Walking Goals on the Pingerup Plains
For twenty five years
I was locked out,
as if I’d snapped the key
off in the lock.
Beside me, my happy self.
Inside me, a monster and the dark room.
Out on the Pingerup Plains
loneliness ate at my feet
and there, as the leaf litter
sprang from the stepped-on twig
I could prove myself to my dark room,
I could fester and requiem.
What was distant was rest.
What was easy was distant.
I judged every thought,
I damned every thought with judgement,
and counted my steps.
My body needed pain to feel
and after mud and heath and brume
the blister puss splattered in my eye
and I pressed outside the slit
to let the wound suppurate.
The gear was fine, my body uninjured
but I had found something missing
I knew the victory I’d wanted would be hollow,
my traffic was gone, my blood
unclogged. My heart beat loud.
A fine mist made an answer;
pointless to ascend to the summit,
the cockatoos stayed put,
kangaroos didn’t stir,
my ears rang as if covered in wool,
the waitress at Two Rubens Cafe
told me: a tradesman is free from obsession, you’re not.
To walk to the highway on my own terms
was the right thing to do
you don’t have to be brave
those reams written, they un-write,
as the woman with MS drives me to Denmark
and she tells me of brain legions
and her broken immune system,
how the knife is so blunt,
the edge grows brighter
where the leaf cutter bee
says goodbye to Broke Inlet,
as I wave at the ocean and have a morning nap.
– J. P. Quinton
Hello. Please see attached The Dingo Poem. This poem is one of the longest poems I’ve written and took the longest to write — about two months, and then a few revisions in the preceding months. The notes were written while hiking the Larapinta Trail in 2016.
The length is not conducive to posting as an image so you’ll have to read as pdf. Hope that’s cool. Thanks
Some writing and media from our protest over wetland and tree clearing on Bibra Drive 16th to 29th of November 2018.
Death Row, Bibra Drive
Camped beneath the ‘eastern states’ tree,
a snake and Doug and Fox and Jan and me.
Camped under a tree that we know will be bulldozed,
the red bleeds as the arms are severed, the fingers
there’s bastardry in those white dongas
and the State Security sniffed at the air with forked tongues
duplicitous, but uncompromised,
and as the Mueller investigation comes to a head,
and the Extinction Rebellion grows in the UK
there is the sound of motorbike frogs
awkwardly reversing, retreating, as the bobcat
prepares the pavement for landing.
At 4am I cannot sleep, soon our shelter will sleep forever.
Sarah’s tree will sleep forever. Main Roads are waiting.
We know their tricks. The dozers will mobilise
as soon as we move on to protect the other wetlands.
Some of the drivers can’t wait. Some aren’t so sure, now.
A little film by Natasha:
Fumes and sand flick
between the temp fence grid,
across Bibra Dr, and over the wetlands,
over our tents, into our faces.
I know now, as the sand,
from a mine further south,
where banksia once grew,
is piled high, and the dump truck
reverses in with that reaper-like gasp
hurh Hurh hurh, I can feel the loss,
because I can clearly see
what will happen, the temp fence
will be removed, Bibra Dr
will be closed and the great Cats,
yellow, like the sand, like bile,
will gasp their way across the threshold
and expand into the wetland,
going the wrong way, in reverse,
as always, as we know the wetlands
must be reclaiming the roads,
that the loss must be replaced with gain,
that the drift into adjectives
will be permissible for a while,
that celebrate and relax
might be used in our lexicon.
Until then I’ll sit in the grey dirt,
where someone has inserted
a love heart out of flower pods,
and watch for the fencing
contractors to open the access gate.
I wish I had better news.
The Ways Part – Bibra Drive Widens
High in the rushes, deep in the swamp
the reeds scatter, breeze bends,
eight wolf spider eyes glow and glisten
they reflect like Vic’s jacket,
as he brings the dawn and a song
and we duck behind bushes
as the tyres and headlights approach
as the perpendicular floodlight
lights up the Lilly Pilly
and Nicole, black, from head to toe
does a child pose, her nose sniffs the soil
and she closes her eyelids
and I see that her desire to ‘fuck shit up’,
is her voice not being heard,
her dreams undreamt
her scars revealed, her tattoos fading
in the dying days of Beeliar wetlands.
We weren’t reflective like wolf spider eyes
or Vic’s jacket, we shook the space
around the steel, we shook off
our traumas to prevent future traumas.
That’s our truth; we know the quendas
are watching, Corina said the tiger snakes
will share the swamp with us, and Amanda
works within that reptilian charm,
and when Dougie whips out his eight inch …
lens, he zooms in on the greenheaded gum hopper;
what he sees is clues,
what he has found in this neglected nook
is a place to turn to, to make sense
of what’s beyond our comprehension
to transfigure the fabric into a tent
to capture the insects before extinction.
The tree sitter, Sarah, who knows
the jiddy jiddy twist, ohh jiddy jiddy proud and puffed
who smile with grasshoppers in their beaks
their black burns holes in our chests,
damsels and dragonflies grow in our stomachs
for now the Main Roads fauna fence is up
lacking support we lost the wetland;
we’re as hollow as a fuel tank,
as if we could’ve done more
as if our chats and attitudes
and arguments and lost lighters
could have lit a path, could’ve been refueled,
that the arrestables were replaceable.
We were born in mud, as our lungs grew
we knew we weren’t born Olympians
or politicians, in darkness we held this space,
we stretched the fibres, we felt the leaves
shield skin from burning rays,
and as the distance from trunk to trunk widened,
the road widened the seasons widened –
our lungs had to widen to take deeper breathes.
But now you’re about to go
you’ll turn your sun burnt face and take your medicine,
and make jokes about your bucket of poo
and reminisce about how the bucket snagged
on branch and the piss nearly exploded on Doug’s head,
or you’ll return, gradually, to a non-frazzled brain,
to quiet hours where your brain is a unified page,
not sticky notes, but we can sense,
as the wolf spider eyes glow, that soon the shit will hit the fan,
that craziness, spacelessness
and fractures will be the new norm.
The Bibra Drive Declaration
For too long we have lived in hope.
In primary school we were warned about global warming.
We were told about the importance of pollution.
We were told that trees turn carbon into oxygen.
For too long we have listened attentively for tiny glimpses of the truth, for signs that our politicians ‘get it’ – that they understand the ecological crisis Western Australia faces.
We have held our breath hoping for the signs that change is upon us, that the environment and the place where we live is valued, and that what climate science is telling us is to be taken seriously, and discussed out in the open.
We have held our breathe that the government with all of its powers and contacts will utilise their own institutions to tell the people, to tell us, that the problem is real, that the graphs are not fake, and that, indeed, the planet is warming beyond our control, and the gases are increasing beyond our control, and the oceans are rising beyond our control, and that we humans will have done irreversible damage to our atmosphere and that soon our ecosystems will collapse.
We have listened to the elders who have been silenced since the first tall ship arrived.
We see, day after day, our brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles and aunties depressed and detached and suicidal, hopeless and worried.
We no longer see migratory honey eaters return year after year to nest where Main Roads have chainsawed and mulched native bush for tarmac.
We have heard the cries of the dying cockatoo.
We have seen the tiger snake and the bobtail lizard flattened on car tyres.
We still see attacks on the wonderful great white shark.
We have smelt the smells of our forests lit up in flames as the fires they have lit drift over our homes.
We have seen the bones of the kangaroo, who tried to run from the fires lit by our government departments, and had a choice of jumping off a cliff and into the ocean, or face the flames that burnt their home.
We have stood by as the executive have been used like pawns to stop us from trying to stop the bulldozers destroying the existence of one wetland after another, one woodland after another, one forest after another.
We have listened to the judiciary claim that their hands are tied. That until the laws are changed they are powerless to prevent more destruction. That environmental offsets do not replace the habitats that are lost. Habitats that we depend on for food and water.
We have listened to the judges and lawyers who agree with us that ten cricket ovals a week cleared along the Swan Coastal plain is unacceptable.
It is not inconceivable to imagine suburbs stretch from Albany to Geraldton. For almost all of the heath land and banksia woodland to be bulldozed. The master plan handed down from our planners anticipates a scorched earth policy such as this. But this will not happen. There is not enough time. The environmental crisis it to urgent. The situation is too deadly. Our premier knows this. Our prime minister knows this.
We have seen continued attacks on the Great Western Woodlands.
Today we have heard that fracking will be allowed in the Kimberley, and that the Browse Basin will be mined for gas.
We have seen EPA approvals rushed through parliament to allow uranium mining up in the Kimberley and in the great Yilgarn block.
We have heard our representatives say they want more defence funding to build more warships and tanks in Henderson, south of Fremantle.
We have heard our representatives say that they are ready for war and to fight injustice wherever they see injustice across the globe.
But we have not seen our representatives use those same resources, and that same money to fight a bigger war, and a bigger problem that effects every person on this planet, the problem of the climate crisis and species extinction.
We have been blind to their language that invites a rhetoric of conflict and division.
A language that leads us away from peaceful protest and pacifism.
They make us believe that we should lose the ‘battle’ to win the ‘war’.
But everyday there is a new battle that we are told we should let go.
We are told we should let Bibra Drive be built, and that there are more precious places to preserve.
We are told we should let the wetlands on Armadale Road be smashed.
We are told that Great Northern Hwy should be widened and that the frogs and snakes that live there were an unfortunate casualty.
We are told that the ‘battle’ of Brixton Street Wetlands is one we should let go, there is a more important war to win.
But we don’t agree.
We do not agree that we have time to deliberate about how deadly our situation is.
For too long we have believed that our representatives will make the right deals and put people before profit.
But from now on we will not just defend ourselves from the rapacious machines and unwieldy planners who seek to destroy our wetlands, our lungs.
We demand that our governments place a moratorium on clearing any more land.
We demand that our government do no deals with those who value profit over clean air.
We demand a cultural change within the intuitions, organisations, and companies whose operations impact the natural environment.
We understand that you can’t go around what you cannot see.
We know that Main Roads do not see trees.
Main Roads do not see wetlands.
Main Roads do not see forests.
Main Roads can not change until they apologise for the wrongs they have done to the ancient land that is Western Australia.
A land that is unique and diverse and awe inspiring.
But Western Australia is not infinite. Western Australia is not ‘hardy’ and invincible.
For too long our governments have preyed on our defensiveness and our infighting, and cut down the trees when we were at work, or when we are asleep.
For too long our politicians have been more concerned with the security of their seats, rather than the security of the trees in the soil.
For too long our politicians have resigned to a culture that enables more and more trees to be cut down.
We know that salinity is too great a problem to be tackled.
Climate change is too great a problem to be tackled.
Main Roads is too big a problem to be tackled.
We say we have no choice.
We say that Bibra Drive is the line that cannot be crossed.
We no longer live in hope.
We will put our bodies on the line.
We will protect the wetlands at all costs.
25 Nov 2018
Yesterday the government and their workers chopped down more trees in Perth’s wetlands. This time at Yule Brook. Photos below by Paddy Cullen.
A while back I went and camped there. Walked thru the wetlands from Kenwick Station and followed Yule Brook to the protest site. The government say that some trees had to be cleared so that others could be saved. The main game and big issue is used to argue for losing small games and small issues, when the main game and big issue has always been the protection of the small. Every tree matters.
While I was there I wrote this poem for my friend John Kinsella. I get depressed very easily. Not just about the environment either. While I camped there under the peppy tree that’s now gone, he and I stayed in contact and he talked me through my sadness.
– for John Kinsella
Knee deep, Yule Brook leaves mud bits on his sneakers,
the long distance walker has chewed some chilli,
the way ‘progress’ chews forest after forest;
we want to annoy our gods to prove they don’t exist.
On the oval the women play football, and the men
watch the water slide past; murky, grey, grabbing typha,
pulling the reeds that flick back, that know no bank,
that signal the dragonfly to land.
White power on Roe Highway: Septimus, that surveyor of gods
gifted roosts, he’s now the swamp nemesis,
he’s now the ring road that ringbarks what’s left of wetlands,
one to nine he chops down ocean and woodland.
Someone shakes the fence. The lock holds. He throws his head
above the top rung and sees the alley of rivergums, soon to be mulched.
There are heart-shaped messages tied to the trunks,
but the storm has loosened the string and moistened the cardboard.
I’ve a photocopy of Kim Scott’s A Most Intelajint Kuriositie,
and each time I read a page drops fall from the clouds and a wodjalok
talks with John through a jarrah tree, as a pacific black duck
takes off from the stream, straight for a state funeral —
where the weeping peppy leaves have swept the soil clear,
and they make the coffin smell sweet and the magpies sing
and their song starts to sound like rail wheels headed for Toodyay.
There’s snails on my sleeping bag, and lightning in the air,
that’s the canopy spread to take in the spark, to eat the sky,
half man, half electricity, you’re the giver of horizons,
an orrery with light for each planet.
Been out walking for the last couple of weeks. Had the urge to fly somewhere… somewhere over east or overseas to go walking, and walking, and more walking. And then, as walking will do, I had a different angle and a different idea to pursue. More walks in the south west of Western Australia. I drew up this mud-map that someone might find useful one day.
The image shown is indicative. The black line is the Bibbulmun Track. The red line on the left is the Cape to Cape. The other lines are walk ideas I’m hoping to scope out over the next twelve months. In my opinion, there is a strong desire to boost walking infrastructure at regional levels.
- There has almost always been talk of extending the Bibbulmun to Esperance. The red line going to Esperance is there to show that extension. I’m going to see who I can rustle up to walk that with me. (I’m not a fan of coastal and/or beach walking, so I’ll be looking to get off the beach as much as possible.)
- A circuit from about Walpole heading up the Shannon River and then heading east over the Stirling range and then following one of the rivers down (Palingup?) to a small town like Wellstead to link back up with the extended Bibb track to Esperance. Walkers can then walk back to Albany if they want.
- Extending the southern end of the Cape to Cape to join the Bibbulmun track, probably at Karri Valley resort.
- Extending the northern end of the Cape of Cape following a disused rail line into the Ferguson Valley and then up to meet the Collie River at Birkup, from Birkup follow the Collie River to the Wellington Dam and join the Wellington Spur trail that already comes off the Bibbulmun track. [The latter part of this walk I have done three times now and it is excellent]
- Extend the northern end of the Bibbulmun track from Kalamunda and connect up with the old walking track that goes to New Norcia via Bells Rapids. From New Norcia follow the Moore River to the coast. Huts along here would be good.
- Create a loop from North Bannister where the Bibbulmun crosses Albany Highway and take walkers out to Narrogin where the Avon River starts. Follow the Avon river through York, Northam and Toodyay and ultimately meet up with the extended Bibbulmun track from Kalamunda.
If anyone out there finds this post and is inspired, please get in touch. I am always interested to hear from other walkers.
This interview is the most comprehensive I have been part of to date; discussing walking, poetry, environment, music, ecology and death.
I was on Queen Street, Walyalup, eavesdropping philosophers
with their gyrating index fingers, their circle of life gestures
when the time had come, was as overdue as I was hesitant,
to witness the damage, to see what The One had done.
All my friends remained, protecting Beeliar wetlands
while I took my backpack and vanished, cross-crossing
Te Araroa rivers and mountains, as The One tore Tuarts into tiny pieces,
and ‘the other one’ fell to the ballot box.
From overseas, I knew the areas being bulldozed,
I’d seen the footage, the photos, and I read the reports
of southern bandicoots skulls being crushed
beyond the vets skill; I knew polysituated distress.
My friends were being pepper sprayed, pinned down and cuffed,
threatened with tasers, arms twisted behind their backs
laughed at for their views, subjected to background checks,
while the police took glee in their repression.
Ropable, strapped to a mind mast, violent fantasies
played out through my feet, and streams teased out my rancour,
as I was traumatised by my own indignation; the violence
kept cropping up, kept pace with The Ones deathly indifference:
The One comes, as two tawny frogmouths take to the air.
In all cases The One and I face off, in a clearing
the bucket’s jagged bottom lip thuds into my chest
then drags my bloodied body in the dust.
I ignore the hits and pretend they do not hurt. I smile even.
When The One tries to attack again— I stand my ground
and give The One an ultimatum, I say: you have two choices,
you either doze off, and we move on, forgiven,
or you try to rip out that casuarina and you will burn
from the inside, sweet sugar in your tank as the green rises
like a rash on your yellow paint. You, The One, hear me,
you have no idea of my rage, of my burning flesh about to explode.
As I walked on Stock Road I was thinking of still borns
and saw the footbridge where banners were dropped
the odd seven hundred year old balga shaking the breeze
near the temporary fences orange ballasts, nuytsia floribunda-flower coloured
Their plastic presence a different kind of parasite
sucking the emptiness into the whirlpool, dotting the boundary
like medical sensors, this land, comatose,
on life support, defying the philosophers gestures.
Do you really think she’ll pull through? I hear the singer ask.
The repairs appear plausible
where you can rationalise, where a linearity exists; topographic
as piles of pulp snake up the aperture
burning the grey sand, our leached soil
where Mainroads contractors do donuts
across The Ones ribbed prints
where I wish the finger deep chevrons to pointed to a conclusion
and the baby cycads unfurling like hand puppets
represent actors in a non-apocalyptic script—
where there are no borders,
where there’s interconnectedness, where the water runs clear.
Beside Forrest Road, tribute to our Premier’s legacy,
What’s left are the remnants of that planners doodle
road after road, doubling up traffic hallways
the duplicates, as if building roads was like stamp collecting,
Triples, quadruples, off-ramps, cars and trucks
Bumper to bumper to bumper to bumper
Taking us to witness the natural disaster we’ve created
To see the snow before our fumes melt our brains.
I was walking on the footpath that leads to Provincial Mews
Where there’s a sign that says keep fence up to protect regrowth,
when something metaphysical, an in my bones feeling
cropped up, a thought from ‘who knows where’:
This is where they were really tested,
where the kings men had their doubts, this place marks a time
when they knew they had lost, that The One,
had become self-referential, powerless and obsolete.
Then I saw the raven’s ice age eyes, the sky is not as blue,
and a hair comb lying in the dirt, and I expected to be yelled at
I expected the police state, with their uniforms
to be here, protecting the The One from the protectors,
I expected to see Uncle Ben giving a hoi to supportive drivers,
fist pumping the air, I expected the intolerable heat burning
our disillusioned faces, I expected tears, but not that many,
as the force of the struggle started to drift, departed without saying goodbye.
On the western end of Malvolio where so many were arrested
And the poems were read to the police, and the guards shat in the bush
where Neville and I handed out the asbestos fliers, I ran into Colin,
who’s court trial is coming up, going for a spin on his pushy,
‘MainRoads have been in there today’, he said, ‘doing burn-outs’,
Bogged, no traction, the contours now exposed,
the tyres half submerged, and the gum nuts
bitten by parrots, and the banksia husks sucked dry by bull ants.
This is where?—what? What? Where is this?
This craziness summarised in adjectives—
after seeing the blue tarp over the lame horse
someone says it’s not that bad, the native wisteria lurching mulch-pile-ward
Bungle Bungle-like, the brown cones hang from invisible wires
This is where we had to deceive the guards,
and run through to assess the damage
This is where the fence is tessellated with cotton string,
the paper love hearts long gone.
This is where the woody pears flowered for their last time,
As if they knew it was their last time.
This is where we used to walk freely, before the fences went up
and now, after The One smote the thin wedge of bush, smote us,
we can walk freely once more and find the place unrecognisable,
alien, like someone who went missing, and returned decades later
and only someone like Sally had never forgotten.
This is where eleven hundred of us smashed down the fence
and took the power back for an hour— Yes, we were a headache.
Yes. And then the peons marched single file up the runway
to listen to Jesse and Ewan sing Ro-oe Eight, Whi-ite El-le-phant.
This is where the attack dogs forced us back, while Jacinta
climbed a giant marginata, and I wish we carried the dying trees
to the perimeter, where the contractors felt the fallen
had no use, and the mulcher could not reach their bark.
This is where Shona got too big for her own boots
and they arrested her by deception, and she learnt the art of deception.
This is where John read The Bulldozer Poem
and Piers made videos and dust entered their lungs, and they lost their voices.
This is where Liz came to see what the fuss was about,
to be puzzled by Steve, and Doug and my apparent emotionlessness,
at our drought stricken tear ducts, as The One
gasped when in reverse then ripped out banksia after banksia.
This is where the razor wire and generators were set up
and the floodlights were pointed at Diedre and she told
everyone enough was enough, for the tenth time.
This is where Kate and Kim chatted while Ted was up a tree.
This is where the wattle birds’ chook-like guffaw rattles
and MainRoads were a presumptuous—
laying a limestone driveway so The One could enter and exit
where a magpie squadron, untouchable now, pick at the track.
This is where Wazza was given a move on notice,
After he asserted his right to protect his culture
With the spirit of his ancestors Wazza spoke from his heart
And with the spirit of his ancestors Wazza spoke from his heart.
This is where The One smote the feet of Emma’s friend,
before she striped and held them off with her nakedness.
This is where Chris was carted off horizontal
His arms gripped by the cops, his resolve never tested.
This is where the Police State threatened to knee cap me
and now my revenge phantoms return, and The One
and I face off once more, but the skirmish is interrupted
by half a dozen red tail black cockatoos taken on the breeze.
This is where black hessian used to trap animals flaps freely
and the balga rise rhizomatic—
their resilience tested again, as if this were just another day,
just another mimicry for us to take cues from.
This is where Pheobe, the candlestick banksia carrier,
held the torch, clipboard under her arm, gave me her number,
and told me to call her if The One arrived, and as
as she paced up the rust-red pathway, I lost that number.
This where Dodgy Steve was arrested as I hugged Caroline,
in the high yellow weeds, and said goodbye, and she yelled
over my shoulder at The One, at the uniforms: we don’t own this land,
we’re looking after it until the real owners return.
I run into Colin again, he says three days after the election
there were people wandering around everywhere, now there’s hardly a soul.
Yet when I close my eyes, I can see the footprints,
the cautious steps of those readjusting,
letting the monitors and snakes slither across their feet,
letting the sub-soil pulse up through their ankles,
mycelium shapes throbbing in their skin. I cannot see The One.
I once thought I was attracted to nature because it had no opinion of me,
Yet this is the place, this is where I was on trial, and the land spoke.
I do not belong here, I will never be able to call this country home.
But I do have the authority to stop those who seek to destroy.
This is where The One’s finger deep chevrons direct me now.
Featured image and above image by Colin Leonhardt: http://www.BirdseyeViewPhotography.com.au
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.