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A Gardener Betrayed by Roses
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My Father's Combat Boots
My father's combat boots are ridiculous
heavy sprawling lumps of scuffed black leather
squatting defiantly around my ankles,
dwarfing my feet and towering over the bewildered
Well, that's only half a lie.
From up here where I see them
they peek out from under my jeans like two
curious black torpedoes; the bane
of cat's tails, stray chair legs, loitering toes
they clomp unheedingly over the pavement, joyful as
a Sousa march.
My father's combat boots are two ungainly black2001
I like the size of them, the heft of them,
the blunt black curve of them
the laces trailing in the city rain,
the way they tug at my calves with every clomping
step, the way
they anchor me to the ground.
The Gospel in a Poem
He was there before time as the mighty God,
Full of power, truth and grace.
An awesome plan he had for man,
And everything was set in place.
For he spoke the word and it was done-
The simple power of his command.
Unto him all creation bow,
And he alone should stand.
But we are guilty, we took God's crown
To be our own; we listened to the lie.
We lived for ourselves and not for him,
And for our sins, we all must die.
Yet at the right time, many years ago
A babe was laid in a manger-
While dependent on Mary for everything
At the same time Creator, Sustainer
In everything he did God's will;
He was pure in all his ways.
He was the only Son of God-
Son of Man from the Ancient of Days.
With loaves and fish, he fed a crowd;
He raised up Lazarus from the dead.
The lame could walk, the blind could see,
And from his presence demons fled.
His mission was abundantly clear-
To seek and save the lost.
Yet to those who would follow him,
"Count the cost, count the cost."
He was obedient unto death;
He cried "Remove this cup of pain,
Yet not my will but yours be done."
And for our sin he bore the shame.
The King of the universe wore a crown
Of thorns, driven through his head.
He was beaten, whipped, despised
And to the cross he was led.
Nails driven through his hands and feet,
Naked hanging on a tree.
Lord, King of the universe,
How could this be for me?
"It is finished" was his cry;
The price for sin was paid,
The temple curtain torn in two,
And our redemption made.
Now raised to life, Jesus stands,
Beckoning you to come,
To trust in him, to be forgiven-
Yet all of you, not some.
This gift with it a promise holds
Of life with him eternally;
His Holy Spirit we are given,
To be our guide and guarantee.
So praise to Jesus who at last
Will make all things new.
His promise is for everyone-
His hand's outstretched to you.
Sitting at my computer on a blistering cold night, I begin to type my assignment. In the background the sound of the television provides some form of company. The cold weather and rain has had a nostalgic effect on me and reminds me of how blessed I am to have warm clothing and shelter over my head. It brings me back to a time and place when I was still in the Phillipine Armed Forces.
The rain slowed down to a dull patter but it did not matter because it was bound to start up again. I was called back from my sentry position which meant the mission was about to begin. At precisely 0000 hours, Delta 2nd platoon was to conduct a seaborne assault on the island of Sarwani Island. Prior to climbing into our assault boats, I conducted a last equipment check. Clipping on my webbing, I checked my magazines, slung my rifle, then strapped on my helmet. Made of Kevlar, it protected against bullets, but it drastically limited my vision of the surroundings. The camouflage netting helped to break the outline of the helmet, which made us blend into the landscape. I could feel the camouflage paint on my face sticking to the helmet strap as I fastened it. The navy boys greeted us as we boarded, and told us to hang on as our boats sped out into the night. It was all dark except for the glow sticks attached to the boats antenna. The waves were angry that night, and I was getting sea sick as we contacted with wave after wave.
As our assault boast cut through the waves, the island silhouette became evident. My observation of the island drew parallels to the island from Jurrasic Park with its never-ending coastline and high treeline. As we neared our landing zone, the motors were cut and we assumed defensive positions. Light signals coming from the shore indicated that our scouts had reached the shore and that it was clear to land. The lead boat proceeded for landing while the main force remained behind. The constant barrage of waves made me feel nauseous. As I concentrated on keeping my rations inside my stomach, automatic fire suddenly rang out from the shore. 'Enemy' forces had ambushed our lead boat and what seemed like a routine landing mission had suddenly taken a turn for the worse.
We began our alternate landing phase on the South Eastern side of the island. When we were close enough to shore, we jumped out of the boat after receiving the green light. However, instead of hitting solid ground, we hit an underwater sandbar that caused me to drop my rifle into the sea. The freezing cold water engulfed my body as I was pulled down by the weight of my weapons. Caught off guard by the weak sea floor, I swallowed a lot of water through my mouth and nose. Fortunately, the man next to me pulled me up by my webbing and we continued onto the beachhead. As we neared the embankment, we spread out and hit the ground. Radio silence was to be maintained for the initial landing phase until we established security. While observing the surroundings for any suspicious movements, I noticed that it was eerily quiet except for the crashing of the waves. Not a soul made a noise even though the cold had penetrated our core. After what seemed like eternity had passed, orders came through to move out.
The full moon acted as a double-edged sword. Good because we could cover ground much quicker, bad because the enemy could easily spot us. Being a tactical phase, the only form of communication was through hand signals. With the lack of noise, I gradually drifted off into my own world, as other thoughts entered my head. I thought about my friends back home, my comfortable bed back at grandma's, the different girls I ever had crushes on, and how frustratingly fatigued I was at this moment. The rhythm of boots marching on the dirt track provided a steady beat for me to follow. I could feel those around me without having to open my eyes as I drifted off into a subconscious sleep.
As we reached further inland, the canopy of the treetops blocked out the moonlight, cutting our visibility. This meant compacting the distance between each other to minimise the chance of breaking contact. With a platoon consisting of 28 weary men, the chance of one losing concentration and being separated was inevitable. The surface of the track had turned into leaves and mud signaling our entry into denser jungle. I tried to fend of the continuous waves of fatigue by pinching my arm and massaging my neck. My hands had gone so numb that the steel of my rifle no longer felt cold. The insect repellant I had applied dripped into my eyes resulting in an acidic sensation, but at least it kept me awake.
A tactical halt was called to reaffirm our position. The huddled command group with their red filtered L-torches reminded me of fireflies which were abundant on this island. However, this time there was a problem because the machine gun crew had separated from us without our knowledge. I was ordered to find them. Retracing my steps, I was desperate to track our missing team as the feeling of being alone in the jungle made my hair stand on end. This led to heavy breathing as I felt paralysed by fear. To my relief they were gathered about half a kilometer back and had the sense to stop and wait for someone to get them. With the General Purpose Machine Gun weighing over 12kgs as well as the ammunition and tripod needed to mount it, we had to do some intense running to join the main force.
At 0430, we had reached our Form Up Point (FUP), which was the final staging area prior to attack. I cocked my rifle, switched the safety off and attached my bayonet to the muzzle. Having a loaded weapon took away my fatigue as adrenalin flowed into my veins. While waiting to attack I felt the needles of the mosquitoes feasting on me. My wet clothing and body heat made it a haven for the hungry mosquitoes of the tropical forest. It dawned on me that I was shivering as my body heat reacted with the wet clothing. It was time to move out.
We crawled all the way to the enemy's wire defence and began cutting at the pressure points. While the others dealt with the wire I kept a lookout. Suddenly, a shot rang out breaking up the silence of the night. We had been contacted! Our element of surprise had been exposed, so it was time for the quick breach. The Bangalore torpedo team set up the explosives and we all ran back to the FUP. Within a minute, there was a huge explosion. I hit the ground and started to open fire in the general direction of the enemy. With the gap formed in the wire defence, the rest of our platoon moved in and spread out along the line. Smoke grenades were thrown to provide temporary cover for our advancing forces. I picked myself off the hard ground and charged uphill firing short bursts at what I interpreted as the enemy, the electronic sounds of the MILES set signaling kills. Our attack plan was simple. One group would provide cover fire while the other group advanced forward. It was a leapfrog tactic, which was simple but effective. My mind switched off and every action was a reflex action. As I neared the top of the knoll, I saw a figure prone behind the bush. A three round burst from my rifle resulted in another electronic buzz.
Within minutes, the silence of the jungle returned. It happened so fast that the smoke from our canisters was still fuming. We had to establish a perimeter defence while we reorganized in case of counter attacks. During this period, I ejected my empty magazine and reloaded my rifle. The barrel was smouldering from the intense firing. My sergeant came by to check on my injury and ammunition status. As he ran off to confirm his information with the platoon commander, I laid there trying to control my heavy breathing. Despite lasting only a few moments, the assault was draining. I rested my rifle on the ground and played with some grains of soil with my fingers. It was good to regain feeling in them. Finally the whistle came signaling the end of the mission.
I stood up, dusted the soil off my pants, took out my bayonet and sheathed it. Ejecting my magazine, I cocked my rifle to make sure it was clear of stray rounds. When all equipment was acconted for, I took off my helmet and ruffled my short hair. As I slowly moved towards the rest of the platoon, dawn began to break on the horizon. The sunlight shone over the treetops and illuminated the hill we just fought on. I thought to myself how contradictory this was, that I, a soldier could admire the beauty of nature even though I was training to kill. It felt symbolic that when I strapped on my helmet it narrowed my vision, as well as my view on life. When it came off, I had broader peripherals, which might have reflected my perspective on life. However, my thoughts were cut short as the welcoming sound of the three-toner rolled up the hill to take us home. Home? My home was far away from here. However, I did not care as now was time to rest. For how long though? An hour or two? It did not matter. I boarded the truck, cradled my rifle between my legs and dozed off into my own secluded world.
Fractal on the Train Floor | (untitled) | A Cultural Experience
Change is Inevitable | twentyfive-four
Fractal on the Train Floor
Mood hazy with a Saturday lawnmower hum
Lazy as honey in the gold of a dying day
Dappled on a tree
A leaf glances timorously against the ground
Catches the wind, and away
An ant dances amorously with a shadow it's found
Scents the breeze, and away
Into the dappled hum of life
Behold, the eye sees
Virginblue sky through shift-shadow leaves
Unholy light in the hazy day
Dying with grace
Too pure for this earthly time and place
I must close my eyes and hide my face
Look away and swallow
Feel regret, but leave no trace
Being flawed through complexity
Thought and society
And being merely human.
and sighs, and snarls its last;
For it knows what we do not.
And it weeps blue tears
because of this,
And they melt the grey sky
and the snow and the days,
and they rush and they flood
into the fields
glistening with Spring.
Flow lazily into the slow Summer
Trickle slowly into the biting Autumn
Hurl bitingly into the waning Winter
and the darkening of the skies.
Spiralling, waving, circling, spiralling
Downwards in the ever-tightening coils
of a snake
Into the darkening belly
of the well of the ravaged earth
And it greedily drinks the grey sky
and the days and the tears of the regretfully waning.
But the disappearing water defies not
the thirst of his mother.
The sighing Winter weeps
Infinite blue tears into the darkness
It is a beautiful day.
A Cultural Experience
There was very little time for the bananas on the kitchen bench in the midst of the throbbing flurry and hassle.
"Just put them in the freezer," my mother snapped without looking, passing at great speed with our passports in hand.
Four bananas, left mercilessly and carelessly in the top drawer of the freezer. They were to be left in the great whirlwind of hurry of our 'sudden departure'; the "small emergency, her grandmother you know, ill for sometime...yes, I think this is the real thing. Two weeks at the most."
Our destination: Malaysia.
This furious whirlwind left us in the sewer-thick heat and chanting haze of englistered monks and peanut shells, frog-filled drains and cricket choruses at night. All had been made ready while we were still poised over the tail of Indonesia. Shock had been registered, and hollowing tears shed while we hung in the air over miles of flat sea. The finest clothes had been laid out while we waited in the chill silence of Singapore airport. A pearl had been nestled in her mouth, placed in position above a loose and flaccid tongue, even while we landed in Malaysia. Yes, we had airline peanuts. They did not have shells to be cracked open by a nearly toothless mouth.
In the midst of the spinning thickness of the air, the drone of the monks and the eager flies, I was reminded of an event. Clasping the flexible white slats of a set of blinds, I peered into a classroom to see televised grief, accusing red eyes. A woman with a river of hair, diverging down her back as she beat the air with fists and animal wails. A lurid and discordant clang of bells, shilling flutes and chanting voices. The voices were dressed in black, strangely random in their precision. A garlanded coffin shuffled into view, mahogany reflecting strangely from the unnatural lights. The suffusing heat, the emotion, suddenly interrupted by strange horizontal white lines, flickering madly. The woman was frozen with her mouth ready to scream her agony. A flower was poised in mid-air.
"Girls - " said a teacher sharply. "It's no point showing you this unless you're going to watch. It's only for your benefit. "You two in the corner!" Low mutterings and several snickers. "The next time we have to stop, it'll be five minutes after the bell!"
I let the slats slide back, feeling sickened. Walking past unsteadily, the scolding voice floated malevolently from under the door: "It's for your own good. It's a good cultural experience."
Now leaving behind the ug-booted neighbours, those who read their Sunday papers religiously near their post-boxes on the grassy lawn. The friendly "Gidday, howrrya?" flicked from behind Page 13. Leaving the coolness of breeze, the sky through swaying leaves. I was jolted back to the tremulous reality of smothering heat and horror. Malaysia was nothing without my grandmother, seated on her stool near the scratched lino bench, always awake before me in the sloth of holidays.
"Cho san," she would say.
"Cho san, Ah Mah," the limit of my agonisingly inept language.
I could hardly bear to look at the coffin, mahogany reflected strangely from strange lights in our rearranged house. Garlands of flowers and grief. The acridly sweet joss-sticks lulling the mind with suggestive sleep. As I lost myself in the throes of orange-clad monks and burnt prayers, relatives and discordant sounds, the chants of "amitabha, amitabha" carried merely one of my thoughts:
I did not want my grandmother to become a cultural experience.
When we arrived back in the cool stillness of Sydney, hightailing over the seas and living the quiet nights, the bananas were waiting in the freezer. Four bananas with their skins frozen on. The yellow skins were frozen on. The white concealed would never be revealed.
Change is Inevitable
To my most esteemed friend Platocrates,
I do hope that this letter reaches you in time. It is such a trial nowadays to try to find slaves to do anything useful - they're all clustered down at the library, hovering like flies around a long-past-the-sell-by-date, asking patrons if they need their pages turned; honestly , if they just reinstalled scrolls instead of books, some order might be restored! But change is inevitable, I suppose, and I'm sure that some slaves would find a way to disguise themselves as paperweights.
But I did not send this message with such anger merely to prattle on about slaves. I'm writing to tell you that I did it: I threw in the towel. This caused a bit of an uproar, naturally, since that was all I was wearing at the time, but as I said before, change is inevitable, and so is change of clothing.
It happened something like this. I was at the public baths, pondering if Truth was Beauty and Beauty Truth, And Where Did All Those Triangles Fit In, when the most - well, I suppose you'd call him interesting, since you study anthropology, but most others called him "Argh! What a stench!" and got out of the way most promptly. I personally prefer the term "fragrant vagrant" myself, but that didn't stop me from shrieking "You stinker!" with the rest, and leaping out of the baths. Or perhaps it was "You reeker!"; I can't quite recall. Anyway, what happened was this: as we left, the water level in the bath went down; as the "fragrant one" entered, it went up, out and everywhere! You may not understand the importance of this, but it was amazing far reaching efforts. For example, if we were to immerse the globe itself in, say, an infinite amount of water, we would, in effect, be moving the world! And that's just the start of it. Change is inevitable. And so is change of location, I fear. I made a bit of a spectacle of myself running down the street with my towel, and the authorities are after me for indecent exposure caused by even more indecent ideas.
Within a few days I should arrive at your abode, complete with ideas, and a new set of clothing. I might stop by Aristotle's on the way to see how his circles are going, but I'll be along anon.
My hands, a trembling feathery touch,
They are an affront, I know, because you
Flinch away, then calm yourself
These withered claws, death's calling card
In every furrow of loosened skin,
Jitter to rest upon your sleeve;
They mock the promise of your youth
Just as they mock me.
Give gramps a hand up, mate - upsidaisy!
There you go, love; you know that it's
His big day out, only once a year.
- Just a word mate, into your ear
There, one step back mate, he can't hear -
I think it's all he lives for.
So bray, bray your trumpet boy,
Dream heady dreams of glory sung
Scorn my hands, but remember boy -
We were soldiers once, and young.
You'll Get Eaten Either Way
Pippies, pippies, in the sea
Judith'd like to eat you for tea
I'd be content to feed you to fishes
but I'm afraid that's not what your wish is.
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The Smartest in All the Known and Unknown Universes
The Republic - 10 Years On
Ten years ago to the day, Australian political history was rewritten when we became a republic. And hasn't it been an "interesting" (for want of a better word!) decade.
Although, in February 1998, delegates at the Constitutional Convention decided that a referendum proposing the election of a Head of State by a two-thirds majority of Parliament would be put to the Australian public in November 1999, the "overwhelming public support" for a popularly-elected president (the Morgan-Gallop Poll, in fact, indicated that the public would vote out the Coalition Government at the next election if they didn't amend the referendum) caused the Liberals to amend the referendum. And so it was that Australia became a republic with a popularly-elected President on the 15th of May, 2000.
Who could forget the Queen's reaction to the decision? In her annual Christmas message that year she said, "…And 2000 has proved to be yet another annus horribilis. First we [the obligatory "we"] lost Australia, and then we didn't even win any medals at the Olympic Games."
And who could forget our first President. How the Australian public managed to elect Don Bradman, a man in his nineties, puzzles me even today. Yet when he died two weeks after he was sworn in, and we had to repeat the election process, how Don Bradman managed to be once again overwhelmingly elected truly amazes me. I vividly remember that night, when John Howard tried to explain on national television to the public that they couldn't actually vote for a dead person.
We consoled ourselves by determining that Kieran Perkins would be the next President. He proved to be a young, dynamic and fair Head of State, although the Parliament House lawn never really looked the same with a twenty lane Olympic swimming pool replacing most of the gardens. It must be acknowledged, however, that some of our most important policies - "Wednesday is swimming day!" (one of the foundations of our society today) - were conceived in poolside Question and Answer times; so who could argue that the addition of the pool had a detrimental effect on government?
When, in 2004, Kieran decided to make his awe-inspiring 1500 metre Olympic "come-back" (and who can forget that exclusive interview with Ray Martin!), a new Head of State was needed. It was a tight contest between Shane Warne and Paul Keating, but I'm sure I wasn't the only one not surprised when it was announced that Shane Warne would be the third President. Shane Warne, I'd have to say, has been our best President thus far. Despite being slugged with a 200% increase in taxes to fund the "Give Up Smoking" Campaign - $200,000 given to smokers successfully able to quit smoking - one cannot deny that the level of smokers massively decreased. And our economy boomed during the "Warne Years"; although the Australian cricket team never seemed to be able to win a match against India!
In 2008, David Oldfield, who had assumed leadership of the Liberal Party after the death of John Howard (his eyebrows had grown so big, covering his eyes, and he had been hit by a car outside his Kirribilli residence), became Prime Minister. In an exclusive television interview with Ray Martin (whose hair, incidentally, had not changed in 20 years), David Oldfield hypnotised the Australian public into believing that they should elect Pauline Hanson as President. And so it was that Pauline Hanson became the fourth President of Australia (or "Whoop-whoop Land" as it was referred to amongst the nations of the world); and the first female President. Pauline's "reign" (she referred to herself as the "Mother Queen") didn't last very long. Who could forget that dark and stormy night when Pauline was abducted by malevolent aborigines, who deep-fried her in her own fish-and-chip shop, and fed her to unsuspecting customers? David Oldfield was so upset that he climbed the flag pole at Parliament House and committed suicide by jumping off.
And so it was that Paul Keating finally had his chance to be President of Australia. I think that the average "Aussie battler" was impressed by Paul's persistence, although the antique clock promised to everyone might have swayed the decision for some (I didn't think China made antique clocks!) Paul has indeed contributed much to this country and has made Australia a more tolerant society; and with Paul as President, we must be a tolerant society! He has encouraged Australians to become much less cynical and has banned the phrase "Pigs might fly!"
Yes, the past ten years have given Australians a new identity; one that we can feel relaxed and comfortable about. We have given up the pomp and stuffiness of British royalty for the likes of Don, Kieran, Shane, Pauline and Paul. Bewdy, mate!
"I know what it is you saw..." | "a shadow and a threat has been growing"
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