The only realism in art is of the imagination.
It is only thus that the work escapes
plagiarism after nature and becomes a creation.
(William Carlos Williams)
I. Every convention is also a technique
1. sleepless thirty days:
place names loom up
and disappear. Apparitions
of grain bins erupting
in dull conflagration
slaughter yardsthe urine-
coloured eyes of dead
sheep leering from
irrigation ditches. We
slug it out on the roadside
for hours just to keep
the disagreement alive.
Each blow describes
the beginning of a story
told from its end: weighted
with its own nihilistic poetry.
2. sometimes drank until you were numb.
or sat there among sleepless
dust motes like a phoney buddha
high on ephedrine and mantra.
seeking direction from
x to y in the absence of any
varying the dosage (degrees of relation
between what is and is not prescribed
according to the logic of adversity).
then turning north into sunsets
redolent with odalisque figures
naked silos posed against fields
of yellow-flowered rape …
we are back were we began:
the flatness of a perspective scene
which recedes against
a merely conventional horizon,
Blaxland and Lawson-esque,
appearing inverted on the other side
as if to rectify
a wrong way of seeing.
3. where to now? riding in
on the last breeze and hard up.
a hundred pages on
through plotless outcountry
we arrive again at the
flat edge of pacific breakers
in slow dissolve to urban
nostalgia, moral undertow
and nameless affect …
or backwashed in reverse cycle
as prodigal sons gone south
and no forwarding address.
We could've been the children
of Whitlam and Coca Cola,
jetlagged, having lost track of
history or currency denominations.
4. nothing to be gained here.
before, after. cash for scrap.
another 4:00 a.m. stupor
vomiting the dregs of last night's
mental arithmetic. dreams of a
that stretches out cross-continent
without ever giving you a clue
to its reason for being there.
A punchline without a joke.
Dead-of-night towns on the
overland route. Miles gape,
evoke silent interlocutors
on the nod towards unfolding
catastrophe. A deus ex machina
out of bearing cases ground down
on the long haul from mount isa
to broken hill, dry-retched into
cataracts of bulldust. Spent fuel
lingering like cheap cloying perfume.
Cutting the black interstate line
to haul eastwards across
salt flats ridged by narrow
horizontal bands: on one side high
dunes littered with coarse vegetation
which when slightly decomposed
has a brown earthy appearance.
5. Daybreak under barbiturate cloud-
patterns. Ahead, the sky sends down
a dragline, describing a vertical front
ranged from on-high to the grey
volume of easterly pressure systems.
a mirror, held up to art: to reflect,
is not to change. traversing unfamiliar
regions of cross-sectional debris
our projections fly straight back at us
bypassed on the long straight road,
thinking the scene ironic or insincere?
A procedure, to establish
first principles. Landscape with face
and hands turning on a dial.
an ambiguous terrain, its objectivity
is a thing of the mind, una cosa mentale.
II. A monument to something history plagiarised
dark revolving in silent activity.' Proximity
edges forward, an isolated and discarded
thing. strange shapes bred from this
forsaken wildernesswheels of coal trains,
shunting of freight cars, loading the giant
conveyor belts. Long peninsulas jut against
sky blacked-out of nocturnal cartography,
awaiting castration. Rockdrill totems,
paleoflora. each stroke of the brush
of the hammer of the pen, to force the hand
against petrified inner space. Drastic
as the maternal body's death cycles and
purification. Hate becomes an efficient engine
scraping away at the coruscated vision,
made edgeless and in time the reasonable
ordination of events. Not to balk
from consigning what needs to scrap (ends
accomplished turn to means'). And with these
precautions, set out again westwards to
clear a path through the broken-headed tracts.
this obelisque erected in / macquarie
place / a.d. 1818 / to record that
all / public roads / leading
to the interior / of the colony / are
measured from it
III. The effect of travelling in distant places
1. Attention cones, outward from
light source and seasonal photographs
take motion in their grasp.
The prodigal's irrational return
through disorderly striations and
eerily neutral background noise:
the sound of an airport, of a
house collapsing, of a bridge
in rain. Perhaps some alien
brain there waiting to smother us.
Sunsets wrecking the blanked-
out cellophane happiness.
After the nightsea crossing
retracing, step by un-
countable step, the sinewed track
Autumn leaves and excrement,
like haunting reciprocations.
the sick man groans,
dragging his sack of instruments
on into the immeasurable
beckoned by its fool's glimmer …
2. balshazzar's ghost, draining
into grey, too slow and too final,
and what's written there
some strange irregularity of man
blazoned in the sky's zero.
the dance around the golden calf
a common instinct towards religion
in monetaried vehemence.
in each outcrop, a hieroglyph
of dionysian ecstasy, sloughed off
from the eye that beholds it.
It's morbid death-watch begins.
perhaps we are waiting
to be told that man is not born free
or good, but is only the backwards
description of what he underestimates.
3. the eye, too, is a product
of history. Contemplating
desiccation and evitable
lines of regress, water to salt.
Clumps of skeleton weed
standing alone in the midst
of alchemical counter-proofs
miming ecology. The vast
signatura rerum crossed-out
by seams of alkaline.
A noise like machined-
grist hammering a borehole
and brackish effluent spat out.
What it feeds does not equal
that tract of uncultivated land,
sketched into the background
piero della francesca-like
as a scaffold on which
a foreground hangs. Being
so much dreck and signage.
4. dry wind undresses ground
naked under heat-tremor.
Buckled sheets of plate glass.
Irregular emissions fill the air,
mimeographed in reflex cutaneously
programmed. A very present
physics of the senses stripped-out
of genital wilderness, lymphatics
and distort-teratology. The end-stop
lying there and coming apart
into a gap that knowingly desires us.
As red ground, cut across with blue
in post-ketamine let-down, emanates
from cracks in the opaque residue.
not at all as you had pictured it
out on the broken edge
liquid mountains float in the air' …
outcropping from thorn bush,
slates of bloodstone placed there
according to the laws of chance
the idea, the motive, immured in its
vault like a fossil awaiting excavation.
We reached the next turning point
and came to a standstill:
from centre dead up against periphery
(no things but in relations). The old
illusion of inward left bare
in the first false dawn. A bridge to the
promised land in perpetual
strip-tease slung above the 100,000
expiring light bulbs of luna p rk.
Undressing the blacked-out scar of
decommissioned navy yards, dry
docks … Our hungers for elsewhere
were free to enlarge, conscripted
to the Big Ideanot by ballot but by
lotteryfree too from the necessity
to prove anything. In the shadow
of America everything was neon,
sex and no come-down.
A plush hollywood blonde
all glass and electric switches
radiating from a single point
like a finial on a skyscraper.
It rises up from the compendium
that constitutes its centre:
an ever-exploding movement
watched over again on replay
and then reversed, jump-cutting
at zero altitude from interchange to
nightroads across flat out-country …
Difficul to remember the
purpose and reason for continuing.
Already, apparitions of distance
reveal the end of the line
vertical and pin-point luminous
as conducting rods and storm fronts
ranging west to east.
the rainslashed glare of
articulated lorries as unreal
as visitants from outer worlds.
Earth tremor and juggernaut
cut sideways in the wake and counting
back to the moment the halo formed
around the analogue dial,
wandjina-like, and electric as
spirit medium shot at high speed.
Thinking to out-run the dry
resounding emptiness head-on.
Escape was a sad parody of a film
that's been running for a century.
blue shadows flicker across
defaced warning signsa surface
of night stretched thin across
unbidden secrets of dead lake beds,
diesel and methedrine. Or two
exxed-out roadmaps overlapping
in the rearview, testing the stringency
of what it means to be invisible
though drawing no conclusion from it.
- 96: NO THEME IXSUBMIT NOW with M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHCOMING SOON with M Takolaner 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRO AUSTRALIANwith 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