Saturday, October 29, 2005

which only serves to make us grieve

I bought a new Paul Celan book not so long ago, from a great little bookshop in Potts Point. The kind that has books right up to the ceiling - they fit an entire library into a space the size of a teenager's bedroom. If there is one dead person who I wish I could have met, it would be him (and ST Coleridge - just imagine them interacting). The blackness of his poetry brings the wrongness of the crimes against him into my life, into my imagination.

Its Saturday night, so the WWII documentaries are being trotted out for TV.
What seems to be evident to me, but is clearly far from so many others' perception of reality, is that killing is wrong. War, violence, slandering other nations: dumb.

So why do we do it?
(Why ask "Why?", when all you get is another question mark?)

I am clearly not the first person to ask. In fact, ASKING wasn't even my own idea. Somewhere in the Old Testament it says, "Why do the nations rage so furiously together? Why do they imagine a vain thing?"
2 or 3 thousand years later Freud articulated the 'narcissism of minor differences' - those petty differences which mean so much to us.
Jane Ross's work on the biggest Australian nationalist myth, the ANZAC legend, gave us a clear illustration of the limited scope of the attributes celebrated.
A few years later, Benedict Anderson in his (somewhat overrated but catchily titled) "Imagined Communities" offerred a strong brew of morning coffee to nationalists everywhere.

So, to avoid the use of redundant adjectives, it has been spelt out clearly to us. All has been revealed, and I mean that in the broadest possible sense of revelation. And it goes something like this. Don't fight. Its not a good idea. In fact, its really stupid. Do you want your city to look like Dresden in 1945? Do you care to preserve Baghdad's remaining architectural beauty? Are you really comfortable with being a mass murderer?

Political science, psychology, theology, genetics: they can all be used to show us how and to what massive extent people are THE SAME ALL OVER THE WORLD. Amazing, isn't it?
So, can everybody just be nice, please? Can we put DOWN the weapons? Can we say NICE things, or say nothing at all? When will we learn?

Of course, you all think like this, so I'm preaching to the choir.
When I was little and we went on car-trips, I had to sit between my brothers to stop them fighting in the back seat. But it never really stopped them. Its just distanced them a bit. I feel like my whole life is going to be spent sitting in the back seat of Life, saying, "Can you people just be civil? Can't you see this is affecting me, too?"


...With oft and tedious taking-leave,
Like some poor nigh-related guest
That may not rudely be dismist;
Yet hath out-stayed his welcome while,
And tells the jest without the smile.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


I come from a dry place. Almost Siberian in its extremes. In summer, if you sleep all day, you can go out at night in bare feet, and the concrete is beautifully warm. That same concrete in daylight hours is inhospitable. And the dust blown in on those dry West winds. South of South Africa they came toward us and came crashing into the cliffs that tell the sailors: you have reached the great Southern land. In Fremantle, they breathed a sigh of relief as the doctor touched their forehead and cooled the brow. Easy now. Keep moving, over the land, towards the Dreamtime, edging past a mystery - and somewhere a train loaded with rock clacks in isolation. Click clack. The long haul truck drivers go onto autopilot.

Nullabor: no trees. Red earth: the colour of our dreams.

Beyond the curve of the Earth we know but do not see the airforce pilot going Mach 3. He looks down, gas mask sucking. Spinefex. Spinefex. Road. Spinefex.

Come closer. The same fish that sits below Africa, trodden on, lies here. Waiting for the rain. Starts planning its next breath. The last drop of moisture was taken from the air days ago, but the wind keeps pushing on. Skeletal. Whistling dry. The trucks still haven't arrived. Over the ruins of mountain range from last aeon, dust that blows the shapes of what we nothing know. All things burnt to cleanliness, the dust too is clean.

And from that autoclave of central Australia, the winds arrive to me. I take my wet washing from the machine, and two turns around hills hoist. First a stretch to peg them up. Then another as the metal squeaks back to where I started, and I can start to take them down. Why even take the basket from my hip? Perhaps the wind is moister now. I wonder what else expired in that thin air that covered the ground from here to there, the folk in Perth breath easy, but I look aside to try and get this dust from my nose and eyes. Scratch my face hope no one sees me.

In winter, the thinly clad houses shiver to the buzz of tinny electric heaters, cool air streaming in under the cracks in the doors. Mornings are frigid. The light frost on the grass seems to creep in through the windows and settle on the bare shoulders, just out of the steaming shower. Towels are never big enough: wince and grimace. We dress promtly here. Insulation? "Oh, I suppose we could, but it all costs money, doesn't it? No point anyway, it gets so hot in summer."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

back of my hand

Drove back up to the NSW countryside tonight. Just me and the trucks on the road, and the mournful roadkill - ignored and re-driven over endlessly.

I'm glad I'm familiar with the roads. Some of the turns on the single lane roads might be a bit alarming at night, otherwise. But I feel like I could sail through without headlights on. Know them like the back of my hands.

The car is my steed. We go humming along together. Hug the turns. Follow the groove. I watch the white line to avoid the glare of the approaching headlights. We sit tight together and tail the trucks - does the slipstream help, or is it just my imagination?

I think about so many different things when I'm driving along on my own. Sing. Remember things.

Nothing seems to change much. A pot-hole gets fixed, the trees start blooming, creating eerie night-lit avenues. Red light, green light, accelerate.

With miles of duel-highway to spare, some city driver overtakes me and and as soon as their bumper is in front of me, puts on their indicator and move in front. As if they didn't notice they could have just stepped on it, and disappeared into the horizon.
I on the other hand reveal my true colours in city traffic when I leave a 'healthy distance' between me and the vehicle in front - a space big enough that people behind me zip past to take the space!

The speed limits make me ache. Not a car in sight. Kilometres of straight, open road - and many K's still to travel. 110kmph. Or was that 115? No one will notice a couple more, will they?


Speaking of hand-backs, don't you hate when you moisturise your hands that you have to have it on both sides, when really its just the back side of your hands that get dry? A luxury problem, I know. Nonetheless.