Larapinta 

Ken lay awake, content in his sleeping bag, and thought about how this short journey was beginning to end. He imagined boarding the plane tomorrow and how the inflight procedures were identical to the ones he witnessed on his way out here, but would now feel in reverse, as if all that had been built, the friendships made and landforms experienced were being unravelled. He would arrive at the airport early, he thought, putting on his beanie, and sit at a bench and try to summarise his last twelve days on paper. He knew this trip was not about details. Twelve days was not long enough to get a feel for the subtleties of Alice Springs, the West Macdonnell Ranges and Uluru. It was too late to learn even a single word of the Arrente language, he told himself, but he’d be better prepared next time, if there was a next time. In less than twenty four hours the plane would taxi to the take off position and a baby would be screaming and the professionals would be reading and he’d remember a critical comment a hiker made that allowed him to realise that when you spend most of your time travelling you rarely spend long enough with anyone to see the nasty side of their character. Lying on his back on the inflatable mattress that had developed a slow leak, Ken looked up at the stars and the tops of the ghost gums and the outline of the gorge falling to the sandy riverbank where he lay and he thought to himself that we allow ourselves to roam where nothing is sacred, that we’re afraid of going to sacred places for fear of spoiling them with our presence and that it’s better to have been to a sacred place without knowing it is sacred, that the landform is merely a landform where no rituals and stories had taken place. That way you avoid being culpable of destroying the magic of the place. The rituals we do hear about, Ken repeated to himself, tell an ancient story of ownership through having lived there, and you cannot know the stories that make these places unless you live there for a long time.

A kind of interloper, Ken concluded he did not have knowledge enough of these stories to respect the places as they should be respected. He longed to be given the truth of the situation, instead of having to determine that truth for himself for then he felt he could understand clearly what was the admirable way to behave and the best possible way to look after the land. As he lay out in the open this unambiguity kept him awake and he knew that he never fell asleep on his back and that he might sleep for an hour or so on tomorrow’s flight home.

Ken’s thoughts, as always, were about the next day, the next passage that awaited him and as he watched the flight path of a plane overhead he imagined himself the next day reading the inflight magazine with the grey kangaroo on the front and he would read through from cover to cover the mining advertisements and the articles about miners and then he would look out the scratched window overlooking Alice Springs and know he’d been down there somewhere and that when he was there he could not see the shape of the river as it cascaded between the ridges and conglomerates and he could not know, as he later read, that no water had flowed there for hundreds of centuries when the entire region was submerged in salt water. Now when the rains fell only puddles formed on the surface of the riverbed and a subterranean stream may trickle slowly on top of the cap rock. Ken pulled his sleeping bag upwards to allow his body enough space to rotate so he could lay on his side and the mattress made a crinkling sound and then he sensed movement under him and he sat up and saw in the depression he had dug where his canister stove sat, the sand turning to a darker colour. He knew water was rising all around him and at first he thought of collecting his belongings and moving to higher ground, the liquid now filling the spaces between the ridges of his mattress yet he could still feel the ground firm underneath him. He unzipped the sleeping bag and pulled his legs up to his chest to remove his feet and he threw the sleeping bag on top of a large boulder nearby and at first he was scared but he soon realised the water was not flowing downstream but coming straight up out of the earth and now the mattress was holding his weight and keeping him just below the surface of the rising water. Leaves and twigs circled around him and his empty water bottle, shoes and headlight floated nearby. With his legs in the water and his lower half now soaked Ken grabbed the headlight and pressed the on button and looked below as his feet could no longer touch the ground he could see the groundsheet held down with rocks and his titanium pot filled with water and drowned. In the opening of his backpack he shone the torchlight on his notebooks and at first he was sad to see that they were now ruined, saturated with clouds of blue ink spiralling to the surface. He knew the notes for his stories are now ruined, and a condensed sense of the effort he put into compiling them now struck him and he winced and shook his head in disappointment and from the surface of the water he collected his small lighter and put it in the fold of his beanie to dry. A whining from a Dingo could be heard and Ken made no hissing noises to stop her.

On Witnessing ‘On Witnessing With Many Others the Destruction of Remaining Bushland Alongside Malvolio Road, Coolbellup’

The state wants you to think you are them, and you and they have won,
and that winning is important, that peeling wallpaper
is a win for rising damp, leaking parapet drains
and paint that prematurely cracks in 21st century sun.
The state wants you to know they love you and that if
you stand naked in the sun that’s your choice
and as your largest organ reddens and thickens
and the moisture evaporates in your blood, that new hospitals
with lead pipes are being built for you, post-haste.
The state comes marching in the gate and up the wound
passed the mounds of dead balga and banksia and tuart
and salmon gum and karri and marri and agonis flexuosa
and teak and casuarina and beech and blackbutt and forest red gum
and myrtle and acacia and mounds of kangaroo paw, the state emblem
spontaneously deciduous in the middle of summer when they’ve decided
shade is obsolete.
The state will not deliver the media alert that says dust health fears
exist in the areas around the asbestos riddled bushland in Coolbellup,
that children with asthma and other respiratory diseases
are at higher risk and if you feel your mouth and lungs clogging up
then you should contact this number immediately.
The state will allow their own militia to stand twenty feet
from the ‘Wood Hog 3800XL’ mulching monster while The Doctor
blows the entrails of ancient xanthorea and fine asbestos fibres
onto their high-viz uniforms, their bullet proof vests
built to ping off malignant mesotholomia.
The state has shown you must not sing and will arrest
anyone caught reciting say don’t worry, ‘bout a thing,
      cause every little thing, gunna be alright in their heads.
The state will not let you stop the Warratah’s pincers, or the excavator,
or the mulcher and if you do there are highly trained
hackers and horses and German Shephards who will break your spirit
one by one they will wear you down, targeting those who seek to organise.
Alone, the state will marry you.

Written in response to: ‘On Witnessing With Many Others the Destruction of Remaining Bushland Alongside Malvolio Road, Coolbellup’

On Witnessing With Many Others the Destruction of Remaining Bushland Alongside Malvolio Road, Coolbellup

A New Ode to Westralia: Anthem for All Future Sporting Events, by John Kinsella.

The state is killing our souls

The state has murdered the people — some they murder over and over

The state has deployed vicious antibodies to kill the good cells

and let the infection thrive

The state has equated work with destruction and manipulated

the outcome — remember, the state has no love for unions.

The state deployed its shock troops who watched on as poems were yelled

at them, their commander marshalling attitude, saying: how can we

shut this one up? Poets of the world, take notice. They will close

you down the moment you break free of your anthologies,

your safety in pages of literary journals, the comforts

of award nights.

The state shapes itself out of the dust rising from underforest

which is its soul exposed to a caustic, toxic atmosphere

made by so many other such actions of malice — the shape

is cartoonish to start with, then like a Hollywood effect

then just terrifying ectoplasm feeding on sap and blood and grit.

The state chips and mulches because it has heard rumours of Plato’s

theory of forms and thinks it needs a new translation full of local

business inflection, full of their own brand of ‘civilisation’.

The state has no intention of letting traditional owners maintain

traditional places of worship of culture of belonging — it’s always

been about the twin poles of denial and deletion.

The state has reservoirs of species names and the odd pressed sample

of a flower they wish only to remain as a Latin name and

a collectible, gathering in worth, which is the essence of market

economics, rolling on through the bushland with gung-ho

in-your-face finality.

The state wants you to gasp as the tall tree cracks and is brought down fast,

the pair of tawny frogmouths lifting to nowhere, dazzled by daylight.

John Kinsella

TWELVES FOR THE TWELFTH NIGHT: POEMS IN SUPPORT OF THE BEELIAR WETLANDS

Similar to The Other Report: Poems Against the Destruction of the Beeliar Wetlands, Twelves for the Twelfth Night is a rapid poetic response to the 100 hectare desecration of natural bushland for the Roe8 highway.

From the introduction: Traditionally, the twelfth night of Christmas falls on the fifth or sixth of January and signals the eve of Epiphany, or Epiphany itself. Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and ours were written in the spirit of twelfth night entertainments, and Malvolio figures large, whether as an antagonist come to grief through greed, delusion and crazy ambition, or a here-to-now quiet road in Coolbellup that woke to find a major highway mapped across its vitals.

Our Twelfth Night was triggered by the wonderful and occasionally bizarre use of Shakespearean characters as street names in Coolbellup, including Cordelia Avenue, Romeo and Juliet streets (which never meet) and Malvolio, poor Malvolio, which only ever wanted to be left in peace, adjoining the best bush block there is.

Each of the twelve poems in our Twelfth Night contains a four-line stanza by Wendy Jenkins, John Kinsella and myself.

Please press on the image below to download the free book.

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The Other Report: Poems Against the Destruction of the Beeliar Wetlands

John Kinsella and I have written a book of poems in non-violent protest against the 100 hectares of bulldozing happening at the Beeliar Wetlands. Please feel free to share this as widely as possible. About 5 hectares has been cleared already. Clearing is set to resume any day now. Please click on the image below to read/download the poems.

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Inside View: Save Beeliar Wetlands

In June of 2014, I took two buses and a train from my home in Fremantle to the trail head of the Bibbulmun Track in Kalamunda. In rain and a leaky jacket I walked for three hours to Hewitt’s Hut, arriving in the dark. Already at the hut was my friend, his brother and two friends of theirs I had never met before. My friend was walking the entire track. His mates had driven in as close they could to the hut. They had brought eskys full of alcohol, meat for the bbq and mobile phones to watch AFL on.

Read the rest of this article here.