Farther lee

September 6, 2015 at 11:37 am | Posted in Poem | Leave a comment
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Parentless husband.

And father to none.

No gift but the present.

The future undone.

Pic by H is for Home.

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The loss of my father

April 10, 2015 at 8:04 pm | Posted in Poem | 8 Comments
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Searching …

He’s with me, physically, in this garish room, but he is gone.

Shut behind a wall of pokies.

Staring fixedly.

Pressing his button.

Eking his way to the next,

flaccid

‘jackpot’.

This was his idea.

We were to ‘spend some time together’.

Mum was excluded.

Now, alone with him for the first time in years,

so am I.

Shut out from the moment he changes from the machine next to mine.

Looking for

‘the one with the gumboots’.

I scan the soulless devices.

There are no gumboots.

What happened to this man

whom I loved

and thought immortal

for 16 years?

Easy;

16 more years have passed.

I am stronger, faster and aware

of the dreams and feelings of others.

He can’t even remember accepting the backup disks of my first novel

for safekeeping.

He is a husk.

He is rotting already.

I want to leave.

I look up suddenly from my scrap of paper.

He is walking towards me,

smiling.

I love him still.

Pic by Newtown grafitti.

Winter

July 14, 2014 at 10:16 am | Posted in Poem | 3 Comments
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Holding th eline

Holding the line.

 

Winter.

A long, active life – lived to good purpose.

The proof in scars.

A dipping sun gilds fragile bones.

Awkwardly set, but clinging yet.

To this worldly thread.

Brave. Upright.

An iron will holds failing parts.

With fixed stare that daren’t fall.

To the creeping gloom.

 

Star of wonder

December 25, 2013 at 7:22 am | Posted in Poem | Leave a comment
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How did I get so lucky?

Lucky.

From the darkness

To the light,

I ain’t so good

At Silent night.

But in the void

A star appears:

Pure as diamond;

Bright and clear.

It is your heart.

You are my guide.

You have my life.

You’re on my side.

And though I dwell

Apart from most,

You are the one

Who brings me close.

Childless

December 17, 2012 at 11:41 am | Posted in Poem | Leave a comment
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6559280895_a0034b4b6a_z Lost Baby Shoe Med

Neighbourhood barbie.

Infants patent and pending

and never to be.

Like Sh*t to a Blanket

November 8, 2009 at 1:37 pm | Posted in Article | 4 Comments
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FauxBaby

I staged this faux memory to appease my parents. Though the baby wasn’t ours, they hung the photo over their mantlepiece anyway.

Assuming you have a choice, how do you decide whether to have a child? Though lacking experience, I have some observations which may be useful.

Population

Thomas Malthus was on the money when he wrote: ‘the betterment of mankind is impossible without stern limits on reproduction’.

The earth is a finite resource which is rapidly being exhausted. More people means more damage, especially when only one in ten thousand births produces someone who gives a sh*t.

The economic goal of sustained annual growth is the philosophy of the cancer cell. Since there are already way too many consumers on the planet, we arguably have a duty not to replace ourselves.

The Chinese ‘One Child Policy’ has prevented countless births, though not always through contraception. Achievement of the common good by personal trauma is no substitute for education and choice. The West would truly be won if we could only manage to put equal emphasis on both.

Fear

Those who maintain the world is too dangerous to bring a child into are correct. Not because it is, but because parental phobias transfer to their offspring – rendering them unfit for any environment requiring tolerance and flexibility.

Selfishness

People who say they’re too selfish to raise a child are also correct. And honest.

Innate Drive

I have no right to address those who feel a biological urge to reproduce. It exists. My only advice is that you examine your motive to ensure it is truly innate, since social factors play a major role in this area.

Parents and grandparents can bring enormous pressure to bear, especially if they’re bored, lonely, mired in tradition, dissatisfied with their achievements or obsessed with immortality (see below).

Religious dictates similarly skew the stats and should be ignored at all costs.

Stress

Next door’s baby is possessed. It projectile vomits, manifests nine personalities, howls through the night and makes its father query his sanity. I see him sometimes when I’m giving the hydrangeas a sprinkle before the sun gets on them. Nerves so shot he begs one of my Styvies rather than attempt a rollie.

While I grant that human resilience may partly be due to the drop-forge nature of child rearing, the conjugal screaming matches that rattle my porcelain ducks cannot be uncommon. One in two Australian marriages fails (and that’s just by legal definition). How many breakups are due to the corrosive demands of progeny?

Couples who imagine a baby will enhance their relationship should be required by law to watch five episodes (any five) of The Bold and The Beautiful before proceeding.

Sh*t

This is a cliched but, by golly, powerful argument for the negative. I did mobile discos for ten years, drove taxis for two, worked factories for seven and have clubbed for three. Not in any of these arenas have I encountered anything so hideous as baby sh*t. It sticks like Napalm, permeates like creosote and regenerates like a hydra.

How anyone could commit to a world featuring this element is beyond me. Surely the priceless idiom: ‘it stuck like sh*t to a blanket’ must stem from infant excrement? Unless I’m moving in the wrong circles…

Speech

Some say hearing a baby’s first words is one of life’s finest moments. Indeed, the rhythm guitarist from ‘Fluffy’s Chain’ rates this over the high of our first gig. Of course, if the first words are: ‘f*ck off’, this takes the shine off things. You should therefore consider the environment in which you will raise your child.

Play

This is where kids clean up. First, because they make you feel inventive. Second, because they then leave you for dead in terms of inventiveness.

When a friend brought over her seven-year-old daughter, it was with some satisfaction that I produced a vial of ‘Slime with Maggots’ (oh, to be at the pitching meeting for that one…). The child watched me exhaust my permutations for the toy, then swiftly tripled them. Several I have been too afraid to attempt since.

When the nine-year-old son of my Age of Empires rival visits, it’s open slather in the alternate universe of Lego. How I wish I had the courage to tip my bricks nightly in front of ‘Wheel of Fortune’. It’s such fun! But you can’t unless there’s a kid around, or you’ve dropped acid. And then those little people with their crazy hook hands and superior smiles can really freak you out. The same goes for the Fuzzy Felt ‘Carnival Fun’ Edition. What a bugger those demonic merry-go-round horses are so pivotal to every tableau. Only children have the imagination to work around them.

At Christmas, the potency of the play phenomenon is increased ten fold and even my flinty heart softens at tykes going bananas in pyjamas.

Immortality

All our cells die except those which go on to create new people. By having a child we cheat death – literally ‘living through our kids’. Whether you have your mother’s lips, your father’s palms or your nanna’s sense of adventure, you are a part of them that has not expired. And on rare, unsettling occasions, you can feel their blood coursing through you as they view life through your eyes.

That’s got to be some trip.


If you’re having fun yet, you may wish to

Whatever the sum, I’ll be jolly grateful.


 

Honey, I Zapped the Kids – A Lively Tale of Murder by Electricity

September 7, 2009 at 2:11 pm | Posted in Article | 4 Comments
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Electricity is useful and dangerous. The fact it’s useful means it’s all around us. Yet the fact it’s dangerous doesn’t mean we all know how to use it properly. Despite WorkCover’s best efforts, safety is still not a sexy subject.

So how do I make you read a safety article? By using Barry Butcher. Barry is a happily married father of two who is about to kill himself and his family – including the pets. You’re going to see how he does it.

Barry has a nice home which he plans to renovate. As we enter the hall, we see an old fuse box with quaint ceramic fuses. Because these used to burn out often, Barry has replaced the fine fuse wire with a much heavier gauge. Next time there’s a fault in the home’s antique, cloth-covered wiring, the fuses will hold their own until the wiring ignites the granny flat out the back.

The resultant fire will account for Barry’s mother, Beryl. A sleek modern switchboard with automatic cut-off switches only costs around $350 installed, but Barry is saving for a new kitchen.

On our left is Betty’s nursery. Like most toddlers, she is endlessly inquisitive. Barry hasn’t put safety plugs in the unused power point sockets and to Betty, they look like portals to another world. In a way, they are. All she needs is a safety pin or paper clip key.

Compounding the risk is Betty’s mother Brenda, who is understandably concerned about germs. She regularly drowns the live power boards with surface cleaner. All except the one under the crib which has been gathering dust, cobwebs and cat fur ever since Betty arrived. It’s hard to tell which way she’s going to go.

Down the hall is the master bedroom. With the nights turning cold, the trusty old electric blanket has come out of storage, still bearing its fold marks. While Barry can’t see that the wiring’s had it, he has lately noticed (and ignored) a hot spot in the bed.

Before winter is over, dinner guests will put their firstborn down in the Butcher’s marital chamber and Barry will neglect to turn the blanket off at the power point.

It will be the last time Horace Henderson ever wets the bed.

Revenge will be swift. As Barry attends the disaster, he will fail to disconnect the faulty blanket. Through cracks in the old plastic cord he will receive a severe (though, unfortunately for the rest of the household, not fatal) shock.

The lounge room is Barry’s pride and joy. His surround sound theatre is far beyond what the home’s designers could ever have imagined – which is why there aren’t enough power points. In the Australian tradition of innovation, however, Barry has devised ingenious workarounds. The power board bristles with double adaptors and piggyback plugs, such that its load capacity is exceeded (though not increased) threefold.

Barry chose a cheap board without an overload cut-off switch and defeated the loose slots by bending the pins of each plug. The unsightly composite is hidden behind curtains that will burn with such ferocity that Blubber the goldfish will boil in his bowl.

Several slender, two-pin extension cords form a daisy chain around the current-hungry audiovisual gear. Because each unearthed connection represents an opportunity for Boof the cat to enter pet heaven, Barry has covered them with rugs, where they will overheat during an impressive demonstration of his ‘Apocalypse Now’ DVD.

Even Barry knows the kitchen poses many risks. But in avoiding the obvious ones, he misses those that are more subtle. While not foolish enough to pry toast out with a fork, he ignores crumb build up in the toaster. The filthy range hood filter is an even more potent fire hazard. He unplugs the jug when it’s not in use, but does so by yanking (and thus weakening) the cord. He keeps the deep fryer clean, but didn’t have it safety checked after buying it at the garage sale.

Barry could have everything in the house electrically certified for less than a night out with Brenda. She will survive all these perils, only to fall victim to a 40 watt reading lamp as it detonates the 20 watt globe installed by her husband. Blinded, she will stumble into a string of indoor fairy lights, rigged out of doors by Barry for a party three years ago. Rain-soaked sockets and sun-cracked wires will finish the job.

Barry’s teenage daughter Briony will also succumb to his negligence. Lazing in the back yard one sunny afternoon, she will reminisce on all the safety lessons her daddy taught her: how not to fly a kite under power lines; how never to leave cooking unattended and how not to use shavers or hair dryers near baths or sinks. At that moment, Barry will accidentally kick her portable stereo into the spa, with predictable results.

Barry is something (but not very much) of a handyman. When working around the house, he uses an extension cord reel. Each time he fails to unwind the cord fully before using his powerful tools, he risks melting it.

Of greater danger is his propensity to attack garden projects without sufficient forethought. Barry will make two mistakes while rejuvenating his front nature strip. The first will be to dig without dialling 1100 for the location of phone, water, gas, cable TV and electricity networks. The second will be to plant a tall, fast growing eucalypt directly under the street powerlines.

Seven years later, while still grieving the loss of Beryl, Blubber, Boof, Brenda, Briony (and, to a lesser extent, Horace), Barry will decide to prune the eucalypt. His lofty aluminium ladder will eventually connect with the powerlines and the shock will hurl him against the trunk. With its root bole stunted by underground services, the tree will collapse under Barry’s weight, rupturing the gas main beneath it.

The ladder/line combo will then spark the gas, setting fire to Barry’s home for the last time. Having miraculously survived her nursery, school-age Betty will die of smoke inhalation in the study.

Barry’s legacy will endure after his house is reduced to cinders. His sister Beverley’s inheritance will vanish as an assessor discovers that Barry lied on his insurance application about the house being rewired. The job would have cost less than $2,000.

The real tragedy of the Butchers is that their demise will be due neither to bad luck nor stupidity. As with most dangerous things, carelessness, laziness and a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude cause far more deaths than the more sensational factors employed by storywriters.

Safety may not be exciting, but it sure beats harming yourself and your family. Electricity is all around you. So learn about it, treat it with respect and don’t pretend you’re a sparkie. Life is tricky enough already.

the onset of grief

August 29, 2009 at 1:46 pm | Posted in Poem | 7 Comments
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70's Barbie

My dear departed mother, Barbie Hassing.

my brain is getting smaller

as the world cuts it to size

we’re dumbing down the hard bits

since we found that i’m unwise

the small pond of the big fish

now the marianas trench

i’m drowning in life’s ocean and

it’s something of a wrench

the man who once set vcrs

can barely lick a stamp

i thought i had a searchlight

it was a miner’s lamp

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