5am we watch the sun rise at Mooro Katta.
Nowhere to sit but cold marble steps
Where we have placed hundreds of fake candles
Which hundreds of people carry hundreds
Of metres across the dewy grass
Where ducks are asleep and the plants
Are from thousands of kilometres away
With common and Latin labels.
And because there has been rain they look healthy.
Happy even. Orchids amongst banksias
Kangaroo paw amongst marri. The light
Changes so rapidly, we walk amongst strangers
And those of us who have not cried feel the change too.
At the hilltop we come to a boab;
That travelling circus elephant, rotten and cracking
A beached whale whose blubber leached
Back to the ocean, staining the sand.
Up north they use these trees as prisons.
Down below we see the estuary
That once was a river and further and further
Past the smoke stacks, purple hills.
Others are already at the memorial
Stretching their legs, straightening their backs.
A wattle bird’s silhouette on the metal railing.
Someone blows their nose and uses the same tissue
To wipe their eyes. For all the stories
We choose life and die, or choose death
And die. And after the poem is read
And we disperse, we meet a pregnant woman
Due any day, a cook from the country
Whose only wish is to see her toes again.
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.
Solitude is like Bali:
Vacant and full of Aussie tourists.
I snuggle up to SBS
Daytime is a corner in soccer.
My coffee is enough to entice you.
Here at the rally
The dust lets me forget
About my holiday in Hyden.
Playing golf on the red sand
And sheep dogs…
A kangaroo zooming
Above the Spinifex,
A 20 000 watt globe
Listening to the Dirty Three
Gravity wrapped around me.
I apologise for the full moon, Holden’s
Just beneath my skin
I am, my summer solstice
Streaking across the sky like an F-111
The joy of a laser guided slideshow
And a simulation of any situation you want.
Which one do you like best?
Im still tweaking it, making it heavier, new software.
From the bus, the Swan enters
Me like glass, limestone lapping as a dog runs
The coincidental beauty
Of bumping into a friend
who has to go. Your tear drop
in my hand and the hills ablaze
with sickness that could be love
or a new haircut
when you put on your favourite C.D.
and pick up that tamborine
it’s lonely drinking Solo.
Its fun to drive in a beetle
and see on the footpath
one kid punch another.
But its grand to barf that
V-Dub through any prepuce freeway tunnel.
there by the subterranean palominos needle hopping the strained motor putsch right there by the compression of hard plastics and aluminum crying
like a corked arm
searing within your accelerator
so compact the boots
leather is skin
inside a pastel dream
and oranges are lost
until the multidirectional charge of
their juices slide
down tangerine tunnels
we, of the hideous arsed
tribe, poised with moss
sick by the road
dumbed by trees we cannot name
burning XB’s amphetamine
fingering the Gods
lucid orifices after
decoding the oracle
that was the barmaid
gone impotent and sour
which amounted to me staring at her tits for half an hour as i consumed the tipple and felt increasingly impotent
until another beetle screamed passed
and i corked you in the other arm
there would always be violence
in this world i thought
rubbing a tricep
relieved in a way to been acted
(we of the hideous arses)
castrating the sting
beetle divine now
lost the road chess
through the autobahn
going as fast as possible
sunglasses and soft pack
on the dash of
the panzer he’s seconded
which was almost exclusively
recognized as a shithole
even the earthworms who slid there
thought as much
the value, a real estate agent
said would rise if civilization was applied.
the cows appealed
the crocodiles left weeping
Here are a few images from the Fiona Stanley Hospital Design: a ramp supported by norfolk island pines with a grass tree garden on top.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to click on the thumbnail first, then the image second to see the largest format, until I work it out.
Thanks to Kukame.
Like flouting and fluttering planes
Gone with midnight a cool breeze
Remembrance quickly jumps
The superlative strength of millennia.
Twilight is complete
The streetlights have ignited
Stark looks in the corners of eyes
The silver chill drowning.
It’s a day & you are you
Eating lunch, tautologically inclined;
Shirt pockets full of debris
Where many lived, disappeared
There were periods when oranges
Had the power to overawe the sun,
The chunky rhythms of nostalgia…
No more waiting in this novella!
All the swings, slides & monkey bars
Catch an unselfconscious smile
(like a march-fly in the sticky
Subterfuge of a Venus flytrap
Producing the fructified arrangements
Highly suitable for toe jam) bumping along
Like hitchhikers in the back of a Ute.
Running hands across Spiky blades
the dream woman stands before me
arms in the air, lifting her jumper
slightly from jeans ― soft, pale skin;
Stupendous body, enormity of touch
Speaking to stay silent for the future
Two men made of water watch a man drown
In the cruellest ocean’s hacked foundation.
Why wrestle the channel corset?
There’s no destination.
We wander the fleshy rind of a gigantic pear,
Fascinated by nature’s fantastic, targetless volition.
She turns slowly.
No longer apprehensive
That earth’s shell slices open
Welcoming the leaf
We comprehend chord sounds
Waist high in sunflowers
The ground does pirouettes
The Ferris wheel lets another off
The Ferris wheel lets another on.
Collisions at the train station
Lead to Eros
At an unknown address
Two wattlebirds attack a raven.
No human is observing.
Duke of New Orleans
wake, rise, walk soon
black where water runs clear
(polish heath scrub vocal chords).
Upward facing dog descends
hard rock face, to slip momentarily
evokes more adrenaline than fear
broken leg rather than death.
Clear it is then
giving the I/eye
a chance to focus:
like Egyptian princess eyelashes
falling into the giving
into what you see and have seen
say, not plummeting finches
nor blind bugs drawn to headlight
, , , not them.
Diaphanous, no truer diagnosis
dam walls and our future
, , , yes.
Poetry, like everything else
relies on the future.
But when the words
back is turned
bulldozers break the law
wrecking watercourse banks.
Fines might prevent
future incidents, although
there’s always another ignorant.
Poetry, like everything else
relies on the future.
Running an empty fridge,
driving a V8, flying
around the world
attending climate change
conferences might save humanity
but for now, that part:
the shoreline of the estuary
and ecosystems down and up
stream, is forever fucked.
Repeat the lie
that makes it true.