Universal Andalusia (2006)

Acknowledgements

 

Poems from this collection have previously appeared

in Blue Like Tea (Five Islands Press, 2000), canwehaveourballback? (USA), Gangway (Austria), gutcult (USA), HOW2Connect web anthology (USA), In Posse Review (USA), JAMM (NZ), Jack Magazine (USA), muse apprentice guild (USA), Poetry Greece (Greece), Poor Mojo’s Almanac(k) (USA), Retort, Sidereality (USA), Short Fuse: A Global Anthology of New Fusion Poetry (Rattapallax Press, New York 2002), SideWalk, Social Alternatives, Stylus, Subversions: generations of contemporary poetry CDROM anthology (papertigermedia, Brisbane 2001), The Drunken Boat (USA), The Stalking Tongue II: Slamming the Sonnet, Thylazine: Australian Poets for Peace.

Universal Andalusia was written with assistance from

a New Work Grant from the Literature Fund

of the Australia Council in 2000/2001.

 

For Warren Neil Dionysius.

 

Contents

  1.                        The Mad Cow of Time
  2.                        A Four Hundred Room Harem
  3.                        The Boy Cupid of the PKK
  4.                        A True Weight to History
  5.                        Who the Fuck is Baldwin?
  6.                        Maybe It’s His First Time Around?
  7.                        Commercial Free
  8.                        Efes
  9.                        A Generation of Men
  10.                        The Cult of Zeus Ammon
  11.                        Song of the Australians in Action
  12.                        There’s Something About Baldwin
  13.                        A Brief History of Time
  14.                        The Sacrifice at Ilion
  15.                        Troy Postscript
  16.                        Aslan
  17.                        Now How Shall We Sing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land?
  18.                        Punch it Chewie
  19.                        Haçi Bektas
  20.                        Language Paints That Which the Eye Cannot See
  21.                        These Moments, Tinder Dry
  22.                        The Road to Damascus
  23.                        Foundations
  24.                        Illuminations
  25.                        Midnight Express I
  26.                        Midnight Express II
  27.                        Requiring of us a Song
  28.                        A Very Ugly Australian
  29.                        AE2
  30.                       Coincidental MechanicS
  31.                       The Rage of Roxanne
  32.                       Samos Ferry: a Comparative
  33.                       The Curious Noise  of History
  34.                       You Talkin’ to Me
  35.                       Fuck on This
  36.                       Another Fucking Recidivist Poem
  37.                       Acropolis Now
  38.                       Geometrics
  39.                       Geometrics II
  40.                       Knossos
  41.                        Some Versions of Mythological
  42.                        Being Driven to Matala by Martin Johnston
  43.                        More Swamp Riddles
  44.                        Softly Multiplying in An Ideal World
  45.                        Flesh for Frankenstein
  46.                        Blood for Dracula
  47.                        The Footsteps
  48.                        The Rage of Achilles
  49.                        The Face of Agamemnon
  50.                        Callisthenes, or On Mourning
  51.                        Some More Versions of Mythological
  52.                        Delphi
  53.                        Trying to Explain the Significance of a Shooting Gallery to a Six Year                             Old
  54.                        Express Samina
  55.                        Express Samina II
  56.                        Icarus
  57.                        Night of the Tongues
  58.                        The Trench Cleaners
  59.                        Huerta De San Vicente
  60.                        ETA Suspect
  61.                        The Life & Death of Dust
  62.                        Salvador Dali Hunts For Pipis On Bribie Island While Dreaming of Sea                           Urchins
  63.                        The Defeat of Poetry
  64.                        The Descent of Man
  65.                        The Gypsies
  66.                        The Enigma of Adolf Hitler
  67.                        Atomic Melancholia
  68.                        An Allegory of Time
  69.                        Street of the New Cross
  70.                        Republica
  71.                        Plaza De Toros De Madrid
  72.                        A Pollozanic Bulk God
  73.                        Sabtabi Express
  74.                        Rishikesh
  75.                        Luxman Julia
  76.                        The Anti-Kali
  77.                        Padam Shri Nek Chand
  78.                        In the Garden of Outsider Art
  79.                        The Forest Brigand
  80.                        The Forest Poet
  81.                        The Forest Tiger
  82.                        Good Luck Chance
  83.                        New Delhi Station
  84.                        Tourist Interrupted
  85.                        Pythonesque
  86.                        The Desert of Thar
  87.                        Train Song 3
  88.                        Train Song 4
  89.                        An Allegory of Shit
  90.                        The Enlightened Ones
  91.                        The River Beas
  92.                        Deep Vein Thrombosis
  93.                        Universal Andalusia

 

 

(i)      Turkei

in the twentieth century

grief lasts

                                    at most a year.

                       

Nazim Hikmet, Letter To My Wife

 

The Turks are mostly quite friendly, especially when you escape the resorts and head into the heartland, and prices are very low compared to Western Europe. Turkey is a relatively painless introduction to travelling in an Islamic country – unless you’re a fair skinned woman with long blond hair, in which case all bets are off.

 

Europe on a shoestring, Lonely Planet

 

 

The Mad Cow of Time

 

Across the freeway from the last

soft-serve, BP petrol station

before the Bosphorus, not far

from where the Great King cum dominatrix

Xerxes, gave its waters three hundred lashes

for impudence, (Circa, 480 BC), Baldwin

(our obese hero – a hereditary problem not one from

over eating) flops down in a small triangle

of scale-rough medusa grass decorated

with the fallen milk-teeth of Attica.

These seven cyclopean ribbed condoms

ring our Western traveller, murmur

complexes for their lost Parian mother lode.

Here is Baldwin. Bull-necked.

A delta of sweat fans out, waterfalls

over his Aswan High Dam love handles

as he perches on Byzantion’s juicy marrow.

The Athenian settler-city ground into bonemeal

for the Attaturk International airport.

A German built fighter/bomber

salutes his arrival; the jet’s metal skin

rigor mortis embedded in a 1970’s concrete

shoe-stand. Its Mighty Mouse nosecone snooty

with Uber Ales ingenuity; model airplane

aficionado’s recurring wet dream.

Baldwin tries to get his head around

the mad cow of time. Constantinople

powdered the lips of merchants, concubines,

astrologers & con artists smooth as hashish.

Now the Ottoman stucco flakes off too.

The West is Best (right Jim-boy?)

The Lizard/construction King shows the East

how to cut costs – stuffing polystyrene nuggets

into chick-dumb mouths of cement building blocks.

Only a mosh-pit, 7.4 on the Richter scale

delivers a Doors concert sized death toll & 40,000

Riders on the Storm’. Nowhere, the comforting

red & green of a steam engine or a Bofors AA gun;

the centrepieces of sacred Australian, Rotary

& Lions parks. Only a Delian journeyman’s

pre-pubescent marble-work scattered around

this open-air museum.

Baldwin gazes up the shit-laced

strait to where the Black Sea colonies

grubbed for the universal glory

of the Greek city-states.

Thinks of a jungle-gym of reasons

why the earth could not stay flat

& the limp phallus of history

could not get it up all

starry, starry night.

 

 

A Four Hundred-Room Harem

 

The hair of the beard of the Prophet

is hard to see behind 3mm of bullet

proof glass but Baldwin scrutinises

Mohamed’s eclectic DNA samples –

fingernail clippings, footprint cast;

has a fit over the ornate lacquered box

said to contain Islam’s big toe.

Baldwin squeezes in beside arrow slits

of black wool & Jean-Paul Gautier

wraparounds & tries to catch the eye

of the cleric chanting Koranic verses

over a PA system tucked inside a miniature

wooden jump-castle. He is oblivious

to the core meltdown of inter-cultural

courtesy; of the mostly Italian male tour

group’s think-tank on the geometry

of Roxanne’s gym body & her bleach blonde

curls sending the Turkish army guards

into a frenzy of groin scratching

with their sub machinegun butts.

Baldwin grabs his wife’s arm,

spins her around to face a wall

hung with antique swords, daggers

& battleaxes.

 

“Look at the size of Mohamed’s scimitar Rox?

Isn’t it huge?”

“Yes darling a fine piece of workmanship – probably

of Persian design, from Susa or Babylon.”

“Have a thing for big weapons do you?” leers a plastic

surgeon from Naples, his group confidence

snug as a latex glove.

“Only if they don’t snap on the first thrust shithead.

Now, fuck off before I shove a copy of

the Divine Comedy up your greasy arse!”

 

Outside Tokapi Palace – ancestral

home of the Ottoman Sultans, Baldwin,

head down, the Turkish army guards

paid off, finishes his sceptre-sized snow-cone.

“I don’t care about seeing the 400 room harem

Rox – it cost extra anyway.”

“I’ll give you 401 reasons why I don’t give a fuck!”

Baldwin, noticing the emerald glint

in his wife’s pommel-stone eye’s does not respond. Watches instead the miraculous pool of salt

& melted ice-cream at his feet, fraternised

by a colony of eunuch ants.

 

 

The Boy Cupid of the PKK

 

The boy cupid of the PKK armed

with his quiver of polishes; not

the ruby & diamond inlaid cavalry

piece of Sultan Ahmet II – only

the black & brown smear of dubbin

slavery asks Baldwin for some

coins to add to his ‘collection’.

This politically neutered cherub

from Kurdistan ‘on holiday’

with his ‘cousin’, hanging in

a seedy Istanbul square adjacent

to the sixth century AD ruins

of the Byzantine hippodrome.

Asks Roxanne for Queen’s money,

a cigarette, a shoe shine.

His twelve year-old anger,

another lingual road hazard they

dodge when Japan Tobacco Inc. fails

to satisfy a Mild Seven miscommunication.

The Grand Bazaar of his mind

thumbs through a labyrinth of insults

flushed from a universal gutter language.

“Fuck you, then” is now coca-cola

chic in the Hittite tongue.

 

 

A True Weight to History

 

Baldwin meets his life-long idol

Alexander the Great in an open market

on the back of silver coin & leaves

dejected that his hero’s noble frieze

is only a cheap alloy imitation.

Is there a true weight to history

he ponders? A purity of fact

as he rejects the $4,000,000 lira

asking price for a dog-eared,

cockroach chewed & overpriced

Bullfinch’s Mythology.

 

 

Who the Fuck is Baldwin?

 

Is a question Baldwin asks

himself as he squats on the steps

of the Blue Mosque lacing up his boots,

& shoos postcard sellers, their accordion

sprung photographs fly-casting into the mid

-stream of his open mouth. Who exactly is he?

An overweight (big-boned his mother always reassured)

Anglo-Celtic, thirty-something, first world,

Gen-Xer, project officer who comes far too

quickly for his wife, Roxanne & who over

identifies with Alexander the Great to such

an extent that he’s worked out their 2nd

honeymoon itinerary based on the same

route Alexander forged through his thirteen

-year conquest of Asia Minor.

 

Now, how fucked up

is that, Dear Reader?

 

 

Maybe It’s His First Time Around?

 

Back in the Arsenal (arsehole!)

Youth Hostel in Sultanahmet, Baldwin

face flushed, is still livid over the shoeshine

incident. Over being pursued halfway back

to their hostel by the Kurdish kid. Takes out

his frustration on their dirty clothes, pulverising

cotton into the bathroom floor tiles’

cracked geometry.

 

“Did you feel that, honey?”

enquires Roxanne poking her head

into the Midnight Express proportioned

shower cubicle.

“No, what was it, Rox?”

“Nothing dear, just a tremor.”

“You mean an earthquake?”

“No Baldwin just a tremor. Remember,

I’m from New Zealand? I know the difference

between an earthquake and a fucking tremor!”

“Nah didn’t feel a thing Rox. Didn’t feel a thing at all,”

 replies Baldwin as beads of soap powder

slide off his shiny new resistant

Blundstone skin.

 

 

Commercial Free

 

From inside the Pudding Shop,

Baldwin puts down his pide & watches

the little Turkish boy raise his toy

army tanks to each ear like twin, khaki

mobile phones. The boy connects

free to air to his big “M” culture –

not the golden arches of McDonalds,

but the even more inyourface

social camouflage of ‘machismo’.

On cue, a Western woman with hair

red as the Turkish crescent moon,

shunts her way into the café, hotly

pursued by two teenage boys, sleek

& fixated as greyhounds.

 

“Why else do you come to Turkei”,

the first one disgorges at her.

“Don’t you want to fuck me?”

adds the second, hands on hips,

his mouth cocked like a revolver.

At the bar Baldwin senses Roxanne

rise out of her seat & winces apologetically

as two thunderous blows sonic boom

through the stunned, tourist clientele.

At a secluded outdoor café, Baldwin

orders two, huge Efes beers & massages

the chamber of Roxanne’s swollen,

right hand; the percussion caps

of her fingernails drum a military dirge;

as a Last Post of hot pink lacquer

chips through Istanbul’s

commercial free veil.

 

 

Efes

 

The Efes is having

an effect at last.

Baldwin can only be

sure of one thing –

even with buckets

of cheap beer, time

will still pass.

 

 

A Generation of Men

 

The Turk’s knew death

Would take them to a paradise of sex

Islam reserves for its warrior dead

             

John Forbes, Anzac Day

 

 

On the six-hour trip to Çanakkale,

Baldwin alternates between the 80’s,

slapstick action comedy (with stereotypical,

evil Nazi treasure hunters) & his universal

window-seat through the Camel Koç looking glass.

Fields of sunflowers drape the bus in funerary garb;

their cast-iron faces cringe before Demeter

& Ahura-Mazda the Persian God-King;

depleted plutonium heads pierce the heavy

armour of the earth’s tank skin. Tapping Nazim

a retired civil engineer from Bursa on the shoulder,

Baldwin tries to interpret the pastoral;

 

“Hey Nazim, what are those cement sheds

dotted all over the paddocks? Wheat silos? My parents grow

wheat back home in Western New South Wales.”

Nazim studies Baldwin, sighs, leans closer

& keeps his voice just above a whisper

as if relaying a tragic family secret.

“Not wheat silos”, suggests

the make-shift Turkish historian.

“Concrete bunkers from the war.”

 

Baldwin, his ignorance at risk

of developing into a severe complex,

hesitates to ask – which war?

but Roxanne jumps head-first

into the delicate empirical vacuum.

 

“The First World War was fucking horrific.

In four years of fighting, a generation of men were obliterated.

If mustard gas didn’t turn your lungs inside out,

or you didn’t develop gangrene from shrapnel wounds –

you could look forward to trench fever, influenza,

cholera & dysentery. A quick, clean death on the end

of a machinegun would have been a fucking godsend.

Over 10 million perished. At Gallipoli, the kill ratio

was about 10 to 1. In the six-month campaign

we lost 8,000 diggers, the Turks lost over 80,000.

Yet they celebrate it as a great national victory.

How macho crazy is that?”

 

At a country bus stop,

his mouth set in quick lime

by Rox’s grip on 20th century warfare,

Baldwin snaps a girl defending herself

with a clapped out bike against the attack

of a white leghorn rooster; captures

a new generation of violence

through the aperture

of November’s sun.

 

 

The Cult of Zeus-Ammon

 

Baldwin counts among his many

love-trust possessions (DVD collection,

Stars Wars figurines, original Steve Austin/Bionic-man

doll with working telescopic eye –  who always fought

Stretch Armstrong his evil, rubbery nemesis), his new

bronze Oscar statuette of Alexander the Great

as Zeus-Ammon, (given to him by Roxanne

who dug it out of the Grand Bazaar) as his favourite,

post-industrial lingam. The ram-horned,

diadem clad, Jim Morrison locks flowing pin-up

boy of the Egypto-Grecian cult of masculinity.

(In your eye Robert Bly birth a god from your thigh!).

‘Iron John’ Alexander, the 5’4″ inheritor

of Achille’s sour mantle; the bad-tempered,

uncut wine-drunk Overlord of the West,

balancing gods, budgets & Greek fatalism

in his pudgy hands.

 

The (re)Hellenisation of Asia Minor –

hideously efficient as the Turkish bus system

that drops Roxanne & Baldwin outside

the Just Looking Café, Eceabat.

 

“Yes Sir, Madam, this way please.

What would you like to order?”

“Nothing, we’re just looking,”

chant the dynamic duo in strangled

unison as they tear up the oxidised

stairs of the car ferry before an agent

from Yellow Rose Pension can accost them

with his Gallipoli tour spiel. Baldwin,

who never had a Great-Grandfather fight

in WW1, has no idea where Anzac Cove is

as he sticks the eight-inch Zeus-Ammon

& the god’s curved sneer of horn

(ala Red Hot Chilli Peppers)

into the front pocket of his chinos

& snaps at denuded peninsulas;

compound cliff splinters jut from

green bone pine history.

 

Protects his vapid interpretation

of Lonely Planet cartography

with a slip, slop, slap she’llberight/

goditssofuckinghot syncretism.

 

 

Song of the Australians in Action

 

Was there any road too rough for us to travel?

Was there any path too far for us to tread?

You can track us by the blood drops on the gravel

On the roads that we milestoned with our dead!

 

A.B Paterson, Song of the Federation

 

 

Charging inside the Anzac House backpackers,

Roxanne & Baldwin interrupt Peter Weir’s Gallipoli

on 24-hour video loop – just at the pivotal moment

when Mel Gibson (does anyone remember the name

of the blond actor?) tries to get the no-go message

to his company, but fails, the diggers going over

the top (courtesy of an extreme close-up on Bill Hunter’s

trembling whistle fingers).

 

“Ah no…not GALLIPOLI. That film’s a piece of crap.

Apocalypse Now is a much better war film – Duvall,

Brando, Sheen – now those guys can act. Mel Gibson should’ve stuck

to making Mad Max films not that Lethal Weapon shit,”

snivels Baldwin (a little bit too loudly) turning heads away

from the freeze-framed, ticker-tape of bullets

ending Mark Lee’s (that’s him right?)

grand, WW1, boys own adventure.

Roxanne dumps her pack on the floor,

ignores the death-stares from fellow

ANZAC backpackers aimed at her husband’s

Marlon Brando figure.

 

“Baldwin, I’ll admit the Jean-Michael Jarŕe soundtrack’s

a bit corny & dated, you know, Oxygene (dit d-dit dit)

but otherwise it’s still a great Australian movie. Anyhow,

you’ve never seen it in Turkey my critical Monash!”

 

Baldwin gives this homespun

shrine to Australian national identity,

the once over – spies a t-shirt with some lines

from a ‘Banjo’ Paterson poem

etched in blood red dye

crucified to the office door.

 

‘For the honour of Australia, our Mother,

Side by side with our kin from over sea,

We have fought and we have tested one another,

And enrolled among the brotherhood are we.’

 

“Shit, I didn’t know we had a brotherhood in a motherland Rox.

Did you? Jeezus, give me Clancy of the Overflow

or The Man From fucking Ironbark anyday!

Individuals excelling against all odds.

You know Rox, like Colonel Kurtz and Breaker Morant.

Besides, Breaker Morant is the best Australian film ever made.

You remember the courtroom scene don’t you?  RULE 303.”

 

“But they were both nutters dear, executed by the establishment!”

 

“That’s our problem isn’t it – a bloody identity crisis.

Caught in a meat grinder between Britain & America.

Can’t decide between hip-hop & the Queen as our head of state.

Shit, we can’t even get it together to become a republic!

We may as well be in the fucking wasteland

with the Lord Humungus – the Ayatollah of Rock n’ Rolla!”

 

Baldwin pauses, perhaps aware

of the many pop-cultural heresies

he has just committed & takes

a swig from his water bottle.

Roxanne pushes him up the narrow

staircase warden-style, a dorm-room key

knuckleduster prised between

the brotherhood of her fingers.

 

“Honey, take a leaf from the Road Warrior’s

bible to survival in the motherland.

‘If you want to get out of here…talk to me!'”

 

 

There’s Something About Baldwin

 

Baldwin holds his 6.5-inch cock,

stiff as a Foot Companion’s sarissa

in the Anzac House communal shower

& masturbates. Leaves a baggage train

of spermatozoa stranded on the milk

coloured tiles. Watches, the engorged

head of his penis deflate like a cheap,

Turkish cigarette burning down

to the filter of his right hand. Baldwin

assumes that every bloke jerks off

with their opposite hand but has no

conviction to put his theory to the test.

Back in the dorm room, Roxanne

notices the redness of his member,

sidles over & gives his balls

a harder than usual squeeze.

 

“Hey, watch it Rox, that hurts a man you know!”

“What’s the matter, honey?

Aren’t I giving my big man enough attention?”

“I’m a nervous traveller Rox, that’s all.

I need to relax now and again, see.”

“And do you get the best results in hot or cold water?

You know, Marge you’re soaking in it!”

“Ah…lukewarm, Rox, only lukewarm water

creates the right amount of soap suds for rhythmic

 consistency & consistency is what men need most

when they flog the dolphin!”

 

Roxanne drags out a battered copy

of A Brief History of Time & raises

her left painted-on Vulcan eyebrow

toward the ceiling’s mildew singularity.

 

“Thanks Baldwin, but that’s more information than I needed. Besides honey, your starting to dribble”.

 

Baldwin shocked at his ease

at whistle-blowing, inches deeper

into the pale cocoon of his sleeping sheet.

Next morning, a new skin hardens

onto the old, soft chrysalis.

 

A Brief History of Time

 

 

Five minutes after Baldwin exits

the shower cubicle, Carol, a physicist

from Ontario, steps onto his córps de spirits

& mistakes them for an excess

of Johnson & Johnson conditioner.

Some histories are best left romanticised.

As A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson put it,

 

“Now we know what nation’s know

And feel what nation’s feel.”

 

 

The Sacrifice at Ilion

 

 

At the harbour of the Achaeans

where Alexander the Great ditched his spear

(Circa 334 BC) & stage-dived from the bow

of the royal trireme, claiming Asia as his own

(with a lot of hoo-ha, over-identification as the NEW Achilles); green phalanxes of pumpkin & cucumber vines

fawned upon by pygmy war-elephant tractors,

overrun the verdant, Homeric killing ground.

In the ruins of Aphrodite’s Temple,

rubbing Roxanne’s sorbelene cream

into the raw skin chiselled out

of his Scaean Gate thighs, Baldwin

muses on his hero’s most unique

display of historical melodrama.

 

Nine cities of Troy; (a 19th century

fold out/pull this flap/cut along the dotted lines please,

Heinrich Schliemann & wallah! Hey presto!) –

five thousand years of civilisation rendered

into a cheap, earthquake resistant, balsawood

replica. The Troy of the Hellenistic period

(Troy VIIA) an impoverished backwater

out of sync with Greek fashion & politics.

The townspeople plugging gaps

in their mud-brick knowledge with shards

of Mycenaean ceramics, eyes agape as the curly

haired liberator of the Ionian city-states

restored Troy’s epic business; jogging oiled,

naked & laurel crowned to the tombs of Achilles

& Patroclus. Alexander’s favourite Hephaistion,

breathing hard down his leader’s sleek, equine neck.

This called for the throat of a black bull

to be opened methodically as a love-letter,

libations to be poured for the Nereids

& for the appeasement of King Priam,

murdered kneeling before Zeus’ high altar.

 

Alexander, the great propagandist

bestowed Troy with the coarse,

Macedonian, democratic saddle blanket.

All this, our sultan proportioned hero Baldwin, deliberated on 2334 years later, disappointed

by silt’s conquest & the absence of a suitably

heroic cove to thrust his eucalyptus twig.

 

 

 

 

As Roxanne pocketed some souvenir

casino chips of Naxian marble from

the Temple of Athena, Baldwin met

his only true Trojan. An old,

rattled Hector who ambushed him

from behind the remains of a 12ft

granite wall, spit-balled with orange

lichen & who thrust an apple/pear

crossbreed into his Kodak free hands.

A hybrid of romantic fancy

that numbed Baldwin’s tent-flap

mouth with his first authentic bite

into the West’s juicy decline.

 

 

Troy Postscript

 

 

Baldwin never did find

the tombs of the Greek heroes,

Achilles, Ajax or Patroclus.

He didn’t even climb up into

the tacky, wooden reproduction

of the Trojan horse, being

over-familiar with these epic

& meaningless icons of tourism;

through his insertion as a child

into the fibreglass & aluminium

rear-ends of the Big Pineapple,

the Big Banana & the Big Cow.

 

Aslan

 

‘Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake. Love. Think. Speak.

Be walking trees. Be talking beasts.

Be divine waters.’

 

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe.

 

 

A flaking skin of salt 400km long –

a dead Narnia of crystal method

& Gypsy Snow Queens broken now

& again by a lost piece of 20th century iron

(a lamppost perhaps) growing out of the bare earth;

an antenna, a dish, out of place

with the sleek hills denuded as literary history.

At the bus-stop, geese & guinea-fowl stand at ease –

watch the passengers descend; the strange talking,

two-legged animals make a bee-line

for the restrooms garlanded by

a fishpond, ultramarine with scales.

One heavy-set hippopotamus type creature

leaves the rest of the pack huddled beside the coach’s secret wardrobe door & moves over to inspect

the twin statues on guard outside

the servo’s main entrance.

The hippogriff (orwhateveritis) spies another of its race –

a green eyed juvenile sitting across the lifeless granite smooth haunches.

“Lion”, the hip-hop artist utters,

as if unsure what language should spill from

its pink tongue colossus.

“Aslan” comes the epiphanous reply.

The guinea fowl & geese

(& all the other creatures great & small) cannot

endure the look of astonishment on

the hypocrites face; a statue itself.

But the little (whatdayacallit?)

‘girl’ just smiles & repeats

the mantra, over & over; “Aslan”, “Aslan”,

as if it were the most common place thing

for her to do in the world.

Love.

The Hippocratic oaf blinks once, twice, stubs

out its flaming twig & boards the bus.

Think.

The rest of its’ pack does the same.

Speak.

Be poet.

Be verse novelist.

Be librettist.

Love. Think. Speak.

Now How Shall We Sing Our Lord’s

Song in a Strange Land?

By the rivers of Babylon

Where we sat down

Yeah we wept

When we remembered Zion

 

Boney M, ‘By the Rivers of Babylon’

 

 

 

Göreme is a one fluoro-lemon Porsche town

in the grip of pokémon, Kapadoyka FM

(that means endless replays of Boney M’s ‘By the Rivers of Babylon’,

’Ma Baker’ & ‘Rasputin’) & European skin

sun-warped as a vinyl record, scratched with Top 40,

Celtic armband tattoos, unimaginative as AM radio.

On a street curved as the accordion spine of a dog,

three workmen dig up a cobble-stoned thoroughfare

& Baldwin wonders what the transfiguration of this post-modern archaeology will be, as his steel-capped Blundstone’s pulverise shards of Assyrian pottery,

faded imprints of imperial basilisks; the peep, peep, peep

of day-old chicks pushes an overheated Swiss tourist

into molesting his brand new Nikon –

for the ‘pervert the ancient Eastern civilisation‘ button,

an extra bitontheside he picked up in ‘Little India’ Singapore’s contorted shopping sex-space.

 

Later, in the UNESCO funded, world-heritage listed,

early Christian underground monastery, open-air

museum complex, Baldwin comes face to face

with the mutilated visages of Jesus, Mary, St George,

St Barbara, the Archangel Gabriel, St Konstantin –

all the red ochre saints & martyrs from the 4th-13th centuries AD, but hell – he can’t stop fantasizing about sneaking off with Roxanne for a quickie in a cool, secluded fairy-chimney kitchen grotto.

Or maybe it’s the thought of getting busted

by a Japanese (swathed in I love Turkei t-shirts)

tour group that excites him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baldwin can’t be sure, but he thinks

there’s something in Göreme’s water,

or maybe it was the whiff of DDT

he got that morning from the council tractor

fumigating carpet-sellers & pumpkin stalls

twisted along Göreme’s main-drag vine.

Anyhow, the more Baldwin hears Boney M

on the radio the more he falls for Turkei –

new Mecca for Mercedes Benz,

John Deere, Coca-Cola & Anime film

students gunning their 50cc mopeds

through Kapadoykian mindscape –

as if they were Akira or Shinji;

Manga frame by frame invincible.

 

 

Punch It Chewie

When the wicked carried us away in captivity

Requiring of us a song,

Now how shall we sing the Lord’s song

In a strange land?

 

Boney M, ‘By the Rivers of Babylon’

 

 

 

The next day Baldwin & Roxanne

seek out Kapadokya’s underground cities

(So Dune, Arrakis, Desert Planet) & visit Selime

where Lucas filmed his Tatooine sequence.

Baldwin annoys Roxanne for hours –

pretends to be Chewbacca, Han Solo’s

9ft Wookiee companion & emits strange

guttural roars, scares the shit

out of an elderly Korean tour group –

the Millennium Falcon

of their hearts punched

on hyper drive.

 

 

 

 

 

Haçi Bektas

 

 

Ali flicks his cigarette ash out

the car window & points at the last

Hittite King, buried under an anthill

the size of the Sydney Opera House.

Near Avanos, (Ali’s home town) the petal

-thin stratum of Rose Valley liquefies.

As they pass brick & clay water shrines,

the kite-black heat claws at their Eyes

(Western, demonic blue) & summons a djinn

of sweat to suckle at Baldwin’s breast.

The wind carves a Neapolitan immortality;

wards off an impure, cold-rock civilization

with ice in its veins.

 

“We lost so many words when Attaturk sprung

his language junta & forced the Latin alphabet onto us”,

coos Ali, his soft voice straining above

the six cylinder’s abstract hiss.

Kapadoyka was never defeated –

not even by the Romans”, he adds

as the ink-dipped ears of a desert fox

pick out the three individual blips

on its air to ground-radar.

They’re surprised too, when an owl

of Artemis alights on a cairn

of lichen-buttered stones & stares

at them in full daylight. Later,

mute stars reverse clumsily out

of night’s garage &  a scimitar

of moon hangnails over the dried,

nectarine skin of volcanic mesas,

straight out of Spielberg’s

Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The Kapadoykian salmon landscape

opens up; the tiny bird bones

of ‘otherness’ they fear to choke

on pushed to side of their

Westernesse thought-plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No one wears seatbelts on this trip.

Ali Karatas, Baldwin & Roxanne’s

ancient historian cum kilim seller

six months of the year

(his family ensconced in Paris),

fluent in six languages

shakes his black mane in disbelief,

as they fish-tail into Haçi Bektas

at 40mph & attempt to lock

the doors of his car.

 

The West sounds like a prison”,

he philosophises, offering Baldwin

a 16mg hit of cigarette.

Inside the tomb of Haçi Bektas Vely,

(Rumi’s teacher) they kiss cool mint

marble doorframes, the silk draped

sarcophagi of Caliphs, Vely’s twelve

Babas & whirling dervishes; then crawl

on their hands & knees, hold babies

aloft to the marble coffin & let peace

flush out their hearts like the sacred spring

of Caliph Ali (Mohamed’s son in law)

as they wait their turn & drink from

the metal cupped mouth of Aslan.

Roxanne rubs the centuries smoothed

limb of a holy tree & weeps,

for they, in the company

of the last of the Hittite King

have laid down this day beside

the Lion of God & lived.

 

 

Language Paints That Which

The Eye Cannot See

 

Whether at Naishápúr or Babylon,

Whether the cup with sweet or bitter run,

The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,

The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.

 

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám, Quatrain 8

 

 

 

You can take a photo if you like”,

whispers Ali parting the nicotine

curtain of his teeth during a pause

in the Koranic verses, pin-balling

off the walls of Vely’s 5x5m tomb.

But Baldwin can’t as he delights

in the only moment of his life

when the heaviness of spirit

leaves him: a Sufism liposuction.

No, its alright Ali, I don’t

need to take a photo, I’ve seen enough”,

intones our hero

as he eases his great bulk

through the tomb’s narrow

aperture; Baldwin, re-birthed

by Haçi Bektas Vely.

 

 

 

 

These Moments, Tinder Dry

 

 

V/O. A chick screams its high

pitch mother/child separation coda.

Cut to. Australian, New Zealand, French,

& American backpackers rising like Lazarui

out of their tree-house sarcophagi. No one

wants to drop a *dickhead here: too much

pine resin & fat, war surplus memories

siphoned into time’s constricted arteries.

Zoom up an ancient Karian pathway

where two halogen-lamp bright wasps alternate

sucking face with a frog carcass, warped as a wet cardboard prayer mat. Extreme close up: they deposit their smartest pre-industrial plans. Secret eggs like bronze coins under the future’s carbonised tongue. Cut to: petite Turkish boys aged seven & nine as they practice life skills behind Kadir’s kitchenette. Set the mood for the audience & build intensity with cinema veřite style camerawork. After a breakfast montage of boiled eggs, olives, tomato, lettuce; drown the hornets in a concoction of water, honey, garlic & fried chips. V/O. Buzzing noises, children’s laughter. Close up sequence. Sacrifices

prodded with plastic drinking straws, those taking too long to die naturally, beheaded with walnut handled pocket-knives. Expose: by pull focus – 21st century’s impatience with clockwork technology & pre-adolescent longing for hair triggers & night-scopes. Cut to:

a juxtaposing wide shot. In a corner of the yard’s eye,

a mother hen leads her chick brood in a quiet revolution under outdoor dining tables – liberates scraps of stockpiled food from the West. Pan to: assorted feral, WW2 allies. Close up on two sweaty backpackers –

a fat guy & his well-toned blonde wife at breakfast.

Fat guy is fascinated as the Turkish boys first lure,

then drown lemon-banded insects in a clay bowl.

Looks deep in thought. No one else seems to notice

these fragmentary struggles. Dissolve to…eight standard issue, blowfly cartridges bandoleered across a dining hall windowsill; their manual death-throes a fast gear change through a teacup saucer of golden honey narcissism.

Same fat guy from before leans against a pine beam – watches a wasp approach the trap in little jerky phrases. Close up on his intense gaze. Track a bead of sweat

as it rolls down his pudgy left cheek. Cut back to:

Turkish boys’ ornate death-camp now abandoned. Extreme close up… wasp wings askew, frayed like defeated battle-standards: (V/O) the oracle drowned out by an ox-bone wind-chime’s hollow, self-flagellation.

 

They are worth capturing:

these moments, tinder dry.

Fade to black.

 

*dickheads = Dick Smiths’ brand name matches manufactured in Australia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Road to Damascus

 

 

Stupidly, Baldwin forgot

to pack (or buy ya dickhead!)

any kind of sandal, thong or cheap

rubber made in china surf shoe

for the Mediterranean’s slingshot pebble

beaches. Forgot the entrance fee too,

(3 million lira) for Olimpos’ ancient city

cum national park cum feral tourist hangout.

Had to hobble a hot coal kilometre back to Kadir’s, refusing out of calcified masculine pride,

all efforts by Roxanne to share her size 9 casual,

coming apart slip-ons. This short sighted

& barefoot golem padding gingerly

on his blistered trail to self-retribution.

Turning his nose up at the 6 million lira

asking price for a pair of rubber thongs cut

out of some German kombi’s spare tire.

Forgot to have his stupid fucking

road to Damascus epiphany too.

 

 

Foundations

 

 

What does Baldwin

want with the world?

A golden funeral hearse

ornate as Alexander the Great’s.

A sect of his own people to crawl

on their hands & knees & kiss

his tomb for centuries afterwards.

The power to grant their every wish

with the universal andalusia

of his big-boned soul.

 

 

Illuminations

 

 

What does Baldwin think of the world?

The man with an illuminated cosmology

of moles on his chest, arms & legs

is crying out for more black holes.

 

 

 

Midnight Express

 

 

Baldwin is woken at 2AM

by a woman’s long, drawn out

orgasm. Has a peek through

the gap in the wooden slats

holding the dorm room together,

but can’t work out whether it’s

self-administered or an assisted.

He rolls over, goes back to sleep

& dreams that Boney M reform

& ask him to be their lead singer.

Two hours later a bantam rooster

shatters his vocal ambitions; cancels

his Madison Square Gardens

Elvis comeback fantasy.

 

 

Midnight Express 2

 

 

Baldwin is woken at 2AM by

a woman’s long, drawn out howling.

He guesses a drunken headfirst

from a top wooden bunk.

Can’t work out whether she’s

seriously injured or not when

someone drawls at her,

‘it’s ok love, can ya move ya jaw’?

Baldwin rolls over, goes back

to sleep & dreams that Boney M

are caught on a 12ft sloop sinking

off the coast of the Aegean.

He swims out aided by a fleet

of blue & white dolphins from Knossos,

but Boney M disappear before he can reach them;

into a Golden Age, greatest hits Atlantis.

 

 

Requiring of Us a Song

 

 

Baldwin doesn’t tell Roxanne about

his dreams, but is secretly convinced

that Boney M are recording a new album

in Turkei & makes it his new mission

to track them down. He knows Ma Baker,

Rasputin and the Israelites are all on his side.

But little does Baldwin suspect Dear Reader

that his musical obsession will drag him

down like Alexander’s Makran desert

crossing. What else, Dear Reader,

would you expect from a fucked up,

20th century son of Zeus-Ammon.

 

 

A Very Ugly Australian

 

 

On the pebble beach at Olimpos,

Baldwin skips 3000-year-old shards

of Mycenaean pottery into the luke-warm

Mediterranean Sea. Only averages three

bounces across the earthquake-ripple

surface as Telamonian Ajax’s best tea-set

disappears into schoolboy prank infamy.

It’s a 5.8 on the Richter scale of archaeological

sacrilege, so Baldwin settles down, his bulk

flaring out like a babyskin beach umbrella

& muses on his list of things to tick of;

1) pissing on the Parthenon,

2) shoving his Holiness the Pope

3) hanging a crap inside the Coliseum

4) putting out fires with cans of Fosters;

Dreams: The Adventures of Baldwin MacKenzie!

 

On the European continent,

Gypsy children whimper in their sleep,

crushed by the olive press of ockerism.

 

 

AE2

 

 

In Turkei, a sonic hedgehog history

reverberates; a billion pine needles

smother a bronze-age temple complex;

unexcavated, dry, brown polyps zodiac

the trashed ‘City of Zeus’. Tourist pillaged.

The throaty ancestry of a student calligraphist

ejects ‘Allah’ from the Grand Bazaar in his

sheer love for the word. Air force jets spill

the coffee stained morning sky; illegal mobile

phone marketeers whirl collective dervish necks,

whistles push the envelope across Istanbul’s

University Square; sound barriers break with

Chuck Yeager arrogance. An ambulance’s pig wail wallows from a loudspeaker, drowns sunflower litany

face down on the road to Nevehsir; a seed lineage

pepper-cracked by Gypsies’ vine-ripened hands

(& Baldwin thought the only Rom was a spaceknight!)

their calloused mesas a blistered harmony from

the Anatolian clay-pan & beggar girl’s pyrolysis

with a document of wind; her dust-mote vowels

& cigarette butt consonants extinguished by

the Para-gliders’ synthetic falcon hiss;

British swamped Ölüdeniz beachhead.

 

Good vibrations: prayers of a grandfather,

father & son at a Cape Helles war memorial;

Koranic chant of the Dardanelles campaign;

the snap crackle & pop of an WW1 Australian submarine’s last aural movement.

 

 

Coincidental Mechanics

 

 

“Listen to this horror story Baldwin”, demands

Rox, eggshell drifting onto her husband’s seat.

“Another tragic day on Turkei’s roads with a multiple

pile-up of gods & goddesses. Near the stone-age site

of Catal Hüyük, an Earth Mother coach was involved

in a head-on collision with a God Bes hang-gliding minibus

enroute to Mt Ararat. The infamous historical ‘traffic monster’

has claimed even more victims. A shuttle bus carrying the Gods

of Olympus to work between the underworld district of Styx

& the Elysian Fields rolled, killing three muses (poetry,

short story & short film) & injuring twenty-eight other minor cultural deities. A three-headed dog also suffered a severe case

of triple whiplash when its snake tail was caught in the coach’s

vinyl upholstery. In other news, an Indian Tata semi-trailer

carrying a load of 300,000,000 gods collided with a Greek

military minibus in the Indus Valley, resulting in the death

of Alexander’s dream of Pan-Hellenism. One Aristotelian philosopher & one Jain monk were slightly injured. In another incident, a tractor rolled into a ditch near Athens killing a School

of Poetics. In Babylon, a garbage truck backed into a half-man/half-eagle, who was pronounced dead on arrival at the King Darius III hospital. In more news, Helen of Sparta lost control

of her Aphrodite 1250Y sedan & collided head on with Paris,

son of Priam of Troy. The resulting accident caused a 5000-year old blackout of her adopted city. In late breaking news, a school bus has collided with a motor home travelling on the wrong side of the Bifrost Bridge. The elderly, one-eyed bus driver died instantly. The driver

of the motor home, one Jesus ‘JC’ Christ has been charged with dangerous driving resulting in death and driving an unregistered vehicle.”

 

“Is the God Bes that little guy with the huge erection, Rox?”

asks Baldwin, his face radiant with juvenile delight.

Roxanne sighs, puts the newspaper down & flicks

some uncooked egg white onto the side of her plate,

“Yes dear, little guy, huge dick, you’re dead right.”

“Great let’s get a postcard of him & send it to your folks,

 they’ll love it. Tell them we’ve taken up nudity as a religion!”

“Glad to see your mind’s on holiday too dear” she replies,

as Baldwin stuffs two hardboiled eggs into his mouth, simultaneously, his Godfather cheeks aglow.

 

 

 

 

The Rage of Roxanne

 

 

“All those AD emperors were fuck-ups”,

declares Roxanne over a lunch of eggplant

& tomato salad, Şiş kebap & apple tea.

“Domitian was a half-assed giant baby/Michelin man composite! Severus had wing nuts for ears. Commodus looked like a Kings Cross pimp. Caligula could pass for a Bangkok transgenderist. Sulla thought he was the God Bes on viagra!

Real men lived in the BC. Diomedes, Agamemnon, Menelāos, Hector, Achilles, Patroclus, Telamonian Ajax, Odysseus, Ramses II, Tiglath Pilaser III, Cyrus, Xenophon, Darius I, Kallimachos, Xerxes, Leōnidas, Themistokles, Epameinōndas, Pericles, Parmenion, Philip II, Alexander (your sweetheart honey!),

Croseus, Ptolemy I, Seleukos, Mithridates….”

 

Roxanne trails off at the look of incomprehension

in the eyes of Baldwin & Omar, their new ‘friend’

cum carpet-shop salesman. Baldwin, pretends to size

up a bright orange kilim (with mother goddess hands-on-hips Armenian design), gives it a tug with his salami fingers

& is about to ask how much…when Omar butts in.

 

“Please Sir, Mr Baldwin. How do I get to Aussie & find

a gorgeous, intelligent, woman like your beautiful wife?”

 

Baldwin hesitates, traces the outline of a tent

door with his left index finger before he replies.

“Oh.. didn’t you know Omar – in Australia,

women glow & men chunder. Can’t you hear,

can’t you hear the thunder? You’d better run,

better take cover!” he philosophises –

one anaconda arm circling Roxanne’s

washboard obliques, the other, toying

with Omar’s camel-man consciousness.

 

 

 

 

Samos Ferry: A Comparative

 

 

The Turkish teenage boy –

Mustafa Kemal’s figurehead for a western future,

leans out over Kuşadasi’s rubber-barnacled jetty,

blesses three huge bass with a rosary of sardine

baited hooks. Baldwin can find nothing particularly Hemingway about this scene (no ‘The Old Man

of the Sea’ fingers cut to shreds hangin’ on for dear life),

though there is blood – a doctor’s pinprick from

the hook of a previous haul’s last rites, consecrated

on Poseidon’s concrete & tire altar.

Hooks a big one this boy, draws it to the surface,

arrow straight with delicate curette fingers –

but the line snaps, the last breath of a bowstring

failing its Cretan master. The boy flaps madly

about (Gollum, Gollum!) for a few seconds & chokes

on the fine asbestos dust of luck’s decaying superstructure. Spying Baldwin & Roxanne astride

their backpacks the fisher boy spreads his hands

wide as Heracle’s Gate. The proportions of failure universal in everyone’s body language;

the hydra that got away now ultra-hip

with its new pierced lower lip.

 

Ionia, dissects the cultural slips

cordon of our two intrepid travellers

Dear Reader, as the Samos ferry cuts

air with diesel. Eros (ala John Travolta

in Urban Cowboy) waves goodbye from

the saddle of his bronzed, bronco

dolphin under glass in the Ephesus

Archaeological Museum.

As Baldwin & Roxanne fade out,

backpacks weighed down with stolen

pottery, the boy rejoins his brother

Argonauts on a docked trawler,

goes back to hunting for Proteus

as Turkei’s future shape-shifts

at the end of the 20th century.

A breaking of surface tension

the only mythology here.

 

(ii)     Achaea

 

 

Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy.

 

Homer, The Odyssey

 

 

 

 

And now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?

They were, those people, a kind of solution.

 

Constantine P. Cavafy, Waiting for the Barbarians

 

 

The Curious Noise of History

 

The world is young with very light, paper flakes

made of torn poems and torn flags

 

Yannis Ritsos

 

 

The curious noise of history

blows in from the outside

ruffles the pregnant collar

of Yannis Ritsos’ patchy suit

coat stuffed with poems spilt

from the camp’s granite mouth.

The “I” of the lyric smuggled

out of memory, impregnated

with the poet’s rock-dust;

the tips of his fingers worn down

with human ink. An extension

of the pick’s blunt causality.

Poets, writers, intellectuals

garbed in words for the first time.

These inmates of language,

origamied with rhythms mechanical

as lice. The syllabic irritation

scratched breath by breath under

a woollen ignorance. The fibrous,

organic response to the curious

noise of history. To the Dead

Sea Scrolls extravaganza, hidden

inside standard prison issue

Aegean blue.

 

You Talkin’ to Me?

 

 

A mirror ball of pigeons rotates

out of the herbal discotheque, in front

of the National Archaeological Museum.

On Athinas street, trolleybuses hustle for a hit

of electricity & play chicken with pedestrians,

pickpockets & the All American tour groups lined

up in neat rows like D-Day war graves.

Omaha, Utah, Sword, Gold & what the hell was the other one?’ muses Baldwin as he waxes visual on the museum steps,

waits for Roxanne to finish her Mycenaean inspection

& checks out the Greek women hidden under layers

of 70’s electric blue eye shadow. Fake Levis excavate holes in the sediment of bronzed Athenian midriffs,

while across the intersection, Jeff Koons exhibits 50 photo albums shaved in half & sunk in formaldehyde

laced fish tanks.

 

All gorgeous Greek islands/white buildings/blue Aegean holiday snaps plus a special b/w insert of Jeff cumming over Pallas Athena’s pathetic face; polaroid semen glued

to the West’s incestuous family history. Let’s call it;

Ionia’s Greek Adventure & sell at Sotheby’s for a cool,

US$2 million. Martin Scorsese would love Athens too, swallows Baldwin. So 70’s. Such a non-threat of AIDS, disco/flares/no risk fuck fantasy. Especially Ormonia

& the YHA straight out of Taxi Driver – an oracle

for pimps, prostitutes, junkies & tabloids; a woman suckling both a baby & a piglet, the Marlboro Man jerking off over a leathery Montana sunset, gimmicky pokémon dildos, more street pornography than you could poke

a thunderbolt at, green space aliens (more Visitants eh John?) goin’ the grope – tentacles tweak perfect sets of pink,

lift button sized nipples & a Parthenon of cigarettes nestling between Western civilization’s abundant cleavage. ‘Democracy’ Dear Reader, has never felt harder than this.

 

 

Fuck on This

 

 

In the mirror stage

of his YHA development,

Baldwin, boxer short clad,

sucks in his gut & draws two

hand-guns from the imaginary

calf-skin holsters slung under

his ribcage & repeats Travis

Bickle’s 20th century mantra;

“You talkin’ to me?”

“I don’t see anyone else here,

you must be talkin’ to me?”

“You talkin’ to me?”

“I’m faster than you.”

“Fuck on this.”

Roxanne, toothbrush in mouth

gives Baldwin an atomic wedgie;

cut lunches his imaginary-real

gun-toting masculinity; the red

chamber of his scrotum revolves:

unmanned by the white-armed

goddess on her imperial throne.

 

 

Another Fucking Recidivist Poem

 

 

In Athens of all places, Baldwin

now 3 kgs slimmer breaks down, turns

on Roxanne like a dingo hooking food

out of a Fraser Island tourist’s trustworthy

mouth. How did Lorca describe this?

‘Death has covered him with a pale sulphur

& has placed on him the head of a dark minotaur’.

Snaps at Roxanne with his great architrave teeth; fountains of saliva spool through Syntagma’s

labyrinth of cobble streets. His half-oxen nervous

system reacts poorly to the Athenian traffic; hooves

stall on gutters, nostrils backfire at Romany children asking for map directions, selling packets of tissues,

tablecloths of Linear A, Minoan weave. Sometimes,

a stark monochrome eyesight comes in handy.

Poking his head, horns & all inside Johnston’s

real ‘blood aquarium’, Ormonia’s fish market,

Baldwin begins to understand a little

of the travel monster he’s become.

Dehorned that morning, tears pumped

out of his head’s air-con unit; fish scales glittered

on Roxanne’s chopping board skin – but hey,

Dear Reader, this is Greece after all & some

long-haired Achaean rides in on a Honda scooter,

lighter in hand (a red plastic one with Bitch stamped into it)

& sweeps Roxanne sic Helen off her feet.

Baldwin shies away from this hero – flicks

his shit-caked tail from side to side, walnut eyes ripened with fear as the majestic Theseus knocks him arse over, spilling blue shadow over the median strip’s gaping wound. Baldwin picks himself up, brushes

his hide clean of their mythic scents. Brushes

& picks himself clean as bone.

 

 

Acropolis Now

 

 

“Geez, Rox I really gotta piss!

That beer I had at lunch’s gone

straight through me & there’s never

a fucking toilet around when you need

one!” discourses Baldwin gazing

up at the Parthenon’s chipped

& bullet stained carapace.

“Fuck, if only Pericles could see this…

have a fucking spak attack he would,

besides it’s all roped off & there’s too

many bloody American tourists

tramping all over the place…let’s go!”

Baldwin about faces & almost

collides with Roxanne’s delicate

chiselled features.

“Baldwin, we’ve only just got here.

You should’ve gone when you had the chance

at the restaurant. I’m not going anywhere,

I’ve always wanted to see this place.”

Baldwin screws his face up & clenches

his thighs together like a shot-putter

winding up for a throw.

“Honey, now means now. I’m not gonna

survive for long. Look I’ll go around the back

where there aren’t too many people.”

As Baldwin shuffles off, Roxanne,

incredulous, starts to orate at her

Olympian-sized spouse.

“Baldwin, what are you doing? You

can’t just take a leak behind the world’s

most famous classical monument. This

isn’t home you know…you can’t water

the garden whenever you like…do you

hear me…BALDWIN!”

A little later Baldwin returns, a smile

spread across his meaty oligarchic lips.

“Ah that’s better Rox…you know

if there was an Olympic event for

urinating I’d be the Andre the Giant

of the sporting world.”

Roxanne doesn’t reply, just wonders

how she can ostracize her husband

from his association with the WWF

(World Wankers Federation).

 

Geometrics

 

 

(Roxanne daydreams on Crete).

There, that island crouched down

ready to pounce on the blue Mediterranean

bull, raising salt-dust off Crete with its stampede

of breakers; that’s a granite panther of some kind.

Not the Eastern winged variety that hovered like an engorged dragonfly over Babylon’s Hanging Gardens – but wingless, as in the carved relief’s that stalked across the Parthenon’s archaic pediment. No, not the new monument raised by Pericles to Pallas Athena either –

the earlier one, Geometric period frescoed with giants, harpies, tritons, snakes, deer, lions, bulls & of course panthers.

 

You can see the big cat’s muscle tone clearly;

the sun-dial snout pointed, a flick of bluff ear,

ridge of terracotta neck, burial mound of shoulder, terraced spine jagged as a grave stele, haunches (inc. paws, knees & ankles) anchor strong. A proverbial 1970’s Bridgestone Cat as a single promontory of claw

extends down to a bay’s water dish.

This manx of the Minoan imagination.

Formless now, occupied by a litter

of blind poets mewling to be fed.

 

 

Geometrics II

 

 

(Baldwin daydreams on Crete).

Like Dionysius I & II of Greek Syracuse

Oh, to be a tyrant of wine, women & song

Now that’s a career path even I could choose,

Free from that oppressive bureaucratic pong.

 

 

Knossos

 

 

“Oh my god Baldwin! Can you believe

this fucking monstrosity?” spurts Roxanne

as they enter the dark age of Knossos,

pushing past the tacky souvenir shops

to the Palace of King Minos, jailor

of the mythic long-horned bastard

child, killed by Theseus.

 

“Yeah, Arthur Evans didn’t

scrimp on the concrete did he Rox?”

suggests Baldwin surveying

reupholstered red/black columns.

“I can’t believe this place. Do these

fucking idiots think this is authentic?”

retorts Roxanne mock-punching

a copy of a blue porpoise frieze.

“I dunno Rox. But there sure are

a lot tour groups here. C’mon, girl

let’s beat em’ to the throne room!”

 

Seizing her by the wrist, Baldwin

scoots through columns of clammy

tourists, oblivious to the death-stares

served up by elderly Americans intent

on yet another Kodak conquest.

 

“Hey, whaddya think ya doing son, barging

in like that? This is my place in the line!”

 

“The Minoans were here long before you

Americans mate, & we Aussies helped defend

Crete back in WW2, so as the Fonz used to say –

SIT ON IT! EHHHHHH!”

 

“Don’t you speak to me like that you little smartass!

 I got the Silver Star & the Purple Heart at Normandy

don’t you lecture me on saving Europe. I paid my dues

for freedom, I paid for this tour & I’m the first in line!

Got it, boy? BESIDES YOU & THE MINOANS NEVER HAD THE A BOMB DID YA?”

 

“No offence Superman, but you can stick your medals & your NUCLEAR WEAPONS up your snooty yank arsehole!”

 

“Baldwin! Stop behaving like a child & stop fighting

with a war veteran. NOW! I MEAN IT!” fires

Rox, her face sparkling Minoan ruby.

 

“Is there a problem here?” asks a plainclothes

security guard; mirrored Raybans reflect

Baldwin’s indefensible beachhead.

 

“This lard ass tried to push in front of me!” spouts

our veteran, wiping his USS MISSOURI baseball

cap across a cherry glazed & bald-eagled head.

“Is that so sir, then you will have to come back tomorrow

please. Thank you leave at once. GO SIR…NOW!”

 

Baldwin, mouth ajar, stalks past rows

of bemused Yankee tour groups who

add their ALLIED send offs. Such as;

WAY TO GO JOHN GOODMAN, OR

NN NN NN NN FATMAN, FATMAN,

FATMAN & HEY! THERE GOES THE

MINOTAUR!

 

Baldwin, trembles with rage

walks out into a labyrinth

of Cretan sunshine – Roxanne

strung out along behind him.

As one, they bull-leap

into the nearest ouzo bar.

 

 

Some Versions of Mythological

 

 

(Somewhere in Baldwin’s dreams).

‘VANILLA ICE ICE BABY. VANILLA ICE ICE BABY’

What the fuck do they know anyhow –

those effeminate gods?

Girls the lot of them. Take my dad.

He fucked off faster than you could say ‘labyrinth’.

He got his rocks off sure – can’t blame him, Queen Pasiphae was

a looker alright, but when he saw

the outcome – me, well he pissed off quicker than a bucket

of sea urchins in summer.

What are you staring at? Take a picture it lasts longer!

Oh shit! You don’t think that Minos’ white bull was my father, do you?

For fuck’s sake! Only the earthshaker himself could give me a physique like this! Seen pecs like these before have you?

Those two wankers were in here

the other day – Daedalus & his idiot son Icarus. Geez, that boy’s thicker than two planks.

Scared the absolute crap out of them didn’t I?

There they were, stickin’ feathers onto each other – mad as a pair of cut snakes & BOO! Out I jumped.

I swear that boy shit himself!

Had myself another little visitor too didn’t I? Aw… shit that was good! She was pretty keen on the old fella –

if you know what I mean! Likes them real long & strong!

Just like in that song.

You know, ‘MY ANACONDA DON’T WANT NONE UNLESS YOU GOT BUNS HON!’

Ah… when get out of here I’ll marry that girl. Left this ball of twine as a present didn’t she.

Said she’d come back real soon.

Told me another group of sacrificial lambs were on their way from Athens – including King Aegeus’ snobby son. Theodore… no… Themisticles… no… ah whatever!

I won’t be kissing any royal Athenian arse in a hurry!

‘WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?

WHO? WHO? WHO? WHO?’

Now,

where’d I put that nailbrush?

 

 

Being Driven to Matala by Martin Johnston

 

 

(Roxanne daydreams, the “Sea Cucumber” in her lap).

Martin’s eyes are oiled to the road, fixed

behind kalamata black, horn rimmed glasses;

lenses smudged as the Phaistos disc

with a hieroglyph of white clay dust;

a delicate history of fingerprints.

His smile falls open like a slim volume

of poetry as the bus hugs a tight Cretan

corner forcing hire cars to abandon

the Post-Palatial road.

 

His long, dark-glaze hair nestles

like a Minoan steatite headdress

just above his shoulders. A pale

fresco of beard illuminates his face,

waits for some mythologist

to piece it all together.

To reconstruct the throne-room

of his thought with cheap concrete fact.

But Martin just shifts up a gear, rides

high above all the conjecture on his blue

monkey vinyl seat, talks to the conductor

over his shoulder, the Linear alphabet

of their discussion indecipherable

to his passengers – their tourist eye

caught analysing the Californian post-modern

windmills perched like white bull’s horns

on a beehive of hill.

 

An olive grove has sunk its bronze fishing

hook roots into the temple complex of Gortys,

but Martin keeps the bus cranking along nicely,

pats a statue of Pan with a sea cucumber sheathed

like an ultramarine condom over its horse-sized phallus.

Martin grins even more, takes another long drag on

the cigarette writhing in his right hand like an alabaster snake. Puts his foot down on the accelerator –

pushes the bus’s stained glass lexicon to the max.

Baldwin & Roxanne sway into Matala,

jostled by his mechanics of rhythm.

 

 

More Swamp Riddles

 

 

On the way back to Iraklio

Roxanne notices that the bus

is being driven this time

by Robert Adamson.

 

 

Softly Multiplying In An Ideal World         

 

 

(Roxanne remembers).

On an Imprint literary calendar

circa 1990, George Johnston

& Charmaine Cliff relax together

on a single bed, their typewriters

considered as bee-traps fall gently

onto their 1940’s permanent pressed

slacks. Words drone out of them

six days a week. On the seventh,

they bit off more than they could

chew; trapped a hydra instead.

 

 

 

 

Flesh for Frankenstein

 

 

On Red Beach, Matala, Baldwin’s

gaze is drawn inexorably to the slim

forty-something German man who

patrols in front of the bronzed Euro

sunbathers. It’s not his utter absence

of clothing, mid-range uncircumcised

penis or even his oiled & hairless body

that capture’s our hero’s imagination.

It’s not even the way his mirrored

fighter pilot sunglasses survey the ex-pat

Anglo scene Terminator style & pick out

the innocent Australasian backpackers

who trudged 45mins over a goat track

veined mountain just to be perved on.

Or the way the man (the splitting image

of Udo Kier from Warhol’s ‘Flesh for Frankenstein’

& ‘Blood for Dracula’ movies) pauses, hands

on hips & eyeballs each new visitant, then

skips satyr nonchalantly from rock to rock,

crimson sand bejewelling his muscular calves.

What captures Baldwin’s eye are two words

in English, (our universal decadent language)

scrawled in black letters over his buttocks.

One word for each burnished cheek.

 

“Do you think that’s oil or water based paint, honey?”

asks Roxanne twisting her thumbnail

into Baldwin’s wrestler proportioned bicep.

“Ow! Stop it Rox. What? GOD’S RIFT?

That’s very existential isn’t it? So cultured. Man’s

eternal division with God. I’d say its probably water

based body paint darling, you know, impermanent like us”  philosophises Baldwin, his fingers inching

towards Rox’s black lycra bikini strap.

“No dear, look closer”, intones Rox, as the nudist

pleased with at last being someone’s centre of attention flexes his gluteus maximus billboards at them.

“Oh shit!” Baldwin exclaims. “GOD’S GIFT!

& I thought he was being clever & European! How

self-centred can you get? With that amount of publicity,

I’m sure he’s only God’s gift to himself – therefore Rox,

oil based paint for a loser who must really need it bad.”

“Hi there, how’s it hanging?”

blurts Roxanne, refocusing

on clipping her last piece

of painted toenail hanging limp

as a renaissance fig leaf.

 

Blood for Dracula

 

 

Inspired by Alexander the Great’s oiled

& naked libation before Achilles’ tomb at Troy,

Baldwin surreptitiously removes his boardies

then after gathering the necessary willpower,

(with many furtive glances up & down the beach

at his brotherhood of white backpacking butts) strips

off his red Calvin Klein g-string undies. Rolling

onto his stomach, Roxanne rubs tanning lotion

onto his aircraft carrier sized posterior.

“Enough space here to jot down ‘The Iliad’ darling,

& perhaps even ‘The Odyssey’ too,” she muses,

rubbing grains of fine sand between her thumb

& index finger. Her gentle pressure – the first

sublime act in a red giant’s birth.

 

 

The Footsteps

 

 

Baldwin, our big-boned household god

camps on the grounds of the Heraklion

Archaeological Museum – digs the left

toe of his Blundstone boot into

the marbled staircase & elucidates,

“Hey Rox, how much gold leaf

do you think they’d need to wrap

me when I’m dead, eh?”

“Honey” replies Roxanne, applying

a fresh coat of apple scented lip balm,

“Not even the gold reserves of Fort Knox

would begin to capture your unique majesty…

take your weak chin for instance”.

“Alright my pretty little Clytemnestra –

stab me where it doesn’t hurt!”

“But you asked for it, Oh, Son

of Zeus-Ammon!”

“What about a marble bust then?”

“Sugar, you’re larger than life already.”

“How will you remember me then,

my terrible, white-armed goddess?”

“By the size of your life insurance policy, dear…

as priceless as the Mask of Agamemnon,

as legendary as the Trojan Horse,

as infamous as Achilles’ fucked up heel!”

Baldwin squints up at his wife,

hovering gargoylesque over him.

“When I go, you’ll be thrown onto

my funeral pyre, you one-eyed witch!”

Baldwin, about to extrapolate

further jerks around abruptly

as footsteps skid on the gravel

behind him.

“You know what kind of sound

that is, Nero…know by now

the footsteps of the Furies”,

quotes Roxanne, her

Saronic green eyes paralyse;

this emerald & gold wasp.

 

 

The Rage of Achilles

 

A black cloud of grief came shrouding over Achilles. Both hands clawing the ground for soot and filth, he poured it over his head, fouled his handsome face and black ashes settled onto his fresh clean war-shirt. Overpowered in all his power, sprawled in the dust, Achilles lay there, fallen…

 

Homer, The Iliad

 

 

 

(Baldwin daydreams, “The Iliad” on his lap).

What was the real reason

behind his rage eh, Dear Reader?

Achilles, the prince of war,

King of the Myrmidons,

son of Thetis & Zeus, comrade in arms

of ill-fated Patroclus – slaughtered

like a new spring lamb in the ninth year

beneath Priam’s salmon-pink granite walls.

That one, hah!

Didn’t stand a chance did he,

Dear reader? Or listen to the orders

of the great runner Achilles –

headstrong youth on ecstasy for war!

The distant deadly archer unbuckled

the straps of his breastplate

like a red-hot lover. A cavity

search of the Achaean soul

conducted right there in front

of the massed ranks & Hector,

vainglorious Hector, claimed Achilles’

bright armour & the kill. Patroclus,

hamstrung by Apollo’s efforts, knew

he was a dead man before his

burnished helm hit the ground.

What did Alexander the Great

feel when he came to this part,

Dear Reader, as he quoted from memory

to his favourite, Hephaistion, the uncut

red wine sunk deep into their bellies

like bronze-tipped spears?

Or Julius Caesar, as he leafed

through The Iliad, in rapture over

his baby son Kaisarion, coming

across the prophetic line, twisted

later by Augustus’ privy councillors:

‘It is not good to have too many Caesars’.

Julius the father erupted suddenly,

threw off his bed sheets, a dread

nausea rocketing into his stomach

the night before he purchased

Agamemnon’s inglorious fate.

The great tactician gripped

by a universal masculine rage.

What did the longhaired hero

of the Greeks feel then, sitting

on the beach pouting in front

of his black beaked ships; the son

of Peleus howled like a child when

they finally brought him the news.

Patroclus dead! Knew, his chance

at old age & mediocrity were gone.

Vamoose! Knew too, that pigeon-

holers would be out in force,

his good name appropriated by

myth-makers & by iron-age media

tarts desiring to shore up the popular

vote in some marginal, rural seat

in Argolis. His name used too,

by a gentle philosopher in desperate

need of a fin de siècle publicity stunt.

 

What was Achilles rage then

Dear reader? An ageless,

auteur quandary, I’d say.

The rights to his epic story

he would never see.

 

 

The Face of Agamemnon

 

 

Not having looked upon the face

of Agamemnon doesn’t particularly

worry Baldwin, but standing

in the beehive scooped out tomb

to the King of the Mycenaeans;

(the arsehole leader of the combined Greek

armies at Troy, so Rox says) he is tragically

aware of his own lack of an historical

oeuvre, of the tomb’s entrance propped

up with flimsy bolts of wood & iron;

like Dreamworld’s Lost Gold Mine ride

on the verge of collapse. Baldwin snaps

off a photo anyway – realizes later

that his Canon was on the wrong setting

(night instead of spot, you idiot, agreed Roxanne)

& escapes his entombment

as more tour buses descend;

fat tourist drones open the bomb-bay

doors of their economical scent, seduce

the mind’s dark honeycomb

long disused.

 

 

Callisthenes, or On Mourning

 

 

(i)

 

How does a historian die?

When it came to my turn, I refus’d.

Proskynesis be bugger’d!

Why should I kiss my fingertips

& blow them at the curly-hair’d tyrant dress’d

like some powdered, Iranian whore? Come off it!

So, up I get, still wantin’ to pay

my respects when some beefcake points

out my ‘so-call’d’ misdemeanour.

Turn’d his cheek away from me,

he did.

Wouldn’t even look me in the eye,

& after all I’ve done for him!

His Companions lov’d that!

Thought it was fuckin’ hilarious.

So I gave him a serve on the spot.

Turn’d on my heel & left the party

poorer by a kiss.

 

 

(ii)

 

Back in the hot seat again.

The cup came around; an undiluted Chinese whisper & I told Hephaistion; ‘I’M NOT DRINKIN’ THAT SHIT

AFTER ALEXANDER AND THEN NEED

THE GOD OF MEDICINE NEXT!’

Glar’d at me didn’t he?

Like I’d kill’d his father

or somethin’.

Told me that I’d better be more careful around the Son of Zeus-Ammon!

Hah! ‘The Son of Zeus-Ammon’

I said to him.

‘ALEXANDER & ALEXANDER’S ACTIONS

DEPEND ON ME & MY HISTORY!’

Tell you what.  That shut him up.

 

Tighter than a Delphian

priestess’s mouth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(iii)

 

It was the kids who let me down.

Should’ve realis’d they’d squeal

to save their own hides.

Ah, Antipater my best student –

look what they did to you.

Fuckin’ barbarians.

How I wish to Hades their idiotic

plot had work’d.

It was that Syrian prietess

that sav’d him. With her shriekin’

& goin’ on. ‘GO BACK TO YOUR WINE’

she howl’d, mad as a moon-wolf

on heat.

Ah cousin, can you hear me now,

back in Greece, safe as houses?

I’ve stirred up a pot of shit,

I can tell you. Pruned the last

olive grove in my thick wooden head.

Cous – the deeds of Alexander

finish with me.

 

 

(iv)

 

How does a historian die?

 

  1. tortur’d & hang’d
  2. bound in fetters for seven months
  3. & or died of disease
  4. maim’d limb from limb (ears, nose & lips cut off!)
  5. shut in a pit with lion
  6. slipp’d some poison in pity (thanks Lysimachus).

 

(v)

 

& you all still think

this man is great?

 

 

Some More Versions of Mythological

 

I am still the one who writes the poems.

 

Martin Johnston, The Recidivist

 

 

 

(Roxanne dreams, “The Typewriter

Considered As A Beetrap” on her lap)

Martin, you are as mythic

as the Cyclops now – a legend

poet-fathers tell their daughters,

full of anxiety for Polyphemus

& the classical world.

You don’t want to know what

Walt did to the myth of Hercules.

Um… they made Hera his mother

& let’s just leave it at that!

They’re putting out everyone’s

eyes with the sharpened stick

of ultra-consumerism.

Like in that 80’s British film,

Withnail & I, when Danny

the drug dealer says,

They’re sellin’ hippy wigs

in Woolworths man & as Presumin’ Ed

here constantly reminds me,

we have failed to paint it black’.

 

We never got to Hydra. Only Crete.

You put us onto the abomination

of Knossos, but we don’t blame you.

It wasn’t your fault.  Arthur Evans

rolled in the concrete to prop up

a 19th century reading of the Minoans,

patched up the West’s first memory

of baby blue. Hey Martin, you’ll

be pleased to know that they’re

still doing it! In our shootfirst

&askquestionslater Reality TV,

World’s Worst Cultures!

Your redemption arrived with our

confrontation with the Phaistos Disc.

Just as you described it in, To The Innate

Island. An absolute mind-fuck. (Pardon

the French, Dear Reader but you know what

I mean) You set it all up. The way we

were supposed to interpret the fabled Disc.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m working from memory now. You see,

we still haven’t developed the film

from our travels. You mentioned fish,

a scaled helmet, mailed courier –

I’m sure these symbols were all there

– if I could draw, I’d have sketched

them down, but you know, language

paints that which the eye cannot

see (Thanks Yannis). They probably

didn’t even turn out, those shots.

You’re supposed to shoot through

glass at an angle & I can’t remember

to what degree I did.

 

Martin, I don’t think you failed

to decipher the Disc. Instead,

you somehow managed to glue your

image onto it. A stone holograph

cleverdick! I found your glyph,

near the centre of the Disc, just

where it disappears into infinity.

You wove yourself into the Great

Spiral Nebula, didn’t you?

Became neutrino confetti, flooding

the world with your cosmology

of thought. Perhaps it was a trap –

perhaps the Dorians picked it up

& used it as a frisbee. Who cares

now anyway? Only you & John

& an old blind poet have passed through

the gates: through time & words:

spinning onto the Disc.

 

 

Delphi

 

 

“All the great heroes came here

to beg & grovel, you know Baldwin”,

lectures Roxanne, pointing out

the Temple of Apollo’s last couple

of Corinthian canines hanging by

a thread in the mouth of history.

“Heracles, when Hera sent him mad

& he burned his own wife & children

to death. Themistokles, after

the Battle of Marathon when the first

Persian expedition led by Darius

was routed & Alexander, before

the onset of his great conquest

of Asia Minor.”

“You know what Rox, I was reading

one of your literary journals – 

(Easterly? Gunpowder? Underland?

Coat? Embargo? Cool? Maglite?)

& this fella was talking about

a new movement in poetry. 

What did he call it?

That’s right – Oraclism!”

“Oraclism. What the hell’s that?”

“I think it’s got something to

do with being the mouthpiece or

a conduit for time or history or something.

I forget what he was trying to say.”

“Sounds like contemporary poetry alright,

obscure as fuck or drenched in lyric sentimentality!”

“Sounds like somebody’s got a problem

 with the poetry scene, eh Rox?

Is it because no one will publish your work?”

“Fuck those bastards, they wouldn’t know

a good poem if it came up & bit them on the arse!

So much shit gets published these days…trite, clichéd,

sentimental, self-indulgent, wanky, post-modern

language rubbish that passes for poetry! There’s no

market for poetry in Australia – no one reads the shit

& the majority of wankers still think that bush verse

is the bees fucking knees!”

 

“Then why do it, Rox? Why keep on sending

your stuff out, if no one gives a shit? If football,

cricket, American cinema, Friends, Survivor

& Sex in the City are all that people need!”

“Maybe that’s why where here Baldwin, –

 in the cradle of Western civilization.

Not for Alexander the Great, not for

some fucked up romantic notion of ancient Greece,

not even to hear what the oracle’s got to say –

because hey, honey – no one’s listening anymore,

 its numero uno. It’s 2001: A Personal Odyssey!”

“So why are we here on this mountain freezing our

tits off, when we could be back in the hotel fucking?”

“Because it’s time we all stopped thinking

with our collective dicks dear!”

“Speak for yourself, eh Rox.”

“Oh, believe me Baldwin I am, for

the first time in my life I truly am

& that’s why I write my stupid little poems

& send them off to be rejected by cockheads

 who just publish all their friends anyway.

Now, let’s go see the bronze charioteer before

the fucking museum closes.” 

 

 

Trying to Explain the Significance of a Shooting- Gallery to a Six Year Old.

 

Do we all fall now like shooting-gallery ducks? There’s a kind of snowdrop that grows, but never flowers, in the lowest circle.

 

Martin Johnston, In Transit: A Sonnet Sequence

 

 

 

(Baldwin remembers his daughter, Emily)

Panyiri Greek Festival, Musgrave Park,

West End, Brisbane. Umbrellas raised.

Black plinths held against a grey,

contemporary art gallery sky.

A space filled with fleeting

object d’art. Two yellow helium

balloons his daughter aged six

referred to as ‘honey puffs eaten

by the sky’s mouth’. Her first

public metaphor sent a shiver

through the masses. The Medes

shimmering up behind Leonidas.

Leo, the real estate agent

cum ex-state liberal candidate

cum festival MC assured everyone

that Mythas beer was flowing

from the heavens. The plastic world

revolted at his word & made Barbie

their Queen. A 21st century Boadacea

snagged her brollie on someone’s

polyurethane raincoat; dropped it,

left her mark on the earth all

the same. After the Cretan dancers,

where Baldwin told her about

the ancient Minoan sport of Bull-leaping,

she wanted some real honey puffs.

A chaser for the calamari scoffed;

ink tears the size of mini minors

squeezed from giant squid mothers

off Newfoundland.

 

Into the lowest circle she took him;

sideshow alley, where delicate snow

-drops of goatee, mascara, tongue-piercing,

eyeliner & lipstick were beginning to blossom.

The Octopus crushed children with inertia tentacles

& dodgem-cars planted the first seeds of road-rage.

It was the shooting gallery of ducks though,

that undid him. How could he explain this one away?

The clowns shook all their heads in unison;

NO, NO, NO, NO, NO.

 

Metaphor went AWOL. He shifted

the black polyester wings hunched

over them & cleared his throat

of earthquakes, but nothing came.

It’s what angry people do

to win a big cuddly toy; erupted

suddenly from his mouth, entombed

them both in word-ash. Frozen

in time’s weekend archaeology –

that neutrino confetti effect again.

I know dad, let’s go get

the honey puffs.

 

So blasé.

For a moment Baldwin looked up,

hunting metaphors that sped away.

 

 

Express Samina

 

‘62 Die as Greek Ferry Sinks in Aegean’

 

Herald Tribune, September 28, 2000

 

 

 

Paros, Greece. Night.

“Ah for fuck’s sake Rox, I can’t

get to sleep like this. The fucking

music’s too loud! Why the hell do

they have to have a disco at 1AM

in the morning? No one’s dancing  –

they’re all watching the stupid fucking

Olympics!”

“I know Baldwin, but there’s bugger

all we can do about it. Go & sleep

in the cafeteria if you want. Besides,

Greece just won a gold medal in athletics –

which probably hasn’t happened since

around 400 BC!”

“Sorry Rox, you’ve mistaken me

for someone who gives a fuck! Anyhow,

the only sports they’re showing

on Greek TV are weightlifting

& Greco-Roman wrestling.

“Yeah Romania just won a gold

& silver in the 62kg weightlifting event.

You should have seen the mullets

on those two guys – straight out of the 80’s.

Pure Warwick Capper! Hey, I thought

you’d be into wrestling honey – it’s so Greek.

Alexander & Hephaistion probably

wrestled each other with oil every night!”

“Now, now, no need to get personal, babe.

Homosocial behaviour between men in ancient

Greece was a fashion, not a perversion, alright?”

“Sure, Son of Zeus-Ammon, whatever you reckon!”

“Besides Rox, Alexander took a liking

to lots of different things!”

“Holy shit, did you feel that Baldwin?”

“Fucking hell, we’ve hit something!”

“Jesus fucking Christ. Let’s go, now.”

“What about our backpacks – my statue of Alexander!”

“Leave it Baldwin, just get out

on the fucking deck, okay. Now. Let’s go.

NOW! MOVE YOUR GREAT

FUCKING FAT ARSE!”

 

 

Express Samina II

 

‘Crew Was Watching a Soccer Match

When Boat Hit Well-Marked Rocks’

 

Herald Tribune, September 28, 2000

 

 

Flakes of Minoan blue paint

cling to the undersides of Baldwin’s

fingernails like inverse barnacles,

as three crewmembers haul him aboard

the life-raft; a kraken dredged up

out of archaic western memory.

“Your husband is taking up too much room,

he’s too fucking big!” mutters a steward,

his white uniform translucent as wet rice paper.

“Why don’t you just fuck off & leave him alone, shithead!

You stupid fucking cunts haven’t got a fucking clue, have you?

“Please Madam, your language. There are children here.”

“And there are more children in the fucking water. Now

do your fucking job & rescue THEM, shit for brains!”

Baldwin, squelching in the bottom of the boat

tilts his head up at the sound of his wife

in full verbal assault.

“Ah, that’s my girl, Rox. Give em’ both barrels eh?”

“Baldwin, this is no fucking joke – you all right?”

“Course I am dear – I only swallowed half the fucking

Aegean! Now I know how Lord bloody Byron felt!”

“C’mon, get up. Fuckwit over there

is getting touchy about the amount

of space you’re taking up in his precious life-raft.”

“Fuck that Rox. I can’t move. My legs don’t work.”

“C’mon, move over here then. That’s good.

Don’t you feel better?”

“Better? We just lost everything!

Our backpacks, my camera, your video,

all our clothes & my statue!”

“You’ve still got your money belt on?”

“Yeah, but wet right through, our travellers

cheques & passports will be rooted.”

“Baldwin, I can see people in the water.”

“Don’t worry, they’ll get around

to picking them up.”

“You don’t understand, Baldwin.

They’re dead. Floating in the water.”

“Oh fuck Rox, don’t look at them.

Come here & sit down with me. C’MON!”

“I saw a little girl, Baldwin,

a little girl for Christ’s sake.

No older than Emily. Jesus fucking Christ,

what happened? What the hell happened?”

 

Icarus

 

 

“Hey, did you see this Rox?

The Managing Director of Minotaur

Lines leapt to his death from a five-story

window in Piraeus, yesterday. He had been

charged with 62 counts of manslaughter…”

“Poor bastard.”

“Poor bastard my arse! He deserved it.

Those ferries are thirty years old. None of them

should be operating at all. He’s responsible for all

of those deaths. Every last one of them!”

“I think he did take the ultimate responsibility

upon himself Rox, wax, wings & all.”

“Don’t sweat it honey, there’s an Icarus falling every minute.

Thank your lucky stars that we’re still alive,

still kicking ass & that we took out

the goddamn travel insurance!”

 

 

 

(iii)      Espana

 

But what is this? Is it Spain again? Universal Andalusia? It is the yellow

of Cadiz, but a shade brighter; the rosiness of Seville, but more like carmine; the green of Granada, but slightly phosphorescent

like a fish.

 

Federico Garcia Lorca, Lecture: A Poet in New York

 

 

 

 

Remember this too: all bad

writers are in love with the epic.

 

Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

 

Night of the Tongues

 

That’s how it was

and the awakened earth cast off trembling rivers of moths.

 

Federico Garcia Lorca, Crucifixion

 

 

 

“Please its starting to hurt!”

From somewhere out beyond the edge

of the Barri Gotic masculine galaxy,

the medieval voyager of Baldwin’s

humanity realigned itself, after

the split-second circumnavigation

of the bartender’s throat glands.

In the hostel foyer, Roxanne held

off four Guardia Civilia with

the muscular incantation of her

tongue, vomited a landscape

of guidebook Spanish, as a neo-Franco

officer took down Baldwin’s

brass-plaque passport details.

“TOURIST – YOU ARE

THE TERRORIST”

spits the anarchist graffiti.

Baldwin didn’t take his ostracism well.

The Lonely Planet Guide to Spain aquaplaned

into the wall behind front desk’s head.

Strangely, all the bi-lingual American

students remained Rushmore silent;

checked their email in the common room.

Wrote their reports for the CIA.

Nobody wanted to cross Baldwin’s

absinthe fuelled Brisbane Line.

“We will see you in court tomorrow,

fat-ass!” snapped the bartender,

as the police escorted him out.

“You Spanish cunts can all go & get fucked!”

came the pre-ordained reply.

(from whom do you think, Dear Reader?)

“You have done enough Sir. Please go

to bed now. They will be back for you

in the morning.”

“Just like Lorca, eh Rox! Those bastards

think they’re gonna fuckin’ execute me too,

YA FUCKIN CUNTS!”

 

Fugitives now, Baldwin & Roxanne

escaped Barcelona on the first morning train

still livid as scar tissue. Miraculously, the death

squads never materialized at the Von Ryan’s Express

ticket counter & Baldwin’s Great Escape fantasy diminished; Steve McQueen, the ice-blue ace of the American 20th century cradled his fragile last words

like moths. From somewhere distant,

(in light years perhaps) Baldwin begins to grasp

the meaning of the Phaistos Disc.

 

“It’s like Conan the Barbarian

& the wheel of pain, Rox…

the fucking wheel of pain, goin’ around

& around & around forever”, spits our

neo-Andalusian hero, as he sits

on his new backpack in the dinner

car & claws at the bastard

behind his eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trench Cleaners

 

 

(Roxanne & Baldwin view an exhibition of WW1 photos)

Entrails of steel wool disembowelled

on the polished pink granite floor;

a micro fibre crown of thorns martyred

in the reconquista of public awareness.

A still-blue Jesus crucified without his cross

in Calvary’s new testament Verdun.

Plumes of chemicals fill the trench

nostrils of commuters, backpackers;

a single tear from a penitent Valencian

Magdalene rolls down the station’s

wrought iron cheek.

In her hands, a mobile phone’s

ochre skull cradled like a split

pomegranate.

 

Her eyes raised toward a Heaven,

populated by halos of closed circuit

TV lenses. Outside, blood-stars

sprinkle over nights’ renaissance

cloth & a woman’s ostrich leather

knee-high boots go nova

on the platform; an allegory of time.

Two medusa-haired Spanish punks beg

for their next stigmata of stainless steel.

Their war medals buried in a bottom lip

passing out parade extravaganza. Beaten,

by a two thousand year old tradition

of body piercing.

 

A Gypsy woman, her wrinkles deep

as the gills of a wild mushroom,

wraps her body into a perfect question

mark on the disinfected floor. No hips

swivelling Matador or St Sebastian

(with seven arrows protruding) attempts

to engage the El Toro of her pain.

Who will paint the fresco of her annunciation?

Some royal blue Minoan bastard perhaps?

The rhythm of the chic shy away from

this dying blood sport & step over the dog shit;

another ritualised unpleasantness to avoid.

To sniff at from an afternoon

in a gallery’s hothouse of images.

Her cubism born out of the First World War’s

social disfigurement (grenade fragments were the best,

splinters of jawbone fed into history’s unholy communion).

In the aerial photographs,

French infantry reattach themselves

to the placentas of shell craters –

the antichrist lifeblood plugged

up with a new movement of men.

How does it all end, this century?

On postcards (ala the famous

Frank Capra civil war headshot)

that will add an out of context

moment to someone’s lifetime

of small talk clutter.

With tourists half deflated

like an Italian dirigible, crashed

out in the Valencia railway station,

watching the trench cleaners

go from aisle to aisle & do

their dirty midnight work.

 

Huerta de San Vicente

 

 

Staring at the bed in which Lorca

was born, Baldwin resists the urge

to jump on it, to test the springs

of twentieth century poetry; notices

instead the Lion motif carved into

the olivewood bed head’s central panel.

 

More synchronicity. Another trademark

Aslan look-alike that gave a huge

Paramount roar in 1898, but by 1936

had slunk away with its bronze tail

hanging between its scruffy republican

legs. Baldwin lingers, waits for Roxanne

& the tour group to exit the bedroom,

before he sits down on the edge

of the bed & plucks a white goose

quill out of a pillow.

 

The fat man in Spanish history;

the picture frame of his chest

compressed by slates of glass;

time’s oxidised negatives.

His harlequin tongue,

a feather for grief.

 

ETA Suspect

 

 

In Fuente Vaqueros, Baldwin

is disturbed by his resemblance

to a shorthaired & sunglass clad

terrorist of the ETA Andalusian

cell, scotch taped to the inside

front bar window of Café Lorca.

Baldwin the desperado.

“The Barcelona Strangler”.

The good, the bad & the ugly

absinthe sculler, still unsure

as to his wanted status, edges

past the flamenco hemmed doorway

into a cadre of teeth, burnt

brown as winter fennel.

 

A firing squad of Spanish hits

him from behind the bar, but Baldwin,

unable to retaliate in the native tongue

backs instead into a bull fighting poster

& pricks his arse on a trophy Toledo rapier.

More fennel ripens before him; acres & acres

of the withered crop salute his coward’s grace.

Baldwin grabs Roxanne’s hand as she exits

the toilet, flees out the café door before

the farmers & unemployed/under-aged locals

of Al-Andalus can put two & two together.

Before Baldwin’s copper age guilt melts

the Sierra Nevada’s of his cheeks,

a hot muleta red.

 

 

The Life & Death of Dust

 

And when he took off his gloves

A soft ash fell from his hands.

 

Federico Garcia Lorca, Suicide

 

 

 

(Roxanne dreams of being Lorca)

The ground began to warm up.

The dust, secure in its smallness

in the rise & fall of itself,

over things, people, animals;

left traces everywhere.

 

Near the edge of the wall

tiny white butterflies

stirred it awake as they

finger-painted the air

with palette knife wings.

 

That morning when the guards

left the house, rubbing their eyes

& herding the prisoners before them,

a pulse of breeze shot some ash

up the muzzles of their guns.

 

The whirlwind that followed

made their magazines sneeze;

their clips of ammo cough until

the throats of their barrels

were red raw.  Red raw.

 

The ground began to cool down.

The dust, tired by the day’s

events settled over the film

of Garcia Lorca’s stubborn dead

eye like a matador’s ruby shroud.

 

 

 

 

Salvador Dali Hunts for Pipis on Bribie Island

While Dreaming of Sea Urchins

 

 

(Baldwin dreams of being Dali)

When he was knee high to a grasshopper

the young Salvador Dali, the waxed moustache

still a prickle of hair, was banned from his mother’s kitchen, for the attempted theft of raw meat

tid-bits she left for the village cats.

 

In despair he turned to rock pools for inspiration.

Digging out shellfish & mussels with the hook

of his little finger.  His translucent crab-legs

scuttled back & forth, desperate, for a butter-pan

of crevice to grease into.

 

It is no great secret where his art came from.

His mother’s overweight scrap bucket.

His detailed menu of every tidal pool & crutch

of metamorphic rock that chiselled out

his apprenticeship of salt.

 

Years later, on holidays to Bribie Island,

Queensland; leaving his complimentary chocolates

to melt over his verandah, Dali sauntered down

to the beach where he was shown how to hunt

for pipis the Aboriginal way.

 

His doughy feet dissolved into the sand

with each wave’s fresh bite.  The pipis,

undisturbed by Dali’s breakfast appetite

blew voice bubbles, happy in their bi-valve

heritage, glad that they were not blood sausage,

soufflé of elephant or sea urchin.

 

 

The Defeat of Poetry

No new age. No enlightenment.

Only a blue horse and dawn.

 

Federico Garcia Lorca, Nocturne of Emptied Space

 

 

 

(Roxanne & Baldwin have the same dream)

It was a night like this.

The moon a bloated stomach,

stars more numerous than shell casings

as the men who sat around the table

drinking & smoking, signed over

the defeat of poetry.

Six signatures from six men.

By midnight, all the words

had drained out of them.

All rhetoric had fled.

They made a point of digging

fingers into their skulls –

to relieve the tiredness

of their red-rimmed decision.

When it was made at last some

went back to their newspapers,

some took in the night sky

or refilled pipes with dormant

tobacco dreams. Some,

uncomfortable with the idea

(the more squeamish) went & had

a look at the result

of their group think process.

& each time one of them peeped

into the room, the little Andalusian

looked up; the twin suns of his eyes

burned, his breath formed poems

in mid-air. All of which,

evaporated the next morning

when he was led out

into a red dawn.

 

 

The Descent of Man

 

Numbers are the language of nature.

J Bronowski, The Ascent of Man

 

 

 

“How many people died in wars

in the 20th century Rox?” asks

Baldwin, standing at the top

of the Alhambra, surveying Granada

with his cool unmathematical eye.

“Oh, I don’t know Baldwin. What’s

got you so inspired by numbers, eh?

Let’s see if you can count them up.

Two-three million Armenians in Turkey

right at the beginning of the century.

Ten million in WW1. Twenty million

with influenza after WW1 – I’d count them

because of the affect of famine & disease

from the war. About 350,000 in

the Spanish Civil War. Fifty million

as a conservative figure for WW2.

(Let’s see, that’s breaks down into

approximately six million Jews/Gypsies

/homosexuals, eleven million Poles, twenty

million Russians, & thirteen million Germans,

Italians, English, Dutch, Belgian, Czechs,

French, Serbs, Croats, Greeks Americans,

Canadians, Australians, Indians, Japanese,

Chinese etc. etc.). Josef Stalin killed another

Twenty-thirty million Russians himself between

1924 & the mid fifties.

I’d include them too.  Probably a million

or more in the partition of India.

The Korean War…maybe three million

Koreans, Chinese, Americans, British

& Australians? I don’t know…but

probably four-five million

in the ‘Ten Thousand Day War’.

“What’s that, Rox I’ve never heard

of that war before?”

“The Vietnam War honey. 1945-1975.

It started in ’45 as a revolt against the French,

then later it turned into a civil war, then

America & her allies got involved.”

“Oh!”

“Approximately two-three million

 in the killings fields of Cambodia.

Then you’ve got the Gulf War. Maybe

a couple of hundred thousand Iraqis.

Eight hundred thousand in Burundi

& Rwanda in the mid-nineties. Then

you’ve got thousands of Kurds in Turkey

& Iraq. A million dead in the Iran-Iraq war.

The Arab-Israeli conflict since 1949

 – again in the hundreds of thousands.

The Balkans conflict – several hundred

thousand there. Then there are the civil wars

in Africa – Angola, Somalia, Sudan, Chad,

Uganda, Ethiopia, Liberia, Sierra Leone.

The Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

China’s invasion of Tibet.

Right wing dictatorships & death squads

 in South America – El Salvador, Guatemala,

Chile, Panama, Grenada. The Falklands War.

The Kashmiri conflict. Hungary. Czechoslovakia.

Chechnya. Burma. Malaya. Indonesia, East Timor.”

“Do you want me to go on Baldwin?

I haven’t even got to all of the indigenous massacres

throughout the 20th century. But I guess you

can go through them continent by continent

& save some time!”

“So how many is all that my beautiful

but deadly Pythagorean, whose tongue

has the symmetry of a snowflake.”

“Oh Baldwin, how poetic! Wherever

did you come up with that turn of phrase?”

“Um… from some old geezer just before,

when we were in the harem.

He was studying those crazy patterns of tiles

on the walls & came up to me & said that,

‘they had the symmetry of a snowflake

or something wacky like that. Kept on going

on about Greek mathematics & the Moors

& Mohamed & the Dark Ages in Europe.

I didn’t really understand what he meant.”

“Half a billion.”

“What’s that Rox?”

“I’d say at a conservative estimate that

about half a billion people were killed

by war in the 20th century. But maybe

I’m just pulling that figure out of my arse.”

“Out of your sweet arse Rox,

don’t forget that…out of your hot, sweet little ass!”

“Baldwin, you have a one track mind

that’s stuck on repeat, d’you know that?”

“Oh’ I’ve got a mind for figures alright dear,

don’t you worry about that!”

“That’s not what worries me,

Son of Zeus-Ammon, believe me,

that’s not what worries me!”

 

Baldwin & Roxanne exit the last sigh

of Moorish architecture in Europe;

numbers, the language of nature

crunching in the geometry

of their heads.

 

 

The Gypsies

Recovering from the Alhambra’s

transubstantiation of numbers & history,

Baldwin & Rox are surprised by two

old Gypsy women; forest dryads that

appear from nowhere, tracing fingers

over Rox’s stomach, gestimating the futures

of our cunning heroes Dear Reader.

“What did they say to you Rox?” asks Baldwin,

grabbing his wife’s azure nail-polished hands.

“Oh you know the usual…that I’ll have three

to four bambinos with a fair handsome stranger!”

“Oh right.”

“Why, what did she tell you, Son of Zeus-Ammon?”

“Just exactly that Rox. That if I go to India

like Alexander the Great did, then I’d end up

having his short life too.”

“But Jesus Baldwin…we are going to India…

how did she know? Did you tell her about it?”

“No I didn’t Rox…that’s what’s fucking

freaking me out!”

“Then how…?”

 

Our two heroes about face to get some

more information from the weird sisters,

but they’ve melted, wicked witch style

into the water fountains, twigs of lavender

& crushed afternoon memories.

 

 

 

 

The Enigma of Adolf Hitler

 

 

In the Reina Sophia, Madrid,

Baldwin can’t help but think;

What are these German tourists

going to make of Dali’s,

‘The Enigma of Adolf Hitler’?

 Christ, they’re all old enough to

have been teenagers at the fall of Berlin.

He hovers, his voyeurism driving

the spectre of adolescent ruin

(‘A Tin Drum’ retarded work-in-progress,

isn’t he Dear Readers?) & waits for

the first tear to churn up

the snowdrift of faces

grooved as tank tread.

The gremlin is not disappointed.

 

“Gott in Himmel Rox”, he barks

out across the gallery courtyard,

juggling two styrofoamed coffees

like WW1‘potato mashers’.

“I should have bought that second-hand

record I found in Athens at the Ormonia

markets you know, ‘German Marching

Songs 1933-1945’. Would’ve been a blast,

back home eh?”

Roxanne, perplexed, chooses

to ignore her obviously insane

husband – burns her upper palate

as an elderly woman collapses

into a bench chair beside her

& weeps; a white embroidered

handkerchief parachutes

into her face.

 

 

Atomic Melancholia

The loveliest sepulchre is that which

is the easiest to remove from the face

of the earth.

 

Qu’an

 

 

Back in the thick of the art action,

Baldwin rips his attention from one

Dali painting to the next as another

search & destroy tour group invades

his personal/surrealist space.

“Not you again fat-ass!” yells

our ‘Land of the Brave’ boy scout,

the USS Missouri baseball cap

pushed down even further onto

the Pine Gap dome of his head.

“Well fuck me if it isn’t the Lone Wanker

back to save the world from mediocrity!

What brings you to Spain, Hemingway?

Come to visit your good buddy,

Franco de fuckwit?”

“You look here shit for brains!

I fought the Goddam Nazis, tooth

& nail in ’44. How dare you call

me a fascist, you sonofabitch.

You weren’t even a twinkle in your

Daddy’s eye when my buddies gave

their lives at Normandy  – so don’t

you dare stand there & jerk me off

like I’m some worn out old Priam!

WE SAVED YOUR FUCKING

ASS IN WW2, SO YOU SHOULD

GET DOWN ON YOUR HANDS

& KNEES & THANK ME!”

“Finished making friends eh, Baldwin?”

enquires Roxanne, easing herself

like a loaded .45 into the holster

of her hubbie’s semi-deranged state.

“I’m not fat, you stupid fucking yank.

I’ve got big bones, so eat shit & die!

“Besides General Macarthur, adds

Roxanne purring, you cockheads

stayed out of the war for three years

while we stopped the Germans at

El Alamein & then the Japanese

at Milne Bay! So Mr Hopalong

Cassidy dick for brains, you can

stick your Stars Wars program

& your revisionist modern

American history up your Bill

 ‘Cigar’ Clinton’s arse &

fuck off while you doing it!”

 

Einstein, Planck, Dali, Miro

& Picasso couldn’t have put it

any clearer, Dear Reader.

 

 

An Allegory of Time

 

No doubt some thorough American manual

can give you the low down on Europe’s margins

but mine, designed for only one traveller

is better written & much shorter.

Besides, if you remove the art, Europe’s

like the US, more or less a dead loss.

 

John Forbes, Europe: a guide for Ken Searle

 

 

Three ruby jewelled seeds

free fall between the pomegranate’s

cosmetically enhanced skin

& the forefinger of the pre-pubescent

Christ child. This fruit stigmata;

pre-Christian underworld throwback

makes Martin Johnston pause, smile,

& push his glasses back up the long wall

of his nose. His left hand combs through

black shoulder length Velasquez hair, stump

-jumps over a hidden mole’s Doric capital.

His Italian hiking boots squeak like a pair

of Inquisition thumbscrews as he inches

across the polished beech fingernail floor.

Bosch’s demented figures take on more

of that tortured look. Bite down hard

on the afternoon’s touched up flesh.

Further on, St Francis dances on the head

of a leopard & receives Jesus’ crowns of thorns.

& Martin, turning a corner, enters a scene

of true cultural chaos. Two deranged men,

a fat, thirty-something Australian & an elderly

American war veteran jostle each other over

a plumb position to view Picasso’s Guernica..

Martin, distracted by the rush of security

doesn’t hang around to watch the fun.

Splits this sad Western ex-pat scene & skips

casually over the next couple of centuries;

thinks about the five hours he queued once,

to get into the Uffizi Gallery,

& the one hour it took him

to go through it.

 

 

Street of the New Cross

 

 

Baldwin, slouching on the street

of the new cross, Valencia, listens

to Roger (a Spanish-Mexican avant-garde

poet, photographer & storyteller, whose

grandfather fled Spain for Mexico in 1939)

extrapolate on his city’s past:

“This is where Erasmus the philosopher’s

Uncle, sister & wife were condemned as witches,

hung, drawn & quartered. The house burned

to the ground, the earth salted. A wooden cross

was erected on this spot as a warning to all would-be devil worshippers. Hence its name. Street of the New Cross.

A couple of years later the city fathers of Valencia

offered Erasmus a university post.”

“What did he tell them”, enquires

our thick headed & bull-necked hero.

“To go & fuck themselves of course!”

 

 

Republica

 

 

“This building is where

the Republican government moved

its headquarters after Madrid

was bombed by the Nationalists”,

muses Roger, his fingers bee

busy rolling another cigarette.

“Is it some kind of museum now Roger?”

asks Roxanne, as the tobacco wraps

itself around her shoulders

like a carcinogenic stole.

“Fuck no, Spanish modern history

ended in 1936. They don’t even

teach about the war in school.”

“What’s it used for now then?”

interrupts Baldwin, dragging out

the Canon for a wide angle shot.

“Priests, I think, a bishop or two

& maybe a cardinal. I don’t know

who exactly but some evil fuckers no doubt!”

Baldwin, exiled from the republic

of his self, chooses to agree,

“Yeah, there are evil bastards all over the world.

Just look at Bill Gates. Microsoft will be broken

up for sure & I hope Gore gets in as President.

Can you imagine what will happen if that George

DUBYA Bush retard wins. It’ll be WW3

for fucking sure! C’mon, Rox, Roger, I’ll take

a shot of the two of you…for the posterity

of our new universal republica!”

 

 

Plaza de Toros de Madrid

 

The Spanish say ‘El sol es el major torero.’

The sun is the best bullfighter, and without the sun

the best bullfighter is not there.

He is like a man without a shadow.

 

Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

 

 

The sun had quartered the best

portions of the afternoon & stamped

the barrera with a huge crescent-shaped

piece of shadow, when Baldwin

& Roxanne found their seats.

 

“This isn’t so bad Rox. We’re not

too close to anyone. Look there’s

the President up in that balcony.”

“Baldwin, my arse is going to kill

me sitting on this concrete. Be

a darling & go & get one of those

cushions for me & a beer too.”

“Sure Rox, what did your last

slave die off, huh? Do you want me

to rub your back for you too?”

“Oh, would you honey, thanks!”

 

Ninety minutes, six dead bulls

& one cornada later, Baldwin &

Roxanne throw their cushions

into the ring with everyone else;

follow a tragic finale not understood.

 

“Why did everyone throw their

cushions into the ring Rox?”

“I think because that last Matador

was shithouse – he was going for

his alternativa & failed.”

“What’s that?”

“His full matadorship or something?

Did you see the way that bull tossed

him over its back? Jesus Christ,

my heart is still racing! Feel this.”

“Yeah mine too. Wasn’t that an

 adrenaline rush though? Forget

about extreme sports, bullfights are

the fucking coolest thing out!”

“But did you see the crowd Baldwin?

Everyone looked middle-aged.

I think it must be a generational thing

– it’s probably a tradition that’s dying out?”

 

 

 

“The 20th century’s almost dead Rox.

What’s wrong with people having a little

bit of fun before the next millennium, eh?

What’s so evil about tradition? This

 doesn’t hurt anyone. Jesus, these people

have been through a fucking civil war.

Franco only died in 75’ – maybe they

need to relax by killing a few bulls

now & again. Besides we’re not going

to see a bullfight in India now are we?”

“I suppose so Baldwin, but I can’t help

thinking about that poem by Lorca. 

You know the one he wrote about

his friend the bullfighter who was too

old but went back into the ring

& was gored to death; ‘Lament

for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias’.”

“Yeah so?”

“You, Baldwin, you remind me of him.

Ignacio. So vulnerable, so larger than life –

I’m not going to let anything ever happen

to you, my love! You know that?”

“I know you won’t Rox. But don’t worry,

I’ll be alright – nothing ever happens to me.”  

 

 

 

 

Samsara

 

It’s a place that somehow gets into your blood. Love it or hate it you can never ignore India. It’s not an easy country to handle, and more than a few visitors are only too happy to finally get on to their flight and leave the place. Yet a year later they’ll be hankering to get back.

 

India, Lonely Planet.

 

 

 

 

They were worlds apart: the man and woman, the dog and goat, east and west, the black canal and clear water tank. All opposites piled on top of each other, all extremities pumping their struggles out into the heat. What marriage was possible with the chaotic landscape?

 

Vicki Viidikas, Cuttack (Orissa)

 

 

A Pozzolanic Bulk God

 

The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten

By the dwellers in cities-ever, however, implacable,

Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder

Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropriated

By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.

 

T.S. Eliot, The Dry Salvages

 

 

(i)

 

The fresh scab of a pye-dog

heals over the wounded afternoon.

Didn’t you know that they fuel

trucks in India with pig’s blood;

axle grease is subcutaneous puppy

fat siphoned out & the rickshawallahs

sleep, wrapped in real polyp soft,

Alaskan fur seal. Scratch a shanty

& a pariah kite drops. The industry

of vultures picked clean as Pharsi

bones & carbon 60 poison scams

back fire on the false teeth godmen.

The city is an ultrasound,

& all the spoiled negatives

burn outdoors, outdoors.

 

 

(ii)

 

Here’s Baldwin & Rox in pregnant

traffic, waiting, watching & waiting,

trying to elope to the Foreign Tourist

lounge, New Delhi Train Station, when

thought’s ceiling fan oscillates through

them: Everywhere the strong, brown gods.

CO2 bleaches their lung’s oyster

bed as a Tata’s steel-belted claws

rends a black hole in the raw tar,

strewn from baskets that smoulder

with lotus. Beside the patched highway,

street-kids rigged with canvas bags,

prise off the hub-cap of time & hawk it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(iii)

 

They don’t know much about gods;

but they know that the semi-trailer

is a primitive, pozzolanic bulk god.

Its chrome Mack fetish, soldered

Sphinx-like to the hooded cobra

of a sacrificial, bitumen altar.

Kalighat recycles the sump of goats

& airbrakes; a throaty afterthought

shatters the awe of smog-busters

engaged for a combustive nanosecond

in the puzzle of a mongrel road-kill.

The fox terrier cross, hardened

into an indecipherable Phaistos

Disc, on the bronze-age shoulder

of a hungry, New Delhi Road.

 

 

 

 

Sabtabi Express

 

Both poetry and living illustrate:

Each season brings its own peculiar fruits,

a time to act, a time to contemplate.

 

Nissim Ezekial

 

 

Cowpats racked up; cheap

manufactured landmines detonate

in the faces of the low cast; history’s

consensual disfigurement of the poor.

A world away in France, ‘diggers’ from

Ypres strip time of its proper regiment

– the unknown soldier of individuality

reburied over & over again in a public

concretism worthy of its own art gallery.

The West’s private collections all dulled

despite restoration; mass produced

in the ego’s hollow shrine. India

smoulders; Baldwin’s eyes burn.

 

 

 

Rishikesh

 

 

Thrust deep into Ganga Ma’s glacial

mouth, a red brick spikenard; remains

of a 19th century British rail-bridge,

the attempted industrialisation

of the Godhead. Now a pedestal

to post-colonialism. For the split

second illusion of a child standing

in the mid-stream of consciousness

on the back of a crocodile, jaws

snapping at bus axles patched

with twine – arms extended in mudras;

Don’t be afraid Baldwin for I am

also your mother, extols the whitecap

witness, not a charcoal mascared

child, fool, but a manifestation

of the Supreme Truth – the One,

idiot, Varuna perhaps. Let this

reality stream from your forehead.

Build no new dams to self-knowledge,

oh, Son of Zeus-Ammon. Take all your

Western rubbish with you – don’t

throw it over the side of a mountain.

Here in the foothills of Shiva’s

‘fortress of solitude’, become

your own pop group.

‘Scratch a rock

& a legend springs’1.

 

 

  1. Line from Arun Kolatar’s poem, A Scratch

 

 

 

Luxman Julia

 

 

Behind closed ashram gates,

temple guardians (Dvārapalakas)

morph into Dicky Bird/Ganesha

umpires; raised fingers trumpet

as skull cropped Hindu boys

practice their reverse swing on

a flat cobblestone pitch. Several

gods get in on the action; the Trinity

hold a mid-wicket conference & set

an attacking field, Brahman stays

behind the stumps, Visnu goes

to first slip, Shiva to second, their

3333 manifestations ring the boundary

of potted palms & bougainvillea

(ala Mike Brearley’s one day field

setting circa 1980). The umpires note

this in their match reports & throw

up obstacles to the fielding side’s

path to righteousness all day long;

turn down every leg before appeal,

every bat-pad chance, before

bad light stops all universal play.

The gods gather their gear;

bats, tridents, maces & go home –

faces red as cherries with the effort

of one day enlightenment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Anti-Kali

 

 

Baldwin adorned with his 5ft

python necklace poses cross-legged

for the eye of the shutter in Roxanne’s

forehead to open – sending a shaft

of blue light into his eyes painted

with fine Ganges river dust.

The snake recoils automatically

into the hands of its owner/manager

& Baldwin, freed of the symbolic duty

lumbers to his feet, Indian children

tug at his Ganatapi proportions.

Hands over the twenty rupee fee;

his Fanta orange tongue hangs out

in a shameful display of earthly

intoxication. The Omega Man,

all on his lonesome.

 

 

 

Padam Shri Nek Chand

 

 

In the garden of outsider art;

Nek Chand’s world famous waste

recycled into men, women, children,

fabulous beasts of broken plastic

bracelets – 20 secret, hot years

of Duchampian experimentation

before the City Council caught him.

 

One man’s private obsession turned out:

this Simon Rodia of the subcontinent,

broken porcelain, tiles, telephone conductors,

bottles, glass, stones; a lingam of garbage

fused into an Indian DreamWorks.

This living gallery occupied by

the Chandigarh poor; more collective

ownership per square metre

of avant-garde art than anywhere

else in the modern world!

 

The labyrinth of an Eastern Minos,

peopled by homunculi cast from

bed springs & buttons. Padam Shri

Nek Chand – the Tom Bombadil

of India; a nature spirit investing

time & energy in humble roadsides;

in the found object enlightenment

of the 20th century.

 

 

 

 

In the Garden of Outsider Art

 

 

In Nek Chand’s shrine to recycling

Baldwin loses his Western baggage;

a post-pak jerry rigged by Chandigarh’s

finest stationers that could not squeeze

through India’s rigid postal system, it

being three centimetres too long &

Baldwin, three rupees too short.

 

“Christsakes Rox, I just put it down

to take a photo & now it’s fucking gone.

My Lorca posters, my two metre long

bullfighting poster, your photocopied

poetry & the poster of Shiva. Whoever

stole it is going to get one hell of a fucking

fright when they open it up, don’t you

think?”

 

“Sure honey, but I think it’s better

this way. You’ve been carrying that

shit around since Granada & let’s

just put it down too some bad karma

produced by that hideous fucking

bullfighting poster!”

 

“It wasn’t hideous Rox, it was

a work of fucking art & it would’ve

looked great in our living room,

in a nice black frame…& what

about your poems… what if we die

in a plane crash & your notebooks

all burn up, hey? What then?”

 

After a fruitless hour

Baldwin admits defeat,

the park’s homunculi

glimmer with mischief,

but they haven’t seen

anything yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Forest Brigand

 

 

(Somewhere, deep inside Tamil Nadu.)

Veerappan the forest brigand squats

on his haunches opposite our bull-

necked hero & studies his dissolving

Western pluck.

“Look at you, big Western fat man.

You think India is great adventure

for you until Veerappan catch you

like fly eh? What you do coming

to my jungle?”

Baldwin winces, a thin jet of urine

trickles down his meaty calf as he

eyes the .303 calibre Lee Enfield

rifle slung across Veerappan’s back

& mumbles a vague reply.

 

“I…we were on an tiger safari

& I got separated from the others.

My elephant bolted into the scrub

& then I fell off.”

“Ha! You fell off eh, Humpty Dumpty,

 Georgie Porgy Pudding & Pie kissed

the girls & made them cry!

Who are you then fat man?”

“My…my name is Baldwin. I’m

Australian. My wife’s name is Roxanne.

She must be very worried about me…”

“You Aussie eh? I like Mark Waugh

& Shane Warne very much. They are

very bad men like me! I have killed twenty

policeman with my gun, you wait until

 Aussies come to India. We will show

you some cricket eh? Ganguly, Tendulkar

& Dravid will beat your Glen McGrath.

You haven’t won in India for thirty years,

you know that fat man?”

“Um…no I didn’t know that, but

my favourite cricketer is Steve Waugh.”

“Ah… Steve Waugh yes he is very

tough man like me, when there is big

problem for you Aussies he saves you

all the time!”

“Yes… he does I suppose. Australia’s

on a sixteen test match winning streak

you know, Mr…”

“Veerappan.”

 

 

 

“Nice to meet you Mr Veerappan.

Do you get to see much cricket out here?”

“No… unfortunately not. I do

not leave my forest. The authorities

have orders to shoot me on sight!”

“Why is that? What have you done?”

“Not very much. For ten years

I kill government men who steal

sandalwood & shoot every tiger.

Then I kidnap the famous Bombay

movie star, Mr Arjuna Kolatar

& hold him here for a hundred days.”

“I…I see. What happened to him?”

“Arjuna? Oh, I give him back

after his family pay big ransom!

Eh, now how much you worth

Mr Baldwin from Australia?”

“Me…um…ah I’m not worth

very much at all. I’m only a public

servant back home. For the Tax

Department.”

“Tax man eh? I think I shoot

one of them too. Ha. Just kidding

 Steve Waugh number one ok.

Are you married Mr Baldwin?

Is your wife beautiful eh?”

“Yes…she’s quite beautiful

& fearless like you Mr Veerappan.

Takes no shit from anyone.”

“No shit eh? She a good cook?

I could use a woman like her.

She got blonde hair?”

“Ah….yeah she has…”

“Nice one Mr Baldwin what does she do?”

 “She’s an ex-kick boxer but now she’s at uni.”

“University in Australia eh! I think

you very lucky man, Mr Baldwin.”

“Oh & she writes poetry.”

“POETRY! By Lord Shiva, so do I

Mr Baldwin. Here, I show you some

of my writing. Don’t move please.”

 

Baldwin doesn’t move an inch

as Veerappan dives into a hut

made of palm fronds & strangler

vines. His sweat & urine hatch

a double plot to gag his mouth

as the forest brigand re-emerges,

a fanatical gleam on his face.

 

The Forest Poet

 

 

“Here they are Mr Baldwin,

who looks like Lord Buddhāvatāra.

Ha! My poems of struggle & defiance;

‘The Veerappan Sūtras’.”

Handing Baldwin a thick folder

of loose leaf paper, Veerappan

squats at his feet & urges our

bull-necked hero to open it.

“Please, Mr Baldwin read it.”

Baldwin flicks through

the illegible handwriting

until he comes across

a neat typed poem on

thin translucent paper.

“Ah…you have chosen wisely

Mr Baldwin. That is my very

 best poem. Please read it out loud.”

Baldwin slides the poem out

delicately from a slush pile of

semi-mouldy & rain eviscerated

pages. Holds it up reverentially

like an original copy of the Rig Veda.

Baldwin takes a huge breath

before he launches into Tamil

Nadu’s (& probably India’s)

most wanted, gun-toting bard’s

poetic manifesto.

 

The Forest Tiger

 

 

“The forest tiger is very restless.

He prowls about being careless.

His jungle home and English gun.

Never sits still always on the run.

He is the Lord of Tamil Nadu.

Never be captured or put in a zoo.

His stripes hide him like a tiger.

The government are the real robber.

Steal the best of his sandalwood.

He knows that is not very good.

They cannot shoot the forest tiger.

He is quick as Sachin Tendulkar.

All follow Veerappan for you must.

Or you will die and come to dust.”

 

by The Forest Tiger

 

Baldwin looks up, notices

moisture in Veerappan’s eyes.

“Mr Baldwin Sir. If I give you

my poems will you please publish

them in Australia?”

“Um…well…I’m sure my wife’s

 got a few contacts with editors

& publishers. Yeah, I’m sure she

can get somebody too look at them.”

“This is my big dream, Mr Baldwin.

For my poems to be published in UK

or Aussie & your wife a poet too!

I cannot believe this Mr Baldwin,

I cannot believe it!  Lord Shiva

has led you to me & the world

will know my name. Veerappan

the poet! Thank you Mr Baldwin,

thank you. Come, now I show you

the way back to tiger safari camp.

Please follow me.”

 

Baldwin lumbers after

the brigand cum bard,

clutches leaves of poetry

to his chest & hugs the most

fabulous words he will never hear.

 

 

Good Luck Chance

 

 

In this epic

Baldwin is not offered

‘A Good Luck Chance’

by the venerable Sai Baba.

Just buys a stick

of his trade marked incense

& boys’ light up.

 

New Delhi Station

 

 

“Baldwin. This is not Kings Cross Station,

Platform nine & three quarters to Hogwart’s

Schoolof fucking witchcraft and wizardry!

I can’t see the bloody Foreign Tourist

Booking Office anywhere.”

 

“Excuse me Sir, Madam, can I help you?”

intervenes a slim man in a old cotton suit.

“Yes, we’re looking for the Foreign Tourist

Booking Office. Do you know where it is?”

“Please come with me, I will show you.

It is across the street…the building with the blue front

 – you go up the stairs at the side to the second floor.”

“But why is it over there? That sign says it’s

somewhere in this building!” retorts Roxanne

cocking one eyebrow; loading that mental gun.

“That is an old sign Madam.

Please come this way, I will take you.”

“Hang on a sec Baldwin, why should we trust him?”

“Madam look – this is my card see? I work for

the New Delhi Tourist Commission. See..”

“Nah, I don’t think so. It’s alright mate.

We’ll find our own way.”

 

“Please Madam, don’t you trust me?

Here is my photo on the card. Sir,

your wife is not very trusting.

I am only trying to help you!”

“Um….you say it’s over there….shit Rox,

how are we going to cross that fucking road?”

“Baldwin, this is a scam, can’t you see it?”

“No Madam. This is not a joke. Please

follow me, I will help you carry your bags.”

“No Baldwin, don’t follow him. It’s got

to be inside the station somewhere!”

“Where are you going, Sir, Madam!”

“Excuse me. Have you been here before?

Have you ever been up these steps?

(Click of a Biro nib being retracted)

“Here it is Baldwin. Up the stairs.”

“No Madam, I assure you, the Foreign

Tourist Booking Office is across the street…”

“I know. Across the street, in the building

with the blue front & up the side stairs

to the second floor!”

 

 

 

Roxanne pauses, sizes up the man’s

mis-matched sunglasses, fake ID card,

torn notepad, leaking biro & faded suit,

before she unleashes a round into that

mental chamber.

 

“Sorry sunshine, pull the other leg.

It plays ‘Fuck me dead but I’m a silly cunt.

Now GET out of my fucking way!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tourist Interrupted

 

Vast, this vision

of energy

uninterrupted:

Valley of the Gods

 

Vicki Viidikas, Kulu Valley (Himachal Pradesh)

 

 

“Can you believe this Baldwin?

These guys are selling package tours

to the Kulu Valley. Fuck that for

a joke. It says here, that 26 Westerners

have disappeared there since the mid-eighties.

They didn’t know why until an Israeli air force

guy went missing & the Israeli government

launched its own investigation. Seems like

people were being attacked in their tents, robbed

& thrown off mountaintops. Pleasant isn’t it?”

“Geez Rox, it’s like a Bermuda Triangle

of backpacker murders. Even Milat didn’t get

that many, I think? Serves them right though.

Going off the beaten track by themselves, looking

for their ‘Eastern’ spiritual experience. They reckon

they grow really good dope in Himachal Pradesh –

its probably all drug related or something.

Deals gone wrong, you know what I mean.”

“Yeah honey, I’m not about to vanish

without a trace in India. You though,

you could pass for Ganesha & probably set

up a cult or something! You’d like that…power,

money, women…a Rolls Royce for every day of the year!”

“Now who did that again? Sai Baba? No…

that’s right, the Bhagwan. I think he only

got up to 30 or 40 rollers though.

Didn’t quite reach his enlightenment through

suffering under the Western automobile tree, eh?”

“Quick Baldwin, here comes that beggar again…

the one with the snake. Let’s split before

she asks us for another group shot. C’mon!”

 

 

Pythonesque

 

 

Sensing the rapid

withdrawal of body-heat

the common Indian python

sticks out its blue tongue,

which abruptly turns into

a miniature golden arch

upon contact with the sun.

 

 

 

The Desert of Thar

 

 

The dune beetle raises its upturned icebreaker

hull at a perfect angle to the morning star.

A tear from Lord Siva condenses on its convex

onyx chassis, inches down; obedient mercury flows

into a Corinthian helmeted head. For 15 minutes, Baldwin, high on bhang cookies, amuses himself

by flipping the beetle onto its back, burying it

in sand & watching the insect fight its way to

the surface, only to be swamped in mica again.

The meaty hourglass hand of god releases

granule after granule – saturation bombing

(insert Vietnam War footage of Hanoi being bombed).

This is how Roxanne discovers her husband.

The sadistic, suburban lizard torturing boy,

caught in the fusion of a new dopamine memory.

 

“Baldwin, what the fuck are you doing with that beetle?”

“I think I can. I think I can. I think therefore I am.

I think therefore I am a beetle too. Oh, what…

Hi Rox, isn’t the sunrise gorgeous?”

“Baldwin, you’re delirious. Come back to bed at once.

You’ll freeze your nuts off out there!”

“Yes Ma’am, freeze the nuts off a monkey’s butt!

I am the Lizard King I can do anything! Hah!”

“Fuck me dead Baldwin, you’re insane & stop

torturing dune beetles for Christ’s sake. C’mon!”

 

Half dragging, half tobogganing her husband

down the sand dune, Roxanne catches the early

morning glint of the camel drivers’ henna teeth,

bared in sympathy.

 

Train Song 3

 

 

“Jesus fucking Christ Baldwin,

some Indian army guy just groped

my breast!”

“What the fuck. Where is he?

I’ll beat the living shit out of him.”

“No you won’t. This train is loaded

with the Indian army. They’ll fucking

kill you without thinking. Have you

seen their eyes? They’ve all got thousand

yard stares. Must be from being so close

to the border with Pakistan.”

“It’s your blonde hair Rox, you’re driving

the male population of Rajasthan nuts!

Why don’t you cover your hair

with a scarf, for Christ’s sake?”

“Fuck off Baldwin. I’m not deferring

to these nutters, no fucking way!

The next bozo who wants a piece

of my ass is going to be in for

the shock of his life.”

“Now Rox, have some pity.

The men in India are all fucked up.

You’ve got the caste system, arranged marriages,

Bollywood fantasies – half the men will never

find a woman to marry.”

 

“Fuck the men honey – what about

the women. Do you see any mother

in laws dousing their son in laws in kero

& setting them alight? Do you see

any Indian women giving their daughters

an overdose of sleeping pills, because

they haven’t got a son? Do you see

the mis-use of ultrasound equipment

to detect the sex of an unborn baby

as a boon to Indian women?

Even the fucking cows have a better

life than most women in India!”

 

That night in the bottom bunk

of their three tiered beds, Baldwin

stays on guard duty, keeps eyeing off

the Indian army privates who patrol

the corridors; who stop & stare

at Roxanne’s prone form –

at her hair buried under the goose

feather burqua of her sleeping bag.

 

Train Song 4

 

 

DON’T

SHED

BLOOD

SHED

HATRED.

 

Indira Ghandi, railway sign, Shimla

 

 

 

 

An Allegory of Shit

 

 

(i)

 

John Kinsella’s novel Genre

begins to make more sense

in Rajasthan, particularly

the part when one of his male

characters relays a disturbing

childhood experience – of trying

to crap outdoors as a dog eats

his shit, stuck halfway out

of the boy’s arsehole

(sorry Dear Reader, but there’s no easy

way to put it!). The dog then licks

his fingers (as all friendly dogs do!)

& the boy smells his own shit

on them, transported via the dog’s

rough tongue. The boy never tells

anyone about it. John, so done

to death in India.

 

 

(ii)

 

From the rooftop

of the Slow Food restaurant,

Baldwin looks over the crenulated

wall of the golden sandstone, 12th

century AD fortress & spies a boy

of about 8/9, trying to take a dump

behind some bushes – but a pig

(not a dog this time!) keeps butting in;

tries to occupy the best seat in the house

& have a go at the expectant poo.

The boy, interrupted, tries to kick the pig

& crap at the same time, but piggy, black

as a burqua keeps on being attracted; a large

hairy magnet to the boy’s refrigerator flesh.

Then two more pigs approach, curious

as to the frenzy of action, both eager

to monopolise on the boy’s excrement.

Nothing wasted with our scorched

earth policy. Nothing

nullifies the pig element.

 

 

 

 

 

(iii)

 

Baldwin can’t get the thought

out of his head that one of these

boars might suddenly turn into ‘Pigsy’

from the TV series, Monkey.

That it’s all being staged with wires

& secret Holy Man palmed chemicals.

Where’s Funniest Home Videos when

you need them? Baldwin, fascinated,

watches the boy defend his makeshift

desert latrine from the trio of razorbacks,

wants to shout down some words

of knightly encouragement from

the battlement to him;

‘Kinsella was right – you can

trace it all back to our childhoods’.

 

 

(iv)

 

Finally overwhelmed,

the boy gives up & races

back home across the dirt street,

a dust-devil rises with each footfall.

The pigs, Baldwin decides

as a waiter dumps a menu

into his lap, those three little pigs

have at the end of the 20th century,

now become the wolves Dear Reader.

Read the special of the day & weep.

 

 

 

The Enlightened Ones

 

 

The sadhu, his three pronged trident

resting flat across his obsessive-compulsive

knees, sucks on an illusionary American cigar

& offers Baldwin a toke on his blackened chillum, enlightened with ganja. Pursing his lips over

the holy man’s calloused palms, our bull-necked

hero inhales, his western trained mind convulsed

in Hep A/C D/C ‘dirty deeds & they’re done dirt cheap’ antagonism. Even the ancient, schoolboy seed

of leprosy is sown.

“You like ganja my friend? Plenty for you, only 300 rupees”, intones the sadhu, his eyes white pinpricks against

the worldly possession of sunlight filtering in through

the rainforest canopy.

“Ah…no…no it’s alright, I’ve got my cigars, see duty free from Germany”, replies Baldwin hacking & coughing into his sleeve.

“250 rupees, my friend, just for you. You like India? Where you from, my friend?”

“Australia…”

“Ah….Australia. Big place sir,

like India. Very strong cricket.

Only 200 rupees for you. Please sir.”

“No…what I’m really after is something like that”, indicates Baldwin, fingering the sadhu’s multicoloured string

carry-bag.

“You can have this bag, my friend”, offers up the orange cotton clad visionary, ”for you, only 100 rupees.”

Baldwin examines the frayed carry-bag as the holy

man dumps its contents into his lap – a hefty quantity

of ganja concealed inside a leather tobacco pouch.

“No…you keep your bag. I wouldn’t want to deprive

a holy man of his only possession.”

The sadhu extends his right hand, grips

Baldwin in that most formal of western

rituals then cups his hands & smiles.

“Please, rupee for food.

I have not eaten today.”

 

Baldwin dives into his pocket, extracts

some coins & sprinkles 5 rupees into the sadhu’s

lotus flesh bowl. Gives the holy man a new

cigar, waves goodbye & walks down the road;

ignores the plague of autorickshaws

spreading down the mountain.

 

The River Beas

 

The thin-lipped armorer,

Hephaestos, hobbled away;

Thetis of the shining breasts

Cried out in dismay

At what the god had wrought

To please her son, the strong

Iron-hearted man-slaying Achilles

Who would not live long.

 

W.H. Auden, The Shield of Achilles

 

 

Baldwin marks the X spot

with the heel of his blundstone

where Alexander the Great finally

halted by the River Beas, Himachal Pradesh;

a golf divot of stories leaches to the surface

of Lord Shiva’s rugged country club.

Alexander, ground to a halt by Rajahs,

mountain tribesmen, old wounds, homesick

Macedonians, Indian elephants – the Missile

Defence Shield of the ancient world.

His insatiable competitiveness to reach the end

of the earth & the Eastern Sea doused by too

many rivers, monsoons, flash floods, an army

of 4000 tuskers always around the corner.

“This is where the Hellenic dream ended, Rox. Right here. Alexander’s men refused to go any further.

If only they had known how meagre the opposition

was on the other side – he would have conquered all of India too.”

“Then what would he have done Baldwin? Conquered China? Arabia? South America? How many more people would he have butchered, if he had lived longer? Half a million?

One million, two million?”

“He chose Achilles’ fate then, I guess didn’t he? A short life

& fame. He was my age when he died – Thirty-two.”

“Baldwin, you’re going to have to stop comparing yourself to HIM all the time! Alexander was a short, murderous, brilliant psychopath

who slaughtered non-stop for thirteen years. There’s nothing romantic

about that. Nothing romantic at all about the terrible destruction

he committed, the men he killed, the countless women & children

he enslaved, all in the name of Hellenisation!”

“But Rox, he was a great man. A thinker, tutored by Aristotle.

He explored the world as much as he conquered it!”

“Honey, I love you, but you’ve developed a simplistic masculine relationship with history…with the world. There’s nothing glorious about an early death. Hardly any of us will ever be remembered

after we die – by anyone! Achilles, Hector, Alexander.

Their names survive to this day because they killed

a lot of people! They fit a masculine heroic myth

that is constantly perpetuated by the media.

Who do you think will be the most remembered person

of the 20th century?”

“Um…probably Adolf Hitler.”

“Exactly, a butcher, not a painter, not a poet, not a scientist,

but a plain, ordinary mass murderer!”

“Geez, Rox, what’s got into you today? You still feeling sick?”

“No Baldwin, I’ve just had it.

I’ve fucking had it. With travelling. With India.

People should come here to get a perspective on how fucked up

the world really is! Anyhow, we’re out of India in three days.”

“I know, Rox, I know. I’ve had it too! I can’t wait to get back home either! All of our problems are completely insignificant compared to what we’ve seen overseas. Piddly. Hey, do you

 think we should sponsor a kid through World Vision

when we get back home?”

“Yeah… sure Son of Zeus-Ammon, when we get home

we can think about it then, when we get back home.”

 

 

Deep Vein Thrombosis

 

 

Well that’s about it for this epic

story, Dear Reader. This Iliad

of exploitation, this Odyssey

of obscenity. Not much happens

after this point. Baldwin our bull-

necked hero, after stepping off

the plane in Brisbane, collapses

& dies of complications arising

from DVT (it was the 20 hour flight

from New Delhi that did him in!).

Roxanne after mourning Baldwin

for three years collects his life

insurance& remarries, Jasper,

a Danish gym instructor.

& WHAT ABOUT THE OTHERS?

The Italian Doctor from Napoli

is eventually caught philandering

by his wife (who happens to have mafia

connections) & disappears in mysterious

circumstances. The boy cupid

of the PKK grows up & helps

to establish a new Kurdish State.

Nazim the retired civil engineer

from Bursa wins the Turkish National

lotto & writes a bestseller on Attaturk

& the Gallipoli campaign.

Carol, the physicist  from Ontario

discovers a gold vein whilst hiking

in Alaska & becomes fabulously wealthy.

The old rattled Hector from Troy

really was the ghost of King Priam

& still haunts Ilion to this day.

The little girl with the green eyes

who sat on the stone lion & whispered

‘Aslan’ grows up to become Turkey’s

first female President.

Ali Karatas of Avanos, becomes

a world famous lecturer on early Hittite

culture & eventually becomes Head

of Archaeology at Oxford University.

Boney M never reform.

Omar the carpet-seller migrates

to Australia & marries.

The Turkish teenage boy on the pier

at Kuşadasi becomes the captain

of his own trawler fleet & a champion

in the protection of the Aegean’s fisheries.

Alexander the Great continues

to be the romantic hero

for generations of boys.

The Minoan Palace complex

at Knossos is destroyed by another

earthquake & not rebuilt with concrete.

The belligerent American tourist

(Hank Reeves was his name) is kidnapped

by lesbian guerrillas in Michigan & after

two years of capture converts to feminism.

The Minotaur shoots US rapper Eminem

in self-defence (& claims that Eminem

stole his lyrics) & is acquitted by the US

Supreme Court. Martin Johnston is awarded

the Nobel Prize for Literature posthumously.

The Udo Kier look-alike from Matala

wins a Udo Kier look-alike contest in Berlin.

Achilles, Son of Zeus & Thetis

comes out of the closet once & for all.

Callisthenes, cousin of Aristotle remains

hard done by Alexander.

The literary journals Easterly, Gunpowder,

Underland, Coat, Embargo, Cool & Maglite

receive grants worth one hundred million

dollars from an unknown South Indian

benefactor. The little girl at the Panyiri

Greek Festival becomes of one Australia’s

greatest writers. The statuette of Alexander

the Great as Zeus-Ammon lost in the sinking

of the Express Samina off Paros, remains

lost for eternity. The bed in which Lorca

was born continues to attract fans of Lorca

to Huerte de San Vicente in Granada.

Salvador Dali’s paintings

continue to disturb people.

Roger Garcia becomes one of Spain’s

most influential avant-garde writers

& publishers of the 21st century.

Nek Chand attains enlightenment

& is deified as Nekchanda, the god

of outsiders in the Indian pantheon.

Veerappan the forest brigand receives

amnesty for his crimes, is elected

a record 5 times as the Tamil Nadu

State Governor, eventually becomes

the Prime Minister of India

& publishes three collections of poetry.

John Kinsella wins the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The little Indian boy molested by pigs in Rajasthan, becomes the UN Secretary-General & abolishes

poverty in the third world.

 

Universal Andalusia

 

It will be a long time, if ever, before there is born an Andalusian so true, so rich in adventure.

I sing of his elegance with words that groan,

and I remember a sad breeze through the olive trees.

 

Federico Garcia Lorca, Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias

 

 

& so the Australians buried Baldwin

breaker of cultures.

 

Universal Andalusia

It will be a long time, if ever, before there is born an Andalusian so true, so rich in adventure.

I sing of his elegance with words that groan,

and I remember a sad breeze through the olive trees.

 

Federico Garcia Lorca, Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias

 

 

& so the Australians buried Baldwin

breaker of cultures.

 

 

Universal Andalusia book review by Tim Wright 27th February 2007.

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