I told him

that I did not believe in gods and monsters, that we roll silently along a path shaped by forces as predictable as they are powerful, a wet rock in a vast silence.

I told him that there is no time for superstition, that humans and their Internet collect hearsay indifferently as information, that if bicarb and vinegar deserved the reputation that they have, the world would be without detergent, if copper nails killed trees we should be able to find them for sale, that if egg whites responded to everything they are supposed to we might as well regard them as magic.

I told him that I do not have a soul, that the bothersome business of existing will one day end and in that knowledge I find peace.
I did not tell him that I toss spilt salt over my shoulder (right over left, always).

I did not tell him that as I locked up every night I would say thankyou and goodnight to the ladies Constance and Leila and little Ethel Maude — although it had been fifty years since they had set foot in the house — always.

I did not tell him that I had stood, bare chested in the cold, levelled my eyes at the full moon and Mars, smouldering together in the sky, and told them — as a threat or invocation to witness, I do not know — that I would let no harm come to him, that he was in my care, and that I was his.



The new Metro station, corner of Spencer and Flinders St — construction work, trenches, fences, and signs to an underground entrance

Stairs lead down to a perfect replica of a Victorian arcade — bevelled glass shop windows, dark after close of business, framed with copper and surrounded with green, swing signs hang proudly above the entrance, gilt letters spelling out butchers, chocolatiers, coffee roasters.

Excited sightseers mill around, my parents among them, reading the signs aloud, picturing themselves clicking along the green terrazzo and perhaps leaning in to a dark panelled room to order their morning coffee in the time saved by not changing trains

The spice merchant is open, apothecary jars, brown string and hand-written labels spelt out in Latin and Arabic and Hanzi. A small staircase leads to a cellar with the dishes of rarest spices  – carpobalsamum, the bright purple of chrozophora, saunders, spikenard.

One, looking like a tiny termite’s mound, labelled “Anger. For intricate reasons, not for sale.”

We came to dark river that flows quietly to nowhere, the end of my realm.  It always seems to be a lazy afternoon in early summer here, the sun lost behind willows still warms the far bank, pollen hangs and glints in the air.

Everyone has been here once, looked across at the outline of the river as it passes out of sight, wondered — are they lights or daffodils that dance in the distance ?— stooped down, drunk, seen those lights again for the first time, and wandered towards them.  Nobody remembers that time.  Some, when they come back, see the far hills reflected in the water, the lights shimmering, recognise them and run after them.  They don’t have to drink, most do, standing up a little too quickly, refreshed but dizzy, eyes fixed on the horizon to stay steady.

He held my hand, which was strange — most who come here don’t even see me, and I prefer it that way: familiarity fosters a kind of forgetfulness, and if I choose the path that we should follow, I see only what I choose to.  He hadn’t let me choose, instead following where he saw red toadstools, taking us through a part of the forest I wasn’t sure existed, where the cliffs look towards the sunset and the spray of the waves crashing below keeps the trees in perfect formation; over a bridge that disappeared behind us, under the same bridge (now a frame for the sky), past undiscovered catacombs of limestone, the sleeping forms of extinct creatures.  Standing there, curling his toes into the sand and broken shells and, eyes shining as he looked out at surfers minuscule in the distance, he had created the place with the stories of his ancestors – divers and rafters.

I walked with him to the riverbank, as far as I could, and as I thought of the lights that would lead him away from me, he knelt and peered into the water, dark and cold and clear.  I saw his reflection look back at him with eyes of regret and hurt, and knew that he had come to leave that reflection to drift away to meet the horizon.  He looked into those eyes, reached down, I turned away.  He will leave and will not know me, I thought, but the shore and the surf and cliffs that face the sunset will stay.

As he stood up, steadying himself, looking into the distance, brushing his hands against his body, he looked back, and I did not know whether I saw eyes of regret or recognition, and I did not know whether I would see them again.


future dysTokyo
we made zombies, clever us!
they’ll be our friends. Wrong.


Overhead, FA-18 Hornet flying low, sunny day, glints off the tail fins, disappears into the glare.  Roar of engines.  Something flutters earthwards — small — paper — coloured — rectangular — currency — unfamilar — lands in a car park.  Cyclone wire fence.  Climb it, ignore warning signs Don’t Go Here Commonwealth Of Somewhere: nobody’s around, curiosity wins.  Under a car, Caroline Chisolm’s sorriso sfumato darts out over a weave of orange and magenta: the old $5.

Holding a new one for comparison (HM the Q outwardly more dour, but a sly twinkle in her eyes). Frays, watermarks, fishscale patterns, a swashbuckling typeface; small, pink, microprinting, geometry.  Both insubstantial, both invested with obligation and stories and symbols of a place and time, as remote and as shared as those in ochre inscribed into the mountains.

The owner of the note, blue flight suit, friendly eyes, comes past improbably soon: in town for the air show, local hospitality extending to a trailer in the grounds (hats off indoors all the same); an old suitcase with obsolete currency “sort of an heirloom,” politely disguised smirks at the shiny plastic note and the terse monarch; wry, warm respect of a traveller far from home.

Ruling out some common words (the and of, etc) and sorting the words used in the last three inauguration addresses by their frequency produces an odd and distinctive poetry.  President Obama’s speech yesterday suggests the future, destiny and hope; President Bush’s 2005 address is directed to righteousness and justice, and the 2001 piece is, if you’ll grant me the liberty, mostly waffle.

Method: strip punctuation and “‘s”, arrange descending by f=count(word(this speech))/avg(word(3 speeches)).  Original words taken from whitehouse.gov

obama 2009

you can nation new America every must than been world people Less let time work common now today cannot too know day more God generation only spirit was Nor power long before them come end greater men peace seek things through up women words hard meet crisis far whether freedom I your Americans courage ideals life some history many government hope just children generations most nations ourselves force future small Where across earth economy forward oath old over between care journey last man may out upon carried father jobs moment off once prosperity question Rather say shall short were country liberty one free promise American good make never united Yet find My birth faith purpose schools service stand also build did even task trust way without bless duties health still success thank use well afford ambitions begin blood challenges child done each enduring extend fear feed founding friend knowledge meaning minds passed prosperous remember then true war wealth again age answer back better big brave calls charter confidence conflict defence earned era face faced fail false forth gift given greatness grows hours icy light like lines longer lower market met might mutual nothing often part path planet play remain restore something storms stronger take taken throughout travelled understand understood virtue waters West why willing willingness winter workers year

bush 2005

freedom America your you every liberty one own nation I country Americans world can must know time work people day free seen citizens cause rights human tyranny life long some character great President united choice justice States fire than more now power Continue Reading »


two men, one a skater with baggy shorts and dreadlocks, the other a retiree in plus fours and a polo shirt, were doing tai chi together with fans in the park this morning.  Yesterday, it was two middle-aged men in sneakers doing kendo.