Thursday, June 5, 2014

New chapbook "Unsettled in Australia" prologue piece -teaser trailer extended uncut directors cut unrated special limited collectors etcetera edition


Those of you on the facebook/twitter vine know I've been working away on a little poetry chapbook, in time for a combined cycling/poetry tour I'll be embarking on come-August.

The chapbook "Unsettled in Australia" is about working with asylum seekers in the community, which I did in 2012, with Australian Red Cross. It's 98% material that you haven't seen before on this blog, written specifically for this publication.

Ultimately the book will be used to help raise money to assist the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, whom I know first hand do great humanitarian/legal/community/work.

I don't want this to be a collection of trauma-porn stories I've appropriated off of the vulnerable people I worked with, but rather an anecdotal account of my work, a gonzo-style first person shooter as welfare worker, reflecting on Australian society as I tried to help people integrate into it.

The writing is coming along, however I'm already having to edit things out. One rather painful excision is a prologue I wanted to have open the story. The idea was to set a mentality about Australia in a global context of being a very rich country, and all the community services we enjoy (with the people I worked with did not have access to, even once out of detention).

 I love the idea of starting with a prologue set years ago on the other side of the world to give a bit more sweep to the overall story, however an opener needs to be punchy too, and this is just too damn long, because of the length doesn't work as an opener/precursor to the story I'm trying to tell, especially as it doesn't deal with the subject matter.

However think it's an interesting piece of writing on it's own, so I thought rather than just recycle-bin it, why not put it up here for posterity's sake, and as a teaser of sorts-


What does paradise mean to you,
living in this place?

every day spent here
I've gazed away hours on those clouds
down by the banks of Phewa Tal
rowboats and pagodas float
quiet in front of forested foothills
guest houses nuzzle up sides of the valley
smoke and mist rise lazily off the water
tastes of incense off the breeze
mingle in with my cheap beer

before today
paradise was my prologue to Pokhara
everything from Buddhist meditation
to massage and adventure tourism
at your fingertips

a hill or two back your city actually starts
where all the Nepalese people live
everything concrete walls and dust
broken plumbing and warbling speakers
blaring plastic bags and gravel roads

I walked around for like an hour
trying in vain to find a bin
to put my banana peel in

ended up just throwing it in a gutter
wrapped in western guilt
with the rest of the garbage
how many angels can dance on the head
of your conviction not to litter
amongst rubble
...westerners don’t venture this way much

I came out here looking for a post office
found you kids running up to me
asking where I come from
making me wish I could talk
in your language
because I say the name of a country
you pretend you understand
but if I could tell you where
I actually came from
you would not believe me

beyond that lake oasis
a kilometre from your house
can't describe to you
what my country is like
it would be easier to say-

I come from paradise

where you won't go mad
looking for a rubbish bin
streets are magically kept clean
by trucks with giant robot arms
picking up all the collected garbage

where I come from
the government gives money
to people who don’t have jobs
it tries to provide housing
for people who are homeless
where the power stays on
all of the time

where there is running water
in every home
even in our toilets
it is clean enough to drink

where I live
hospitals are for everyone
and medicine is mostly free
If I had been born here, kid
a haemophiliac like me
without access to that system
would have died
from the bleeding disorder
before I reached your age

I come from an impossible place
where you can live in comfort
your whole life
without war, want or disease
where superstitions about gods
don’t rule over people’s lives

you probably have belief in some deity
who promises you things like these
I don’t have any beliefs
I have never gone hungry
and I never will
I know this
as certainly as I know gravity
just as I know for certain
we better get the hell off this street

because where I come from
we don't see riot police like these

- - - -

I don’t know where those riot police came from, either

out of nowhere
five minutes ago I was inside that post office
waiting in line musing on the above
out the door now
mission accomplished
my parcel back to paradise
a shiny line of soldiers shoulder to shoulder
right down to the gate

they looked magnificent
fiberglass helmets and shields
wanted a photo of them--
never seen tear gas canisters before

where I come from
we haven’t had a Maoist insurgency
or a corrupt monarchy

this is what I wanted to say
to you before, kid
I don’t know
what you know about
my country
I’m just being simplistic

those heavenly afternoons
I’ve had up the road
could make me boast back home
about Paradise
and I could spend just as many days
defaming my country for you

it would still sounds celestial
you wouldn't believe me
but all that separates
me from you
is Himalayan mountains
a few long roads
then the Indian ocean

all that separates us
is an accident of birth
two feet of height
four inches of my backpacker beard
and a couple thousand dollars

you kids are long gone into this afternoon
a dipping sun gleans light off those riot shields
shit’s about to go down tonight

they’re looking at me
don't make eye contact with-
always hated police everywhere
I know motherfucker's just doing his job
like I just do my job
when I do my job

I was trying not to think about my job
so far I've found it hard
to explain what social work is
in a developing country

kids who come running up to you
just wanting pens and balloons
don't believe in our poverty
by your understanding
everybody is rich where I live
and truth is we have fantasies
for entertainment
of a post-apocalyptic worlds
that would pale against this

where I come from
people don't know your poverty
any more than you kids know
what the word poverty means
people the world over use these words
but their meanings differ  

another thing kid
just as the hills here
separate a lake paradise
from a rioters purgatory
back home
we have marked divisions
of our own

in Australia
our biggest problem
is not knowing how to help

people with problems.


(see I shouldn't have told you it was too long, because now the whole time reading it you were saying to yourself hey this is too long, weren't chya?).

Anyway, I am going to hack that down to about 20-30 lines somehow to include it in the book. Hopefully it will be finished within the month. Watch this space.



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