By John, posted by Tracy
Here’s an extract from a long-term work-in-progress: Paradise Lust. Obviously coming out of Milton’s Paradise Lost, but also (later) Paradise Regained, this section is from 'Book One', which I have just completed. The final section of my 'Book One' is still in typewriter-script.
I’ve been writing ‘Book One’ on & off over the last nine months — as it largely reacts to local, regional and international political/ecological/social events, as well as to ecological concerns in general, it tends to be picked up when anger rouses me. I don’t intend it to be a diatribe — in fact, it’s more an engagement with Milton’s original (grabbing and reconfiguring his text, conversing with it, or just attempting to outrun its polished inevitability of form and idea).
However, I see it as a case of making a private torment public for a couple of reasons: firstly, the cathartic nature of public utterance, and secondly, in that perversely linked contradiction, the obligating nature of public utterance. A kind of desire to be held accountable for one’s mental and emotional resistance.
The stimulus to this section was the outrage I felt hearing ‘Twiggy’ Forrest speak (on a Four Corners documentary), regarding his desire to get ‘approval’ from traditional owners for yet another iron ore mine in the Pilbara. A very rich white man saying he can identify with the sufferings of local indigenous communities because of having been brought up in the same area seems to me classic colonial paternalism. Surely he does not know, because surely he can’t know.
I’ll say no more because I actually think the poem says it better. Poetry is the ultimate pacifist vehicle, I feel: its volatilities are tempered by the constraints of language and distance, which leads hopefully to more constructive outcomes.
Which is not to say I don’t think that one should stand up in person and clearly articulate an opposition — I certainly do. But reading a poem in person can often be a whole lot more effective than either speaking or yelling at the brick wall of self-interest (especially when it’s dressed up as ‘caring’: e.g. as soon as you here the words ‘training’ and ‘employment’ in the context of working in one’s own mines, you have to worry about motives, as much as the predictable questioning of the value of handing over money to ‘those’ people).
Poetry is action, and the story of Satan’s fall and battle with the legions of God, and his corruption of Adam and Eve, is the vehicle par excellence for dealing with issues of greed, exploitation and the capitalist desire for ‘choice’, and also the folly of pride, in a colonial context. For any who might think that the days of Australian colonialism have passed, think again. It happens on a private and state level most days, especially in Western Australia, a truly exploitative and paradise-lusting state.
I might add that the mining billionaires around here don’t merit Milton’s ‘glorious’ epic rendering of Satan (with his human depths and complexities!). And they are as much the ‘princes, potentates, and warriors’ of Heaven as they are of the sulphur of Hell. Whichever ‘side’ deploys military metaphors as signs of pride and worth is going to be suspect.
I am justifying the ways of no one, but I am justifying the rights of the exploited and the wronged (human and non-human) more than those who want to manufacture a ‘paradise’ in images of their own desires!
Paradise Lust 5 (Book 1)
Hesperian Celtic utmosts, island
to island I am not a person, prevalent
and prevaricating point-of-view: we are
what we watch with sore and running eyes,
get-back-together myth a rubric and flocking-
cause, damp walls I read of to go to: flight,
hypocritical hue or due: highest word orders
traipsing attention-seekers (ordnance)
reared in standard courage: clarion trumpeter
vengeance to perform, scrupulous as lustre
I cannot express my need for birds beyond
the window at dawn: sonorous and true,
‘martial sounds’ I make what I will of: damn me,
I am sure you will! Nightfright is explosives
and butane cannons a valley-fright, nightline
gone wrong at head of bed: I dreamt a cube
you looked into and there was an explanation
mark floating in analgesics — all those banners,
all those labels ‘with orient colours waving’:
hideous namesake who would locate and blame,
‘geek’ is the New Right with righteous indignation
flowing offhand, enlivened by microwaves,
phalanxes of digitisation, I escape to granite
folds where radon broods and alters ‘gift’
as much as birthrighteousness; none makes
from attack to battle traps clawing ankles
in the ‘firebugs’ storm of calling: who
are these dazzlers who surround me?
Who files and anglegrinds the view away?
Who cuts the heart out of the hill?
I place inside an empathy: I am mosquito
and gnat flayed less beautifully and with lesser
advertisement (never mind the samples, here
come the augmented profit programmes);
metaglories & heroic rage: O namesake disgrace,
race you to atomic or armoric knights, a flooding
of baptisms, a jest of clubbing: I cannot replace
the lifetime story I saw in a friend’s look,
acknowledging progress, a swirling of planet
faster than any measurement of orbit, any
counting down of days: we saw the juggler,
and the seat we sat at: a smile, a wave,
a passing over: I won’t say your name, I won’t
say it yet: names are more than I can bear: a pun
is worse than a lie to outflank the eye, resolution
of pictorials: a peerage of atoms and all their
(wasted? never) space; mortal shape immortal
or eminent, loss of tower and language
bright beneath the weighty beams of forests
turned to ships: ‘behind the moon’ in stunning
eclipse, a theft of archangel’s ruins; camera
obscura lumière of twilight sheds across the valley
which will never be tolled though thunder will
come tomorrow diastole in bloody pressure
not a sign of cheek fading to wet wood or thinking
ahead to flames. Passion in those billion spirits.
Heaven-blame is a scathing of forest and heath
and even clumps of spinifex edging rolling desert;
each battlefield mock-up to feel terrain sucked
away (a new uranium mine will open deep
in Western Australia) to little denial, little
weeping or bursting of the ranks; think:
what is work and who does work work for?
My father was a workaholic, my mother
works into her senior years, I work through
the night, and shiftworkers flying around the clock
make life about the life-altars of uranium oxide:
I was hideously exposed in my teenage years.
Myriad double-take, retaking of taken land:
firesale and compensation: digging deep to test
depth of the sign, marker of land and lines.
Lacking skin, lacking totem, lacking expressions
of light where growth begins, nothing is glorious;
those legions of state that would empty me out
into the borrow pit, so shorter days getting longer
in penumbra, exile outcast to blow channels
wide open, to excise and ‘repossess their
native seat’ — no question, just deliverance
of paternal facts (witness Four Corners forrestry);
throne; who sits where sits paternal overhang,
extended through funeral claims; who knows,
maybe pity beats deep unless profit plays havoc,
plays variations or riffs on stories: evidence
is the court’s maverick play, is the specialist’s boon,
is the shunning arriviste counterseal to have
a workforce, a New Slavery where pay is all prophecy,
is all Brave New Worlds and Nineteen-Eighty Fours
rolled over: New Slavery landless in ways
that count; repute custom consent regal concealed
billionaire monarch butterfly off course
aflame; rife rife rife rife rife rife rife rife
as sons as generations of hymns and songs
and daughters left in shade where the hills have
gone concave; onward Christian soldiers all things
bright and beautiful in your backyard you measured
out and made yourself; ‘spirits in bondage’ take your
seats at the table, this is the best offa ya gunna get: work
choices red as iron, red as the lips that tell you what’s
good for you: ‘money is not the answer’ from the obscenely
rich should shake the bones supporting such lips: Warhol’s
factory implosion: abyss war abyss: who spake?
Flaming swords — billions — are inevitable
in the swirl of being heard and lullifying:
the cherubim’s glorious cancelling out,
‘illumined hell’ and the hill hideaway
flattened out by the rolling smoke,
grisly leftovers of the hunter’s assignation
(one of the BOYS tried to run me down
but covered his action by keeping his line
and not following my steps onto the gravel).
The surveillance aircraft that grids us flies
its ‘glossy scurf’ of boundaries, and the truth
of womb envy plays out in HIS great ore
belly, his cultural involution he makes us
understand: capitalising sulphur, who could
speak more clearly of mining worship: ‘pioneers
of spade and pickaxe armed’: trenches and
all the metallic dead, all the metallic dead.