Poems in this collection have previously appeared in Bareknuckle Poet: Journal of Letters, Blackmail Press (NZ), Coppertales, Cordite, Divan, fusebox (USA), poetic inhalation (USA), HEAT, Hutt, Poems in the Face of Corporate Power anthology, Retort, Salt-lick Quarterly, Slam the Body Politik CD anthology and in the 2nd Wellington International Poetry Festival anthology.
These Gifts (ii) was placed second in the 2004 City of Greater Dandenong Open Poetry Award.
For Rhiannon and Sylvie: eternal daughters.
The Hub of the Downs
An Aerial View of the Darling Downs
The Diesel Age
Wattle Park, Events
Tears in Rain
The Hiking Whores From Hell
The Hub of the Downs
Ashley of Melissa
The Waste Stream
The Waste Stream
Conference of the (underemployed) Birds
These Gifts (ii)
Fluency in the Machine Language
Human Human Sorters
The Sprung Histories
Alexander the Great
Bin Laden’s Son
Andre the Giant
History makes similes of people, but these people are their own nouns.
1. The Hub of the Downs
An Aerial View of the Darling Downs
for Scott Weeden
Where to start? Perhaps in the physical?
Tilt the head up. Neck muscle catapult
stretch & bonds of throat rubber at full pelt.
& the gaze (most important of all) for
appreciating things aerial, non-grounded
aspects of the world now realised now
revealed by negotiations with the orb.
Most will blink. Some will always squint,
but the true believers in the aerial, the keep
your eyes open & your nose clean types,
they will order things in height & altitude.
& don’t forget the losses. The gut-wrenchers,
friend killers felt by all eventually. Lose
your public ground swell. Feet sensation.
Stand on tippee-toes if you must. Overbalance.
You must first fall to gain some height.
In ’36 the mother was flight, rocking-
horse underflight. Born the year Smithy
did his famous thang – not to sure (are you?)
Last gleam of canopy quartz seen
by Himalayan goat herders – Durga’s
striped mount plummeted into an icecap’s
melting alphabet. Or was that the year
gremlins took the American, Amelia
in her sexy silver Lockheed, twin boom
elegance rain-ditched off Saipan, sunk
now in archaic geographies of place
name usage. It may as well have been
Atlantis, Lyonesse, Brigadoon. Couldn’t
navigate her way outa a wet paper bag
they said (they are terrible, remember).
Aviatrix missing the year the mother flies.
In ’42 the mother hid under cow’s udders
spilled bloated milk urns at the first sound
of the aerial strum, the deep bass Rolls Royce
-Merlins converged on the Darling Downs,
drew new song-lines on old Jarowair earth.
(Big band, Swing) tarmacs pushed aside
the scrub from cape to bight. Twentieth
century child labour – plane spotters. Hello
to the new invaders (cultural). Young bucks,
Amelia’s gifted but untried children parked
spanking B-24 Liberators beneath black wattle,
coolibah hangars camouflage nets beaded
with gum leaves, 500 pound drop bears.
The hangars now machinery sheds, tarmacs
Shire councilled over farm peace reclaimed
the war spirit. Few visible signs remain.
A dead grass park, a brass plaque, end era.
Post-modernism’s got war though. Vietnam
came to the Downs too. Friend’s father
missed Canungra dust-off with broken base
football shoulder. Some flights did not return.
Canberra bombers reclaimed the peace crop.
Two-seater, jet engined howls over Nui Dat,
Long Tan, Khe Sanh, more place names greasy
with history’s cordite residue. The Australian
knack of making do with nothing. .303’s &
shorts stopped the Japanese. Long-range desert
patrols garbed a future SAS. The ism’s ignited
clouds; cluster, fuel air, napalm, nuclear. The cool
vernacular of school boys, die-cast dream war
shouldered .22’s cadets-green saplings reached
for the sky. F4-Phantoms, all shark teeth & bite.
Laika’s fur consumed by cold war friction.
1969 & the son is inserted in the landscape.
Buoyed on by the biggest aerial display of all –
moonshot, b/w windows of opportunity more
computing power in this machine than theirs?;
Apollo, god of poetry, the deadly archer
hoisted Saturn rocket javelins through the mind’s
stratosphere. The Van Allen belt snaking
like Wonder Woman’s golden lasso. Could’ve
used her invisible jet in Nam too, US pilots
no match for MIG 21’s needed a top gun
school of hard knocks. Gargarin the farmer’s
son (never saw Darling Downs/Ukrainian sister
land) fallen neatly into cosmic downflight.
CCCP/SNAFU gone the way of space race
acronyms, burnt up on language re-entry.
The Skylab decade found kids faking it; space
junk blackened tin edges taken into science class.
Crippled solar panels repaired by sexual revolution.
WA got the fireworks display. The son obsessed
with disaster – father’s feet never left the ground.
He never entered the aerial; downflight took him
with a cluster galaxy of black hole cells. Didn’t
get his chance to pat the Horsehead Nebula,
telescopic sight fixed on a horizontal roo’s head
as the People’s Temple sent Kool-Aid messages
on/off pulses of human passivity; 900 shooting stars.
He recalled the greatest aerial disaster of the 70’s
happened on the ground, two jumbo’s cannibalised
each other on the Canary Islands (580 dead).
“Space/memory is only an hour away
if your car/mind could go straight upwards”.
The eighties opened with Project Blue Book.
Yorky bought his own UFO photos to school,
silver triangles menaced his alluvial plain farm.
This was not foreign to our MGM landscape.
The aerial was extraterrestrial, Bogong moth fury
at night tennis, close encounters of the love letter
kind passed from the back seat of the St Mary’s bus;
girl’s hands were tentacles that could not be held.
Little hairy men peering through bedroom windows,
‘The Dalby Peeper’, ‘Billy Barbwire’, ‘Lenny Ovaltine’
& the old bum who every five steps used to look up
into the aerial & flinch; foo fighters raining death.
Billy, who traced his mantra onto children’s palms,
‘G is for girl G is for good. B is for boy B is for bad’
filed away in the fat of repressed town memories.
It was at Thruppy’s place the son saw Columbia
lift off from Cape Canaveral, booster rockets
sliding away like primary friendships; some
renewable, some Challenger lost as the mother
woke the son in 1986 with broken radio news.
The aerial hammered rural towns with thunderstorms,
the blue-black electro-charge of kids rocking tin rooves;
a teen scene of grounded boredom & pissing off on
war stickered BMX/dragster missions to Shit’s Creek.
Or the fabled night dares; an assemblage of schoolboys
at the Barley Board Cricket Oval, one compound bow
& arrows that disappeared into the aerial’s nervous system,
learned behaviours – those who ran from the aerial
& those who stood their ground. & the inevitable
Ameliaesque grief; the son’s first crush, wheat blonde
Karen Straub, her crop-duster father coming to grief
in plane garrotted powerlines & family moving away
to Toowoomba, far from memory’s decaying orbit.
& Mr Rush who drove the only taxi, his last fare
out to the Dalby Aerodrome & a single gunshot
wound to the head; flies nesting in the incestuous
aerial of small town talk.
More armoured spirit returned to the Downs;
Black hawks and Iroquois’ peppered the aerial
over Bowenville, buzzing cattle, the sodden
wheat bag thump of rotors bought war tinnitus
back to the ancestral tarmacs & crate legends
of brand new spitfires, kitty hawks buried post
WW2 in Acland’s abandoned coal mines. In
downflight, one Chinook, some Mirages,
the swing-wing miracle F1-11, & occasionally
a glider from the Downs Soaring Field, all
albatross tension fibres crash-tackle white glass.
& later the Singaporean Air Force, its state
having to beg Malaysia for serious aerial time,
took to the Darling Downs skies too, bussed
in each morning from Toowoomba, Oakey’s
fibro houses lacking some quality of sprawl.
& the aerial landscape itself; jasper smooth
nankeen kestrels, silo-wise, skim the tin sheds
tractor-holed, a corrugation of warm air currents,
parabolic scope & the stereo blood grapple.
Or, over the protected blue-grass road-side empire,
the largesse of black falcons, letter-winged kites’
black, grey & white fuselage, jump-jet precision
strikes, mini-furies control the Warrego highway.
The false stumps of mopokes, galahs & red-rumped
parrots harvesting ground level grass seed,
butcher-birds & magpies – nest enforcers flexing
throat muscles. A pink pelican the son’s friend
saw once, scientist painted at Lake Broadwater;
a flush of wingspan spread over an agate horizon.
The migratory nudge of constellations, so bright
in the aerial of country-night, a pole star for sons.
& finally the ones who didn’t make the aerial last.
Scotty Weeden, who the son & his friend’s once
defended the ’81 post-flood cricket nets from—
Archie, Ezzy, the tough kids who walked away,
perch frying on the cracked silt, oven-top wickets.
Scotty, whose own aerial ended on the ground,
his four wheel drive momentarily airborne on Fraser
Island, eskies, rods, beer all free of gravity, aerials’
greatest enemy. Scotty, who’s old man owned
The Windsor, a Dalby economic wheat-dream
gone wrong & who once carved up a rival team
in a Bundaberg carnival, the son sending him
through a perfect gap in the ground’s defence.
Scotty, hazy as the binocular smudged Halley’s
Comet, a revolution now in the mind’s eye every
seventy-six years; the aerial view & all that.
A postscript aerial: the son having flown now
from the Darling Downs, views it through satellite
photo generated bands of brown & darker brown
shades, the continent a fox-tail colour, wind-snipped
most of us existing on a thin black topsoil that dusts
the mother’s curtains, sifts onto the Great Rift Valley
of lino ripped under the legs of her kitchen chairs,
& waxes the half-wallpapered living room. The son,
in box after box, removing his last hint of the aerial
Aircraft of World War 2, Great Disasters of the World,
UFO Encounters, the same day gravity is stuffed
into plastic bags in the Kuta nightclub district;
supper club chairs left to swell in palm-heat.
A one-minute’s silence for the aerial to catch
its breath, to stand on tippee toes & get its
balance back. Amelia, hit by an air pocket.
Whoever first conceived the idea that there is a parallel between the arts
and our bodily senses seems to me to have grasped one fact very clearly,
namely that both possess a power to make distinctions which enables us
to perceive opposites, alike on the physical and on the aesthetic plane.
We were driving through the country
of reverse Friesians, not pied, as the cattle
from Bowenville home (proto-Thessaly),
those enlarged butcher-bird/mammalian
minus feathers (Darling Downs sane stock)
but opposite; big white stripe through the guts,
made me think of Brendan Ryan’s cover,
for Why I Am Not A Farmer, Melbourne under
milk siege engines & his fatherland, Panmure
we drove through once, bronze Falcon strong.
Our parallel lives, sense differences in stone,
grass cover & spirit mending walls.
“Our big ideas pulled back into line.”
Anyhow, things were reversed then.
I was riding with Melissa, Plutarch
Minter, Carson, Malcolm, Forbes, Fulton
along for the drive. She didn’t see them
inverted – I had to draw a mental picture.
Dairy cows turned inside out; alien evisceration.
A mutilated Grampians close encounters
of the bowl-cut kind at Pomonal Country
Market, a man selling childhood fossicking
memories – his father’s mineral collection
atom by atom, sadhu-palmed us his australite
anthology, musket-shot sized space pellets
& monthly social magnetism, fudge square.
That was when the reverse raven showed up.
A kookaburra, rap-rap-rapping at the A-frame’s
door. Anti-Poe & towel clad we answered its
too human call. We’d been inside for hours,
letting go, our skin overturned by merlot, too
cold for beer. Electric blanket, leather couch,
combustion fire, our sex was Spartan before
our Athenian drive changed lanes, overtaking
on a steep hill, we stopped: limbs radiator hot.
Things cooled down eventually, the Pharlap
heart-sized log stifled our flame & literary
debate seized the engine of our holiday.
Poetry gave us a headfuck: nevermore.
It was closer to the city that we found nature.
On a curve of highway M8 English paralleled,
balanced between two ‘real’ ravens, guard rail
strung, a wedge-tailed eagle, golden juvenile.
Aristander divined this one? Zeus’ Australian
messenger went unsung. The Melton Bypass
via our reverse refidex was really El Alamein.
Our tongues a battle-map desert fox wrong.
Ammo & fuel spent, code broken we defied
this anti-oracle, hearts implicated in coup.
Rommel, Demosthenes we took poison too.
But there’s a cure for driving into distance.
Alexander’s & Marc Bolan’s odd beauty
so cool & fashionably dead.
Anyhow Brendan was braver than I was.
Got his arms Ghosterbusters slimed pulling
new calves, dairy-breeched, Ahab father
rope-tied & unstoppable. The white noise
of winter days, crickets’ shrill whale song.
The reverse crucifixion of calf-pullers, this
aluminium peg leg on a greasy concrete deck.
While quiet Ishmael me read books, threw
rocks at cattle trucks & hid from dehorning
ritual. Bone executions & crows weighed
down with veal fortunes, marked bully calves’
annulled modesty tossed on red sliprail grass.
Our manes cut off for rural mourning.
Now we sit & write in razed Thebes.
The house of Pindar kept for sentimentality.
& later, we kill the ‘Black’ Cleitus who saved
us at the Grannicus, that small act a blemish
on our parallel landscapes. History silted up.
Our thought-kingdom dispersed amongst
ambitious Generals, propping up our memory.
Your relatives turned out in Warrnambool,
mine in Brisbane, there were omens aplenty.
A skein of Southern Right on your horizon,
a humpback of semi breeching on Anne St.
Though I think, I’m more tyrant than you—
suits my artistic purpose? Dionysius to your
Dion: the West our aesthetic Syracuse.
The Diesel Age
for Warren Neil Dionysius
My father lived PE (pre-electric)
in an age before environmental,
before green signification split
hairs, thinned rivers, birthed lakes.
Lived in a crisis all of his own.
In ’78 the oil of his body ruptured,
we sprang from it, myth-old;
his forehead & thigh wrinkled,
speech tired, neutrality fled, DDT
clustered; unbroken chains of family
residue washed into bloodstreams.
It was the age of diesel.
For a blue world there was never
enough water. Earth-cracks snaffled
fingers, pennies, my father’s rising sun.
The rain tank collected egg dreams,
the next generation grew tails, throats
for thunderstorms. Voices bayonet fixed.
A river’s doppelganger ran through us.
Shell-grit dry. Hens’ teeth desert rare.
Black snakes came to Pythagorean grief.
Heads caught in octagonal chicken wire
were easy prey for my peusdo-Heracles.
Can you number crunch death? Stygian?
Born same year as the Fatherland.
But you survived them. Snake bitten
but not dead in Hitler’s’ grand era (‘35)
His encyclopaedia entries all glowing.
But before that, a two-pound miracle
Uranous swallowed, Tom Thumb son
of Albert of Proston, his king not theirs
& no mother Britannia wailing for 55,000
snout-men, air-slaughtered. ‘Bomber’
Harris, city-hunter turned into bronze.
Fuel-lines serpent knotted as you grew
through five years of the diesel coup.
Can I even guess at your first car?
When Oz was still England-serf bound.
Such chivalric names. Vauxhall? Morris?
Appropriated Victory in chrome custody.
Perhaps you waited on the cusp of legend?
FE, FJ; voluptuous utility for a farmer’s boy
your Lee Enfield .303, seed-bag camouflaged.
Arms control: cultural artefact you never held.
Once were rich – wool & wheat rocketed us
to the index top. Woomera, gun barrel shot,
Maralinga’s puffball menace. Mother met
at Dayboro dance. The age was Hawaiian.
Stalking wheat seasons, Weranga home shift.
Consumer/family upgrades meant four doors
six cylinders, EH, HR, new models = wealth?
$80 per week & four kids to bush initiate.
First petrol rush, steering in father’s denim
lap, cinema windscreen’s new wave. The fly (zip)
wheel of initiation disrupted, my ball-bearing
confidence factory (psychological Rühr zone)
hit again & again; your cancer, Guderian swift.
Landscapes of children tasted lightning war too.
How high could Caterpillar numbers go? D45?
At Royal Brisbane, diesel generators kicked in.
In school I drew Swastika rune, practiced
Hitler salute. Sex isn’t a Nazi, death is. Sex
is black leather Himmler trying to look tough.
I kept Panzer company, Commando comic friend.
Hero consumed, ‘Mighty Mouse’ in danger was
my first sexual awakening, oedipal & American.
In green dick togs I rubbed over thigh-smooth
linoleum, primal, a post-war invention, then
peed my pants in the wardrobe, a Narnia fixation.
I held my father’s fallen Reich responsible & lay
for a 1000 years in Mum’s bed rebuking heaven.
My hourglass dreams were death-camp leaden.
Bathurst 1979 saved me. Or precisely
the Holden Dealer Team. Brockie’s
Torana A9X, subconsciously Speer
coloured, its red, black & white blunt
nosed bravado, glued faces to B/W tele.
We gave Craig Biekoff, the biggest Dick
Johnson fan shit all week, jealous of his
slot car set, reputedly the fastest in school.
What cultural distance from the V2 – V8?
We were HG Premier, white trim, metallic
blue. Your American jeep we sold, Dad,
you know, diesel got keen, fuel injection.
The Pioneer Age. Who remembers
that old-time grief anymore? Ken, your
butcher friend & Willis’ Jeep custodian
has gone now too. Downs’ butter factories
& sawmill towns tapered off like jet stream.
Why not the soft-porn novel age? Suitcase
left. Or the cork under the Brisbane Bitter
bottle-top age, my shandy-consciousness
stirred as I picked off XXXX’s forbidden
scab. The Milton Brewery, a diesel memory
since 80’s electrification; the Light Beer age
passed over you; I stuck with lemonade.
Twenty-five years is sadhu-long Father.
Australia bound you didn’t know India
either, perhaps Kapil Dev. What could
I offer then? Prism-cut, glass splintered.
How many times did I run to you howling?
Grendel-child, my swamp disturbed by lesser
heroics, Hertzog’s green ants dreamed, feet
dump-bitten. Was it my knee that opened,
a ring-pull of flesh exposing plastic cartilage?
They’re gone too. Here’s an update for
you Dad, we still have our shortages, all of us.
The diesel age was drought.
If you took a core sample
of the casualised father’s heart,
those fathers who change jobs
as often as they call their daughters
long distance, you would find that
love predates pain’s early migration,
that the trapped pocket of a father’s
pride in his daughter, could always
be found, no matter how deep/often
the experts sunk their diamond tips.
Their digital simulacra mimics
the Stone Age’s first aquaculture –
eels funnelled through granite walls
& reed baskets, replaced 8,000 years
later by the thin black musculature
of the words I love you siphoned
through copper wires, the foundation
blocks of their love still visible through
the tall grass – computer programs
unite them; bloodstreams dial up.
At West End Primary
the daughter reads a poem
out to her class written by her father
when she was almost sixteen months.
Writes, illustrates & publishes her first
book at age eight. The flotilla of ducks
a frozen memorial – USS Arizona in
her salt aquarium, hearts & engine
rooms flooded by time’s superfluid;
grief, the ultimate warrior class.
Wattle Park, Events
A dust devil of swallows drain away into afterthought.
Their maple leaf sized life spans, thrill with currents
but we’re grounded. Wind gets in our eyes, invisible
lice itch with secrets. Something’s cocoon has come down,
a witchetty grub, we think, opts out of cold storage. It’s
silk coffin mimics a 44 gallon drum left too long in rust.
Near a blue gum that will kill you with its bare hands,
a nest sewn with hair & casuarina needles crowns grass.
It’s still warm but we can’t reach its branch. It’s too high
for the average heart to climb & we’re long since children.
But thinking of you Sylvie, in utero the light breeze of your
legs & fists disrupts the mind’s dust; we sneeze & grow.
Crimson rosellas snatched from an Arnott’s tin cap us off.
The world is often autumn dead, but there remains colour.
Tears in Rain
for Nola Andrews
mother watches w-droplets
& planet’s blood pressure falls.
in sixty thousand years will
big Mars glow her memory
misses meteor shower over
brisbane, four children fracture
silver hair; gelatin frost plate -67°
cold dawn is her cultural space.
mother walks on green grass
ex-battery hen feet confusion
perspex sweats, can’t help it
ooohhh this feels good! Solid earth
(heart)land burns domestic
re-entry, soul – Phuket soaked.
US air show pilot
that wet chicken smell, damp
bedraggled histories; Ubik found.
reached through to the other side
plastics multiple underground
& cover girls.
see through them, w-droplets
virgin stewards read safety cues
every woman needs a hoe
for those corporate snakes.
drizzle flees mother’s country
anti-pastoral, soft plagues & shed
half-mast mice, stalk hegemonies
sing out last moistures. rites of
drought’s fascist architecture
walls half papered, lino torn.
of the great mind.
heaven will be Asiatic.
eternally damp for mothers.
no salt mirages, no dry heat
she could believe in that
theology, sodden paradise
& el nino.
The Hiking Whores from Hell
for Shane, Danny, Jasper, Norby & Gary
It was the season of Hamlet. Circa 1990.
The two Danes took to backyard cricket,
but were mesmerised by Mad Max. Even
opened a themed nightclub in Copenhagen;
all leather pants, Sigue Sigue Sputnik hairdos
& jap motorbikes – took it that one step further
bush-beating through the forest on weekends
in souped up dune buggies dressed as ‘Wez’ &
the ‘Lord Humungus’. One, a Fabio look-alike
reconstituted himself in a Bowen Terrace share
house as a big dinger, some berserk Thommo
armed with an SS that snicked chances into
a cherry sunset; the Storey Bridge molten.
The other was all out pace – a Lillee stylist
carving aerial runes through the sandflies
& mozzies which earned him the moniker,
‘Paceman’ Norby, honorary quick, master
of reverse swinging the taped up tennis ball.
They came to Australia for the cultural space,
but ended up as extras on A Current Affair –
some investigation into the poor living conditions
the six or eight Chinese exchange students
endured with them, (it was so Praise) newspapers
spread over bedroom floors like Tiannamen
Square flagstones. The last great textual tragedy.
The Danes didn’t take to Bundy rum or Wayne’s
first time out of home. Thought about running
his army green Datsun 180Y station wagon off
the Bruce highway; these Viking road warriors
obsessed by Kennedy Miller’s vision of post-
ragnarok Australia swamped by gasoline cults.
It came to a head when Wayne a ‘gun’ picker
try-hard, cut back down everyone’s rows, zucchini’s
bristling at knife point. His private esky of food
& refusal to cook didn’t go down well either,
so Gary & the Danes plotted revenge. A simple
plan; eat his chow. After a headlock & a walk
through hot coal, Wayne exited next morning,
his living away from home adventure lasting
all of one week. Gary must have attracted it.
He got into a fight in some trashy nightclub,
his straw hat bravado & put on gay voice too
much for the cane farmers, distillers & small
croppers to stomach. The Danes stepped in
when things got wild, Norby’s faux martial arts
& Gary’s imitation Commando throws more than
a match for the townies’ rum soaked king hits.
But goannas, rather than rednecks freaked out
the Danes; anything that fucking huge should’ve
been in a museum; thigh bone socket black eyes.
Right from the word go they knew ‘SuperYob’
dominated the Harbour Lights Caravan Park club.
This 7ft tall Kiwi fruit picker/self-appointed security
guard patrolled the grounds on a BMX, adjustable
spanner in his jeans pocket in case the ‘Peeper’
tried to perve on the ‘Canadia’ chicks again. Gary
pitched his inverted A-frame tent, claustrophobia
rife as sexual politics, the Danes slept in their XC Ford
panel van; together they picked under ripe tomatoes.
Jasper found an aboriginal axe-head time-panned out
of the black soil & kept it; authentic Aussie memento.
Norby stole his akubra, pocket-knife & bowling action.
Bikers, Chinese & European backpackers sweated it out
for a $1.20/10-litre bucket. Crop dusters ejected poison
onto fields, illegal workers, green tomatoes rounded up
& gassed. Commando was ‘SuperYob’s’ favourite film too,
so he & Gary got on famously, quotes & beer a common
room currency. Ate kangaroo meat fried up on buses;
they were all natives of somewhere; hungry for living.
Anyhow, after a drunken party someone woke up dead,
a yobbo sunk to the bottom of the pool: see Human
‘creepy-crawlee’. ‘SuperYob’ led the inquiry by local police,
managed the homicide investigation. It was time to go,
the park rent fascist, tomatoes finished. Before detectives
arrived, Harley’s chugged off & Chinese wisely vanished.
This was a mini-Odyssey set amongst Western Queensland’s
epic poetry. Two split from the pack & made a last Icarus
fall here almost, against the sun (or was it Hughenden?)
Hopping freights from Townsville to Charters Towers
(pre burnt down hostel infamy) they picked a vacant cattle
train, slept on dried cowpats & woke up fragrant as India.
Hitched a lift with the mail run & dropped off 50 clicks
from nowhere down a semi-desert highway in °40 heat,
they built a sapling tepee by the roadside & watched
DPI cars & shire council water trucks ease by.
There was something slightly more threatening
than Muttaburrasaurus which grazed cretaceous.
It was water, or the lack thereof they had taken,
1.5 litres rain gauge evaporated, ran out in minutes,
the signs were desperate: Mt Isa reworked – Help! Please!
But they weren’t alone for long; black kites zoomed
in – first a pair pull focused, then a stereoscopic chorus
formed to pick bones clean from this ‘tower of silence’;
to borrow from the Parsis’ tradition, the birds were up
for a taste of neo-Zoroastrianism. But after four hours
salvation motored by, then stopped & reversed back up
the highway: a silver Daihatsu hatchback & two bronzed
Cockney angels touring. Now a cramped Gemini capsule,
the girls had a rendezvous with Darwin. Deathcheaters,
they thanked Charlies’ Angels & International Rescue.
(v) Mt Isa
It was a dream to some…a nightmare to others.
There was something Excalibur about pulling metal
out of stone. This was an MIM town, bauxite capital.
Red Mars in a nutshell, the final frontier. Ambushed
by sprinklers & canetoads – coastal migrants too,
they slept one dewy night on a football oval, then
dressed in their best chequered flannelette, presented
themselves for inspection to the Mines’ ‘Personnel’.
Only to be told, ‘fill out these forms & come back in
two weeks.’ The recession we had to have – put jobs
on hold. No wind lifted the Banana Republic’s flag,
unemployment topped 11%. Inflation, not vultures
stripped the meat from the Emperor’s new clothes.
John, ten years assassinated sang in pre-digital heaven.
There was only one thing to do, the boys packed up,
slipped thumbs out of holsters, jettisoned John Sayle’s
Matewan vision. Passed over dry river beds inhabited
by second class citizens, who already owned degrees
in joke monetary reform. On the outskirts of the Isa
they caught a lift with ‘Mud’ – a true ‘warrior of
the wasteland’, who identified his major muscle
groups & years spent pumping iron. A cross between
Albee Mangles & Big John Stud, he shared his joints
but was paranoid of running out – of fuel not grass,
so they bought gasoline for this ‘Lord Humungus’.
(vi) Cape Tribulation
Perhaps they were women who ran with dingoes?
Up from Cairns, true north’s capital, they nicknamed
these two the ‘Hiking Whores from Hell’. Hitching
to Cooktown for a weekend of expense free fun, Celtic
tattoo whorls covered arms, shoulders, navels, sacrum.
They sat around a beach bonfire, drinking, smoking
sucking in Cape Trib. An Aussie feral, dreads sapling
long, falsified a psychotic episode, blamed Vietnam?
Blackened a wedge of Johnny Walker’s best aluminium,
pretended to slice wrists open & bolted into mangroves.
Yelling about ‘gooks’ coming to kill him, no one gave
a shit about his tantrum, the girls pissed themselves,
“Fuck what a mong!” Then a German ‘student’ tried it on,
the ‘Hiking Whores’ deflated him too; his sad eulogy
broke the Southern Cross’s crystal-night; “no style no
class this is not my country!” Girls yawned with boredom.
Next day after trudging for kilometres up & down
the coastal road’s white gravel vacuum, they hitched
a ride with a bloke & his son, who, all of thirteen
was driving the Nissan. It wasn’t the underage driver,
beer drinking or excessive speed, but a flatulent blue
dog that burned memory’s fat. The Bloomsfield’s
high tide put an end to it, the 4×4 stalled crossing
its brown carapace. They bailed, didn’t interpret
the signification – ‘Estuarine crocodiles swim here.’
They saw the ‘Hiking Whores from Hell’ one last time
in a Cooktown pub, shooting pool against some locals.
(Crocs never took them, the 4×4 winched to freedom.)
‘Got a place to stay’, downed the boys sculling heavies?
‘Yeah sure, we got a hundred places to stay if we want, they
saluted. Their fate was a restaurant’s concrete shell,
half-erected near the Endeavour River’s viper mouth,
& midnight bust by the owner who’d sussed them out.
After green ants had dreamed their poison on some
Methodist Church lawn, the cricket oval beckoned,
but was pitch invaded by locals. The boys ended up
sleeping under an 8ft statue of Captain James Cook;
their potted accommodation, bronze/post-colonial.
Caught & grilled a black tropical fish for breakfast,
but lack of funds (they had to get back to Brisbane
to put in their dole forms) & rainy season’s onset
ended the Cape York expedition. Things got wet
& desperate, folk bunkered down, sheet iron spat.
The way out was Aussie Post; country people still
communicated through the inland route’s sealed
bitumen envelope. It was paradise lost, this coastal
spot where Cookie holed up, cut down trees, repaired
his ship & took on fresh water. Now, only his golem
remains & a green armband view of history, of a guy
who named things off the top of his head.
Jasper & ‘Paceman’ Norby were never seen again, Cairns
their last known position; jungle devoured them? Perhaps
they truly found a new home, marauding through a desert
wasteland – two, Sidney Nolan paintings or a pair of Burke
& Wills, they live now in hitchhikers’ memories & a few
Kodak stills. Wayne returned to his real ‘bedroom’ & kept
it closely guarded; he’s now a ‘gun’ dealer in ecstasy,
his competitive streak welcome. Gary, on his way to Bris-
Vegas conjured up snakes, but got a lift from a guy who
propositioned him instead. Of the others unmentioned
by name so far…Shane commandeered a freight train’s
cargo boat & rowed through Ayr, the captain of his fate.
Danny who stooped at Cairns, returned for ‘love’, but
mostly for sex, as he was the only one getting some during
their attempted conquest. ‘SuperYob’ is probably in jail.
‘Mud’ opened up his own gym in Townsville & beefed up
Australia’s defence force. The ‘Hiking Whores from Hell’
after entering Far Nth Qld Amazonian folklore, retired
with husbands & a deep sea dive operator’s license.
The German ‘student’ was really Boris Becker. Captain
Cook was still in the history books when they last looked.
& finally…Baldwin who continued on south, to pick apples
at Batlow & start writing stuff down. Well he, in another life
was picked up by Ivan Milat, this was all very innocent,
but then again, some ideas take root.
The Hub of the Downs
for S.P. Krause
Sproghole. That’s what was written once,
on a butchered wall inside the Star Theatre –
Dalby’s derelict old movie palace that evolved
into a hangout for local gangs once the new
Drive-In killed off its silver screen nemesis.
Of course, some folks need a road map
for meaning, so there was an arrow drawn
as well pointing to the hole. It was evident
who’d scrawled this small town graffiti, heads
or tails either the Wongs or the Knifes – spelling
wasn’t high on any gang agenda, only legend
& its perpetuation through Chinese whispers,
schoolyard intrigue & the rumour mill that
overflowed even in the midst of drought.
Then there’s the history even the town
doesn’t know, like the time a Colts second rower
wired the cop shop stumps with dynamite candles,
his bomb making expertise downloaded from
his father’s knee – a tree stump removalist
by trade. This 1970’s Eureka rebellion enacted
for a brother done over by the pigs, who all played
for Brothers anyhow. Dalby, a training ground
for the fighting Irish brutality of Joh’s police,
the first Western dictator to get away with it.
Anyway, this rural Whiskey A Go Go only stopped
by a barflies’ plea for the innocent men cooling off
in the watch house cells, the explosives repacked
into their ammo box; slick in their own sweat.
The father’s generation always one step ahead
of the cops, bucking 1972 fashions, forsaking
the V8 wars for the dimensions of a mini-minor,
the only car that could squeeze under the railway
bridge near the old Dalby cemetery, the bones
of free settlers tuning, as the Falcons braked hard.
This era when men with long hair were served
last & women in mini skirts were rebuked by 50’s
matrons, who, confronted by all this flesh
triggered the dying smell of their husbands’ skin,
a fragrance that dissipated on too many fronts;
perfumes of men spoilt by desert, salt water, jungle.
New odours of grief taken out on the young things,
sniffing bananas & Vietnam’s sour victory on smellovision.
Or, even the secret honour of rural men.
An off comment delivered by an off duty copper
in a Tara pub; ex golden gloves boxer this pig
all smiles, high pants & thick belts. The father’s
friend who’d done time in Pentridge for explosives
stepping in for his mate – wife about to give birth
to their first, with a casual, I’ll take care of this, Fred.
The publican who’d constructed his own private
boxing ring out back for this kind of thing, acted
as the ref, each round a thunderclap of ego & two
black cumulus clouds swelled under the cop’s eyes.
A thick lip soon matched his leather accessories &
the sunset turned amber liquid the rich mahogany
of macho victory. A day that gave birth to legend.
& what about the ancient household rituals. Mother
closing curtains & throwing tea towels over silverware
before a thunderstorm’s phoney war. Forbidding her
kids to touch anything metal, not even a sewing needle
as they huddled away from the windows, the cottage
rocked on its stumps after each seismic blast. The flinch
instinct garnered from her mother & passed onto her son,
a patriarchy of nerves as lightning crowned transformers
& ironbarks with St Elmo’s fire. An x-ray illumination
of paddocks, a blitzed landscape of shredded wheat,
mince-grinder hail turned the screws on rural poverty.
A Flandersesque picture next morning, downed birds,
Zebra finches & peewees wrecked as battle-flags. Cats
that reappeared after a week, Cheshire smiles fading.
Sometimes legend appeared out of nowhere.
In the 24 hr Shell roadhouse a mate asked for
the tired autograph of Normie Rowe, was told
to fuck off. Someone had to answer for the hard
times, even heroes. Normie bit car park bitumen,
like Johnny O’Keefe flung out of the Golden Fleece
one small town gaff too many. The ‘Wild One’
staggered into legend’s six o’clock rush, grin wide
as a polished bar top. & then Jon English, hail-bearing
clouds beneath his eyes too, whose shadow fell across
the next generation at the magazine rack in Dalby News,
as he grabbed a Phantom, the Black Bitch purred outside,
tinted windows masking ‘The Ghost Who Sings’;
skull rings tapped a beat into chrome sky.
& wheels were everything once, after all,
a girl’s ticket off the farm on a Friday night—
a social lubrication of kilowatts & cubic inches.
Only boys with muscle were desired, Chargers
Monaros, Cobras, GTHOs all clustered two-lane
Toowoomba drag strip (the Big Smoke) when
road tolls clocked 3000/year & more young men
died in cars than a decade of Vietnam. Strangely,
it was safer to fight for your country than to stay
at home & impress chicks. The Phase IV ended
the conflict, not the television one, the real war.
This & the government’s threat to null their cop
car contract, sent Ford into a six-cylinder shell.
When Bridgestonius Cattus ruled the world.
This was always drought country. Lake Broadwater
the only decent expanse, a metre-gauge for dryness.
Cake-pan mud flats, anti-glacial behaviour, crusted
with yabby claws faded ghostly white; dead gum trees
wood stoves for galah eggs, goanna breakfast bar.
A crocodile skull frightened kids at Ranger’s Bridge?
A thin & crispy edge of salt surfaced; rugby league
lime watermarks, ecology was out, 1920’s tree
clearing bounties still paid up by shire councils, long
after the returned soldiers returned to the earth.
Chains, leashed D10 dozers like pig dogs & felled ‘scrub’,
95% of Brigalow forest gone by the nineties & Australia’s
Dodo – the Paradise Parrot, swept away with its nests—
termite mounds dissolved for social tennis sand.
The Hub of the Downs had its share of bad-asses.
‘Killer Edwards’ who stalked the Mobil picking fights
with schoolkids trying on the latest sunglasses,
You don’t look like John Lennon pimple face!
& Melroy Morrison, who at school fetes would
break tiles with his forehead, a Zen Do Kai legend,
this culturally sensitive man who short on dog food
once, took his daughter aside & said, Say goodbye to pony,
as he drew a pistol & shot the Shetland dead.
Or the time a razorback gutted one of his best dogs
& Melroy saved a bullet, bludgeoned Digger with a torch.
Next morning, the dog crawled into Dalby & resumed
its position in his piggin’ truck. Gramophone ear
wide-awake; things smoothed over by his master’s voice.
The difference between history & legend is fact
isn’t it? The mid-eighties drought deepened by
the recession we had to have, loosened farmers’
grip on the land, squattocracies crumbled like wasp
nests torched with rolled up newspaper. The banks
swallowed those who overspent, the flash Holdens
newly washed, sparkled at fire sales that spotted
the Darling Downs. As the wheat & barley & cattle
went down so too did Dalby’s economic muscle.
The Drive–In closed, kids stayed indoors & snuck
a looksee at afternoon porn, a Grendel syndrome
gripped rural communities as Big Screen fantasies
faded & weekend sport collapsed. Gang consciousness
arrived from MTV (Many Towns Vanished) America.
It was in Dalby’s middle distance poeme, that the Wongs
& the Knifes drilled their sproghole through the celluloid
ruins of the Old West & gave directions. Metal film spools
littered the projection room floor like BMX wheel rims,
Goonies style adventure reinforced by torches, backpacks
& some kind of stick weapon, just in case the Wongs
or the Knifes really did show up, gang members bored
by the video arcades’ highest score hegemony.
Dalby, the ‘Hub of the Downs’, a moniker coined
by some Town Council marketeer long before they gave
out degrees to say the same things, but with authority.
In the postscript nineties, the Harvest Festival replaced
by its cotton counterpart, all fluff & giggle. New stars
born in the car park where so many credits rolled.
Ashley of Melissa
Ice congealed on the corona’s
ceramic-tiled shell was cleaned
off by the strong harness of g-forces,
heated by vast Rocket Age energies
& Melissa’s nine-month Mercury
project. & shooting to meet you,
we joked like test pilots about bits
of the car falling away, like an Atlas
gantry-crane, once with your sister
Rhiannon, ten orbits ahead of you.
Our trust in all things mechanical:
John Glenn’s spurious labour in
the Van Allen Belt’s birthing suite.
Or the daffodil-lined parachutes
of the Mercy’s re-entry bins, slowing
the descent of delivery vehicles;
hatch cover episiotomies, bruised
nose cones – a forceps extraction
of the right stuff. Vernix, lochia,
New saturnine moons for sure.
& at almost three hours Sylvie,
cosmonaut swaddled, you
launch for more space than
your lungs can ever hold.
2. The Waste Stream
The ocean is the oldest cliché.
When we came home there was
a dead bee on the windowsill –
its body a perfect death’s head
question mark, its elements, sodium
calcium & potassium curled
halfway to the sea.
This afternoon was as hot as Greece.
We missed the bee’s last do-se-do –
distant arthropodic cousin in shell-shock
miniature. Dead from time’s comical
Acme weight. Imprinted on our layers
of human memory & recorded thus.
Filed: insect sedimentary.
A new home was sluiced on land.
Through the meniscus of coast, pods stuck.
The amphibians, neither here nor there
kept genetic ‘get out of jail free’ cards.
Some larger, more aggressive marine exiles
(pre-Cuban) returned to the aquatic fray.
Made use of their bulk, heavyweights
who outclassed all comers.
This primeval Bay of Pigs,
& pre-Darwinian back flip.
It is the deep sea where everything stops.
Philosophy & sex coexist; a dark thesis writ.
Light mostly extinguished, but for some
slight phosphorescence, evades touch,
as sight demystified, reveals nothing.
In the ether of unlight, feeling is everything.
First racial memories – trilobites’ dodgem car
head-on into an armoured scorpions grin.
Cambrian sideshow alley adrenaline.
But we regress.
Our new home is closer to that first ocean.
Pre-salt, pre-water, more tanning salon
than 2 brd flat. The ants & their
artery/vein routine we notice, shift
their long march, include the kitchen sink.
The Silk Road to our bin is Semtex lined.
We’ve thrown in an oasis for fun.
Will they find the bee?
Our small deposit of platinum,
alloyed by the alchemical sun.
Do they remember a mother, these
full stops fossilised into the lining
of our Westinghouse’s air-tight door?
What good, hindsight?
After the Earth & Ocean
lodged their divorce papers
& freezing had begun.
On St Georges’ Rd
the stream of life
The Waste Stream
The collection & taking of pornographic material of any kind is strictly forbidden. Magazines should immediately be placed in the paper chutes & all videos, toys, or instruments of a pornographic nature are to be put into the waste stream. Failure to comply with these instructions may lead to disciplinary action.
– VISY Recycling Memorandum, 2003.
This unwanted cornucopia – nickel-plated pears, bananas, grapes, apples,
kitsch relic from some neo-classical age, saved from Terminator meltdown
its metallic semiotics stalled on the conveyor belts’ rubber-suited fascism.
Universal bowerbird plucked from sexual obscurity – what a piece of work!
All labour history is corrupt. Some American Vietnam War text claimed
that no foreign journalist recorded the fall of Saigon; ditto Neil Davis’
footage of the NVA’s T-72 smashing Palace gates was doco-illusionary.
Neil loved the East, Asian women & died in some shitty Thai coup.
Next was coughed up a crouching brass cat. Sexless? Time-neutered.
Sleek in its full metal jacket fur. Did someone switch over to dogs?
“Bob” (“Gollum”) a famous cricket cat, farm-surrendered, now lives
in the ginger generations doorstop mewling around my mother’s feet.
Why try to marry sex & Nazism? Partisans assassinated blond poster
crew-cut boy Heydrich (the original Tommy Finland?) almost botched
it, grenades destroyed his motorcades’ armoured genitals, Third Reich’s
proto-Eminem. How many times can you say ‘motherfucker’ textually?
The head of a Roman centurion rolled out next. Plaster, nose-smashed
by visygothic policies; modern archaeology’s Liverpool kiss. Transference
of sexual magnetism – Roman army defeats Macedonians at the “Dog’s
Heads”, Thessaly 197 B.C. & the rise of Russell Crowe’s rough trade.
Then a statue of Dionysus, one horn snapped off, poetry books under arm
mop head beard sadhu fixed to a hard face, sunburn plaster peeling white skin.
His own dishevelled Dionysian nature got him expelled from his gnomeland,
ostracized forever from some Heidelberg courtyard, the tyranny of fallen chic.
Murray quoted, “I came from a hard culture”, looking a bit like the jolly
Buddha sculpture that humped down the waste stream, Eastern & Western
burning want – striped woollen jumpers unpicking themselves: get knotted
his thin red line of religion spake: the closer you are to Caesar the greater the fear.
Tyring to explain my personal ontology, the great man tranced through me,
two brothers jumped ship South Brisbane wharves 1886, Baltic, Isle of Reugen.
Dinnies used to be our name but it changed six generations ago, no one knew
why but Fredy Murray had been there; more literary Proteus than genealogist.
The casualisation of Australia & 2.5 million workers suspicious rockabilly minds.
Strong magnetic fields pull artists into poverty, a labour hire shuffle & sucking
up to team leaders, Herr gruppenfuhrer gave needle-stuck Stacey her marching orders,
refused to climb down into a pit waist deep in glass; group signatures against porn.
On the phone the Manager said to her, “I can picture what you look like naked.”
This, after she’d signed his declaration; harassment is any unwelcome, uninvited behaviour,
whether verbal, written or physical, against another person. Harassment offends, humiliates or
intimidates your workmates & colleagues. All faces are the same man, one big self.
Then it was my turn down the pit & I knew why Stacey had rebuked her job
satisfaction – part tunnel rat, part miner we dug out wine bottle shrapnel from
sewerage water, Hien, Alfred, Hussan; Vietnamese, German, Turk & Australian
all in the same trench, huddling from wage concussion; post-war economic boom.
Makes one think of Fredy Murray’s artistic dilemma. How he only worked the land
in his head, his hands ploughing with a pen after he’d famously chucked in his public
service job with the revolutionary decree – I’m going home forever! Who could blame him?
Canberra in the 70’s – a political climate polluted by staffers dancing on bits of paper!
In 8 Mile, Eminem or ‘Rabbit’ as he’s monikered faces his own art versus employment
indecision. Garbled American obscenities mask his attempts to break dance on stubs
of bus tickets, slammin’ at the Shelter, the Nuremberg Rally in his mind enhanced by
the Detroit car plant’s ubermensch ethos; all rap lyrics are the same song, one big opera.
Notice to all staff. The Manager called everyone in for a rasp over the knuckles, man
of few words off the telephone pissed that someone had left a porno mag on top of a
needle bin, blocking access to the final come down of addiction; casuals poring over Jill
Kelly’s physical assets than VISY’s on paper profit; imagination lost in the waste stream.
That’s why I collected trophies; cornucopias, statues, sculptures, columns – my finger on
the end game of guilt, lust, greed, consumerism. Someone else’s abject reality bound for
China’s paper tigers, apathy’s landfill. Davis, Murray, Heydrich & Eminem so screwed up
by jobs & sex, history’s artery hardening; outside my factory gate work will set you free.
The Conference of the (underemployed) Birds
“It shows the top half of the workforce enjoying permanent, well-paid, full-time jobs, while the bottom half can find only casual, poorly-paid, part-time work which, as Labour market economist Professor Sue Richardson warned this week, was creating a class of “excluded and dangerous” men with incomes to low to support a family.”
– The Age, October 04, 2003.
“My discourse is sans words, sans tongue, sans sound: understand it then, sans mind, sans ear.”
– Farid Ud-Din Attar, The Conference of the Birds
A Willy-Wagtails’ call intercepts the morning. Birds were real once, like jobs.
The modem’s dial-up scream is cut short; why is our technology suffering so?
Fake, Australian accents in the call centre aviary: Calcutta nest robbers gloat.
A taxidermy of outsourced work: ditto, we’re all stuffed on the global floor.
Bottom of the bird market. This new flu’s crashed like tech stocks, Acme trap
For the Roadrunner managerial class, the coyote – disenfranchised American?
Magpies don’t attack in the open anymore, have you noticed: phenomena?
Phone tab’s the way forward. Keep an eye on your receiver, not the skies.
There are new powers afoot for dealing with these full employment refos,
Our government issues wide-brimmed hats with strings of corks attached.
The contemporary job market has a thin eggshell; depleted proteins crack.
An excluded & dangerous class birthed? They backed job terrorism not us.
I saw a hoopoe once. Was it Jaipur? Its crown of truth strutted on the lawn,
Painted a post-colonial green. What good is spiritual knowledge without law?
You will play an integral role in this dynamic environment by fudging your
Work history for sure. Service orientate your brain – lively, world class, lame.
Dangerous as ideas? There’s a metal storm inside your head. Try Sufism?
Was it John Lennon or Steve McQueen who went on about “ism ism ism?
There are nightingales here reputedly. Wasn’t it someone from myth who
Couldn’t stand being unemployed anymore & turned themselves into one?
Hit an epic glass ceiling probably. Better to be amorous than under-employed?
There’s no new twist in the figures though. The virtual exclusion of women
From net growth in full-time job mythology is eons old. Sumerians started it.
Gilgamesh’s entrapment of Enkidu needed a woman’s art: ‘Wanted Harlot.’
Australia has plenty of parrots, but cockatiels inhabit our universal currency
Of shame. See them locked up in Athens, Rome, Madrid, Delhi & Bangkok.
Feathered service economies, budgerigars tell beak fortunes in Iranian streets.
Collars of gold chained to human profit. Flocks flee drought & agricultural rut.
We even killed off one sub-species called ‘Paradise’, cleared full-time underbrush.
& if they were flightless, then we paid out redundancies see: dodo, puffin & moa.
These Gifts (ii)
for Bronwyn Lea
Let’s begin with dawn. Not quite rosy red fingered
as in Homer’s heyday, but blue, tinged with death.
The factory workers’ early morning shift heroism
goes unnoticed. Even the birds aren’t fucking yet.
Sunrise is the planet earth’s clock-in card isn’t it?
Emerald sparks fly as The Green Lantern scans them.
Bar-coded, human engines cough & turn over again.
On Merri Creek yellow mist drizzles like poison.
Turns gravy brown as it touches water, or mustard
even. Late heat bleached by chemical spill. Still no
work in Bhopal, as white-tailed black cockatoos tear
into silky oaks & shriek; fire alarms hunt casuals out
of their WMD’s (Workplaces of Mass Dehumanisation).
Only a modern economy can sex it up & in the blink
of a lyric moment two butterflies have screwed each
other: gone for the kill. These gifts, I give them back.
This factory has me for now.
In degrees of cooling, fireflies
extinguished as free thinking,
put to sleep with warning signs.
Power cords strung from ceilings,
the electric crucifixion of time
in slow Roman numerals begins.
Everything’s got a place to hang
somewhere, even humans. Keys
know all about it, the hanging bit,
the eternal longing for a brass hole.
Suited up, we are casual astronauts
defying sub-zero Mars; our lifestyle
stuffed up again by company clerks.
I worked in a factory once, says the poet.
Or did the factory work in you?
I invented something in the factory once.
An acronym – COFO, ‘Clock out fuck off!’
Used it on fellow workers to get a laugh.
It was the one time language worked too.
There are worse jobs I suppose?
In Calcutta I stripped down human flesh
in a bone factory for the Western Dental
market. Skulls barnacled with adolescent
teeth for trainee root canal surgeons.
Just an example of your body still labouring
long after its death. Then there are bodies,
Russian, Chinese, stolen from morgues for
plasticisation (whatever the hell that is!) –
some Auton experiment no doubt; suddenly
the future of work is so Doctor Who daggy,
low budget special fx with some good dialogue.
In the time of labouring we are all casuals.
Ms Klein – we are more than labels less
than individuals aren’t we? Some kind of proto-
consumer ape species. We’ve come a long way
from the old grass stem down the termite hole,
but I don’t get paid much so I don’t have an opinion.
Or, like Inspector Callahan says in The Dead Pool,
‘Opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one.’
1984 was the start of it after all. (Dirty Harry &
Conan the Destroyer et al). Individuals had muscles
or .44 magnums, didn’t like the system but enforced
its values nonetheless, in the global downtime before
currencies floated & trans-national was a nebulous
catch-phrase like ‘Cold War’. But I’m on a ten-minute
break, Naomi & as it takes five minutes to get my suits,
gloves & ear muffs off, I can’t waste my smoko over you.
Behind every label there’s a sweatshop.
Behind the label ‘poet’ is the salt of ink,
keyboards grubby with emotion. A ‘Cool Poet’
works in a factory by night, six shifts a week,
is not entitled to holiday or sick loading
& can be dismissed within an hour’s notice.
The poet works for a label; Fresh Food Fast.
Would rather work for Fresh Word Fast, but
the pay isn’t as good. If he stands on concrete
for 50 hours a week is he a concrete poet then?
He has lost weight, given up eating salads,
fallen to reading New Idea; hungry for gossip.
Heard a story about a guy who masturbated
at work by putting his dick on a conveyor belt.
A real performance artist this one, so Stellarc,
as his sexual healing found its factory outlet.
began his twelve-hour shift
with a smile.
Fluency in the Machine Language
after Luis Gonzales
We entered as a ghost, a vague
figure in the back of a bridal car
& leave behind a cicada’s shell.
A transparency nailed to trees.
Yojimbo’s slow fade out &
now this town will be quiet.
One or one hundred
you only hang once.
The human mechanism is mute.
Dialects of binary code die out.
Mothers will always worship steel.
Fathers split open their own atoms.
Tools down in the head’s workshop.
Backhands are hydraulic, a mould
injection of plastic anger, Number 96.
Escalators frighten kids like fake snow.
HZ ute’s mantra, prayer flag spread.
Get In Sit Down Shut Up & Hang On.
‘Lil Sweetpea’ – size of a ball bearing
translates the machine’s whale song.
Ultrasound, a first contact between
species, ends in chromium exchange.
Look Up & Live
yellow engine signs.
Human Human Sorters
‘Positioned at platforms along the belt are eight or so
human sorters who work eight –hour shifts, picking off
obvious garbage that should have ended up in the bin.’
– The Melbourne Times September 03 2003
- Plastic Number One
A casual loading of lotus flowers surges
down the belt’s black river. ‘Contaminants’,
human human sorters stand on either bank;
rubber Styx gloved, Ganges bona fide & bury
dead things, blue snout of a red fox, tailless,
polaroid hunted, OH&S arrested. Snapshot.
Car-aerial affixed: transcendental phalanges.
- Plastic Number Two
Ah Xian’s knee ligaments, whiplash art, work
covers his body, reflector vests watch human
human sorters poised on mats, water pedestals.
Must be Buddha too, after 8-hour meditations
on the substance of things? Or perhaps mad
Catholic monk? Kerouacian? We know what’s
written on a single grain of rice: fuck you.
- Plastic Number Three
Enlightenment hits occasionally, syringe
thunderbolts out of the blue, trainspotting
for green sculpture veins, fronds – charka
warm skin wrapped, breast, pelvis, cheek,
but chiefly hands of human human sorters
blossom with hep cats, a, b & c. Danger:
Pit Below, rat’s glass cage & two weeks rest.
- Plastic Number Four
Castrovalva came down the line; SF metaphor
for continuity, a time loop for fiscal masters.
Find me a planet that doesn’t know suffering.
Human human sorters action galactic downtime.
Would robots do this? Maybe Autons? Cybermen?
There’s no time & relative dimensions in waste.
The factory’s a Zero Cabinet, helps regeneration.
- Plastic Number Five
Passed through a trommel at birth, separated
our mirror selves from glass heaviest. An eddy
current charged our oedipal; flimsy aluminium.
Then, air classifier blew off paper-thin fathers,
friends. Lotus flowers left in pools, flooded
with cheap guts & the sweet grey tide of shit.
We’re alive but dead; low budget zombie crew?
- Plastic Number Six
Co-mingling’s all the rage now; everything
in the same bin. When will our Sleeping Sentinel
awaken? Out of a rotten tree stump he grew.
Merlin trapped; some myths need recycling.
Lives by Christos Tsiolkas? The Jesus Man.
Nipped in the bud; bloomsday dysfunction.
Maybe we too can be, human human lotus?
There is a need to state the opposite.
– Martin Johnston, 1989.
- Your Taxable Income
On the night he was assassinated by the ATO
his ‘taxable professional income not allowable’
the Colonels’ mentality sheathed a garbage bag
over his negativity bin; nowhere on the drop menu
for poet, only process worker, his income derived
from lifting with the vernacular, not against it.
Don’t use your head as a lever bend your mind.
3000 writers die each year from language related
accidents! In a cold room somewhere, a shy man
who wrote quirky sonnets lies dead, snap frozen
under 800kgs of mayonnaise. On his form, pallet-
jack not poet either, the results the same; confined
to literature’s ether. It took a weekend to thaw
his opus, when his notice of assessment came.
- Tax on Taxable Income
By now his paragraph’s been sorted, wrapped
under a green tarpaulin & sent off to China
Many people on the train (maybe he took one
himself & read of other unfortunate writers)
studied his short story, half an elegy really.
There was opposition here too; commuters
disturbed by gravity & those by chill factors.
On that morning there was a clear division
of expectancy. Workers who would throw
themselves out of a burning building & those
employees who would perish in the flames;
carpet fibres melding new corporate bodies.
His solo effort, less spectacular, took much
longer to discover. The mayo tossed.
- Medicare Levy
Something he didn’t have to consider often
living there on Hydra in the fifties & sixties,
stressed out with Homer, nursing his contribution
to literature like Aphrodite tending her cut wrist,
sulking in the seventies, Diomedes’ sword blade
a reality he & she couldn’t endure. So… human.
Zeus & the other gods just laughed at her. Apollo
was up next; Diomedes’ would’ve had him too…
if the system had worked properly. However,
the cutbacks started to impact, Aphrodite
frowned at the after hours fee. Fewer & fewer
soothsayers bulk billed. Why else would Achilles
sit it out for so long & risk his dicky tendon?
No private cover, his tax was rounded down.
- Your HECS repayment
Again, this is beyond his realm; a Phaistos Disc
of user pays society, part pictogram, all Australian.
We now know why the Minoans failed. Not earthquake,
not drought, not Dorian invasion. Their kingdom
collapsed from those childless renters, very educated
but fiscally challenged. The housing slump number
crunched no first home buyers, no baby bonuses.
Immigration was out unless you were Phoenician:
Knossos’ population aged took a voluntary package.
Borrowed heavily to get through a classic dark era.
In a cultural cringe Minos resorted to Athenian
imports, band-aid measures, his education policies
labyrinthine. It all ended in a banana republic;
the ‘world’s greatest treasurer’, half man half bull.
- PAYG Withholding Credits
The first attempt failed so they sent another assassin.
‘Parasites After Your Gonads’ instalments; piano wire
for poets, not quite a delivery boy sent by grocery clerks
this business of words so profitable? He was a special
professional too – this tax regime made the Colonels’
red tape look pinkish & delicate, so they threw a few
of them onto island prisons…so Papillon but without
the butterfly tattoo. Isn’t Australia is the world’s largest
island? Settled as a prison though. The sediment says so.
Microgeography. The cultural proximity of this land to
his foster fatherland Greece. How many heads on the
hydra & how to do them? What we miss; his odyssean
intellect, his best-selling books of poems, the cluttered
landscape of his mind, so poetically cyclopean.
- Tax Offsets and Other Credits
His offsets were the most terrible. Mother dead from
leap of literary faith, father dead the following year, bottle-
friends’ the harshest critics to contend with. Then, sister
gone in as many revolutions of the sun; what could poetry
offer the survivors? Say, the Andes 13th October 1972,
pale witch of the lonely American wind downed soccer
team’s youthful enthusiasm. Even at our worst there are
still rules to follow; don’t eat women. Another totalitarian
microcosm like tax offsets; the benefit of cannibalism
hidden in the gene pool – Pacific nations scapegoated
by colonial recidivists, Batavia’s dinner menu? Pitcairn’s
incestuous end? All poets are endo-cannibals, they eat
other poets’ words out of respect; otherwise vampires
we assume; tax advisors bloodsucking the living dead.
- Balance of the Assessment
The balance of our cultural assessment is not
in his favour. Half Greek, half Australian, quasi-
inner urban intellectual? As a kid, he knew how
to identify trees, not climb them. The one thing
he lacked as a writer: our sporting affliction? He
was outside the vernacular, yet at school hated
Turks too. A mythical doppelganger, Gallipoli
true? Family osmosis denounced his academia.
Which blue was realer? Corfu? Sydney Harbour?
Australian literature, like the stegosaurus has two
artistic brains, one lodged in its UK nugget & one
stuck in its US arse-end, the ‘tense’ object of poetry
a beautiful but useless game, in the running war
between himself & his taxable identity.
- This Amount is Payable by…
His father’s masterwork, My Brother Jack, cemented
our 20th century milieu. It seemed in every generation,
one either went off to war or wrote & was poo-pooed.
But in this modern sequence number, where intellects
have fallen, what happens to those ‘hobbyists’ who glue
words – end up fixed in some ATO novel scattergorie?
E “New” Holland, Deputy Commissioner of Taxation
borrowed his dogma from the Colonel’s bureaucracy.
So, the torture is economic, rather than electric; similar
result really, Oz writers’ wages are still crying pathetic.
Betrayed by Democrats, books 10% more, he missed
all this malarky, ELR bayoneted, now factories’ call.
He went back to Greece, but Hydra had got trendy.
In this island paradise, assessable incomes fall & fall.
- Amount Payable Rounded Down
The great white Australian indifference settles
like a New Delhi haze over the nation’s capital.
Our richest topsoil, historical strata, lost to poor
thought-farming techniques. Microgeographical
mis-management of photos & dossiers. Ord River
schemes flow inexorably through Canberra’s saline
consensus. Too much water on the brain? Universities,
R&D, health, slash & burned; submissive dog politics
of grants, state funding, Murray control; the snarling
public response to Blue Poles, Lizzy & Phil, Piss Christ.
His cultural amount payable rounded down; ‘too few
minds against which he might sharpen his thought.’ Didn’t
want us to ‘mug out on large bodies of mythology’ darling!
His poetry a chess stratagem: get the connection.
- Actual Amount Payable
700 page drafts of a single life exist, in our thumb
species. He was the fastest one-finger typist in the West,
part shy, dogged taxman, part Alice Cooper. Epoch
trapped; bog-man out of his depth. He revitalised
a cliquey poetry gone numb. More civil European,
he excavated our ancestor: Bronze Age Australian.
Though now, he’s mostly not read, by the groovier
modern Americans. His Australia more to do with
people than place; his Hydra, our Bunyah. His art
was pig killing at country shows, our landscape,
a convenient vacuum into which you can stuff all sorts of
things of your own. His poems impossible to find
on any bookshelf, he succumbed to Carver’s fate.
The explanation of each poem precisely the poem itself.
“Let no one forget; let nothing be forgotten.”
– Inscription – Piskarev Cemetery, St Petersburg
The day the semantics of a child’s sled
changed forever, the poet in Leningrad
zoetroped – woman towing daughters’
corpse; a moment’s frozen anti-fun,
sheet-wrapped slaughterhouse furniture.
These throwaway facts we chip
out of books between masturbation
& Civilisation; here sex drives
fell into ruin, the birth rate adopted
its winter coat, & death, the busy
kitchen garnished new recipes:
sawdust bread, twig stew, wallpaper
soup, cottonseed cake, plaster milk.
New currencies ruled old appetites.
Pet rabbits & lab rats more precious than…
most died alone in diamond poverty.
Writers regurgitated ink to keep art
from freezing. Exhibitions cellar-staged;
above cannibals reigned – human crows
barked at concrete to give up its bonemeal;
below, artists licked their paintbrushes,
something for now something for later.
Futurism hung from a bridle-peg.
Packing crate duality: canvas & coffin.
Poets ate leaves & words, stripped
horses from culture’s dead harness.
Some adapted. In old Haymarket
beef substitute sold well; black
trades executed hunger psychosis.
‘Badayev earth’ for dessert – burned
sugar warehouse dirt, starvations’
innocent poise, adults ate mud pies.
Leningrad, they have all forgotten.
You’re a crowded thesis footnote,
tear-sown twentieth century crop.
A graph plotted by war hawks & young
shamans looking for a PhD subject.
Your 1.3 million checked boxes, a neat
sum to look up (multiply Hiroshima
/Dresden by ten): math of disbelief.
Your anti-tank trenches filled in
by mass graves, new parking spaces.
Panzer steel mixed with pram bones—
a child’s logbook hemmed with flowers
& the dates all her family died.
“To live or not—that is not the question.
Our life belongs to Leningrad,” they toasted
on Wolf Street when the ice slunk away.
3. The Sprung Histories
Odysseus didn’t use a stake blackened by the eye of fate. He wiped animal fat, the grease of great buck horned goats across the fish platter cornea shuttered for renovations. Through the meniscus of boulder & cave mouth, the multifaceted ones streamed, devoured the sensory organ, their brother’s world vision.
It was some picnic (you) had to be there.
In the morning the giant shaved his stubble of small robots, powdered his face with sheep intestines. Put on shoulder pads, a power dresser by nature.
Read the short note from nobody.
(ii) Adolf Hitler
The only witness to his birth was a blackbird that mimicked his assault on language. Didn’t fit in at school kept to himself never tried it on girls at the port racks. Hated maths. Substituted a poem for an English essay on freedom. Lacked perspective. Was often late for class; stabbed a boy in the hand with his pencil to prove he wasn’t a ghost.
Was locked in a cupboard for hours like (you).
Copped a saucepan in the throat at the front. Put his fist through a hole where a man’s jaw had been once. Drilled Private Tolkien a neat hole near Passchendaele.
Drafted notes on a new mythology.
(iii) Alexander the Great
Strangled Aristotle in his sleep tired of the older man’s busy hands. Philip covered the whole thing up. Paid off the rellies. Alex pissed himself once before a big race, rubbed sand onto his crotch to dry it up but everyone smelt it. His father’s head dropped, a lazy super hawk battered Thebes. Came last in everything that boy.
Didn’t matter where (you) put him.
Most of the Foot Companions sniggered at his get-up. He fucked it leaping onto the beach near Troy, put his sword through a kidney.
Philip had a true Macedonian son.
Was a complete & utter cuckold. At Troy he sacked Helen’s rich treasury while his brother attached toe-tags to the Achaean dead. Cassandra knew all about it – could smell her perfume on his cuirass a mile away. He’d got rid of that poseur – Achilles too, with another couple of shooters on the grassy knoll. It’s all there in Zapruder’s film!
The gods weren’t finished fucking with (you).
He would have got away with it, if Aphrodite hadn’t slipped Helen’s coin-name under his tongue on that first night back. I’m glad you’re home too honey trawled his wife?
Poseidon cooled the bath just right.
(v) Welsh Fusiliers
Earth’s bed cover stripped away near Flanders. The industry of grandchildren broke the father memory, a burial mound for absenteeism. Poetry wrote them up. Fusiliers corroded with bracelet dog tags beyond time; nobodies’ killed them. A gas mask face, phosgene signatures imprinted in wine-mud. Timed detonators that didn’t go off.
(You) watch this 85 years from now.
A week of pre-spring rain & the seasons cake on boots. Wood preserved when it shouldn’t have breathes a new centuries’ arsenic air. The factory completed on time.
A regimental stamp on the heart.
(vi) Bin Laden’s son
Wrote first poem at age ten, popular in literary circles convened in dawn sand. Debated new epic (poeme), the super cobras’ Gatling gun criticism shredded his father’s minor oeuvre. Argued with depleted plutonium self. Hijacked poet laureate of the free world & crashed a new syntax into the world’s tallest language.
Did (you) see it live on CNN?
Poets on PBS – one defending service workers’ depreciated memories; sufferings’ economic rationalisation. The other citing Adorno, holocaust theory’s embodied dictator.
No poetry after Twin Towers (?)
(vii) Sharon Phillips
Neo-Ophelia slunk into collective memories’ dry catchment. Diverted by blue (anti) signs, Ipswich Road rusts shut boom gates to national service Hades. The sharp- shooter’s trajectory veers in his mind’s eye, plastic endures, shell casings slap recollection on the shoulder. Brass manikins inherit our space after we’re gone for sixteen months.
How much memory do (you) have?
Build a driver database for newspaper crime. Beaumont, Cobby, Milat, Bryant. Details of a new search hound the truth. Lunches & counter lunches untouched on Marie Celeste.
All victims are forgiven in time.
(viii) Bruce Lee
Numero uno modern poet used his body; so pre Acker, pre body piercer, pre body builder, pre video artist. Rumour flexes on tape covers; Enter the Dragon of sprung history. Swivel on the balls of your feet; block, punch & counter punch, the underground will always champion the underground. Keep your secrets Eastern, your thoughts Western.
You’d be scared too, if Sven Thor Olson was haunting (you).
There was a son too all so tragically Irish. Hollywood ate some beaver (water-dog) by mistake & prophecy chained itself to a rock. The migraine was fake, the 357 real.
I have a cousin called Brandon Lee.
(ix) Ned Kelly
Nolan got it right, his mind/armour split. His “My God it’s full of stars” visor twinkled.
Historical mischief, stringy barks’ cat o nine tails skin, bad sunburn peel, bright red police redder. MAD MAX counterweight our Ned the bush warrior, pre-bitumen, disc brakes ignorant letter writer, 44 kilos of cultural burden. What if Bryant wore a helmet too?
There’s a little bit of Ned in (you).
Kelly’s last view; dull coloured time let in holy light, touch wood his beam killer. Eyelashes scratched at hessian cloth, on the hill yobbos gawked, bluestone stood.
It all ends through visor-cam.
(x) Marc Bolan
Iconography of the glam-rock gods was scabble-mad. Economies of satin, velvet, eyeliner increased in the High St, shop assistants copied corkscrew hair. His Apollo mission for pop music, moon-shot aborted after three years. Bowie’s Japanese elegance, elf fey adaptations kept changeling popular & tyrannosaurus rex melody unevolved
Have (you) read the “Warlock of Love” (1969
His fall was so passenger. A purple GT Mini catapult into horse chestnut tree. Seventies touchy-feely culture aside from Presley binge & Glitter paedophilia.
Revolution of the children: daggy intertextual.
(xi) Andre the Giant
Hulk proportioned, minus the green tinge, how does a mother feed ten children in one? More than “stinking meat” to his fans – big boned teenage boys parking car noses with milk can muscles, tuned into Sat arvos & WWF match ups against Big John Stud; the pallid collapse of dead flesh. Smoothed over asexual hideousness in obese Western boys.
As (you) wish?
A giant’s final poetry. Hidden behind the cheeses & wine at the cave’s end, A Princess Bride. His lines ended in The Simpson’s mockery, celebrity funerals we hardly knew him.
Wait a minute…has anybody got a peanut?
(xii) Vivian Bullwinkle
They who save lives can never understand how they are taken. Tide pull of khaki men & rigid ammo belts so anti-cummerbund. Quick as dance steps, counter-sprung floors of golden sand, death’s a stage trapdoor for most, nurses, soldiers & salt coffins soak up jungle’s exhausted heat. Stay dead by your sisters till the sun’s blood pressure drops.
We want (you) as a new recruit.
Live to tell the tale. Escape, be captured again, keep the secret inside you in utero. Let history write you out, become someone’s footnote in his or her thesis & pass
Decline that Australian beach obsession.
A womaniser of kingdoms, flitted from one engagement to another, draining dowries like uncut wine in the post-Alexandrian classical age carve up. Frenetic, pinball wizard with sword for hire, undiagnosed ADD child opened negotiations for Greece Pty. Ltd. to become a Roman subsidiary. Tactical dervish bewildered legions, phalanxes, wives, rules.
Have (you) had a pyrrhic victory?
A chaotic end was justified: some sideshow in Argos & a well-timed roof tile thrown by the Argives’ best old woman. Hit the mark too, ended his career as military magician.
Everyone’s ambition: become an adjective.
(xiv) Leni Reifenstahl
Susan Sontag dissed her. Took stock footage of the twentieth century’s sculptured, athletic, Nazi iconography & documented eugenics think tank – not a big fish as nutters go but someone had too break UFA’s glass ceiling: detect professional jealousy? Leni, more googled? Bra ads, new totalitarianism these days: vis a vis fascism from girls is okay?
Triumph of (you)r will.
Our culture’s body language still defers to Hitler. In photos & essays he still dominates! Should have photographed the abominable snowman instead; shot warm & fuzzy hues.
Alas, “Every woman adores a fascist”, sad, but true.
(xv) Johnny Cash
Midnight fear choirs for blond fatherless boys…mid-western cuckoos? Unkind this oeuvre but sorrow’s a bass voice, horned beast too, black vinyl records & scratched out 70’s country sounds, pop, – rootless & ungrounded? Old timers slumped over Fordson tractors, transistor radios mudguard strapped & melodies cutting off a piece of their ears.
Were (you) a boy named Sue too?
“For two hours we could make them forget they were caged up like animals.” Substitute dads don’t need a back of album blurb; seek directions to the village of the dammed, but remember:
Don’t take your guns to town, son.
(xvi) John Lennon
The day his life’s sheet music was punctuated by six abrupt notes an invisible stethoscope listened for war memorial’s heartbeat, concrete & trees fixed as Central Park sleeve design. His face, mansion, piano, bed & surreal wife, marble white as shocked ancient Greece, bullet holes in the Parthenon’s torso; in 1980 all colour drained from the world.
I’m sorry that I made (you) cry.
Such a mythic, Running Bear/White Dove pop culture tragedy. 23 years of missing songs. The Xmas present John & Yoko gave, broke the next day. Is War Over? Joko’s on us.
Trademarks held; peace & sunglasses.
(xvii) Forty Seven Rōnin
The house of Asano spilled its guts over an impromptu dais after its true samurai spirit hacked at the protocol droid’s head. The shogunate palace so…Jabba the Hutt’s smugglers lair diorama with action figures & C3PO left in shiny bronze bits again. Pop culture’s ritual suicide began in 18th century Kill Bill fashion. History folded like hot steel.
What code do (you) follow?
Kira’s coal blackened head sat up as funeral bust on Asano’s grave. A treasury of loyal hearts disembowelled snowflake bellies melting over floors & performing arts turned on.
Cinema is so much BS (bushidõ).
(xviii) Donald Campbell
Bluebird pushed envelope of sixties’ plastic Beatles wig style curvature to the limit. In pre – ‘extreme games’ age of aggressive backyard hobbies & elbow grease, world marks broken as sound barriers or peace treaties. Jets ruled in air & on water, bombing & speed records tumbled in Asia, Australia, azure kingfishers skimmed salt lakes path finding for glory.
(You) steer a boat through its arse.
He ended as blue heron; photo stills & airborne poetry. Cut the meniscus of speed & water on Lake Coniston & two years later they rehydrated his body re: Sea Monkey.
Sixties lesson: don’t screw up your nose at anything.