Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Protecting Old-growth Trees on the York-Merredin Road and Bush at Beeliar

We were out under the magnificent sammies (salmon gums) over the weekend with our friend Lindsay (the views expressed below are mine — John's — though Lindsay is also committed to saving these trees).

The poem below is a reaction to the Main Roads compulsion to destroy a supreme 'architectural' achievement of nature — trees that are complete ecosystems in themselves. Below the poem are photos taken to show the girth of these trees, their ancientness. In doing this I acknowledge Noongar elders and country. 

It is a disgrace that some (all?) conservative politicians are actually trying to attack the trees as dangerous and redundant. Why not lower the speed limits to 80ks an hour through 'Cathedral Avenue', just to start with? 

The destruction of ecosystems in W.A. is happening so rapidly that many people are largely unaware. The so-called Royalties for Regions money is too often funnelled from mining (in relatively small portions compared to miners' profits); it often supports an ethos of road-widening (habitat destruction that serves mining infrastructure in so many ways) and environmental destruction elsewhere.

Further, the expansion of leisure facilities in nature reserves and national parks is part of the manipulation of all natural spaces to suit human exploitation. Nature just can't exist in its own right in the minds of these exploiters. (Of course, I am not including traditional/cultural uses by indigenous peoples in this critique. Indigenous land usage for traditional/cultural reasons is of an entirely different provenance and is to be respected.)

The disgrace that is the assault on the Beeliar bushlands, with hundreds of police deployed to ensure the destruction, is the overt side of a police state — the conservative government deploying the troops.

And as the Beeliar/Coolbellup (anti-Roe 8) tree-sitters give their all to save something, the bulldozers work in the spaces below them.

But there's a covert side as well, and that's what's happening with the clearing of old trees along the York-Merredin Road.

Blue hazmat suits have been seen in the bush around Coolbellup down in Perth before it is cleared, and (previously dumped) asbestos is something the neighbourhood is possibly being exposed to without recourse, fibres sent airborne.

In future years the young police themselves may wonder how they developed asbestos-related diseases — they have been deployed without care for their health. Some are willing executors of policy; others do it because they are ordered to do so. All of them — and we the people — will suffer the same from dust clouds sent high and far by the bulldozers and mulchers.

Some of us have memories of the old Charles Court government days and similar use of police. It could be brutal at times. Liberty, fraternity and equality are alien terms here — rather, it's bullying, destroying and profit-making.

Sammies (Salmon Gums)

for Lindsay, Tim, Tracy and Kim

East of where I write but not too far east
the great sammies arch over the road
to hold movement in, work to keep a grip
on the land as they knew it two hundred
or three hundred years ago, ringing
the changes of timeline owned and owning,
knowing patterns of seasons from voices
rising beneath them always, and so wide
in the trunk that two of us can only just
touch hands, a difficulty the plastic ribbons
of the clearers, sashed around, don’t have —
not ‘welcome back’ from war but declarations
of war. Strips of dried bark crunching
reminders underfoot, getting close.

If you’ve never seen a sammie in its home
place, never been haunted and rejuvenated
by the way it works dawn or evening light,
then you probably can’t know how much
its deletion diminishes you, never mind
country itself. You’ll have equivalents,
sure, of course, but there’s no analogy
to be drawn that won’t dilute the agency of light,
of that orange-pink-white-brown bark negotiating
temporal and spatial variables. Hands reaching
to touch, a nest high above makes glyphs.
Sammies, poured into their columns,
ribbed vaults, horizons of canopy
through which land and sky parley.

You know, near those magnificent sammies...
You know, those sammies umbrella-ing
near the corner with Station Road, you know,
you know. In the hot wind scouring
stale, bleached paddocks, embrace
their cool forms. A heart stretched
out, an anatomy of transfiguration.
We acknowledge the elders, who know
the name of all the creatures who dwell
in their inner and outer worlds, cross over.
We acknowledge the poverty we make
in taking them away, these sammies.
Where the cropping went, the sammies fell.
Their characters are inflections of soil.

Those personal anecdotes hived out of sammies.
Riding beneath, rewritten by the spirals of shadow.
Leaning against the base of a thick trunk to shelter
from a sun that would hallucinate you to walk
straight into flames. Slowly, cautiously, drinking
from the waterbag, you scry a future bare of the present.
Picnics, gatherings, knowledges of healing and origins,
all learning cut to the base, grubbed out. And so
the ancient salmon gums are killed off — death-wish
where roads are widened to ‘prevent deaths’? Always
these paradoxes like cigarettes ashed out of car
windows at the height of summer, flickers
of holocaust in such a casual gesture. Sammies
see us looking out for ourselves, grabbing our slices.

East of where I write but not too far east
the great sammies arch over the road
to hold movement in, as in our mind’s eye
we wander though the ambulatory, cars
rushing past. We are three generations
of onlookers enraptured by ancient trees
that make settlement look as tenuous
as it is. Knowing this, we listen to the pink
& greys, the Port Lincoln parrots, the honeyeaters,
the black-faced wood swallows, the willy wagtails,
the array of insect species, the Wurak, the Wurak, the Wurak,
which we borrow from a language which will keep these
trees in the constellations and won’t let go of the roots deeper
than light, as far as we understand it, wanting to learn, to respect.

            John Kinsella

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A poem in support of Tahlia and Emma at the Roe 8 protest

Sweeney Witnesses the Attack on the Coolbellup Bush
by the Forces of a Corrupt Police State

for Tahlia and Emma

Wings clipped, you’d expect Sweeney to plunge
to the ground, plough into the ploughed sand
and wait helpless till collected by the mulcher
and spat into a pile of has-beens, signed-off on.

Wings clipped, you’d expect Sweeney to plunge
into the clouds of toxic dust generated by the smash-
and-grab, by the sweeping of the last pieces
from the board in an endgame not quite going to plan.

Wings clipped, you’d expect Sweeney to plunge
into the microclimate of asbestos, the bush stressed
as dumping ground for waste no one wants to pay for,
then murdered because other forms of life test reality’s limits.

Wings clipped, you’d expect Sweeney to plunge
into the crowd of protesters, some wearing face masks,
others exposed to the dust that reaches into front gardens,
houses, the small amount of space allotted to public recreation.

Wings clipped, you’d expect Sweeney to plunge
into the police lines, police told to watch out for the particles,
that it will cost them too in the long run, but the Big Cop
says hold your positions, breathe in, breathe out, it’s all propaganda.

Wings clipped, you’d expect Sweeney to plunge
into the bulldozer, stuff up its hydraulics, its bamboozled
driver bragging of his agency. And all the while the women
up the trees looking down and roosting, roosting, roosting.

Wings clipped he lifted, flying high, to sit close with Tahlia.
Wings clipped he lifted, flying high, to sit close to Emma.
Together, he said, Together we will keep the trees upright.
Together, he said, We will unravel the bulldozer, the mulcher.

            John Kinsella

Thursday, January 12, 2017

On Witnessing With Many Others the Destruction of Remaining Bushland Alongside Malvolio Road, Coolbellup

A New Ode to Westralia: Anthem for All Future Sporting Events

The state is killing our souls
The state has murdered the people — some they murder over and over
The state has deployed vicious antibodies to kill the good cells
            and let the infection thrive
The state has equated work with destruction and manipulated 
             the outcome — remember, the state has no love for unions.
The state deployed its shock troops who watched on as poems were yelled
            at them, their commander marshalling attitude, saying: how can we
            shut this one up? Poets of the world, take notice. They will close
            you down the moment you break free of your anthologies,
            your safety in pages of literary journals, the comforts
            of award nights.
The state shapes itself out of the dust rising from underforest
            which is its soul exposed to a caustic, toxic atmosphere
            made by so many other such actions of malice — the shape
            is cartoonish to start with, then like a Hollywood effect
            then just terrifying ectoplasm feeding on sap and blood and grit.
The state chips and mulches because it has heard rumours of Plato’s
            theory of forms and thinks it needs a new translation full of local
            business inflection, full of their own brand of ‘civilisation’.
The state has no intention of letting traditional owners maintain 
            traditional places of worship of culture of belonging — it’s always 
            been about the twin poles of denial and deletion.
The state has reservoirs of species names and the odd pressed sample
            of a flower they wish only to remain as a Latin name and 
            a collectible, gathering in worth, which is the essence of market 
            economics, rolling on through the bushland with gung-ho 
            in-your-face finality.
The state wants you to gasp as the tall tree cracks and is brought down fast,
            the pair of tawny frogmouths lifting to nowhere, dazzled by daylight.

            John Kinsella

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Saving Trees on 'Cathedral Avenue', York, Western Australia

This was written at the request of some of those on the ground just outside York trying to stop the destruction of the old-growth trees alongside the York-Quairading (York-Merredin) road (known as 'Cathedral Avenue' to some).

Cathedral Avenue

This doesn’t have to be a requiem,
no, not yet. Each breath these strong
old trees let us have is a breath that keeps
us going, keeps the pieces of belonging in place.

What is held in the cathedral
of salmon gums and wandoo?
The branches reach to hold
the sky in place, to keep

earth and sky connected.
Prayers in all languages
and all faiths collect in their
illustrative branches, echo in hollows —

all creatures that come and go,
that make life in their outreach
help us hear and see who we are,
singing past present and future.

And the owl knows the cockatoo
and a galah cocks its comb at the sun;
the shade translates the writing of time
which the machinery would cut short.

            John Kinsella

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Destruction of Old-Growth Trees on the York-Quairading Road

This has been going on for some time, though there was a lull in the devastation over the Christmas-New Year period. The York-Quairading Road is being widened outside York, land taken from residents, and hundreds of old-growth salmon gums, wandoos and York gums being cleared.

This is part of a larger picture of Main Roads of Western Australia destroying vegetation in the 'Long Paddock'. It's happening on a massive scale, as I've articulated before.

The right-wing governments of Australia have been making a concerted effort to delete ecologies as fast as they can: land-clearing in all states is happening fast, but it is now reaching critical level.

This poem was written at the beginning of January in support of our friend Lindsay and his family, over where trees are being deleted as I write (as, sadly, they are being deleted in so many places). I am letting it loose to the world now to show we care, and to show Lindsay and the others resisting this destruction that they are not alone. We care, and we want the world to hear.

Sweeney the Barn Owl Opens His Eyes Wide in Broad Daylight

Sweeney looks down at the people coming out of the hospital —
they have seen him, he knows it in his bones. Yes, now their eyes
search his eyes and the shock of light reaches as far inside

as the flames that drove him out of the tall tree on the hillside.
Where can I rest? he asks them. The Main Roads are cutting down
all the old-growth wandoos and salmon gums and York gums,

slicing through their anniversaries with a righteousness
that will truck no argument. These living heritage buildings
we conduct our lives in and around, our places of eating and worship.

Sweeney shuts his eyes on them, high up in the gum that clings
to the edge of the car-park. Tonight he will fly south-east, aiming
to reach the great trees still remaining on the York-Quairading

Road before they are brought down, before red-tailed phascogale
and Carnaby’s black cockatoo and rainbow bee-eater are forced
to find somewhere else to feed and nest and hide from owl, or vanish

and in the matutinal revelation that abbreviates his waking hours,
upside down in a tree-killer’s world, Sweeney will hoot at their stupidity,
a klaxon-call just before the crash that will wipe us all out.

            John Kinsella