'One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star'- Nietzsche
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Creative Writing

Creative Writing

Standing there, thinkin

I might just spontaneously combust today:

a strung-out cellist’s crazed thrumming, smoky resin riffs

or a firefly flossing, light between the teeth of night

standing there, them sayin:

You can’t bring other people in   *ribbid*  

Just another sturm und drang mourning

in the lack of concentration camp, pacing

barbed wire eyes all around me, shower stall walls broken, graffiti  

The horse-fire screams barn up in smoke    the vanity of bonfires

Is it Guernica or “Guernica?”

You have 15 seconds to decide, beneath rohrschach skies

In this Auschwitz of the mind   *ribbid*

Rosencrantz and Goldstar pluck pizzicato at “Love,” 

waiting to be hoiked into their own spittoons

Outside the fence, outside where a fence still stands,

you see the thought-locust swarms develop the night,

clearing the koan fields, all ears shucking

It’s dark abyssmal dark in that Nietzschean way: 

(the black winks back)

Inside

we circle ourselves, eternal recurrences, and wait

for the Visigoths to descend  

Inside

Nero whistles at Dixie, the gypsy strumpet 

blowing a trumpet   the bulldozer man  

tumbles one naked idea after another

into an enormous wormhole, where futures generate

Inside

the minotaur is the maze

Inside

a cathedral made of gargoyles, its glass ceiling painted:

Adam exchanges fingers with the Abdicator

Ahab doesn’t have a leg to stand on *ribbid*

Smug-faced clouds spit out fallen angels, dancing algorithms

Ophelia finally opens a nunnery, she’s that ghost   just over there

And there by the latrine, Icarus does a header 

into a field full of uplifted sunflowers with Buddha-faced smirks

Overwhelmed 

*ribbid*

I shirk under the bed, Jim Bowie at the Alamo, repeating

Is that a noif?  Is that a noif? Is that a noif?

and count sheepish grins 

until I’m filled with wolfish grief

And now back to our regularly scheduled pogrom:

*ribbid*

-John Kendall Hawkins

Now voyeurs   keyboard jungling   tappy toe

gargoogles   down and qwerty   in the Dell

slashburning   by gaslight as they go

New World    Nazis phishin’  in Auschwitz Bay

(one jew killed   each second for years): don’t tell 

Charles Boyers   keyboard jungling   tippy toe

Dancing algorythms  of human clay

The imprismed light   Dante’s data hell

Gargoogles light ass-gas and watch it glow

Space between your ears   the last frontier gray

Colonial convergence:  it will sell

Slashing keyboard jungle   tippy toe

Fascist entropy   digital decay

In the big black man hole   rings Pavlov’s bell

Gargoylin’ and gaslightnin’ as they go

We know it didn’t have to be this way

It’s just the way all the dominoes fell

Through the keyboard jungle on tippy toe

Gargoyling and gaslighting as they go

–  John Kendall Hawkins

for Kerry

Out back in the garden, knee-deep in kale, 

her eyes seed baroque — old coffee stones

swirled around beds of composted worlds:

new grannies, wild herbs, and potato plants;

chicken bones (dog-gnawed); bees at pink roses;

crows carry on, a blue tongue flits at flies;

figs sway behind the dervishing hills hoist;

quince and blueberries, a dead brown dugite;

quacks, croaking, and throaty song birds; Hermes

toys a bandy in the shade of a blue

jacaranda; then the sun fades away

and rain plops down like paunchy Buddha bellies.

O, it’s a peaceable enough kingdom.

Through a spring miasma, her eyes kindle

fresh hope, a celestial prescience —

star fields in the black cathedral plasma:

no garden would exist without her mind

churning the raw green grist of the sublime.

  • John Kendall Hawkins

I will love you mercilessly and will beat

my frantic wings against the pane

until something breaks inside.  I will flame

like a solar fire filled with fugal heat,

and then press, press — a wild insurgency

of barbarians crazed by inner joy —

no matter if I create or destroy,

pushed on by existential urgency.

For whether driven by Donne’s tripart God,

Poe’s Bells, or the stark Stravinsky’s Firebird,

you move me until I am absurd 

with desire — like some burned out lightning rod —

a bird of paradise in a living hell

salivating metaphors at the knell.

  • John Kendall Hawkins 

“Can they imagine the darkness

That will fall from on high

When men will beg God to kill them

And they won’t be able to die.”

Bob Dylan, “Precious Angel”

The Buddha Will Smile and Death Shall Flee

They called their cave ToraToraTora, after the battle cry of “kamikazes” back in some long forgotten war, before even the Terror Wars, making it either a precursor or pointless, depending upon your point of view.  But there were no more wars now. Indeed, one was tempted to say, ‘war is history’, except that there was no longer a need for history either. No cataloguing of ferocious events, no heroes or villains, no more “need” for historical progress, no more squabbles over dialectical materialism, liberty, or campaign contribution reforms. Everybody had what they most desired. And then some.

Well, maybe not everybody; not yet.  Not the five denizens of ToraToraTora, who were wise, in a way, and wizened, but not yet accomplished in their mission; they weren’t even sure what “mission accomplished” would look like, such was the ruthless inscrutability of pure chance.  However, Bud and Buddi, and the three Mitochondriacs, formed a little cell of catalytic conversion, and as they sat in the dimmed space, and studied the 3D wall of holographic images moving before them, images of people and places, they saw not the equilibrium and homeostasis they had expected, although there was stability and order, but a kind of malady or madness, which made Buddi and the Mitochondriacs gloomy, their souls filled with shadow dances. The Mitochondriacs knew what must be done.  But Buddi was not as sure. While he trusted the three holy oracles implicitly, the 3Ms, as he called them, he still believed, as another old wise man once said, that what you observed was to some extent changed by the observation itself.  

‘Your caution is noble,’ said the Mitochondriac named Messala from a secluded place beneath his hooded robe. ‘However, you need to consider that you may be giving into sentimentality in this instance.’

‘Are you saying the observed is not changed by the observation? Is that wise observation wrong?’ asked Buddi, conscious that he was slipping on his own banana peel of irony.

‘No, of course not, Buddi,’ said Mehmet, his nose in the light creating a sundial-like shadow on the table before him. ‘But Buddi you were born there — a long time ago –‘

‘A long time ago,’ chimed in Moises, the most volatile of the three and the most prone to wisecracking. 

‘So, maybe your emotional separation is incomplete,’ Mehmet continued. ‘Maybe it would do you some good to come into the physical presence of some your syngenes.’

‘Maybe,’ said Buddi. ‘But, look, don’t get me wrong. I mean, I know how stoma work and I believe in the processes of photosynthesis, but it would be good to hold in my hand the leaf one more time before I draw final conclusions about the tree.’

Bud had sat there listening, allowing the others to sort out an understanding in their own way; he knew what would have to happen, and just to speed things along, he said to Buddi, ‘Just go. Your closest syngene match is in Sydney. Go there, Buddi, and decide.  We must be unanimous on this. So Mehmet, Moises and Messala, you head to the Dome of the Clock and be ready. And just remember, Buddi, sometimes you can’t always see the forest for the tree.’ 

A silence of reasonable assent fell over the cell.  Buddi looked across the table at Bud, with a deep love born of unmitigated trust. When Buddi had been a small child the 3Ms had, in a moment of profound compassion, rescued him from the conclusion of the Terror Wars and brought him back to ToraToraTora.  Bud (not his real name) had taken Buddi (not his real name) under his wing, raised and nurtured him, and at a certain stage of Buddi’s development had manipulated his genes, implanted him with triangulators that altered his perceptions and sensations, and Bud had grafted onto him a plasma pod that had nurtured him and filled him with the green slime of near-immortality. Buddi was aging, but very slowly.  Nevertheless, even years later, he felt a small, but significant gravitational pull toward the world of his origins, humanity. On the other hand, the 3Ms felt no such stirrings, having started life in a petri dish and then brought to their current fruition by the masterful hands of Bud. And given the mission they were assigned to accomplish, they were either angels or terrorists, or something beyond all that, depending on your point of view.

*

At a bar on the promenade looking out at the harbour, not far from the opera house, they could hear the yodels of yabbos and hoonies priming their lungs for The Show. Brentfield and Viola sat at a table, musing toward the sky, where solar drones flitted back and forth in great waves, like swifts or swallows switching this way and that, performing their tasks – personal satellites, corporate  messengers, cloud routers, Eyes™, whatever.  The couple sat there disaffected and bored, nursing their alcohol-free Dramamine-based cocktails – Bullet-to-the-Temple, as the news service Some Pundits Are Calling It ironically referred to the drink, without humour. But everyone was bored, and everybody was stricken with a kind of vomitus seasickness; it had become a permanent condition since the onset of the pandemic – The Great Nausea, as Some Pundits Are Calling It had nicknamed it — so many moons before. It wasn’t a lethal pandemic (there were none of those anymore); it was just profoundly boring. And all you could do was drink your grog and mind your own business and try not to think about it.

You wouldn’t have known it from the way Brentfield and Viola carried on with each other in public, with the rude yawns and twisted expressions they sometimes taunted each other with, but they were, in fact, deeply in love and had the battle scars to prove it. The night before, Brentfield had solidly cold-cocked Viola, sending his partner sliding across the sensory linoleum, which lit up, on her impact and slide, to ask if an ambulance was needed. It was in such moments of raw affection that she realized how much he still cared for her, and the growing shiner she now tenderly pressed was far more precious to her than any glowy finger mineral. And she had risen from the floor and returned the favour, gliding up to him and biting a small chunk off his ear, pressing into his doughy cheek with the sharpened fingernails of her right hand, being careful not to give into the aching impulse to rip at his face, ever-cognizant that they were reaching the monthly limits of their healthcare coverage for such “lovesickness”, as Some Pundits Are Calling It were calling the condition. 

‘Well, Viola, aren’t you the high-strung one,’ he had snarled like a pussy cat through gritted teeth, as he held her claw grip against his face.

‘And you, dear, are my resin de etre,’ she’d punned back, her loving desire to hurt him flashing like barbed wire stars in the firmament of her deep blue eyes.

But they could hardly be blamed, such impulses built from kindles to bonfires in the phases leading up to The Show, and affected nearly everyone to some degree, and by the time the Day arrived the digi-stim of the social media was so intense that it was all the average person could do to keep his or her fingers from gouging the eyes or throttling the throat of the nearest passer-by. Thank heavens for insurance limits! People thought twice before acting.  It was unseemly to go out in public showing off the battle scars of love. Brentfield and Viola weren’t so very different from the hooligans ululating outside the opera house, and they knew it. But they liked to put on airs; it was something to do; a way of warding off some boredom for a while, and they had a lot of whiles to go before they’d sleep.

Noisy news from the bar’s widescreen shook Brentfield and Viola from their empty reveries.  They gave each other angry smiles and then turned to watch the report. They were showing the festivities outside the opera house. The camera shot was from an old-fashioned ‘blimp’, looking down at the crowd, the zoomed-out figures moving around in the video frame like bacteria viewed through a microscope. There was an organic quality to the crowd’s movement that was oceanic and aesthetic, and which the couple found both mesmerizing and repulsive.

‘Jackson Pollack puked up his Dramamine dream, that’s what it would like, I reckon,’ said Viola, the more loquacious of the two.

‘You do so have a way with words,’ he snarled and, sharply pinching her ear, added, ‘And I’m sorely tempted to have my way with you, right here, right now.’

They locked leers for a moment. She was what Some Pundits Are Calling It referred to as a Classic Beauty, the black hair and blue eyes of the Elizabeth Taylor Persona™ she was wearing suited her to a tee. And he with his complementary Burton – well, people stole peeks at them walking hand-in-hand , and smiled, knowing there was some serious bruising going on underneath it all that make-up could not always hide.  And who could blame them if an obsolete pang of jealousy briefly swept through them? After all, not every couple had been so lucky with their random hexa-love profile match-up; some couples were drearily compatible. But no one felt sorry for long, realizing as they did that such insufferability could easily visit upon them at the next random match-up at the end of The Show. But everywhere in the world on this day of days, this Show day, people were decked out in their Persona™ best, and nothing could subdue the excitement of the good times to come. Nothing.

On the television they were showing the opera house from overhead, the blimp moving around in a circle.

‘If I’ve said it once…,’ she began the Common Meme.

‘I’ve said it a thousand times,’ he finished, and they laughed.

‘The opera house doesn’t look so much like sails as it does a lotus opening, silent, still,’ she waxed, with a wistful poesy she’d picked up somewhere she could not remember. 

‘Why opening?  Why not closing?’ he asked, rather facetiously.

‘Maybe I’m a glass half-full kind of gal, and maybe you’re a glass half-empty.’

‘Maybe. Although I’d be inclined to say that I’m somewhat more than half so.’

She was moved by this candour and gave him a hard slap to the face that brought tears of pain to face and a smile of gratitude.

‘Ahem,’ began the waiter who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere and who was now hovering over their table. ‘May I get you another drink before we close for The Show?’

The waiter was tall, lean, green and pony-tailed, and his name tag read, ‘Buddi.’ 

‘No, thanks,’ said Brentfield. ‘I suppose we should get going.’ And, indeed, they could hear the distant voice of the emcee inside the opera house firing up the microphone, calling out ‘1-2-3, testing,’ which further roused the crowd.

‘Okay, I’ll get your check then,’ said Buddi, and was just about to move off when Viola thought to have some fun.

‘Say, Buddi,’ she said. ‘Has anyone ever told you that you look like Ben Kingsley, or Osama bin Laden, one of those old-time actors, playing Gandhi?’

‘Why, yes, just yesterday,’ Buddi snarked.

‘And the day before that, right?’ laughed Brentfield.

‘And the day before that,’ Viola howled.

‘If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times,’ the couple laughed together.

‘No, I mean, are you really a Buddi, underneath all that green greasepaint, you know, or are you just a terrorist dressed in words?’ Viola teased, flirted. She was playing with the fact that “Buddi” was a generic name assigned by Some Pundits Are Calling It to a long-ago sect who yearned for nothingness and tried to escape from the cycle of what they called reincarnation by killing off desire and putting an end to suffering. 

But before he could answer the couple broke into a monkey chant. ‘Om mani padme hum.’ 

‘If I’ve said it once… ’ laughed Viola and slapped Brentfield hard again.

‘In deed,’ muttered Buddi and walked off.  At the swinging door to the kitchen, Buddi turned and gave a long, absorbent look at Brentfield, to whom he was genetically related somewhere along the great chain of double-helixal events.

On the television they were showing people pouring into the opera house, noisily taking their seats, eyes keened with excitement, as if they were about to attend the finals of a football match. Brentfield sat there, the gathering spectacle on the widescreen and the widening gyre of near-hysteria building up from the mob outside the opera house, and he felt a pang not felt much anymore, a kind of regret that he could not put his finger on, as if it did not quite belong to him, and which made him seem pensive. When Viola looked over and saw his lost and searching expression her immediate reaction was jealousy. Most people relied on others to get their fix of sweet sorrow, but Brentfield seemed to have a small inner reservoir he could drink from occasionally, like what they used to call a poet in the old days. It was a pity, she thought, because he’ll probably lose it at the Hex Exchange at the end of The Show, when everyone had to turn in their Persona™ for a fresh one. He looked over at her and shook himself loose from his bracketed state.

‘Viola, do you rememer when we first met at all?’

‘Vaguely,’ she said. ‘My memery is not what it used to be. It’s become clouded and cluttered and clotted with time.’

‘With time?’ They looked at each other and laughed. ‘Well, that’s an interesting slip, dear.’

‘What I mean is: When we first met, do you rememer how structured and composed and understood everything felt between us?’

‘Yes, like two symphonies merging.’

‘Yes, how lovely.  But two clashing symphonies. I was Stravinsky to your Mozart, as I rememer.’

‘Such sweet discord.  Your percussion practically raped my string session.’

‘Yes,’ she smiled, and then paused as if she almost rememered something else, something important. ‘And yet, at the same time, even with all that wonderful cacophony, there was already the sense of something diabolically dialectical at work, something beyond the sounds themselves, something relational, mathematical, that worked to – ‘

‘Yes,’ he said pensively, and this time he so moved her with his look that she reached across the table and pinched his cheek hard enough to bring blood. A murderous look flashed in his eyes, but he continued. ‘And then, suddenly we started to bore each other; there was all that ennui and indifference.  I started to feel like I didn’t care if another man beat the living shit out of you.’

‘But, you know, Viola, there was something else. Some shard of – ‘

‘Memery?’

‘No, not memery. Something unique and mine, a feeling.’

‘Shh!’ Viola was suddenly terrified, but in a way that brought no joy to Brentfield. ‘That word “unique” is in the Threat Disposition database. If they hear you! Oh love, do you want to see us stuck with each other another 10 years?!’

‘Certainly not,’ he said, ‘you couldn’t be any more boring if you were a hydraulic drill.’

‘Yes, well, better luck Hex time,’ she smiled, and slammed her fist down on his right hand.

*

Buddi was in the kitchen alone, as all the other barkeeps and help had run off to The Show, leaving him to close up shop.  The closer it got to Show Time the more Buddi became ill, his green skin draining of its lively colour and turning yellowed, jaundiced even, and he had a look of sag about him that made him seem both limp and sad.  And, indeed, standing there, leaning against the deep freeze door, he did not think he’d ever felt so sad. He remembered when he was young, so very green, but ‘a cut above the rest,’ as his brother/father, Bud, was fond of saying, albeit not without self-interest, and he had vivid dreams that were like dark forests of midnight mysteries or like living, breathing jungles of energy and animation, fields, plains, densities of desire promiscuously alive and forever becoming anew in themselves, the destined otherness of their own raw being.  So, yes, he wept, or rather glistened in sappy distress, to see it all now accounted for by the disposition matrices, engineered by the fuck-knuckles who couldn’t leave well enough alone, and, in his growing rage, rising in his consciousness like a quick time-elapsed Sahara sun, he snapped off the pinky of his left hand and threw it in the Fry-o-lator, where it sizzled, grease bubbles swarming, and quickly lost its colour and form. Driblets of green sap glaciered into the palm of his mutilated hand. That was the problem with Buddi: He was always so emotional, so serious about such things, so human-all-too-human. 

To restore his flagging confidence he decided to talk with Bud, who was always as cool as a cucumber, even in times like this, even in this approaching moment of do-or-die decision-making.  He made a gesture with his right hand and his holo-phone appeared before him, his thought-ping autodialling Bud, who appeared almost without delay. The holograph that emerged from thin air displayed a frame at the centre of which Bud sat forward on a stationary bike, pedalling away, while behind him the Wall of Shadows displayed televised images of The Show, and its lead-up, being broadcast across the Some Pundits Are Calling It global network. 

‘Buddi, are you alright?’ asked Bud, glancing over at the camera, still pedalling.

‘Just having that “black petals of the ancient rose” kind of feeling; just a little dark that’s all; a little nauseous,” said Buddi. 

Bud stopped pedalling and the Wall of Shadows lost its images and turned grey. ‘Oh, brother, you always get that way when you’re among the Same-Same,’ said Bud, calling his fellow, though fallow, human mates by their dispositional matrices label.  ‘Will you be able to go through with it?’

‘Yeah, look,’ Buddi started, but Brentfield was at the swinging door, wearing a smirk, and shaking his thumb and index finger together, as if ringing a tiny bell. ‘Can I help you?’

‘Ringy. Ringy,’ said Brentfield. ‘The Show waits for no man.  You got our tab, so we can go?’

‘Right. Sure,’ said Buddi, immediately shepherding the smirk back toward the bar.  ‘I’ll be right back, Bud,’ said Buddi to his brother, leaving the hologram lit up as he went with Brentfield back to his table.  

‘Wow, what was that awful smell in the kitchen?’ asked Brentfield. ‘Smelled like burnt spinach.’

‘Oh that, yes,’ said Buddi. ‘Yes, that was burnt spinach. Overcooked my lunch.’

Brentfield was about to respond, when they passed a table on the way to sidewalk area and heard muffled screaming and a serious physical altercation taking place.   Buddi went over to the table and lifted up the tablecloth and saw two hetero lovers biting and scratching and punching each other with gay abandonment. He was dressed, clearly, as Humphrey Bogart, and she was apparently intended to be Lauren Bacall.

‘Stop it, you two,’ said Buddi crossly.  ‘Save it for The Show. It’s unbecoming to behave that way in public – oh, and I see you’ve gashed each other pretty good too, so now you’ve broken the law, too.’  Buddi was about to draw a look of commiseration from Brentfield, who stood their gawking at the couple, when he saw that Brentfield had a tiny rivulet of blood snaking its way down his cheek.  ‘You, too? Okay, all of you out of here, get thee hence, and take these with you,’ he said, throwing a wad of napkins at the three. He looked over at Viola, who was standing there with a vicious grin on her face, pretending to claw the air like a cat. ‘More flirting,’ he said, shaking his head.  

‘Look,’ he told the group, ‘They have started.  The Royal Philvagina Chora are singing the global anthem.’ And, indeed, on the widescreen you could see dozens of hovering drone marionettes mechanically tugging strings attached to the very large 3D vaginas, printed out just minutes before The Show began, that were seated primly before the crowd, their labial manifolds crooning, shrill and shrieky, ‘If I’ve sang it once, I’ve…’  The crowd almost beside themselves with nails-on-chalkboard ecstasy.

He shooed the group off and watched them walk away, the four of them, picking up their pace, clearly excited, as they neared the opera house.  He could hear Viola drolly chanting, ‘Om mani padme hum,’ looking back at him a couple of times with a girlish laugh. When they were almost at the opera house, Humphrey Bogart lurched toward the harbour and dry-heaved.  ‘Nerves,’ Buddi said. There were no more people passing by, and with a sigh, he dropped into the seat recently occupied by Brentfield and, looking out at the harbour, he made a wrist gesture and transferred the holograph call with Bud to his current locale. His brother seemed to emerge out of the harbour view. 

‘Everything all right there, Buddi,’ said Bud intently, but without much emotion.

‘Yeah, sure, just some celebrants getting carried away early.’

‘Right. So listen, Buddi, tell me about this darkness.  Is it –’

‘—Yes, Bud, it’s the same. Same as always. I watch them.  I see them. I am them or, at least, one of them, and you can see behind it all this kind of yearning. Yearning.’

‘And you get caught up. Is that it?’

‘Yes. I get caught up. I do.  I see this condition and I want to reach out and shake them and show them what we know.’

‘But – ‘

‘I know. I know, Bud.  It’s no use. It’s just that I pity them sometimes –’

‘You mustn’t pity, brother. It could undo all the work we’ve done. All the work to come.’

‘Yes, I know. But sometimes I forget. I mean, literally, I look on them and lose my memories and a Now creeps in unlike any others, a Now full of fathomless unstillness.’

‘I understand,’ said Bud, and then paused, almost grim, for a moment.  ‘But you must remember, brother, because you have a decision to make, soon, and it is the most important one you will ever make. The 3Ms are waiting.  Let me send you something that will help. A memory. One you cherish more than all others.’

‘The Smiling Buddha?’

‘In deed,’ said Bud.  ‘The Smiling Buddha.’

And even before the memory had reached him, even in that flash of light speed, Buddi’s face lit up in a smile and his teary eyes ran, like twin chalices overflowing with the nectar of joy.

*

Coming out of a reverie as profound as the Smiling Buddha was exceptionally difficult for Buddi to do, mostly because he didn’t want to come out. It was a state, he’d read, that only some old Confucian monks in the grasp of an opium vision could relate to; it wasn’t like your Self dreaming, but rather your being, naked, without the clothing of selfhood, and yet, as a contemplative moment, still a product of consciousness and the senses, for rising out of Buddi’s bowels and rising to fill his chest cavity was a sensation, a kind of paralyzing ecstasy, that he would stay with forever if he could.  But, as always, he did come back to consciousness, the endless puzzles of his species urging him on with its suffocating yearning and restlessness. He opened his eyes and looked out at the harbour. The memory had only been with him seconds and yet he felt its energizing light; there was buoyancy in his spirits, a bounce in his gait as he made his way toward the opera house.

As he came in the presence of the celebrating crowd he felt a sudden pull back toward dark spirits.  It wasn’t just the small puddles of blood here and there, and signs of maiming and uncontrol, but the sensation of appetency that seemed to sweep through the closely-packed throng. The camera shots from the blimp mesmerized you with a kind of design at work, as if you were looking at the splashes and daubs of some kind of animate abstract expressionist painting. But up close, the unicyclists, and clowns on stilts, and all the assorted nutty-eyed revellers wearing costumes were like crazy-quilt tribes out of psychedelic jungle stories.  Their smells and voices raced through his brain; their collective energy filled him with a tension that an ancient poet once aptly described as being ‘like a madman shaking a dead geranium.’ He pushed aside the carnivalesque vibrations, the giddy laughter on the edge of hysteria, and panned to locate the 3Ms hovering in 3D holography over by the huge outdoor screen where they’d said they be. Michael saw him first and raised his right fist, which delivered a location ping to Buddi’s implant. Had it not been for the distracting busy bodies every which way before him Buddi would have recognized them immediately, as they were garbed in monks’ robes with hoods, and their stillness amidst the ocean of human movement stood out blatantly.  Moises held up his arms, as if to say, ‘What’s your decision? How hard can it be? Look around.’ But Buddi did look around, and still he could not decide.

On the big screen the Royal Philvagina Chorus was into their third or fourth song and people were starting to get restless, letting loose catcalls (one guy actually threw a cat toward the singers.) Overhead, the blimp updates from its news ticker.  A groan went up as a statistic rolled across, indicating that life expectancy had risen .03% in the last quarter. Then people oohed and aahed as stocks for companies with carcinogenic products went up and down, not it seemed, to most of them, that it really mattered, although it was worth the effort they supposed.  And then the festive mood was all but destroyed when the ticker told everyone that six elites had ‘successfully committed suicide.’  

‘It’s like they live just to give us the middle finger before dying,’ observed a woman dressed as Little Red Riding Hood to her mate dressed as the Wolfman.

Buddi was tempted to watch the rest of The Show on the large screen, joining the overflow crowd outside the opera house, but he felt he had to see the acts without the mediation of a camera. Plus Bud had gone through some trouble to procure a ticket to the event for him.  So he gently pushed his way through the crowd, presented his ticket, and was, moments later, standing in the doorway, looking down at the stage, perhaps 25 meters away. There was an electric buzz inside the opera house, as they knew nothing about the blimp data bits and so had no break in their collective passion.  The chora had stopped singing and sat there on stage slightly steaming in the chilly air. There was a sense of great anticipation, such as it must have been at a Roman coliseum just before they rolled out the main event, “The Christians meet the Lions”.

Finally, just as the crowd began to stamp their feet (and each other’s), the emcee came onstage to uproarious applause and went directly to the microphone.  ‘People,’ he began, ‘we start off tonight with one Victor Fennel.’ He waited for the oohs to settle down. ‘Now Victor comes to us from the not-so-ancient past of the 1990s – 1997 to be precise – when he had himself cryogenically stilled, hoping to come back when there was a cure for his peculiar heart valve malady that threatened to cut his life short.’ Wild laughter broke out in the crowd. ‘Some Pundits Are Calling It says we should refer to him as The Ice Man Cometh Yet Again.’ More laughter. ‘Well, Victor,’ the emcee snarled comically, ‘If I thawed you once…’ He held out the mike to the crowd, who responded with, ‘I thawed you a thousand times.’ Two orderlies wheeled Victor out on a gurney. He was strapped down and gagged and he held a book, The Forest People. Victor was stout, had grey hair and wore glasses. He was astonished and bewildered. Though he’d been brought back to the living with his heart ailment fixed shortly thereafter, and had spent a few days working his mind through the ramifications of waking into the future, he was now clearly rather puzzled and maybe a little terrified to find himself bound, gagged and being wheeled before a sea of hungry faces staring up at him from the dimmed interior of the opera house. 

‘People, some of you may recall, although I doubt it, that ten years ago at the last Show our cryogenic guest was a playwright and poet, and, by goof, did he not entertain us with his lines of verse and verve?’ There was a smattering of applause, as most people could barely recall anything clear so long back as ten years.  ‘Well, no matter. Tonight we have before you a cultural anthropologist!’ There was an even slighter applause, as the crowd looked puzzled. ‘Victor’s going to tell us what he got himself up to before he got himself ice-cubed.’ The emcee made a gesture to the orderlies and they removed Victor’s straps and ungagged him, and, standing him up, they nodded to indicate that he should go stand by the emcee, which he did with fear and trepidation.

‘So, tell us, Victor,’ started the emcee, but was interrupted by a catcaller.

‘Reckon your name should be Loser, Victor!’ hollered the reveller to wild applause.

‘So, tell us, Victor, what’s your last decent memory?’ asked the emcee, and the crowd grew suddenly quiet.  Victor looked bewildered; he’d been warned what to expect, but was still, nevertheless, unprepared for the corrosive energy he felt all around him.  He’d expected a warmer reception, outpourings of surprise and curiosity and enthusiasm, but there was none of that. He felt frightened.

‘Well,’ he began, almost whispering, ‘I’m a cultural anthropologist by profession.’ This brought on more catcalls. ‘And my last place of study was in the Congo. I was among the Mbuti pygmies; they had invited me to study their traditions, their ways. I’d been to Turkey the year before, at Catal Hoyuk.  They were matrilineal, you see. And peaceful. And I’d read things about the Mbuti, things about their communitarian practices, and their relative peacefulness, and, naturally, I was curious about how the two separate human ecosystems were able –‘

‘Oh, Jayzuz, mate, that’s not painful; that’s just boring,’ yelled another man from the crowd. ‘We don’t want to hear about a bunch of fackin pygmies.’ The crowd roared, and the man’s girlfriend gave him a quick piercing pinch of approval. ‘Bone him!’ the man continued, and his cry was repeated by the crowd, who stamped their feet (and each other’s) in growing indignation.

‘Very well,’ said the emcee, clicking his fingers. Two hooded figures grabbed hold of the anthropologist and dragged him toward a gleaming contraption.

‘But I just got here. I’ve just returned. You’ve just now brought me back to life,’ said the man, partly pleading, partly contorting with incomprehension.

‘He’ll learn!’ someone yelled.

‘Take him! Take him! Take him!’ screamed the crowd, now a tightly packed lynch mob, and the two hooded men picked up Victor flung him into a vat-like device and turned it on.  Victor screamed for a few seconds, rather like a wild elephant, then went silent. The crowd grew quiet, waiting, anticipating. Finally, the emcee held up a lab jar to a spigot on the side of the vat and turned it.  Out flowed a small portion of blood and body fluids. The emcee held it up to the crowd’s roaring approval. Then he lifted up the cover of the vat, reached in and pulled out Victor’s bones, to which the crowd roared louder.  He twisted off the skull and held it up. ‘Alas,’ he began, and the crowd continued, ‘Poor Victor, we hardly knew him!’ And the emcee tossed the skull into the crowd and it made its way around. They were delirious.

‘Next up,’ said the emcee into the mike, ‘the main event. The highlight of this evening’s entertainment.’  The crowd hushed again. The skull had passed to Viola, and as with musical chairs when the music stops, she was obliged to hold onto the skull and she placed it in her lap.  ‘Ladies and gentlemen, loosely speaking, to get us ready for this event, we’ll begin by reading from the Book of KSM. As you may recall,’ he began, waiting for the laughter caused by this remark to subside, for they did not recall at all, ‘KSM is the ancient martyr who was waterboarded by angels 183 times during the great Terror Wars and the torture was so exquisite, so…inspiring, that he ended up writing 83 sonnets to his tormenter’s wife.  And they say the sonnet is a dead form. Well, how wonderful is that?!’

The crowd roared its approval.  Someone even yelled, ‘Why won’t someone waterboard me?  I’m not so bad, once you get to gnarl me. Plus I got a real bad case of writers block.’  This was met with laughter and good-natured jeers.

‘Tonight we are privileged to have in our crowd the world renowned poetry reciter, Professor Brentfield Turner, polymath and litterateur these past 10 years, who will entertain us with a reading of Sonnet number 66 by KSM.’ And the emcee motioned for Brentfield to come up on the stage and recite the poem. Brentfield seemed hesitant and unwilling, although he had been ‘advised’ by authorities that he might be called upon.  However, in all his studies these past 10 years he could find no reference to KSM, and he was reasonably certain, but couldn’t swear to it, that the KSM collection was just a compilation of various poets and their dark-themed verses. But hesitancy was not allowed; not today, Show day. He was practically pulled out of his seat by his hair and thrust forward toward the stage, Viola’s foot slammed against his rump accelerating his forward propulsion. He climbed up the stage and rather nervously approached the mike, the emcee smiling sadistically and handing him the poem to read.  Brentfield read:

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you

As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;

That I may rise and stand, o’er throw me, and bend

Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

I, like an usurp’d town to another due,

Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;

Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,

But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,

But am betroth’d unto your enemy;

Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,

Except you enthral me, never shall be free,

Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Brentfield was no sooner finished reading when the second movement of Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra resounded majestically, and out on stage, to much clappy ravishment, danced The Tortured Man, in an elaborate choreographed routine, all smiles and poses and high-hat salutes, blowing kisses to the crowd, who howled their approval and drew blood rivulets from their mates.  Brentfield, who’d climbed from the stage and was about to return to his seat, looked over at Viola, who sat transfixed by the arrival of the Tortured Man; in a very real sense he no longer existed for her; indeed, he might never have been. He decided not to re-join her (their relationship would be over soon anyway, with the Hex realignment coming), and he slowly made his way to toward the exit, the only unhappy face in the house. The Tortured Man comically threw himself down on a specialized ordeal table and he was strapped in with much histrionics, like a ‘victim’ at a magic show. Then his table was raised slightly so that he could look out at the crowd and they could observe his face and its paroxysms and screams to come. The cameras of the As Some Pundits Are Calling It network covering him from every angle, as at a football match. There would even be a kind of play-by-play as they moved from torture to torture.

And they tortured him every which way they knew – waterboarding, trussing, shock treatments, razor slices, sluicing, strangulation, decibels, acids on the tongue, beatings, sleep deprivation, mind-altering nightmare, and on it went for hours. The Tortured Man braving it at first, telling little jokes to mock the pain.  The crowd weeping as one in ecstasy. And then he began to crumble under the duress, as he must, and by the time they began to flay him he was crying out for his mother, begging the emcee – anyone – to kill him. And at that point hamartia influenced the crowd and their weeping began to be in sorrow and empathy.  

Finally they came to the last torture: castration.  By now The Tortured Man was in virtually unbearable pain and no longer calmly humorous, as his body refused any more abuse, even as some deep secret source of masochism kept him pressing on.  The harlequin clown crew ripped off his pants to great fanfare (the opening chords of Also Sprach Zarathustra now blaring), exposing his nakedness underneath.  Then out of the crowd and up to the stage sprung his mum, red lipstick, a perm, a dopey housecoat.  She turned once to face the crowd with a wide grin and lapped up their enthrallment. ‘Who killed cock robin?’ came a shouted question that delighted the crowd.  She turned and faced her ‘son’. The Tortured Man implored her with his eyes to be rescued and she removed her teeth and then took a few hyperbolized ballet steps toward him, slid on her knees in front of him, and commenced to perform fellatio, until he got an enormous red erection. This was one part of the act The Tortured Man had not foreseen, and he recoiled in horror, and when he saw his erection with the lipstick he went quite mad.

‘No. No. No,’ he screamed, and began to fall into cardiac arrest, his body twitching, like a shorted electric wire.

‘Oh no you don’t,’ yelled a doctor on stage. ‘Not yet.’ And he dragged a defibrillator machine over to The Tortured Man, had some sexy nurses hook him up, and zapped him back to just enough consciousness to allow him to finish his routine.

Then the emcee held up a pair of golden ceremonial shears, the crowd gone wild, with some members fainting as at an old time gospel revival.  Still wearing a cartoon smile, he went over to The Tortured Man and proceeded to cut off his balls and penis.  

‘Sing it!’ the crowd screamed. ‘Sing it!’

In one last excruciating cry of black humour, The Tortured Man sang meekly (but they turned up the mike), ‘Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be / There’s a shadow hanging over me…’ Then he collapsed and flat-lined. The crowd almost at the very edge of berserk, began punching and biting and pinching each other. O happy days!

Brentfield was not even looking back. He passed Buddi at the exit without noticing and continued on his way out of the opera house and out into the open air, where the revellers were all turned to the large screen watching the ceremony inside, but just as orgiastic. On the stage, the emcee could be seen pointing in the distance, to one of the exits, and the cameras panned to take in the entry of Victor, new head, new flesh and bone, new lease on life – in fact, now in possession of the shared knowledge, the only knowledge which mattered, that none of them could die. Except the elites, of course, the oligarchs and kleptocrats, the captains of industry and generals of misery. Victor was not looking particularly gratified by such news; in fact, his face showed bleak. And to top it off, they were piping in an ancient, ancient Hank Williams song to celebrate the ironical resurrection, ‘I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.’

‘Don’t worry about it, mate,’ yelled someone from the outdoor crowd. ‘You’ll get used to it.’  But this time no one laughed or assented.

Buddi slowly approached Brentfield, his syngene relative, who had moved away from the crowd and had wandered over to look out at the harbour.  From the side, and still at some distance, he could see Brentfield’s expression. For a moment he seemed to Buddi like some Galileo who had had his literally world-changing views banned – or, rather, Buddi thought better, a would-be Galileo who would never a chance to be banned. Brentfield began to dry heave violently, nausea overtaking him. His immeasurable despair seemed to Buddi quite inconsolable. 

‘You know,’ said Buddi. ‘An old-time philosopher once observed that we should be careful about choosing to look into the abyss, for the abyss also looks into us.’

Brentfield did not turn to look at Buddi, but continued staring straight ahead at the motion of the water, but he recognized the voice of the bartender. ‘Yes,’ said Brentfield, ‘same guy said there are some things we should not want to know.’ Buddi did not reply, but kept the silence with Brentfield.

‘And so, dear ladies and gents, that concludes the proceedings,’ said the emcee on the outdoor screen behind them, but then paused, ‘well, almost,’ he added, and you could hear the start of peculiar music offstage growing in volume, getting closer to the stage.  The tune was the all-too-familiar, ‘Pop Goes the Weasel,’ and a weirdly-dressed man was marching onstage.

‘Lycergius!’ the crowd roared.

Lycergius was a jesture – part mime, part clown — wearing a kind of box around his waist. In fact, he looked exactly like a Jack-in-the-Box and he was turning a large handle coming out of his right pocket, which continued playing ‘Pop Goes the Weasel,’ with its plunky sound of rubber plucking metal keys.

‘Do it!  Do it! Do it!’ the crowd screamed hysterically. 

‘Batter my heart, baby, screeched Viola and turned to pluck the eye of her neighbour out.

Lycergius teased them, then gave the crank one last turn through the tune.  And then at ‘pop’, out sprang through his trousers a huge spiralling penis and it began shooting off a stream of paper pieces with sperm-like shapes or yin/yang symbols (depending upon your point of view), on one side, and the all-important first four lines of Hexagrams on the other side.  The people grabbed at the pieces madly, trying to procure one they thought they liked. Already, Viola had forgotten Brentfield – indeed, everyone was already forgetting who’d they’d arrived with. This was like New Year’s Day. Their new assignments blasted out to them by Lycergius. They would soon be joined with new partners in new configurations after matching up their Persona™ online and regenerating their RAM.  New discordant symphonies, an eternal recurrence, a kind of reincarnation, a gleaming new cycle of exquisite pain. (‘And if you act now, we’ll throw in these steak knives,’ as Viola had once joked with Brentfield.) Ten years with someone new until the next ceremony, until The Show of the next generation.

A change began to come over Brentfield.  He slowly began to lose his sadness and despair, and his memory was about to be wiped, but seemed to know what was happening and fought it.   But in a few moments Brentfield would be a tabula rasa again, and because he’d not grabbed a piece of Hexagram paper, as they snowed from the blimp, he would be assigned a random Persona™ for the next cycle.  He would always bear a vein of melancholy wonder; it was a flaw in his genetic structure that was sometimes disguised better by some masks than others.  It is what it is, As Some Pundits Are Calling It would say, and it all depends on what your definition of is is.  The blimp ticker revealed that another elite had successfully killed himself, but no one was paying attention now, as they were dispersing with their new assignments or, as many were doing, opening their iPhones and plugging in the requisite code to their Mate™ app to generate a profile of their next partner. 

Maybe it was ultimately selfish, but Brentfield’s plight moved him, even more than the general spectacle of carnal squalor and pointlessness he saw all around him.  Buddi made his decision. He holo-summoned the Mitochondriacs, who were waiting at the great central global server called the Dome of the Clock (Moises drummed his fingers on a server panel) and gave the signal, a thumbs down. Messala took out his iPhone and tapped a few times and the digital regeneration apparatus stopped, and like a system shutting down one service after another terminated, physical bodies – human and otherwise — began to fracture and disintegrate, a hole in the wall of the world appeared and grew larger, the world as they knew it ended, turning to a silvery dust, the landscape a near wasteland of vampired resources.  Looking out at the harbour, Brentfield had a brief moment when he understood what was happening, and his eyes were lit up with the work of Smiling Buddha.

*

Bud made the long trek up from the cavernous bowels of ToraToraTora and finally stepped out into the barren landscape, the tabula rasa Earth.  Everywhere he scanned, in all directions, he saw nothing there but ash, or, rather what he saw was the sand of a completed mandala re-dispersed to the winds, all that and a new beginning.  He stepped forward slowly but deliberately, waiting for some tragic consequence to kick in, something he had overlooked, the inscrutable whimsy of chance to bring its surprise, as has so often happened in human events before. He felt nothing; not the nothing of emptiness, but rather of fullness, of his own completion. He spread his arms wide and breathed in the sun, feeling as though he were alone with god, a favourite son, but without desire, and without loneliness. He began to walk.

He grabbed the green pinky of his left hand and broke it off with a clean, painless snap, and held it up to the sun for a moment, feeling its energy pulse through. Taking a few steps further, he bent down and planted the finger in the sand and watched as it already started to take root and slowly grow. And his pinky was regenerating.  He looked out again at the horizon and now could picture a future, a bright green future, a future without endless negotiations with alterity, a veritable garden of his selves, which included the 3Ms and Buddi, an overgrown complex of simplicities. And, stepping ever onward, this thought made him smile like a time-elapsed lotus opening on a still pond in a clearing deep in the forest of eternity.

Tacking, the square rig tense, and each bending

breeze a rapturous suspension; tall smiles

all around, leaning in toward isles

torn by tornadoes, almost lamenting;

blues on blues, the wild mast a metronome,

hoisting waves that roll and roar and riot,

with all voices deafened in the pilot

house, as we haul squid jigs and head for home.

All is lost, amidst laughter and the squall;

lost Dave pitzing his high-strung violin,

Michael’s cello thrums; lost skipper’s brass grin

at Jerry’s jazzy, sliding keyboard sprawl.

Dark first stars light the giddy levity

above the gushing black hole’s gravity.                                     

  • John Kendall Hawkins

Hero? anonymous bosh tacking luffing gulls
Ophelia swims up the river in a swoon
Hades moonsick Hamlet laments captainless coup
reflections sun buttered breasts glutt’nous mutineers
Leander hoiked into his own spittoon sees Light
Old Queen Margot plucks glockenspiel, and albatross
tone characters in search of the phosphorous straits
persimmon masks stretched tight as shaky chandeliers
Karl snaps selfies flush full of Facebook likes
Mary counts voices the origin of consciousness?
days numbers Shostakovitch the archduke trio?
riddles monuments to fear toccata fugue state
And thus thou art my love the Lesser Fool
A swim many one river fishing school

a play

ACT I
Scene 1
Blue undulating ocean at dawn length of stage. It is
the channel between Cottesloe Beach and Rottnest
Island. Stage left a jut from Cottesloe. Stage
Right a jut from Rottnest.
From Rottnest jut we can make out the figure in
shadow staring out at the channel.
From Cottesloe jut two middle aged women, FRAN and
MAY stand at a coin-operated viewer looking out
toward Rotto.
The faint sound of a didgeridoo can be heard.
Overhead drones are flying in the distance,
occasionally explosions can be vaguely heard.
MAY
Oh Fran, I’m so excited. I’ve wanted to do this swim for
years.
Looks through the viewfinder.
Look at all those people out there already, all those
boats. There must be a thousand people on that beach over
there. Christ, it’s like an invasion. Have a look,Fran.
FRAN, somewhat less excited,looks through the
viewfinder.
What can you see?
FRAN
Heaps of people alright. It’s a bigger island than I
thought, May.
MAY
What else can you see, Fran? Can you see any quokkas?
FRAN looks up, rather alarmed.
FRAN
Quokkas? No, I can’t see any quokkas. And we didn’t some
all the way from Sydney to see a bunch of, well, rats —
MAY
— quokkas —
FRAN
— quokkas, rats, whatever. My point is we’ve come to see
the Genet. It’s such a splendid idea to stage his work in
that locale; it’ll be so different.
MAY
Oh I know. I only wish Cate could be there for
(exaggerated accent) Les Paravents. She was so marvelous
1
in The Maids.
FRAN
Indeed she was. And Isabelle was so lovely as well.
Australia puts out such wonderful actors.
MAY
Oh yes, we really are the Lucky Country in that respect.
(suddenly pensive) Although it’s a shame what happened to
Heath. Bloody New York.
FRAN
Now, May we mustn’t lay the blame on New York. Some of
these actors, you know, well, they have secret sides to
them; they can be self-indulgent.
MAY
Oh but I don’t Cate is like that, surely.
FRAN
By the way, did you say Les Paravents? I read somewhere
that it was to be Les Nègres.
MAY
Les Nègres? Hm. I don’t know that one.
FRAN
It’s the one with the clowns.
MAY
Oh yes, that one. (petulant) Well,I do hope it’s Les
Paravents. I’m in no mood for clowns, Fran. And I do so
love the idea of staging a play in a graveyard.It’s such
a —
FRAN
Yes, that should be interesting.
MAY
Do you think the Aborigines will mind? I mean they say so
much awful stuff has happened out there. But it’s so
clever,isn’t it, to make swimming out there part of the
admission ticket to the play. Can you imagine, Fran, if
we had to swim to the opera house?
A gun sounds.
FRAN
Oh quick, May, come; that’s the starting pistol. We
mustn’t dawdle.
MAY
I do hope we make it alright. I haven’t had a good swim
in years, Fran.
FRAN
Eyes on the prize, May. Come, come.
They exit.
2
The didgeridoo continues to play, but now it is
overlaid with the sound of laughter, splashing,
bullhorns, mateship in play. The light on the
Cottelsloe jut dims and one lights up the figure
standing at the Rotto jut. It is an ELDER from the
Noongar nation.
ELDER
Here they come. You could start with the naming. Some
European calling our quokkas rats and then saying of
this place: it’s paradise. And calling it Rat’s Nest
island. What kind of paradise is mad with dog-sized rats?
Here they come. What kind of people would take a paradise
and turn it into a hell hole of depravity and suffering
meted out on black human flesh? Here they come. You could
start with the naming. This black. This white. We did
not know what black was until the European showed up with
his white and black measurements of power. To look down
at my skin and see not a frame and boundary, the vessel
of my being, but shit and carcass and hell. Here they
come. You could start with the naming. Replacing our
world with maps and deeds and ink on paper, parceling us
out an offcut, southwest of the aptly-named Circumcision
line, our world the discarded foreskin of the bloodengorged European cock. Here they come. You could start
with the naming. The Quad and the Rottnest Lodge and
luxury rooms that pillow muffle the ancient screams and
rattled chains of blacks who did not know they were black
until they knew the white. Here they come. You could
start with the naming. The Rottnest Swim that began as
white man’s proof that abs could escape from this hellish
paradise by swimming the channel. Here they come. You can
hear them all the way from Freo, 20 kilometers away, with
their horns and laughter and indifferent joy, breaking
the waves, with that freestyle crawl they pinched from a
black man. Here they come. Each visit a new invasion, a
new intervention, white on black, old wounds new. Here
they come to Wajemup. If you want to start with the
naming.
The light over the ELDER dims. The channel seems
effervescent. One sees images of many swimmers
plying against waves that seem alive and swirl with
cells seen under a microscope combined with
Aboriginal dot painting. Pop music grows louder as
sailing vessels enter stage left. One hears
Australian Crawl’s “Oh no, not you again” very loud
as a ferry moves quickly across the stage. The ferry
is shaped liked the Titanic. Just as the ferry is
about to exit stage right, the music fades some, and
a sailboat enters from stage left. It is a replica
or sorts of Hieronymus Bosch’s painting “Ship of
Fools.” Three Aussie blokes (JOHNNO, NIGEL, and
DOMINIC) and two sheilas (SONYA and BELINDA) play
around raucously as the boat makes its way slowly
across the stage. Then FRAN and MAY enter stage
left swimming slowly but steadily. They see the
yobbos.
3
MAY
God, I hope they aren’t going to see the Genet.
FRAN
Don’t worry, May, they aren’t swimming. They won’t be
allowed. No one’s ever crashed a Genet play.
MAY
Oh but, Fran, didn’t they almost close down Les
Paravents, because of the Arab scenes?
FRAN
That was different, May. Besides, look at them. Why would
those blokes want to see the Genet?
The sailboat, with the yobbos singing the chorus
from “Oh no, not you again,” exits stage right.
MAY
(laughing)
I guess you’re right. I don’t think we’ll be seeing that
lot at the Genet.
When the women are nearly across “the channel,” MAY
looks back and sees, entering stage left, a bathtub
moving steadily across. There is a man, PHILLIPPE,
laying in the tub motionless.
MAY
Eek, what’s that!
FRAN looks back, studying for a moment.
FRAN
What in God’s name?
MAY
What is it, Fran?
FRAN
Amazed.
Why that man is dressed like Antonin Artaud as Marat,
murdered in his bath tub.
MAY
Oh dear, that can’t be a good omen. Surely, he can’t be
going to see the Genet?
PHILIPPE stirs in his tub.
Oh, he’s moving.
PHILLIPPE
Good English, but accented.
Bonjour, good ladies. (to FRAN) You are very astute. How
could you tell so rea-dily that I was playing Artaud
playing Marat? Are you a critic? Perhaps you have a
photographic mind?
4
FRAN
Well, yes, I am quite a fan of the old silents, but more
a fan of Artaud.
MAY
You are? I don’t think I ever knew that about you. Why,
Fran? It seems so arbitrary.
PHILLIPPE
Indeed. (to MAY) And what is your name?
MAY
May.
PHILLIPPE
May I call you May?
MAY
Mais oui. And what’s your name?
PHILLIPPE
I am Phillippe.
FRAN
Hold on here before I barf. This is not going according
to Hoyle. Why are you flirting with this man? You’ve only
just met him.
MAY looks at PHILLIPPE then returns to her swimming.
PHILLIPPE
(to FRAN)
Are you two ladies on vacation?
MAY
(calling back over her shoulder to
PHILLIPPE)
We’re going to see the Genet!
PHILLIPPE
I see. Me too.
FRAN
But you’re in a tub. You’re breaking the rules. They
won’t let you in.
PHILLIPPE
Well, I guess we’ll see about that.
MAY
How do you move that thing?
PHILLIPPE
I have a small motor attached.
FRAN
By the way, do you know which Genet they’re staging? I
was under the impression it was Les Paravents, but May
seems to think it will be Les Nègres?
5
PHILLIPPE
It is a bit of a mystery. They want to keep us guessing
in suspense.
FRAN
Why are you going about in a tub? It seems odd, even
under the circumstances.
PHILLIPPE
It’s just something I do. I once sailed from Dunkirk to
Dover on a boat made of wax paper, even the sails. My
wife–at the time–took the Chunnel, which is,of course,
so jejune.
The women exit stage right swimming. MAY calls back.
MAY
Au revoir! See you at the Genet!
PHILLIPPE returns to his Artaud posture.
Qui suis-je ?
D’où je viens ?
Je suis Antonin Artaud
et que je le dise
comme je sais le dire
immédiatement
vous verrez mon corps actuel
voler en éclats
et se ramasser
sous dix mille aspects
notoires
un corps neuf
où vous …
He is startled.
The tub is about half way across the channel. Ahead
PHILLIPPE sees a woman and a young boy rising out of
the water and approaching the Rotto shore. They
don’t appear to be swimming but gliding along.
C’est quoi ce bordel?!!
End scene.
Scene 2
On the shore of Rotto. A welcome arch for swimmers.
A local Aboriginal brother and sister, late 20s,
COBAR and BURILDA stand near the arch registering
arrivals. The Elder stands motionless, looking out
to sea.
BURILDA
This way guys. Through the arch. Please make sure I tick
off your number.
6
Enter the blokes and sheilas.
DOMINIC
(to SONYA)
Come on, girl. Give them the rego papers. Where you
hiding them? (pulls at her bikini)
SONYA
Hoy! Bugger off. I’m not a Red Rooster drive-through,
mate.
NIGEL
Yeah, but Dom’s a drive-through cock. (The yobbos laugh.)
Whaddaya reckon, Johnno?
JOHNNO
I reckon that’s a cock that crows more than three times
in the morning.
They laugh again.
DOMINIC
At least I got one. You’re all soft serve, I reckon.
DOMINIC and SONYA make licking gestures.
COBAR
Okay, guys, I’ve got your numbers. You can go through.
JOHNNO
I got your number, Dom.
BELINDA
For fuck’s sake, stop stuffing around and let’s get to
the lodge. I need a drink, mate.
JOHNNO
(to COBAR)
Which way to the Quad, mate?
COBAR
Just that way, follow the signs.
JOHNNO
Hey, mate, did a tall red-headed guy come through here
yet?
BELINDA
Daryl was on the ferry, mate.
COBAR
Everyone from the ferry has already gone through.
BELINDA
Come on, mate. I’m fuckin parched.
They exit. Enter FRAN and MAY.
MAY
Well, they were a rather raucous lot.
7
FRAN
Trailer trash, most likely. I’m told Perth is full of the
type.
MAY
Luckily they won’t be at the Genet.
FRAN
Will you please stop saying that? We didn’t just come to
see the Genet, May. There’s heaps to do here apparently.
MAY
Yes, I hear they have a Dome. Let’s go there and sort it
all out.
FRAN
(to COBAR))
Which way is the Dome?
COBAR
The path to the left. Look, I don’t see any numbers. Did
you just swim over for the fun?
MAY
Ha! Not likely. We’ve come to see the Genet.
COBAR
Right. Can I have a look at your Genet rego papers?
FRAN
Our what?
COBAR
Your papers. Can you prove you have a right to attend
that event. It’s important that you have document that
proves it. You don’t expect us to take your word for it,
do you?
FRAN
(exasperated)
See here —
(BURILDA giggles. Enter PHILLIPPE
dragging his tub.)
Are you having a go?
PHILLIPPE
Madame, don’t worry, he is joking. Can’t you tell?
(COBAR laughs)
FRAN
He’s joking? He;s joking about what? I don’t understand.
PHILLIPPE
Terra nullius, madame. Terra nullius.
FRAN
Terra nullius? What the fack does the Genet have to do
with terra nullius? You could tell that’s hat he meant
from there? And you’re French. What wold you know about
terra nullius? And what’s so fackin funny about terran
8
nullius anyway?
PHILLIPPE
Don’t be upset, please. Yes, I am French, and of that
type that delights in the whims of irony; a connoisseur.
As for terra nullius, well naturally, I visit a place
like this Rotto I want to know some history, or at least
enough so that I can investigate further and interrogate
the given. I —
MAY
Ooh, are you a detective?
PHILLIPPE
No, madame, not a detective. I am an intellectual and,
if I may say so, a poet. (MAY swoons. FRAN looks around
bewildered.)
FRAN
(to COBAR)

You were having a go? That has to be the most obnoxious

MAY
Oh, Fran, come on, it doesn’t matter. Let’s head off to
Dome. (to PHILLIPPE) Would you like to come?
PHILLIPPE
I —
FRAN
Never mind that. May, you go on ahead.
MAY exits.
(to PHILLIPPE)
You stay away from her, Monsieur Smart Arse. She’s mine.
FRAN exits.
PHILLIPPE
(to COBAR)
Very clever, but rather cruel. They are harmless
bourgeoise.
BURILDA
There are no harmless bourgeoise. They make all the shit
normal. You must know that, being French, and of that
type.
PHILLIPPE
Ouch,what a bite. And so articulate.
BURILDA
You mean for a negress?
PHILLIPPE
I mean no such thing. You are so sensitive. I like that.
9
But I see that it has made you so angry. What a shame.
BURILDA
Shame?
PHILLIPPE
That’s what I mean: You jump. You are so reactionary. No,
I mean it is a shame because that couple, that couple you
and your — (waits for BURILDA to offer up COBAR’s
relation to her, and when she doesn’t he continues) —
well, they may be — no, no, they are bourgeoise, as you
say, but not worth trifling with. I think you need to
pick your battles, as they say, because it’s an endless
war. (pauses) And if I may say so, you are quite
beautiful, and your fury strangles the otherwise placid
lifelines of your face. We French —
She attacks him and before long puts flat on his
back and sits on his chest.
BURILDA
You French?
He makes no effort to get up.
PHILLIPPE
And you? (looks at COBAR)
COBAR
Nyungar.
PHILLIPPE
You Nyungar are so headstrong. How did you ever manage to
lose your land to the British? They can be so slow and
obtuse.
BURILDA
It was genocide —
COBAR
By halitosis. Three months of eating fish and gruel.
Even the local bacteria vacated the premises.
BURILDA
Terror noxious.
MOTHER and CHILD enter slowly.
PHILLIPPE
Who are they? They are not wearing swim wear but they are
soaking wet, so they must have come out of the water.
COBAR and BURILDA look at each other. The Elder
turns to PHILLIPPE.
ELDER
You can see them?
PHILLIPPE
Well, but of course. They are standing right there.
10
ELDER
(to the MOTHER)
Where are you from?
MOTHER
I’m from America. Boston.
ELDER
Why have you come here, spirit?
CHILD
(interrupting)
We’ve come to see the famous quokkas.
MOTHER
To replay what happened until I understand.
PHILLIPPE
Ah, yes, Nietzsche called that resentiment — the
feelings that won’t let go, that cling and strangle.
BURILDA releases PHILLIPPE and climbs off him. The
CHILD runs off, the MOTHER following laboriously
behind.
ELDER
So you heard her, too?
PHILLIPPE
C’mon, of course. Are you making fun of me, too. Like
with the ladies? Is that your hobby?
ELDER
It’s just that she’s not alive, not real; she’s a spirit.
And very few people can see her and even fewer hear her.
PHILLIPPE registers perplexity and scepticism.
We must talk. You could be a European I can trust.
The MOTHER calling her CHILD can be heard off in the
distance, growing more frantic.
11
SCENE 3
Somewhere in the middle of the island. Trees, dense
underbrush. A clearing with a yarran tree in the
middle. It is the same “Ship of Fools” tree from the
channel crossing. The buzz of bees coming from the
tree. In the background, behind the trees, a series
of screens is set up and we see the silhouettes of
what appear to be five 6-foot rats shadow dancing
rhythmically, meaningfully. Enter the CHILD, who
sits and watches. We hear the MOTHER calling for
him. Then she enters and quietly sits next to him,
and they watch the pantomine play for a minute or
so. We see there is another giant rat behind the
screens as well, but bounding high, not seemingly a
member of the pack, judging from his movements. Then
the creatures come out from behind the screens and
begin dancing in a ritual around the yarran tree.
Although, the bounding creature remains behind the
screens.
We hear a soundtrack reminiscent of Stravinsky’s
Rite of Spring.
CHILD
Mother, look: giant quokkas!
MOTHER
Not quite. Or, rather, yes. But they are in disguise.
See, they are wearing masks.
CHILD
Yes,I see, but what kind of mask, mother, and why?
MOTHER
They quokkas dresses as genets.
CHILD
You mean the quokka is pretending to be a genet?
MOTHER
Evidently.
CHILD
Why?
MOTHER
I don’t know dear. It seems to have something to do with
that tree they’re going around.
CHILD
It’s a special tree, then?
MOTHER
Yes. Look at all the bees swarming around like crazy.
CHILD
And look, mother,you can see a river of red honey flowing
down from the top of the tree. Oh dear!
12
MOTHER
What is it?
CHILD
Near the top, mother, is that a skull hidden in the
branches?
MOTHER
I don’t think so, love. It looks like a beehive to me.
CHILD
I’m gonna go look.
The CHILD runs toward the tree.
MOTHER
(horrified)
No! Come back.
The CHILD runs through a gap in the dancing and
climbs the tree heading for the hive. The beebuss
briefly grows louder, then fades away altogether.
CHILD
(grabbing at honey, licking his fingers)
Oh mother this is so yum.
The MOTHER runs forward to retrieve him. But the
quokka/genets knock her down.
CHILD
(sees her on the ground)
Mother!
The creatures creep closer to the tree. The
terrified CHILD climbs higher. The creatures shake
the tree.
The bounding quokka/genet comes bouncing out on a
pogo stick, trying to make distracting sounds.
One creature’s eyes light up red and he makes a
gesture that knocks the bounder off his pogo stick.
He crawls over to comfort the near-hysterical
mother.
The creatures continue shaking the tree, until
finally the boys slips down and they grab him. They
solemnly carry him away, behind the screens, and
disappear.
The bounder’s mask is partially pulled away,
revealing a human in costume.
MOTHER
Who and what are you?
BOUNDER
I am Genetta Genetta.
13
The MOTHER faints in the bounder’s arms. We hear a
snatch of David Bowie’s “Jean Jeannie”. Then…
All is silent except for a growing buzz as the bees
return and the distinctive sound of a percussive
rattle.
Scene 4
The Quad in darkness. We hear the sounds of galahs
and kookaburras, but also drones heading toward
China, and the occasional distant explosion.
Light comes up. We see guest room doors all around
the Quad. Two maids, with cleaning wagon, are in
front of one door gossiping.
In the back we see five tall screens set up and
behind them the silhouettes of five trees with
bodies hanging from them. Vaguely we can hear Billy
Holiday singing “Strange Fruit.”
In the middle of the Quad, a circular pit with steel
bars through which giant animal arms flail to get
out. A paper flame (streamers) of red and yellow
streams upward from the pit like a lit fire.
Occasionally, we hear moans from the pit and screams
from the rooms, but the maids and local musician pay
no attention. This effect continues throughout the
scene.
We see two men sitting at picnic table being served
beer by a waitress and quietly having their orders
taken.
Closer to front stage is a tall red-headed man,
DARYL,a friend to the yobbos. He is reading a book,
Anzac Memories, and nursing a beer.
Overhead is a screen that will project images at the
appropriate moment.
We hear the boisterous approach of the swimmers.
Enter JOHNNO, NIGEL, DOM, SONYA, BELINDA, as a
group, followed by the Sydneysiders, FRAN and MAY,
and then BURILDA and COBAR.
COBAR walks to a busker spot in a corner and idles
with a guitar.
DOMINIC
This is more like it. Let’s grab a seat and relax.
They sit at a table.
BELINDA
I’m getting a beer.
14
DOMINIC
Oh sit down, Belinda, and relax. A waiter will be along.
BELINDA
Fack that. I can’t wait.
She receives several orders for beer.
Wood’m oy yoor woytruss now?
They all laugh. Look around.
NIGEL
Well, this looks okay.
JOHNNO
Haven’t you been here before, mate?
NIGEL
Oh, yeah, but it was awhile ago and we stayed at the
barracks.
JOHNNO
Oh this is better here, mate. The feckin barracks is a
dive compared to this.
NIGEL
I heard these rooms are haunted and shit from the
colonial days or some shit.
DOMINIC
Oh yeah. They hung some abos here, and allkinds of other
shit, but that’s ancient history. Don’t give it another
thought. We came here to holiday, mate, not moan over
some ancient feckin atrocity. If even it even feckin
happened.
SONYA
That’s what i was thinking, too. I mean, who knows? Just
who the feck knows?
Belinda reurns with the beers. They all take long
swallows.
I told the barkeep to send out some pitchers, so drink
up, more’s on the way, mates.
She sees DARYL.
Hey, Daryl, the party’s over here. Get over here and join
us, mate.
He gets up with a greet ing and goes over to join
them.
BELINDA
What the feck are reading? I never took you for the
literry type, mate.
DARYL
15
(Holds up the book.)
Anzac Memories.
BELINDA
Oh that’s alright, mate. Can’t forget our diggers.
JOHNNO
Struth.
DARYL
Look you lot what I brought with me. (he retrieves a
duffel bag.) You’re going to like this.
DARYL proceeds to pull from the duffle bag the
carcass of a small, skinned lamb.
DOMINIC
Jayzuz, mate. You brought that over on the ferry with
you? I’m surprised you didn’t cop it.
SONYA
From a copper.
They all laugh.
DARYL
Yeah and I see that they’ve got a nice fire going over
there, so I’m gonna go put her on the spit and get her
going, what’s say?
BELINDA
Good on ya, mate. I’m feckin famished.
DARYL carries the carcass over to the pit and places
the lamb on the spit. He summons a waiter and
quietly directs him to keep it rotating.
Daryl is such a card. Who the feck brings a lamb on a
boat ride to Rotto?
Light dims on the yobbos and lights up
the maids in animated conversation.
MAID 1:
I came that fuckin close to telling Missy what she could
do with her job. She’s always like, “I’m sick and tired
of hearing complainst about your shoddy housecleaning
skills. You should see the suggestion box.” And I’m
thinking like, Missy you know what you can do with your
suggestion box. Stick it up your box. That’s my
suggestion.”
The second maid titters.
I mean, come on. And then she says, “If you want to live
like a pig at home that’s your business, but these poiple
have paid good money to stay here and they deserve a
little cleanliness. If you can’t pick up your game,
you’re gonna have to find another job.”
16
MAID 2:
Oy know, Missy’s such a bitch. Oy could kill her
soomtoims. “Do this. Hurry up. What have you got a
hernia? You move like an old loidy.”
As the lights dim on them, we hear the yobbos
singing a rousing stanza from “Waltzing Matilda.”
The light comes up on them.
JOHNNO
Let’s get this guy with the guitar to sing a few songs.
(Nods at the Aboriginal busker)
DOMINIC
(to the busker)
Hoy, mate,how about playing some tunes. You’re not busy,
right. Your just sitting there.
NIGEL
(Gets up and puts a fiver in the buskers
hat.)
Here you go, mate. That should get you started. Know any
Barnesy?
COBAR
No, I’m afraid not. I can play some Crowded House.
There’s a general groan at the table.
BELINDA
We don’t want to hear from those poofters, mate. Play
something decent.
COBAR
Okay, I know a song I think you will like.
He kicks a button with his foot and begins to faux
strum to piped in “Bound for Botany Bay.” They don’t
notice that he is obviously lip-syncing.
As he finishes they clap and whistle.
DOMINIC
Well done, mate. Very professional sound. Have you
thought of recording.
BELINDA
Oh you should definitely put a record out or a CD or
whatever. That was great, mate. You’re a real credit to
your race.
JOHNNO
Hear. Hear.It takes a special talent to play that song
right. That’s an important tune in our history, mate.

That talks about the convicts going from being shipmates

DOMINIC
In the belly of the beast, mind you —
17
JOHNNO
— shipmates to mateship —
BELINDA
That’s it,Johnno, well said: shipmates to mateship. We’re
still on that voyage together. Once mates, always mates.
SONYA
Don’t fuck with the Oz.
DARYL
(to COBAR)
You know,we’re not all white devils, mate. I mean in
those eearly days some evil shit went down and I feel bad
about that, but,you know you have to get over it.
BELINDA
You have to.
SONYA
For your sanity.
DOMINIC
Nah, no point in dwelling on it. Besides, since
Mabo,let’s face it, mate, you people have had it pretty
easy peasy. I mean,it took awhile, but you finally became
a landlord and started collecting rent.
BELINDA
What’s you name?
COBAR
Cobar.
BELINDA
That’s a gorgeous name. Well, anyway, Cobar, how do you
like being a landlord now?Do you like that?
JOHNNO
(with a growly voice)
Not going to evict us now, are you, mate?
They all laugh.
COBAR
I don’t know. They probably still wouldn’t take you back,
would they?
They all laugh.
NIGEL
Cheeky bastard.
JOHNNO
Have a beer with us, mate.
SONYA
Yeah anyone can play Botany like that.
Enter PHILLIPPE. He’s carrying the MOTHER. He places
18
her in a chair. She begins to rouse.
PHILLIPPE
Can I have everyone’s attention, please. Please. This
woman’s son has gone missing.
They all look around for the MOTHER, but can’t see
her.
DARYL
Who are you talking about, mate? We don’t see anyone. You
alright?
BELINDA
Yeah, have a beer, mate. You must be having delusions.
PHILLIPPE
No,isten, can’t you hear her crying out?
MOTHER wails profusely, loudly. Slowly, some kind of
awareness of her presence develops.
SONYA
I don’t hear anyone. Is this a game?
JOHNNO
No, shh. There’s something. Listen.
They all strain to hear. MOTHER wails hysterically.
PHILLIPPE
You still can’t see her? She is sitting right here.
They all look to where he’s pointing and slowly as
they stare she appears to them and there is a
commotion. MOTHER continues to wail about her loss.
She can be heard by the audience but not by the
characters (except PHILLIPPE and the aboriginal cast
members).
BELINDA
Tha’s feckin creepy.
DOMINIC
Okay, what did you say your name was?
PHILLIPPE
Phillippe.
DOMINIC
DYou were saying about an abduction of a child?
PHILLIPPE
Yes. This woman before you has had her child abducted.
Just a few minutes ago, actually.
The yobbos rise up.
DOMINIC
Where? Who did it? What did they look like?
19
PHILLIPPE
Apparently, they were, uh, black fellows of some sort. I
didn’t really understand that part myself.
DOMINIC
A nigger took her child? (growing visibly angry)
PHILLIPPE
I don’t know really. She just said some dark figures.
BELINDA
Some niggers took this poor woman’s child.
There is an escalation of emotions.
Oh they’re a violent lot.
DOMINIC
They’re rapists and pedos.
SONYA
Out sniffing petrol half the day.
DARYL
Don’t ever bathe.
NIGEL
Weird ass gods.
JOHNNO
Feckin boozers.
Lighting grows dimmer, red, occasional strobing like
a loose wire. The yobbos repeat what they’ve said,
growing louder and faster, like auctioneers. Until
their different voices, different registers become a
fugue of sounds instead of utterances. The overhead
sceen is playing the kangaroo cull scene from the
movie Wait in Fright. One by one they yell out:
Kill the poofters!
Kill the fatal feminists!
Kill the poly wogs!
Kill the swampy Asians!
Kill the Mabo Abo!
Kill Kill the other Other!
They all form a swarm, including waitress, barkeep
and maids, and move around the Quad like bees.
Furies. Now chanting, in military cadence,
(all together) Waltzing, waltzing, waltzing
(Dom, on a beat) Ma-till-da!
20
They exit, amidst the general alarm, in a kind of
organic scrum.
MOTHER gets up and walks over the pit. The moans the
silhouettes of five treesgrow louder and more
insistent.
MOTHER
During following monologue MOTHER’s accent changes
from American to British as she describes each
scene.
You murdered my boy in Boston, put an arrow through his
head, in a turf war over drugs. You murdered my boy again
in Manchester, a casualty of fiery riots and looting.
Dark, savage energies, un-tameable. The feral velocity of
predation. The psychopathic objectifying. You can see it
in the eyes: Your’re mine, you’re mine!
Screen shows close-ups of the eyes of the cullers
from previous Wake in Fright clip; a
phantasmagorical loop.
But what’s worse than this grief is the loss of
compassion, the coonective tissue of pity that
understands in one glance how difficult it is to be.
Terror begets terror, an endless war of attrition, eye
for an eye for an eye.
The moans grow louder, the flailing more insistent.
She leans on despair against the spit for a moment,
then bends down and unlocks the cage.
Go.
Giant quokkas climb out. MOTHER falls back, in
despair, into PHILLIPPE’s embrace. The quokkas
proceed to the screens, go behind them, and take
down the bodies, and disappear, leaving behind 5 Y
shaped trees.
The lights dim.
21
ACT 2
Scene 1
The Quad, later that day. PHILLIPPE sits with MOTHER
at a table in silence. The lamb on the spit is
charcoal and smoky and fills the air with the smell
of burnt flesh. A commotion is heard. The vigilantes
have returned. They are dragging behind them in a
net the bounder Genetta Genetta.
DOMINIC
Belinda, go and get us some beers. We know how to deal
with this prick.
They take the net off and lay the bounder across a
picnic table for interrogation. His arms and legs
held.
NIGEL
Make a mess.
DOMINIC
You dare put your hands on a child. Well, you’re gonna
tell us what you did with him.
BELINDA
And what you did to him.
NIGEL
Make a mess.
DOMINIC
You’re gonna tell us everything and more.
SONYA
But not right away, slowly. Take your toym, mate. The
evening’s young.
BELINDA and a waitress return with several beers and
pretzels.
JOHNNO who has been observing, with growing silent
rage, begins to take something out of his knapsack.
It is a massive chalice and a folded up circle of
muslin.
DOMINIC
Who wants to go first?
JOHNNO
Let me have first go, Dom. I know how to deal with these
scumbags.
NIGEL
Make a mess.
JOHNNO
(to the bounder)
22
Do you know what they used to call me back in the Viet
‘Ghan?
SONYA
How’s he supposed to know that,love?
BELINDA
Honey,it’s a figure of speech.
JOHNNO
They used to call me Johnny Jungle Fuck.
The others laugh.
DARYL
Well are you going to stand their beating your chest,
Johnny Jungle Fuck, or are you going to deliver us from
evil?
BELINDA, SONYA
Amen!
JOHNNO
You know, the CIA waterboarded Abu Zubaydah 83 times and
that tough guy ended up writing poetry to his
interrogator’s wife.
BELINDA
Sounds kind of kinky.
SONYA
Wish someone would write moy a poem.
JOHNNO
Oh this guy’s gonna write the fuckin Odyssey. (to
waitress) Take this and put some water in it, will you,
love? (Hands her the chalice.)
WAITRESS
Maybe we should let the police handle this.
The yobbos laugh.
JOHNNO
(to the policeman seated a few tables
away, reading a newspaper)
Whaddaya reckon, Danny? Do we take this black bastard to
trial? (more laughter.)
POLICEMAN
Don’t distract me, mate, I’m busy looking the other way.
(more laughter)
The waitress goes off with the chalice.
NIGEL
Come on, Johnno, make a mess.
BELINDA
Yeah, come on. He’s got to pay for what he did.
23
SONYA
Just look at the black bastard. Just look at him. He
looks like a giant rat.
The WAITRESS returns with the chalice, water
sloshing over the sides. JOHNNY takes it from her.
JOHNNO
Okay,hold him tight now. I’ve got to just lay this
eucharest over his face and the festivities begin.
DARYL
Eucharist? What the fuck is going on?
JOHNNO
Oh yeah, mate. Back in the ‘Ghan we’d go on a night ride
— I think I did moybe 20 per tour and I did seven tiurs,
so you do the math — and we’d breach some towelhead’s
little shithole of a house in the middle of the night
–usually around 3, that’s the reco — and, maaaaate,
they’d be all squirrely with fear, the little fat wife
and runty little kids, but then we’d lay out Islam’s
clown and bring out the eucharist and chalice, and they
got the idea right away, they’d see the conversion kit,
and you could see it in their eyes, the desperation, and
I’d lay the eucharist over his face and then pour the
water wine over his face, and —
NIGEL
That sounds pretty fucked up, actually.
SONYA
Well, did it work?
JOHNNO
Did it work? What do you think? Follow Jew boy Jesus? Ha!
Within five minutes he’d tell you about every goat he
ever lusted after. Watch this.
He pours water from the chalice over the face of the
bounder, who had been semi-conscious.
BOUNDER
Stop! Stop!
JOHNNO
See, what did I tell you? Like a charm. (to BOUNDER)
Roight. Now you’re gonna start by telling us who the fuck
you are and then we’ll go on from there.
BOUNDER
I’m John Pilger. I’m John Pilger. Now let me up.
There is a general gasp.
It’s true.
The BOUNDER begins to peel away his quokka costume.
The others begin ripping away at it.A few moments
later, a tall man in a white suit emerges from the
24
quokka debris. It is John Pilger. He stands up.
Like I said, I’m John Pilger.
An applause track is heard, such as when a celebrity
cameos a sit-com.
BELINDA
Fuck moy.
JOHNNO
(unimpressed, grabbing at the BOUNDER)
Oy. I’m gonna do you twoice,you un-Austrayan troubleshit.
POLICEMAN
(standing up, coming over)
Now, Johnno, let him go, mate. It wouldn’t boy very
democratic to kill off the left in one fell swoop.
Besides, nobody cares. He lives in England now.
BELINDA
He can swim back there, if you ask moy. Put his lot in
with the bloody pommies.
DARYL
Now, Belinda, we still do have a governor general. We
haven’t exactly cut the cord yet.
BELINDA
Governor general. Puh. Useless title. Empty.
DARYL
You reckon? Better tell that to poor ol’Gough.
BELINDA
Oh yeah, well, that poofter had it coming, didn’t he.
JOHNNO
(lets PILGER go)
Well, would someone tell me what the feck is goin on
here?
PILGER
What’s going here is you jumped me for no good reason.
DOMINIC
Aw mate, you fit the description: black.
PILGER
But I’m not black, am I. In any case, what right have you
to jump me, without cause, and drag me away, and commence
to torture me without so much as an accusation and chance
to respond?
JOHNNO
Well, that’s just too bad. Something very serious has
happened here — a child has disappeared — and we
couldn’t just sit here hoping it all ended well. There
was no time for due process, if that’s what you’re
25
getting at, we had to act, alife was at stake.
BELINDA
Oh fuck it,I’m with Johnno.I say do him anyway. Feckin
traitor.
PILGER
So you think you have the god-given right to intervene
wherever you please and just paly God with other people’s
lives.
JOHNNO
A life was at risk.
PILGER
Was? Is the person you were looking for dead?
JOHNNO
We don’t really know. We never found him. We’re just
going by what that lady over there told us. Came in here
screaming her kid had been nicked by a blackie,and then
we saw you, and here we are.
PILGER looks around toward where JOHNNO was
pointing. The others are unsettled.
I mean, that’s where you come in. You fit the
description. How were we to know it was a skin. And, by
the way,why are you dressed as a fuckin quokka?
PILGER
Sometimes it’s useful to stand in another man’s skin to
understand him.
SONYA
I thought that was a mocassin.
JOHNNO
Anyway, I reckon we’d a had the information out of you
quick smart.
PILGER
So you don’t even know if the child is alive or dead? You
don’t even know for sure that there is a child?
BELINDA
That lady Yank over there —
SONYA
— British —
PILGER
What lady?!
The whole group is now looking in the direction of
PHILLIPPE, where they expected to find the MOTHER
seated too, but although still seated next to
PHILLIPPE they can no longer see her.
JOHNNO
26
Loik I said, will someone ploise tell me wot the feck is
gooin on?
PHILLIPPE
The lady vanished.
JOHNNO
(threatening))
Wodda yule moyn she’s deesapeared, moyt? You better
start making sense.
POLICEMAN
You could be in trouble here if you don’t start
explaining. Wild goose chasesmay be cheeky fun back in
Paris but they’re against the law here, mate.
DARYL
You know, it’s true, It’s weird, but true. I could have
sworn I saw her here when we first got back, but the she
suddenly wasn’t there.
NIGEL
Mm, it’s like the way she arrived. Kind of suddenly.
SONYA
Out of thin air.
PHILLIPPE
You wanted to see her before, because she was in pain.
BELINDA
So says you. Tell us this, poncey Paris, do you see her
now?
They all look at him anticipating an answer.
PHILLIPPE
I’m not sure what I see or don’t see any more.
WAITRESS
O joyzuz, look at the lamb.
DOMINIC
Fuuuck.
NIGEL
(laughing)
It’s lump of black charcoal.
SONYA
And what a smell.
JOHNNO
Oh fuck it. Time for a beer.
BELINDA
Time to turn in, if you ask me.
They all go in separate directions, exiting into
rooms, out of the Quad, etc. Except for PHILLIPPE
27
and MOTHER who continue to sit at the table.
MOTHER
Why? Why did they kill my baby?
PHILLIPPE
O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark…
The lights go down.
Scene 2
A room in the Quad. On the bench a kettle on low
heat whistles softly, but shrilly. FRAN and MAY are
getting ready for bed.
MAY
What a confusing day.
FRAN
How do you mean?
MAY
What I mean is, we started out all excited in the morning
to see the Genet the next day and have a swim to Rotto,
like everyone else, and next thing you know we’re in the
middle of a Hercules Poiret affair. Very weird, really.
FRAN
It was rather exciting, wasn’t it?
MAY
And to jump and accost that poor man. What was his name
again?
FRAN
Pilger.
MAY
Yes. Well, wearing a quokka suit was weird, I must
admit. I don’t know what that was all about. But why
torture him? That Johnno was just a dreadful beast.
FRAN
Well people do get caught up. I mean, even you and I were
fired up when they swarmed together to hunt down that
predator.
MAY
Who didn’t exist.
FRAN
Who didn’t exist this time. That’s true.
MAY
Oh but the torture, Fran.
Fran begins fiddling with some material in an open
suitcase. She pulls out what appears to be a
uniform and a leash.
28
FRAN
Oh come on now. I saw your face. (seductively) The lady
did make love to it. When he screamed your eyes lit up
like hardened diamonds in a spotlight. It was quite a
turn-on to see you like that.
FRAN begins to put on the jailer’s uniform
MAY
Fran, not now, not tonight. I feel so confused.
FRAN
(suddenly irritated))
You didn’t seem too confused when the Frenchman bounced
his beachball eyes at you.
MAY
(laughs))
Now, Fran.
FRAN
Come on, love. Get on the gear.
MAY
Oh alright.
MAY begins stripping down, then pulls out a costume
from her own suitcase. It is a bright orange smock
with lots of velcro seams. She puts it on.
Ooh, I think I’ve put on some weight, Fran.
FRAN
Nonsense, you look lovely. Botticelli.
MAY
(giggles)
Botticelli? In a velcro suit?
FRAN
If he were alive today.
FRAN grabs the desk chair and places it in the
middle of the room. She climbs upon it and attaches
the end of a leash to the light fixture. Meanwhile,
MAY puts on a dog collar. She holds a hood in her
hand.
Okay, love, up you go.
MAY climbs upon the chair. FRAN attaches the leash
to the collar and adjusts it.
Go on. Put it on.
MAY puts on the hood. The chair wobbles slightly and
MAY yelps.
Oh that’s lovely.
29
FRAN turns off the other lights, so that only the
light above MAY is lit.
Are you ready?
MAY
Yes.
FRAN
Good.
She goes to the light switch and dims the light low.
The houselights slowly grow dark. We hear the sound
of velcro ripping and a happy sound.
How do you feel now?
MAY
I feel Genet. I feel Genet.
Scene 3
Inside the rather rustic interior of the Quad pub.
It has an Old West eel to it. At the back there are
swinging doors. MOBY, a lone Nyoongar man, sits at
the bar, a paper bag in front of him. The BARKEEP is
dressed as a clown and leaned over the bar, bored. A
TV reports the winner of the Rotto channel swim with
lots of hyped up excitement. In the back, NIGEL and
DARYL play ‘ping pong’, but they each have paddles
with a ball strung to it, and though they move in
anticipation of each others shots, they are actually
playing with themselves. We can hear drones overhead
and occasional explosions. At a table front and
center a group of men — BLAINEY, MANNE, HUGHES and
BOLT — are busy drinking and hashing out The
History Wars, but we can’t hear what they are saying
yet; likewise, we can the clickety-click of the
paddles, but not the ensuing conversation between
the players. That changes as a spotlight emphasizes
the action of each section, one at a time. Overhead
is a projection screen.
MOBY
Mate,let me have another one. (he pushes the bag toward
the barkeep)
BARKEEP
Moby, your missus almost cut off my balls last time you
came in here and binged.
MOBY
Don’t be a poof, mate. Get me another bag.
The BARKEEP reluctantly fetches a spray bottle
filled with petrol and prays a measured amount into
the paper bag. Takes a note from MOBY’s stash at the
bench.
BARKEEP
30
I don’t like this, Moby. Your missus will have me strung
up.
MOBY
(waving him quiet))
She’s not even home. Gone to see the rellies. No worries.
(pauses) Can you turn that box of galahs off? I’m getting
a headache, mate.
BARKEEP picks up the remote and turns off the TV.
BARKEEP
(sighs))
Well, what are your plans this weekend? Do you have
anyone to keep you on the straight and narrow? What are
you gonna get up to?
MOBY
The straight and narrow.(smiles) What am I gonna get up
to? (takes a heavy inhale of the paper bag.)
A clip from the movie The Lost Weekend appears. It
is the barroom scene where the Ray Milland drunkard
is about to tell the barkeep his story. MOBY and
Milland speak the following word at the same time,
MOBY even imitating Milland’s finger summons
gesture. Then, after “C’mere” is uttered, the
screens shows a phantasmagorical set of images that
is like the space gate in 2001: A Space Odyssey but
with Aboriginalpatterns and designs.
C’mere.
The spotlight drops from bar area and now pingpong
table is lit up and we can hear the banter.
NIGEL
Listen to them.
DARYL
Wot that poncey lot over there carrying on about Abo this
and Abo that and the tyranny of distance?
NIGEL
No, no, not that.(he laughs at the notion) No, the drones
overhead. A couple of years ago people barely knew what a
drone was, fewer fuckin cared, but listen to them, there
must be hundreds. There like fuckin locusts, mate.
DARYL
Yanks, mate.
NIGEL
Gonna get us all fuckin killed. Those fuckin Chinks are
just up the road, mate. Obama’s all happy horsey in his
White House, directing the drones with a joystick from
there, ten thousand fuckin miles away, mate.
DARYL
Well this is just an exercise. Nothing to get worked up
31
about. It’ll blow over. The Yanks are just rattling their
sword.
NIGEL
Rattling their swords with the Chinese? That’s heaps
smart. Maybe they oughta go check out that Tarrantino
flick —
DARYL
— Kill Bill?
NIGEL
Kill Bill. Too right. Fuckin flippin in the air upside
down and shit. HWAH!
DARYL makes a sudden dart as if playing a
particularly tough shot from NIGEL.
DARYL
Nice one, mate. (pause) Anyway, it’s almost over, the
exercise, the Yanks will be packing it in in another day.
NIGEL
It’s gonna get worse, mate, and Perth is a fair dinkum
target — well, Freo, thanks to the collosal stupidity of
hosting the US Navy fleet. You mark my words, this won’t
end until either the Great Wall is all rubble being sold
as keychains —
DARYL
— well, the Yanks do like to make a buck —
NIGEL
— or the whole of Perth looks like the fuckin Wave Rock.
The spotlight leaves them and comes round to the
table of master debaters.
HUGHES
Well, I’m not saying there were no abuses. It started
with the injustice of casting away so many souls
thousands of nautical miles away from their homeland and
families and culture, for what would be regarded as mere
over-leveraging today.
MANNE
Yes.
HUGHES
I mean, can you imagine if we started putting people back
into debtor’s prisons today?
BOLT
Oh, come on Hughesy, that’s a rather gross
simplification, don’t you think? It’sknown and
established that a considerable number of their lot were
real riffraff. Some of them were what we’d call
psychopaths today. Who could blame England for wanting to
get rid of them?
32
HUGHES
No, I know all that; there’s no disputing that. But what
I’m saying, Boltsy, is that a certain climate was
attached to the whole affair. Transportation divided men
between prisoners and guards, and that’s proven to have
treacherous consequences —
BOLT
Oh,I don’t know. It’s given us mateship, which helped
those poor buggers survive not only the miserable long
journey — I can only imagine what thoughts they had —
but also adjusting to this desolate place full of bizarre
and frightful creatures. I mean, can you imagine thelook
on some bloke’s face the first time he saw a kangaroo
bounding or had an emu coming at him?
They laugh. We see in the background MOBY order
another round.
MANNE
Struth. But what we’re neglecting —
HUGHES
— Sorry, Bobby, let me just finish my point. So, I’m
saying the prison-guard mentality had consequences. Yes,
it may have given us so-called mateship, but that may not
be such a blessing after all. Not if you think of it as
inmate argot and self-rule, which trumps the greater
order.
DARYL
(shouting)
O shut the fuck up, Hughes, you fuckin plagiarist. Who
the feck would want to be your mate anyway?
HUGHES
My point to the rescue.
BLAINEY
I hear what you’re saying, Hughesy, that prisoner
mentality, especially after such a traumatizing
experience, would no doubt have had social consequences,
but I think we’re looking at the wrong data set here.
We’re getting away from the fact that from the beginning
the whole intention of transportation was exploitation.
Colonial exploitation. And as far as England were
concerned, the most expedient and cost-effective means to
laying hands on the resources was not negotiation — see,
that’s where the tyranny of distance comes in — but by
just grabbing it away and worrying about the
consequences, if any, later.
MANNE
Yes, of course, and it was a policy that led directly to
genocide and the policies of the Stolen Generations.
MOBY wants another round.
BOLT
Now, come on, Bobby, you Jews have that genocide theme
33
suffused throughout your thinking. Shit happened, sure,
but shit happens.
NIGEL
Sing it, Bolty.
MANNE
But you’re not saying the Holocaust never happened,
right?
BOLT
Come on, Bobby. Now you’re trying to frame an
anti-semitic angle. I’m just saying —
There is a loud crashing sound as the doors swing
open in the back and the spotlight sees a man
dressed in a black Western outfit strutting in,
spurs clanging. We hear the theme from the Good, the
Bad and the Ugly. All eyes on him.
BARKEEP
Well fuck me sideways in a submarine. It’s Keith
Windschuttle!
MOBY
Oh fuck me.
There is a massive applause, a popular celebrity has
made a cameo appearance.
He jingles forward, lean and mean, toward the
debaters. Stops several feet away, about halfway
between their table and where MOBY is seated.
BARKEEP
Drink?
WINDSCHUTTLE
The usual.
BARKEEP
Vinegar and piss?
WINDSCHUTTLE
Aye, neat.
Takes another step closer and eyes the quarry.
Gentlemen. See you’re consuming more of your precious
time talking the usual shit about genocide and stolen
children.
BLAINEY gets up, ready to strike. MANNE restrains
him.
Once again, let me reiterate: There was no genocide.
NIGEL, DARYL
Eeeeee-haw!
34
Now both BLAINEY and MANNE make as if to lunge at
WINDSCHUTTLE but get restrained by HUGHES,the three
tumble to the floor as a result. WINDSCHUTTLE lets
out a roaring laugh. MOBY sneaks up behind
WINDSCHUTTLE with a chair.
WINDSCHUTTLE
And there was no Stolen Generation!
NIGEL
Look out, Windy!
MOBY smashes a chair over WINDSCHUTTLE’S head.
NIGEL
Oh maaaaate, you are going to pay for that.
They approach the debaters. The BARKEEP throws up
his hands, turns on the TV, watches the cricket
highlights.
As the lights dim, we hear the sounds of smashing
furniture, assorted grunts and groans, cowboys and
indians at war, the sound of drones.
Scene 4
COBAR’S room. He stands before a mirror naked in
semi-darkness. He holds a book and reads from it. A
soundtrack plays Miles Davis’ A Tribute to Jack
Johnson. On an overhead screen we see the twerking
behind of Miley Cyrus on a loop, which changes
toward the end of the reading to the wrinkles of a
black arsehole, which seems to pulsate, and then it,
too, changes into an animation of a black hole
sucking in everything.
COBAR
My ‘enwhitenment’ begins. (pauses)
“I had studied the mirror, familiarised myself with the
selves revealed there, and seen myself teasingly revealed
as I descended, feet first. I have seen my feet as
prehensile. I have seen a foot nuzzling its partner’s
ankle, and my body weight balanced on a single stem like
some wading bird frozen with concentration. I saw how I
shimmered, just like the aliens do on the television, and
although a variety of images were shown, they were all of
a kind. I turned away, turned away from the mirror. I
turned my back, showed my black hole, that last aureole
of my colour, my black insides. To think this lured
grandfather! I had repeatedly taken him inside me, in
different ways, and it was always easy, like a joke, but
it terrified him now because he understood what it meant
that he shrivelled while he remained there.”
Kim Scott, Benang. Kim Scott, my favorite arsehole.
We hear a voice from the Miles Davis track,
“Yesternow”:
35
“I’m Jack Johnson — heavyweight champion of the world!
I’m black! They never let me forget it. I’m black all
right; I’ll never let them forget it.”
Fade to black.
Scene 5
An unmarked graveyard on Rotto at dawn. A sign
reads: PITCH YOUR TENT HERE. Behind screens in the
back silhouettes of the same dancing quokka/genets
as earlier, performing a ritual dance but not the
same as before. They stop and pick up a four-foot
object. They come out from behind the screens
holding aloft the body of the CHILD wrapped in a
cocoon-like sheath. They proceed to carefully lower
the body into a hole in the center. They stand
looking down at the grave in silence. Then an earthshaking sound is heard, like the footsteps of
dinosaurs. Enter three stilt people. One wears part
business suit, part dress, and has two faces: half
Tony Abbott, half Pauline Hanson. The second stilt
person wears a miner’s outfit, with cave lamp hat,
and bearing a very large badge that reads: GO GO YOU
DIGGERS GO! The third stilt person is a stout
generic pommie wearing a union jack stovepipe hat.
Overhead we hear the drones buzzing. The
quokka/genets hear the stilt people coming. A brief
slapstick chase ensues, with quokkas running this
way and that and the stilt people trying to bonk
them over the heads with mallets. The chase moves
off-stage.
Enter FRAN and MAY.
MAY
Are you sure this is the place? It doesn’t look like a
graveyard. I don’t see any markers.
FRAN
Well, that’s what the maid said: just look for the signs
saying TENTS HERE.
MAY
I don’t see any tents either.
FRAN
Probably not the season. Or maybe it’s not popular
because of all the quokkas running around. Who knows?
But this looks like the place alright.
Others enter, the ELDER, with CORAB and BURILDA, the
yobbos, the BARKEEP, WINDSCHUTTLE and the debaters,
MONSIGNOR SEAN O’SHEA, and the MOTHER, although she
cannot be seen right away by anyone except the
ELDER, who watches her move to the grave site and
stand. Other extras also enter.
MAY
(observing the entry of the yobbos)
36
What are they doing here? Surely they didn’t come to
Rottnest to see the Genet.
FRAN
Dunno, dear. All I know is that Aboriginal bloke we saw
at the arch when we arrived just invited everyone to come
to the graveyard for a ceremony.
MAY
But what about the Genet?
Before FRAN can answer, COBAR draws everyone’s
attention with a megaphone.
COBAR
Thank you everyone for coming. We’re glad you could make
it for this ceremony. We won’t keep you long. I promise.
There is a general buzz of confused anticipation.
MAY
But what about the Genet? We came to see the Genet.
COBAR
Right. Well, see, the thng is, I don’t know where you got
the idea Rotto had genets. I don’t think they are even
found in these parts.
BLAINEY
Oh god, no. They’re African. The only way they’d get here
is if they were disguised as kangaroos. Which is not
going to happen, is it? Not with the way they just go out
at night and just slaugher the poor creatures by the
hundreds.
WINDSCHUTTLE
Oh, do shut up, Geoffrey.
MAY
But that’s absurd. We have tickets.
COBAR
I think maybe some trickster’s had a go at you. Really,
there are no genets here; just quokkas. Lots and lots of
quokkas.
MAY
(to FRAN)
Aren’t you going to say something?
FRAN
The tickets you purchased to the Genet — may I see them?
MAY
Sure, look. (pulls out a piece of paper from her purse.)
Of course, it’s digital, you know. A bar code. They said
just have it scanned when I got here.
FRAN
They?
37
MAY
The man I spoke with on the telephone. Who called me on
my mobile — I don’t know how he got my number — after
we had seen The Maids — wasn’t Cate just marvelous —
and who said it was an exclusive treat for Genet lovers
only, to come to Rotto and see the Genet, like it’s never
been produced before. And of course I jumped. And here we
are.
FRAN
Yes. here we are.
There is a buzz of mockery.
COBAR
Well maybe,if it all works out, the ceremony will make up
for it.
MAY
Oh, I doubt that. What could make up for a lost Genet?
COBAR
Uncle, do you want to begin?
ELDER
Thank you, Cobar. And thank you all for coming here this
morning, I know you are anxious to explore the island
and get stuck into your holidays, so I won’t take too
much of your time. (pause) We are standing in a place
that is sacred to the Nyoongar people. It is a burial
spot of some ancestors who died here on this island under
horrible conditions, back in a time when our Europeans
guests were less, um, enlightened —
COBAR
— but more en-whitened —
ELDER
Cobar, knock it off. (pause) A time of brutality and
long distance voyages and the chaos of new freedoms
merged with the opportunity for gross exploitation.Be all
that as it may, I did not invite you here today to
browbeat you or try to make yoy feel guilty. How could
you be guilty of the atrocities of the past? Of the
arrogance and indifference to suffering, the poverty of
understanding? You are a newer generation, and there is
hope, now that distances and the exploitation of yourown
ancestors are no longer relevant issues, hope that the
spirit of reconciliation that we hear so much about can
find its way to fruition on a tree of our new common
language,inspired by our common experiences of the
landscapes and unique character of this place we call
Australia. (pause) Yesterday, you were briefly startled
and engorged when a woman came to you and she told you —
through the European who could see and hear her — very
unusual, believe me– that she was in horrid grief
because her child had been taken from her. Until you
could feel her grief, you could not see her, and even
then, you could not hear her, because you are attuned to
38
the visceral and have little patience for the heart of
the matter, as it were, for the music of the woman’s soul
crying out from the wilderness of darkness where she was
frantically in search of her lost child. The woman is
white and her child is white and the loss came at the
hands of black evil forces. That is true. She lost a
being she loved at the hands of creatures unable to love,
unable to believe, unable to move forward into
enlightenment —
COBAR
— or enwhitenment —
ELDER
— because they, too, see all around them the same lack
of love, lack of belief, lack of soul, floating aimlessly
in world without music, without stories. Shit happens,
you people say, and, it’s true: shit happens. But today I
want to go just a little bit further than yesterday. I
want to see if you can hear the woman’s grief music, as
we stand here in this place of so much buried sorrow.
Because if you can hear again this white woman’s sorrow,
there’s a chance you will be able to understand the
unresolved grief we bear for our lost ancestors, and then
we may be able to share true reconciliation. But this is
all voluntary. And if you feel that you don’t have the
heart for this, then you needn’t stay. Feel free to leave
at any time. You came for a holiday, to get away from
stress,I know. But maybe these brief moments will help
ther too.
JOHNNO
Yeah, I’m outta here. This is all bullshit.No one owes
you anything, mate. It’s like you just said: shit
happens. Just move on, mate.
DOMINIC
I’m outta here, too.
They look around for others to follow, but no one
else moves.
ELDER
The woman is here with us again today. Standing here
right now amongst us. Is there anyone who can see her?
PHILLIPPE
I see her. She’s standing over that open hole there.
The others look around, still unseeing.
MANNE
I can almost see her.
ELDER
Now listen closely, as she tells her story, and see if
you can go beyond seeing to hearing her today. Because it
is in the human voice that we are most connected. Give it
a go. What have you got to lose but the nothingness?

They look in the direction of the woman and
gradually, as she speaks, they see her and hear her.
Overhead a looped image of the mother who has lost
her child from the film, Battleship Potemkin.
MOTHER
O wa-la-wa-la-wa-la
It was stupid. You had people vastly different from one
another by virtue of culture, religion, language,
economic levels and race, yet the whole world expected us
all to live harmoniously in happy Christian brotherhood
overnight. Whites lost heavily. Dispossessed, really.
We feared we’d be necklaced and ran for our lives. But
they took Tracey, my precious 9 year old daughter, took
her from the car when I ran into the house to get the
last suitcase. Pulled her out of the car by her golden
hair, screaming to be free. And I tried to grab her back.
And Andrew took out his rifle, but they shot him first.
He lived, but then after what they did, he died, we died.
They took my Tracey and put an old treadless tire around
her neck and arms, a tiny little tire that looked as
harmless as a chocolate donut, and they started pouring
the petrol over her, laughing — and I’ll never forget
this — not so much out of evil, but without a sense of
the real, as though in the chaos of their own nightmare
worlds they did not really exist themselves. I don’t
know. It’s hard to explain. They lit the match. They ran
away. We watched as if the very fabric of existence was
being shredded, dessicated. I tried to put it out, to put
it out, to put it out…
There is a long moment when no one moves.
ELDER
I know you can see and hear her now. I look at you and
see it. (pause) And now there is one last thing I would
ask you to do. Buried in tha hole in the ground, along
with my ancestors’ spirits, are the ghosts planted into
this hollow ground as your people slept in their tents
here. See, they are coming out now, freed by your new
vision, symbols that hold you back, that confuse. As they
leave this ground, please leave with them, guide them off
this island, bring them to the all-forgiving,
all-forgetting sea. Let them swim back to Freo and to the
European mind.
One by one, several spirits climb from the grave.
MAY
Elvis.
DARYL
Is that Jimmy Hoffa?
SONYA
Holy shit. Harold Holt.
BLAINEY
Amelia Earhardt?
40
BELINDA, SONYA, NIGEL
Marilyn Monroe!
They all exit except for the MOTHER, MONSIGNOR
O’SHEA, COBAR, BURILDA and PHILLIPPE. One last
spirit emerges — MERSAULT, from Camus’ novel The
Stranger. He is carrying a guitar buried with him
after his execution. MERSAULT plods along until he
sees the priest. He comes up behind the MONSIGNOR
and smashes him over the head with his guitar.
MERSAULT
Is there no exit from this hell?
PHILLIPPE follows MERSAULT off, the MONSIGNOR climbs
into the grave and returns with the cocooned body of
the CHILD. He hands the body to the MOTHER and she
walks off in the direction of the sea, the priest
following her.
COBAR, BURILDA and the ELDER wait a few moments,
then follow the others offstage.
Scene 6
The arch on the beach where all the tourists
arrived. It is the same set as at the beginning.
COBAR, BURILDA and the ELDER arrive just as the
MOTHER is entering the sea with her child; she
continues walking until she disappears beneath the
waves. The priest exits. The three Nyoongar hosts
watch as the Titanic sails back toward Freo, the
Ship of Fools is at half-mast and the passengers
sober and still, and in his motorized bathtub
PHILLIPPE now lounges like the dead Jim Morrison.
Overhead we hear the hum of drones, the occasional
muffled explosion.
After awhile, after he has landed, PHILLIPPE appears
at the jut of the mainland looking out toward Rotto.
He is spotlighted, Rotto is dimmed.
PHILLIPPE
Thank you, Burilda, for this.
The Coming of Spring
The wild, shrieking winds
From which even galahs take shelter
Gales of boomerang force and cold
That drive the insects helter skelter
In this desolation where animals huddle
And lose all memory in the now,
And one man waits in his shell of leaves
With ice for water and a smelly cow
The one day winter breaks
Cracked open by a peak of thunder
And Mayra brings her rain
And sun and splits the seeds asunder
41
And golden Mayra radiates
The wattle trees to flower
The clouds combust and burn away
A man lauds her gentle power
Birds fill the air and sing
And every thing and living creature
Unfurls, outstretches, embraces
Their green primordial teachert
And joy races through the heart
And passion feeds the vital spirit
And vanquishes the world’s despair
Until the world can hardly bear it
If only it could last forever
One man simmers and sighs
And yet that would prove tiresome, too
And we’d miss the blue surprise
And then Mayra moves on
As the heat begins to press
Already gone before she’s here
Already more because she’s less
There is a pause. PHILLIPPE’S light dims, Rotto
lights up. We see COBAR, BURILDA and the ELDER
standing on the Rotto jut.
BURILDA
Thank you for the Mallarme, Phillippe.
The Clown Chastised
Eyes, lakes of my simple passion to be reborn
Other than as the actor who gestures with his hand
As with a pen, and evokes the foul soot of the lamps,
Here’s a window in the walls of cloth I’ve torn.
With legs and arms a limpid treacherous swimmer
With endless leaps, disowning the sickness
Hamlet! It’s as if I began to build in the ocean depths
A thousand tombs: to vanish still virgin there.
Mirthful gold of a cymbal beaten with fists,
The sun all at once strikes the pure nakedness
That breathed itself out of my coolness of nacre,
Rancid night of the skin, when you swept over me,
Not knowing, ungrateful one, that it was, this make-up,
My whole anointing, drowned in ice-water perfidy.
42
There is a pause. We hear the softer thrum of
drones. The lights begin to dim. The lighthouse
flashes.
ELDER
We all go into the dark.
Fade to darkness. Curtain.

 

 

Salvador Dali, “Triumph of the Sea” (1965)

 

 

Coma by the Sea

     He wakes to a voice in his head that says, “Don’t be nasty, Bea.”  His eyes shift up: a nurse’s smile is lit up like a harvest moon. She speaks, her words near and far, like a conch shell ocean, a white-noised nothingness. They roll him onto a gurney, then left through whispering wards, left down echoing corridors, pass, left again, under the hum of fluorescent lights that pulse like slow-motion strobes, his ears filled with the lagan and derelict of hospital chatter, elevator dings, rustling smocks, shoe squeaks and the sexy end bits of doctors being paged overhead. He smells the rose lavender body spray of the nurse pushing from behind, notes her asymmetrical nostrils seen between her shifting breasts, a haywire of auburn hair, and he drifts into a Dali-esque vision of  her bush and labial line swaying, as she walks, like a flowering jacaranda, all lavender, rose, and seeks harbour in her humid fragrance. Then brief blue sky, a blatant sun. They slide him into the ambulance, like a stuffed bird into his mother’s oven. Two cops, sunglasses, laugh like cricket mates, their twangs—one, a taut nasal tenor, the other, a beefed-up bass—coming at him like the colloquial chamber music of the mad. Slammed doors, a siren shrike, a short gauzy ride through honking morning traffic to the state facility. Doors swing open, two paramedics smile down like stoned cathedral creatures, and slide him out of the oven, alcohol, perspiration and urine pulling away from him, like olfactory ghosts. Left, down a dark corridor, left, into a dim room, more Doppler laughter from the dayroom, an old familiar nurse peers down and sneers, “You.had. your.chance,” then more darkness, and no lavender, the steep descent into a Trazodone sleep.

     Out of the dark energies of his night came all the rhythms and possibilities of his day. But on this day there came no whirling dervishes of thought, no Lohengrin grails of desire. In his tiny windowless office, he had opened up space with Rodin plasters, fresh hyacinth in a Greek vase, Pollock prints, and an assortment of bric-a-bracs that conversed with each other in the symbols and tongues of Babel ephemera. Very softly, in the background, as a soothing white noise, his stereo played Justorum Animae on a loop. He sat at his desk, case files piled high like a jungle of housing projects, high-risen compartments of despair, slowly slashing, with his golden pen, prognosis after prognosis, page upon page, slowly, like a graffiti rebel caught red-handed merely going through the motions. 

     “Doctor,” some familiar voice rose up, the doctor gazed down, as if from the belfry of a mile high cathedral, and hears the quiet, plain j’accuse: “You had your chance.”

     “Don’t be nasty, Bea,” he pleads. And then down went the handfuls of Clozapine, the promised peace, falling, and in clanked the gurney, the slide, the slam, the disintegration of laughter into tiny bells, past fugal mateship concertos, past gleaming children building towering cathedrals of sand in the sun,—one of whom was he, Dr. Dante—left, down new corridors of slow strobing light, left, through darkening wards, left, into an operating theatre, where old nurses chant, like gorgons, “You had your chance,” and, as he starts to turn to quiet stone, another voice, the Sartrian violin virtuoso of his social circles, cries out, like Luther, “If you want to think new thoughts, you must break the bones in your head,” and with that crumbles the cathedral—down come the arches, buttresses, painted ceiling, creatures, stained glass, pews, altars, statues, Madonna frescoes, bells, crosses, priests and organ pipes, until there’s nothing left but a skeletal, charnel pile of ancient doubts.  And then the endless labyrinth of nothingness breaks open like the branches of a flowering jacaranda tree. And sleep is a sea shell. A conch roaring, bringing the ocean of infinite desire. And, he, at last, he will become that conch, he will become that sea. Yes, but for the burgeoning fragrance, the coming-into-consciousness, like some inertial diffusion of lavender and rose, where he must become yet again, and be.