When I was seven I swam in a country dam surrounded by gum trees and one mud brick house.

Leeches attached themselves to my once innocent skin and did not let go.

My father took a knife and scrapped the sluggish worms from my flesh.

“Or we could burn them.” He laughed.

My cousins shrieked and I squeezed my eyes closed with one squinted peek toward my right forearm.

“Don’t move or I’ll cut you.”

At the very last scrapping flick and the delivery of my mother’s praise oh Rachel darling you are so brave I averted my eyes to the rustic ground presenting twelve rubbery leeches writhing in the dirt.

I said, “Should we put them back in the water? What if they’re hurt?”

“You’re going to die. They sucked your blood.”

My older brother thought he was tough.

You’re the leech.

Put your mouth on this.



Hold my dick.

I wanted to cut him with my father’s blade.

Perhaps I could open my head and chest and feed the leeches with all of my unwanted secrets.

Feast on what I’ve been fed.

I never asked to be intruded upon and I never once said yes.

He forced his palms down on the scalp of my dread.

Beside the large black iron pot where I pretended to be a witch when my brother was not beside me, I did something I didn’t want to do.

I wondered if the greyhounds in their kennels ever got wobbly legs only ten steps from where I couldn’t stand on mine.

I hate you.

You should never hate anyone Rachel.

If only you knew.

Being seven and believing in heaven whilst kneeling in hell is confusing.

If you ever tell: I will hurt you.


It never felt good or right or nice and just like when I was a canvas for leeches I closed my eyes and knotted them tight.

The colour.

The shape.

The smell.

Don’t tell.

Don’t tell.

Don’t tell.

An uncle bought me a gift in winter.

It was a fluffy soft white plush toy cat.

He sat on the edge of my bed, as l lay ready for sleep and put his hand on my thigh and said, “Isn’t this a beautiful little pussy.”

He crept his fingers like a spider toward the place where nobody unkind had ever been and traced them within my youthful between.

“You have a beautiful little pussy too. See?”

I clenched my eyes shut and pressed my thighs together.


I wondered if he was going to make me do the things my brother did too.

The next morning, I decided to open my mouth for my father’s ears.

I didn’t say what I couldn’t though I told my father where my brother kept his cigarettes hidden.

That was the day I learned to play the game.

I am no longer a spotless child within and there are two of you to blame.

My brother waited for me on a large concrete step beside the laundry where the dirtiness goes and he surprised me with his presence and told me other lessons he thought I should know.

He held a butchers knife to my face and said, “If you ever fucking tell on me again I will kill you. Do you understand?”

I stared into his eyes and saw the red lines of his whites.

They reminded me of maps.

Go away.

“That thing you make me do. I’m not going to do it anymore. And if you make me I WILL tell dad.”

He pushed the knife closer.

I turned abruptly and the blade slashed against my left bicep.

I bled.

He apologised for the blood and didn’t suck it like a leech.

I pressed my palm against my red and said inside of my head I do not forgive you.

I stared into one line of his sorry eye and whispered from mine I hate you.

He ran away from home that day.

He may have followed the crooked trails of his darkened soul windows and became forever lost.

We were never close again.

There have been other leeches in my life.

Sucking from me the pure of my love.

Perhaps they remove the toxicity as nourishment for their own thirst.

Love should not hurt.

I am grown up now and I have been blessed with miraculous children of my own.

I protect them and have broken the chain of sexual abuse that linked my family in its silent lock.

I still slice my own leeches from me when I can reach them.

Some hide in places where I need the help of someone who cares for me.

I don’t throw them back into the dam of my life.

I let those fuckers die.

the little girl in the curtain

the little girl in the curtain by PJ Ryan


Don’t approach my car I’m dying

Rachel cried too often.

She was depressed.

Admitting to herself that she had some type of illness with a name, made her feel worse.

She wished she had noticed when it first started to crawl across her skin like an infectious insect.

She would’ve slapped it.

Squashed it.

Flicked it away from her as discard.

It came from somewhere she once was.

It must’ve been hiding within her forever.


It might’ve been within the hands of a man who once cupped the side of her pale thin winter face aged twelve.

Perhaps it was on the tip of a male appendage she had been forced to trace with her mouth when she was seven.

Maybe it was within the click of a gun trigger pointed at her head of teen.

It was no doubt within every illicit escape she’d pasted between her front teeth and tasted with her pestle tongue.

It was in the lyric of every sad song sung.

It wasn’t on the dance floor though it was sometimes waiting at home.

She’d racked it and snorted it into her breathing dome.

It fed her then stole serotonin for fee.

It was her fault.

It was his.

It was in everything she received and all that she could give.

Her depression was a mirror she stared long and hard into.

She didn’t like her reflection anymore.

Those sad eyes all weeping and red like Jesus.


Get off that fucking cross.

It was most certainly within the freshly dug earth of a hole prepared for her father.

She remembers staring into that hole with her thirteen-year-old eyes full of salt and wondering how many holes in the world held secrets and insects and bugs feasting.

Rachel felt like something was feasting on her now.

She was being eaten alive from the inside.

Her heart had turned itself against her, pounding too hard within her chest sometimes.

More often, feeling far too heavy to carry.

Its weight made her shoulders slump forward and mouth turn down.

It made her eyes pour like a lonely waterfall on the side of a pretty hill that people rarely see.

It pooled around her.

Always rising.

It was up to her cheekbones today.

She tilted her head back to breathe.

Beneath the water of drowning she paddled her legs and sometimes pointed her toes.

Every hour felt longer than it ever had.

She contemplated giving in and surrendering to the depth below.

I might slip gracefully under.

Sink to the beneath.


She knew she was weak.

And so many said she was strong.

They were wrong.

She was once.

Now exhausted, Rachel opened her eyes every morning and sighed because she was alive.

I often want to die.

She didn’t want to be put in a hole.

She wanted to get out of one.

She wanted to fly.

Though she was too broken.

Her wings all tangled and cracked deep within where the strong bits need to be.

Rachel had stitched her wings back together many times.

She’d tied double knots and cut loose threads and even tried to choke herself with her own dangle from a metal overhead beam in a garage where nobody with a real smile would choose to take their last breath.

She’d swallowed too many pills and drank spirit from a shot glass, slamming it all down into her belly and hoping her eyes would close and never open again.

Rachel once borrowed a friends car and drove herself to the highest bridge she could find with an intention to jump from its edge and her own.

She never reached the bridge.

At an intersection on the wrong side of town, the right people stood wearing fluorescent vests over white t-shirts whilst shaking tins for cash donations.

Don’t approach my car I’m dying.

One of those humans holding a collector tin turned their back to her that day and she saw the writing on his shirt.

Prevention For Youth Suicide.

Rachel’s sad eyes said HOLY FUCK! If that’s not a sign I don’t know what is.

And then she cried.

She pressed the button to open the car window and emptied all of her money into a tin being held by someone wearing the words she needed.

She completed an illegal turn at the traffic lights and drove home ten kilometres slower than when she’d been on route to die.

And she remembered every time she’d been within the spin of an out of control car and the slam against a telegraph pole.

Rachel considered how she could never recall the bounce of herself from an overturned vehicle though how its occurrence sat deep within her psyche and tapped on her itchy feet and said, “You’re a survivor. Stay. Stay. You’re meant to be here.”

At seventeen she watched six nineteen-year-old thugs repeatedly kick the head of an innocent youth who smiled at the wrong girl.

As clotted blood spurted and flicked itself from his mouth and his body jerked with each solid hoof of hate against his rib cage she screamed, “STOP! STOP! YOU’RE KILLING HIM!”

They stopped then and made her run with them after they casually stepped away.

“Get in the car Rachel.”

Rachel folded her arms and wished she could walk the four-hour drive home.

She always wondered about that guy.

Did he survive?

One of those thugs was her boyfriend.

A poor choice she’d made with the calculation of her sum of life.

He was an asshole.

You’re shit Rachel.

You don’t deserve goodness.

Love was tied up with complicated string.

Love reminded her of pain and knives and teeth.

Love made the fibre weak.

Love was a dog with sharp incisors sometimes growling and sometimes laying in the sunshine on its spine.

It took bites out of her and gnawed at her flesh down to the bone.

It buried things and dug deep to unearth what should probably be best left hidden.

Rachel felt like she had a dog sitting either side of her now.




Good dog.


She wanted to run away.

When Rachel was eleven she bought a Greyhound Bus ticket with money she had stolen.

She was going to choose a seat above the turning wheels and be driven toward the city where no other human being knew who she was or what her father had done.


Her mother had left her behind when she was a child though Rachel knew if she were her own mother, she’d be gone too.

The man is an animal.

A dog.

She loved him.

She wanted to pat his head and say everything is going to be ok.

You’re a good dog.

Be a good dog.

But he was sick.

And now Rachel was sick though she knew she wasn’t as diseased as him.

She counted her blessings and tried to divide her strengths from her gnawing insects within.

She itched.

A dog with fleas.

I’m infested with sadness.

My paws are sore I’ve been running so far from him and then and her and them and every when.

She dug holes and tried to bury herself.

She tipped into the upturned earth of her every day since birth.

The insects always crawled back out and flew to her, landing on the edges of her mouth and in the crease of her frown.

Rachel, don’t look so down.

She wanted to snarl and become rabid.

Eat her festering self from the outside in.

Where to begin?

Sometimes she sat in silence with only the tick of a wall clock tapping itself against her time.

Keep breathing Rach.

It’s going to take some time.

She looked back and saw herself standing at the rear of a long line, impatient and darkened by shadow.

The slow shuffle of her paws against a tilted ground.

I’m sliding.

She dug her nails into anything.

Hold on.

Everything that was going to happen already had.

At the back of her neck was a mangled wreck of twisted cars and scars and crossroads.

She wanted to crawl into its centre and wait for the driver with his foot pushed hard to the pedal.

I am lying on this broken line.

It’s going to take some time.





Rachel hated her depression.

It was a dog that needed putting down.

Shot with a green dream.

It made her hands shake and her feet not work properly and she missed herself.

I don’t know who I am anymore.


Depression felt like a thick winter coat that needed to be shaved from her.

She was so thin without it.

It had stolen her appetite and her strength.

She felt like a burden.

She was tired of carrying her heaviness and embarrassed by its existence.

And although Rachel knew all the answers, she couldn’t piece it all back together.

All the broken bits jagged and full of ouch.

She wished she could stab the insects and the darkness and bleed it all from her.


Swim in my emptying and drown festering fuckers.


The insects survived.

She kept her mouth mostly shut to avoid their distaste.

And she paddled like the dog she never wanted to be.

Her paws beneath where not many had ever been.

She scratched at the bed way down below and stirred up the earth until the dark murkiness made everything feel like it should.

I can’t see much farther than where I am.

The insects swam and some flew away.

Some days, Rachel felt less heavy.

Today she was sinking.

water for wings

Water for Wings – PJ Ryan

the human mosaic

In the year 1971, I was a round, chubby and fleshy two month old baby, resting within a white cane bassinet, which had been carried by my fathers strong hands and placed on the back seat of his five week old new car.

There were no seat belts in the rear of the vehicle.

Travelling at speed not fast nor particularly slow, my father steered his car, with two of his children, through the winding hills near our home in Country Victoria.

The front wheels of the sedan became imbedded within a trail of deeply corroded earth.  A boulder, resting within the washed away gravel, served as a catapult and its clash with one front tyre, caused our family vehicle to flip nose over tail, more than once.

The impact shattered the very large rear window of the Holden, whilst the motion of the car flipping over, ejected me from my bassinet and out through the smashed window and into the air.

I landed on the road with a bounce and a thud.

My brother, who was eight years young at the time, remembers sitting upside down in the overturned vehicle, secured by a seat belt.

He said he watched me lying in the near distance, on the ground.

“You were screaming and crying. I could see your tongue.”

Of course, I have no recollection of this event and it is a strange experience to hold somewhere within my psyche.

It lays hidden with other events I have suppressed or cannot recall, perhaps best locked away.

A medical team assessed me after the accident and concluded I was in good health.

I was dubbed a survivor.

And I am.

The painful or traumatic experiences I have endured ever since have happened to me because I am me.

Although at times I have felt like I have been shattered into unrecoverable fragments, I have always managed to piece myself back together.

I have changed shape more than a few times in my reconnecting of self.

I call this the human mosaic.

We are all a beautiful mosaic of every segment of our existence.

We contain jagged pieces of broken yesterdays.

We are multi coloured and patterned souls, more interesting because of each chasm of our presence.

The pulverizing experiences of our journeys, and we all have experienced them (or will do), are opportunities to reshape ourselves into something more evolved and unique.

A dropped plate on the floor, which was once round and whole in design, suddenly becomes a mess.  Its edges are sharp with a tendency to cut.

Things appear worthless once broken.

Events in our lives, when we feel the fracture, may also make us feel worthless sometimes.

I don’t want to cut you.

Everything is perception.

Perception pertains to where you are standing.

Strength is a decision.

It is also a muscle of the mind and needs training.

Your viewpoint on any given situation, would or may vary from mine, depending on where you are situated in life.

This is your journey and your soul lesson.

This existence you reside in now is your gift.

You are the mosaic.

Until your last breath you can piece yourself together into whatever shape you choose.

Collect the pieces of yourself and create the magnificent art that you are: admirable and rare.

Treasure and care for the mosaic of those you claim to love.

Listen to your deepest desire within and think more with your heart.

If you love someone, LOVE them.

If you have something to say, SAY it (however best you can express it).

If you want to hurt someone, don’t.

Choose to walk away and be a better person.

Hurting another person for the sake of only causing pain or for your own gain is extremely un-evolved and ultimately renders you the weaker person.

Remember, there is a purpose to your journey here.

What were you delivered onto this earth to do?

You were born to join a world and becoming a unity link within its chain of humans and all beings.

You were born to love.

You were born to grow until your dying day and hopefully leave a positive trail.

Everyone is fighting a battle, no matter which mask they wear or how sure they appear on the outside of their skin.

We all have scars.

Don’t open those scars.

Kiss them.

Help to heal the world and the people you cross paths with.

There is fuel in living true to yourself, as long as your intentions are pure and good.

As humans, we are complicated creatures.

I have learned that it’s best not to judge someone’s actions unless you have lived within their own heart and soul.

Or at the very least, heard their story.

Everyone has something to teach and much to learn.

Life and the universe we live in, is ultimately a mystery.

We feel more than we know.

Our emotions and psyche reminds me of an ocean with a rolling tide, best contemplated with the grace of gratitude.

The tumultuous sea storms will churn us.

The shoreline of our heartbeats will be bathed in sunlight and sometimes drenched in depth.

Sail forward with every breath.

So often we question that which sits within us or surrounds.

Our trust in our own being and that of others is tested and damaged by the events that rip at our edges.

It’s difficult to believe you can be whole, when you feel broken.

It is a never-ending exercise.

My endeavour in life and this is something I have learned gradually and with sudden force at times, is to love.

It begins within.

So as I again feel like life has recently flung me through the smashed window of a flipped vehicle (me) I remember my bounce.

I gather all of the jagged edges of myself and begin to try to fit them all back into something more beautifully intrinsic and whole.

I remember my mosaic soul and admire its unique shape.

It serves as a platter for those who pick from me whatever they might need.


My love is your feast.


Inside by PJ Ryan