THE Crocodile Prize created a special category for women writers in 2011 because it took a while for entries by women to materialise.
But by 2012, women were active and effective participants in the contest. It was clear no special treatment was required and in subsequent years the category was dropped.
The fact that the award was still offered in 2012 and that women dominated most of the categories anyway made it extra difficult to select a winner.
To solve this problem, special attention was given to the relevance of the subject matter to women when judging the women’s award.
Imelda Yabara had impressed the judges in 2011 and they were further impressed by how her work maintained that consistently high standard into 2012.
It was agreed her short story, My Name is Sandy, and her poems In Bed with Me and Way Out of Reach fulfilled the requirement of a relevant and outstanding body of work.
Imelda’s partner was a magistrate and she was very aware of how women are treated by the police and the courts. This knowledge gave her short story a sense of authenticity that rings true today.
Her poems also deal with issues of relevance to women. Way Out of Reach, about a father worrying about how he will pay his daughter’s school fees, has a similar resonance to the pieces in this year’s anthology of women’s writing, My Walk to Equality.
My Name is Sandy
SHE sat shivering. Constantly checking whether her hiked up skirt was covering her breasts, pulling it with trembling hands up again and again. Silently she mouthed a prayer thanking God that she had worn a long skirt that day.
Outside the sun shone but no sunlight came through the window. It was blocked by the people staring in.
She closed her eyes trying to shut out the stares.
“You okay?” he snapped in Tok Pisin before slapping the file down on the table between them. She looked up at him. He threw down a black T-shirt and motioned for her to put it on before he pulled back a chair and plonked down. She pulled the T-shirt over her head. Then reached under it and carefully worked her skirt back down until she felt the waistband back around her waist. Once again she wrapped her arms around her body.
“You’re lucky, they only hit you, cut you and ripped your clothes off. Other women have been in far worse situations,” he said while looking at the people staring in. “What were you doing walking alone in the first place? You should know better. What did you expect when you put yourself in that sort of position?” he asked.
“I … was walking to work,” she explained.
“Well next time go with someone,” he retorted. “How many?” he asked tapping his pen against the table as he looked at the ‘Domestic Violence is a Crime’ poster on the light blue cement wall.
“Three,” she said quietly while reaching to her back. She pulled out the shirt to stop it sticking to her back.
“What, speak up, what is wrong with you?” he snapped.
“Three,” she tried again this time louder.
“What weapons did they have?” he asked.
“A rifle, a bush knife and a kitchen knife,” she told him closing her eyes feeling faint. “They ca … me out from the overgrown grass on the vacant plot on the other side of the highway and.... called me to wait for them, so I ran across the umm .. highway to get to the other side,” she carried on, not stopping.
“That’s why they hit you and cut you, you should have listened to them,” he scolded her.
“I thought……that. If ... if I got to the other side of the .. the road then I could follow the iron fence and try to make it to the residential…housing area, which is just before the warehouse where I worked but ... they reached me before I got there..” she looked at him, bending up and down trying to make eye contact.
He kept shaking his head.
“Is there someone you want to call to pick you up or do you want us to drop you off at the hospital to get those cuts looked at?” he asked looking at her for only the second time since he had walked through the door.
“I want to call ...” she said.
“Use the phone on the table,” he said while pushing out his chair to stand up.
She gulped before saying, “Ex ... excuse me sir.”
He turned and glared. “Yesssss,” he ground slowly out.
“Did…. ummmm…did you get them and don ... don’t you want to hear the rest of the story?” she asked steeling herself not to look away.
“No vehicle, besides they’ve probably already run away…and you should be thankful nothing bad happened, did they rape you?” he growled.
She shook her head. He turned and left.
She sat staring at the doorway after he left before turning and looking at the people staring in. Only three remained.
“Shame, shame on you,” she spat out. Two left, one stayed put, a grin spreading on his face. They stared at each other until he turned his head.
“Bitch,” he mumbled as he walked away.
Minutes later she heard Rose’s voice asking where she was. Rose burst in the room. She came to a dead stop.
“Let’s just go home,” she said, struggling to keep her voice in check.
Rose nodded, “Oh my god you’re cut, your arms are cut,” she said blinking rapidly trying to stop the tears from escaping.
“Rose, pleassse…,” she pleaded.
Nodding again Rose helped her up and they made their way out the door and down the corridor to the front desk where her interviewer sat talking to another officer who glanced at them.
“Are you okay?,” the officer asked coming out and attempting to take her other arm before realizing it had blood soaked strips of cloth tied around them.
“Sandy,” she blurted out.
“What?” Rose asked her, confused.
“My name is Sandy,” she said again, louder almost screeching. “My name is Sandy, you didn’t even ask my name to put in your report. So I am telling you … it’s Sandy and I’ll get my husband to follow up to see if there is any progress,” she screeched at the interviewer whose lip curled and twitched as he stared at her.
Then Sandy saw her husband tearing in, his face scrunched in anger, and the tears she had held back so long fell free.
“I’ll be back,” her husband told the officer, who was now asking the interviewer for Sandy’s file, before gently steering her to the car.
“Thankful, he said, I should be thankful,” Rose heard Sandy say over and over again as she tried to hold her, trying to stop her shivering. Sandy jerked back. Rose pulled her arm away then realized her inner arm was covered with blood.
“My arms, legs and my back hurt,” Sandy moaned as her husband drove the car out of the police station car park. At the end of the driveway, he stopped.
“Hospital?” he asked no one in particular, staring at his wife’s black eyes, split swollen lips and bruised cheeks through the rear view mirror.
“Quickly,” Rose said watching her sister-in-law talking to herself.
In Bed with Me
In my bed
all three of we,
pain roars for battle,
my unseen enemy,
dealt to me,
my spirit prances,
eager for a war,
before it begins.
against an apparition,
for a clone,
I do not know,
next to me,
across from me,
beside the moon and stars,
painted on grin,
but do not feel,
here we lie,
next to me
Way Out of Reach
On a street a father sits,
Heart refusing defeat,
Next to him his daughter sleeps,
Tears running down her cheeks,
He’s called everyone,
who will listen to his pleas,
to help him pay,
his child’s school fees,
He knows he must give,
his child the opportunity,
to be educated and maybe get a degree,
He wonders how education
has become so expensive,
that it is now a luxury,
So tomorrow he will meet with her teacher’s,
to beg for another week,
To give him time to find the money,
so she can be free.