Rebecca Jessen

(TWENTY-FIVE) the body has memory

‘The body has memory. The physical carriage hauls more than its weight. The body is the threshold across which each objectionable call passes into consciousness.’ Claudia Rankine, Citizen.

this is how days are spent. the briefest moments of hope. punctured by despair. can you despair at nothingness? can nothingness be a sign of despair? how often in the last four weeks did you feel hopeless for no reason. you would like to believe there is always a reason. but numbers aren’t a good measurement of pain. or experience. or despair.

it’s the memories that stop you. does the future have memory? is past performance an indicator of future performance? you never know you’re in it. until you’re in too deep. you don’t yet know when to fight. and when to walk away.

you are a self-fulfilling prophecy.

there are already others. circling. waiting to swoop. and you say there is nothing left. not even for me. but someone has found something. and my skin still smells like you. and you keep saying I’ll hold on I’m hanging on I will be held here.

this is how days are spent. each morning there is a torturous moment before consciousness. each morning there is a moment where nothing has changed. how often in the last four weeks did you feel hopeless for no reason?

every morning she said.




and on a scale of one to ten? always a ten. always.

these streets don’t exist without us. and last night I dreamt about our wedding. you wore a dress. but that can’t be right. can it? you took my breath away. and isn’t that how it’s always been. how do you erase the intimate knowledge of someone? is that what happens now? will the contours made for these hands wear away over time?

the body has memory.

and these streets. they don’t exist without you.

this is how days are spent. you are dressed for a different season in a different city. this city that was once your own is now the prickle of heat on your neck. and will it be yours again? and does that mean you’re no longer being held. just holding on. hold on.

there’s something comfortable about being in the crush of people. here in this space you are nobody. you are not the person who has lost everything. twice. you are just a girl in a stripy shirt wearing a banana necklace. here in this space you are nobody. and for a while. this is the best you can hope for.

and you keep thinking. but there was a ring. and you keep thinking. but we were making a dream home scrapbook. but you were a ghost. and now you’re ghosting streets that don’t belong to you anymore. these streets that belonged to the person you once were don’t exist in this time. these streets exist in the past.

but you say you’re holding on. just holding on for one more day. and you’re in danger of becoming a 90s pop song. but we agreed that life is a musical. so hold on anyway. just for one more day.

these bodies have memory. and mine will remember yours.

(TWENTY-FOUR) the chaos and the calm

you’re the kind of person who makes people lonely. you dream of five cats entering the house and watching you. you know it’s over when the cats have come. your mother’s psychic said this would happen. but you’ve only ever believed in magic. you wonder if you should tell someone about this feeling that won’t quit. 3am is for sobbing in your sleep and car alarms. every morning before consciousness you think. it’s all okay. and then you wake.

you’re the kind of person who makes people lonely. the receptionist says how can I help you sir. and you know you are invisible. you wish you were only invisible here. then it would be easier to move on. you make plans you don’t intend to keep. how can you tell them about this feeling that won’t quit.

you’re the kind of person who makes people lonely. when the cats come for you. you will be ready. you fantasise about how you will do it. you refuse violence and the implication of others. you’re so far from the sea here. in the morning a low moaning comes from underneath the house. you don’t need to check what it is.

you’re the kind of person who makes people lonely. you get desperate when you’re sad. desperation leads you to water. how long will they lock you up for this feeling. if it happens. they will never let you out. the most everyday outings were made magic with you. the streets are different now. and when you were lying under the sheet and couldn’t breathe. you thought this must be what it’s like. this must feel like dying.

you’re the kind of person who makes people lonely.

New Writing in The Lifted Brow #30

I’m really excited to have a new pice of non-fiction, ‘The Art Of Breaking’ in the latest (#30) issue of The Lifted Brow. Not only is it the Brow’s 30th issue, a great thing in itself, it’s also all-round, a pretty special issue. Have you seen the awesome wrap-around artwork? There is so much goodness to find in this issue, I set myself the task of reading a different piece every night before bed. Sometimes the strange and wonderful works entered my dreams.

I especially enjoyed the Advice Comics by Lizzie Nagy and Andy Connor, Madness and White by Anezka Sero, and Izzy Roberts-Orr’s poem Sometimes the Ocean Falls on You, Even When the Coastlines are Far Away.

The Lifted Brow do such an excellent job at welcoming and nurturing different and experimental pieces of writing, that may otherwise not find a home here. My piece ‘The Art Of Breaking’ is about a breakdown/breakup via Twitter and I’m really proud to have it published in the Brow. You can view a tiny excerpt of the piece here. You can also read short excerpts from all the of the pieces here. But really, the best thing to do is to buy an issue, or subscribe, and get it delivered straight to your door every quarter.


Happy reading!

TWENTY-THREE (Street Stories)

This is a tiny extract from my current work in progress.



Sometimes the only way to remember the early years is to trace the memories back to the streets they emerged from. There were so many houses early on, so many schools, so many new beginnings. Can a beginning be thought of as new if it starts and ends the same as all the other beginnings? Is this how other families work too, this constant shifting, but never starting over—just starting again, and again—sometimes only a few streets away, across a suburb line.

My family managed to find whole clusters of suburbs where time worked in the same way, always staying still, never moving. Suburbs where if you stayed too long you got a glimpse of the person you would become. I can see now, how easy it is to stay, how time and place can slowly wear you away, slowly permeate your sense of being, your sense of belonging. How you can wake one day and know without a doubt, that you have become this place where time is still, where people are worn away to their very shell, this place that you come to find you can never leave.

Some years there is more than one street, more than one house, more than one school, this makes it harder to remember. Some years my memories settle on other markers of time, of place. Some years the streets are all I have to remember them by, or the houses, the waking dreams, the nights I can’t forget.

TWENTY-TWO (Yesterday)

There was a time there all those years ago, in that old house, that old suburb, there was a time there when I saw you in everything. Wherever I went, wherever I looked, there you were. They say, after a person dies, it’s not uncommon to still see them, in places you might have once seen them, often in the most ordinary of places. Then it’s not uncommon to see you riding down the street on your bicycle. Then it’s not uncommon to see you in the supermarket, stepping off a bus, turning back and catching my gaze.

I don’t really know if people say this, but I imagine it to be true. Otherwise how to explain this seeing you, when I know you are gone. Of course, this was many years ago. I don’t see you anymore, not like that. I’ve moved away now, to a different city, with its own haunts and hauntings. But I still go back, I am always going back.

Ten years is a long time for someone to have passed. I remember it like it was yesterday. Isn’t that what most people say about the moments in their lives where grief is found balled up inside them like a fist.

If I don’t remember it like it was yesterday then there is the danger of forgetting. There is the danger that I could pass through time unmarked, unchanged. If time is not a construct designed to change us, then what is it? If time and grief are balled up inside you like a fist and you refuse change, what happens to that fist? Does grief spread inside you like a roadmap, unfurled, sprawling and unknown.

I remember it like it was yesterday. You were always leaving, even before you left for good. You were always leaving, on a Saturday evening, crashing forward into the night. You were always leaving, on a weekday afternoon, hiding in a nearby empty lot. You were always leaving and we were always left looking. I remember it like it was yesterday.


New Poem in Tincture Journal Issue 13

The lovely folk at Tincture Journal have once again published a piece of my writing. My poem ‘field officer no. 302’ appears in Issue 13 alongside many other wonderful pieces of writing. If you haven’t read Tincture Journal yet then this is a great issue to start with. There is a diverse range of quality content from – you guessed it – a diverse range of quality contributors!

If you’re looking for a taste-test then start with this ‘Two poems and an interview’ with Alison Whittaker, 2015 winner of the black&write! fellowship. Alison’s debut poetry collection Lemons in The Chicken Wire is out now with Magabala Books.

I also enjoyed reading Megan McGrath’s new column: Making Noise, in which Megan talks about early-career literary jealousy (I know plenty of writers who can identify with this – myself included!) and how to harness it in a positive way. Megan was a fellow winner of the 2015 QLD Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Award.

Some other highlights in this issue of Tincture include David Stavanger’s poem ‘Life Is(n’t)’, Maria Arena’s short story ‘The Obliteration Rooms’ and Kathy George’s memoir ‘Read To Me’.

If you would like to support a wonderful literary journal (who wouldn’t?) then do consider subscribing to Tincture, or at the very least, grab yourself a copy of the latest issue here. Many thanks to Poetry Editor Stuart Barnes and Editor Daniel Young for picking up my piece and continuing to support great writing talent.

In Summary: 2015 Publications

Looking back, 2015 was a good year for writing, publications wise. I got writing published in many journals I had been aiming to publish in, and a few others which were wonderful, unexpected surprises.

I’m hoping for more publications this year, while knowing that I should be channeling most of that energy into the writing of my next book. The writing life is often about balance, weighing up the importance of your short and long term goals, it can be hard to strike the right balance, as I found last year. While I avoided writing the ‘dreaded’ second novel, I put my energy into writing short pieces for publication, the rewards of which are often gained much quicker. These small gains throughout the year are necessary in many ways to keep fuelling the motivation to keep going on the longer projects. I hope this year I will find a better balance between the two.

Below you can find a summary of my 2015 publications and links to read/buy them.

February – The Family Files published by Verity La

March – Overcoming Second Novel Syndrome published in WQ Magazine

April – The Late September Dogs published in Mascara Literary Review Issue 17

April – Review of Omar Musa’s Here Come The Dogs published in Mascara Literary Review Issue 17

June – The Value of Prizes published in The Victorian Writer

October – What I Talk About When I Talk About Helicopters published in Cordite Issue 51.1: Umami

December – Our Version Of Events published by Meanjin

December – Firth Avenue published in Tincture Journal Issue 12

If you still haven’t had enough, be sure to look through the rest of my blog to find all the little bits of memoir here and there that I posted throughout the year. That’s all for now!

Happy Mondays

The lovely people at Arts Queensland recently asked me to do a guest-post for their blog series Happy Mondays. I talk about what I’m working on at the moment, one of my favourite books set in Australia and a cultural experience not to be missed. The post is now live and you can check it out here. Happy reading!

TWENTY (Just The Way It Is)

I received my family inheritance young. I remember this, I’m ten, it’s a quiet Sunday afternoon, around four or five. Mum pushes a few coins into my hands and asks me to walk across the road to the servo and buy some milk. I agree, I don’t recall if there’s something in it for me, fifty cents, maybe. I’m wearing my new favourite outfit, a pink ribbed singlet and a pair of pink shorts – this is hard to admit, even now. I leave the house with the coins jingling in my pocket, I reach the end of our street and I stand looking across the busy road at the servo. It might be a 7/11.

I know that it’s where I have to go. I know I have agreed to this task and I didn’t have to. But something in my mind makes my feet stop working. I look left, then right, then left again. I watch the people in the cars rushing by me without a care in the world. They aren’t stuck. They keep moving. Just go to the lights and cross, I tell myself. Don’t be stupid. But still, I stand there, not moving, just watching. I watch the cars enter the 7/11, I watch the people who get out of the cars and enter the store. Some of them leave with milk and bread, some leave with nothing.

I turn around and run home. When I get home I am breathless and empty handed.

‘Where’s the milk?’ Mum asks.

‘I didn’t get it,’ I say.


‘There was a man,’ I say. ‘He looked scary and I didn’t want to go over there.’

‘Okay,’ Mum says.

I’m relieved, she isn’t angry, she doesn’t demand I go back anyway, she just says okay and takes the money when I give it to her. I have school the next day so Mum tells me to have a bath.

Mum is talking to my dad on the phone when I get out of the bath and she passes the phone on to me. I tell him I’ve just had a bath.

‘Did you dry your hair properly?’ he asks. He always asks me this when he calls. And then he tells me I should get Mum to blow-dry my hair, but I never do.

I hand the phone back to Mum after a while, and when she hangs up I say, ‘Mum?’


‘There wasn’t really a man, I made that up. Sorry.’

Mum doesn’t even get angry then, angry that I’ve lied, that I’ve seemingly just refused to go and get the milk. She says it’s fine, she says it doesn’t matter.

When I got home empty handed I didn’t know how to tell her that there wasn’t really anyone scary lurking by. I didn’t know how to say that it’s just what happened in my head when I thought about crossing the road. So I didn’t. I couldn’t. Perhaps, this is where it starts, this obsessive anxiety I’ve inherited.

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