The Terracotta Warriors
are visiting Melbourne.
China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang
had them made as Guardians of Immortality,
part of his quest to cheat death
and become a god.
Queues to see the Warriors snake out
of the gallery, around the rectangular pool
so many use as a wishing well.
In towns all over the east of the country
people are lining up for water rations,
the Murray-Darling river system
Months after the death of millions of fish
nobody can say for sure what happened
or whose fault it was. Murray cod, silver perch
and bony bream corpses washed up on banks,
floated in the barely flowing rivers and lakes.
When I was a kid, we ate smoked cod
on Good Friday, a reminder about Jesus
and sacrifice. Slow cooked butter and salty,
the memory tastes slippery like childhood,
scrape of forks on the good china, holding the
flesh in my mouth.
Legend has it that Qin Shi Huang
imbibed mercury, hoping for an eternal life
elixir, but it killed him. To prevent panic at his
unexpected end (hide the stink) his body was
transported in a cart surrounded by rotting fish.
Today, the whiff of death lingers, a woman interviewed
says her home along the river now smells
permanently like a fish market—a vast stench hiding
that we can’t quite name or look at yet. Eight thousand
statues built over thirty six years by seventy thousand
workers. I try and picture the daily labour, underground,
toil of hands, a life spent building one man’s legacy.
The Warriors were unearthed, two centuries later,
by farmers digging a field
(stones roll, saviours rise).
Our push for permanence runs deep. Hubris to think
we can outwit the end, play god with
what we’re given, bend nature to our will,
eyes on the miraculous or apocalyptic horizon.
How about this—
by a lake or river, cup water in your hand,
could you drink it, would you want to, and if not,
Tell Me Like You Mean It v5
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- 104: KINwith E Shiosaki 103: AMBLEwith E Gomez and S Gory 102: GAMEwith R Green and J Maxwell 101: NO THEME 10with J Kinsella and J Leanne 100: BROWNFACE with W S Dunn 99: SINGAPOREwith J Ip and A Pang 97 & 98: PROPAGANDAwith M Breeze and S Groth 96: NO THEME IXwith M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHwith M Takolander 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRICAN DIASPORAwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones