Monday, 30 July 2012

Poetry reading

Sonnet No. something or other

Another Will sonnet.

sonnet 147

a new poetry reading

the blackberries are cleared away for another year

another Pinocchio poem.

The accumulation of me:

Hanging from the scaffold
drifting back to the tree
from tree to seed; the seed
takes me to the earth, to ferns
chomped by giant reptiles
and eventually
the sea.

When they cut
me down
they wanted me to believe
the blue fairy
had saved me.

I stood firm -
felt my feet in the earth
of a million years ago,
the remains of the sea
in the tears that welled -

I am not a product of her wand.

Life did not come cheaply,
not for the seed
nor the tree:
Not for the plankton
nor the first single cell.

All steps on the journey
to the point
where I am able to claim
my own two feet.

Climate Change skeptic changes his mind - now for Abbot!

I think one of the hardest thing to do might be to change one's mind. When it is set we humans leave it there and then seek all instances that prove, or at least, do not disprove, our belief.  We even seek literal trickery to prove a point - for example, those who argue evolution is a theory - trying to cling to the literal idea of a theory not being a fact - when, scientifically, that is exactly what it is. Gravity is a theory - do we doubt its existence, its fact?

So, too, with climate change, the mind decides and then we seek to confirm our belief with every scrap of doubt that confirms our belief, every wild voice hollering in the dark disclaiming theory as (again) not a fact.

The theory of Climate Change has a new adherent, a man who has been a vocal skeptic for some years now. Richard A. Muller, professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, a MacArthur fellow and co-founder of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, has changed his mind and now accepts the theory of Climate Change. Another scientist joins the ranks of those who accept this theory.

Let us hope more politicians and CEO's also begin to understand that gravity exists, evolution exists, the speed of light exists, black holes exist, and climate change exists and that they are theories well tested and accepted by the scientific community.

Will done  Prof. Muller for studying the data, and allowing the science to change your mind, rather than allowing your beliefs to ignore the science.

Perhaps there is hope. - although one doubts so with Abbot. His 'who's on first?' approach to politics means he will never change his mind - unless it proves to win him more votes, which in the end, appears to be all he considers important.

Give me a  so called liar over a cheat, a thinker over a man of dogma, a person of integrity over a man who seeks opportunity to grab power.

In the end Abbot is part of the problem with Climate Change. He bellows and fills the air with hot air - and that is something we do not need in this critical juncture of history.

Climate Skeptic changes his mind

Great song with a killer beat by Belle & Sebastian

The boy with the arab strap

which makes me think of Bastian

and that leads to Falcor and The Luckdragon

Now Neverending story is good but has anyone read Momo?

Must write a review of this book.

Each year I used to read a chapter out to students about listening -...great chapter - chapt. 3 I think.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Ghost of Optus Oval article.

This was was written after the first season opener between Richmond and Carlton - a tradition that has served us well. Thought it was appropriate given our sterling win on Sat. evening.

It Is us Versus THEM!

When I was a wee lad kicking the Ross Faulkner ( rumored to be genuine pig-skin leather) football in the streets of Glenroy there were only twelve teams. Ten really, Ten and then there was St Kilda and Footscray – both of whom stuck out like sore thumbs. 1 flag each said it all really -  North and Hawthorn at this point had none but their jumpers made you forget about them, they were too similar to the mad moccasin mob from Carringbush. So as a kid it was easy to hate the kids who donned the wrong jumpers. The Essendon blondes and their Daffy Duck struts, the Country Bumpkins and their giggling ex-coach Bobby Davis, The Tigers and their balding Bartlett bouncing balls just before the jumper was tugged, their Bashing Balme and Booting Sheedy and so on.
Really I hated Collingwood ‘cos Nanna made me pat her stupid magpie statue whenever I entered her house, and I hated Essendon 'cos every second kid raved on about the mythical Coleman but the side I hated most was, of course, Richmond. So to start each season off with a win against the Tigers, well, what can I say. This week I have felt good. I have smiled and been bemused by the amount of people calling Carlton lucky to have escaped.
This is good. This reminds me of my childhood days when a Carlton win was always about the opposition and never about us. Take ’68 and the bespectacled Geoff Blethyn. We won the Grand Final by 3 points – mainly because we kicked about as well as we did last week, but all anyone talked about was the single moment when Wes Lofts grabbed (supposedly) Betheyn and a free kick was not awarded. Did they congratulate us? Oh no, everyone just went on and on about that moment as if a single moment is all a Grand Final is about. It isn’t, but still, having won the flag it really didn’t matter what they said, I just smiled and nodded and wondered when we’d win the next one. We won last week. That is all that counts. We won. We have the four points, the rest is spilt milk.
Now comes the Suns (and aren’t you surprised I haven’t mentioned the song – well okay I just did, but I haven’t used it once). The next grand adventure of this new colossus that is the AFL. Gone are those old days of the VFL when all games were played at 2:10 on a Saturday afternoon. When the trip to Princes Park was a mad dash through the back streets of Carlton in Dad’s old car. Dad’s been gone a while now, and so has the VFL but this AFL monster just grows and grows like that the fat old Toad that drank up all the water until the land dried up. Let us hope football never dries up!
It’s hard for us oldies to let go of those old rivalries but these new teams, these new teams just stick in the throat. I mean who really cares about West Coast or Port Power? I don’t. They are just games to win or lose but do not compare to the emotions stirred by a game against The Pies or the Bombers. They just don’t.
So we come to The Suns. First things, if I hear one more time how this is about history I swear I’ll vomit up more garbage than a Collingwood Cheer squad. History is about having played hundreds of games, of having won more games against sides than you’ve lost, about having won sixteen flags, about Jezza’s mark and Ragsy’s white flashes on ankles and wrists, about Big Nick giant thighs and Sergio’s bowed legs, about the tongue of Gag’s sticking out between his lips and Barass tossing his mouthguard (or was it teeth) into the muddy ground.
History is what has happened, not about what has yet to occur. For all we know (and for which I secretly pray) this mob might last a year and then sink beneath the horizon and never reappear – regardless of the many benefits granted to ensue instant coffee success.
This is just a game. A game by a new club who has yet to build any history against the Old Dark Navies, the greatest club in the VFL/AFL’s history. This week I hope to see Bower back, he’ll fix many of the problems of that undersized backline from last week. This week I want to see Waite kick goals and nothing else! This week I want to see more of Laidler and Duigan ‘cos they’ve helped release Gibbs and his game was a ripper last week.
I expect us to win this week against the Suns but I think it will be tough. It’s the travel, the heat, the unknown and their desire to start with a win. I think for a half it will be close but I expect the boys to break clear in the third, just like we did in the old days when the stands would rock at Princes Park.
Curnow was great last week and I think he’ll be even better this week. Murph will star and Yazz will find more space I think. I was happy to see our Giant smash the Tigers and expect him, with Hammer, to do it again this week. All I ask is that the boys kick just a little bit straighter, you know, sort of put it beyond doubt as soon as they are able. I do not need close games, in fact, in case the lads don’t realize it, I actually prefer the old shellackings to the few pointers – even against Collingwood. So this week I want a percentage booster. I want a tight first half, a rip roaring third and then the mad rout where everyone Bluebagger and his dog runs forth to kick a goal, I want a Red Sea of defeat, a perfect match to their Red Sea jumpers.
It will be fun this week, fun to start of the new AFL instalment with another reminder that we are The Old Dark Navies and we will never let you down – unless you are the conglomerate from the AFL!


In the bright blue air balloon,
filled with alleyways and square niches
where the city escaped its own shadows,
in a nest of rope and wooden intent
I wrestled with the wind.

Its billowing mass obscured
the truth that flight is a fancy best left to birds -
the basket no true cave, never a rest
but a refuge that lingered until reality
ground me again.

Birds fly whenever they wish,
lift and spread, leap, find the places where the wind
does battle with its inner voices,
and travel.

I must always land and walk for weeks,
my eyes littered with the sights
of men as ants and tress as small
as toothpicks, so that conversation is difficult –
I always want to shout.

The  memory
of the sound wind makes when the earth
falls far away
separates me from those who would, perhaps,
love me if they could.

On Sundays, I spread the balloon, limp
as a freshly killed dove,
and then watch the inflation,
feel the lurch -
I am away again; my mind desperate
not to let the knowledge of the landing
back in.

The blackberries are cleared away for another year

He walks down the concrete steps, the axe
tucked under his right armpit and blade
held in his tough right hand. He pauses

before the ground and searches the distant hills 
where grey sea otters float, crack muscles
on their stomachs - it will rain later.

Above his head a crow glides by, there
is a momentarily encasing in darkness
and then the sun regains the high ground.

The air is crisp, turns his breath to mist. The day
is bright, though the light is thick - as if he
is looking through a bathroom’s frosted glass.

He moves slowly to the wood pile where four
large sections of a tree await. The segments
are cut as if a surgeon dissected a giant worm.

Inside the wood is dark, where the insects
have won out, then the wood lightens
until the grey bark that encases and holds.

Behind him, the weeping willow watches, empty
in winter though soon the egg stealing curlews
will gather in large numbers. Sometimes thirty

or forty at a sitting, patient as the nuns from St Josephs
Home for Unwed Mothers; waiting for spring fornicating
to be done and the eggs brought forth to fill their bellies.

Before he hefts the axe, he studies the wood, searches
for the run of the grain; sees where the blade needs to hit,
swings in a blur then whacks the wood, slicing it clean  -

the first log tumbles into being.

He rests the axe, turns the stump and measures the spot
again. Whack, whack and then the next log -
like teeth from rotten gums, each log falls, formed.

The morning light drifts into the afternoon, the sea
otters draw close. The last of the stumps
is defeated, lies in logs around the chopping block.

He wipes the axe on his black t-shirt, rests it against the block,
bends at the knees and gathers several logs. He carries them
into the house , drops them into the wicker basket.

He hears her car turn into the gravel drive then the toot
of the horn she always greets him with. He smiles, turns
to the fireplace to hide his secret joy and relief.

In case its not wet enough for you.

rain dance

Friday, 27 July 2012

My Name is Asher Lev

A Review:

Asher Lev is a child with an extraordinary gift for painting. His father, Aryeh, is an emissary for the Rebbe, the leader of the Ladover Hasidic community. The two cultures, that of the Hasidic Jew and that of the artist, were always going to clash and so the novel has that marvellous inbuilt tragic narrative that sucks Readers in because we predict the collision and then read on, eager to discover the form the collision takes, and  to witness the wreckage.

In a way readers are like the "slow down" drivers who pass the car crash at the slowest speed possible, eager to see the wrecked cars, even to catch a glimpse of the broken bodies. It shocks us, but I suspect, it also makes us feel alive. There is an inbuilt fascination with destruction, with the tragic lives of others - the same fascination drives readers who turn the pages eager for the literary wreckage.

And like any author in command of his story, Chaim Potok builds the tension throughout the novel. There is Asher's powerful relationship with his mother, and the struggle with the autocratic rule of his father. At one point Asher must learn to paint nudes if he is to reach his full potential as an artist. It is against the Hasidic code to look upon a woman's naked form (let alone paint it) but Asher must break that code, must break with his community if he is to further his art.

And so we have this wonderful novel about the need for an artist to break with everything, to challenge everything and, as if that were not enough (and of course, it never is) the artist, to be truly great, must use everything, even his/her family and him/herself, as subjects for the art. Nothing must be guarded, keep hidden, kept safe from the shining light of her/his art. And it must be revealed - honestly explored and truthfully displayed.

In the end, Asher does two things which break the connection between himself and his family; the ultimate wreckage of the book, as we knew it would be from the opening pages where the connection between the young boy and the mother is already powerful and strange.

He paints a great picture - the making of him as an artist and the very painting he did not wish to pain but the artist within compelled him. The painting involves his mother and it involves the image of the crucifix. His mother as Christ, as it were. The image is too shocking for his Hasidic parents, too shocking and too revealing.

This is a great book. Another of the set of novels I regularly return to. I love the building tension and, of course, I enjoy the young artist who must work hard and sacrifice much in order to reach his potential.

There is another reason that the book grabbed me, though. That brilliant painting that Chaim describes, the great painting of Asher's mother, is a powerful image of my mother also. In the book the painting uses the Venetian Blinds as the wood of the cross - for Asher's mother would often stand, late at night, her hands pushing the straps aside, as she stood staring out through the blinds, and that image is a strong one of have of my own mother and her nightly vigil, waiting for her children to return safely home.

That is the thing about books, the thing that ultimately grabs us. In them there is not just the characters we come to know, in there is often something of ourselves. An image, an emotion, an event, that triggers our own memories, our own experiences, our own hidden shadows or treasured joys.

My Name is Asher Lev is a must read for anyone who wants to understand some of the forces at work as a young person begins to journey to becoming an artist, about the need for youth to find their own path, about the images we carry of our mother or father, images that often define large parts of our lives.

There is truth in this book and in the end, we may enjoy the sight of wreckage, whether reader or voyeur, but it is truth that will bring us back to a book again and again.

David Longlegs

Lavender spike shoved hard
down the throat (‘Here enjoy this, scumbag!’)
tickles the soul with thoughts
of sectarian dismemberment.

The rose petals stitched to eyes
belie the state of affairs between neighbours
and their barking dogs. (‘Mine’s a pit-bull;
he’ll tear your arse off for breakfast.’)

I dine simply on the bark of willow
(‘Eat boy! Eat your vegetables!’)
that grows like dying piano chords
out my sprouting nostril channels.

I drink the nectar of squished bees
in case they spread this flowering disease
across the landscape of human spines and tongues.
The yellow and black husks I dangle
from my rear vision mirror; drive down roads
packed fresh with road kill, scream at old ladies
who push the pedestrian light’s button.
(‘Get a life before death gets you, bitch!’)
At night while chewing the remains
of my hibiscus, letting the chewed bits dibble
between reddened lips, I light the fireplace
with my mucus, watch as it dangles - green stalactites
quivering like skinless kittens dumped
in a back alley -and compose letters to my dead
father’s friends (‘You owed him money you shits!’)

I cannot go to bed
for fear my nightmares
may be the truth.

Groucho Marx

what's my line

The Beatles - Abbey Rd

Listening to Abbey Road album today - even now, after all these years, it is an amazing album - so good that I found myself smiling like a babe on the bus as I listened to that b side medley. Brilliant stuff.

Come Together

Oh Darling


Octopus's Garden

Abbot and Costello - still makes me laugh

Who's on first?

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Tortoise Blog

So I've been putting a fair whack of time into this blog, becoming a bloggster - sounds better than blogger which always brings to my mind the need for Number twos - have I ruined that word for you now?

So now the articles are getting put up, like clothes on the line. My poems are raining down upon the blogging world, short stories are crying for bloggees to peruse and slowly the accumulation of me as a blog is taking shape - much like age really, the shape is bulging on a daily basis.

Oh, I remember those springtime blog moments when the pages were fresh and crisp and the whole concept was sparse, free to dream blogging dreams, free to imagine a different blogging universe where only good thoughts ruled, where my words were strong and fresh and I had a voice, oh bloggees, I had a voice crying out to be heard.

But time traps us all. Even blogs are mortal - to an extent. They certainly gain the weight of years.

But the point is this - yes there is a point - this is not just a blogging rant, or a raving blog. There is a torch being shone into the darkness of the bloggersphere.

How to attract Followers?

And how to elicit comments?

I have so few followers, must I then devote hours upon hours of following exchanges, like third world nations scrambling for the scraps left at the tables of the carbon consuming elite?
Must I enter the world (okay, so I have, in a dipping the toe in the water kind of way already) of  I'll follow you if you follow me  and play the game, play it as if we are all still in the playground searching for a friend to share the moments of loneliness with? Oh do not despair bloggees - I have an authorial capacity for self-pity. Those lunchtimes were rarely lonely, but genetically (creatively?) I can make the landscape as sparse as any desert - me standing there like the the lonely tree in Bahrain - Tree of Life, Bahrain

I get even less comments, the silence of the blogmos more deafening than any silenced lamb. 5 comments thus far and at least 2 are mine!

So what can be done?

I'm going for the patience is a blogging virtue tack.

I do not want to sift through endless blogging advice columns written by sad and lonely bloggster and bloggette spunsters and spinsters who dangle their carrots of blogging advice pilfered, lifted, read or thought up, just to lure the unwary blogging traveller to their overused, over-excused blog. No I would never stoop so low (or if I do I shall deny it strenuously - oh take me up to the mountain and I shall scream my innocence! Dunk me three times and I will float!)

There is no advice then, here. If you seek advice, go elsewhere (but stay a while, hit the follow button and add a comment or two before you go - bloggster begging is fine by me).

I shall write and add my thoughts and continue to fatten this blog until it falls into old age bloggsville
and along the way, perhaps, several followers shall follow, but not to some weird JamesBlogtown where we all lay down our thoughts and perspire into the ether.

I will maintain a vital blog, true to itself, gaining followers and comments slowly, like grass spreading upon those ancient savannas.

I am a tortoise Bloggster! So sleep all you blogging hares, sleep and dream your dreams of millions of followers; spread out across the bloggscape like rabbits in the fields and eat yourselves unto a famine for as your blogs lay gasping for words I shall type on and on and on... I am varily the Michelin blog.

I shall post and build oh so slowly and daily

or weekly

or monthly

I shall gain a follower or two

and elicit a comment...perhaps.

I am the tortoise and I am hare to stay - I know a pun - even a blogpun - is the lowest form of wit.

So come on bloggees, I'm the blogpiper, follow me!

T.S.Elliot. Poetry reading

The Journey of the Magi

Sonnet No. something or other

Oh grant me sleep you late night rousers
who pluck the cat gut fears of an old man’s intestines,
who skim the brain before thoughts settle
and become another day’s mulch.
Oh let me sleep you midnight carollers
singing fancy kisses past my linoleum ears,
who steal the dreams before hope sprouts
like a new bud in a dead garden.

I am so tired; my tattered memories 
rerun themselves endlessly, the loop
spinning while my words return to the dribbles
of my first utterances. Peace grant me
oh night stalkers, oh rebellious cheersters,
I have not the ink to stain another day.

Great song by The Decemberists

June Hymn

Robert Frost

The Road Not Taken

Bit of Will Shakespeare

Fear No More

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Conservative backout on Disability assistance.

Can I just add my voice to those disgusted with yesterday's lack of an outcome for a National Disability insurance scheme - as opposed to W.A.'s desire to do it themselves -  they are such a great state with a great record on disability support (rolling eyes here).

And we hear that Victoria and NSW just could not find the extra money, and apparently Queensland is broke.

Of course, none of this had anything to do with Politics. Oh no, not all, the fact it just happened to be the conservatives not wishing to get aboard- well hey, that's just a coincidence, nothing more.

I love that the conservatives call Julia a liar for having to renegotiate her party's stance on  dealing with Carbon emissions - you could call that politics, while they play the political game that I would call lying.

I worked in the disability arena for more than 10 years and I know the first area to lose funding is always the disability area. In fact at the moment we are about the worst country in the O.E.C.D. for assisting people with disabilities and their families - certainly if you look at the poverty index and its relationship to disabilities, Australia's record at the moment is appalling.

But, really, again, this isn't about disabilities is it. This is about politics. This is about one side (in this case, the conservative side) refusing to grant that the other side may just have a good idea that will help families dealing with the many difficulties a disability tosses their way.

Oh wouldn't a political system be good where both sides understood the dire need of these families and forwent their silly, petty squabbles over who is the best Party (newsflash: no one I know - on all sides of politics - thinks either of you is the best Party - we're all voting for the Notworst Party!) and just worked together to ensure the Disabled people and their families received as much help as we an (as a very affluent nation) afford - Hang on I know another problem where the same thing is needed.

Funny how the people with disabilities and the people who are refugees would both be the two people with the smallest voice in our society. Coincidence then that both have become political footballs - I think not!

Sometimes I think people actually blame the families who have someone with a Disability - sort of an old, pre-civilised, ignorant, idea that somehow the families deserved this (the righteous hand of some old god or other) and so we shouldn't help them (convenient huh?). And, sadly, once again the Political Parties, instead of doing what is right, take advantage of this ancient silliness and turn it to their political point scoring - after all, scoring a point (or preventing your opponent from scoring one) is so much more important than helping a family in need.

A Ghost of Optus article - AFL/Carlton

For the Supporters:

Football would become a business, a cold, heartless expanse of turf and flesh that kicked the almighty dollar around for the benefit of sponsors and sporting apparel designers: Would be this already if not for the supporters; the people who really pump the lifeblood around the clubs. The people who take all the hurts and store them up for Grand Final victories where they are unleashed at the game like millions of helium filled balloons.

These people are determined to maintain the true spirit of football, the essence of what it felt like all those years ago as a kid to dream the dream, to have a kid with some mates, to take a ‘specky’ or roll around in the mud. Without them football clubs would have sold their souls to the devil decades ago. Without them a jumper would be just so much nylon, a logo just a sponsorship deal, a new talent just another wealthy player in the making.

Luckily these people do exist, and not only exist but, with a stubbornness
a striking welsh miner would be proud of, refuse to budge. All clubs have them, even if they do not cherish them. People that hang around the fringes watching the boys train, cooking snags for other onlookers, setting up unofficial websites for supporters can meet for a chat, joining the VFL and supporting the Bullants, helping the kids, chatting to them, letting them know supporters still love this wonderful game, still love to see a kid get a kick or take a grab: That we are not rabid dogs who'll turn on them at the drop of a coin (or a game). These supporters are essential to the health of a club. they turn up to the functions and help the players maintain a sense of perspective, they are mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, successful businesspeople and people who struggled to pass any year levels. They are supporters of the club and of anyone who dons their preferred jumper.

At Carlton we have always been blessed with these supporters. People like Mr and Mrs C who turn up to club functions like the sponsors night, who sit with some young players and have a friendly chat. People like a certain sailor who spreads his nets far and wide, gathering titbits of gossip to share with fellow Bluebagger desperates. Mr and Mrs C are at VFL games, TAC games, and of course, the Carlton games, supporters each and every time, aware of flaws or problems yet never denigrating, always offering support and hope; hope, the flame the keeps all clubs burning bright even in the darkest winters of discontent.

This article then is for these supporters, the Mr & Mrs C, the website moderators, the gossip fossickers, the TAC followers like a certain golden hawk I know, the people who give up so much time because they love this game, they love it in a pure sense, even happy when a bright star shines for another club, for football is bigger than everything, bigger even than this great club, without it all clubs perish and our winters would return to humdrum affairs, to cold, meaningless weekends spent navigating the cold, wet daylight hours until Spring returned to us.

To these supporters I say thank-you; though you are anonymous you are not unnoticed. The effort you put in makes this game stay above the petty desire for the almighty dollar. Yes it is a business. Yes it is about money and debts and credits and balanced ledgers. It is about this but it is about so much more. It is about a kid flying high, trying to take that specky in his very first gamer. It is a about a veteran with sore knees rubbing in the liniment and preparing his battle-scarred body for another confrontation, another wrestle with that fullback called Time. It is the cheering from the stands the clapping of hands the screaming of ‘Fev!’ as he kicks another goal from the boundary line.

Football must always remain more than just a business or it will surely die, it will sink under its own inflated opinions until the stands remain empty and the grounds unused but while we have supports who are so dedicated to this great game, people from all walks of life who cannot think of a greater joy than watching the odd-shaped ball spinning over and over even when the losses might pile up thick and fast, like refuse outside a late night takeaway, they still maintain a gleam in their eye for they might be hurt by the loss, by the failure to play with passion, by the leaving of a certain player, but they never despair, never lose sight that it is the game they cherish, the game they spend hours nourishing as it in turn nourishes them.

To all those supporters we owe a large degree of thanks and it is a pity they are not the ones the media turn to, to show how we feel about the game, they might not sell the papers or make the headlines, but they are this game as much as any Unmoveable Centre-Half Back or fleet-footed Midfielder.

A Pit Stop for Firewood

On the way home, winter, dusk, water
clings to leaves; drips disturb the heart.

Old green station wagon’s tailgate
is open; a mouth waiting for the feast.

In a thicket scrounging for fuel, thoughts
like old twigs snap under memory’s weight.

The distant groan of cars. Time slips away,
urge to flee held at bay by piling firewood.

Boyhood and primate resonate behind thin
veneer of husband/father/man heading home.

Click of indicator as loaded wagon joins the blur;
the damp, real smell of car’s cargo excites.

Ancient man returns after a successful hunt,
the beast subdued for another diluted evening.

Later there will be a fire, feet on stool, a wine,
perhaps Bach. In the folds of mind, unease.

A short story


Julie McGregor hid under the house for three days. There was nowhere else to go. Where does one escape to when living in the wilds of Tasmania? Escape and live that is – not become another lost skeleton hidden in a sodden valley only moments from water.  Bleached bones claimed by the severity of the subtropical rainforest where its sheer vibrancy overwhelmed a person and caused despair to ruin any hope of survival. Bones picked clean, never to be found though the town might be only three miles distant. Julie wanted to escape the house and its occupants although she had no idea where she wanted to escape to.
She fled the house via the wire door at the back, letting the door bang behind her for the first time in her life. The men always let it slam shut, never once bothering to put out a hand to halt it before it banged. Even as children her boys had failed to heed her screams and always let the wire door bang behind them as they raced outside to play.
Outside, the sunshine blinded her. She felt caught, like a rabbit trapped by the bright lights of a Ute filled with hunters, shotguns, alcohol and bloody laughter. Julie wanted to find somewhere dark: Dark, moist and cool. She felt hot and flustered, a simmering anger sapping her energy. She was tired of the house, of its loudness and the harsh demands its residents placed upon her.
She fled the house and headed for the wire gate that led onto the footpath. At the gate she stopped. She could not go out into the street. Where could she go? Who did she know? She knew their names and they knew hers but she did not know them. Had never really wanted to. Julie was originally from Hobart, ‘the city’, the antithesis of their existence. Besides, did she want to run down the street, shouting? For what? What could they do? The women all shared her look in their eyes when they were certain no men were watching. The men would not do anything, unless one of them shot her like a wild dog that had strayed too near the town.
She wandered back up the path and stood in the backyard beside the three cement steps that led down to the small footpath. The old weathered footpath led to the clothesline. How many times had she tread that path? How many baskets of washing carried back and forth like a flower opening and closing? As she stood frozen beside the house not knowing what to do she heard the sheets flapping on the Hill’s hoist, snickering at her like a self-satisfied mother-in law offering judgment on her apple pie.
She turned and looked back at her house. She hated it. Then her eyes saw the dark between the runners that hid the space between the earth and the floorboards. A large space with deep shadows and a heavy, earthen silence.  Julie moved close. The shadows that lived under the weatherboard house whispered to her. Her right hand reached out and touched the gap between two of the wooden boards. She felt the cool air lurking beneath and sensed the immobility, the absence of expectation.
It was an easy thing for her to slide open the latch, push the small door ajar and then slip under the house. She slid herself deep into its underbelly, the dry, earth and moist air comforting her, raising up the ghosts of her composed, self-sufficient childhood. She bent low and slipped into the darkness, heading deeper and deeper under the house. The further she moved the lower to the ground she had to push herself until she was slithering like a snake, heedless of the dirt that smudged across her dress and discoloured her face and hair. Finally she reached as far as she could go and curled herself up in the small gap at the front of the house. Curled herself up into a tight ball, her hands gripping her knees as if she needed to hold something in. She closed her eyes and wrestled with the shakes that made her whole body quiver like a wet, lost pup.
Fighting her battle with her rebellious body, Julie was unaware when the weather turned; turned like a black cat and spat at the small town until everything was drenched by the cold, hard rain that fell just scant weeks after it would have done the most good. Fell just in time to ensure everyone stayed on the land and tried for another year. Stayed and dug out new ruts in the belief that surely this year must produce enough surplus to lift their heads clear. Perhaps the weather changed in sympathy. Maybe the fluffy, dry, white clouds sensed her need and gathered to themselves turning dark and grey and full of tears. The rain fell hard and angry like a father’s unforgiving words. It was a biblical rain. It lasted almost three days and nights without a pause for breath.
Jammed under the house, Julie kept her eyes closed as the rain released a thousand and one scents. She smelt the conifers she had planted because she liked their soft colours and easy order. She smelt the wet grass of her lawn that for twenty years had fought a rearguard action against the weeds bought across on shoes careless as they scattered the seeds across the hot dry mainland. Seeds that guffawed when they touched upon Van Dieman’s Land with its cool, wet climate and dark, fertile soil.  She smelt the rotting dog smell from where Hector, her husband’s Great Dane, lay buried in a shallow grave beside the fence.
For three days Bill, her husband, and her three boys, Stan, Johnny and Peter the youngest, searched for her. There was no danger that she would be discovered. Searching, for Bill and the boys, consisted of bellowing out across the yard from the back door or telephoning around town to see if anyone had seen her.  Once or twice they set off together to do the rounds of the town and even a little venturing into the neighbouring forest. They never thought to actually conduct an organised search. The boys assumed she would return while Bill feared she had finally done a runner on him. Something he had half expected since early on in their marriage. He had always been surprised that she had agreed to marry him in the first place.
Even if they had searched for her, Julie knew there was still no danger of being found. They were all very hefty men with large bellies that shook when they hollered a greeting to another big-bellied male who hollered just as loudly back. She could not imagine them actually getting down on their hands and knees and peering between the boards to see her let alone actually crawl under the house. ‘Not that they would fit,’ she thought, ‘more likely one of them would become jammed and then I’d have to rescue him.’
Julie wondered why it was that a man could not sense the end of his stomach. She often found herself pushed out of the way by a stomach as it passed by her in the house. She’d be bent over a stove or reaching up to clasp a bottle when suddenly she’d be thrown forward by a stomach, like a landlubber on a lurching ship. So many years with their stomachs and still she had not gained her sea legs. The stomachs gave her no heed and the men gave their stomachs no thought. She dreaded a meeting with one of her men in the house’s hallways and doorways. She carried with her a fear of being squashed under their fleshy fat.
She was a small woman: Five foot five in the old measure. Five foot five and seven stone. ‘Get some fat on yer luv,’ her husband often snorted at her from the end of the table where he sat sucking the marrow out of bones left over from the roast. ‘Get some fat on yer or one day you’ll vanish and no one’d be the wiser,’ he’d say. Her boys would all nod their big, blunt heads and agree, each feeling the spot in their stomachs where her meals usually resided quake in fear.
It puzzled her that all three of her boys were large like their father. ‘Not one of ‘em small and quiet. Not one of ‘em a babe or child to hold in your arms and hug for comfort. All big and brash and eager to be off doing the manly things leaving me alone in the house while they grew and spread and filled the neighbourhood with their comings and goings.’
She sometimes woke in a sweat, dreaming the memory of their births. Their large heads pushing adamantly, the small of her back attacked by a jackhammer; her whole being stretched and threatening to spilt apart like an old cotton dress.
She’d lie there in the dark listening to her heart until her husband’s hand flopped like a dead fish across her chest and she’d be forced to move or scream for fear of suffocation.
It had been hard to birth them in the wilds.  In the Tasmanian wilderness there were only degrees of dirt poor all with their own stories of hard luck. The bog Irish had settled the town and surrounding countryside. Their shared descent seemed to snare everyone into a perpetual war between needs, the land’s unconcern and the warbling of radio and television that showed lives so different as to be unreal.
There was no means for her to get to a hospital. There was no local doctor on call only the local midwife and they were hardly on talking terms since a misunderstanding that happened when she first arrived to the town as a red cheeked, small bosomed newlywed. No drugs to ease the agony. And he was no help of course. While she screamed he sat in a corner of the room drinking gin tonics and smoking camel no tips: Two bottles of gin and three packets of cigarettes per child. Then as she lay in the stench of her sweat and blood, gathering her strength for the babe’s onslaught, he’d sit, slumped in his chair, snoring in time to the cries of the hungry babe. They were all born hungry, their fat lips sucking hard for the ensuing months, never a thought for her cracked nipples or aching bones as they clutched and tugged and demanded with their loud voices and clasping hands to be fed. ‘Its seems,’ she sometimes thought at night when she sat staring into the darkness through the window, ‘that they’ve done nothing but eat since I birthed them.’
It was not one particular thing that led her under the house. Rather it was a culmination, a stoking up of pressure. What could you expect living with four giants who had little regard for her petite frame, her tender ears, and her delicate hands. It was a fear that had been building for years, beginning with a tiny tick in her left hand, moving into a habit of stretching her neck whenever they called for her, merging into a tension displayed in the severity with which she stretched the bed sheets, a savagery in the way she wiped down the table and benches after mealtimes.
A fear that forced her to flee the house because it had finally grown so large she could no longer contain it (A fear that made her seek refuge in the dirt and shadow beneath the floorboards, floorboards she swept to cleanse the house of the dirt and dust dragged in by the men’s’ work boots). A fear that took hold and kept her mouth shut while their booming voices cried out her name. She ignored their calls, ignored the panic in their voices as they hours and then days drifted by without a sign of her. Ignored the various neighbours who came to see if they could unravel the puzzle, and then leave scratching their heads.
For three days she sat huddled in the darkness. During the day she listened to their stomping feet as they pounded her floorboards into submission. At night she listened to the insects pinging their lives against the light bulb on the back porch and the bedsprings creaking under the weight of her boy’s and husband as they tossed in their sleep (each caught in a dream of crazy solutions to her disappearance). In the dark she listened while her hands constantly brushed at her skin to flick away the creepy-crawlies, both real and imagined.
By the second night her mind had slipped into old memories of childhood. She remembered a game her brother (dead these fifteen years – drunk and driving to see an estranged lover) and she once played with sticks. The sticks were lined up close together, enough space for the feet to tippy-toe between, no more. As the game unravelled, the space between the sticks grew further and further apart. As a girl she loved the game, could almost imagine she was flying between the gaps, a comet between the planets.
She remembered a cousin called Bill who had once slid her beneath an old single bed while she was pretending to be asleep. It was a hot summer and they had decided to sleep on the floor’s cool lino. She was thirteen and very curious as to what he was up to so she kept her eyes shut and waited, her flesh tingling as his gentle hands slowly pulled her under the bed’s shadow. Then he had stopped and waited for what seemed like half the night before his hands had reached out and slid under her pyjama top. She lay still, feigning sleep, her small heart thumping furiously. He had reached up and felt her beginning breasts. She had felt a weird pulsation flowing in her body, down her spine and between her legs. Still she feigned sleep while his hand had slid down her stomach and beneath her waistband.
Then she had pretended to come awake, making sure she gave him enough warning to remove his hands. She had gotten up to go to the toilet, her face flushed, her heart beating with a wildness that recalled to her mind the time she had stood on the edge of the ocean during a thunderstorm, the wild waves crashing madly, the air filled with water though the rain had not started to fall, while all about her lightning and thunder had raged a war of wills.
For months afterwards she had wondered about the events of that hot summer’s night. She had heard rumours of ‘things’ to do with adults but she had no idea what ‘things’. She thought about Bill’s hand. About the funny feeling she felt in her stomach. Even now, after so many years Julie lay in the shadows and felt a flush spread throughout her body as she remembered Bill’s gentle hands as he slid her across the lino.
‘Bill,’ she whispered quietly, ‘gentle Bill.’ She wondered what his hands might have been like instead of her husband’s thick, calloused blocks that seemed to push her flesh out of the way and reach in to bend her bones and cause her a discomfort that she held back only by keeping her mouth firmly clamped shut leading to a series of tight wrinkles that ruined her smile and made her appear to be in an eternal grimace.
She pictured Bill as she had seen him several years ago when they had both attended a childhood friend’s funeral.  Bill had grown into a small, slight man with large, bright eyes and white hands that looked like they could caress the ivory off a piano. They spoke together briefly about their gardens. ‘Imagine,’ she thought in the darkness, ‘a man knowing about flowers and plants and things.’ And again she thought about his hands stroking the petals of soft flowers, using the secateurs like a surgical instrument, displaying a patience that was needed to be a successful gardener.
Tears rolled down her cheeks. She remembered her magnolia tree. A tree she grew from a friend’s cutting. Nursed and nurtured and protected until it spread its roots deep into the pot and grew strong enough to plant in the yard. She dared plant it one fine spring day in the back yard only to have him stumble over it one day while playing cricket with the boys. Stumble and fall like a fool, snapping the tree at its base. ‘Don’t worry darlin’, me an’ the boy’s ‘ll get another one for yer,’ he’d promised, tears threatening to spill, a slight quiver to his hands, as he stood in the middle of the yard holding out the broken tree like a peace offering.
Of course there had never been another magnolia although he did buy her a lilac tree, ‘cos it reminds me of the way you smell luv’ after you’ve had a scrub and come to bed.’  She had grown to hate that lilac, its thick smell, its frolicsome flowers and its spring gaiety. She often wondered what it might have been like to stand at her kitchen sink and stare out at the magnolia flowers that clung to bare branches like tears to a child’s face.
On the third day, at six o’clock in the evening, just as the rain ceased to fall and the sun broke clear to shatter the horizon into a brilliant pink and the rabble of birds called the night to bring the house down, Julie rolled herself onto her back, a groan escaping past her cracked and dirtied lips. She stretched out the kinks and blinked in the light that filled the gaps between the running boards. ‘Its now or never,’ she said to herself.
Julie rolled back onto her stomach and inched her way out from under the house, crawling backwards so that her feet first appeared out from the small door, then her body and lastly her head, like an insect emerging from a cocoon. She stood up and moved her hands, as if drying them in the evening air.Peter, her youngest, discovered her when his emerging sense of pain forced him outside.
‘Mum! Where have you been?’ he shouted so that half the island of Tasmania knew she had been found. He strode down the sideway towards her then stopped. She saw him register the dirt on her clothes, the grime on her cheeks from shed tears. She watched his eyes flick across t0 the small door that was still open and then back to her, confusion filling his open, innocent eyes. The blood drained from his face.
‘Dad! Dad! I’ve found her!’ He cried so that the other half of the island now knew as well.
Julie stood before her youngest, watching the way his eyes flittered from her hair to her hands to her dress to her face to her feet and back to her hair. They all came running towards her, bumping and pushing against each other. They all couldn’t fit in the sideway at the same time.
‘Julie, what’s been goin’ on luv?’ asked Bill.
‘Shoosh dad!’ called Peter, ‘take a geezer at her, will ya.’
Julie felt herself thinning out again, becoming transparent, insubstantial: An object misplaced in their clumsiness. Not a person, not someone able to act independently.
‘Stop it!’ she cried out, causing them to jump back. Bill’s mouth hung open like a broken gate. ‘I’m standing right here. I’m able to hear what you say. Talk to me! To me, not each other, or there’ll be hell to pay!’
‘You heard yer mum, boys, talk to her. Ask her ‘ow she is.’
‘You okay mum?’ asked Johnny, his hand brushing the hair out of his eyes.
‘That lock of hair has been there since the day he was born,’ she thought to herself. ‘I’m fine Johnny, and I wish you’d get a hair cut,’ she said.
‘I will mum, I promise,’ he said backing away.
‘Mum,’ said Stan, his foot digging into the earth.
‘Its all right Stan, I’m not contagious or anything,’ she said, holding her hands out. ‘Or are you too big to hug your mum?’
‘Its not that mum,’ said Stan as he moved close, ‘its just I know you hate the size of us.’ That shocked her. She would never have guessed he was so perceptive. She moved to him and they hugged lightly. She felt Peter touch her hair and Johnny rub her back. She smiled at their timidness. ‘I must shout at them more often,’ she thought.
Later she lay, unchanged, resting on her bed, not caring about the dirt she was displacing everywhere. She heard Bill telephone Marion Flanagan, the local expert on all things feminine, and ask her to come around and ‘have a look and talking to with Julie, ‘cos she’s actin’ a bit strange.’ A pause and then, ‘Just come over, if yer can Marion, see for yourself, talk with her, see what’s up. Can you do that?’
As Julie lay in bed staring up at the ceiling her husband popped his head in and whispered ‘Everythin’ ’ll be okay now luv’ I’ve rung for Marion and she’ll be over in a jiffy.’
Bill pulled his head away and closed the door. Julie realised she must invent a story or Marion Flanagan would badger her for hours with her questions. ‘Why did you go under the house Mrs McGregor?’ or ‘Did you bang your head and fall unconscious?’ Or worst of all, ‘is there some problem between you and Bill?’ This last one asked while she pressed her hands to her breasts, as if trying to keep a deep hope in check. Then she’d leave Julie alone and run out to spread the news of the strange behaviour of Julie McGregor and how unfortunate for that man and those three boys to have such a frail minded woman.
‘Frail in body, frail in mind,’ Marion Flanagan would declare, ‘that’s what my mother always said, and never has there been a woman who knows more about human nature than my mother.’ And of course her listeners would argue, gently but firmly, that Marion knew perhaps even more than her mother. Marion would deny it of course, and in the denying only confirm their suspicions that she did know more than Old Judith Kearney, Marion’s mother.
In the end Julie told her husband, her sons and Marion Flanagan that she thought she had seen a small child, one of the neighbour’s sprawling brood, crawl under the house. She had simply gone under the house to check but had knocked herself unconscious. No one believed her of course, but that was not the point. She needed to give them a reason to pretend all was okay. Nothing more. Marion sighed with relief, stared at Julie’s husband wistfully for a moment then asked if she might be able to have a cup of tea. Marion sipped her tea with Bill while the boys stood around their mother’s bed wondering if she was mad or something and when dinner might be expected.
‘Get out with you all,’ she said to her boys after Peter’s stomach had grumbled for the third time. The boys all shuffled towards the door. Johnny was last to leave, he paused as at the doorway and turned back to look at Julie.
‘Yes? She replied waiting for the demand.
‘We’re all sorry you know,’ he said quietly and then left the room and shut the door behind him.
‘Sorry,’ she thought as she lay in bed. ‘We’re all sorry.’ Tears threatened at the corners of her eyes. ‘Sorry, sorry for what? That they think I’m mad? That Peter’s stomach makes such a racket?’ Julie was certain they did not mean anything more than that. They couldn’t mean that they were aware how she felt and were sorry for that. ‘No, no never.’
When she heard Marion finally leave Julie rose out of bed and padded quietly into the bathroom to have a shower. As she stood drying herself after the shower Bill knocked on the door and entered.
‘Sorry to disturb you,’ he said and smiled as he saw her hair, shiny as the day he had first laid eyes upon her. ‘Feeling better then luv?’ he asked.
‘Hmm,’ replied Julie as she averted her eyes and concentrated on drying her hair.
‘I’m glad that Marion woman’s gone,’ said Bill.
‘What do you mean?’ she asked as she took up the brush and began battling three days worth of tangles.
‘Oh I know how she looks at me,’ he said. Something in his voice made her forget the mirror and turn to look at him. ‘She can’t hold a candle to you luv, leastways not to me. You’re the only way for me, only one there’s ever been, though what you see in an old woodchopper like meself I’ll never know.’ He finished as he rubbed his right hand against his thinning, grey hair.
Seeing his hand brush across his hair like that she remembered when the hair had been a thick, rich brown and he had stood in his pants and singlet, axe cupped under his armpit and resting on his arm, the wood chips scattered all around and he grinning at her because he’d won the Marysville final and they’d be going to Burney for the state championships.
‘Remember that week in Burney?’ he asked as if reading her mind.
Julie looked into his eyes and saw more there than she ever expected to see. Saw all he wanted to say but never could. She even saw the gentle spirit that lay deep within, hidden in the folds of his fat and muscle, a genie in the lamp. A potential trapped by the unexpected change of circumstances never expecting to escape.
Standing there looking at him she thought about his life, his struggle with a changing world threatening to leave him behind. ‘That’s why he’s so loud,’ she thought, ‘it’s a battle that he’s losing but refuses to give in.’ She saw the man he could have been if things had been different. She saw a straight backed , quiet man strong in his sense of belonging. ‘Its sad,’ she thought, ‘when we find ourselves in a place different from our choosing, or from what we expected when we chose.’
‘Can’t a lady have a bit of privacy,’ she said.
‘Sorry luv’,’ replied Bill, ‘thought you might need a bit of company after yer ordeal.’
‘Ordeal! Ordeal is that what you’re calling it now?’ Said Julie as she waved her hairbrush beneath his nose. ‘If you want to know the ordeal Bill McGregor, ‘tis the ordeal of living with you and the three boys. The four of you cramming me for space. All of you so loud I wonder the house hasn’t fallen down. That’s the real ordeal Bill and don’t you go forgetting it.’
Bill stared down at the brush waved beneath his nose. ‘Um, yes I see,’ he foolishly said.
‘No you don’t. Not ever. Guess you thinks its easy for me, cleaning, cooking and the like while you strut about with your axe tucked under your warm for all the world lie you was apart of the lorded gentry.’
‘Ah,’ mumbled Bill as he backed towards the door.
‘Now get out Bill and let me finish, is that too much to ask of you.’
 Bill fled the bathroom. He went to fetch the three boys. ‘Come on lads’ he cried out loud enough to shake the house, ‘let’s give yer mum a treat and head in for some Chinese. I might even buy a bottle of that plonk she likes, whadya say?’
Julie finished brushing and applied some lipstick. She wondered about the Bill she had seen in that moment in the bathroom. A man she hadn’t seen for too many years to count. ‘Still there though,’ she thought. ‘Still there beneath it all, waiting, shivering, anxious that I’ll say no. Even after all these years, still fretting about my answer,’ She snorted out loud and found it difficult to keep the smile off her face as she thought about Bill and the boys. She listened to them recklessly whooping around the house getting ready to take her out.
‘It might not be everything,’ she thought as she clipped her bra into place, ‘but it’ll do me.’ Which, if she had only remembered, were the exact words she had used with her mother twenty-nine years ago when describing how she felt about Bill.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Ahh the beatles.

I've got a feeling

The answer poem as a reading.

the answer inside us all resides

The Call

The Call Inside Us All Resides;
(for dad who sailed from the hospital)

What is it that twists me so?
That calls to me across the unending waves
Until my feet itch to be on their way
Without even knowing where they go?

I once dreamt of unicorns;
Of shining horns that pierced the night sky.
I dreamt of crescent smiles
And the gentle shade under a sacred oak.

Now I feel the grass, hear the wind in the leaves,
The whisper of things past and that yet to happen,
And even as I try to stir, the sun steals my passion.

The West calls! The West calls!  
The Land of Grey, the Land of Change
The Land to fear
Yet whose discovery bestows peace.

We are the river that always finds its true path.
We are the wolf that howls proudly to its mother.
We are the antlered King who runs before the pack.
We are strings of the harp; we cry the sweetest tunes
Across the blossoming meadows of all the realms.

We are them all and much, much more.
We are them all and none exactly.

The moon is red
The moon is white
The sable moon burns bright tonight.

We are the acorn. 
We are the oak.
We are the hunter. 
We are the hunted.

We are them all 
And much, much more
We are them all and none exactly.

For the journey never ends.
It twists and curls,
Touching back upon itself before proceeding on.

Eagles screech above me as they circle the sun,
Reflecting its golden warmth in their outstretched wings.
My thoughts yearn to fly also, to spread their wings
And carry me to the Island beyond the Western Lands.

Let us flee ! Let us flee !
Let me set my dreams free
Upon the verdant ocean of possibility
While above the gentlest clouds of gossamer gold
Shows that the morning light is rising.

I will reach another day,
I will land this craft
on the shore and stand again
on the sand, feeling my feet sink
even as my thoughts soar.

I am the Viking with helmet and shield,
I am the Celt using the secret Ogham alphabet
I am the Roman, straight like a road,
I am the Shaman dressed in the raven’s guise.

The night brings doubts, brings ripples
small concentric rings that draw me inwards
to the centre of the lake, there to meet
the Lady I once knew but left behind
when the genes and their designs forced an answer
I surrendered to time and time again
regardless of the consequence or the issue.

We all abandon, all flee
And are chosen. All fight
And are defeated, yet in the ashes
Rise up and strive again to answer
The call that lingers within, that fades
But will never cease
Until we feel the earth upon our face,
Until the worms burrow into the flesh
And the breath we used so cheaply
Falls still upon the hearth.

My hands have held the oar, have waved the wand
Have proved time and again the pen is no more mightier
Than the sword for in the end
We all sail upon that final sea, the memories
Filling our sail, the waves singing our journey
And behind us, always, those we love
Or wished we might have,
Stand and watch and know for certain
They, too, will answer this ultimate call.