Friday, August 31, 2012

There be Dragons

From Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Erebus & Terror
under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross, R.N., F.R.S.,
during the years 1839 - 1843.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Poet

I met a poet from Tipperary. A man in his fifties; his frailty, humour, his wisps of hair and pale, elfin face made him a different creature from anyone I’d ever met. I wanted to tell him that, despite his bemoaning the status of poetry in Australia, clandestine visitors to my isolated bush shack had stolen nothing but a copy of Phillip Larkin’s Collected Poems. They could have shot holes in the rainwater tank or taken my gas bottle or generator. But no ...  a book of poetry.

He nodded slowly. “Larkin. They showed good taste.”
“I thought so too.”
“I heard that you are a fisherwoman,” he said.
“Yes. We work the estuaries with nets, in a little boat.”
He took his time during the conversation. He looked distracted and stared across the table at something or someone. “You look like you are strong.”
“I am.”
“And how did you begin this fishing life?”
“I grew up here. Then there were tuna fishermen and whalers, hard men, and it was a woman’s job to serve them beer or shovel the fish in the factories. I did that for a while but I wanted to work on a boat. One day I started working for Old Salt.”
“Do you argue on the boat? It must be hard, sometimes ...”
“We fight, often. It’s a small boat.”
“But you work for this man, because ... you must feel some affection for him.”
“Yes. Yes. I do feel affection for him.”
Later, he shook my hand goodbye and said, “I would like to read your book and I shall tell my wimpy friends in Ireland all about you.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rip Van Winkle

He fell asleep sitting on a school chair in the hot shed, pin holes of light shining through the corrugated iron and spearing his body, his head dropping so that his whitened chin bristles touched his chest.
He dreamed he gave six men his clothes in the desert and the sun shone right through his body and the heat drove him to the sea. He was young then and lying on the beach with the sun beating down on his shoulders. Beautiful girls, screams of babies, chatter, salt water and seagulls. His body was supple, lithe and the warmth of the girl beside him thrilled him. Her hip touched his as she rolled over on the towel. His life, as seen between the crook of his arm and striped towel, was like the flowering red, yellow and green of a psychedelic movie and full of sex, that is all he was.
He woke with a start in the workshop, saw the tools lying against the forge, his boots; the leather worn off the toes and steel shining through. He woke in the middle of a stinking hot day, in a shed in Fremantle, an old man.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dogs of the Sea

From Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Erebus & Terror
under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross, R.N., F.R.S.,
during the years 1839 - 1843.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

On Kalishnikovs, Pirates and Other Flotsam

"Kalashnikov told Hodges that he thought his invention had become a golem. (The figure from Jewish mythology that grows too powerful for its creator and wreaks destruction.)
He wished that instead he had created a lawnmower."
Review of  Michael Hodges' AK47: The Story of a People's Gun.

"The rise of the novel coincided with the emergence of the nation state." Orhan Pamuk.

"My old and grubby gods," Freud on his collection of antiquities.

"The following program of Foreign Correspondent contains scenes of whaling that may distress some viewers."
ABC Oct. 9th. 2007.

The Pirate
He boarded her
he set her alight
he burned her to the waterline.

"It's all about the vision,
about the pleasure
and the trouble of it all."
John Kinsella, Fast Loose Beginnings.

"A tremendous thing happened when Dean met Carlo Marx. Two keen minds that they are, they took to each other at the drop at a hat. Two piercing eyes glanced into two piercing eyes - the holy con-man with the shining mind, and the sorrowful poetic con-man with the dark mind that is Carlo Marx."
When Neal Cassady met Allan Ginsberg, as recounted by Jack Kerouac in On the Road.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

East and West

Some more of Cathy's paintings from her next exhibition ... Hay River East and Hay River West.
She's got her own tag now on this blog. Click on 'Catherine Gordon' for her most recent work and some retrospectives.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Club

The son looked around the house. “Just take whatever food you want. Whatever you think is going to go off.” Then he went into his bedroom and started digging out his school uniforms.
The mother looked in the fridge. Four packets of sliced cheese, a new knob of salami, yoghurt, a crisper full of apples and carrots. A plastic bag of dog bones.
“What is dog food doing here? I thought all the dogs have gone?”
“Dad’s dogs have gone,” he said. “But she went and got another one.”
He started lugging tool boxes, stereo, his electric guitars and amplifier out of his bedroom and packing them onto the back of his mother’s ute.

“What about the laptop? We can’t leave it here, not if we can’t lock the house.”
“Yeah. Um. Yeah. It’s Dad’s. Take that.”
They looked around. There were still dishes on the dining table with streaks of gravy and cutlery and a forest of sauce bottles. Last dinner. The wine rack included two anonymous reds with the club’s 40th anniversary label stuck to it. Household bills, tinny holders and bank statements were scattered over the kitchen bench. Shopping lists.
She thought; he had no idea he was not coming back when he left this morning.
“Is she coming back?”
Her son shook his head and rubbed his hair. “Dunno.”
“Look. We should go down to Nails’ and Lynn and see what’s going on with the house. And we need to tell them we’ve taken the laptop and the tools, so they don’t freak out and think someone’s broken in. Can you show me where they live?"

They drove down the hill, past the hobby farms with their new houses and fences. He directed her to the end of the road and a huge, pale brick house in a green paddock, flanked by a brand new machinery shed. They unshackled the farm gates, walked up the drive, past the garden bed of wintery, pruned roses, and knocked on the front door.

Lynn answered, three or four kids standing behind her in their pyjamas.
“We just dropped in to say we’ve picked up some of his gear,” said the mother. “Just so you don’t get worried that it was nicked.”
She’d met Nails and Lynn again, yesterday, after ten years of the club members and their wives not speaking to her.
“Come in,” Lynn said. “Please, come in. Do you want a cuppa?”

In the kitchen, Nails sat with his arms spread over the table while Lynn made coffee.
“I’m really sorry to hear what happened, Son.”
Lynn brought a mug of coffee back to him.
“Thanks love.”
He was a big bearish man. His kids sat all around him. He leaned into his mug and then looked straight at the mother’s son. “Firstly, I need to know. Are there any of his club colours, t shirts, patches, buckles left in the house?”

Bad hair haiku

Daughter cut my hair
She's not allowed near it 
angry, ever again.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Catherine the Great Bohemian Artist

One of my favourite artists is exhibiting her Bridges series in her studio ... next month!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


The other day I read out Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak on our local community radio. The night before was full of folk swinging from trees around a fireplace or impersonating Max and his mates in all sorts of disturbing ways.

The conversation went to J's Saturday slot on the radio.
"I've got a bloke coming in who has just released a cd of kids songs ..." and then the talk rambled on to Aussie who was lurking in her banana plantation like a wild thing and then, quite naturally to Where the Wild Things Are and Christopher Walkin's reading of it. I think that this was the point where he asked me to read it the next day, because he knows I love that book, and I agreed.
"You can read as the lead in to my interview with him and some of his songs."

Come four o'clock I was still feeling the effects of the previous night and quite forgotten my promise when J rang me. But Hemingway once said that we should make it a habit to adhere to any promises we make when we are drunk, if only to learn not to make such rash promises ever again. Damn you vodka/Hemingway. Okay J, yes, I'll do it.

When I got to the studio, the other guest, the guy who produced the kids cd hadn't turned up. I read the book, explaining a bit about the images as I went. The main guest still wasn't there. We rummaged for music, then J decided to interview me instead.

We talked about lots of different things. He knew I was nervous. Us writers ... fisherwomen, you know, we like a quiet room or an inlet to buzz around in. Anyway, we ended up talking about blogging.
"Blogging changed me as a writer," I said. "Before that I was writing stuff and putting it in a drawer. Or sending it off for someone else to put in a drawer. When you blog a story you put it out there for people to read. If they don't like it, they won't comment. If they like it, they'll comment positively, or at least give you something constructive to work with. That way, writing becomes a conversation which is what writing is supposed to be - a conversation, a communique."

Which leads me to the crux of this post and I'm really sorry if you thought it was about wild things because it's not, really. Since discovering topsynews have been systematically stealing my blog posts for their news and entertainment site, I have gone from an online incarnation of Max

to Don Quixote's Rosinante who has finally thrown all his dodgey shoes and quit the aiding and abetting of any further windmill tilting.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I have a crisis of confidence, not in myself, but in A WineDark Sea. Maybe producing original content on the internet is not such a great idea. Maybe I should just 'reblog' stories and ideas. Cover my arse all over with the url's of other folks' original content and still look windswept and interesting for my eclectic, curatorial tastes.
Write in my books, only. Keep my 'conversations' in the drawer.
Okay, I'm probably not going to do that ... but this is how I feel today.

Worst tells me not to go looking for the redbacks because it will do my head in. By then it was too late. I'd already found them and yes, they are doing my head in. They've stolen another eight of my posts in the last two days, which brings the count up to one hundred and thirty.
DP tells me the internet is full of thievery and are probably too shadowy to chase up. She also advised that I could maintain my rage whilst taking off to my (blissfully offline) bush shack.

I don't feel like maintaining my rage. I do feel like going bush though. I'm quite tired and sad. I know there are more terrible things happening out there. But like I said to J on the radio, A WineDark Sea is my special little play area. Someone has come in and taken all the swings and monkey bars. If I make some more, they will come and take them too.

Images: Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are, Red Fox, 2000.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Oops, left the back door open

 ... and when you come home all of your favourite things have been pinched.

Warning: the remainder of this post contains offensive language from a bitch pirate going Beloved on the ass of people who steal stories.

Occasionally I'll have a bit of a trawl around the net via cutting and pasting a sentence from A WineDark Sea into a search engine. Just checking the perimetres ... At about 4 this morning, suddenly wide awoken and bored, waiting for dawn, I checked the perimetres and found eight or nine of my posts at, from hereon in called topsynewsfuckers. I was outraged and then a little flattered and then I was outraged all over again. Yes, they are using my words as 'content' on their news and entertainment website to spread malware and advertise shitty stocks and bonds. Mine are posted under 'humour and laughter' in the 'read and shop' section. Fuckers. Not your fucking read and shop fucking plaything.

You know how - when someone breaks into your house and steals your best jewellery - you feel flattered that they must have anticipated your good taste and your obvious style when they went to all that effort to smash and grab?

After the school run, I rang the Australian copyright guys in Sydney to find out where I stood and was directed via another phone number to a website where I was supposed to fill out a form or something. So I did what any self-serving and cranky Toa writer would do and emailed my mate Chris Pash in Sydney (a journalist who works in the content licensing business and is on the board of the Australian Society of Authors) - who emailed the copyright guy - who rang me himself fifteen minutes later. I pulled over on the side of the road because apparently it is illegal to carry out delicate copyright conversations on a mobile phone whilst driving a car.

Ross took me through it all. "What they have done is absolutely against the law but unless you have the funds to pay a US copyright lawyer then you won't be able to make them pay. All you can do is get onto their advertisers and let them know what (topsynewsfuckers) are up to. And put them on notice on your own website. And do you have a book deal?"
"Yeah. Some of the stories they stole are in the book."
"Then get the publisher onto it too."

I rang my publisher. Such a nice term, 'my publisher'. Mmmm. Comforting. She said, "Send me the URLs."
It gets better. I got online and did a search on topsynewsfuckers for sarah toa.
119 stories. Then it flicked up to 121 stories.
And counting.
At this point I burst into tears.
121 stories. A year's worth of writing.

If you are a masochist it is worth having a look to see if topsynewsfuckers are pinching your stuff. They have taken other bloggers' posts too. I know, because I've looked. Go to and type your blog name and the name that you write under in the search bar at the top. Don't click on any of the intext links because they will take you to places that start downloading shit onto your computer without you asking. Don't click on the link to your blog at the end. It's not there to guide traffic back to your blog. It is a dodge link that will try to sell you a url or infect your computer. Just type in your name and if you come up, believe me, you will sit back in your chair with a dismayed, slightly violated feeling.

And finally ... I won't add a link to topsynewsfuckers here because I don't want to increase their advertising revenue. But I will put them on notice on the sidebar until they take my posts down/pay me/apologise/all of the above.

Topsy News. What a stupid fucking name. You thieving bunch of fucking cunts.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

On a cracking swell, I

escaped the damp and broody confines of the inlet, motored past the paperbarks and the red cliffs ... to the sand bar and the southern ocean.

 anchored the dinghy into shifting sands and walked east

 communed with a whale

a plummeting gannet, a Pacific gull, the hot burst of a mandarin crescent in my mouth.

found treasure

black dog and me, we stopped to gaze into rockpools 
and then we walked on, over the limestone stumps of ancient forests,
following the fox's early morning prints
to Reef Beach.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

More notes that survived

When the magician sawed that lady in half ... how I wanted to be her, sawed in half and made whole again.

Enthusiasm - from the Greek. 'Filled with God'.

I can't stop smoking and I really don't want to smoke. I buy packets of tobacco and give them to my friend and try again and try again. It's taking its toll mentally. I live in a siege of quitting. When I smoke I don't want to smoke. When I don't smoke I want to smoke.

Farm gates are shaped like envelopes.

We drove to Ravy today through the mallee past the smashed skeletons and low scrub and pink pom poms of Isopogans. We stopped and I dragged a warm body off the eastbound lane, checked it for a joey. No joey, just a tyre mark over a supple spine. An officious gatekeeper wouldn't let us in to the mine. His office was peppered with OHS posters about what to do if a snake turns up. Bruce met us at the gate, buzzing with a silly energy, softer somehow than last time I saw him, showed us around the camp, dongas in rows with rows of washing machines in the middle. I asked him if he liked it. "I hate it," he says, then rubs two fingers together. "But I lika de money." The cleaners had just been into his room, a tiny space. He plays chess on his lap top and doesn't drink much. Others do. He showed me the wet mess, a huge barn with overhead gas heaters and Golden Circle tins on every table for ashtrays. "I play pool in there," pointing inside the fluorescent room, devoid of humans. Between shifts. It is a bitter wind that blows over the heathlands, through the dongas and collects in the aisles. Everyone drives Budget four wheel drives. There are rules. If they want to get rid of someone they take away the accommodation rather than the job. Someone on their way out is asked to pick a fight with a problematic employee and then their accommodation is taken away. Nowhere to live. Brutal, must hurt but the money would hurt more. And they haven't even begun mining there yet, still constructing. It's huge. $1m a truckload ....

A pussy who licks her own wounds
A kelpie of questionable integrity and mad yellow eyes
A Western Red
He's a fey creature and an opportunistic bully. When he attacks he goes in fast and retreats. I love watching his different poses, alert with those huge ears swivelling and his chest thrust out. His tail grips the ground, all snaky muscle. His ears, legs and tail make him the most curious, ungainly creature until you see him stretch out - then he is beautiful fluid perfect movement. So many different moods in that kangaroo. Every day he pisses on my bed.

Last night I stared at the moon expecting an eclipse. Turns out I was ill informed and stared and stared until nothing still happened and then I went back inside, a black dot dancing in my eyes.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Samuel Bailey had teeth like piano keys. Windburned he was. A white man. He dug the dirt from his thorny fingernails with splinters of gunwale and fishbones. Bailey was a bad man, a bad man. You never knew the weather comin’ with that man, his eyes clouded all the storms in his heart. He got wild but Bailey gettin’ wild made him steady like a snake.

He sat at the oars chewing something and spitting and his mouth cracked around his jaws like it hurt to move them or speak anything. His hair was running away from his head and when he took off his hat, it lay in soft wisps over his skin.

I never saw Samuel Bailey panic, not when that black man fronted him on the island with his feathers and spears. Not when that wave rose right up out of a sea and spilled him and the rest of us to the rocks, sucked back and then dropped us again boat and all on the barnacles. Barnacles like a man’s hand with critters living in them, good enough food to suck on when your feet are planted safe on granite. No good to see comin’ toward your face and straining the brine through their jagged teeth and your blood is next.

Bailey was the only one calm. He was tipped into the belly of the whale boat, facing the mess of clouds and he was laughing and telling young Neddy once he found his seat again that he was gonna fucking killim next time he let the boat get that close to the rocks. Break his arm over his knee, break it off and chuck it to the gloamy-eyed grey devils that hunted seal too. Laughing. Made everyone else laugh too and come the next morning one of Neddy’s fingers was a missing, a bleeedin’ stump.
 And Neddy would tell to no one what became of it.