Fractures

The world is mad, and we’re all falling through the fractures
Of things half done, where we’re half right amidst the clamours;
Half spoken truths, to hide intentions and to ease the conscience
Just like half-hearted love, sold for a petty halfpence.

The world is staring through the bottom of the barrel, half-aware
Of all the halfwits and madmen who hold the mighty triggers
Over impressionable youngsters, bereft of father figures.
And we’re half way to chaos, delusion and despair.


Half whispered wishes abandoned in a lonely patch of green, 

Half-hardy crops and chains of thoughts that wither unforeseen

A life half lived in fears of others and their hissing, 

A pitiful existence, where half the words are missing.


Automatons perpetually trapped in rushing hours
Without a lot of feelings, half-broken and half-free,
Leaders of no one, sealing the deal that always sours,
Who know they’re only half the men they used to be.

A moon – half hidden, raising high above this madness,
Lights up the sky just like the full moon, with just the same bright light
And in the end, all gravitating halves will even out in roundness,
Making the world a whole again, setting its new and unexpected flight.

 © Akka Ballenger Constantin

My Petite Madeleine

When the Romanian Revolution came, I wasn’t home.

I heard people talking – more like whispering – at the bread shop. I was only thirteen – in their eyes still a child, so they didn’t mind me being around. I saw myself as an equally important person. Important enough to take in what was shared furtively and make sense of it on my own.
I still don’t know what made me do it – after leaving the bread shop I turned the TV on; although there wasn’t any program broadcasted. During the communist years, we only had a couple of hours of program, usually in the evening. Most of it was heavily laden with propaganda but every now and then there was a nice enough movie or theatre play.
I don’t remember the day of the week, nor the day of the month. Just that it was before Christmas and that I wasn’t at home – I must have been on school holidays because all this happened in Cluj Napoca and I was at my auntie’s apartment, with my Nana. Our regular routine was to go to the farmhouse – and my beloved village – every Friday.
It took me a good half an hour to figure out whether the “revolution live” was a theatre play or a succession of live events. I decided it was the later – the censorship would have never allowed such a play.

All these events happening in Ukraine have resulted in a big trigger; some memories have resurfaced – of times I have not told anyone before.
Without comparing our two countries events, which are very different – there are some things that I can’t fathom.
I have learned better than believe everything I hear or read; but I’m still uneasy about hearing that in Ukraine they just gave weapons out to civilians. Without comparing the two situations, it reminds me so much about the days of the Romanian revolution:
there was so much confusion and people were manipulated to go out on the streets.

The first thing they did in ‘89 was to take over the TV/Broadcast – because they knew that’s the only effective way to manipulate the masses. And even as a child, I understood why.
I remember a long chain of people – all these generals, civilians and so many people coming in saying the terrorists are shooting in x place, quick – everyone, go on the streets
Then they would come again: “terrorists or the army is shooting in Y place, everyone go on the streets”.
I was only 13. I didn’t understand, why they would send people in the streets, against the bullets. What could civilians do against armed people?
So, people died out of sheer stupidity in the general confusion.
I remember wanting to go, do my bit. There was this image of a young boy with the Romanian flag – Bucharest’s Gavroche. His patriotism and bravery was celebrated every few minutes on the TV and in the international press. I wanted to be like him – be brave and rid the country of all evil. (to my defence, I was really young) And my auntie and nana forbade me, of course.
Everyone was wearing the tricolour ribbon (our flag) on their arm – I wanted to do that too. Even if the only time I was allowed to go outside was to buy bread and necessities.
Of course we had tricolour in our house – everyone does.
But my nana asked me one question: – How is wearing the tricolour going to help?
And I thought hard and I said to her: – I dunno. but I feel that if I am wearing it, people would know I sympathise with the ones fighting for the cause, coz I can’t help in any other way.
She said “careful what you wish for and be even more careful that you don’t end up being a sheep”. I didn’t know back then how clever she was.

Now in the present, I truly admire the Ukrainians for their courage. I can’t believe that war is happening in our time and the world is not doing much about it.
The same world where all countries have solemnly sworn again and again that they would never allow atrocities happen… But I can’t help but wonder how many of those executed as “Russian provocateurs” died wrongly? How can one tell if someone was really a Russian provocateur or tried to be the voice of reason in a sea of frightened people? And how can we be sure that some of those people didn’t die because of petty revenge?
Someone who had a beef with anyone could easy kill them and get away with murder in these trying times. Everyone is too busy to check the facts, when you get shelled left right and centre.
And the most worrying question – once all the weapons are out, how can they be gotten back safely? How can civil war be prevented?

These are terrible times in any single way and once again, my memories run back to December ’89.
I’ve seen it first hand back then – how easy the masses can be divided and ruled.
Although I was a child, I liked being in the heart of things.
There was the queue for bread. Then the queue for the newspaper – every single morning we queued for news – we lived for that. You learn so much from hearing and seeing people in tough times.
They barricaded all roads so “the terrorists couldn’t get out of the city”. I’m yet to hear of anyone who saw those terrorists, btw – it was sheer manipulation and fearmongering. But the truth is that people died in these firings – most probably army against army, sent out by orders barked on live TV by important – looking people. Generals in command changed often, making things even more complicated.
All their talking about these terrorists shooting loose, all that was achieved was working the army units against the other army units and against the militia, and the crowds against them all.
I could see the tracer bullets from the window of my auntie’s apartment.
Especially at night, it was scary. Looking back now, it makes me wonder whether they chose tracers in purpose, so they can be seen and feared – they are spectacular on the night sky.
Auntie’s apartment was in the city centre – we had a wide view of the sky. During the day I could see the damage they did to the National Theatre building.
It’s really nothing compared to what’s happening in Ukraine today, but still scary, for a country where we had known nothing but peace.

We had to stay put in the city until it was safe to go to the village. My auntie and uncle dropped me off unceremoniously, then returned back to the city once the weekend was gone. Revolution or not, people still had jobs to attend.

It felt like a heavy century was slowly passing over my little village.
My dad was called into his military unit. His commander was one of the few people with good sense – he locked everyone in the unit precinct. The weapons were locked too.
They would be doomed no matter what. If they go out, they would be either victims of the bullets everyone was shooting at everyone, or lynched by civilians. There was so much fear and so much disinformation those days – people didn’t know if the army was friend or foe. Im still to hear an account of it from my father. He doesn’t talk much about the revolution.

I didn’t know at the time that he wasn’t out fighting; they weren’t allowed to communicate with family members.
My mother was left on her own (in Brasov, a different city), dealing with retrieving my grandma’s body and organising her funeral.
My sister was with my mum.
I should say my grandmother wasn’t killed; she died of natural causes.

Freaky fact: my grandmother was paralysed for many, many years and she always kept saying she wanted to die.
As kids we didn’t understand much so we candidly asked – why don’t you, then?
She always said “I want to see Ceausescu die before me” (The Romanian dictator)
Sure enough, they shot him on Christmas. She died immediately after him – a day or two difference.
My poor mum had to dodge blockades, bullets and road patrols to find which funeral company was open and would do the services.
Then retrieve her own mother’s naked body from the hospice and get on with the funeral.

Meanwhile, I was dropped off to safety in my little village.
To be honest, being in the village was scarier than when I could see the bullets on the night sky. Because in a way, seeing the bullets afar made me feel secure – they – whomever those terrorists were, they weren’t close to us. But also because the village didn’t have any phone.
My heart was split in three; not being able to get news fast, I was worrying about my dad fighting and getting killed; about my mother and sister getting killed by accident and about my auntie and uncle (who remained in their city apartment) who could also accidentally get killed.
But there were moments where I could take off on the hills and mountains and just be happy for a while, till I remembered again. I also felt very guilty that I was sheltered and others weren’t.

We were living for the news; and I understood even then as a child how easy it is to manipulate fearful masses. It was madness.
That’s why now, when I look at the news I also know – just like in the Romanian revolution – the full truth will never be known to us regular mortals. My heart breaks for all the innocent people who lost their lives, for those displaced and for those fighting. Like anyone else, the only thing I can do is to pray for peace. And I can share my own story. I decided to do it because a good friend confessed to me how sick he was of all the glorified violence in our media. This is a different side of things – if you are following the world’s conflicts, please try to see things from this perspective – the impact of war on regular citizens and how suddenly their lives got ruined.

The Lost Ark: Comes the Rain

The Lost Ark is a project that brings to the limelight our unique Australian fauna and flora in the aftermath of the bush fires and the previous draughts. As we go by, the grasslands are coming back to life and we are looking at the possible ways in which we, as artists can raise awareness of all the conservation work that needs to be done.

“Comes the rain” – the latest video in the series – is a gentle approach, observing healing, resilience and beauty.

Original score by Harvey Welsh Images by Akka Ballenger Constantin © 2021 Ballenger/Welsh

#photography #music #mixedmedia #multidisciplinary #contemporaryphotography #wildlifephotography #wildlife #wildlifewarriors #canberraart #Canberra #cbr #cbrarts #canberraartists #australianartist #australia

The Efalon at “Bookish” exhibition, Print Council of Australia

I’m extremely happy to report that The Efalon book has been accepted for the “Bookish” exhibition organised by Print Council of Australia.

What is an Efalon? Where does it live? And most importantly, does it have any friends? I’m glad you asked. Canberra-based composer Harvey Ellis Welsh has all the answers in his Efalon song, which you can buy here: https://elliswelsh.bandcamp.com/track/the-effalon

This unique accordion book can be yours – only one copy is available at the moment on Print Council of Australia’s website: https://www.printcouncil.org.au/product/akka-ballenger-the-efalon/

If it sells out, feel free to contact me to organise another copy.

Featured

About the Eyes

“About the Eyes” – a collaboration with the talented musicians Harvey Welsh and Chris Holly. I love their gentle conversation with the poem.

I wrote this a while ago, but under this new way of living, I think now it is most important than ever to acknowledge that we all live under the same sun, that we are all equal.

I imagined 4 different characters, with different languages, different eyes colour and different life experience. They are made by the different memories each of them carries.

The black eyes remember storms, wars and their mother, trying to find her children’s next piece of bread. Even when they found peace, living in a different country, a country of blue-eyed people, the memories come back.

The green eyes remember different kind of storms and Spring nights.

The brown eyes remember the enchanted forest of their childhood.

The blue eyes have never known famine and they reassure the black eyes that they will never have to worry about the bread.

Have A Blue Christmas!

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!” – it’s a phrase I wish I could say and savour this year.

I love all things Christmas but I do happen to have a couple of favourites. Perhaps what I enjoy most is giving. I love giving unconditionally. I love seeing that little sparkle, when the others unwrap their presents and find the things they secretly wished for. I also love placing random gifts under the wishing trees and imagine the joy of someone I have never and will never meet.

Over the last decade or so, I found it hard to adjust to this entire Summer Christmas business and I have been secretly longing for the White Christmases of my childhood; where the trees were really glistening and the sleighs, bells and snow were real. While I love with all my heart the uniqueness of the Australian landscape and the peace of my grasslands, I do long for the snow too.

This year, however, I find myself wishing away the white. The skies have been ashen and the horizons have turned orange for what it now feels like an eternity and a half. We’re only a couple of weeks into the summer and the temperatures are already breaking the records. The air is impossible to breathe and the grounds are scorching. With all these fires raging out of control, so much has been lost. People’s lives, existences, farms, houses, crops and ecosystems are gone. It doesn’t feel like Christmas at all. The most demoralising thing is the lack of leadership we are seeing at a time when we should all unite forces. We have lived through a couple of long drought seasons, followed now by unimaginable destruction caused by the fires. The outlook is grim and untenable. Some of these fires might be out of control for a longtime; and when the current leaders do not believe in climate change, do not want to fund the firefighters properly and do not take charge in crisis situation, the thing we need most right now is rain. I wish you all a very blue Christmas, where the heavens will open, the skies will pour down and the dams will be full to the brim once more. Stay safe wherever you are and don’t forget to hug your loved ones.

An Army of Her Own

Recently, I had the privilege to be part of Mother Tongue’s Multilingual Poetry Night at Smith’s Alternative. During this event, “An Army of Her Own” poem finally took flight after a long time in the making. I didn’t know it at the time, but this event was part of the Poetry On The Move 2019 fringe festival. I was so impressed with their program. I look forward to seeing more in the future.

Photo courtesy of Mother Tongue

“Open Up” Update

Not long ago, I developed “Open Up”; an art installation with the purpose of bringing forward the forgotten power of words. It is a simple construction, where several origami shurikens with poems written on them are placed (both visibly and in hiding) in a book. This is an interactive installation; the public is invited to contribute to this installation with their own thoughts and to reflect on what words mean to them, how they use it and how it affects the others. I was overwhelmed by the generous support received from my fellow artists and poets, as well as from other members of the public.

During the critical feed-back session in my class, I really loved one particular comment, coming from my teacher. She had this vision of shurikens through the book shelves. I struggled with how to achieve this. I have a great respect for libraries and would not do anything that could be deemed as littering, or disrespectful. On the other hand, I felt that concealing the shurikens around the shelves or in the books may be exactly what is needed, to bring up the hidden power of words. It made me think with nostalgia back to the pre-internet times, when borrowing books from the library, I would find a random note from a total stranger, writing about the reasons they loved the book you were reading and asking you to continue writing about it. It resulted in charming chain-letters placed within the book for the next person to find.

However, what helped me make up my mind was the fact that mid project, the question was raised from members of the public not living in Canberra whether they could be considered to participate. This, and the willingness of other participants to keep on contributing poems, made me consider giving this project a new life, both on Social Media and around libraries and cultural institutions in Canberra, both in an analogue and a digital form.
I have created a QR code that links to the project’s explanation. This QR code will be attached to shuriken-poems who will be placed randomly but respectfully around cultural institutions. If you are the one finding our shurikens, please consider contributing your own, placing it in a location significant to you.

Also, you can chose to take images or selfies and upload them on the Social media with the hashtag #OpenUp.

Thank you.

Straight Up!

About this poem:

Some 20 years ago, I set out to explore the world. I was lucky enough to do so; I went around the globe 3 times and a half. but I was always the traveller and never the settler. Until the right time came.

I have always felt permanently lost in translation. Thinking in one language while you speak another one allows for lots of funny conversations, let me tell you.

But then, one day I met Jacqui and Lauren. They were two brave women running a Mother Tongue multicultural poetry workshop and they have shown me how to put my puzzle together.
Everything changed since then.

Now, when people find out I am Romanian, most of the times the question I get is if I speak Russian. I don’t. However, quite a few people asked me in the past months if I write in Italian. It’s a more appropriate question, given that we learned Latin as a mandatory subject in school. I don’t know a lot of Italian, sadly, but I thought I’d try it anyway and I played with a couple of words i learned in my travels.

I don’t know how many of you remember a movie called “The Point”. It is the story of Oblio, the only round-headed person in the Pointed Village, where it is the law that everything and everyone must have a point. Because he is different, he gets banished to the Pointless Forrest but in the end he manages to prove that even seemingly pointless things do have a point.
As a child, I was inspired by his journey, which is one of self-discovery and uncovering truth. This poem is just that: being different in an oddly shaped world. And my close friends will even know where the Iron Maiden reference is in this text 🙂