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.
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.
*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.
John Kinsella and I have written a book of poems in non-violent protest against the 100 hectares of bulldozing happening at the Beeliar Wetlands. Please feel free to share this as widely as possible. About 5 hectares has been cleared already. Clearing is set to resume any day now. Please click on the image below to read/download the poems.