The Dingo Poem

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

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Bibra Drive Protest

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:


A Report

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.

James Quinton

25 Nov 2018

Yule Brook

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.

 

 

Yule Brook

– 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 

quoowooloolo, quoowwlolooo 

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. 

 

 

South West Walking Masterplan Ideas

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.

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. Extending the southern end of the Cape to Cape to join the Bibbulmun track, probably at Karri Valley resort.
  4. 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]
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

 

Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 6.09.41 pm

Centre for Stories interview

Hello,

Please make yourself a cup of tea and/or coffee and listen to an interview between Robbie Wood and I at the Centre for Stories on the 11th of May 2017.

This interview is the most comprehensive I have been part of to date; discussing walking, poetry, environment, music, ecology and death.

Link here: https://media.sas.upenn.edu/pennsound/groups/Aust-Po/Centre-for-Stories/Quinton-James_Poetry-in-Conversation_Perth_5-11-2017.mp3

Cheers

 

The One

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.

 

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Featured image and above image by Colin Leonhardt: http://www.BirdseyeViewPhotography.com.au