Empathy & Emptiness

“You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.”

-Philip K. Dick

The Wicked Witch of the Inner West

In Western Sydney the girls are pretty
and the boys are prettier still
working past dark in Hurlstone Park
“Gotta pay those fucking bills.”

Hit the frog and toad with long-neck to go
all slings and round-a-bouts
sun’s out guns out for the ‘roid rage knaves
“I reckon it’s about your shout”

Blacktown, Shalvey, Bankstown and Canterbury
tribal divides run deep
lock your windows or they’ll steal your dreams
and pull burnouts on heat-sink streets.

Others long gone like a forgotten song
snake skeletons beside a creek
now the low overhead wires crackle with ire
and all bastards become police.

Mcmansions rise over the old sand mines
tasteless solid investments
while red brick boxes built on buried toxins
pull curtains on congealing terrors.

Newtown’s terraces with the screaming jets
sipping on neck-beard tea
a backyard fracas breaks an afternoon balm
“Just pay your fucking tick!”

In the Picton tunnels the underground runners
tag walls with obscure glyphs
when the last train has gone have one more bong
“You smoke green or do you spin?”

Palms and cactus sprouting phallic masses
wine box dining or uber eats
the kebab shop’s hot with a variety box
no greens but plenty of meat.

Dulwich Hill how I remember you still
packed with hungry artists
but do me a favour and what’s your flavour
why water a concrete garden?

The Silk Road flows through Marrickville’s rows
scene kids never beheld the sea
strung out and strung up but heaven will come
with adrenaline and methylated spirits.

I climbed Mount Druitt! (someone’s gotta do it)
I swam in Liverpool’s depths
I digested myself and I divested myself
my steps bounced like bad cheques.

My lads and lasses in those discrete madrasahs
from Burwood to the Iron Cove Bridge
I’ll pretend that I know all your hidden codes
your mangled secretive language.

Tin shed alleys behind crumbling garrets
music thumping all night
but for the Wicked Witch of the Inner West
the mosquitoes refuse to bite.

I know it’s a shit-hole but save your vitriol
for cleaning the mouldy tiles
just forget your castle and white picket fence
and embrace our bogan vibe.

 

Author’s note – I know this one won’t make a lot of sense to some of my international friends, so if you want translations or explanations of any of the Aussie bullshit let me know in the comments.

Red Sky at Morning

Tension and torsion
in awkward contortion
shouldering your boulders
with feedback distortion
tepid trickling
insipid liquidity
crackling knuckles
concealed and dormant
with a phrase of praise for heroes fallen
letters on graves of door-knock salesmen
wound up round up
kick them all over
revel in your relevance
and fade in frustration
summon your sprites in a fit of pique
assembled solicitors paid for in spite
spectral spectators
in abandoned forums
cheering like starlings
chattering and swarming
snapping out lashing out
lacking decorum
anger feeds hatred
while hate eats itself
and don’t ever say
that I didn’t warn you.

Thylacine

Smoke and mirrors
a frozen dinner
ensnared reflection within the window
I am a golem
tasting the truth
or maybe just possums living in my roof.

Movement so furtive
no leaf disturbed
sky illuminated by simmering burn
dens in the heath
concealed in ferns
back striped with shadowy fur.

Their faces obscured by history
and their bones dispersed by flood
they stalk my sleep
depriving my dreams
howling in the hills a forgotten reprieve
where ghosts traverse unknown roads
painted tiger-dogs shyly roam
with babies locked in airtight jars
but for the necromancy of our art
those sad decrepit relicts
they sung to the last.

Prognosis Apotheosis

Plans had changed
we arrived late
those grand schemes
oh my splitting seams
“We lay the floor today
and raise the roof tonight!”

So with the confidence of our inexperience
we attacked the timber with blunt implements
like a parliament of plastered bastards
we argued with ourselves and cursed
the fools who built these uneven walls
until the afternoon had washed away
and saddle worn from straddling the sawhorse
with hands raw from scraping the lathe
these city boys in this carpenter’s war
we declared a truce and I succumbed
to heady dehydration and intoxication.

Half drunk in a hydroponic haze
surrounded by a cloud of digital mist
my boots clattered on wooden stairs
and instinct guided my stumbling gait
toward the stone cut seawall
to stand against the Easterly flurry
and precariously ponder
and consider the options
to accept my execrable prognosis
or embrace my belated apotheosis
to suffer rebirth through trial and test
with a can of worms for the birthday girl
and another bottle of your best.

“Come in, come back in
and bring the ocean with you!”

I shed my face and turned my head
as balance dragged me over the edge
flailing, infinite
and entirely indifferent
for a second or maybe two
until the mud rose up to meet me
crowning me in bedraggled seaweed
slashing me with gnashing oyster teeth
and as I lay in on that damp sandy stretch
my waterlogged monologue concluded:

“Life’s a beach.”

7337

Under false auspice and ulterior motive
laden and leaden with manifest destiny
rolling around in rum soaked insurrection
bottom of the barrel, back of the shelf
last calls and final rounds
float to the top, sink to the sky
dance your way into hell.

Liquored up and burdened with prophecy
gin-joint Jesus with electric hair
spilled the beans across the street
and what lurks within a man
bile, curses and spitting shame
please don’t recall my name
when the cloud clears and the waters recede
I find myself and lose the way.

“Who wants another Fireball?”

“What are you, a fucking level ten wizard?”

“Alright Scrunch, I think you’ve had enough.”