Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The broken vase

Break a vase .. and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than the love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole. Dennis Walcott.

This line kept reappearing in my mind as I stood on the sand bar that guards Broke Inlet from the sea. ...  the love that reassembles the fragment is stronger ... His father cut open the grey plastic urn with his pocket knife. 'Let's get this show on the road,' he said. Young men my son's age, raw and stricken, lit up tailormades and hunched into the wind. It didn't seem to matter how they did this thing called grief. Some fell down in the sand crying. Some waded into the sea that had taken their mate, to challenge its power and throw a messaged whiskey bottle into the rip. They spread loose feathers into the waters of the inlet and, with the winds that day, the feathers would arrive on the shores below the shacks where he grew up.

We motored many boats to the bar to spread his ashes. That swell crashed and churned all day, and with it at our backs, we fished for gardies and whiting. We drank beer. We watched his sister throw his ashes into the inlet, standing knee-deep in the water. Her clutching the urn and arcing it over her head again and again. A potential future as powder flying through the air.
'Oh, you go girl,' whispered the woman next to me.

 I'd asked him a month earlier if I could go on a pig hunt with him and his mates. Not that I hanker for this kind of entertainment as a rule. It is the culture and experience that I want to write about, in a gonzo kind of way. He probably thought I was an annoying wanker writer for asking to come on a pig hunt, but he did say yes.

When I first met a mob of pig hunters on the Broke track they scared the crap out of me; these jaw-chomping blokes with their ute trays full of lurchers in leather harnesses and brindled killer pitbulls in cages. Straight out of a Mad Max movie that lot, post apocalypse and all. But like commercial fishing, pig hunting is not a visible culture. Muggles only get an occasional look in. You may see at the pub younger, less disciplined dogs spilling off the back of a ute, bristling the GPS wires attached to their collars, and quickly bundled back on board by young men carrying slabs of beer. On New Year's Eve, my sister saw a headless pig hanging from a truck parked at the local supermarket. It's a culture I wanted a closer look at.

Anyway, I met him in the summer at his father's hut. (His dad was the partner of my friend who had died just before Christmas.) He told me a bit about the hunting, about his dogs. He told me how bush ticks fall off a pig as soon as it is killed, much the same way as fleas drop away when a dog dies. There is no place for parasites once the blood stops running, apparently.  I didn't think much about these conversations, just that I was invited along for a pig hunt at some stage. I kept my Broke radar on for when he turned up again. He was a nice lad. I liked him. Then Johnboy rang me.

the love that reassembles the fragment is stronger

Back at the hut after the spreading of his ashes at the bar, some serious drinking set in. Spy, who'd decided he was driving the 100km home to Manji, sat in his Cruiser in a huge sulk, alternately sleeping/trying to co-opt kids, adults and dogs into finding his car keys. His wife sat beside me, pokerfaced. Cam sailed up and down the front steps, vodka in hand, until his every voyage became a party trick. Someone started an argument about mutton. I jingled my pocketful of stolen cigarette lighters. Someone filleted and then cooked up all the salmon, whiting and herring on the fire. The gardies were left forgotten in iceboxes. All the hut folk were there.
Johnboy, his nephew and the drowned boy's dad stayed sober, looking on.

I reckon it would have been close to nine when the women came back. They drove around Spy who was parked in the middle of the track, still sulking. Two of them were leaning out the window shouting, 'We got a pig. We got a pig!' They stopped the car and got out. They stalked around the camp, a bit amped. These women were tall, well over six foot tall with long black hair and they looked like Valkyries. Their lean whiskery wolfhounds jumped out and slumped on the ground beside the car, exhausted.The women had taken a boat in from his wake at the bar and gone pig hunting in the early evening. Not with guns, mind you. They'd gone out hunting, with dogs and knives.

I walked home along the track that night, my headlamp bobbing light ahead of my steps, thinking about those women, his father, the dogs, and this life.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Some art for Good Friday

 'Wild Pony, Wales' by David Hurn

And this I do adore ... At MONA, there is an installation that sprays down jets of water in the shape of letters, lit into diamonds by strategic light. The words are whatever people are typing into search engines around the world at that very moment. The sound of the water and the crystalline words are mesmerising as well as a sense of connection to humanity. This, the day John Clarke died.

Friday, April 7, 2017

A strange day

It's been a weird day. You know when you have those weird days?
It's been a thwarted hot date for me, (I do love that word 'thwarted'. It's always reminded me of the thwarts that hold boats together, but also the situation of coitus interruptus.) Today was also a potential argument over money and love with my daughter, saved by our last minute phone call, and finally a woman turned up at the service station yesterday, under duress, looking for baby food. 'We are on the road,' she said, as her partner filled the car with fuel.

She came back again today and hung around, in a shop where baby food, sliced bread and veges are stupidly over-priced. She stayed at the counter, talking to me. She was dithery, moving over bank accounts on her phone to the one she kept kept forgetting her PIN for. 'He's gonna be wondering why I'm spending so much time in this shop,' she said, looking outside. 'He did this yesterday. I don't know him well. He asked if I'd like to come down south as a friend. But he's been getting really strange. I don't know what to do.'
'Do you feel safe?' I asked her.
'No.' she said. 'No. I don't know what to do.'
'Where are you camping tonight?'
'I'm not sure. Maybe Busselton?'

I've been in this situation. I remember forgetting my PIN because I've been so physically and emotionally stressed. I remember asking roadhouse staff for help. At the time they all blank-eyed me.

I gave her my card. I said, 'I'm working late. Here is a contact in the next town. You will go out of range in about fifteen minutes. Please ring and let me know how you travel. X Sarah.'

Monday, April 3, 2017

It gets better

So, it has been a bit awful, yes. However, here is my fur coat with some kale:

The fur coat was delicious!

Here are some clouds out at the inlet bar yesterday:

Spot the mare's tails and mackerel scales ... 

And here is the kangaroo skin my royalty cheque paid for.
Royalty cheque!
Royalty cheque!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Seasonal Adjustment Disorder


I've been feeling so awful about my life over the last six months or so that I haven't wanted to blog about it. I just didn't want to spray my shit around. Even my high moments at the writers festivals and the etc began to feel like a total writers' tour that sounded so brittle and way too much like social media happiness. Please note here that I have not been feeling the social media happiness. I've been crying drunk and burning my hands every night trying to stuff too-big, shit-burning banksia logs into the fire.*
Best friends were dropping dead from things like liver cancer, hitting trees too fast on their motorbike. You know. The last king hit was an out-of-the-blue early morning stroke while she was walking her dog. Then another one. Grief is a street fighting beast. It just belts the fuck out of you.

'You'll get better at this,' said a good friend who'd lost a few.
'I never want to get better at this!' I wailed. 'I never want to feel anything less than this!'

Last weekend I went to a memorial. Actually, last weekend I went to two memorials. Saturday was for a young lad, a pig hunter who drowned at sea. 'It's a pig, the cigs or the sea that will kill me,' he'd said once upon a time. And Sunday was for a local matriarch who'd said, at 97 years of age, 'I think I'm going to have a little lie down.'

I think you can guess which one was the most joyous.

*Banksia wood burns slow and cold. Burn it, if you want to spend a winter crouched over a fire like a desperate, heartbroken beast.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Seal Wife * 18

This is the last chapter of The Seal Wife. To make it more confusing, the chapter is actually called 'The Seal Wife'.

The Seal Wife

We roam; we dream the inlet, curl into her pregnant swell and breathe the scent of rotting ribbon weed that drifts into the fresh water. We live among ghosts. The water hums with their history sometimes and other times they are mere memory. Black bream eye us nervously as they bullet by. Time is still and ever moving outwards, a dandelion head blown apart by a winsome child.

Am I a ghost? Ah Kit’s wounds were terrible and the crime against my brother was final and sometimes I feel that I am dead and decomposing; that I died for my sins when she sank me. But I feel vital in my body. A fine pelt of fur and oil grew to keep me warm. We sleep in warm, secret places. I feel the cords of muscle in my arms and oxygen in my breast and I know I am not a ghost.

Come down with me, she said that day. Don’t be afraid. She shackled me with her body, the weight of the ocean brutal on my lungs. I stared into her black eyes and saw my dying self. There prickled a delicious sensation at the base of my skull. The pain in my lungs travelled through all my flesh. Everything stung and hurt and still I felt my desire unresolved when I stared in horror upon her naked breast. Perishing – and all I could see was her magnificence.

I took her nipple into her mouth ... the shock of the warmth under her cool, stippled skin.
Stay with me. Don’t be afraid. No bubbles of words only an essence of voice. The blood of my body flowed towards her, aching for her. She folded her legs around me and I pushed my penis into her. It is like dying. I wonder if she knew the story of her birth, if she knew where she came from. Her feet curled around my buttocks and clamped her body to mine. Where would you hide anyway? She asked me. She knew more than I realised. Even in this land there are too many people. They will find you. Where will you hide? Your body? Your mind? Where will you crawl to escape the noose, the sound of blade against stone? You must slide yourself like a needle into the artery of this place, become part of its blood, never to be seen again.

Tell me your name, was my dying demand other than that of her body as I pushed into her womb. It was a secret, I knew but she told me. She took my head in her hands and worded the bubbles into my ear, bubbles of a name, a name my lungs so craved. Impossibly Gaelic was her name and then the bubbles were gone.

A red flower unfurled at the base of my spine. I surged into her like blood and felt the blackness move over me. The red travelled up my spine and the prickling in my skull exploded into stars. I was finished. Finished. Nothing.

How long? Long enough to lay my eyes on my brother Silas and feel the weight of his hand upon my shoulder. Long enough to look beneath my feet at the murky, clawing depths that reached up dripping appendages, threatening to suck me down.
I was having none of it. I’m sorry, Silas. I am so sorry. He nodded and let me go.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Seal Wife *17

 Pearl and Finn

“That’s right. The metal detector was useless because the plane had crashed right into the sealer’s camp.” He stabbed the table for emphasis with a twig. “There was metal and shit strewn all over the shop. Beeping was going off all the time. You wouldn’t believe the debris. I’ve never seen anything like it ... I’ve never seen anything like it. They didn’t stand a chance, poor bastards.”
“I heard that.”
“The explosion?”
“No, I heard it on the news that the plane exploded when it crashed.”
Finn looked at her hair, wanted to stroke it. “I’d like to take you there one day.”
She felt a lurch in her belly. “Why?”
“Not out of morbid fascination or anything. I think you would really like it there. It just feels like your kind of place, you know?”
“Well ... you’re like a fish, aren’t you? I’m sure if you had babies, they’d been born with gills and fins and scales and things. This place would suit you.”
“I’m quite definitely more mammal than fish,” she said, unsure whether to feel affronted by gills and fins and scales and ‘things’.

It was true though that Peal liked the brine on her body more than most. Her friendship with Finn had blossomed from a dive lesson almost three years ago. It was the first time he saw her on the jetty, tying back her hair and clad in the sleek wetsuit she called her sealskin, that he knew she was the girl for him. In the water she became fluid itself. She knew where the best reefs lay out by the islands, which way the tides surged and where to find the giant cowry shells. Finn was definitely a land lubber, a tiller of the soil. For him the dive classes were mere folly to add to his eclectic repertoire of skills but once he’d seen her undulate deep into the beams of light and curl around her body to commune with a sleepy bat ray, he knew he would do anything to dive with her again.

It was only later when he saw her walking along the track by the creek with the two sheep dogs, when he saw her landlocked, protective state with layers of baggy clothes and sheepskin boots, that he realised she was the woman renting the cottage not half a mile from his house and he’d not even noticed before. Maybe he recognised the dogs but not the insular, unremarkable woman walking with them. One day he introduced himself at the gate and reminded Pearl of the dive lessons she gave him. And now, she came regularly and made sure he stopped for a break and gave her a cup of tea. Sometimes she brought fish she’d caught and swapped them for vegetables or fruit.

He’d put the word on her before and she’d run away. She avoided his place for a while. He scared her off with the needy, horny energy of a man who had been alone for a bit too long. But she liked him and so she returned. She liked the way he pondered things. She knew he spent hours worrying at such things as how to rid the orange trees of scale or sooty mould, without using sprays, how to get the eagles working for him and recipes for guinea pigs. But most of all she liked him in the evenings when he’d had a homebrew or two and he pulled out his violin and played her a tune. She’d walk home in the cool night with raw music still reverberating in her mind.

“Why Drambuie?” She swilled the golden liquor around in her glass and saw it enter the hollowing ice cubes.
“Why not? And you are a Scot, yes?”
“My parents are Scots,” she laid her eyes across his face. “But I’m not. They adopted me after they came out.”
“Bullshit! I mean, sorry. I didn’t know that. Sorry.”
“I don’t know who my real parents are. I’ve been looking the last few years,” she shrugged. He could see the old hurt, right there. “It’s like someone left a trail of footprints but they were dragging a branch behind them, wiping them out. I guess they don’t want to be found.”
“Birthdays must be a bit strange then, hey Pearl?”
She nodded.
“I’ll get your pressie.” He walked to the shed with easy, loping strides and returned carrying something wrapped in sepia newspaper.
“What’s this? Fish and chips?”
He put it on the table with a heavy thunk. “Open it.”

She untied the baling twine and pulled the newspaper away. It was two pieces of stone. She looked at him in astonishment. “Where did you get this?”
She almost rolled her eyes at him.
“From the inlet. I found them in the rocks, on the tide line.”
She pulled the biggest stone towards her body. She laid it in her lap and stared at it. Grooved with centuries of work, it was the size of a dinner plate. The second stone fitted the groove and was the pestle. This she held and the weight of it fell into her palm perfectly tooled. She ground it into the mortar and the sound of stone on stone brought her home again.
“This is a tool kit. This is someone’s tool kit.”
“The stone is different, not from here, I’m sure of it. Maybe they traded it back in the old days. You know, you hear of ochre and pearl shells found thousands of kilometres from their origin. Things are more valuable when they travel so far.”
“It may have bought some lonely trader a wife,” she grinned wickedly at him and was glad to see him blush. “I wonder where it came from.”
He cautioned her. “Some artefacts are ... problematic. Maybe the Old People will want it back.”
“It’s okay,” she said. “I’ll look after it for them. I’m supposed to look after this.”

She sat there looking at the tool kit and a heavy kind of silence fell over her shoulders. Her hair covered her face and Finn wondered if she was crying. He hoped not. If anything he was a little bewildered by her reaction, though his ideas of who Pearl was had quite changed on this day and the gift only intensified that.
He moved his chair around the table and sat near her, near enough to draw her heavy curtain of hair away from her face. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah ... I just feel a bit freaked out.”

Finn stroked her hair, feeling the knotty waves, the strange kinks and perverse curls. His fingers caught on a lock. He didn’t think of anything, just stroked her until he felt her soften into him. She turned her eyes to him and he could see her pupils so enlarged that they made her eyes look inky, black and he could see the branches of the tree in them. She touched his face with cool fingers and stroked his beard. He felt a light, delicious rush from his groin to his heart.
“Will you take me to the inlet?”
“I want to ...” Finn cleared his throat – he could hardly talk. “I will take you there.”
He laid his lips across her cheek and breathed her in, her seashell self. Her fingers twined in his beard. Her lips found his. One of the lounging dogs sighed heavily in its midday dreaming under the karri tree.