I could take you too are fragile things too – who said they can’t be burned down or collapse? But all are very real, very precious to me. I’ll tell you about them.

Kings College Chapel, Cambridge, England. I stood in that soaring, beautiful, ethereal place, overcome by the history, by the light, by the fact that I was there. Pale stonework, impossibly light and floating.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France. I stood in front of the rose window, a page from my high school art book come to life. Stillness, hush, candles burning in a row. Tears running down my face. And I have not got one religious bone in my body.

Red Fox Inn, countryside, Ireland. Mist, light drizzling rain. Wet landscape, peat smoke, cocoa coloured whippets laying by a fireplace, a cup of rich coffee, well laced with whiskey in my cold hands, all of Ireland before me to explore.

The Globe Theatre, London, England. Standing for two and half hours, feet numb in the cold, the actors almost within hands reach, Shakespeare’s words, the sense of history overwhelming. The best, the most unforgettable, theatrical experience of my life.

Cable Beach Resort, Broome, West Australia. A real Kimberly moon reflected in to the black sea. Sitting on cushions on a wide expanse of lawn, a glass of red wine in my hand, the air warm and soft. The beautiful Latin music of Jane Rutter’s flute and Slava Giorgorian’s guitar enveloping me.

A hillside, Tamborine Mountain, Queensland. A freezing cold night, just having had a beautiful meal in a cosy restaurant, sharing a bottle of champagne whilst standing in the dark beside our friend’s luxurious Mercedes Benz, the car sound system playing an operatic tape. The whole of the Gold Coast stretched out before us, golden twinkling lights weaving a glorious lacy tracery, and the moon, full and pale, making the true postcard perfect path across the sea. Good, good friends to share this with.

French ‘palace’, hillside, Chau Doc, Vietnam. Late afternoon, standing with my son, who I had not seen for a year before this trip, and our lovely young Vietnamese guide, on the terrace of a ‘palace’, on a hillside outside the Mekong Delta township of Chau Doc. A red disk of sun, vivid wild red, through the grey clouds, and haze from the burning rice fields. As the sun fell like a stone to the horizon the sky was infused with a mystical golden light, turning to a luminous pink, which reflected onto the canals crisscrossing the lush green landscape. There are tigers in the hills here.

Outside Boulia, Queensland. Late afternoon, rushing to make Boulia which is almost on the Northern Territory border, before dark. Stopping at the top of a hill, standing in the soft gold light, the sun sending its last rays horizontally across the miles of miles of red and gold landscape stretched in front of us. Silvery grey low vegetation, absolute quietness, grey-mauve dry fluffy wildflowers at our feet. Unlimitless space.

The sky, Massey, Darling Downs, Queensland. Gliding in a thermal, round and round in the blue intoxicating air, surrounded by circling ibises – flying with the birds.

A certain spot on the road between Greenmount and Nobby, Darling Downs, Queensland. Every different time of the day, every different season, the colours of this magnificent valley are transformed. Every time it takes my breath away.

I could go on and on. I won’t. These are just a few of the places that I hold in my heart.

© Nelma Ward


The lot of us met on Saturday afternoon as arranged. I’d been waiting for this for a long time. Now at last I was old enough to join the rest of the devotees, for that’s how I think of us – devoted to a cause.

Of course every young man in this community thinks that one day they’ll be invited to join the others. They check you out first of course. Find out whether your like-minded. I am. Always have been.

I know there’s a lot of bad press about us. Scathing pieces in the newspapers and so on. I don’t think they realise that we have lots of influential people in our group. Pillars of the community – doctors, lawyers and so on, as well as the ordinary folk, the truck drivers, the labourers. Doesn’t matter what you do, if you feel strongly about this matter you’ll be accepted into the group.

So I went along. A few of the older guys came up and shook my hand. They looked me straight in the eye and asked if I was up for it. Up for it! I was trembling with anticipation, wondering what it would feel like, how it would be to finally do something about this problem. To make my mark.

I hoped our efforts today would have a result. We had our target picked – that much I knew. It was a short walk, all of us together, feet and hearts beating as one. I liked the idea of a uniform too. All white, pristine – clean looking, somehow. I’m not too worried about the anonymity aspect really – but the older, wiser heads say that it’s a good thing. I don’t know … some part of me wanted to be recognised. It would have been great to have people who aren’t in these hallowed ranks come up and say ‘good on ya – I’ve wanted to do that for a long time’.

So, now here I was – amongst my heroes, in a long white robe. I’m the one fifth back from the burning cross in the photo which was in the local paper. When the trial started – murder was the charge – that photo went all over the world.
Odd, isn’t it – my first Saturday afternoon meeting, and unlucky enough to be caught in what they say was ‘the most brutal attack this Southern state has seen in many years’. I can still hear the older men, my heroes, my role models, cheering me on, and I can still feel that excitement as I went at the enemy. But that’s the trouble, isn’t it – most people don’t seem to understand about the enemy. I’ve known about it ever since my daddy told me. He’s in the photo too.

You can see that I’m not used to the tall pointed white hood as I’ve put my hand up to steady it. And my hand is slightly covering the three initials emblazoned on it. The three important initials – in my mind the three most important initials in the world. The next hood I’ll wear, so they tell me, wont be a white one, and no initials this time – just something to hide my face as I’m sent to my Maker.

© Nelma Ward

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Ewan had always enjoyed overtime until now. Overtime was something he chose to do – the 26th floor was silent, with the floor to ceiling windows behind his chair glassy, black and silent at night. He could get work done, with no interruptions.
Not that he didn’t get work done during normal hours. The office block itself was most conducive to getting things done thoroughly and efficiently in the corporate world. It was an ultra modern building, glossy marble walls, shining stainless steel fittings, all sharp angles and streamlined. It said ‘no nonsense’.
The staff responded – desks were clean and shining, papers neat symmetrical piles, computer screens without the usual lurid saver screens, and no cutesy-pie fluffy neon coloured monkeys or bears perched around the work stations.
It was a pristine slick environment and Ewan responded fully. Not that he was behind in his work, he just liked to stay on and get himself absolutely up to date, and totally on top of things.
He was a conscientious young man, proud of his career, and with just the right amount of ambition to make his way up in this company. In a few years he expected to be climbing those ladder rungs quickly! Competition was fierce, and he liked to be seen working hard and in control.
He finished the spread sheet, considered for a moment if he needed to do any more, decided not, saved his work, turned off the main lights and stooped to collect his brief case from behind the desk.
He paused – was that the lift doors to the floor opening and then closing? Couldn’t be. He was always alone at night and who else would be coming to this floor at this hour of the night? Still, very strange.
He stood to leave, and with a heart lurching start found himself confronted by a woman standing silently in his doorway. Backlit by the corridor lights, but also illuminated by his computer screen, he could see her clearly. Small, finely boned, business suit, hands clasped demurely in front. The thing that stopped him, froze him in his tracks, and prevented the words ‘God, you startled me. Can I help you?’ from forming, were her eyes.
Her eyes were huge, dark, looking past him. What was the word that described that look? Some old fashioned word? Melancholic, that was what it was. Dark, imploring, staring, melancholic eyes.
He stood, frozen to the spot, a feeling of dread, or horror, settling on him. She walked silently past him, not acknowledging him at all, with light purposeful steps – she knew where she was going in his office. When she reached the dark reflecting windows behind his desk, she seemed to lift up, smashed through – although silently – glass raining in sparking shards, and was gone.
His breath came in pants. He put out his hand – far too late. He followed her path, drawn but terrified. The window appeared to be perfectly intact. He knew, just knew, it wasn’t. Ewan stepped closer, stopped a good safe distance back, and reached out his hand, putting the ball of his thumb to touch the cold shining surface of the black window. His hand went through – out, out into the warm ether. Not the ‘outside’, as he knew it, but a deepening, drawing darkness. With a yelp of horror he pulled his hand back, gathered up his brief case, rushed from the office and into the waiting lift. In the few seconds it took to reach the ground floor he leant against the lift wall, cold with shock.
In the foyer he almost ran to the security guard at the marble reception desk. ‘Did anyone go up to 26 a little while ago?’ he managed to ask.
‘No, shouldn’t have thought so’, the guard replied, and looked down at his monitors, pressed something and reviewed a good hour in a flash. ‘No, no-one’, he said, looking up. ‘Why, did you…’
‘No, no’, Ewan responded quickly. ‘No, just, just….no, no worries’ and hurried out.
On the street on his way to the rail station he looked up at his side of the building. He had never been able to isolate his window, and shaken as he was now, and with a new intent for locating it, he still couldn’t.
At home, he did something totally uncharacteristic. Two quick glasses of Scotch, before a fitful sleep. He kept waking with huge starts of fright. Coldness enveloped him.
The next morning, on approaching his building, he felt so hung over from the lack of sleep and the hours he had spent wondering if he had seen anything, if he had imagined it all, and if he had seen something, what it could possibly have been, that he didn’t notice the milling group of colleagues or the yellow and black diagonally striped safety ribbon cordoning off part of the footpath, until he was almost upon them.
‘What’s going on?’ he asked.
‘A window pane fell out of one of the floors’, someone replied. The group was mainly male, smoking, drinking coffee from take away corrugated cardboard cups, one fellow perched on the edge of a planter box using his lap top.
‘Twenty sixth floor’, someone added.
‘No the first time either’, another guy said, stubbing out his cigarette butt with his toe cap. ‘Didn’t that happen a few years ago? Glass fell from the 26th floor?’
‘No way’, an older man said. ‘That was the previous building, the block that was here before this tower. Remember? But that was caused by a suicide, don’t you remember? That woman….’
‘Yes, yes, sure,’ said the first guy. ‘That woman CEO. The company went down the tube. The building was torn down a bit later, and this one built. Sure, I remember. She copped the whole lot, remember? The Board didn’t stand by her. She came up here one night and went out through the window. Splat!’ He looked to where the shards of glass shone, sprinkled over the footpath behind the yellow and black blockade ribbons.
‘That’s right’, another voice chimed in, ‘It was the top floor of that building, wasn’t it? Her penthouse office. Of course, this block’s miles taller.’
‘Hey, look, I’ve just Googled it’, the guy with the lap top said. ‘Yeah. You’re right. She jumped. Christ! Hey, and ten years ago yesterday, would you believe? Here’s a photo of her’. He spun the screen towards a part of the group, who leaned in and looked.
Ewan leant forward. The screen tilted towards him.
‘God,’ the lap top guy said. ‘You look as if you’ve seen a ghost! Did you know her?’
‘No, no’, said Ewan. The computer photo looked back at him. A small, finely boned woman, hands primly clasped on the desk in front of her. Big, dark eyes. Eyes that now seemed to look straight at him.
‘No, no,’ he said again. Waves of icy cold horror rising until they prickled his very scalp. ‘No, I don’t know her. I saw her once though, only for a moment’.
Ewan stood in the sunlight, cold and gripped with a sickening fear. He looked around. Laptop, coffee in take away cups, motor vehicles in the street behind. All modern twenty first century things. The stuff this nightmare belonged to was hundreds of years ago, in a dark mansion on a cold wet windswept moor. It could not be happening, and not to him. He could not let anyone see that he was terrified. No one could see any weakness in him. He was after all on his way up.
‘You don’t look good, mate’, one of the men said, looking at him intently.
Ewan tried to laugh it off. ‘Yeah’, he said. ‘I know. I look as if I’ve seen a ghost’.

©Nelma Ward

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


This exercise by the Clifton Creative Writers Group involved writing a short piece, using the last word of each line as the first word of the following line. The theme was ‘Connections’. I chose to write four little (non-connected) poems, which somehow ended up being about lack of connection.

You are never here when needed
Needed by me, to fill an empty space,
Space that is caused by our lack of connection.
Connection should be vital to me and you
You who are never here.
Here is where you should be.
Be connected.


I don’t think we get on at all
All those fights
Fights which end in tears
Tears that are now no longer genuine
Genuine feelings being gone from our relationship
Relationship which has come to an end
End of our connection.


What is a connection?
Connection can be defined in many ways.
Ways which are foreign to you
You who do not understand.
Understand me now
Now that I am strong enough to say goodbye
Goodbye my one time friend.


Is this a bad connection?
Connection by telephone across the continents
Continents which are currently being explored by you
You have no idea of what you’ve left at home
Home not being where your heart is.
Is this a bad connection?

© Nelma Ward

Friday, April 27, 2007


Old English word, not in current useage, - muscle that draws the eye down when you drink.

This was an exercise we carried out at Clifton Creative Writers Club, using the above word in a short piece.

I probably have an over active bibitory, or certainly one which has had lots of exercise.
Not an awfully useful muscle I must admit, but when it does work it sure has some variety to look at!
The cups that I have used, bibitory working away, hold many things, but to get that excited muscle twitching it works best when the cup holds red wine, white wine, champagne, Baileys, port, sherry, gin, vodka or even beer.
In the case where the cup holds some ordinary liquid – tea, coffee, or juice – the bibitory doesn’t get very excited at all, and if its plain water, well, forget it.
Theres something very seductive about the colour and texture of red, wine, white wine and so on, and as I’m a great believer in exercise, I diligently give my bibitory a daily work out.

© Nelma Ward

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


This little piece evolved from a subject raised by one of the Clifton Writers Group members - she wondered why this strange phenonomen occurred.

The mystery of microwave letterboxes? No, there is no mystery. We are Australians – we do things like that. Why, I’ve seen letterboxes made from cream cans, petrol cans, ice cream containers, and in the shape of goats, sheep, crocodiles, frogs, birds and various motor vehicles. Not to mention the one made of an old bicycle, where the poor put upon postie had to insert the letter in the little tool pouch that hung under the saddle.
We love doing things like that, and if you’ve got a perfectly good – although apparently non-working – microwave, your mind may just cast about for a good use – it closes, its waterproof, its, well, its not good taste, but then who’s worrying about that. The damn thing cost you several hundred dollars, lasted for the requisite amount of time microwave makers allow these days – say, six months, nine at max – and you want to feel you’ve had some use out of it.
We can’t live without microwaves, and where do all the blown up ones go? Well, not all to become mailboxes, but for those inclined to recycling, what a jolly good idea.
You probably have to be a certain sort of Australian to use your defunct microwave as your receptacle for your mail – a resourceful type, a bit of a larrikin, someone who wants passers by to look and remark on it, and therefore on you. You’re probably lurking out behind the bottlebrush waiting to hear the comments. People travelling past probably come to a screeching halt and leap out and take a photograph before zooming off again. They probably show their friends – look what this funny old bugger had as his mail box.
No, when you think about it, there’s a certain amount of panache to be had, having a microwave mailbox. I’d draw the line at a fridge mailbox in suburbia, but I have seen them beside the road in the outback. Another clever and sensible idea. Lots of room inside, things protected from the weather, and quite durable in the heat and dust.
My own mail box is a very tasteful brass slot in a very tasteful cream brick wall, but now that I think of it, my microwave (one of the very early ones, hence its longevity) must be about due to blow up. I wonder whether I should have waited for the inevitable day when smoke issued from the microwave and my husband said, ‘Now, what the hell are we going to do with this thing?’

© Nelma Ward

Wednesday, March 07, 2007



Animals are animals. They’re not cute, or cuddly or safe.

Have you seen the photograph in the press of the man with his head in the crocodile’s jaws – his ‘friend’, the one hes raised, the one who loves him? Oh yeah, lets all wait till the piece appears entitled ‘Man Decapitated By Pet’.

Animals are different to us. They’re not human. They don’t possess human qualities. Sure, monkeys use tools, and murder each other – very human characteristics – but they’re not human. They turn on you in a flash.

Haven’t you even been raked by sharp, malicious claws by the quiet, wouldn’t hurt a fly, family pet, the cat? You only tried to take his bowl off him and he attacked. Has you beloved pet dog, little lap dog – wouldn’t hurt a fly pet – turned on you with snarling teeth, ready to fly at your throat because you took a stuffed toy – his, yes – but he was ripping it to shreds – off him?

They are animals – ‘farmer gored by house cow’ – no matter how much we domesticate them, and give them human attributes. ‘He knows everything I say’ – well, yes, until you say ‘stop!’ and make a grab.

I like animals – because they are animals. My favourite animal is the tiger – he’s majestic, he prowls, he looks at you with a blank, but all seeing, stare. He has a lovely pattern. I like giraffes, they have long blue tongues, and I’ve been licked by one. Lovely! But both would kill you in an instance. Yes, even the giraffe. He would kick you to death, or swing that amazing big head, on that amazing big neck, and kill you with a blow.

Lets be real. You child is not Steve Irwin, with years of experience about how to keep his eye on the dangerous bit – bill, teeth, horn, fangs – your child is a risk with any animal.

You are the little old lady in her unit with her four Pomeranians, her companions, indulged with chicken while she eats baked beans.
She dies, alone, and guess what – when they find her she’s been eaten by the little fluffy dogs. Oh dear. Well, guess why? They’re animals. They’re different to us.

Thank God for the difference. Animals are essential, are wonderful, are photogenic, are suppliers of many good things, including meat and glue.

When we describe the rapist as an animal, we’re being real for once. Animals don’t think too much about what they’re doing or the repercussions – they act. They are brutal. They have to be. They have to survive. Why eat your young if its not for survival of the fittest?

Animals attack – that’s what they do. Even a pet bunny would turn on you and scratch you, kick you or butt you. Have you ever heard a koala growl? It’s frightening!

Don’t misconstrue what I’m saying. Animal are wonderful, magnificent, brilliant – but they’re dangerous. Lets treat them as something different to us. Lets not have penguins dancing – sure, that helps our children identify with them, and to want to save them, and to want to protect them – but, Goddamnit, they’re animals. Each and every one of them.

© Nelma Ward



Not the cartoon character, no – this Charlie Brown was a guinea pig.
We always had pets when the kids were small, always a dog and a cat, and sometimes a budgie. Then there were the ones Grandad arrived with – a turtle he’d seen on the road, an echidna, rescued from a pile of burning logs at the golf course, a frilled lizard, and a huge spider in a jar with holes punched in the lid. Each of the animals, except the spider, escaped the very night they arrived to live at our house. Hours had been spent constructing runs or cages, and in each case in the morning the animal was gone. The spider met his demise in the probably almost airless jar, and nothing, nothing, can smell like a large dead spider that’s been enclosed in an airtight jar. He didn’t escape, he was chucked into the bin.
So when Grandad’s neighbours moved, after frantic searching by their four kids for their lost guinea pig, and Grandad was watering his vegetables, he found the guinea pig, and caught it. He arrived at our house, with a cardboard box containing a small golden brown guinea pig, about the size of two cupped hands.
He became Charlie Brown, being brown, and Charlie Brown being the flavour of the month as far as comics were concerned. A makeshift hutch, bottomless, was quickly made for him, and he was put out on the lawn to graze. The kids ran around and got lettuce leaves, and thistles, and sliced up carrots, and quartered apples – he would eat anything.
That night we decided he should be brought in from any predators – but where would be the best spot? Finally it was decided that we’d tip the hutch up so the opening was at the top, cover it, in case he could leap out. He didn’t look as if he was made for leaping, but after our track record with escapee animals, we thought it best to be prudent about the chances. We put it out of cats and dogs way – where? Why on top of the washing machine of course.
Great, fine. He survived the night. I raised the washing machine’s lid to put a load in – to be confronted by two inches of guinea pig wee! Charming!
Charlie Brown lived with us for quite a while. He survived the loving ministrations of the kids, until one day he was given all the white rind from a watermelon. Charlie Brown, who up to then could eat anything, ate it all, and promptly died!
You can’t chuck a dead guinea pig in the bin, so he had a typical pet funeral, but the story of our pet funerals will have to wait till another time.
© Nelma Ward

Thursday, February 08, 2007


I have self published a book of short stories. It contains fifteen stories about 'ordinary people', but then, no one is ordinary, are they?
Readers have said 'raw, brave, compassionate, emotional twists and turns, and soulful and insightful'.
The book is available for purchases at $20.00 plus postage. Email for details.