To be a Fly on the Wall – A Poem

Words: Iris Parker
Artwork: Leon Harrison
There’s a fly on my wall.

It stands out against the decaying baby-pink walls like a birthmark.

Its legs are thin,

thin like the threads that hang from my school dress.

They dance with the tangerine breeze that parts my lace curtains.

Its wings glitter in the sunlight.

I watch it rub its compound eyes,

I rub my own.

I am not scared of it.

Nor it of I.

We’ve learnt to co-exist.

I did not know it isn’t normal to have holes in the screen of your window –

my classmates have now lovingly informed me so.

I did not know that flies only have six legs and that glasses are far too expensive.

Or that having hand-me-down uniforms makes me lesser than the other girls.

Or that birthmarks are undesirable.

My classmates speak of how their mothers notice and

rip loose threads from their clothing with amalgam filled teeth.

How their breaths smell like lavender tea,

and they still kiss their babies goodnight even though they have teeth of their own now.

Their innocent tongues drip privilege and poison.



I think perhaps because they have no wounds to lap at they cut at something that I cannot


They gnaw at who I am.

I have started killing the flies in my room.

I have gotten faster at catching them to prove that my eyes are just fine.

I cut the threads from my dresses,

and my hair,

and my tongue,

with kitchen scissors.

All the other girls envy me because I have breasts now.

But the filth still finds me.

It finds me in the dishes and empty bottles that stack like skyscrapers

with their peppered citizens of ants.

Pieces of my father find me in the boys that grow from them.



They smell the filth on me and it makes their mouths water.

They are unpunishable and unburdened if I am already unclean.

If I cannot be tainted.



These kitchen scissors are not adequate for surgery.

I cannot wash my hands of my blood.

So I will pack my hand-me-downs and flee.

I will sneak through a hole in my fly screen and leave those rotten walls under me.

I can reinvent myself with lavish things.

With a dog and precious fruits,

with a silent clock,

with a bright lamp and a pen.

I will get a doctorate and work in a flyless hospital with barred windows

so I can afford perfumes and insect repellent.

I will kiss my friends and pick fluff from their jackets.

I will make love.

Men shall lay in high thread count sheets where they may touch my breasts

and taste privilege and poison on my tongue.

They won’t notice my birthmarks.

I will smell clean.

But there are still cockroaches in my bathroom sink.

They climb through drain pipes to escape the Brisbane heat,

bubbling recollections and odours of another lifetime.

I cannot kill them anymore.

Not when all I know of resilience and survival is from them.

But it doesn’t matter because I will not go back there.

Because I haven’t looked at that bathtub since I was 6 years old,

and because I won’t tell a soul.

I didn’t have breasts then,

but that was never enough to keep me clean.

But it simply does not matter because I cannot go back there

and no fly lived to stand witness.

So I won’t tell a soul.

I cannot help but co-exist with filth.