Empty Bottles

“Empty Bottles” is a long-winded poem on the drunkards’ middens of the Northern Territory, written in 1893 by William Aaron Millikan, my mother’s father’s father. When I first read his poem a few years ago, I was not enamoured of it’s form. It must be some kind of poetic convention of his day, I thought, and set about rewriting it to make it flow better! Rather presumptuous, but my attempts were not an improvement, so I put it aside.

Just tonight, I came across the poem The Raven written in 1849 by American poet Edgar Allan Poe, with it’s “nevermore” refrain. Aha! The form that great-granddad ripped off!  OK. Time to share William’s poem, warts and all.

“Empty Bottles” is a glimpse into a white man’s wowser perspective at the end of the 19th century in a remote part of Australia where Aborigines worked on their confiscated lands for no pay, no thanks and no rights, and Chinese immigrant workers (“John”) were resented by the drunkard white population because they were hard-working, reliable, entrepreneurial and generally good citizens.

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cosmic dust

The ejected capsule will not re-enter the docking bay. If this were deep space, lives would be lost…

I give up on reassembling the space-age vacuum cleaner, and flop onto the couch. Glancing across the room, I ask, “So, what’s it like, not being able to hear conversations, or read a book?” Continue reading

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freznel fairy



a fierce and frazzled freznel fairy
flittered free of fraynel fold
fluting flying fleeting flouting…
returning once the tales were told




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Sarah Anne Rocks

what happened here
long ago
that your rocks all stand on end?

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look star!

Dave Reynolds – Photographer The view from the campsite at Frankland River, Tarkine, March 2016.
I like im.
I like im camp outside
because of course you got to sleep outside,
you got to feel im that wind and look star!


a snippet from one of my favourite poets, Bill Neidjie, from his book Story About Feeling.
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Monster Duck

… the hidden meaning of haiku

On Tuesday 5th, in South Hobart, all performances finished, I was preparing for a recording session scheduled for the next day. Having finished writing my part of a collaborative score for a new duo with Emily, I was reworking a haiku I wrote on the first day of our trip on our way to the Tarkine nearly 2 weeks ago.

Now I had two versions of the “same” poem; I liked the first, but felt the new version would be perhaps better as a freestanding allusion to my experience. Not sure which I should record, I asked Emily’s young ten-year-old housemate, Avian, for his advice. He agreed to help, and promptly lay down on the couch with eyes closed, listening attentively.

I read him the first version of my haiku and asked him to tell me what he pictured. (As he didn’t know the context of where we were camping, I thought his response would be helpful. Which it was!)  Here is his explanation upon hearing the first version:

lapping sound of clouds
landing duck scatters mountain
raven caws the morn

Avian: Well, a bunch of heavy clouds come down and slap the top of a mountain;
then this really gigantic duck flies down and lands on the mountain & smashes it to bits;
and a raven cries out when he sees the mountain explode.
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Husshh … hearing takayna

“An ecstatic meditation on ancient takayna/Tarkine wilderness
in sound and words”

That’s the bi-line Emily wrote when she invited me to join her in Tassie to take part in the Tarkine in Motion project, followed by a series of concerts to “cover my airfares”. I jumped. I had nearly visited the Tarkine two years ago, but ended up on Bruny island instead, enjoying the acoustics of the lighthouse there. Following my Bruny lightflute adventure, I returned to Hobart and met Emily in a cave… no wait, that was a separate trip. Here is the blog on our 2015 cave encounter. Anyway. I love performing with Emily, and I certainly wanted to spend time in the Tarkine, and I believe the work Bob Brown and his colleagues are doing to help protect our precious piece of Gondwana Land is so important. I was in! Continue reading

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