Please see attached a sneak peek at the novel I’ve been working on for the last three years. I plan to have it finished sometime around October 2019.
Click on the image below to read the pdf.
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.
*A poem from 2001! Not going to ‘edit’ it*
Finland’s pride: a school of fish fighting the wrath
Of a bears claw. It sat strongly above the rapid
Scooping & swallowing. Frustrated, the red bear
Got a small feed, but not enough for the winter.
Dragging herself through the snow, along
Rows & rows of fallen soldiers, she searched
For his hands. Tormenting every torn palm that
Would give him away. My great grandfather was never found.
The note with the photo reads:
Juho Aatami Alanko
Born. 24. 12. 1901. Eskola, Finland
Die. 5. 2. 1940. Russian War.
Left Wife Tyyne Lemip;
Children Pentti Ensio.
With a pocket of copper & a head of dreams
Olavi, 17, headed for the land of heat &
After deserting a mine, headed west to fish.
‘The Flying Fin’, a 25ft cork, bouncing around.
You gave yourself to the sea.
You gave your soul to the ocean &
Knew it better than English. Deep sea
Sunrise, the land calling your return.
Every coral lump for hundreds of miles
Hiding crays. I imagine you out there, closer to
The wind than any other human. Your legs made of salt.
Screaming and laughing at storms as if you’ve hit your funny bone.
You were the ropes
Foot long crays the norm
Without echo sounders
Envy of all the skippers
Well-off and handsome, the call of the land was too strong.
The setting sun; you headed for the pub & drank & drank.
Shouting every man there & a hit with the ladies,
You fell in love like a shot of vodka down your throat.
The sea meets the land. Water closing its eyes on the shore,
Tearing away at the sand, hoping to play.
Buying a bigger boat & naming
‘El-de’ after you daughters, Elvi and Deanne
From your Abrolhos Island humpy, the jetty stretched out
To the edge of the channel, over the sharks
Talk of the war, the old days meeting
The flashest cars, new TV’s; your temper
A drunken storm disgusted with the wardrobes of
Never used make-up, hand-bags & shoes
Engrossed by the smell of sea & bait
You became trapped in a pontoon,
The water closed its eyes on the shore for the last time
Saunas of alcohol, a washed out vagabond, laggard green.
As a child I remember playing snap on your back porch
Spoiling me with ice cream and soft drinks
It was the first time an adult awoke before me
You gave your self to the sea, Oceanman
Underneath the grapevine sitting in dawns golden light
In an air of contemplation and regret
Beside you, we ignored death & you mumbled
Something about the coming day
Finnish hindering your speech, my childish mind cursing our connexion
You wanted to tell me something that I wouldn’t understand
Digging up your vege-patch, you showed me the ways of carrots.
Coughs of blood vomited your sorrow
A heart attack, you’re pulsating flotsam.
Hundreds of people said goodbye
I didn’t know the words to the funeral prayer
& Mistimed the amen. I stood at the foot of your open grave missing something –
I felt that if I jumped in, you’d whisper wisdom to my heart.
Which key should we sing in?
They’re not listening, John,
no one wants to hear us sing,
the alternative register strategy
hasn’t worked, has fallen on deaf ears,
swooned as the wandoos timbered
and the stage lights were flicked off.
By headtorch I sing to you, John
pushing thighs and knees
through xanthorea and zamia leaves,
they’re groping, ears pricked
this pragmatism those billions seem to have,
but not us, no one is listening
the low rumble above the echoing frogs
that’s the tune the piper plays,
the reversing excavator tooting
in the glow of ALCOA’s Huntly operation,
snotty-gobble and dryandra
glow white in the headlamp halation
as I make out, barely, a trail,
a darkened, flattened track
in the controlled burn forest
where no animals live anymore
and I can sing as-out-of-key-as-I-wish
and no one is there to ask:
which register are you coming from?
Pellucid stars, please, please
chart some kind of direction,
Canning Hut to White Horse Hills Hut,
walking seventy six k’s, sixteen hours
for John, whose soul is lashing out,
the feet discoloured, bleed:
nature is a language can’t you read?
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.