9 September 2019

The 2019 John Marsden & Hachette Australia Prize Nonfiction – Quang Mai

Quang Mai’s poem Rememory has been awarded The 2019 John Marsden & Hachette Australia Prize for Young Writers in the category of poetry. Quang was presented with the award at the 2019 Melbourne Writers Festival at a special event, and wins a $500 cash prize, an exclusive book pack from Hachette Australia and acknowledgement of their winning entry in Express Media’s flagship publication Voiceworks. Read Quang’s winning piece right here.

Rememory

i.            Before:

The days have expired a long time
ago & I remember you
gave me an answer under that browning night
of March, an answer
about how should we be. The thinning of clouds
looked like a buzzcut season & syllables
entered. The resuming of it all. I kept on
pinching my hands to remind myself
of your charcoaled hair, our rotten
teeth. They looked just like orphans, ready
to fall onto this quiet ground. That I asked
my body, over & over again. We
are still alive, aren’t we? Why are we alive?
Where are we, dear? Where are we?
Again, I remember
us carrying the burial
of this country on our backs. Remember the war
blackening our mouths with silence
& dirt. There are, heavily,
many things that I remember,
sweetheart. Time like liquor, like echoes
& the day bruised blue
with chemistry. Remind me all that –
How a farm-girl & a soldier were always
hand in hand, towards the wreckage
that made us. Children
of crushed tomorrows. Hand in hand
towards the napalms, sharpening the sky
with their all American beauty & glory
Hand in hand towards
today, I look at the photo
& believe in my ‘will’, your ‘can’.

ii.          After:

1. How do you feel grandma?

Every bruise has mass. This applies for us also, let’s call it the theory of grief. The
conservation of hurt.

2. What do you see, now & then?

Bruise-grey sky, fur-smooth hours. And oh yes, the leaves swelling, beaden with light.

3. Your mother?

I used to wear her ‘please Lord’ like a beggar. Always on her collarbone, there was
another God sitting, opening his throat – always, an answer.

4. What’s left of the war? What’s left to tell, your legacy?

Two hands. Our barb-wired hearts. And home, the shape of our people.
(she suddenly stills, then proceeds)
Don’t you know? The word wound in Vietnamese translates into vết thương or a loving
trace, which is to say our bodies are a thing to tender into, when carved in loose tissues.
Ah no, afraid not dear, look at me can you look at all this beauty, my body a museum of
hurt.

5. About grandad?

I remember him, the exactness, the measured dawn. A farm-girl & a soldier are supposed
to be the ending, no matter how many endings there are. Isn’t it?

He’s there, isn’t he?

Here always, isn’t he?

6. And what’s the price of carrying this much blood?

(pause)

To live

(a blank)

& to live.