Jeremy Gadd

Tragedy

The ancient Greeks believed that there were three goddesses who presided over human destiny. They called them Parcae—or the Fates. In an age of high infant mortality; when the practise of slavery was accepted by even the most enlightened of minds, Clotho presided over the lottery of birth, Lachesis determined longevity, and Atropos was responsible for finally cutting the thread of life with her shears. The word ‚fate‘ has since become synonymous with the doctrine that all events are predetermined. To have been born blind, deformed or diseased would have been attributed to the whims of the Fates, but the Greeks also believed the Goddesses had other, more subtle weapons in their armoury with which to remind mortals of their insignificance.

I don’t know what it was about Bridget that attracted the attention and ire of those old deities. I only met her briefly. I do know, however, that the interest they paid her left me saddened, distressed and futilely raging at their capriciousness.

Once, spontaneously, I called on a friend and his wife. Although they were already entertaining two visitors, they insisted I join them.

I had met one of the guests before. Her name was Sandra. A registered nurse, she once worked at the same hospital as my friend.

Sandra is a slim, gregarious woman in her early fifties. Divorced and with adult children, she is in remission from cancer. My friend told me that until her diagnosis Sandra had been a reserved, home-loving person prone to depression, and had never been out of the country. During her treatment she read a book which emphasised the need to enlist positive thinking in the fight against her disease. According to my friend, Sandra put into practise what the book preached and, refusing to give up hope, constantly willed her tumour to shrink. To her doctor’s astonishment, it did.

Sandra is one of the most unaffected people I have ever met. She has so much energy many people find her tiring, but I find that a few minutes of warming my hands on Sandra’s blazing life-force can keep negativity away for weeks. Determined to make the most of whatever time is left to her, she sold her house and car and decided to do what she regretted not doing in her younger days: travel.

Being a triple certificated professional nurse, competent in dealing with surgical injuries, midwifery and psychiatric distress, Sandra found her skills in demand around the world, and had already spent time in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and, for the six months before our renewed acquaintance, Saudi Arabia. Sandra, back in Australia for a fortnight to see friends and attend financial matters that had arisen in her absence, had a young Scottish nurse with her whom she introduced as Bridget. Until going to Saudi Arabia, Bridget had never left her home town of Aberdeen.

While Sandra chatted loudly and animatedly with my friends, catching up on gossip and mutual acquaintances, I talked to Bridget.

I remember her as being a petite, sincere, composed young woman with a round moon-like face. Although excited at finding herself travelling the world and exploring new places, she was quietly spoken and her accent had that broad burr which indicates her nationality as soon as she says ‚Hello‘.

I told her I had once visited Aberdeen, and, as we chatted amicably about the local landmarks and the impact of North Sea oil on that sleepy, rural town, I detected what I thought was a hint of homesickness. I asked her how long she was contracted to work in Saudi Arabia.

‚Twelve months‘, she said. ‚But time flies there. It is fascinating.‘

‚Except that we have to wear a chador whenever we leave the hospital‘, interjected Sandra. ‚If the religious police find you without black robes or niqab—which is Arabic for veil—there’s hell to pay! We call them our crow’s robes. God! I miss not being able to have a gin and tonic when I get off the wards at the end of a shift over there?

We talked for over an hour. Bridget had an engaging personality. She was inquisitive. When off duty, she often went sightseeing to mosques and archaeological sites or explored the bazaars with other nurses. A concerned environmentalist, she recounted how upset she had been when someone had stolen two precious falcon’s eggs from a nest high up in a tree near her home in Aberdeen. Falcons have become such rarities in Scotland that breeding birds and their eggs not only attract bird-watchers but also those unscrupulous enough to steal the eggs and then sell them to people who deal and traffic in the world’s diminishing wildlife.

Bridget was caring. She took her work seriously. But when she spoke about some of the problems she had encountered, her pale face flushed pink with controlled anger. ‚Some of the girls‘ labia are so tightly stitched up to prevent pre-marital sexual intercourse, it is difficult to insert a catheter‘, Bridget informed me about the terrible mutilations that occur as a consequence of the cruel circumcising of female genitalia by devout Muslims often under unhygienic circumstances. ‚It’s barbaric. Doctors even have to ask women to describe the location of their aches and pains because Muslim law doesn’t permit them to stand naked before any man other than their husbands!‘

I liked Bridget. She struck me as a person in charge of her life. I felt pleased to have met her and, when we parted, grateful that in this all too avaricious world, where altruism has become a rarity, there are still people like her, committed to alleviating the suffering of others.

A year later I again met Sandra at my friend’s house. Bridget was not with her and I assumed she had returned to Scotland after her contract with the Saudi Government had expired. After dinner I asked the ever effervescent Sandra if what I surmised was correct. My query had an effect like pricking a bubble. Sandra’s usual high spiritedness deserted her.

‚Bridget‘, she said, suddenly deflated and with despair. ‚Poor Bridget …‘

‚Why poor Bridget? What happened?‘, I asked.

Sandra sighed deeply. ‚She couldn’t take it. She cracked. She had to be sent home to Aberdeen.‘

‚What do you mean, she couldn’t take it?‘ I asked astounded. ‚She seemed the perfect person to become a nurse.‘

Sandra nodded in agreement. ‚Yes. She was—and still would be if she hadn’t gone to Saudi. If she had stuck to working in Western hospitals she would have gone far. Bridget was one of the best.‘

‚So what happened?‘

Sandra stared at me. Her face was grim. ‚Bridget’s first six months in Saudi were spent in Midwifery and Casualty. After we went back—after our visit here together—she was transferred to the Palliative Care Ward …‘

Sandra seemed to be waiting for some indication that I comprehended what she was getting at, but I didn’t.

‚Palliative care …‘ Sandra sighed before she continued, ‚is medical jargon for nursing patients who will never recover.‘

I still did not comprehend what she was telling me. Sandra explained: ‚It’s against Islamic law to use pain-killers, so you cannot lessen the suffering of those in pain. Bridget was instructed to nurse the terminally ill, many of whom were in agony. Her Western training gave her vast knowledge of the drugs that could ease such suffering, and Saudi society could easily afford the medications, but „It’s the will of Allah“, they kept telling her whenever she pointed out that the patients could and should be helped. Seeing patients in pain affected Bridget so terribly that she had a nervous breakdown and had to be flown back to Scotland, where she has been under strict psychiatric supervision for the last three months, and I have been told she is unlikely to ever recover completely …‘.

There was silence at the dining-table while we digested what Sandra had told us.

Besides accepting the Fates, the ancient Greeks also had a belief which is described better than I could ever express it by the Chorus‘ final lines in Sophocles’s Oedipus Tyrannus:

‚… with eyes fixed on the end destined for all,
count no one of the race of man happy until
he has crossed life ’s border free of pain.‘

First published in print by Australian Multicultural Book Review, Australia’s Voice of Diversity, Volume 4 No. 3 1996.

Sue Gill

Paintings

Symphonies of Colour

Sue Gill is already well known as an abstract expressionist painter in Australia. Employing bold, vivid colours she creates dynamic and energetic paintings which are immediately appealing and accessible to the viewer. Her new series of oil paintings and works on paper are spontaneous and joyous symphonies of colour, encompassing calligraphic gestural lines and disembodied geometric forms.

Sue Gill ist bereits als abstrakt-expressionistische Künstlerin in Australien bekannt. Durch den Einsatz von kühnen, lebendigen Farben schafft sie dynamische und kraftvolle Bilder, auf die der Betrachter sofort anspricht. Ihre neue Serie von Ölbildern und Arbeiten auf Papier ist eine spontane und freudige Symphonie der Farben aus kalligraphischen Gesten und körperlosen geometrischen Formen. (Translation G. G.)

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1954 Born Melbourne; 1975-77 Diploma of Graphic Design, Swinburne Institute of Technology, Melbourne; 1978-81 Diploma of Fine Art, Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne; 1987 Post-graduate Diploma of Professional Art Studies (Painting), City Art Institute, Sydney; 1993 Selected to attend Triangle Artist’s Workshop, Pine Plains, NY, USA. Sue is represented by Access Contemporary Art Gallery

Angelika Fremd

the dayshift
(Kings Cross 13.11.97)

in the gardens an ibis pries open
a wad of butcher’s paper as if
chipping into a motherlode.

street cleaners hose gutters chocked
with paraphernalia used in ecstatic
rites the night before.

driftwood-like, piles of ill-assorted
belongings washed up on stone shores
coset the sleeping, the near-dead.

pigeons and seagulls favour the night’s
harvest; pizza remains, thai noodles
spread like bright, dead worms
onto the pavement.

soon, after the blood has been hosed,
after the sirens have calmed, the birds
have gone, the first free breakfast round
has finished, I begin the day shift.

my kind, buys fruit and croissant,
sits in coffee shops speaking softly
of marcuse, goes home when the night
shift arrives around dusk.

Anja Meixner

Innocence and Experience

Photography

„If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupitity.“
(George Eliot, „Middlemarch“, Harmondsworth, 1965)

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David Hopkinson

Virtual Offerings

On the Motorway of Life

On the motorway of life
I shall rest my weary wheels
At your service station

I shall drink
From the waters
Of your automatic Coke dispenser

And take nourishment
From your plastic, greasy
Artificially sweetened, mass produced

Over-processed, chemically enhanced
Additive-enriched, portion-controlled
Nutrition-free apology for food

Groaning in agony
I shall join the queue
For your stomach pump

Catering by Trust House Forte
Salmonella from corporate sources
THF means instant death
Death by unnatural causes

On the motorway of life
I shall stop to smell the roses
And bring my own sandwiches.

No Parachute Supplied

From the disco bars of Bangkok
To the disUnited States
On the streets of Kings Cross
The sacrament awaits
In pubs and clubs in old Soho
Take a ghost train ride
To needle park a go-go
The seductive suicide

Smuggled in through the front door
Smuggled in through the back
Banks and finance houses
Become high street laundromats
The alchemist’s white powder
Always takes first prize
In the race for self-deception
The daily suicide

Conjuring up the dragon
Hunters to the chase
Desperate for admission
Through the Pearly Gates
Aspiring to oblivion
Expiring from inside
Like Icarus before them
No parachute supplied

A chemical solution
Salvation by syringe
Behind life’s lonely prison door
Death eternal springs
Nailed up on the steely cross
With needles crucified
Rushing headlong to embrace
The final suicide.

The author writes a seduction manual in the Job Centre

Hey baby, I’m an astrologer
I watch the stars and signs
I foresee a good position
The horizontal kind

Hey baby, I’m a palmist
With devious designs
Let me hold your hands
I’ll read between the lines

Hey baby, I’m a doctor
Curing all your ills
Prescribing a dose of debauchery
And contraceptive pills

Hey baby, I’m a conjuror
Magic’s my career
You give me your virginity
I’ll make it disappear

Hey baby, I’m a preacher
Your body I’ll consecrate
Confession time is 8 till 9
Sinning’s 9 till 8

Hey baby, I’m a poet
Courting your applause
Unzipping the jeans of your fantasies
With my metaphors

Hey baby, I’m an accountant
At figures I excel
Like 38-24-36
And 69 as well

Hey baby, I’m a mechanic
I’ll make your engine feel alright
I suggest a fuel injection
With high octane dynamite

Hey baby, I’m an astronomer
You’re a super constellation
Show me your heavenly body
I’ll show my appreciation.

Beth Spencer

Doing the Rock : June 1984

the bus took off without me and I was missing you
[flashback] drinking gin on the flight from Cairns

– ‚trash can?‘ said the American across the aisle
– ‚rubbish bin‘ said the hostess and pointed to a paper bag

had the plane to ourselves our postcards and politeness the biscuit-baked land followed us red as your thumb [now] the American smiles sitting next to the driver caught them up at the camel farm fists full of meat pies and Big Bill with the cowboy hat and the bus between his legs [later] when we reach the motel they book a room together quick work! I smile back [now] spinifex and wild melon and the well-beaten track and a haze to go with the six a.m. high / the big trip / doing it / ‚Get to know each other‘ Bill drawls into the mike so I pretend to examine the view and make a list instead: 1) two young men in the back seat propped up with a can each one of them reads the tour guide the whole way and forgets to look out the window 2) a Canadian couple with a baby – babies: dingoes – the mind’s corny as it slides to the association but what can you do they look so straight and you wonder how old it is why they’re here (why the baby never cries) and then 3) an English teacher with large friendly thighs who’s seen more of Australia than I have which isn’t difficult and up further 4) two old ducks Rosy and Else laughing and talking the whole way making the most of it and 5) a lonely man (there always is) [later] he shakes everyone’s hands with tears in his eyes [now] up front Big Bill with his hand on the American’s knee and his grin in the mirror says ‚Get to know each other folks fun’s only what you make yourself‘ which is true I suppose but I’m not having fun and my sneakers bought in Alice are too tight and I’ve no suntan cream because it’s winter in Sydney

– and I think of your warm bed and cold room
– and Elaine walking up the stairs with a loaded needle ‚helping you out‘

so maybe Bill’s right or maybe fun’s only what you left behind miles and miles and I’m not even sure which direction ‚out there‘ and ‚home‘ make much more sense on a plane here there is only the track (always the same one) and the band of travelling tourists visiting the rock like visiting Grandma that same sense of duty and boredom and just maybe the thought of something unexpected but there was nothing unexpected not really we saw the rock and climbed it (Rosy and Else took a helicopter) we took photos and watched slides and oohed and ahhed as the sun painted the rock colours that it hadn’t for us and we bought postcards of those colours and played pool in the motel that the truck went through (had a plaque on the wall, I lost) and then the English teacher took photos of little black kids playing in the dust that is theirs and she cried when she read about Marilinga

nothing unexpected except this: the Olgas (Katajuta) were magic and

on the way back we all sang ‚pack up your troubles‘ and ‚you are mysunshine‘ and best (and loudest of all) ‚beautiful  i brown eyes‘ while the road followed us into town and the desert creaked towards night

Julian Faber

Requiem

The last time I burned somebody I was sixty two years old. I had worked on the Station for thirteen years after the funeral home moved up there. I was chief in charge of Cremations and I loved my work. After all, I was helping people to fulfil their last wishes and that was truly satisfying. Nothing else in my life ever meant as much to me; I had only ever had one true love, and my work was it.

* * *

I still remember the day of the first request. It was a Wednesday morning and the air-con wasn’t working. This happened every so often, and so we were all rugged up in the big thermal suits they kept in a closet just for this purpose. They’re actually fuelled on body warmth and kinetic energy, so the longer you wear them, the warmer they got. They had an auto-release valve that let a fair amount of the heat out every two hours, or else you’d end up slowly roasting yourself.

Anyway, we had just brought the bodies in off the ship and were stacking them onto the racks when Gerry, my boss, came up to me and said:
„Elliot, we’ve got a special request from some Political bigshot. Can you handle it?“
„What’s the guy want?“ I asked. Gerry and I went back twenty seven years and I was his right hand man and personal friend.
„A jettison. Sculpted into a shape and jettisoned.“
„Sculpted?“ I replied.
„Sculpted,“ he said, and catching my look, added, „And jettisoned.“
„What do you mean?“
„Some heroic pose. Him with one arm outstretched and looking bravely into the distance. Just bullshit, but you know these Politicians,“ he said and laughed. I laughed as well, but that was as far as the laughing went. Tacky as it may have been, the dead are always afforded the luxury of dignity where we work. After all, everyone who worked at the station knew that one day they would end up in here, just like everyone else.
„Alright, Gerry. No problem,“ I said, removing my smile and taking the Death Record before he walked off, leaving me to my task. I finished helping the guys rack the bodies and carry them through to Treatment. All the bodies that went up there had been autopsied and had their organs removed for donation on Earth, so all we did was cremate or bury according to the deceased’s wishes. People used to be buried on Earth once, but times and populations had changed a great deal in the years since that was common. Even though we sent bodies out into space, they still got a coffin and we still called it ‚burial.‘

Twenty five years ago, World War Three finally occurred after centuries of narrow escapes. As they had banned all nuclear weapons in the far-flung past, they fought with Quakers. All they had to do was aim them at an area where tectonic plates of the Earth’s continents met, and fire. The super large missiles would burrow down kilometres and detonate when they sensed a certain pressure shift in the ground, thus causing massive upheaval in the plates. Instant earthquake. Great regions of land were destroyed and millions lost their lives. The (surviving) nations of the world all realised what a grievous error they had made and met in Australia – a nation mostly unharmed by the Quakers, and comparatively politically sound – to sign the now-famous ‚Nobel Peace Accord.‘ It was during this three week convention that it was decided to begin shipping the deceased off-world, as the remaining land on Earth now stood at just a little over one-fifteenth, compared to the former one-eighth. Everything else was just dirty ocean. More people survived the war than were killed, so all land suddenly became one hundred times more precious; and more crowded. Where to bury the dead? No room on Earth, so where else? In space of course, and so our funeral home moved up into orbit.

As Gerry and I were the two foremost surviving employees of our funeral home, we became funeral directors by default. Of course there were thousands of other homes who made the move as well, and soon they were all up there with around twenty two thousand other funeral parlours, crematoriums and cemeteries. Some have large warehouses where the dead are ‚buried‘ in fields of concrete, and some have large halls that contain endless rows of urns and ashes. The treatment of the dead is, of course, up to the deceased’s wishes and family, and if they’re willing to pay the large sums to have them ‚buried‘ and in a place they may wish to visit them at some stage, then that is entirely up to them. Personally, I wish to be cremated and have my ashes scattered on the moon. It was the Moon that I remember seeing one night during the war. I was outside when the radio announced that the entire West Coast of America had fallen into the sea. I remember looking up at the Moon and thinking how safe and still it looked, and how calm it made me feel in the midst of all that turmoil.

Anyhow, that’s how Gerry and I – formerly just body handlers – became manager and TwoIC of Still Life Funerals Pty Ltd. We had a few teething problems at first, but that’s to be expected with new managers. The building of the funeral homes was a boost to the newly-formed Peace Alliance and finally the world had a real purpose, a definitive goal that could unite everyone. And it did. Hatred and intolerance finally died natural deaths, as did racism and terrorism. For the first time in the history of the world; there was true and uniform peace.

* * *

So; after we had stacked the bodies in Treatment, I looked at the file of this guy. His name was Pierre le’Strange and he had been a minor figure in the actions of the Nobel Peace Accord. His name, I read, was placed ninety-sixth in the list of signatures on the Accord, well into the small print and an unrecognised name. Regardless though, he had the right to be buried as he wished and I would take care of things for him.

I skimmed through his will until I saw the familiar word: Interment. Next to this his lawyer had written:

After the mourning of my death has ceased, I wish to be ‚buried‘ in
the manner of the Nobel Peace Accord, and have my body consecrated
to the Stars and God Himself, in a pose befitting my role in the
development of The Nobel Peace Accord of 64.

There was more like this, but I’m sure you get the picture. I put down the notes on le’Strange and pulled back the sheet from Toetag 893046. It’s strange that in death, most people look just like everyone else. Some truly great people still wear a strange power on their faces in death, but this was not the case with le’Strange. He was an average looking, formerly bald man in his late fifty’s. I say ‚formerly‘ bald, in that he had obviously had very expensive implants that looked real enough, but when you work constantly with the deceased you soon pick up the difference between real and unreal.

I pulled the sheet back over him and looked at my watch. It was time for lunch and I went to the tall sinks to wash my hands. Pierre would have to wait another hour.

* * *

Two days later, le’Strange was ready to be interred. His pose was certainly heroic. I had had one of my assistants pose for the stance, and I worked with a series of photographs I had taken of her. Le’Strange now stood on a small concrete pedestal, one leg slightly higher than the other, resting on a smaller bump of concrete. His name had been stencilled in the wet cement as it set. He was looking vacantly into space and his right arm was bent in the air, as if he were shading his eyes. I was fairly happy with the results, and thought it pretty good for someone who hadn’t done it before. In fact, about the only modelling anyone had ever done was stiffening the body’s joints and attaching the cadaver to the coffin, to prevent the two coming apart.

We had added an anti-freeze compound to the skin, to save it freezing in the cold of space (and the air-con was still broken!). Gerry had told me that before the statue went outside, there was a small delegation of Politicians coming up to see him off. This occurs quite often, but with family. Le’Strange was the only real celebrity we had had though, and certainly the only Politician with enough sway to warrant an official send off. Mostly, people can’t afford the tickets to get up here, and instead opt to view the funeral through our video service.

So, the Politicians arrived and with them, as usual, were several members of the press. They filmed the service to a waiting, (and unexpectedly large) Earthside audience and after le’Strange was sent gently turning into Eternity, they stayed and toured our complex before heading back to Earth. And then I assumed that that was that and we could all go back to our work in the regular fashion. And so we did, for the next month or two.

* * *

„Hey, Elliot! Remember le’Strange?“ asked Gerry, calling loudly across the delivery dock to be heard over the whine of the hydro-jack.
„That French Politician we posed? What about him?“ I asked Gerry, as he arrived and stood in front of me.
„Well, it seems that this other Politician saw the whole thing and had his will amended to include a similar deal.“
„What? Really?“
„Yeah, and now he’s dead and the family want to have him done,“ said Gerry, „Will you do it?“
„Well, yeah, no problem. Hey,“ I added, smiling at Gerry,“ If this catches on, we’re gonna need more staff.“
„If this catches on, we’ll build a new wing,“ he said, smiling back as he handed me the papers and left. I briefly flicked through them and put the folder aside, not even considering the scope of what he had just said.

* * *

Soon after the burial of the second Politician we started getting calls about the service. This prompted us to construct a price list for different services in this line. Then, we had two more cases arrive for the service. A week after this we had four more people and soon we were getting around sixty to seventy cases a week. We began construction on a new wing to cope with this workload, and I noticed in trade news that other homes were starting to offer the service. This made little difference to our cases which were now coming in at the rate of two hundred a week. See, the ships came in once a week and delivered, on average, four hundred bodies at a time. That meant that the Poses were equal to the regular services! But it didn’t stop there! Two years after we had done the first Pose, we were handling over three hundred a week! We converted most of the old labs into new Pose labs, and were handling all sorts of different things.

People wanted to be posed with loved ones, or held in storage until loved ones died. People wanted to be placed into glass coffins. People wanted to be posed holding valuables of their lives; trees, tools, art, clothing, anything and everything. The one major difficulty we experienced was reconstructing people who had died violently…car accidents (rare), fires, murders (crime never died, unfortunately…some things never change) and the like.
The trouble began though, when a very rich rockstar had a very large final request.

* * *

It was in September, another Wednesday delivery, when I received the orders of New Arrivals. There was an extra large crate with the shipment, and I learned that it was something that one of the deceased aboard wished to be Posed with. It was a late model Halcien Streetcar, complete in every detail. Nothing had been removed to sell beforehand. In other words, it wasn’t just a poseable shell, it was a fully-functioning motor-car. We hydro-jacked it into the back docks, as it wouldn’t fit through the lab’s locks. This case would have to be posed and jettisoned from the Main Docking Gate. That wouldn’t really be a problem, it just meant that all on the project would have to wear oxygen during the jettison.

The Main Docking Gate was quite enormous. It stood about eight metres tall, by sixteen metres wide and was designed to accommodate the airlock doors of the delivery ships. It was quite lovely to look out and see the awesome view of the Earth that the Gate afforded, but unfortunately it was rarely opened whenever a ship wasn’t in. As it opened straight on to space and had no airlock of it’s own, it just wasn’t practical to open it at any time. It had small windows set in it to guide the delivery ships in, but even this was mostly done by computers. Generally, we had to settle for the view of space or Earth, seen through the Major Recreation room or our own tiny bedroom windows.

So, in the days that ensued, I personally worked on the project with two assistants. The car was unpacked and the rockstar, named Jok McRock – a stage name, I assume – was placed in the front seat, behind the wheel. (Although computers drive the cars on Earth these days, the wheel, as everyone knows, was kept as a pretence to being in control.) He had died of a drug overdose (some things never change) and so we had to employ a little bit of repair to the sunken face. Nevertheless, in three days he was ready and in his favourite car, preparing to drive off at a snail’s pace through the Galaxy for all time. As expected, the press were there to film the end and we lent them thermal suits and oxygen. It was quite a beautiful funeral, as all other funerals were on the other side of our station, facing away from Earth. Everything went off without a hitch and Jok McRock was sent into space, staring at an invisible road and driving straight down it.

* * *

One thing, though, became a problem in the days to come. It appeared that McRock’s car was too heavy to escape orbit and he was left spinning for several days around our world. This wouldn’t pose much of a problem, ordinarily, as there are thousands of satellites whizzing about up there; but all those satellites have engines that are designed to hold orbit, and this satellite didn’t. After six days, he was getting perilously close to the upper atmosphere and there was a danger that he may even be dragged down to Earth! This wouldn’t do of course, so the world leaders met via vidöööeophone to converse about what could be done. They were all for shooting him down out of orbit and letting the smaller parts of the car burn up as they fell to Earth. A massive public outcry arose from his legions of fans, who swore that this was a desecration and mustn’t be allowed! Suddenly everyone was talking about this and formulating opinions, and all the while Jok McRock got closer to Earth. And, as it turned out, by the time anyone could agree on a plan, it was too late.

McRock’s car was made of a very dense and valuable alloy that burned only at extremely high temperatures. His car attained planet fall on October 12th. As it hurtled through the upper atmosphere it reached the speed of eighteen hundred kilometres per hour and began to burn, (McRock himself had burned up, practically the first few moments the car hit the atmosphere.) As the car sped toward Earth, catastrophe occurred.
McRock’s car collided with a full passenger aircraft, carrying 1337 passengers and exploded on impact. The plane was virtually destroyed in the explosion and, naturally, there were no survivors. In fact, there were never any body parts recovered from the sparse wreckage at all, and it was concluded, and not without reason, that all of the passengers were killed. What was just as astounding, though, was the fact that this occurred over land, which amassed just one-fifteenth of the surface of the Earth.

* * *

This changed everything for us at Still Life Pty Ltd. There were investigations and enquiries. There were interviews and accusations. But, in the end, Still Life was cleared of any blame, as there were no laws that could condemn us in this arena. Soon after this, there were laws created and the most important of these was that ‚Posing in Death‘, or ‚The le’Strange,‘ was outlawed. From that point on, there could be no more Poses, save Coffins and ashes and urns. No more of le’Strange’s curious legacy, that had swept like wildfire through the population of Earth. And, like most fads, it was soon forgotten in lieu of the next one. As swiftly as it had begun, it was over. We were left with too much room in our new Posing wing, and it was soon closed off. Gerry had been visibly shaken by the whole ordeal, but still struggled through his work. Me too.

Still… we survived the aftermath of enquiries, but our formerly excellent reputation as a home was severely damaged. In the two remaining years before Still Life Pty Ltd closed the Main Gate for good, Gerry and I struggled to keep the place going. We lost lots of money, until it was hopeless. Thankfully, we had a Retirement Fund (that barely survived); and at least all of our employees got 54% of what they originally would have received.

It was not only those 1337 passengers that died that day, I have often reflected, but Still Life Pty Ltd, as well as my friend Gerry, who killed himself just seven months into his (early) retirement. His suicide note stated that he had always felt the burden of guilt for those 1337 and could not forgive himself. After he died, I personally made the trip to the region in Africa where the slight remains of the crash were found and scattered his ashes there. I hope that helped my friend to find the peace he lost in life, for I know all too well how he felt. I had truly loved my career, and now it was all gone. 1337 people had died for nothing more than some punk’s vanity and a grievously thoughtless mistake on my part. I just hadn’t even considered the fact that we were facing the Earth during McRock’s burial. There was no way he could have escaped orbit, and I blamed myself for not having thought this through.

Incidentally, Jok McRock’s career had never been better. He sold over four million copies of his last Disk, 1.3 million of those within eight weeks of the Crash.

Some things never change.

The End

(Transcript above was found with the body of Elliot Rengradier, who was found hanging from a heating pipe in his small one room apartment. His estate paid for his cremation, but funds did not allow for his ashes to be scattered on the Moon. Instead, they were scattered over the Crashsite in Africa with those of his former friend.)

Adam Aitken

Two Poems

To a Hindu Goddess

I drove her to a temple by the sea
on a World Bank moped,
a triple A rice spirit
two hours late for a ceremony.
She showed me a brochure
her face on it,
& practised a vengeful look
in her handbag mirror.
Chanting bamboo pages, annals & spells,
she sharpened her scythe, worn down
by the last imagined harvest.
I loved her then, but she
was spoken for,
underwritten,
payment dates
& the humble gifts I gave that day
deferred
to a distant, fiercer god.

An eine Hindu Göttin

Ich fuhr sie zu einem Tempel am Meer
auf einem Weltbank-Moped,
ein AAA-Reis Elan
zwei Stunden zu spät für eine Zeremonie.
Sie zeigte mir eine Broschüre
ihr Gesicht darauf,
& übte einen rachesüchtigen Ausdruck
in ihrem Taschenspiegel.
Bambusseiten singend, Berichte & Zaubersprüche,
schliff sie ihre Sense, stumpf
von der jüngsten Phantasieernte.
Ich liebte sie damals, aber sie
war vergeben,
verbürgt,
Zahlungsfristen
& die bescheidenen Gaben, die ich an jenem Tag darbrachte
wurden einbehalten
von einem fernen, grimmigerem Gott.

Übersetzt von Gerald Ganglbauer

Catching Breath

Worn out, slow and breathless as a bird
on a ten minute migration, I stop
to catch my breath
at a Foxtel dish on a fruit juice stand.
So this is America – the West Pacific
with height restriction,
gunshots only car exhausts.
The juicegirl turns up the juicer,
then the TV:
„If it sounded close, we ducked“
Venus the Harlem tennis-babe smiled
at the interviewer on Sports Sunday.
‚My biggest weapon’s not
my serve, but Dad’s AK 47!‘
I wonder what to do
when Mormons approach,
souls in training, triathletes of the bible.
Their goody goody looks make me tense.
They shouldn’t jog in suits.
When to sing, when not to: that’s life for a bird in the city.
Senators in thongs
sign footpath licences for friends.
Back at the hardware store
the war against insects hotting up
on a magnetised Creepy Crawly Fumapest chart.
The cockroach thrives on stale air
Public Enemy No. 1
foraging Ben Buckler‘ s stucco bunkers.
Only a fine blue powder
under a poster for new ideas
peeling off the rising damp will keep them there.
And the bird wonders
at the vast space it flew across
braving microwave static
to get here.
Preening on the people’s beach,
the Empire starlight twinkles in its head.

Vivien Eime

Instructions Towards Joy

The Tragedy of Vivien Eime
Instructions Towards Joy
Performance Piece

how is it possible to offload history
take the multitudal hooks of sadness
and depart
whooooosh
through tears
or rinsed out through the ears of friends.

we receive no specific
instructions toward joy
are merely directed toward good

that is

warned away from bad

but how often this just does not work

nearly all of us are not animals in the woods
most need tracks to joy after treading over asphalt

ahhhhhh

the source for optimism is

change

where once I
in my curvaceous form
trod the asphalt in heels

I might now throw them away
wear a skirt
even if I do choose to wear sandshoes.

for little of us know that responsibility for self
resounds towards others…
is the anchor to the heart.

so,
alert your focus to shift slightly
start for a sense of beginning with
the rope.

feel it in your hands
and leave the connecting linking
chain to an eye in future.

do
not
consider
taking hold of the main shaft
which
of course
leads to the arrow’s head

feel the rope

for it is that you will
eventually heave

lassoo out into the void

in effort to claim one’s roots.

when all is familiar

suddenly

and the mind is loose enough

not to consider itself.

„DELEGATE!!“

„ah, yes… but to whom???“
responds the whimper.

Circumstance and
La!
our race becomes.

God
or our creator
can not
or will not
admit to mistake
and so,
we exist
as an accident.

are set off emulating this sense of
what is done is done
and just get on.

swerve to acclimatise
skim to make do
regret weaknesses innate
and keep to ourselves as much
as is possible
when chances to be among friends
does not warrant itself.

we are shown the way
and given choice.

slowly we recognise ourselves and each other.

wide eyed
we peer at what we may have
and wobble dance toward

IT

a tragic king’s chair

life

all outside us

until

we are gifted with

a chair

[in this day passing I will unhesitatingly note all that
pleases me so that it can be remembered I at least identify
that which leads to joy]

INSTRUCTIONS TOWARDS JOY

I was gifted with an arm chair

mmmmmmmmmmm

mmm

one that swivels

I have yet to truly take this seat as my own
prefer to offer it to guests
who brave the downward staircase

oh it pleases me to see such pleasures taken
as a chair that swivels

and

I neglected to say

rocks

ah…

the breath out that this friend
takes
who sinks into my chair.

they who have come pale and
slip shod
over asphalt
and to cement – my steps –

their choice of shoes
creating sensation

fresh rubber being
virgin knicked as a
ham on a bone

below the level of asphalt
they now sit
hands conduct a telling of
their journey
dodging traffic
consciously surfing
information tides

withstanding requests for
small change
and desires for larger

sipping tea or drafting beer
they discuss the relentlessness
of life’s tidings

television as the communicant

line thrown to a point

with these instructions to think:

does one use a lily pond to catch a
rhinoceros?

does one simply write it all
down
then leap it out
to feed fish?

the venice captain offers marriage
whilst more intended men snigger
and wink

and all I see is a livid
doctor
at the stern side…
a kiss is not a brand –
‚tis an act of old to
honour love

a sudden full circle turn of chair
makes a creak knock us to laughter…

oh

spin    spin

spin    this

laughter

one could sit in a field of strawberries
and wait for an angel or simply
listen to that captain

and I speak his words
not mine
for you to apply
as I am told the
world is expanding
and spins

will one day stop

as I will

further away from the mystery
straight as ye goe
or not

we die
yes
but as this sounds
we are alive

three holes midway down the slope of the wall of a
reservoir.

so spin    spin    spin this laughter
with your company:

when laughter turns to memory
and you have left this holiday mooring

I will sink into that swivelling chair.

and oh how I will sink…

adjust cushions to my liking
and contemplate all that has led me to this sinking…

what I will rise to when sitting is done

all in my own variety

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

endings…    goodbyes…

marvellous or monstrous
monumental or mis-timed
momentary splits…

a veering…

to the left is my preference…

mmmm.

‚tis a joy to delegate one’s own.

 

First performed by Vivien Eime 22 June 1996 at CBD Gallery, Sydney

Jolanta Janavicius

Catching a Wave

I SLEPT SO WELL LAST NIGHT JUST PUT MY HEAD ON THE PILLOW AND WAS OFF INTO DREAMLAND AND WHEN I WOKE UP IT WAS MORNING A MOST BEAUTIFUL SUNNY MORNING WARM NOT TOO HOT AS YET THE BLUEST BLUE SKY YOU COULD IMAGINE THE MOST URGENT THING FOR ME TO DO NOW WAS TO GO TO THE BEACH CHECK THE WAVES AND RUN INTO THE FROTHING SURF MY MAN GOT UP EARLY TOO SQUEEZED ORANGE JUICE AND GRAPEFRUIT JUICE FOR ME WE THEN HOPPED INTO THE CAR IN OUR SWIMMERS AND DROVE DOWN TO FRESHWATER BEACH WE SAW BIRDS FROLICKING IN THE SKY LORIKEETS IN ALL RAINBOW COLOURS THEIR WINGS SHIMMERING THEIR TAILS SPREAD OUT LIKE A FAN AGAINST THE SUN OH SO LUMINOUS THE GREENS AND THE GOLDS IN THE BLUE SKY THE SURF WAS ROLLING IN IN LONG WHITE ROLLS THE WAVES JUST RIGHT NOT TOO BIG NOT LIKE FRIDAY MORNING ROARING RUMBLING TOWARD THE SHORE THE KING TIDE ALL THE BEACHES WERE CLOSED AND ON AUSTRALIA DAY TOO FLOCKS OF DISAPPOINTED CITY PEOPLE JUST WAITING FOR THE HUGE SEAS TO CALM DOWN BUT THIS MORNING OH THIS MORNING THE SURF WAS ROLLING IN IN LONG SWEEPING WHITE ROLLS PLAYFUL SPRAY SHIMMERING IN THE SUN I SHIVERED WITH PLEASANT ANTICIPATION SAVOURING THE REFRESHING COOLNESS OF THE WAVES WHEN THE WATER REACHED MY WAIST I PLUNGED INTO A WAVE DIVING UNDER IT POPPING UP GULPING A MOUTHFUL OF SWEET SEA AIR THEN WATCHING EVERY ON-COMING WAVE WITH A HAWK’S EYE FOR THE RIGHT ONE TO COME ALONG I WAS WAITING FOR A BIG FAT BREAKER WITH MASSES OF WATER BEHIND IT TO GIVE ME A MIGHTY PUSH AND WHEN IT CAME I WAS READY I SWUNG AROUND STRETCHED MY BODY LIKE AN ARROW AND DIVED IN FRONT OF THE BREAKING WAVE OH EXHILARATION I WAS RUSHING FLYING TOWARD THE SHORE IN THE CRYSTAL CLEAR WATERS HAPPY AS A LARK