This interview is the most comprehensive I have been part of to date; discussing walking, poetry, environment, music, ecology and death.
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.
In John Dixon Hunts’ book Greater Perfections in the chapter ‘Word and Image in the Garden’ he discusses the role of the word and narrative and experience in landscape architecture. In context of narrative, he argues:
“[N]arratives that recount times past do so in the present, which with landscape architecture is intimately linked to the configurations of the site that functions both as setting and presumably as prompt for the narrative to be recounted. Further, the “reader” is thrust into prominence; the narrative of a place relies on the verbal skills of its visitor, who has to infer or “translate” from the given materials, which can never (qua narrative) be as complete as they would be, for instance, on the pages of a novel.”
Thus, the verbal skills of a viewer, reader or visitor in a didactic, narrative designed landscape can never as complete as the reader of a novel. This is because of the “translation” from the abstraction of the inscriptions on the materials of the site, and the site itself. Therefore, for example, a plaque by the ocean may describe the anchorage of a ship in a port two hundred years earlier. The visitor reads the plaque, looks over to the position of anchorage, and is imagines a ship there. The argument put forward by Hunt is that this scenario is not as complete a narrative on the pages of a novel. However, I think there are grounds for a contrary argument. A visitor with verbal skills may have their experienced enhanced by looking out to where the boats set anchor. A purely fictionalised novel has no landscape equivalent to compare the given materials.
Unless of course, Hunt means that a plaque can never be as long or as big as a novel. In which case he is correct. He concludes: “in short, the site qua site may play a greater or lesser role.” When, I think what he means to say is: the abstract site (narrative) within a real landscape may play a greater or lesser role.
Sites within sites, narratives within narratives; the way our minds work and our body moves through a site is immensely complex. There are an infinite amount of impressions, senses, ideas and events that coalesce to complete our understanding of a landscape or site. While historical narratives within sites seek to represent a true interpretation of a sites past, what of the fictional impressions we gain from a site? How does a shift in scale, an imagined people of the past, an animated artefact, the re evaluation of the ugly change the way we read landscapes? Can, or do we reach neutrality by championing the fake and the ugly when best practise seeks to promote the good and feel good?
Im conducting a site analysis of the Ashfield Flats; a wetland near where I grew up. On the 19th of March I walked through the flats with a video camera. You can watch the video here:
And first poem analysis:
Site Visit Ashfield Flats
Part of the river begins here, car carcasses
Filter run-off, houses fenced off
Red tap on top of fire extinguisher.
Buffalo grass covers a culvert
Large concrete block monuments
Pine bollards and a steel gate.
‘No unauthorised vehicles passed this point’
The sign, twenty metres beyond the fence;
Galahs cackle overhead.
As if in distrust of the drain
Houses a but the 100 year flood line
Stink from the drainage block.
A two foot foam toy stealth bomber
Discarded in the buffalo – ‘the F27C
Striker Brushless’ neglected, ignored.
Broken, landlocked like concrete islands
Bark shards and a dying tomato plant
Part of the river begins here.
My body moves expectantly
Barefoot, aware of tiger snakes
A stick wrapped around my ankle.
MWB infrastructure tagged with ‘SK’
As alien as the stand of tapping bamboo
Within phone range, without credit.
Sweet mud smell, the hill you slide down
On tin, the old man keen to shoot to shoo
You away, his property as far as his scope.
To kill the grass they kill the liquid amber
Yellow bamboo pole matresses
The ‘clean fill’ sand will absorb it eventually.
Salt bush tagged pink, ready for pruning
Fifty yards from a fence, ‘our home’
Our ten metre limestone retaining wall.
More graffiti on blocks thick with melaleucas
A safe place to practise, DK in red texta
On paperbarks, more practise.
Rows are rows of planted tulips: a concerted
Effort to pretty the place up, beside long lines
Of blackberry bush, an air conditioner hums.
Water collects here; lentic. Overflowing rubbish
Bins on the driveway, a baby crying
Her life begins here, mosquito coils.
I become impatient, lustful and lacking narrative
I pause on the authorised vehicle track
Parrots squawk, a German Sheppard barks.
Then, evidence of machinery; mown lawn
Drainage swales, designed drains,
Another Main Water Board Block: Stourhead Grotto?
Dead gums, kids playing cricket
Adopting famous players names
Recreating classic moments: the pathetic fallacy?
A netball ring attached to fence
Bark crunching, parrots munching
A train a truck an aeroplane.
A fences, a concrete path
A stream sidled by casuarinas
Hesitate to use the word weed.
A small stand of xanthorrhoeas, cleared
Drain fenced off for important revegetation
Dog shit on the side of the path
A few days old
Clear blue sky overhead, hazy at the horizon.
I imagine walking straight the swamp
With a video camera, a document,
Not now – not the right time, never the right time.
Go right, I go left, through the thicket
To much of a sissy I stick to the path
The birds becoming louder.
In imagining the future I left the present
And missed the approach to the foreshore
A flat pyramid of arrow, ground cover.
Velvet pillows jammed in amongst the limestone
Banks – a fisherman’s forgotten seat
Long neck turtles, high tide tomorrow.
A kelpie freaking out over rollerblades
Fallen trees, their rotten roots
Suspended in floating mud. Not a sculpture.
Nor is this paradise, the river, in pieces
Has kept clear, held back proper light
Part of the river begins here.
The DC266 Evenrude outboard dingy
Its fishermen, shiners of the torch
Throw cigarette butts in the water: 18:35pm.
The bridge monument – maximum load limit
Three hundred kilograms
Hugs the bank like Michelangelo’s staircase
The last of the sunlight, duck tracks,
Great Egrets picking at the rushes
Mistook them for a chip wrapper.
Still as salty as the day purchased
At the supermarket:
The Great Egret Supermarket.
I jump off the bridge – heading home
Find a toy walkie talkie, possibly from the stealth bomber:
You used to be able to see the bottom, over.
‘Surprised by the amount of water in here
At this time of year, over.’ No frog noises
So silence. Still, plenty of mossies and guppies, over
‘Copy, over.’ Walk around puddles.
Now it dawns on me —the camps—
We used to see as kids, the piles of rubbish
Buckets, blankets, remnants of small fires
Were aboriginal camps, a midden under my nose.
‘Fucking Hell’ sprayed blue on a she oak, a totem.
Car wrecks half way up the drain
When the water’s high become tip islands
Rusting ruins: they dont make ‘em like they used to.
Clay sediments and oxidise metal mixing:
Follies of the future,
Slowly leaking into the creek.
You can see the wet line on the side
of the drain, the high water water mark
A white horizontal line of phosphate
Part of the river begins here, car carcasses.
Surveying Henry Point
For Ian Weir
Obliquely we enter Henry Peninsula
With its withering heath, charting elevations
Derived from mapping stations
For a potentially immoral buck
Justified by the adage: someone’s gotta do it.
Making more millions for millionaires
In exchange for cuts and abrasions.
Reasons non-oblique to charge wattles, acacias
And hakeas aside with forearms,
Crushing withered tendrils due south or due west
Ignoring the path of least resistance
Reading undulations, for illuminations:
Clearings for richer folks, snapping
Away nature with a click.
Coordinates a price-tagged crenulate.
When we were driven by adrenaline:
Belly to sand, face to possible snake,
(The possibility of joining Joker John Eyre
Or Slimey Septimus Roe) did we grasp
With documentation, the machine
losing sight of the satellite?
Pink and yellow tagged trees
plug in pecuniary.
Somewhere in the shade
of the Peppermint Grove
over a march ants nest,
goes the wooden patio.