Gregor and I, and South

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Yule Brook

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.

 

 

Yule Brook

– 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 

quoowooloolo, quoowwlolooo 

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. 

 

 

Death, A Sonnet for Josh Wilson

The WA Labor party want to turn Fremantle into a hub for war machines. Both Josh Wilson and Mark McGowan are gung ho.

 

 

In the bathroom or kitchen, the drain, grated in. Water passes 

the sound of a flushing toilet opposite the monument, 

you were in your suit and fedora and ‘The Doctor’ beat back the barber’s cuts

and as if we weren’t merely civilians, servants to whispers, 

or sheep on ships. As if accepting death were beyond 

our years and not knowing that voice was less frightening, the dark less dark. 

In the laundry I accept the pelican’s death because I will die, 

and to not be scared of dying is to say little, and be little, 

and to spin your way into that ancient simile – local jobs 

are like foreign casualties; you never know when the load is ready, 

when the spin cycle is finished, I tell myself, you can channel 

McNamara’s hollow soul, then your bigger slice of death entombs me.

 

You’re willing to build the war machines, and to send the planes

tanks and drones, but I bet you wouldn’t get in the ring with Ali. 

Oceanman

*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.

Olavi Johannes

Liamli Irene

Miala Inker

***

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.

 

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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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