three eggs

the high hour of ten: a skyblue wall is held in place
by a rank of palm trees which obscure
block red letters
and a bat chirps above, my encouraging merry friend
in the balcony seats
as I trudge back home like a fisherman, a samurai
to a scoured steel sink
a baking tin and three eggs in clean water
in the cleanest night
I am grateful for it all – the days to be
are a showbag of adventure
but this night is perfect, this night is enough
and I am balanced now
in perfect gratitude

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Compromise City (for Charles Bukowski)

no courage in some Certainties, or what pass for Certainties
soft fun to be found there, the safety and
unslaughtered yearnings denied
beauty framed is beauty amputated
in Certainty, it’s easy to quote the Buddha
outside it, the quotes come harder, truer
Bukowski looks down to the Buddha on his desk
and they speak to one another, and Bukowski transcribes
the conversation
punched down for the ages
I know him (Bukowski) and he knows me and typed words
are shibboleths
his capacity, in every direction, is amplified
because I know him. I would never have sat at his feet
to marvel at vomit, because unlike them
I know he knows that vomit holds no meaning
and he knows I know this
so I get on with it, him in the middle distance, not looking
he there in the afternoon sun
in his paper California

here in Compromise City, on this planet
night miscreants have sprayed ‘GOULS’
spelled thus with panache, reassuring me
the night still crawls with goblins, real live goblins
out in the fresh blackened air

those nights transcribed – not for you or me
but because words are a rope, his bulk dangling
by one hand
nights that will bludgeon away like sharpened spades
him dangling, typing, landing in the form
landing in the word
born in the word

his lionface sunlit, the music unending
as night rears up for me, smacking claws like tacks
upon a straggling wildebeest

I’ve German blood too, old king kraut
dogs’ blood, and the third eye of dogs
do you seen this, with
Mahler in vapour trails at your hammer
in these nights, the Buddha no swollen warm red thing
but what waits in that box, like a wind-up dancer
(the ones our girl cousins and grandmothers kept
on dressers, a clockwork magic, the sadness of womanhood)
in that box, my Buddha in these nights is a
Prussian Officer, creak the box lid and see
his pistol launched into the face of the dark
held brighter and smaller than a keepsake
his weight, in exact units of danger, is that of a statue
and he moves at the same deadly speed
but he does not cry and there are no known photos
of wondrous phenomena, no Catholic widows
chewing for lunacy on wet flowers and rosary beads
no newspapermen with cigarettes and hats and flashes
he holds his pose, the cold pistol
cut from the same stone as his hand
drowned in the night, upright,
my Buddha from that box, in me

no courage in all those Certainties, the easy sell-out
no glory in courage, but you who put it well enough
to show: the image of a man
is the one who can laugh with a mouthful of blood
when laughter comes, though the blood is refreshed
lively, on tap
they didn’t kill you, lion king alone
they will not
kill
me.

Lothario don’t care

baked cold in white fluorescence, he wipes black bean
sauce from his mouth like he just killed a man
and he laughs his trout laugh he says: what I WANT, man
and you can put this on my dating profile, bitches, what I’m
telling you here is what I want; I want a woman who will
stretch out in a deckchair on OVERCAST days
I want a woman who deliberately pisses off her catholic mother
by not crossing herself at family funerals but who
stands there like a civilian all protestant-vague and being a
BITCH about it for her mother’s sick old sake
I want a woman who spills change out of her pocket
down into the seams of the couch where it sits
like it’s been dropped forever into a dryer or a coke machine
every day she’s stained in $17 chemist perfume the colour of
alcohol and mandarins dissolved together in a sad song of death
she’ll leave the vipers in her handbag and
she’s most alive after carnage
in grey clean dawns, we in the clouds a’rumble
her head cleared utterly with ten strikes of climax
and one still in the chamber now, but she says
hold on, hold on, with her voice reborn weary and languishing
hot as a phoenix, she says hold on as she arcs out from the
violated sheet and a cigarette goes whoof! and she’s now
the colour of lavender and talking to me
from the absolute clearest depths of this memory
THAT’S it, bitches! That’s it, put that down, he says

& then there’s a hiatus of cocked .45 calibre laughter
then I laugh across the surface of my fangs
and we all laugh
we all laugh

Swan’s Unifying Theory of Individual Life

Is firstly dependent on isolating the Western tenets; Christianity, imperialism, humanism.
Takes as a given we’re dealing with centuries of theocracy, followed by quasi and/or appeased theocracy, and that the Abrahamic Christian death cult is unusual in its emphasis on human purity and the flawed sovereignty of the species (paralleled in its sibling Islamic mythologies), though the bigger themes are appropriations from older memeplexes. For all its many timeless, superstitious functions – the blessing of the newborn, the sanctifying of (ideally) exclusive sexual unions, the consecration of structures – perhaps the vast cult was at its most relevant when its clerics officiated English beheadings and fascist Spanish firing squads.

I was rereading Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Sunset Express’, which is concerns the symbolic, existential despair of a stridently atheistic white intellectual. His arguments for the logic of suicide boil down to the ruination of his Western optimism: “The things I believed in dont exist any more. It’s foolish to pretend that they do. Western Civilization finally went up in smoke in the chimneys at Dachau but I was too infatuated to see it. I see it now.” (sic)

A hard line to refute, if you hold the faith in the first place, and if you are tormented to a point that takes you beyond mundane, necessary concerns, i.e. when you place great value in post-Christian humanism (not unrelated to Christianity itself). Going back beyond the pseudo-scholarship of Protestantism, and back beyond the Catholic religious brand – i.e. in keeping with the definition of the word itself ‘broad ranging, widely encompassing’ – and you’re looking at subsumed tribes all over the place. Including those ancestors of the white Western world. We are able to look at the postcolonial experience of Christian conversion all over the world and acknowledge the ubiquitous latent ‘paganisms’. We openly acknowledge the Germanic paganism in our own major Christian festivals. But after all these centuries – theocracy, humanism, modernism, globalisation, the recent exponential surge in consumerism – we still, to varying degrees of faith and articulation, distinguish ourselves from the primitive.

This despite the apocalyptic wars waged by Westerners. Did the Ragnarok of WWI eventuate on some subliminal level, not merely geo-political, because the dispossessed native peoples of empire had not delivered the white tribes the kind of epic confrontation they all thought they wanted? Did the legions of tribal kin reconvene en masse to slaughter one another because, at the end of the day, they had always fought their own with the greatest zeal, on common ground? Somewhere in those trenches, blood-spattered and amazed and probably going mad, Hitler looked out across it all and when he wrote his planetary nightmare across continents, it was ways of old he invoked; the Nuremberg rallies recalled the pagan warrior cults; the sagas were recalled and warped and retold in frothing bloodlust. He was, perhaps, some appalling form of neo-pagan. There is no more sobering a title for a history book than: ‘Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century’, (Mark Mazower, 1999).

So what does that leave us with? Pre-Christian barbarity, Christian barbarity, post-Christian barbarity. Barbarity is not a Western failing, given there’s nothing to point to when ‘everything was alright’. As it unfolds, there is not point when a realist can say “we got it right”. Western thinking makes itself the big sister of the human species. Self-appointed, it gathers up the other children and bustles them around, hoping to win the approval of some parental figure who doesn’t actually exist. By definition, humanist Western thinking is set at an incline, 45% straight up. Lose faith in the mechanics of that escalator and you MAY be in trouble. Stay on that escalator and you may also be in trouble: a faith in the excesses of ‘leisure’ culture has delivered endless television and even vaster screens on which to watch the programming; non-nutritious ‘instant’ foodstuffs and hefty furniture on which to grow obese. I don’t think it is too subjective to suggest that this aspect of Western life seems notable for its genuine lack of DELIGHT. Leisure without delight IS something – undoubtedly it is relaxed, on some level – but it might be time to come up with a specific word for this familiar, alienated phenomenon.

So where is the ‘Unifying Theory’? Jesus was probably a Buddha, an enlightened being. The white tribes got way too carried away with the erroneous death cult, and were no less savage for it. Eastern traditions do not preclude such savagery. Some contemporary adherents of Islam are dramatically indicative of such timeless savagery. Fuelled by interpretations, they enact medieval horror, dutifully. Older superstitions often have unspeakable outcomes. No mystical schema is guaranteed to inoculate the human animal against itself. I have not been taught disgust, not in every case, and neither have you. It’s just there, and if you can’t hold onto it then you might as well follow McCarthy’s tortured character, ‘White’, wilfully into the screaming path of the titular Sunset Express train. I have not been taught delight either. Men of all colours grin wildly back at each other in the pounding surf; I see that all the time. That raw celebration of existence. We’re communing out there, it is primordial. Delight is where you find it, but caution is required, or else false delight will devour you, and someone else will make a buck from it; consumerism, addiction, misplaced loyalty. Such are the mechanics of the capitalist West. Lust is grand and problematic but when it’s a source of automatic shame, you’re in trouble. Mating is calibrated through evolved human cultures but there’s more than one way to skin a cat. And an afternoon’s read of Alain de Botton’s status anxiety will reveal the absurdity of societal standards, ever in flux as they are.

The subjectivity of the ages will kill you if you let it. Our ancestors painted their faces and told stories around fires. Expression is as important as meat and air and sleep. Bang a drum; it’s your birthright.

the view from Darwin’s reserve bench

the reality: prone by sodium light
in the barracks of half-abandoned souls
blue sky boxer shorts, rudimentary modesty
two hundred millennia’s worth of ammunition
under Kmart cotton
all that time on the two-way range
all those firefights, those sieges
and I didn’t kill a thing.
if, as the Buddhists say, birth & death are the same thing
then I haven’t killed anyone.
but the assorted wars come back to me, each one
in visions of sweat and struggle, somehow illuminated
but not by light as we know it
only one vision per campaign, regardless of its breadth
the covert adventures, those hushed raids no different
from the great campaigns which elders blessed, where
streets went strewn in white flowers
and trumpets played from stereos.
but still only one battling vision each.
the arcing necks, the wordless attacks, the savage willing eyes
the darkness you can see through
suddenly startled by the plethora, beyond the banality of pride
all those many names
all falling away like a dropped deck of cards
dancing breeze-kicked out of sight
down market town laneways

trophies

the boys who like to have the girls writhe
at their feet – white Nike sneakers & baggy jeans in frame
who want to watch one another plunge it into her face and who
stack drinks on the staring cadavers
huddle for the overdone show of lesbian sex
the furtive clannish boys, lavished by parents
stoked by the cowardice of inclusion
will marry other girls, as man-faced mothers and mothers-in-law
lick teeth and moon like transvestites for gloss photos
then the boys will watch TV shows, breathe from within new furniture
fuck in metric blocks, generally sober
begat, take the congratulations et.al.
and when the booze haemorrhages through them
as the other man’s wife
lingers
they’ll do it again, the dirty old fearful way
banging her like beating out a blanket
without cohorts to gaze on in encouragement
and this may make them sad as
they will not account for the loneliness

badly unread, just like their parents, they do not
understand the double standard; they merely live it
and there is nothing more desolate
than a blank but traumatised mind
in the stinging grip of Evolution as they sit there silent
as a contestant weeps without expression again on a
reality TV show

a currawong transforms to a flying fox
a flying fox transforms to a man dangled in hangover
a man dangled in hangover transforms to a one paragraph job description
a one paragraph job description transforms to
a mind full of sex on a train’s evening flight
a mind full of sex on a train’s evening flight transforms
to a satellite reflecting the sun
a satellite reflecting the sun transforms
to words bubbling through a telephone handset
words bubbling through a telephone handset transform
to a green-black body bag
a green-black body bag transforms to mankind’s mouth of dirt
mankind’s mouth of dirt transforms to a revenant
a revenant transforms to a tale
a tale transforms to a gust of wind
that circles round a fire