Standley Chasm to Trephina Gorge, aerial view
Sun glissades a minute crack in time
as cycads fizz in slotted space and
milk-smooth dolerite boulders incubate
in the yoked light and shade;
from Cain to Kabul nature devours grace,
we cannot get ourselves back to the Garden.
Magma squeezed up has twinned Tjoritja
then hissed, spat and brazed
MacDonnell range melt-still interstice;
Angkerle Atwatye, the gap of water
opens out, offers safe passage
beside a bug-frenzy algal pool.
Simpsons Gap retreats among triodia whose
punk-mohawk spines protect the curious
smiles of black-footed rock-wallaby;
the Lutheran Mission became Arrernte refuge
from speared-cattle frontier struggle time
so Christ-bells rang atop Mount Hermannsburg.
Dried mud rammed inside hollow river red gum
last Yeperenye flood time has hooked
twigs and bark angled by eucalypt nooks;
leaves flutter down, beak-snipped by green parrots
pecking Emily’s raucous silence
in this caterpillar dreaming place.
Above furrows of dark-chocolate rock
ploughed in sine waves on tilt
holly grevillea, emu bush, chaotic silver mallee
outline the Trephina Gorge arena
set deep in sand-riverbed meander;
nearby John Hayes Rockhole bows in adoration.
Spinifex splashed with biscuit-black scat
like cured hashish (pointy is rock-wallaby,
rounded is euro) maps the prickly trail
to naked and alone Corroboree Rock,
its cinnabar-brown felspar crown sat down
on the shoulder of some entombed avatar.
Hawking dot paintings at Alice hotel bars
an outsider in town for a spree squats
then skids on piss in Todd Mall.
Ride a cock-horse through Darlinghurst floss
to see a frocked lady upon a pale horse;
with rope in her fingers and rings on his toes
she shall have bondage wherever he goes.
Raw, stripped down with barely a scintilla of sleaze
unveiled Salomés dance in platoons frantic to please;
a Fred Nile head served up décapité as festive treat
while butch squadrons on Harleys growl up the street.
Glitter ball girls and stud-leather strap boys
raise sequine-gloved fists pumping for joy;
pure hearts so sureand set free from pity
hell-bent on upending this too straight city.
With drug, hormone and scalpel sex is gendered
so muddled girls with huddled boys are blended;
bifurcate biology erased by brass-proud decree
as all-night revellers step high over a busted polity.
From Byker to the shores of Botany Bay 1950
Dance to thy daddy, sing to thy mammy,
Dance to thy daddy, to thy mammy sing,
Thou shalt have a fishy on a little dishy,
Thou shalt have a fishy when the boat comes in.
[From a traditional folk song originating in NE England]
Long lines of up and down Tyneside terrace flats
Run cheek by jowl steep down to the foggy river
Outside lavvy, cobblestone back lane, drainpipe rats
This post Hitler-war England, victorious pauper –
A Northumbrian tripod of coal, steel and ships
That’s cracked, sliding down, on the slips.
For a canny bonny lad fingering Mozart concertos
Armstrong Whitworth naval yard gates at dawn
Easy beats gannin’ doon pit or tickling a foundry furnace.
Turning a dockyard lathe in the dark winter morn
Face, ream, knurl, groove, tap with chuck and mandrel
Swarf curling in tight-cling ringlets off shorn.
His father, a Pentecostal pastor offered four wise jewels
When the son downed tools for the RAF gunnery school:
A standing prick has no conscience (more so in drink);
No tattoos (gives the poliss too much head start);
Don’t soil your own nest (get away if you must stink);
Steer clear of backdoor huckles (playing the tart).
The Geordie lass joined the Wrens to free a man for the fleet
A Pitman shorthand typist, she worked convoy freight
The tail gunner sergeant could dance, swept her off her feet,
Her father was chapel folk, laced up tight and straight
Mam was a good-time hinny, gave Da his first twirl
Desire quick unfurled makes a bairn, a lovely girl.
Win and Jim, ten pound Poms on Glasgow’s Empire Brent
Courtesy of Sir Bob Menzies’ assisted passage scheme,
A southerly migration far from Byker, meagre savings spent
Enter Sydney Harbour, a new land off the starboard beam,
Brilliant blue skies, eye-piercing light, in summer lots of flies
Strine vowels, easy-open faces along with homesick sighs.
Partners with Len and Mary, two Micks from West Cork
Wrapping orders in butcher paper without a knife or fork,
Learning to peel fifty pounds of praties real fast
Gut, scale and fillet the gill-spiked flathead last,
After draining fryers and hosing out the shop
Crawl upstairs late at night and into bed to drop.
Back then Sabbath was kept by a consensus of right
And fish on Friday was the dreaded money night,
Six o’clock swillers spill from wide doors of the pub
A dazed slugfest crazy on overtime and Reschs beer,
Jam-packed punters shouting orders in sweaty hubbub
Later a few stragglers mean the end of shift is near.
Back home Clement Attlee’s nationalising a welfare state
Australia brings them through the small business gate,
Dawn trips in a Chevrolet Deluxe without rego or a door
Dodging coppers, secret bream and whiting on the floor,
What a spree, making piles of quids on the edge of legality
It’s the migrant way, long hours grafting a new reality.
James Orrock: I am the son of immigrants who left an impoverished England after WW2 for a better life in Australia. I was born in Sydney and have lived here for most of my adult life. I have, however, travelled in several countries in East Asia (Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and China). I have cycled and walked in many parts of Australia, namely Tasmania, Western Australia, Victoria, Northern Territory, New South Wales and South Australia. Eureka Street, Quadrant and Wavelength Magazine have previously published my work.