Friday, October 26, 2012

My warehouse eyes

My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums.

The pied oystercatchers hunt haunt the shore.

In the morning I drive my daughter to school.
In the car, on the CD player, on repeat
Two times exact we hear Sad Eyed Lady.

We drive along poorly maintained regional roads
We drive along the thin single dual carriageway.
Bedad, it's for him that will always employ.
Curving and up and down avoiding the hills
Green with spring, Donegal green, bogus leprechaun
Green, emerald green, new life growing green,
Algal pond scum green, too many whiskeys green,
Wizard of Oz city green. And the bluest sky.

Glancing up side streets to Peloponnesian bays
Grasping after and eroding the island.
The constant slapping roar of the ocean
The pebbles rushing up and down the sand,
Loud calls of circling gulls and terns islands
Grow out from the flat restless blue green ocean.
Thalatta! Thalassa! The sea, the sea!
Rolling out to the great southern ice kingdom.
Like plump dactyl jangling Mulligan I seek
To Hellenize the island as I drive dream thin
Gray dark hard highway a scar on the landscape
Thinning winding its way past the houses and small
Communities. Past vineyards blooming green new growth
Past orchards wearing fairy flossed tiny flowers.
In the distance, across the water looms
The great Cezzane of a mountain, Wellington,
Table Top, Kunanyi, false reconstructed name,
Cloud gathering mountain dominates the south east.
Names are power, show imperial ownership.

The paddocks dotted with the bright white new lambs
Frolicking and gamboling besides dirty
Brown gray hairy tired constant chewing,
Weather beaten out in all weathers baaramewe;
Or the new born cows, calves lolling and mooing,
Until lying down the green grass as if drunk
From the warm fresh growth giving mothers milk.
High necked horses standing noble and silent.
The pecking clucking chooks drunken walk for food.

The little communities, the tumble down
Fences and old farm buildings, traffic slowing
Tractors putting and snorting diesel fumes.

And lurid yellow signs of council elections.
Vote for me and I will set you free. Yellow
Signs of those who lack imagination,
A council that can do no more than sell out
Local business and endeavour to large scale
Multi national commerce and restless greed.
No idea of the future now called the knowledge
Economy, no nothing for the young slowly
Moving away and leaving the district for
The old and fearful those with no ability
To see past the next quarter. Mean spirited,
Denying innocent bright eyed girl guides
A hall to call their own, but happy to build
A new city hall millions spent and no idea
Of what the future will be, no connections
To the world being born. Hanging on to the old.
Holding tight and so we all suffer as result.
Only a tip a dump a cell for excreta
Pouring out the arse end of industry
And forced upon consumption, planned obsolescence.

Oh, the farmers and the businessmen, they all did decide
To show you where the dead angels are that they used to hide.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Shield Of Achilles

From Book 18 lines 478-608 of the Iliad this is one of the first examples (in western poetry anyway) of Ekphrasis. The detailed description of a work of art. I have not attempted to recreate the rhythm of Homer, but I flatter myself that I have captured the rapid changes of topic and point of view, I have also tried to capture some of the clear sounding literalness of Homer.

First of all he fashioned a shield, large and strong,
Elaborate in all ways, about the rim he set threefold
Glittering shining metal. He made a strap of studded silver.
Five layers of metal for the shield. The surface
Covered with decorations from his knowing mind.

He wrought the land, the heavens and the oceans,
The restless blazing sun, the moon waxing full.
The constellations encircling the heavens.
The Pleiades, the Hyades, strong Orion,
The Great Bear, also called by some the wagon.
Who twists around the one spot, watching Orion.
Alone, he does not bath the stream of Oceanus.

Two fair cities he made, swelling well spoken ones.
In the first city there were weddings and banquets,
The young wives from out of chambers with torches
Blazing were lead the streets, while wedding songs
Aroused the young men. Dancers spinning around,
Flutes and lyres loud playing. And the older
Women stood marveling beside doorways.
People gathered together, for a quarrel
Had risen. Two arguing over blood price.
A man had died. The killer to the crowd
Offering to pay. While a relative
Of the victim refused to accept money.
Both sides desiring to hear a judgement,
The partisans of the two divided.
Marshals held back both sides. And the judges
Sat in a circle, on smoothly polished stones.
Heralds passing the speaking staffs around
As each judge, clearly speaking, took his turn.
The joined pair, accused and accuser, in turns
Pushed to plead their case and hear the judgement.
And in the middle two gold talents to pay
The old one who most just spoke his judgement.

All around the second city were camped armies
In flashing armour. Divided in thought,
Some to sack the city, some to heap up the wealth
And take half of all the lovely city contained.
The citizens were not these plans persuaded,
In secret they armed themselves and planned ambush.
Setting their beloved wives and young children
To guard the walls, alongside old men pressed by age.
The citizens moused away to set the ambush.
In the van Ares and spear holding Athena,
Clad all in gold. Dressed all in golden clothes.
Beautiful and dreadful, armoured as fitting Gods.
The gods stood aloof, the people in the shadows.
They marched out searching out a likely ambush place.
By the river, the drinking spot of thirsty beasts.
There they crouched, having covered their flashing bronze.
They sent two look outs to keep watch on the host,
Quiet watching for sheep and twisted horn cattle.
Soon the beasts came into view, with two herdsmen,
Playing flutes to cheer themselves, the trap unseen.
Upon seeing the sheep they at once sprang their trap.
Surrounding, they cut off the herds of cattle,
The flocks of fair white sheep. Both herdsmen they killed.
The army heard the sounds of battle near their herds,
Ending debate, at once they rushed to their horses.
Mounting high-stepping horses, they quickly reached
Their foes and engaged in battle by the river banks,
Each side throwing bronze tipped spears at the other.
Eris and Kudoimos battle joined with Keros,
One man supporting a newly wounded man,
Another unwounded, another having died.
Through the pressing din, Eris by feet claiming.
Her garments painted red with the blood of men.
Coming together in battle the enemies
Fought over the corpses, dragging them away.

He set a fallow field, soft, rich, fertile,
Wide, thrice-ploughed. Many ploughmen worked the land.
Draught teams turning, working, driving back and forth.
Turning about once reaching the boundary.
And pressed into their hands cups of honey sweet wine
Were given, quick the men would turn, cutting furrows,
Aiming for the fallow field, deep soil to reach.
The field growing black, as if having been ploughed,
In truth golden. A wondrous shield had been made.

And he set the private land of the king. Workers
Holding sharp sickles in their hands were cutting
Swathes of corn along the lines of reaping.
One after another falling to the ground.
Sheaf-binders were bundling up the corn,
Three binders working, while behind children
Picked off the ground, with bent arms, the fallen bundles
Carrying without pause. The king stood silent
Amid the labourers, holding his sceptre,
Along the reaping line, happy of heart.
Attendants stood apart, under the oak tree,
Having sacrificed a great ox they were
Busy preparing a feast. The women workers,
The main meal of the day for the field hands,
They were preparing, sprinkling the white barley.

He set a great vineyard, heavy with clustered grapes,
Beautiful and golden. Purple black grapes
All around there were, supported by vine poles
Right around of silver. A drainage ditch
Fenced the vineyard, blue corn flower enamel.
Right around the vineyard a fence of tin
He hammered out. A path without turnings
Leading to the vineyard, where the bearers
Would walk when they were harvesting the vineyard.
Young women and young men, innocent at heart
Carrying wicker baskets of honey sweet fruit.
Amidst the fruit carriers a youth played
A clear toned lyre, sweetly he played his tune
Singing clear with his delicate young boy voice,
All together beating time with raised voice and
Dancing, frolicking feet, following his song.

He made a herd of cattle with straight horns.
Golden cattle he made of tin, lowing
They hastened out of the farmyard towards the pasture
Aside a murmuring river, with waving reeds.
Golden herdsmen were together with the cattle,
Nine swift footed dogs followed the four herdsmen.
Two fearful lions terrible blocked the way,
Holding their mouth a loud bellowing bull.
The lions were dragging the bull away
The herdsmen, strong and vigorous were following.
The two lions having torn open the thick hide
Were greedily feeding on dark blood and entrails,
The herdsmen in vain urging the nimble dogs
To attack the lions. The dogs were avoiding
Bites of the lions. Barking keeping out of reach.

In the large pasture he made, the famous
Injured one, lovely glen full of white fleeced sheep,
A homestead, with huts for shepherds and pens for sheep.

A dancing place he made, from his brain and arm,
Just like the one, long ago in wide street Knossos,
Built by Daedalus for fair haired Ariadne.
There young men and cattle bringing young women
Were dancing with each other, wrist hand holding.
Some of the women wearing fine linen, the men
In tunics softly shimmering olive oiled
And the women beautiful garlands wearing,
The men wore golden daggers in silver baldrics.
They used to wheel about with skilful steps,
Very smoothly, like the potter throwing.
Crouching at work smoothing the clay with testing palm
How it would spin, new running lines one another.
Sweet companies tumbling. A crowd gathering
In enjoyment. Two acrobats the middle
Of the happy crowd, singing and dancing
Leading the festive crowd in cries joyful.

He set the great stream, spirit of Oceanus
Along the edge of the shield, large and strong.

After he had made the shield, large and strong
He made a breastplate brighter than the sun's fire.
He made a helmet, strong and protecting the temple,
Beautifully wrought. Upon he set a golden crest.
Next he made leggings of soft pliant tin.
After his hard toil he took all the armour
Presenting it to the mother of Achilles.
Like the hawk she sprung from snowy Olympus
Bearing the flashing armour of Hephaestus.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Misogyny, Sexism and some (rambling) thoughts on language.

Odysseus - the hated one, the accursed one.

As a note, I have used in various Greek words the convention of
writing omega (big or long O) as a w. Also I have used the
uncontracted version of the verbs, making it that little bit easier to
find in dictionary.

Many of us, including myself, were thrilled to see Julia Gillard stand
up and confront the rabid sexism and misogyny coming from the leader
of the Opposition Tony Abbott. This is reflected in the youtube video
of the speech having garnered over 1 500 000 hits. Not bad for a
speech in parliament. Usually one of the last place you tubers like to
go to, with cute cats and children falling down generally getting the
lions share of hits.

Many people have been stunned by the consistent media refrain that
this was a bad speech and shows Gillard at her shrewish, hysterical,
fish wife, school marm, or what other sexist remark you want to fill
in best. Some have even hinted that she was somehow responsible for
the text massages of a (at the time) sitting LNP member. Putting aside
the obvious sexism and attempts to muddy the waters of these sorts of
comments, I want to focus on one point of the 'counter-speech.'

It seems to me that, in an attempt to side step the issue and confuse
things among the people, the reactionaries, in their usual legalistic,
language perverting manner have fixated on the question of
hatred. Tony Abbott does not hate women, he has a wife and three
daughters, they scream red faced back at the PM. Leaving us with the
more than farcical idea that Tony Abbott is such a supporter of women
that his sperm can bring forth nothing but more women. I will leave it
to others to explain this ludicrous bit of science.

But let us use some dictionaries and some understanding of Greek
language to investigate this point further. Working in a book shop I
have access to numerous dictionaries. Some of them define misogyny as
hatred of women, while others extend the definition to include
contempt for, or dislike of women. Since the draft of this it has been
reported that the Maquarie Dictionary will extend (not soften as some
say) the definition of misogyny to include 'entrenched prejudice
against women.'

To fixate on the one word 'misew' the reactionaries and their running
dog media lackeys fail to see that the language has evolved (of course
evolution and reactionaries are not the best of friends) over the
years, and that there can be various levels of hatred. Indeed if I was
to say that I hate Collingwood; for example, does that mean that I am
unable to admit that some players are very good, could I not also say
that they are a very good team who have been a fixture in the league
for over a century? Only the most narrow and useless understanding of
language would force me into a position where I must hate without
reservation every single player who put on the black and white across
their entire history of the club. Most of us use words like hate in a
more elastic sense, and see that it is does not have to be a universal
principle held with no regard for nuance and changing circumstances.

So let us now turn to the Greeks. It did not take much research to see
that the ancients, like us, had many different words for hate. Misew
being only one of these words. And even this word had subtlety. For
example in one section of the Iliad (17.272) the verb is used when the
poet has Zeus say that he would hate to see the Achaeans be made a
feast for dogs and vultures. One can easily translate this word as
hate. But most people can see that Samuel Butler makes a better point
in his translation when he makes this line say, Zeus would not suffer
for the Achaeans to be made a feast for dogs and vultures. So with
almost no effort on my part I discovered a 'lesser' connotation of the
word. Does Tony Abbott and the LNP not suffer women to take their full
place in society? One can argue this point, but from my point of view
I would have to say yes. One only has to listen to quiet bubbling up
of opposition to the idea of no fault divorce within LNP to see this.

More research led me find other words used to mean hatred. Oddussw
(the possible root of the name Odysseus) also means to hate, or to be
incensed. In the case of our wandering hero he could seen as having
been named 'the accursed one.' Indeed our hero says in book five, "For
I know that the glorious Earth-shaker is filled with wrath against
me." This would seem sensible as he was cursed and tormented by the

Misew as we have seen means to hate, as in seen in this Aristophanes
quote. 'I hate the rough (brazen) women, I hate the prudish ones.'
Besides the apparent confusion of the character who spoke these lines,
does this not imply a more light hearted, more frivolous usage of word
hate? One may think so. The wrath of Poseidon towards Odysseus, based
on blinding of his son Polyphemus by Odysseus seems to be much
stronger than the confused hatred of Aristophanes comic creation.

Some other words used by the Greeks to describe hatred include;
Bdelugmia, loathing, disgust, nausea; Fthonew, bear ill-will, envious,
grudge, malice; Stugew, abominate, loathe, hate, this is used by
Sophocles in his tragedy Ajax 'the gods hate the evil ones'; and
finally echthairw, to hate or detest. This can be found in the phrase
used by Sophocles, echthos echtheras mega - hating with a great

So here we find a continuum of words which mean hate, with misew being
at the bottom end, while loathing, disgust and nausea being on the top
end of hatred. This is true in English too, I can say I hate my
landlord, but I really may not, as I have never met him. But if I was
to say my landlord fills me with disgust and makes me nauseous, I
think we may be talking about real deep down in ones bones hatred.

Of course I could be wrong, as I have never met Tony Abbott. He may
very well love his wife and family. This absurd line that having a
wife makes on immune to accusations of misogyny can be seen in the
fact that (and I am not saying Abbott is a wife beater) one must have
a wife before one can be a wife beater. Surely a great deal of
misogyny is hidden behind closed suburban doors. But I see no reason
to dispute the PM's comments on his misogyny, as it is something we
see everyday. From his support for people like Alan Jones, to his
opposition to HPV vaccine, to his opposition to RU486 contraception, to
his life long support of one of the great pillars of womens oppression
the Catholic Church. This includes his statements like the lovely one
about women not being fit for command. Coming back to the Greeks this
seems to echo the ancient idea that a woman was a deformed man, this
deformity is echoed in the Pythagorean idea that if a man was immoral
in this life he would be reincarnated as a woman.

This next quote comes from The Geography of Strabo, in which he
describes Misogynists as complaining about their wives spending too much
money. Is this not an idea which is still current in our society? Is
this still not the punchline of many lame jokes on many lame situation
comedies? And is it an idea that comes back to the idea that women
are deformed men? Not as able as men to handle command and fiance?
And are this not similar words to the words used by Abbott and many
other LNP hacks? (To be fair I am sure there are many men in the ALP,
or even the Greens party, who hold similar views.)

And again attend to the words of the same poet when he speaks in one
of his characters, bringing in a man disgusted with the expenses of
the sacrifices of the women. ‘The gods weary us indeed, but
especially our married men, who are always obliged to celebrate some
feast.’ And his Misogynes, complaining of the same things, exclaims,
‘We sacrificed five times a day, while seven female slaves ranged in
a circle played on the cymbals, and others raised their suppliant
cries.’ (the poet mentioned being Meandear.)

More than enough ink has been spilt in the last week or so on this
subject, so I will leave with a quote from the delightfully absurd
'Philosopher's Dinner Party' by Athenaeus.

Euripides the poet, also, was much addicted to women: at all events
Hieronymus in his Historical Commentaries speaks as follows,—"When
some one told Sophocles that Euripides was a woman-hater, 'He may be,'
said he, 'in his tragedies, but in his bed he is very fond of women.'"

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Ninety kph winds this morning, the Weather Office issued a warning for motor cycles not to use the Sorell Causeway

The howling wind
Tunnels through the town
Ripping leaves off trees
Ripping petals off blooms
Tumbling, rambling, dust
And litter and streets signs
Creaking and moaning in complaint.
The traffic lights sway
In the face of the howling wind.
Far off in the distance
From the top of the small hill
I can see white cap tumult
Of the wind assaulted lagoon.

The howling wind hurries me along
Lashing my hair around my face
Billowing my shirt. Dust rises
And eeks across the face
Of my young daughter.

Days like this I am happy
For a few extra kilos
Keeps me grounded.
So I am not swept up
Dorothy wise to another world.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Imaginary Sculpture

Hope & Sons Guide to Forgotten Places.

Cities, being the living things that they are,
Always grow and change and rebuild themselves.

In the old city centre
There stands alone a statue.
First erected back in 1959.
Since that time, the city has moved,
Both politically and in culture,
The economic base has shifted.
The enemies of the ones who built
The statue worked to move the city centre
To rebuild the city their own image.

Always growing and moving, but not really
Organic, more likely for base reasons
Of simple profit and to scorn the others.

On a massive limestone plinth,
From the north west corner
Of the summer palace, moved after
The Great Awakening of 1928.
The statue stands.
Engraved with the words
'To the many who died,'
'Or were injured in industrial accidents.'

Made an artist named Toady Frunay
I do not know, maybe a pseudonym.
Certainly she is forgotten in our
Keen for the novel technosociety.
Atop the plinth, two cogs askew,
Shiny once of shiny flaming cooper,
Now painted with smears of bird shit.
The cogs form a figure eight,
Or an on it's side infinity symbol.
Lined up off centre. And from
Out of the cogs there is hand
Torn from an arm - reaching out,
Reaching up. The artist affirms:
'This image I advanced above'
'The simple cliché clenched fist,'
'Which many suggested I use instead.'
'But I wanted to show a striving'
'After the future, not the (justifiable)'
'Anger, but the striving for better world.'

Alone, lonely now the statue stands alone
A disused open space, a disused square,
An empty place, no longer the transitory
Space for lovers, or lunch eating office
Workers. And the statue has been vandalized,
Abused, and discarded and despised.
Spray painted obscenities insult
Equal all four sides of the eroding
Covered a patina of lichen limestone.

Racist slanders and sexist arrogance
In bold garish colours and spewed
Forth hatred with poorly spelt and written
Vomiting words meant only to mocking hurt.

Nigger spik coon chink polack mick.
Commie pinko faggot greenie.
Dyke cunt bitch cunt whore cunt slut cunt.

Die, die, die. Crooked crosses.
And the often used
Which adds nothing slogan

Love it or leave...