Catherine McLennan



For Kamal Yassin (Arab Palestinian)

Once upon a time
A man named Kamal

Took a boat from
Syria to Cyprus to

Fly ‘illegally’ by
Plane to London.

All sweaty palms
And nerve jittered voice

The green-eyed man
Entered a judicial court

And pleaded his case
Through a translator:

I was born in 1961 in
Al-Bass refugee camp …

… wounded in an attack
By Hamas members …

Younger brother killed
Before mother died of …

… Israeli aircraft sending
Missiles into camp confines …*

Kamal’s story floated
Uneasily through that

Justice reigning room
Even causing a few

Politicians to imagine
His pain-pitted face

As they slid into bed
After a drudging day.

As those working
People rested tired eyes

Kamal was left with
14 working days

to Appeal* the denial of
Asylum in England.

Where to now?

*Actual text taken from transcript of court hearing, London, July 11, 2001.


Serepax 15mg

Now I’m borrowed.
Now I’m numb.

Ha! She is meeting with it!
In her palm it calls to her
Promising the delight of
Absent mind.
In white pink circles
It surrounds her little
Nightgown, dances into
Troubled air and
Pours for her a glass
Of water.
Her mind has had enough
Waltzing for tonight.
Let’s take that simple
Stride from racing heart
To fast induced
Her father no longer
In a wooden box underground
But somewhere in
A mindscape that has
Been closed.
Shut for renovation.
Back in seven hours.
She is not alive,         again.


The Uncanny

Arrête c’est ici
L’empire des Morts!

Stop, this is the Empire
Of the Dead!


If you go to Paris
Sometime in your time

You may be handed
A pamphlet that says:

Welcome to a
Thrilling visit of the

Catacombs of Paris—
The unique

Bone collection of
5-6 million people

Covering a surface
Of 11,000 square meters.


And perhaps you may
Even join the

Tourist trail

To walk the aisles of
Bone, skull, bone

Under the say-so
Of a pre-paid

Tour guide or
Alone in the company

Of your own
Beating heart.



Catherine McLennan was born in country Victoria (Warragul) in 1983 and grew up around farms and open spaces. She is currently completing a BA at Melbourne University, majoring in history. McLennan writes: “‘Fairy Tales’ is a poem I wrote whilst studying Modern Middle Eastern History and reading real case studies of Lebanese refugees. These people have little or no voice and I wanted to somehow capture the fragility of their situation. ‘The Uncanny’ is a poem I wrote in a series of poems focused entirely on the concept of death. After a trip to the catacombs in France, I was confronted with the very thin line that divides life from death and found irony in the fact that living people were paying money to get ‘excitement’ from walking among dead people.”