Tuesday Poem: Global Farms

December 2, 2014

Global farms

Stock cubes
are sent to sea, flavoursome squares
of mutton flesh and bone, seasoning,
woolly sardines.

Between pasture and knife
the blue stretches, and the yellow,
as rivers soak downwards,
contained in time.

No truck of guilt to turn from,
met on sudden road. Squalor
bleats over dollar’s equator,
safely unseen.

P.S. Cottier

That poem (published once before on this blog, in 2011, and written in 2008) about the horrors of the live export trade is a way of working through the feeling of surprise I had recently in re-reading something that I wrote twenty or so years ago.

I stumbled across an article by me that is seemingly in favour of fur coats. I am now tending more towards the vegan with every passing year.  (Not there yet, because….cheese.)  I wrote the article back in the early 90s to provoke the sort of person who decries self-expression through clothes. To quell any left over Old-Style Communist or inflexibly Green tendencies that renounced fancy endeavours such as hair dye and high heels. I recount some experiences with some fairly ugly types. (The article was published in the Australian Left Review, probably the last organ of the Communist Party of Australia. I used to have a column in it, mostly about food.)

Re-reading the article, I am struck by how far the central tenet seems to far be from what I think now, and, indeed, thought at all earlier times in my life. I first became vegetarian when I was eleven or twelve, although I have lapsed, sometimes just for days, sometimes for much longer. I can remember one of the first stickers I ever displayed was in favour of a ban on ivory.

Here’s the link to where you can go to read the article. The writing is quite good, in a few parts at least.  The article seems to have been a little unusual at the time in linking feminism and questions of personal appearance in this way. That has become far more familiar, now that it is fuelled by social media. (In the days I am talking about, we had the occasional etching and miniatures in lockets, which gave a little more time to think.  I think.)

But the fur thing? The article reeks of me being sarcastic, and I have never thought that fur was a desirable or ethical choice. Perhaps I should have included a sarcasm alert? Or a reminder, that would have unfolded twenty years in the future?  (‘Penelope, you always liked tickling a little too much.’)

On a trip to New Zealand last year, a Maori woman who was a guide at Te Papa (the museum in Wellington) explained that the use of the introduced possum to produce fur products was a positive development, in her opinion. The possum, introduced from Australia, causes damage in New Zealand, just as the fox, rabbit and cane toad do in Australia.  She obviously knew more about the environmental issues that I did. (It is also relevant to mention that Indigenous people have been utilising the meat and fur of Australian animals for tens of thousands of years did so in a way that caused no damage to the land.)

But can I see myself wearing a cane toad cape, to return to the feral? No, not really. Although I haven’t totally weaned myself from cow leather, so my position is totally hypocritical. And, if I had to choose a garment made from an invasive species, it seems hard to place a toad on the same level as a fox; the latter being only a leap from a pet dog. Farming animals for fur, is of course, a revolting practice.

So strange not to recognise oneself fully in a piece of one’s own writing. There are a couple of other things in the article that my position differs from now, but I remember the changes in my thinking for those.

Cutting wit has its limitations…I hope I remember that I was being sarcastic about one or two little stanzas that I wrote this year if I last another twenty years!  At least one attentive reader will know what I am talking about there.

Just as that person, and indeed other readers, will recognise that poetry knows no borders.  Here is a link to the poetic output of other Tuesday Poets.

The changing soundscape of public space

Once shhh-surrounded
throttled by library snakes
now emboldened chat stretches —

bites the sluggish ears
of those who want purer air
in my day, we mumble

in my day we sat straight
whispering sweet infractions —
wrapped in official silence

muffled with a quieter wool.

P.S. Cottier

bigstock_Sheep_And_Cow_3197770
That poem was just commended in the Yass Show Poetry Competition (not the bush poetry division) on Sunday. I’m afraid I piked on attending the event, as I was exhausted. I had performed poetically the night before with a delightfully accented Texan, a poet who removed his skirt rather like the female members of Abba in their glittery prime, and a number of strangely assertive, neigh, militant horses.*  So I had a good excuse. It was a wonderful night at the Word Co-op.

You could look at some photos here. I am the least cool person.

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.628597203875415.1073741903.128244673910673&type=1

*That wordplay is totally Roshelle Fong’s.  She performed an hilarious and thoughful piece enacting various questions of animal rights, wearing costume horse-heads.  Delightfully accented Texans sometimes perform under the name of Good Ghost Bill, and Ma Ya Ga Ng Re Ne’s soundscape explored the schlongier aspects of gender.

For further poetry, please touch this feather:

Tuesday Poem

By the way, however exhausted I am, the organisers of this festival (called You Are Here) are far more tired. I hope to post a photographic essay illustrating the ageing of some of them. Here, for example, is a photo of one of them that I took last night:

What is this Transit Bar?

Tuesday poem: Sea

September 24, 2012

Sea

It pulls harder than any roping octopus,
Kali’s deep green army of sinuous terror,
bites deeper than haunting white shark,
bloody ghost that gutted brothers before birth.
It throws off surfers, tinnies, yachts and tankers
like a gnarly horse at rodeo, then clowns with us,
pulling down rescuers, spewing out the sodden child.
At stony beaches it applauds itself with each sigh,
the percussive pebbles played by ten thousand hands.
Sometimes, floating, I feel it stroke my back, teasing,
fingering, like a well-schooled lover. It whispers
not yet, I’m not ready, when I’m ready, you’ll go down.

P.S. Cottier

This poem appeared in my first book, The Glass Violin, which can still be ordered from Ginninderra Press. (Go to the ‘About’ page of this blog.)

I am gradually getting back into my routine of coffee and writing, after too many exciting things happening recently. I am on a panel and reading at the Conflux science fiction convention here in Canberra this weekend, speculative poetry being one of my loves. But as this is at the weekend, I don’t see it as breaking my routine.

At heart I am truly a bore. But sometimes a productive one.

More poetry? You want more? Click here and receive a free set of steak knives.*

Tuesday Poem

*Imaginary steak knives in real kitchens.

Magic from the inside

I am stuck in the conjured darkness,
mere pipe-cleaner, fluffy punch-line.
A thousand sharp screams penetrate;
giggles like flick knives reach inside.
The kids are having a great time.
I wait. Wish for real transformation,
of this black to a field of satin green,
soft as the emerald handkerchief
he converts to clover with an extra ear.
But breathing is a trick in itself, I find,
here in the crushing long tube of night
before sudden birth into searing light.
Then staccato taps of two dozen hands
on a hopping, fat balloon who squeaks.
He pushes me into the cage and says
I tried guinea pigs but they bit.
Hats off, I say, to the pigs with teeth.

P.S. Cottier

This poem was highly commended in the Gold Coast Writers’ Association Adults’ Poetry Competition, 2009, judged by Graham Nunn. (I like to send my poetry to sunny places, where it gets a tan and fake platinum blonde hair and a fluorescent bikini, before coming back to Canberra.) The topic was magic, and I thought of the unfortunate animals that perform at children’s birthday parties.

Now for other poems, most of which are probably not wearing swimmers, even of a practical cut, but rather beanies and ug boots and woollen socks, click this feather:
Tuesday Poem

Exporting pain

June 22, 2011

I wrote this poem about three years ago, and it seems like a good time to post it here.  There is a push in Australia to ban live exports of sheep and cattle to countries where Australia has no real control over the conditions in which they are slaughtered (i.e. everywhere else but here). This is truly a horrible industry; not just because of the methods of slaughter often being unregulated but because of the long confinement that any trip from Australia necessarily involves.  Here is a link to one of the sites pushing to have the trade banned.

It was quite predictable that there would be an outburst of stories featuring ‘honest Aussie farmers’ whose living is being threatened by ‘animal activists’.  It’s unfortunate if anyone is really hurt financially, but it’s simply unacceptable that we are raising animals that are then being being tortured to death once exported. Kill the animals here, under proper religious supervision where necessary, and don’t turn a conveniently blind eye to the suffering of sentient creatures.  I am a vegetarian, but there is no neutrality on this issue. Many meat-eaters have also been appalled to learn of the treatment of cattle in some foreign slaughter-houses, and the response to recently released video of conditions in some Indonesian abattoirs has reached far beyond the usual groups of animal rights supporters.

Any method of killing animals causes suffering, but this must be minimised, if people insist on eating them. The test for whether an industry is humane is ‘how would people feel if it was thousands of dogs being exported and killed like this?’ Imagine filling a container vessel with dogs and shipping them to, say, China to face a slow and painful death.  What’s the difference with sheep and cattle?  Oh, yes, that’s right.  They’re not ‘pets’.  Just animals. Delightfully logical.  Enough rant, here’s the poem.

Global farms

Stock cubes

are sent to sea, flavoursome squares

of mutton flesh and bone, seasoning,

woolly sardines.

 

Between pasture and knife

the blue stretches, and the yellow,

as rivers soak downwards,

contained in time.

 

No truck of guilt to turn from,

met on sudden road. Squalor

bleats over dollar’s equator,

safely unseen.

P.S. Cottier