Thursday, July 13, 2017

Monday, July 10, 2017

The cat trap

In the supermarket, the violinist stopped me and said, 'Your cat trap hasn't gone out of circulation, Sarah. It's at my house if ever you need it.'
'Ah! Nice work Maestro. Thanks for letting me know.'
I'd passed the trap on to a mate in a recent divestment regime, thinking that if ever I really needed the trap again, I would know where it was. So it was a bit perturbing to see it several weeks later at the tip shop.

There is often an eeriness to this inlet country, especially mid winter when all is silent, the oystery gleam of glassed off water and massive trees dropping past rain. There is a bird here who shrieks like a woman without warning. Some people cannot be in these places, and I know what they mean. It feels emotionally and sometimes there is a darkness. But I am drawn to these places, here at the inlet and places like the ghost town of Kundip. Maybe it is undoing a puzzle, a mystery beyond my ken, finding the story in the land. It's not that I am particularly interested in trauma but I am aware of Country's scar tissue. What happened here? I admire how the country heals her wounds ... remembers, forgives, but never, ever forgets.

When I moved back out here after a short stint in town, I returned thinking I was armed with the mental tools to live through this winter a little better than the last one. Feeling more positive and thinking, 'Well, this country is obviously not done with me yet.' Back driving the pot holed track, littered with the fallen bark and branches of Karri, and waking early in the morning to the silhouettes of crazy-dancing old man Marri against the water.

I lit the gas fridge and then tried out the hot water system. No hot water. Plenty of gas. Bugger. Unlike the commercial fishers who are camped out the back in the damp hut they call Old Smoky, I have no intention of seeing out the winter with cold water showers. Nup. Nope. No way.

My first morning back and I woke to an awful smell that permeated everything. I couldn't work out what it was but the smell reminded me of something toxic in Dad's shed, or maybe his workshop at the fish factory. Something hydraulic, burning, terrible, alarm bells kind of smell.
A few bumps then, coming from the spare room. Selkie went to investigate and all hell broke loose.

I soon forgot the terrible smell because what followed was a fucking insane fight between two animals. I've never seen Selkie behave like this before. She'd picked up the feral cat by its neck, shaking it, trying to kill it. Then the cat wrapped itself around her face and both of them started screaming, leapt apart, and then went for each other again. Wisps of black fur spiraled around in the air. I got a broom and jumped on the spare bed, grabbing the dog as the cat retreated into the corner of the room, growling. The dog's body was hot and she released a heavy, primal scent. Adrenaline I guess. Crazy.

In the end ... no hot water, blocked up gas fridge chimney which could have burnt the place down, and a feral cat nursing its injuries in the spare bedroom, I gave up. Time for a couple of days in town, I reasoned. I'd been back out at the inlet for, oh, about twelve hours.

I went to see the fishermen when we returned, and asked them if they could knock the cat on the head for me. Polly shook his head. 'I've been feeding it. It's injured and been living under the hut, since Selkie attacked it.'
'Polly, look. I'm no good at killing things but it has go. It doesn't belong here.'
Like me, he didn't want to do it. Unlike me or Polly, most hut folk around here will kill a feral cat as soon as look at it. There are heaps of feral cats out here and they are always small, black cats, not the stripy monster toms of myth and legend.
'Please Polly.'

I went back into town to track down that cat trap, the one I'd last seen at the tip shop. I thought if I could trap the cat, I could tie a rope to the mesh and throw the lot out into the inlet, walk away. I borrowed another trap instead but by the time I got it home, Polly had donged the cat, hidden its body from the other fishermen, and would hardly look at me.

PS. Fixed the gas fridge and the hot water system because FIG JAM

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Days of Fungi

 There has been some crazy fungi popping up around the inlet. We've been hunting through karri and marri, stepping around the loo paper piles of human civilisation and wilding it down to the level of honky nut, or  a ball of roo poo with whole ecosystems of bugs and mushroom aboard. The forest is constantly cycling through decomposition and regeneration.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Slow Day at Work

In this marvellous review of a book about The Daily Mail's editor Paul Dacre, Andrew O'Hagan begins by probing deeply into the origins of the C word.
"Apparently, the first known use of the word in English was in 1230, when an Oxford street was named Gropecunt Lane." He goes on to describe the dirty editorial and vernacular habits of said editor. I was left behind, staring at the words Gropecunt Lane.

I had to go to work but those two words kept coming back like, I dunno, head lice or something. I messaged a friend who was laid up with a mysterious groin strain injury. "In the year 1230, an Oxford street was named Gropecunt Lane," I wrote, wholly sympathetic to his pain of course. He replied that the lane would probably be a highway or even an autobahn by now, and that he could not stand up and would I get something something from the shops. I scratched my head. It was getting seriously itchy with incoming limericks.

Von Trump and Jake the Peg lamented
That the proposal for an autobahn was demented.
The council motion they lost
(despite their cheques in the post)
and no longer was Gropecunt Lane frequented.

Mmmm. The tone Sarah. Get the tone right. Mixing it up with a pussy-grabbing president, a wobble board enthusiast and a planning committee will not work in a decent poem.
Someone came into the shop to buy a coffee anyway, so I was distracted from my true calling for about six minutes. They left, clutching their coffees. I watched them dodge the tumbleweed blowing down the main street. It was back to Gropecunt Lane and the memory of head lice.

There was a young woman from Gropecunt Lane
who had a terrible itch in her downstairs mane.
To carry on with her workin'
she hid her lice with a merkin,
and within minutes was back on the streets again.

"Why . is . this . poetry."
Maybe I'm just super intuitive but I could tell from his last message that my poetry could never compete with milk, bread, anti-inflammatories, pain killers, and even the most basic kindness of 'how you going mate?'  Unfortunately I was bored out of my brain by then and reaching peak stupid.

(This one is to be sung in the tune of The Pogues' Dirty Old Town)
I met my love
in the Gropecunt Lane.
Dreamed a cream
in her old canal.
I kissed my girl
on the Gropecunt ground.
Her dirty old gown
did cover up her frown.

At this stage he told me I was off my head, and asked if I was going to the shops anytime soon.
While I was just trying to cheer him up, he was one step away from blocking me.

I would absolutely love it if you contributed a Gropecunt Lane limerick in the comments section down below. Get as filthy as you like. I can always delete it :~)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Phaedra and the chickpea bruise

Of course he had to come, this afternoon with her face a bruised mess.
Oh, he thought, appalled at the gash above her swollen eye. He’s been here. Jealousy and anger made something cold and strange in his chest.
“What happened Phae?” He stroked her face and she flinched as his finger touched her brow.
“I didn’t want you to come today,” she said. “Not like this. I don’t want to talk about it anyway. It’s embarrassing.”
“Did he …?”
“He can’t touch me anymore. I don’t want to talk about it.”
They lay on the moss. The orchids were flowering, where a week before they’d been but curling tendrils, invisible to boots and layered over granite and karri leaves

After watering the plants on the roof, she’d carried the ladder home and laid it against the house. She went inside and made some curry, soaked chickpeas for the next day’s hommos and started drinking wine. The curry began to burn at its base in the cast iron pot and she turned it off and kept drinking. She sat on the veranda and looked over the inlet at the sunset. She was a good way through the bottle when a four wheel drive parked below the house where the marri trees crowded over a turnaround for the boat trailers. Doors slammed. Two men went into the bush too close to her house to collect wood. The dog started up a barking, panicked.

She waited until she was drunk enough and they’d got a good fire burning before she went down to the beach and approached their camp that way, rather than from her house. She flashed her headlamp at them.
“Whaa? Someone’s out there. Look.” Said one man in a foreign accent.
She flashed her headlamp again and said, “Hello?”

They had beer in their esky but they pulled it out for her to sit on. They talked about Europe and how different it was to Australia, gesturing to their fire proudly.
“How big is the inlet?” the German asked. He wanted to study psychology when he went home.
“It’s huge!” she said. “At least fifteen kilometres across, and it has three islands.”
She drank straight from the bottle. They were going to meet some girls the next day. They wanted to see Wave Rock. She pushed at the stump in the fire with her boot and told them stories. She was getting pretty shit faced. They nodded politely when she started repeating herself. She noticed that they weren’t drinking as fast as she was, but no matter. They would be gone in the morning.

“Let’s go out in the boat,” she said. “It’s a beautiful night. The best time out on the water is at night.”
They’d been in Australia for four days. “Maybe in the morning,” said the psychology student.

“Nah, you’ve gotta get out there at night. It’s so beautiful.”

“In the morning, maybe.”
She finished her bottle of wine and laid it down in the dirt.
“Would you like a beer?” Asked the Dutchman. They were both watching her.
“Okay,” she said.
“You can stand up then, okay?”
“Oh, sorry.” She stood up and retrieved three beers from the icebox. “Here.” She sat down again. “Hey, come on, let’s go out in the boat.”
“Maybe in the morning.” The German yawned, pointedly.

In the morning she heard them drive away. Her radio was on and the candle beside her bed had burned down to the spike on the candelabra. Her face hurt. She couldn’t remember the walk up the hill from their camp to her house. She did remember the blow to her face. Or was it her face to the blow? The spurts of blood over the bathroom floor, and washing herself in the sink, the blood spiralling down the white porcelain. Trying to see her wounds with the LED glare of her head lamp blaring against the mirror.

All so she could brush her teeth. Reaching out over the bath for the toothbrush on the window sill. Missing her mark in her drunkenness and the light of her battery-depleted head lamp. Missing her mark and thwacking down head first on the enamelled steel edge of the bath. Lying there for a little while to do an inventory of her body. The dog Lucy whining, attentive and trying to lick her better. Her crying.

After she heard the travellers leave in the morning, she went to the toilet. She made herself look in the mirror. There was a gash above her eye and the redness and swelling around her eye looked like it would darken to turn blue. Bloody hell. She dabbed on some arnica cream and then she went into the room where the dog slept.

Lucy had the indolent, sleepy air of a party dog at dawn. She looked at Phaedra with gladdened eyes. Phaedra slunk in beside her and hugged the dog. “Thank you for looking after me last night, darling girl,” she whispered to her. “You’re a good dog.”

Phaedra and he lay on the moss and talked. “Was it … was it like that time you fell off your bike, Phae?” He asked tentatively and they both burst into laughter. 
Around them, the karri trees rang with alarmed birds.

The Seal Wife * 22

 The Seal Wife

Beside his bed was a woman’s shoe. I think it was the painting woman’s shoe. I put my face into what seemed to be a slipper with a hard sole and I could still smell the woman’s foot. She had been gone a long time, that woman.

I wondered about the last girl child, whether she would ever return to the inlet. I tried to think what it would be like to see her, to see my seal wife give her grown daughter her sealskin, the way my mother gave me her songs.

The Seal Wife *21

 The Seal Wife

That day I went into the Slav’s hut for the first time. My own home was rubble now and strewn with a carnage of twisted metal and wire. I wondered again at this inlet where men like me, broken by killing, find a place to hide and some peace. 

Alcohol worked in a little tub beside the fireplace, burping up a bubble a second. Clothes, bones, dirty plates and bottles were scattered all over the floor. His unmade bed, with colourless blankets and a yellow pillow that bore the imprint of his head, bristled with the black hairs of his dog. The things people need to live. Newspapers lined the walls, pasted on with glue that smelt like flour. I can remember words, though I could never read well, I could make out the sounds and what they looked like. I sat there for hours. The first page took me a long time to decipher and then it came back to me and I was able to read the man’s walls.

The London Blitz, Dresden, Auschwitz, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Singapore, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq ... the poor man lived in a printed mire of war. I knew then why the woman painted a shell of colours around him.