Under Western Skies

This poem performed and written for the Perth Poetry Festival event Under A WA Sky: An Evening of Ecopoetry... there's an audio (low, bassy drones with a stretched chainsaw recording) that goes with it. Note that the line: "producing, consuming…" is repeated a few times - acting as mantra of sorts throughout. Its a longish piece, designed specifically for this event - about 10 minutes. I read it slowly, deliberately. Each word with gravitas.

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hot for this time of year, she said


under scalpel thin sky here

we cut deep holes in the earth

expand without sovereign consent, we rip

as if there were no core

wider and heavier than expected            


and the growling western dirt

glows a dense white


in the cloudless breeze

of piling corpses

it stops raining


yet its that cleansing titanium flavour

in the fluorescent grey bathroom light

as we bulldoze as many trees as possible

before winter

gazing into the blind face of god


we farm violently to the black dust

as the koolbardie warbles us to end it, begin it

and the red-tails chant to the chainsaw

and the yonga runs from the remnant

and we take turns to burn great piles of trees to ash

and the smoke makes its way to the coast

and we burn, and dig


and dig


producing, consuming…


in the embers of century-old trunks

the endless stories crackle and snap

lose their shape

and the sky goes red


in relentless abiotic suburbs

we stand and hide, cower in the dunes

between the gaps in rendered brick n tile

limestone and colourbond

bowed heads, doors shut

sealed inside remote garage-door bliss

and watch ourselves inside screens

aflame, in competition


producing, consuming…


listening to the water table rise

can you hear it?

the lilting tarmac

melts like a superphosphate dream


and we’re killing each other softly

in a doom scrolling trance

unable to breathe each other’s air anymore

the couch-grass browning out there

in the sprinkler-ban rust

the essence of cut lawns

captured instant and seamless

on a collapsing sunday

we instagram delightfully

sharing the smouldering plastic until the dusk

prodding the incinerators, judging the deep tones

bathing in the charcoal life-cycle

a shadeless existence


producing, consuming…


and we are hyper-connected and endless

like lovers fixed in vast data-centre stares

overlooking freeway lanes

and poly farmer tunnels

standing the man on the mark like a statue

reaching for the next

bloated floating

kicked leather sailing

50 metres out

buckets of chips aloft

artificial beef pies waving at the camera

black wardong pecking at the frustrated roadkill

raising capital in recycled beer glass remedies

my corporate logo spinning to the million-dollar

daily concussions of life


producing, consuming…


until the radio cuts out

and the blue-tooth bass cuts in

in guttural thuds from the car next door

under the floor, into your bones

the tuarts fall to the understory

and we cheer in packs

crushing everything beneath

through the posts for a rushed behind

or over the goal umpires hat

and we watch chicken fry in vast banks

free the secret bacon from sow stalls

and sing the jingles as we sleep

for the toothpaste glory


oh the salinity


producing, consuming…


the pool glitters at night

reflecting southern stars

the sound of the filter whirrs into dawn

that air-conditioner mantra

the iron ore calling our name on the breeze

pleading for our machines

from the petroglyphs


producing, consuming…


can we gather in rebellious extinction?

we shut down some streets

and they scream at us from car windows, skyscrapers

hotel balconies

as we glue each other to the cops

a baton at your neck, mask down in radical defiance

whispering impolitely at the elected few

waiting for their bones to bleach

like patriarchy dieback

until the perfect vaccine for toxic footprints

arrives into my thickening skin


producing, consuming…


now that fenceposts, razor-wire

and synthetic heat-sinks define us

we roam this stolen noongar boodjar

a rabbit-proof wall

of ecosystem bankruptcy

a flowing petrochemical city

risen from the coastal plains

and in the bitumen narrative

we are free


producing, consuming…


we walk the banksia woodland

as it dissolves to brittle fragments underfoot

our four-wheel-drive kicks the dust

off-road bike ruts

cut scars across the face

turn forests into driveways for logging trucks

and chained to trees

we sow the gold and wait

for the burn season

to reap us


producing, consuming…


here in the heat of late bunuru

i can’t seem to shake

this carpark identity crisis

as traffic banks up into the street

on cheap fuel Mondays

we wade the crystal facade

waiting for jesus to fix it

or the government

to make twisted promises

a wheatbelt salt prayer

a second coming of buddha

driving the blade to the ground

a seedling in the tube

a piercing slice to the lake’s crust

in a sunset worth its own

fluctuating weight in bitcoin


producing, consuming…


in this violence of us

we bury each moment

each leaf and microscopic biota

under the weight of the past

the guilt of a bitter future

our visceral century of capital

forgetting that property is theft

that land is not owned


producing, consuming…


she said,

can we stop?

just sit

and stop?


can we rest in the median strip

between shadows and concrete

glass and steel

smokestacks and cranes

cars and trains

under the towers of flat screens

without the interest-free phone screen

without a flexible no-lock-in, month-to-month contract

without apps to assist your corporate development

may we just sit in the collapsing canopies

outside the homes without trees


can we

sit and stop