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

The Clearing of Coolbellup Bush Timeline

Dec 4: ABC news reports: ‘Roe 8 Highway work gets green light from WA Government before High Court hearing’

Dec 6: About 30 police and as many protestors present as temporary fences erected between Northlake Rd and Elinor Rd in Coolbellup. Beeliar Wetlands Protectors Camp set up on Northlake Rd.

Dec 6: Federal Department of Environment is investigating Roe 8 for non-compliance in protecting Rainbow Bee eaters.

Dec 8 to 18: Contractors trapping animals for removal – sometimes in extreme heat.

Dec 8: Protectors begin stringing heart shaped notes to temporary fences

Dec 8 and 9: 200 protectors congregate at Malvolio Rd as Leighton Contractors enter and exit site. 85 yr old local is issued with move on notice.

Dead bandicoots found near fenced off areas.

Dec 10: Approximately 1200 people attend rally at Cockburn Wetland Centre.

Dec 12: About 250 protestors congregate at western end of Malvolio Road as a large surveying truck moves on to land. Arrests and move on notices issued.

Dec 13: Coolbellup Family Breakfast held on Malvolio road. Mayors from Fremantle, East Fremantle, Cockburn and Kwinana attend to voice opposition to Roe 8.

Protestors arrested on Northlake Rd for pulling down fence.

Dec 14: Group of 7 are arrested for walking inside temporary fence on Northlake Rd.

Dec 15: Surveying truck works along Hope Rd, metres from Bibra Lake. Woman bolts herself under surveying truck stalling work for four hours.

Dec 16: High Court Judge decides not to open Save Beeliar Wetlands case to review the WA State EPA decision.

Melville City Council pledge $50,000 to raise awareness about the apparent benefits of Roe 8.

Survey truck continues to work along Hope Rd and under powerlines heading to Kwinana Freeway. Large police presence unlike day before.

Dec 17: Rethinkthelink launch petition to have PerthFreightLink documents released to the public

Dec 18: ‘Sunday Sounds’ event at Cockburn Wetlands Centre attended by approximately 1000 people.

MP Alannah MacTiernan releases statement: “FOI Update: the 30 month saga continues: on Thursday the WA Information Commissioner ordered Main Roads to send me 26 documents about the ‘planning’ for Freight Link. So Friday when I went to pick them up, Main Roads were too busy and said they would try to make them available by 23 December. The Information Commissioner is soon to rule on another 40 plus docs.”

Dec 19 – Bulldozer enters Coolbellup bush and clears a wide strip through the middle, killing many large gum and balga trees. More than 500 protectors in attendance at both Northlake Rd and Malvolio Rd sites. Police install a long concrete barricade along the length of the NorthLake Rd footpath.

Dec 20 – nearly 500 people and 200 police are on Northlake Rd as bulldozer clears bushland for second day in row. Police divert traffic away from Northlake Rd. Multiple arrests and move on notices issued.

Two women lock arms to main gate at WA Limestone – the machinery contractors for the clearing. They are arrested.

Dec 21: A total fire ban issued by the Dept. of Fire and Emergency Services. Main Roads were granted an exemption from the total fire ban by the Barnett government (until 2020). Cockburn Mayor Logan Howlett said the exemption granted to Main Roads WA clearing machinery was unsafe and a high risk for nearby Cockburn residents, commuters, workers, protesters and police officers in the area.

Clearing postponed as a water truck enters cleared area.

Dec 25: Large Christmas lunch held at Beeliar Wetlands Protectors Camp

Dec 28: Protectors put out call for mass action on the 4th of Jan, 2017 – the likely re-start date for further works.

Jan 2: Live! in the Wetlands event at Manning Park attended by nearly 2000 people.

Jan 3: Another legal hearing to challenge the High Court decision is announced. Main Roads are prevented from further clearing until the 9th of Jan. Mass action called off for the 4th of Jan.

Jan 4: About 30 protectors at the camp. Police set up festoons on Malvolio Road. Trappers and fencers enter. Western end of Malvolio Road to be fenced.

 

 

 

Malvolio Road

In Marginata shade, with the depleted ozone
at Malvolio Road, the sandy verge is compacted
by sandals and sneakers, citizens sing
get up stand up, stand up for your rights
and a mum tells her son off for breaking black boy fronds,
and the patrolling police ask us to stay off the street
and the Federal Member for Fremantle stands with us, getting grey sand in his shoes
with his Ray Bans in his back pocket.  Meanwhile architects
and planners present their proposals to Barnett government
ministers their most important work, the Roe8
Highway Extension. The images projected on the screen
are so realistic you might think the project is already built,
the families in the photos appear so happy,
the cockatoos in the sky plentiful, the cars few
and freewheeling and the diagrams so convincing:
arrows show traffic flow and hydrology flow
and mitigation movements and meanwhile in Coolbellup
Janet works at the IGA to pay her rent, cutting open
cardboard boxes and stacking shelves. Janet knows
where every single item in the entire store goes.
On the eighth of December 2016 the temporary fence
went up across the road from her house,
and on that day, for the first time in twenty years
the family of bandicoots Janet has fed and watered and loved
stopped visiting. Two years earlier, on Kings Park Road
The Premier Colin Barnett had an idea, at the meeting table
The Premier Colin Barnett had an idea,
his idea and his alone, out of his own head Colin had an idea
where the idea came from no one present knew where,
but they heard him out, Colin was so moved by his idea
he had to borrow the architects’ notebook and make sketches;
if the people of East Fremantle don’t want Roe highway
straight through their suburb, we’ll build a tunnel,
a five kilometre tunnel underneath White Gum Valley,
that’ll show ’em, said Colin. The Premier himself was so impressed
with his ingenuity he had a sip of water from the small tumbler
in front of him. The idea was so spontaneous that those present
at the polished jarrah table didn’t know what to say,
a junior engineer was sent to draw up some plans.
That day, at Coolbellup IGA, Janet helped her neighbour
Kate find some polenta in aisle three and got a special
treat for the bandicoots’ breakfast.

 

J. P. Quinton – Malvolio Road 12th Dec 2016

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Barnett Destroys Wetland 

This photo shows the Barnett government’s orders for police presence at the Beeliar Protest this morning.

Here’s the first poem I wrote on day one of the protest – 8 Dec 2016.

It is not a great poem by any means but I wrote it while standing on the barricades and felt the need to write right there and then.

Peace
Roe8#1

You may have never protested before.

To stand in the way of the Roe 8 highway feels wrong. To take a day off work to hold a banner feels wrong. You’ll be called a bum. They’ll say you’re unemployed, have nothing better to do. The ‘mainstream’ will tell you the ‘development’ is going ahead, the ‘plans’ have been in the ‘works’ for years, that clearing native bushland is necessary for ‘progress’, that the correct environmental protection measures have been taken, don’t worry friend.

But they don’t follow their own guidelines, they say the native animals will be trapped and moved to other areas, yet we know few animals survive. On Northlake Road the fencing contractors are asked to turn their music off, the police can’t hear their intercom. The police apply suncream and help the fencing contractors move traffic cones.

The police ask one another if they are right for water and say we could be here all summer.

How does a woman, shifting from one foot to another, become a police force? How does a few scribbles on a napkin become an environmental disaster?

In the shade of a flame tree the protesters hold banners and car horns beep and a pair of pink and grey galahs fly overhead. When my parents were my age if a ‘development’ was taking place, there was no temporary fencing, portaloos were not delivered to site and the Cold War delivered renewed apathy.

When my parents were my age protesting was not illegal and developers need not chop down trees in the dead of night. I grew up where the damage had already been done; the river dredged, three billion year old wetlands filled with yellow sand.

In Tonkin Business park, giant ziggurats were built to cover toxic waste, the destruction is older than me – the river poisoned before my birth. Where there is no bush the bush can not regenerate. When I was three…