Better to submit to various journals/poetry houses in the hope of being published, but you can have it free instead:
Well, here I go, about to walk the greatest secular walking track in the world: The Pacific Crest Trail. A quote from Wittgenstein to kick off proceedings:
It’s like this: In the city, streets are nicely laid out. And you drive on the right and you have traffic lights, etc. There are rules. When you leave the city, there are still rules, but no traffic lights. And when you get far off there are no roads, no lights, no rules, nothing to guide you. It’s all woods. And when you return to the city you may feel that the rules are wrong, that there should be no rules, etc…. It comes to something like this. If you have a light, I say: Follow it. It may be right. Certainly life in the city won’t do.
Now I don’t subscribe to some romantic notion that there’s ‘wilderness’ or anything like that. The only thing wild on Earth is the tension between the insanity of the world and the demands of reason. Yes, a bear might rip my head off, but some bastard will be out there a few hours later with a rifle and a knife to split its belly open.
Wittgenstein is right, though, as he usually is, the rules do feel different when you’re out on a track. You enter a de-familiarised place, or maybe it’s a re-familarisation to a kind of paradise. A re-territorialisation, so to speak. If, in cities, we are de-territoralised, then in the woods, we must be re-territorialsed, no? And if de-territorialsation and re-territorialisation must exist simultaneously, then that’s probably what most walkers are doing when they compare and contrast, and familarise themselves with ‘the track’. Clear as mud, yeah?
(Before I talk about gear I want to make a cheap passing shot at the state of hiking blogs and videos on the internet. Gear, in my opinion, should only be a conduit to bigger discussions about walking. To bigger questions about life. I find blogs etc that only discuss gear a bit flat. Too many bloggers see gear as the subject upon which they generate a following and create some sense of community. No community has ever and will ever be centered around material possessions.)
This is the selection of ultralight goodies I’ve chosen for this walk. Link to lighterpack pie chart thing here. I’m using as much old stuff as possible.
After much umming and ahh-ing I’ll be sleeping outside using a zpacks splash bivy whenever it’s not raining, so it’s handy to have a synthetic quilt to soak up condensation. I love that I can just throw the synthetic quilt in the washing machine with my other clothes. Down bags don’t do this, really. Going with the ultralight MLD FKT synthetic quilt. The latter has a poncho head-slot to supplement the Montbell jacket that’s awesome, but not super-warm. I’m also taking the Cumulus Pullover for a pillow and if temperatures drop below zero.
I expect a few nights to get to below freezing and I may get caught in a snow storm or two in the Sierra’s, hopefully. On those nights I will go under the zpacks duplex tarp with freestanding poles. Net tents kill the space advantages afforded by the roomy tarp. I’ll just have to put up with bugs while sitting around in the afternoons. Got a head net for that. The sissy North America mosquitoes won’t really be an issue, I don’t think. The main thing is to feel separated from bugs while you try to sleep. The bivy has a bathtub floor in case I wake up in a puddle.
I could go with a frameless pack to save a bit of weight, but a) I own the best framed pack in the world, b) frameless packs give you a sweaty back, which I hate, and, most importantly, c ) I don’t enjoy leaving town with seven days worth of food in a frameless bag, thanks. My view is that you only really need a frameless pack if you’re doing big miles quickly, and I’m doing big miles slowly, so a frame is warranted.
In any case, the gear will probably evolve over the course of the 4200km walk. Click on the picture below for full gear list.
The quick brown fox kicks the keyboard,
assesses the noon-tide of rampant roadside clearing,
in the glare, sunglasses-less we stare at one another,
diphthongs pondering the great CAT,
the grader and the excavator, half cut off by topography,
just the cabin visible, driver-less, full of fox fear
as she assesses me, the mounds of fallen trees,
in no-man’s-land, singed by the sun, on the way to Wandering,
a typo, she shouldn’t be this exposed
as she stands still, searches my soul for a weapon,
as a father commiserates having another fuckin daughter,
the charred fields crenelate in the background,
the gum trees populated with children’s fantasies
and the entire landscape disturbed by thought-foxes,
the transfiguration of culls, those damn trees killing car drivers.
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
A pearl has no meaning to the pig, says South Korean director and writer Kim Ki Duk. His 2002 film Spring Summer Autumn Winter …and Spring is an anecdotal portrayal of time. Phrases, movements, events and conflicts circle back on themselves. People are shown as unwitting participants in a world with its own logic. Buddhist and mystic symbolism underpin and overlay the action. We learn about the characters through their actions, not what they say. The film requires little dialogue to convey its meaning.
In the opening sequence a young boy teases a frog, a snake and fish by tying a rock to them. The little creatures struggle. His grandfather – we can only assume they’re related – watches the kid torture the animals. That night while the kid is asleep the grandfather ties a rock to the boy. When he wakes up he’s distressed and is told the rock can be removed once he has seen to it that the rock is removed from the frog, snake and fish. If, by this time, any of the creatures have died then the boy will live with this burden. The boy drags the rock around the great lagoon where they live. The frog is alive. The Fish is alive. The snake has died overnight. The boy is distraught. The boy has a heavy heart.
If the grandfather had not disciplined the boy then we can assume he would have continued on in life thinking torturing animals was okay. We have seen already that it is in the boys nature to be cruel. Discipline is a way of altering that nature.
Later on in the film, the grandfather paints the heart sutra on the deck of the house that floats on the lagoon. The young boy, now a man, has returned, a fugitive after having fled the home with a girl who was visiting. Viewers do not witness this, but the young man murdered the woman one night when she sleeps with another man. The boy returns home and when detectives find him the grandfather requests that before he leaves the boy carve out the heart sutra with a knife.
The rationale of the film dictates the Buddhists wishes are respected and the detectives wait all day until the boy has finished carving. Only then can the boy begin healing his heavy heart, that began with the murder of the snake, some fifteen years before the murder of the woman. The return of the heart motif shows that the master played a small part in the boys downfall. As Phillip Larkin wrote: Your parents, they fuck you up, even if they don’t mean to, they do.
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 traveling 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 ambiguity 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. 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 spiraling to the surface. He knew the notes for his stories were 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.
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.
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