Shortlisted for the Higher Education Category of the 2019 Melbourne Writers Festival's storytelling competition 'Love & Melbourne' .

Minutes, moments, months: Melbourne

By Haley Zilberberg

Three penguins

i. april

i arrived at the tail end of march,

waking up from jet lag once the month

had turned over, a new chapter.

it was not an april like i’d ever known:

no spring, no endless sunshine. there was rain

and cool, crisp air and the sun setting

early. i fell in love with the backwardness

of it all, enjoyed my second autumn

in the span of less than a year.

ii. may

slowly, the city was becoming mine,

in the same way it became everyone else’s,

i took it by foot, captured the memories

in my mind’s eye: the city’s laneways,

museums and galleries, posh professionals

walking swiftly, friends laughing as they walked

drinking bubble tea, buskers pooling crowds together,

a community of people

together and alone, wandering and found.

iii. june

one night by the yarra river, the breeze pushed

up against me, whipping against my face. i pulled

my coat against me tighter, watched the lights

along the river as they twinkled, the loud roar of

friday night, voices like a stereo booming out of

pubs and restaurants, winter blossoming against

the warmth of adventure.

iv. july

a month of libraries, the newness of opening

a textbook, of learning. classrooms filled

with other eager minds, thirsting for more and more.

in the state library, surrounded

by beautiful things, squeezing every drop

out of everything i was given to learn.

v. august

in footscray, there is a man singing

and strumming his guitar while his

baby sits in her pram beside him.

there is a guy selling donuts, and the smell

of the donuts claims the corner, delicious

and sweet, you can almost taste them

just by inhaling. keep walking.

you can see people gathering. you can hear

the trains in the background. you

can feel it all.

vi. september

i let my sister borrow my city for the week,

and she did not want to give it back. we shared

laughter over lattes, walked aimlessly

together, the beauty of the city being purpose

enough. one night as the darkness pulled

down its curtains, we kicked sand along

st. kilda beach, walked towards the penguins,

watched them move, giggling

at their little bodies as they swam

like fish but looked like birds. soon after,

she gave the city back to me, got on a plane

that looked like a bird but flew over the fish,

over the ocean to go back home.

vii. october

from the top of the roller coaster

at luna park i can see what feels like the

whole world, but really, it’s just a slice

of everything i’ve come to know. it loops,

it dips, i gasp, catching my breath, not

knowing if it’s my stomach getting swallowed

as the roller coaster declines or my awe

of the blue ocean, the seagulls, the lights,

the city.

viii. november

i didn’t know there were birds that lived

in cities that were not pigeons. the oily darkness

of the ravens, the magpies singing,

a red-rump parrot running along the grass,

rainbow lorikeets screeching to usher in the night,

wattlebirds playing in the trees. the end of spring

is beautiful, is loud, is flying by.

ix. december

on my birthday, we go to the zoo, and i

feel just like a kid again. i stand still as the lemurs

run around me, stick my face against the glass

to see the platypus, sit on the bleachers

to watch the seals happily swim, sit by the pond

sipping on coffee, orangutans swinging

in the distance.

x. january

holding hands as midnight creeps,

sitting on the grass in royal park,

fireworks jumping into the sky,

music playing into our headphones

as we drown out the sounds of everyone else

having their own moments

because this one is ours.  childen run around,

excited to welcome the new year.

the countdown begins. 3…

2…1… he sky lights up, the city

glowing in the background.

xi. february

i’ve got my bags packed, lunch boxed,

readings read, and a thrill bubbles up

inside: a new kind of new year.

xii. march

it’s cold again. the year has wrapped

around itself, formed a perfect loop.

i am right back where i started, but

one year older. i’m seasoned, four seasons,

to be exact, and now i talk about melbourne

like i’m an expert. but i am still learning

about its hidden gems, the beauty of the city

still unfolding.