My Young Ghost

I read this Verse Novel in Miniature a little while ago (i.e. when it was first posted to that wonderful, wonderful blog) and it captures much more eloquently and (something extremely difficult for me as evidenced by this continual need to parenthesise) sparsely than I ever could a feeling I had while meandering the streets of Melbourne when I arrived here, three months ago. It was such a sweet, heartachey feeling but I couldn’t quite capture it in words. I am, I think, too prosaic for such eloquence.

(Sure, I could edit my parentheses out. Maybe one day I will have an editor who looks at me askance, much as my partner does sometimes when he reads over my shoulder, or rather, across my lap. There is a quality to his silence that elicits a sharp, “Yes?” from me and an explanation from him about how I should fix a sentence, clarify a thought, add something, delete something. He is lucky I take criticism poorly but hide it well. I lie; I hide my feelings poorly but with a degree of grace acknowledge the correctness of his suggestions. He will read this parenthesised paragraph and feel bad. I win!)

About 15 years ago, fresh out of high school, I exercised my new adulthood by moving from Brisbane to Melbourne. I was lost and confused and trying desperately to craft a life here, free of family, free of past. But I failed: my family hung on; my past structured who I was and could not be avoided. Three months ago, I arrived in a post-flu haze to craft another life here. The past I welcome.

As I walked the streets around the University of Melbourne and the CBD, I felt the ghost of my 18 year old self beside me. “Look, Old Oanh! Remember this lawn?” she cried out when we walked through the university grounds, to see the expanse of green on which she – we – I – read Roberto Calasso’s Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony the first, exuberant time. Oh, and the cafe where she sat in a large group of people whom she failed to befriend, slinking away after an outburst about the marvel of fat sparrows. I laughed about it later but was mortified, as only a teenager can be, then. The cafe is long gone, but the corner is there, as are the paving stones where rotund sparrows hopped and pecked.

She’s gone, now. I walked over her impressions and have my own. They’re less sharp, less heartfelt, less like a catch in the throat and more just the satisfying comfort of a full belly.



  1. Tseen Khoo pointed me here. Oh Cadmus and Harmony! Oh inspiring lawn. I think my past self and your past self would have liked each other. Funny to think they were weaving their way around the same (but different) Melbourne (I’ve noticed everyone has their own map of Melbourne).

    I love a parenthesis me.


    1. Tseen is much better at promoting my posts than I am! Thanks, Tseen!

      And thanks for visiting, Penni. I am amusing myself with the idea of our youthful past selves hanging out.

      I read a post a long time ago, on a now defunct blog written by Alexandra Kleeman (who seems to have abandoned creative writing for academia, mores the loss) where she said she wished people could hear her speaking in parentheses. It was such an apt idea, it’s stuck, much as your verse novel.

      Ah, joy. I’ve just googled AK and it seems she is still writing, has been published and that a collection of short stories and maybe a novel is in her near(ish) future. Yay!


  2. Actually, I love your little diversions and parentheses. Go for it. You have such a way of evoking feelings, even old faded ones. You remind me a little of Kate Morton’s writing.


  3. Thanks 🙂
    Kate Morton is now being added to my list of “To-Reads”, though I note she is not only an Australian, but a Brisbane-nite, too. Perhaps something in that is what reminds you of me? I’m so curious now!


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