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From Tasmania to Florida and Back

Beata works as a qualified primary school teacher, a councillor for drug and alcohol addiction and a farm caretaker for organic olive grow.

“The flaws make people special and the gun shots kill them.”

When I was child, my Mum

used to say to my brother,

who was a moody teenager,

angry at himself,

his family

and others,

no one seems

to understand him.

He liked to shoot the plastic bottles

filled up with sand

with dad’s rifle

he set them up in one long line

at the back of our farm.

His angry shots echoing around

scared me and my twin sister.

My mum used to gather us

in her arms, “He doesn’t know what

to do with himself, I go to talk to him.

We saw her walking towards the clearing

her floral dress flapping in the wind.

Her calm words and raised hand

In defeat made him to lower his gun.

Before you open a fire,

have a good look

at yourself in a mirror my beautiful one,

We heard her words through the open window

as we clang to the frame holding our hands,

we just wanted our brother to like us again.

Weaknesses and flaws are just human,

embrace them and accept people

as they are…”

She was to far now to hear the rest

but we saw them both in a tight embrace

dad’s rifle thrown away

and we both sighed in relief.

Our Mum and our brother were killed in the Port Arthur massacre


Me and My Sister Turned Six That Week.

Our Mum was sitting in a café

with our elder brother

who was leaving for Florida

for student’s exchange

and to improve his mood,

our uncle lived there

and promised to look after him.

Twenty- two years passed

from that time,

the framed photo of our Mum

smiling next to our brother frowning,

both shot in an angry spree

by some teenager who was also angry

is covered in dust.

Every time I pass it I whisper towards it:

Mum, you had no time to teach

that mad teenager who shot at you

that flaws make people special,

I wish you had, I so much wish you had.”

I remember dad sitting on our veranda

after the funeral, his rifle on his lap.

He found it where our brother left it

the week before

next to plastic bottles

with holes in them and spilled sand.

He broke the rifle all apart to make sure

no one will ever use it again.

We watched TV in total silence

that night as our prime minister

wearing a bullet proof vest

addressed a gun rally in Sale.

Twenty- two years passed and I was walking with my twin sister out of the Hobart University.


She was in her last year of the post graduate teaching degree and I was doing my honours in humanities.

Our Hobart was laid back peaceful capital city

the ocean view houses littering all of its bays

we sat on one of the benches sharing ‘fish and chips’

we bought from the food van on the way

when our fellow student and common friend

ran to us across the street.

Our former prime minister is talking on the square

right now, you should hear it, there should be no

alteration or weakening of Australia’s gun laws, he said.”

My sister licked her fingers angrily chucking the rest

of her chips in the bin: “Of course there will be no

alternation, Tasmanians will no allow it, our gun

law is seen globally as a benchmark in gun control.”

Our friend was pacing nervously in front of us:

I know it is hard for you and all the people who lost

loved ones in the massacre but farmers and sport shooters

would welcome the access to semi-automatics.”

Our father is the farmer like your father is and he doesn’t

see any purpose in owning a gun!” I shouted at him:

Any gun!” He nodded his head sadly and left.

We looked at each other, my sister and I.

Suddenly Hobart seemed dark place to be in right now.

The guns came back to divide us all one more time.

That weekend we travelled back to our farm


And Found Our Father Bent Over the Injured Horse in His Yard.

Dad, did you hear about our new Liberal government

trying to relax the gun laws?” My sister ran to him

without warning.

He stood up suddenly very fragile and embraced us both.

Dad, we have to do something,” I blurt out holding onto

his sweaty flannel shirt.

It is nonsense, I told them when some officials stopped by,

you start tinkering with the gun laws and you have blood

on your hands again.”

He cleaned his hands on his shorts and we walked back

to the house. Our mum and brother photo in the frame

had new flowers set in a vase next to them.

Opening up category C guns all those pump-action shot guns

and self loading rifles to be spread to all employees of rural

settlements? Not in my day!”

Dad sat heavily on his favourite chair and took his head into his hands.

My sister picked up a book our Mum used to read us

from her travels in Japan. The tiny book in Japanese rice paper

was stuck just behind the frame photo and the flowers.

I sat next to our Dad patting his arm while my sister was reading

from a chapter she opened by a chance.

The route winds through cities,

along sandy beaches and round dramatic headlands.

In the farming country in the west,

the landscape is gorgeous and mellow.

Persimmon trees are heavy with fruit,

rice paddies stacked with sheaves

and garden plots spill over with chrysanthemums.

Villagers stop to chat and press sweet mandarin oranges

Into your hands.

It is a beguiling place,

where people get up with the sun

and shape their actions to the season,

it is place of peace and tranquillity…”

Do you know that Japanese have one of the strictest

gun laws in the world and zero- gun violence?”

I suddenly stopped my sister on her track.

Dad suddenly looked up at my sister: “I forgot to tell you,

your Mum’s uncle in Florida asked if you are coming,

you know for teachers’ exchange as you planned,

he is happy for you to live in his house

he said he is lonely there…”

Dad are you serious?” My sister jumped up from her seat:

Now with all that school shootings going on?”

She closed the book and put it carefully back behind the frame:

Apparently teachers have to be trained shooters out there,

do you see me as the one shooting my own students any time soon?”

There was silence in the room and none of us

knew what to say.

It was my sister again who broke up the heavy silence:

I am going to teach in Japan, dad,” she quietly said.

You failed Japanese classes as I remember,” I laughed.

Dad stood up and cough: “They have different customs

and language yes, how will you cope with that?”

My sister looked at us both in surprise: “We speak the same language

with Japanese Dad, no guns and zero violence,

I can see myself fitting in very well.”

Mum would approve, it was her favourite country after all,”

Dad smiled at us and suddenly the room bathed in the warm

setting sun.

I picked my mum’s and my brother’s framed photo

and talked to them

in a quiet voice:

When I was child, I was lucky,

I had someone to say to me,

” Don’t change. Be who You are.’

Because society is really strong

in their opinions.

You have been right mum,

‘The flaws make people special

and the gun shots truly kill them.’”

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