Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dispatch From The Front: Day 28

Lion Island, seen from the top of the Citadel.

Dr Greene’s genetically-engineered fairy penguins.

The Black Drops.

The transmigration of the soul goes bad and Huncke shoots up to ease the pain. Note the prison-tat of a wagga-fish on his arm.

W.H. Auden and the poets were there to meet Drag the River as their barge pulled into the wharf. “Welcome to The Island,” Auden said. “Thankth for coming.” He then led the band away to see the Waggaist enclosure.
Everyone had packed. Their bags were piled on the wharf. The poets were fed up and pissed off. The adventure had long since lost its edge, and they wanted to go home. Where once they would have had something to say about any new arrival, they were now quiet and numb with resignation. It was a terrible sight. Impersonation had become endemic. Partly it was about passing the time, though for some it had become habitual. The poets were viewing each other with suspicion each time they interacted, unsure of who it was they were really talking to. 
Tim Winton stared down from the crow’s nest. He only came down to relieve himself and collect more copies of The Immigrant Chronicles, which he’d taken to eating. Rodney Hall had become a total recluse and had moved into the citadel. Each morning at sunrise he emerged onto a small balcony under the needle tower and shouted lines from Blake and Whitman. He was like a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer.
T.S. Eliot was taking his morning stroll along the harbour. Seidel had given him a signed copy of Ooga-Booga, and he had been reading it constantly. Even now, as he walked, he held the book before him, reading the lines out loud, his walking cane swinging from where he’d hooked it over his wrist. He was dismayed by Seidel’s frequent references to female genitalia and motorbikes, which often occurred simultaneously. Yet there there was something in the work that touched him deeply, and he’d memorised complete poems. As he turned onto the boardwalk that led down to the main wharf, he saw that the Red Oblong was pulsing violently. Its curious interior light was deep red, and he thought he heard it humming.
Lucinda Williams jumped when she heard the door-knock. She held her breath as she went to the spy-hole. It was Ted Hughes. She ripped open the door and threw her arms around him. “We have to go, right now,” he said. She threw her things into her bag and they left the hotel.
As the Waggaists filed from their cage, Drag the River were filled with pity and sorrow. The prisoners were beaten and weathered and they stank in their torn robes. The bass player went to help a woman who had stumbled, but Eric Beach held him back. “Come on salamander, give her the Red side of the verandah,” he said. The poets pressed in, forming a wall of bodies as one by one the Waggaists stepped aboard the barge. The poets then began attending to the vast amounts of luggage on the wharf, taking their belongings to the various craft scattered about on the river.
When Rodney Hall came down the hill from the citadel, no-one acknowledged him. He went up to Nigel Roberts and asked if he could give him a hand. Nigel looked at him and just shook his head. Rodney approached Emily Dickinson and offered to carry her suitcase onto the tall-ship. She glared at him and turned away. Then Ivor Indyk walked up to him, clapped him hard on the back, and said “I really enjoyed your reading the other night, though I must say your style has taken a very interesting path.” Rodney walked to the end of the wharf. He was upset and confused. He looked down over the edge at his refection, mirrored perfectly on the top of the tide. He fought back tears. He choked and swallowed. The face floating on the water was Myron Wearne’s.
Ted Hughes and Lucinda Williams ran out onto the wharf. They’d been looking for T.S. Eliot, Michael Dransfield, J.S. Harry, Kerry Leves and Vicki Viidikas. Dransfield’s room was open and empty. On the wall above the wash-stand they saw a note scrawled in red ink: We have gone with Dorothy Hewett to Bermagui. Greene details. Later, M.  When they saw T.S. leaning on a rail, reading, they went to him and took his arm and led him down to the end of the wharf. Hughes untied a row-boat from the back of a cruiser. When they were all aboard, he started rowing. The badger put its front legs onto the bow and stared out at the harbour. The Red Oblong was pulsing faster and faster, and it was indeed humming. 
The poets watched as the huge barge left the wharf with it’s ragged human cargo. Auden, Bill Wisely, Terry Hack and Drag the River were standing up front. When the barge had become a dark stain in the distance, they farewelled each other and made ready to set sail. This was not the end to The War they’d been anticipating. They’d heard talk of a music festival, of dancing, of overseas publishing contracts with Alfred Knopf - hardcover 1st editions, signed and numbered, with initial print-runs of 100,000 copies. Now they were sunburned, dehydrated, broke, and their identities were up for grabs. 
Tim Winton stripped off and did a swan-dive from the crow’s nest. When he surfaced, spouting a fine line of water, he free-styled it out into the river, and was last seen heading for Pearl beach. He knew that Robert Drew had a weekender there, and thought he’d break in and have a well-deserved rest. 
Jayne Fenton Keane looked to all points of the compass. She looked inward and questioned what she most wanted. She looked around and saw everyone being downcast and not wanting to be the first to make a move. She climbed onto the roof of the paddle-steamer. “Fuck this,” she shouted. “Over there at Brooklyn they are drinking, listening to live music, playing pool, relaxing for God’s sake. Mostly we’ve been sitting around waiting for something to happen. I want some fun. I want to dance. I want to listen to music and forget about this fucking island. Does anyone want to join me?” The poets looked around. Randolph Stow removed his Charles Simic mask and said “I’m in.” Felicity Plunkett looked down the vanishing point to where the river met the sea. “Dancing,” she said. “Oh, yes!” Michael Farrell looked up from the book he was reading: Look Who’s Morphing, and simply nodded his head. Soon most of the poets were animated and talking loudly. They aimed their boats in the direction of Brooklyn and took off. But not Myron Wearne. He was composing a verse novel - half haiku, half vernacular narrative, and he needed solitude. He’d go to Brooklyn, but he didn’t want to socialise. He knew of a cave high in the bush between Parsley and Dead Horse Bay. He’d live there until the book was finished.
“Where are you taking us?” a Waggaist called rom the back of the barge. W.H. Auden ignored her. He stared straight ahead. Lion Island was looming out of the morning haze, its sandstone base throwing light. Drag the River were just following Auden’s orders. The Waggaists had been tied together with the rest of Amanda Joy’s palm fibre snares. The manacles were biting into their wrists. When someone pulled too hard, others suffered. As they drew nearer, they could see a small beach between two large outcrops of boulders. The barge eased into the shallows and the Waggaists were ordered to disembark. Many refused. Bill Wisely and Terry Hack went to work with their planks until the dissension had ended. Drag the River watched the spectacle with horror. When the last Waggaist had stepped off into the water, Auden said “We will return with fresh water. You will find variouth fruitth on the island. Native bush ratth are quite tathety, I’ve heard. Good luck.” As the barge backed out into deep water, a loud scream came from the beach: a large flock of red fairy penguins were attacking the Waggaists. Despite being flightless, they had launched themselves into the air and were tearing at clothing, ripping out clumps of hair and lacerating faces and hands. It was a shocking scene. 
Over the years, Dr Greene had been experimenting with all kinds of creatures. Live-bait was his latest passion. Every island within one hundred miles of Sydney had been used as testing grounds for Greene’s genetic-modification. The fairy penguins had been given injections of LIMP2 as chicks. This had led to a savage disposition and a territorial obsession. The penguins had wiped out every other living thing on Lion Island. 
The screams increased, rising to fever pitch as the barge headed away upriver.
Robert Duncan was up early. He sipped his Irish tea and spread blood-orange marmalade onto his spelt-grain toast. Then he opened today’s copy of the Sydney Morning Herald. He read Andrew Riemer’s review of Les Murray’s new book. How did Les’ collection stack up against his others?
‘Too soon to tell,  poetry needs to mature in the reader’s mind and imagination.’ This was published in a major newspaper - how wise and unlikely a comment in such a context. Duncan was assured that Budgewoi was the right place to perform the ritual that might bring about a transmigration of a soul. If Sydney could support a critic and newspaper of this quality, then at least some culture may be available to readers in the outer suburbs. He always tested the waters of the culture of a place by reading the poetry reviews (if any) in the city’s main newspaper. And even if the review was a cruder affair than this one, it would tell a certain story about the place, a sample of taste or of critical awareness. Duncan’s eyes were sandy this morning, his head still fuzzy from a sleepless night. He’d been up all night staring at the page of manuscript written in the hand of the Red K.  This was an authenticated sample of the K’s work and therefore it demanded an assessment - being the work of the man who had caused so much grief and quiet terror. 
This writing resembled, if anything, a version of the famous hoax poems by Ern Malley. However this verse was so clotted and the rhetoric so stunted it barely passed muster even as a piece of verbiage,
and there was a certain tone that troubled the reader’s sensibility because it was utterly without a soul of its own. There was no spirit here either, only some kind of a demented energy, like the madness of a confused wagtail charging its own image in a rearview mirror, and charging again and again until the creature wounded its tiny head.
Robert Duncan had been studying the animists and was thinking again of the understanding that all things had souls, all animals, birds and fish, even inanimate things like rocks. Staring at this dismal artifact, this so called poetry by the Red K, Duncan’s understanding darkened and 
his enlightened mind was repulsed. This piece of gibberish had no soul. He scrunched the page in his hand, rolled it into a tiny grey ball and then dropped it into his pot of Irish tea. May it drown in the bitter tannin stained warm brew and hopefully eventually disintegrate there.
While Duncan showered and tried to clean the seven chambers of his heart and soul of corruption, there was more trouble brewing down in the basement of the Budgewoi Masonic Hall.  Herbert Huncke had managed to smuggle a case of the Black Drops into town and was down there handing out little bottles of Sam Coleridge’s favorite tipple. Bob Adamson was already off his brain and had gone back down to the river and brought back two of the old codgers along with their bait, the green weed they used for the blackfish. Somehow Adamson believed in his stoned mind that the green weed would be good for Anthony Lawrence, that Anthony needed iron in his blood for the coming day when he would come across the Red K in the field. Ginsberg was drinking bottles of Black Drops and was trying to recite Howl from memory, it was coming out wrong and sounded like Dorothy Auchterlonie Green’s love letters to James McAuley. I was going to find Huncke and tell him that Duncan would fly into a rage if he found out, and that we should stop handing out Black Drops until after the transmigration of the soul ceremony.
However as I turned into a back room in the cellar, Huncke was in there hunched in a corner. It was a bleak scene, he was actually injecting the Black Drops into a vein in his arm. His face was blue and his eyes were white, he was repeating a single letter over in a quite and calm voice. “K. K. K. K. K’.  Then, as he crossed over the darkest of all rivers, he stood up and danced around inside that dank room. He was doing an infinity elegant kind of Irish Jig.

G. Lehmann, at the Front.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dispatch From The Front: Day 27

Herbert Huncke having a smoke in bed in his room at the Budgewoi Masonic Hall.

Huncke, Ginsberg and a fishing inspector looking at W.B. Yeats fishing for blackfish in the Budgewoi River.

Budgewoi Masonic Hall.

Ted Hughes hated his room at The Wheelhouse. It was worse than any of the places  he used to stay in when travelling around England, and some of those had been septic - spectred but never inspected. They stank of monarchy and fortified wine. They came apart while you looked at them. The Wheelhouse itself was quite pleasant. Whitewashed walls and a simple garden, a fine restaurant, polite and helpful staff. But on the inside, things were very different. His room was claustrophobic. The ceiling was too low, the walls too thin, the paintings were wrong, the carpet threadbare, the window too small, the wash-stand leaning, the plaster flaking, the lampshade dented. Hughes sat on his bed, which was much too hard, and took out a notepad and pencil. 
Lucinda Williams dreamed of the knock on her door before she heard it. In her dream she got up and looked through the spy-hole. The hallway was empty. In her dream she was not afraid. When the knocking came again, she woke and turned the bedside lamp on. She put on her dressing gown and went to the door. She looked through the spy-hole. A man wearing a fox-skin cap was standing back, grinning in a faint blue light. “What do you want?” she asked. She went to the phone and called reception. There was no answer. The bedside lamp went off, the full moon emerged from behind a cloud and threw a molotov cocktail into the room. When it started again, the knocking was constant and loud. Lucinda Williams was afraid. 
Ted Hughes looked out the window and saw how sunset was lighting the Red Oblong. Over the last few days he’d watched as the water police and then the navy had come to try and tow it away. Each attempt had been met with frustration and much on-and-offshore deliberation. He’d heard them cursing. “Fucking weird geometry,” someone shouted when their tow-rope had snapped like a rifle-shot. There had been talk of scuttling it where it was. An artificial reef. A snapper breeding ground. A Wagga Coney Island, thought Hughes, then returned his attention to the notepad. He’d been working on an escape plan. He felt the time was fast approaching when he’d be able to leave. Seidel’s power and influence were diminishing. Shelby was a joke. 
Drag the River pulled into the marina at Brooklyn. Bill Wisely was there to meet them. Bill was a huge fan. He saw that the pedal steel player was missing, and started asking questions. When the singer told Bill that a massive red fish had eaten him in Newcastle harbour, Bill went into a complete rage. He started smashing things with his plank. He belted a Pacific gull out into the river. He was swinging the plank and yelling when Emmylou Harris walked onto the jetty. “Bill,” she said. Bill stopped swinging and shouting. “Would you help these gentlemen with their luggage?” Bill calmed down immediately and stepped onto the barge and started gathering bags. She turned to the band: “We are so happy you have come. We have heard about your friend and we’re so very sorry for your loss. However, I need to ask you a huge favour. The new leader of the Poets, W.H. Auden, has phoned asking if we have any barges here in Brooklyn. We do, but they’re nowhere near big enough. I know it’s a huge imposition, but would you mind going with Bill Wisely and Terry Hack to The Island? There are some prisoners needing transport.”
When Adamson’s Customline pulled up at the Masonic Hall in Budgewoi, W.B. Yeats was excited and twitching with nerves. His hair was ruffled by his right hand that had been constantly running through it, his fingers like five avocets raking the kelp for glass eels with their curved beaks. Anthony Lawrence was re-telling the story of the day he saw me in my Kombi van in a traffic-jam on Roseville bridge. As he drove by in another lane, he recognised me and recited a whole stanza from one of my Nero poems— at the time I didn’t know him, and I was puzzled for days about who would do such a thing. Little did I know that it was an intimation of things to come, maybe an omen?  Speaking of omens, W.B. Yeats was now speaking to Robert Duncan on his mobile phone. When we got out of the Customline he was still talking. We watched Robert Duncan and W.B. Yeats walk towards each other still speaking into their phones until they met and threw their arms around each other. I looked around, the Budgewoi Masonic Hall was quite an imposing building compared to the rest of the town: mostly fibro cottages, weatherboard fishermen’s shacks and the redbrick monsters built by the Sate Housing Commission in the 1950s.  
The Budgewoi River ran straight through the town, through backyards and caravan parks—at a boat-launching ramp, there were several men fishing on its banks for blackfish. I noticed their brightly coloured floats moving swiftly on the surface of the river, pulled along by a strong ebb tide. These were the old golden codgers of the town, the same kind of men Yeats had written about in his poem New for The Delphic Oracle: ‘There all the golden codgers lay, / There the silver dew, /And the great water sighed for love,/ And the wind sighed too.’  Except today there was no silver dew. It was 11 am and the sun was high and hot in the sky, there was a hint of a Southerly in the humid breeze but it was not strong enough to blow away the sticky humidity.   Yeats told us to be prepared for weirdness - evidently Herbert Huncke was also staying in the Masonic Hall with Robert Duncan: W.B. said he was an unsavory type and to be wary of him.
As soon as we met Huncke he surprised us with the news that Allen Ginsberg was also staying with Hammer Whitefeather. Yeats loved this information, and went looking for Ginsberg straight away, Huncke told W.B. he would be in the pool hall with the local boys who’d be playing Ginsberg for drinking money.
Anthony Lawrence and Bob Adamson started unloading the things that Duncan needed to perform his transmigration of the soul ceremony. They were in a black mood, having watched Frank O’Hara escape in his dune buggy. Each time they positioned something, a candelabra for instance, Huncke made some disturbing noise and shook his head in a way to indicate the idiocy of their participation. Lawrence was ready to plank him, but Adamson held him back, saying that there would be dire consequences if Huncke was harmed. He was a slippery looking character. He wore a creased silk shirt soaked in sweat and black tie even in the heat, he had greasy hair and his face was a sign depicting his vocation: the crumpled but dangerous Apostle of Junk, the man who introduced William S Burroughs to his first hit of morphine.  Huncke was friends with Aleister Crowley and evidently Crowley was also in town, he was down at the riverbank fishing for blackfish with the old golden codgers.  Things were getting complicated and Bob and Anthony were nervous. They had told me at different times that there was a sense of menace and dread in the atmosphere. They said the whole Masonic thing was a cover for the real sect that controlled this temple: the society who worshipped the ancient Egyptian God, Seth. This sect had, over the millennia, altered human genetics in order to create a race of people with blond hair, blue eyes and red intelligence: these followers would do the bidding of the ancient order, merciless bigots, who would stop at nothing to protect their belief in the purity of Redness. 
Two weeks ago Crowley had sent Robert Duncan a parcel that contained a red brick, a scale from a very large waggafish, a full set of teeth extracted from the jawbone of a hairtail caught at Jerusalem Bay and a jar of red liquid labeled ‘Blood of The Lamb’.  Under these objects there was a page from a manuscript of incomprehensible poetry.  Duncan submitted the manuscript to an analytic chemist and a handwriting expert. The results had come back to Budgewoi and the secret was out: the combined report specified that the manuscript had been written with the quill of a night parrot from Western Australia dipped in waggafish blood, the earliest sample of the fish’s blood on record. The graphologist reported that the handwriting was without a doubt, the handiwork of the Red K.
G. Lehmann, at the Front.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dispatch From The Front: Day 26

James Joyce’s Martello Tower at Sandy Cove.

Patrick Kavanagh making his way to Sandy Cove to meet Yeats.

The sky over Sandy Cove as Yeats returns to Woy Woy.

Robert Adamson in front of Frank O’Hara’s Live Bait shop, Long Jetty.

W.B. Yeats felt himself lifted violently into a roaring wind. Something like fine hail was pelting his face. He tried to open his eyes but the pressure had sewn them shut. He dreamed of gold coins lying heavy on his eyelids, of Saint Beckett blessing him with a bog-wood plank. He heard a choir of celtic thousands singing “Dirty Red Town”. He was lost in a vision of The Salmon of Knowledge when the wind and ice stopped and he felt himself falling. As he tumbled, his clothes were being torn away. He plummeted through a thunderhead, its blue and purple ridges and swollen seams giving way as he went through it. Then he saw a harbour, the roofs of houses shouldering each other down a narrow street. Then a sandstone tower loomed up at him. He closed his eyes and held his breath. And then everything was quiet and still.

Yeats opened his eyes. He was in a high-backed darkwood chair in front of a raging fire. The air was thick with peat and aromatic tobacco smoke. He looked around. The vast room was empty, its sandstone walls flickering with shadows and golden light. In the distance a bell tolled. Then the room’s huge wooden door opened slowly. A massive, hulking figure stepped into the room. It was Cuchculain. The great warrior had to bend low to get under the door frame. When he stood up inside the room, Yeats estimated his height to be at least 10’. He was dressed in boar-leather and the tanned skins of red fish.  A large silver shield with fish and birds embossed into it was hanging from his belt. In one hand he held two spears, their shafts as thick as an average man’s arm. In the other he held a live Waggafish by its tail. The fish must have weighed at least twenty kilos, and was looking around wildly and moaning. Cuchculain held the Wagga aloft, then brought it close to his face. The Wagga went insane, thrashing and snapping its jaws. Cuchculain smiled at Yeats, then bit the Wagga’s head clean off. He spat the still-snapping head into the fireplace. With two steps he was beside Yeats, towering over him. He looked down and said. “I am happy you summoned me. I was expecting your call.” He looked at the headless fish in his fist. “I have slain over ten thousand of these Red creatures and still they come. They are murdering the heart of our rivers. They are in the streams. I have seen them flipping and snarling as they rise on the blades of the mill-wheels. Our fishermen are kneeling in impotent fury under their terrible influence. I have brought you here to meet with those who share your desire to see this Redness banished forever.” 
With those words, Cuchculain stepped aside, and through the door came a silent line of poets, all wearing large War on Wagga badges. First to enter was James Joyce, his monocle flashing with firelight. Then came Patrick Kavanagh, his torn coat stained with Wagga blood. C.S. Lewis was next, his hands clasped together, his head bowed. Oscar Wilde stepped into the room, flicking his fringe and smiling broadly. Then Jonathan Swift swept into the room, a quill from an eagle feather bristling from a pocket of his large black coat. Spike Milligan tripped on the step and stumbled into the room, followed by Paul Muldoon, who looked for all the world as though he’d just been spirited away from drinking with friends in the snug at the Bleeding Horse, or the Bleeding Heart hotel in Ennis.
The poets sat down in a half-circle facing Yeats. Joyce was first to speak. “Red times have befallen us. We are gathered here to free Ireland of this pestilence, this cloud of impending doom.” “What Joyce is trying to say,” said Oscar Wilde, “is that whenever three or four things gather in the name of Redness, that’s three or four too many as far as I’m concerned.” Spike Milligan was staring at Yeats. “The first ‘Woy’ means deep, the second ‘Woy’ water,” he said. Muldoon looked at Milligan. “What the hell are you talking about?” C.S. Lewis packed the bowl of his yew-wood pipe, tamped the tobacco down with his thumb, struck a match on the sole of his boot, put fire to the bowl, took a sip of smoke, and said bugger all.
Yeats was still in shock at finding himself in such illustrious company. He’d only recently been reading Muldoon’s Moy Sand and Gravel, and had been amazed and infuriated by the man’s facility with language and his ability to rhyme rock with Donegal. He took a deep breath and addressed the poets: “My dealings with occultism have been inspirational, but no encounter has led me into such astonishing company. “It only gets better,” Wilde said. “Yes indeed, Patrick Kavanagh said. “Just wait until we bring out the soda bread, porter, and blood pudding.” Yeats removed his glasses and polished the lenses on his waistcoat. “Like Caesar in his war-tent, I feel compelled to study the emotional lie of the land before me, and then consider,” he said quietly. He looked over at Cuchulain, who was jabbing a huge finger into the side of the still-shaking Waggafish. “So please, friends, what would you have me do?” “Are they still live-baiting for jewies among the pylons of the old Woy Woy road bridge?” asked Spike Milligan. James Joyce raised his hand. He made a sweeping gesture that took in the entire room. “My tower at Sandy Bay will be home to our small group until we have harnessed our collective thoughts on how to rid Ireland of the Red ones. We will remain here until such time as we are ready to take action.” Joyce leaned forward in his chair and fixed Yeats with a look so intense, W.B.’s ears started ringing. “Are the red Wagga-rods with their lure-launching device ready to be used in this War?” he asked. Yeats got to his feet and went into a heated description of the complex workings of the rod and lure-launcher. Oscar Wilde went to him and took Yeats by the shoulders. “Settle down man,” he said. “You’re a great poet not a feckin’ epileptic.” Yeats took his seat. “Very well,” Joyce said, “Now, if that’s everything, I suggest...” “This Red K fellow,” Muldoon said. “I was on the bill with him during a festival a couple of years ago. Jaysus it was dreadful. I couldn’t understand a word the man was saying. It was like he was talking through a mouthful of wheat.” Yeats was going to say something about the age-old story of self-promotion rarely achieving the talent it parades, when the air in the room turned cold and he felt a terrible pressure in his neck and down his spine. 
Once again he felt himself rising and tumbling. His mouth filled with rain, and his eyes were sealed with miles of cold wind. One moment he was travelling at a frightening speed, deep inside a dream about Patrick Kavanagh taking a plank to Wendy Cope, and the next he was slumped over the seance table inside the Woy Woy Trades Hall, fighting for breath and trying to still his racing heart. Wallace Stevens prodded him with his walking cane. “Welcome back, W.B.” he said. “There are more than thirteen ways of looking at a miracle.” The other poets started talking at once, asking questions and pointing at the ceiling, which was still smoking. “You were only gone a couple of minutes,” said H.D. Basil Bunting looked at Yeats through eyes grown weary with visions and reading in bad light. “Pity,” he said. “I was hoping for a little insight into the details of The Other Side.” “Well, friends,” Yeats said, “if I told you, you would believe me.”
There was a silence in the hall thick as winter mist on the Budgewoi River. Then one of the Evangelicals let go with a seagull-toned gale of gibberish,  which encouraged the rest of the flock to bust out again into a mumbling version of their speaking in tongues. When this subsided they gradually began filing out of the Trades Hall. After the last of the Evangelicals had moved on, the group of poets started climbing down from the stage. Above them the hole in the roof was shaped like W.B. Yeats’ body. When they reached the street they decided to spilt up into two groups. Bunting had hired a car  earlier in the day. He wanted to show the poets in his group the wonders of the lagoons of the central coast. The other group was myself, W.B. Yeats, Bob Adamson and Anthony Lawrence.

We were in Adamson’s Customline again and heading back to the Pacific Highway. As we drove through the streets of Woy Woy, W.B. Yeats told us he had arranged another meeting to do with spiritual matters. This time it was to be held in the Masonic Lodge Hall at Budgewoi, the oldest Masonic Lodge in the Southern Hemisphere. W.B. knew about this because he’d been corresponding with Robert Duncan. It turned out that Duncan had arrived in Sydney a good month before the poetry war, but instead of going directly to The Island had traveled north to Budgewoi. Duncan was the guest of Hammer Whitefeather, the high chief of the Masons of the mid-north coast. These two had been corresponding for three years and plans for Duncan’s performance of a transmigration of the soul had been followed to the letter.

Before we looped back through Budgewoi, W.B. decided we should go and check out O’Hara’s fishing tackle store. We cruised into the Entrance and before long we saw a corner shop with a huge live-bait sign painted in red on the window. We parked and walked over to the store.

Frank O’Hara was there to welcome us, so was his brother and Oboe. The first thought that came to mind was relief that Wallace Stevens had gone off with Bunting’s group to see the lagoons. Whenever anybody saw Oboe, Hemingway was not far away. Frank wanted to take us on a tour of his live-bait tanks but W.B. was over in a corner studying the hard-bodied lures. “Could one rig-up a live bait on one of these beauties?” W.B. asked Frank, but O’Hara had never heard anything like this before. “Well I guess, but it’s against the philosophy of the artificial lure”.  W.B. Yeats looked Frank straight in the eye and said “Well, isn’t that a shame. However, I don’t think any kind of philosophy is going to help us with the struggle against the Waggas - in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t some idiot’s ‘philosophy’ that brought this wretched red pestilence upon us in the first place.” Frank O’Hara felt a trickle of sweat run down his side. If the poets discovered his Waggafish-fillet dealings, he’d be sunk.
Lawrence and Adamson were watching O'Hara closely.  I could sense trouble brewing.

Some movement in a tank near W.B. caught his eye. He peered in through the thick glass and could hardly believe what he saw. In the tank there were hundreds of wagga-fingerlings and above them was a sign in red lettering: PODDY WAGGAS $1.50 each!  “What in the name of the Holy Ghost?” W.B. said to Anthony. “Are these what they appear to be?” “What do they look like?” said O’Hara’s brother, who held one of the fingerlings above his mouth for a few seconds before dropping it into his throat and swallowing. “Waggas, fucking baby waggas!” Said Adamson, “This is a total outrage.” Frank’s brother interjected: “Not at all, no not really, it’s well known they are the most cannibalistic fish in the drink. Poddy waggas make the perfect livie - they are so tough they can stay alive for hours with a hook in their shoulder. Also they attract a savage bite from the massive waggas because of the vigorous vibrations they make as they struggle. And best of all, if you don’t get any bites, you can eat the bait!” There was a crash from behind the counter - it was Hemingway and Oboe, they were stocking up on poddy-waggas. One of their live-bait buckets had fallen off the counter and spilled across the floor. “This joint is a mess, I just tripped over a goddamn bottle of Sam’s Black Drops.” Oboe was mopping up the water and carefully picking up the fingerlings. “These are fine, they can survive anything, he said.” Then Papa Hemingway stooped over and delicately picked one up from the floor, he turned it over in the palm of his hand and studied it closely: “What a Goddamn beautiful bait!”

As Hemmingway and Oboe were filling containers with Waggafish fingerlings, Lawrence took O'Hara aside. Adamson closed the doors to the shop and hung the CLOSED sign in the window. Seeing this, O’'Hara  backed into a corner behind the counter. “You look a little nervous, Frank,” Lawrence said. “Yes Frank, would you like some zest?” Adamson said. Frank opened his till. “Take it all,” he stuttered. W.B Yeats adjusted his monocle. “Frank, we are decent folk. We simply demand you return the same decency and answer our questions honestly.” Adamson came close: “We don’t want your money, Frank, we want the truth. Tell us about the Waggafish fillet trade.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I sell live-bait, that’s all.” Lawrence looked towards the back of the shop. “What’s out there Frank?” “Nothing. The lunch room. Containers. Live-bait tanks.” Bob Adamson went over and pulled back a heavy stainless steel door and stepped through it. O’Hara and Lawrence waited, looking at each other. Finally Adamson came back. He was smiling. “Lunch room, eh? Containers? I’d say you’re doing a roaring trade, O’Hara.”
Hemmingway loooked over and saw the tense situation behind the counter. “Keep filling these bags,” he said to Oboe, and walked over to see what was happening. “It seems Mr O’Hara has been very busy,” Adamson said. “Come and check this out, Papa.” “You might like to bring your plank,” said Yeats. 
Out the back of O’Hara’s Live-Bait shop, there was a huge cold-room complex. At the jetty on the canal was a long-lining boat. Hemmingway threw open the doors of the cold room. Inside they saw shelves stacked to the ceiling with trays of huge Waggafish fillets. The place reeked of betrayal and death. Hemmingway was passing his plank from hand to hand. “You mongrel,” he said. O’Hara was freaking out. “Look, it’s nothing. I mean, you people seem to think it’s alright to buy Waggafish fingerlings and use them for live-bait. You think it’s alright to enter into some kind of Red contract with these creatures, but it’s not okay for me to sell them. “It’s different,” Yeats said. “We have adventures while tracking them down, and we get to write about it.”It’s not different” O’Hara said, gaining in confidence. After being given a swift demonstration of  Hemmingway’s plank, he settled down. “Your Waggafish enterprise is over,” Adamson said. 
As Hemmingway went down to the jetty to take command of the long-liner and Adamson and Lawrence inspected the cold-room, Yeats took O’Hara aside and tried to reason with him. Frank listened, then made a run for it. He bolted from the cold room and sprinted down a narrow laneway beside the shop. A motor coughed and roared into life, and Frank O’Hara sped away in his dune buggy.

G. Lehmman, at the Front.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dispatch From The Front: Day 25

The Cottage Point Inn.

Frank O’Hara and his brother sampling Waggafish fingerlings at Long Jetty.

Elizabeth Bishop, Wallace Stevens, Basil Bunting and H.D. look on in horror as W.B. Yeats is dragged through the ceiling after he’d summoned the spectre of the great Irish warrior Cuchulain.

Poets were stealing each other’s identities. They’d always done this, in verse, but to discover that many were brilliant impersonators came as a shock. It was disturbing. Petra White turned out to be Emma Lew, undercover and writing furiously. It was a relief to know that despite the rumours, Emma hadn’t abandoned poetry. Gwen Harwood’s cover was blown when James K. Baxter was seen getting changed on the beach behind the citadel. All the cross-dressing, the subterfuge, the brazen identity-theft was killing me, so it came as a huge relief when I got a text from Angus Young, telling me to come to the Cottage Point Inn.

Angus Young and Bon Scott were waiting on the jetty when I arrived. They’d been jamming with Radio Birdman in the studio of AC/DC's Church Point mansion. They told me that when their lunch arrived by water-taxi from they Cottage Point Inn, it was clear that their meal was not what they’d ordered. Rob Younger, Birdman’s singer, took one look at the large red fillets and went into a rage. Rob was a keen fisherman, and he knew a Waggafish fillet when he saw one. “This is fucked, man. Waggafish? The Red Death!” He picked up the large cardboard box full of fillets and lemon wedges and threw it over the verandah. He then demanded they all go to the Inn and throttle the owner. Angus and Rob had calmed him down and said they’d go and sort it out. They knew of what had been happening on The Island, and wanted me to report on this new development.

When we went into the restaurant, the owner/chef took one look at us and bolted. He ripped off his chef’s hat and apron and ran out through the back of the kitchen. Bon took off after him, and we followed. The chef was in his runabout, pulling furiously on the outboard rope when Bon leapt into the boat, grabbed him by the front of his shirt and hauled him out onto the wharf. The chef was then frog-marched back into the restaurant. He wanted us to talk to him in private, but Angus and Bon made him sit at a table in front of all the diners. Bon stood over him. “What fish did you send us?” The chef looked around. “Snapper,” he said. Angus went over to a large aquarium where bream and squire were swimming around. “I don’t see any snapper in here,” he said. He then went over to a table where an elderly couple were eating lunch. On their plates were large red fillets. “Excuse me folks, but what did you order?” “Red snapper,” the woman said. “It does taste a little odd. It’s more like a freshwater species, but with a strange aftertaste.” “My mouth is going numb,” said the man. Bon made the chef stand up. “I’m going to ask you one more time. What fish are you serving?” The chef broke down. He sobbed uncontrollably, his face in his hands. “Stop your red blubbering you fuckwit, and answer the question.” The diners had stopped eating and were staring at the chef. “Answer him,” a man shouted. The chef stopped crying and said that he’d been taking large deliveries of Waggafish from a man by the name of Frank O’Hara. Frank had a live-bait business at Long Jetty, and his brother was running a long-liner out to the Continental Shelf, catching huge Waggafish. There were so many of them, he had decided to supply many seafood restaurants. The owners didn’t ask questions as the fillets were cheap and their profit margins exceptional.

Angus and Bon then told the chef that if he continued selling Wagga fillets, they would return to trash the restaurant and burn it top the ground. The diners stood and applauded. I decided to go right to the source of all this deception and madness, and call in on Bob Adamson.

Arriving at Adamson’s, I saw Anthony Lawrence’s Moto Guzzi California Vintage motorbike in the driveway. Its saddlebags had sewn-on badges of red fish with black lines through them.

The poets were down on the jetty. They’d spread a large oceanographic map on the boards, weighting it with downrigger leads at the edges. They were in animated discussion. Lawrence was talking loudly. I heard “Lion Island,” and “Greene’s genetically-modified fairy penguins.” Adamson responded with “Oboe’s brutal loyalty,” and “a flood-tide of anguish awaits them.” They stood up when I came down the sandstone steps and moved to stand in front of the map. I told them about what had happened at the Cottage Point Inn. They were incensed. I suggested we take a drive to Long Jetty, to speak with Frank O’Hara. As we made ready to leave, an oyster farmer approached in his punt. He slowed as he went past the jetty. Then he stood up and shouted: One day in a gallery I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES. Adamson and Lawrence laughed softly, and smiled, and something about those words put a chill through the back of my head.

We jumped into Adamson’s Customline and headed up the old Pacific Highway. We passed the lilly pilli ferns, great red lilies at least two metres tall, growing along the high ridge at Mount White - crimson rosellas looped through the native willows in the valley at Moonie where Henry Kendall used to listen to the bell birds. Bob was saying to Anthony that they’d have to ring Creeley to make sure the poets from Bunting’s picnic knew we were going up that way. Anthony agreed we could all meet up, and then see what Yeats was up to and if he had any new plans. The picnic party had left early that morning from Central Station and were headed up to the Central Coast. Bunting wanted the visitors to see the lagoons up that way.

Bunting, Elizabeth Bishop, H.D. ,Wallace Stevens and W.B. Yeats had decided to get out of town before Hemingway turned up at the fish shop trying to sell his catch. If he happened to see Stevens, who was staying for a couple of days, there’d be trouble. Stevens and Hemingway were always getting involved in fist fights - the one at Florida Keys over the Bone Fish Tournament was no joke. Wally had broken several small bones in his fist, and Papa had to have a six stitches in his arm when he fell through a tackle shop window. They were still at each other’s throats every time they got together. Bunting wanted to show the poets the lagoons that had been locked off to the sea for five or more years. Sand-bars had formed at the mouths of the lakes and the all the marine life inside had grown to enormous sizes. The prawns were larger than king prawns and the flathead had heads like big sand-shovels.

Finally Anthony reached Yeats on his mobile. W.B. told him they should all meet at the Woy Woy Trades Hall because he was going to make contact with the Other Side. There’d be a séance and they’d be getting some advice from Cuchulain about the Waggafish problem. This was Yeats’ first séance in Australia, and he was going to make contact - it would bring great power to them all if it all worked out as well as he hoped.

As Adamson swung his Customline into the main street of Ettalong, he  asked Anthony: “Should we show Geoff the shop Frank O’Hara’s set up?” “Yes, he can write about it - it’s time people knew the truth.”Anthony was getting more excited as we approached Long Jetty. “First we have to go to Woy Woy and talk to W.B.Yeats and his séance picnic.” Bob said with a wicked tone in his voice.

The sea-side suburbs were passing by as we drove through the little towns and their Churches of many a stripe - Jehovah’s Witnesses, Methodists, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Baptists and the Quakers and Shakers. A lot of these Churches were red brick barns with no windows at all, while others were elaborate weatherboard Cathedrals with stained glass windows depicting Christ riding in on a surfboard, or John The Baptist blessing the Squid Boats in Gosford Harbour.

The beach-side streets were bristling with muscle cars doing demos, and the local hoons beeped their horns or waved as they caught an eyeful of the black Customline. Finally we pulled up at the Trades Hall. “Hey Geoff, you know what Spike Milligan said about Woy Woy?” “No, what?”  Bob was almost laughing already. “He said it’s an Aboriginal word for ‘deep water’: the trouble was that Spike didn’t know which ‘Woy’ was ‘deep’ and which ‘Woy’ was ‘water.’ We all laughed and then fell into an uneasy silence before climbing out of the car.

We walked up the pavement to the Trades Hall. W. B. Yeats came to the door and said “You’re just in time.” We were ushered into the hall and on the stage there was a plain cedar table and the poets were sitting there, sweating in the heat and holding strange objects in their hands. Wallace Stevens was reciting The Idea of Order at Key West; Elizabeth Bishop was looking depressed and highly suspicious; H.D. looked like she was already having a vision, and Basil Bunting kept repeating aloud “The spuggies are fledged” over and over. W. B. Yeats looked around, we were sitting in the audience, a crowd of Evangelicals, who were speaking in tongues. Yeats saw Anthony and Bob and started to recite The Lake Isle. “I shall arise and go now....” Then sunlight flared in the windows and great bolts of lightening came crashing through the ceiling, forming long electrical arms that were reaching for Yeats. Adamson turned to Lawrence and quoted Bob Dylan: The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of your face...  W. B. screamed out that it was a manifestation of Cuchulain’s mighty power. Then the jagged electrical arms seized Yeats and pulled him up, quite literally, through the roof.

G. Lehmann, off to the Side.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dispatch From The Front: Day 24

Robert Creeley.

Basil Bunting’s fish & chip shop at Central Station.

Bunting disguised as Rodney Hall.

W.B. Yeats’ was about to go aboard Le Pilar when his Mobile phone rang. It was Robert Creeley. He wanted to know if Yeats had heard that Basil Bunting had opened up a fish shop at Central Station in Sydney. “Is that a fact,” said Yeats. Creeley went on to tell him that Basil Bunting was a Waggafish addict and had set up the fish shop after visiting Ian the squid man’s Hawkesbury Secrets bait shop in Brooklyn. I told Judith Beveridge, who was taking photos of Le Pilar, that Yeats was talking to Creeley on the phone. “Have you actually met Bunting?” asked Judith. “He’s an old friend of Burroughs from his days in the Far East, where they were involved in some kind of espionage in Morocco - they even went on to Hippo and helped Augustine in his efforts to become a Saint.” Judith knew about these kind of things - she had studied comparative religion and history for years. She was also an expert on zest, saffron and poppies. “What do you mean, espionage?” Said Elisabeth Webby, who was with Judith. “It’s a form of disambiguation,” replied Judith, but the conversation at this point was drowned out. Webb was on board the Le Pilar and making a hell of a racket. He was hammering nails into the heads of Hemingway’s catch of Waggafish, pinning them stolidly in a line along the front of the bow.
Randolph Stow turned up wearing Ivor Indyk’s clothes. “Basil Bunting has been around some places you just wouldn’t want to know about. He is the man who turned Creeley onto Wagga-meat. They are total addicts, they write poetry in several styles and send it to HEAT and other journals under the names of many Australian poets. They need the cash. They make Harold Stewart’s and James McAuley’s Ern Malley look like a ragged joke. Creeley and Bunting are brilliant but it’s all in the service of Wagga-meat.” Stow was sounding more like Ivor Indyk than the great Western Australian novelist. Yeats’ phone rang again. It was Creeley. He wanted Judith Beveridge to bring a set of Griffo’s filleting knives to the fish shop at Central Station. She had to catch the next train, and Creeley would meet her at the coffee shop in the railway station. He’d be wearing a red-eye patch.
Judith stepped off the train at Central Station an hour later. She walked over to the coffee shop.  Creeley was pacing up and down outside, she couldn’t miss him: his red-eye patch, his overcoat buttoned up to the neck, his stylish hat and his black goatee. When Judith got up close she noticed his hands were shaking. His eye was bloodshot, the pupil dilated, all of which amounted to a testimony to the ravishes of Wagga-meat. Creeley took the box of knives eagerly but he wanted Judith to follow him, he wanted to show her what went on behind his shop. They went through the front door and it appeared to be a ordinary fish-shop at first glance except for the red lighting in the display fridges, and there was a pungent odour in the air. Aside from these details the place was very clean and neat.  
Creeley showed Beveridge through the back door which opened onto an alleyway. Out the back of the shop was a morbid scene, there were great clouds of cigarette smoke, men and women were hunched in the shadows, some leaning against the walls, others sitting cross-legged on the dirt.  There was chicken wire everywhere, it hung from the windows and was wrapped around the telephone pole. The whole alley was a huge but loosely wired cage for Wagga-meat addicts, however up the back there were some gapping holes the size of a man: addicts had torn the wire and barged through like huge mulloway hitting one of Terry Hack’s mesh-nets.   There were Wagga-junkies holding out plates and others holding out their filthy hands. As soon as a man dressed in red rubber overalls came to the back door and threw Wagga off-cuts into the yard there was a wild scrabble for them, anyone who happened to grab some fish didn’t hang around, they clasped it to their body or stuffed it into an airline bag and ran, straight through the great holes in the chicken wire. The garbage bins were completely empty and the outside toilet was malfunctioning.
Judith went back inside with Creeley. “Where’s Bunting?” Creeley told her Basil was up-stairs but he’d  be down soon. He told her that Bunting was repulsed by any food except raw Wagga-meat and that he had to have a fix every hour, if he didn’t he would start to hallucinate, and then start withdrawing. “How did this happen?” Judith was disturbed and worried, she loved Buntings poetry and was looking forward to meeting him, but after this bleak experience she wasn’t so sure. Then Bunting came down the stairs. He looked at Beveridge and then Creeley “It’s okay Basil, she is a friend, an Australian poet who writes brilliantly about religious matters and fishing.” “Excellent,” said Bunting, putting up a magnificent front. “Excellent”.
Then an elegant gentleman looked out from the Chinese-screen behind the counter. The screen had a painting of several huge goldfish swimming upstream a beautiful river somewhere in ancient China. The man who stepped out from behind the screen was Vincent Buckley, he had his black velvet jacket on with a red scarf tucked in a cream silk shirt. He nodded to the gold fish and said “They were ancestors.” Judith Beveridge was immediately relieved. Buckley motioned her to one side and whispered: “This is not what it appears to be at all - Creeley is not addicted to Wagga-meat, nor is Basil Bunting, they are undercover. This whole deal is a front. This is the centre for their espionage operation. They are going to bring down the whole illegal Wagga-meat industry.” Judith Beveridge let go a huge sigh of relief, then she was puzzled again. What did Vincent Buckley have to do with this operation, that’s if it really was a front. Buckley answered this by handing her an invitation - it was to a reading of Wallace-Crabbe’s poem A Wintery Manifesto to be read by the poet himself on the stage at W.B.Yeats’ oyster shed. “Ah, right” Judith said, “the Irish connection.”
W.H. Auden went into his cabin and unzipped his calfskin suitcase. He chose a lilac-coloured cravat. He removed a pair of gold cufflinks from their case. Then he took down his suit and shirt from their hangers. He was a long time getting dressed. He patted his face with Guerlinade, took a deep breath, and stepped out onto the wharf.
The poets were keen to hear Auden’s speech. They’d been on the verge of leaving The Island. They were restless and bored, and no-one had been writing poetry. Someone had suggested a poetry-reading, but they’d been shouted down. But now they had something to focus on. Auden had been an influence on most of them, at some stage. Even the vaguest spark of interest in the great man’s work had planted the seeds of difference in their own poetry.
Auden stepped onto the stack of Immigrant Chronicles, which had been much-depleted over the course of The War. He adjusted his cravat. He patted the pockets of his coat, which he always did when feeling ill-at ease. He felt the pack of cigarettes, which comforted him. Then he started speaking.
“I want to thank Rodney Hall for endorthing my role ath new leader. It ith a great honour. It theemth I have been waiting all my life for thutch a thing to befall me. I will do whatever it taketh to thupport you all in any and every way you dethire.” Jamie Grant started shouting behind the new mouth-guard Amanda Joy had made from oystercatcher feathers and palm fibre. Auden nodded at Bukowski, who picked up his plank and strode off to Grant’s cage. Auden continued. “The crucial thing we need to conthider ith what to do with the Waggaithth. They are in poor health and need medical attention. Billy Gibbon’s, who was off to one side picking softly on a Gibson Hummingbird, called out “Let ‘em suffer.” The poets echoed Billy’s thoughts, and started shouting at Auden. He raised his arms. “We need to leave The Island, but we need to make sure we leave it rethponthibly. I have phoned W.B. Yeatth in Brooklyn. He ith currently putting together a plan for the dethtruction of Waggafish, and we are working with Hemmingway to make it happen. He needth a large crew.” “What about us?” Jayne Fenton Keane said. “We need work too. Most of us have lost our jobs and put our relationships on the line to be here. Personally, there’s no way I’m going to spend the next few years chasing those red fucks around the ocean. I hate fishing. Most of us do. We wanted to end the Red Line, we wanted to see Red Language put to the sword. We...” “Excuthe me, Jayne,” Auden said, hands on his hips. “Would you like to come up here and take my plathe? Right. Now, are we all agreed? The Red foolth have already withdrawn from LIMP. They won’t be needing a retreat at Mangrove Mountain. We will take them henthforth to Brooklyn to join the crew.” 
There was much muted discussion, then the poets fell silent. Rodney Hall stepped forward. “Thankyou, W.H. Auden. I think we should start packing and getting ready for our passage to Brooklyn.” He looked over at the Waggaists’ cage. Then he saw Bukowski still swinging a plank. When he looked back, the poets had scattered and Auden was still standing on the stack of Chronicles. “Well done,” Rodney said. Auden stepped down. He patted his coat pocket, then lifted out a pack of cigarettes. He struck a match, drew on the smoke and inhaled. “I loathe thpeaking in public,” he said. “I want thith nonthence to end, and then I want go home.”

G. Lehmann, at the Front.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dispatch From The Front: Day 23

Hemmingway’s boat, Le Pilar.

Earnest with his plank.

With a shipment of Red Rods for W.B. Yeats.

Hemmingway and Oboe.

The beauty of heavy industry is not lost on the alternative-country music band Drag the River, who have pulled into Newcastle harbour to fish in raining sodium light under the yellow booms of coal-loading cranes. Either they don’t care or know that hand-lining for sharks with dead bonito under party balloons is not recommended. The singer got the idea after reading a poem by Daniel Halpern about fishing at night from the Santa Monica pier.

They’d made good time on the passage south from Port Macquarie, after visiting the singer’s brother. The huge dredging barge cut through the low swell as they sat with their legs hanging over the edge, drinking beer and talking about the adventure that lay before them.

The singer is a punk who found Blaze Foley like a joker in a stacked deck of Townes van Zandt LP’s. If it didn’t change his life, it changed his voice, and he went country. The pedal steel player sits at the prow, hunched over as if he were playing at a narrow, wired table under blue serifs of smoke like an old-time compositor. The bass player’s hands are constantly moving. When he talks, his fingers seem to be spider-walking up and down the neck of a guitar. He squints and nods under a straw five gallon, growling harmonies. The guitarist is a thrashing machine with his fists and words, and is in a leaden mood.

Out from the barge there’s a huge water-swirl. A balloon breaks free, and the singer is on. A plastic hand-line reel spins at his feet. Two hundred pound monofilament line spits through his fingers. The others shout encouragement. On the pier, a nightwatchman’s flashlight finds them standing and intense as extras in a David Lynch dream sequence. It gets worse. The pedal steel player strips and goes overboard. He is treading water about ten feet out from the barge when a red light comes on in the depths. The singer’s hand-line goes slack and he winds it in. The nightwatchman is telling the man to get out of the water. The cranes lean over the barge like the necks and heads of massive mechanical birds in silouhette. The red light goes out and the water boils. The man is turning in circles. He doesn’t go under. He is removed entirely from the scene by a massive fish with a head like something even Bruegel couldn’t imagine. The guitarist lets fly with a seamless volley of homegrown swear-words and snapper sinkers until the harbour’s surface is calm.

Rodney Hall had given up on finding a new leader. He couldn’t leave until someone had been appointed, and this was making him edgy and cranky. And he was spending more and more time alone. He could be heard muttering to himself as he walked up and down the beach. He hadn’t written a poem for weeks.

Wallace-Crabbe approached Rodney and apologised for not volunteering. “It’s that acid I took in the citadel,” he said. “It really took the wail out of my sins.” Others had voiced their inability to take on such a responsibility, but not Bukowski. Every time he saw Rodney he’d shake his head and say “Fuck that,” or “Leaders are pain-magnets.” Amanda Joy had used the rest of her snares to catch oystercatchers on the tidal flat. When Felicity Plunkett asked if she liked eating them, she said “No, I don’t eat waders. I’m taking photos of their eyes.” Felicity made a note to herself to avoid Amanda in future, at all costs. Ivor Indyk, who’d been on The Island the whole time disguised as Randolph Stow, said that while he desperately wanted to see the Red K and his entire crew keel-hauled and publicly humiliated while having zest rubbed into their wounds, he couldn’t possibly accept the role as leader as it involved far too many inconsistencies, gratuitous in-jokes, had no health-and-safety guidelines, no pay whatsoever, and The Island wasn’t even on the map. Also, he said, just being on The Island had made him use long, awkward, rambling sentences.

Rodney climbed the rigging of the tall-ship and jumped into the crow’s nest. “Move over,” he said to Tim Winton, who barely looked up as he turned another page of The Immigrant Chronicles.

In Ulladulla, Ted Hughes was biding his time. He was convinced he’d bluffed Seidel and Shelby into thinking he’d turned Red. He’d been going along with their every suggestion and whim. He knew that Seidel loved attention, so when they were out and about, he’d stop people in the street and introduce them to Frederick, handing them copies of Ooga-Booga, and calling him “The great American-Australian poet.” Seidel lapped it up. He’d been invited to the Shoalhaven Mayor’s house for dinner. He’s been asked to read poetry at a Lion’s Club meeting. He was constantly being propositioned. Women fancied him as well. He’d been taken game fishing by the local charter boys. Ted Hughes was waiting. He knew his time would come soon.

Drag the River had taken the barge into the coal-loading dock. The nightwatchman had called the police, but the they didn’t want to wait around. They ran out through the coal-blackened buildings until they hit a road, then started walking. Out on the harbour, where the pedal-steel player had been taken, huge flocks of gulls and terns were competing for what was left.

W.B. Yeats was pacing up and down the wharf at Brooklyn. He was talking on his mobile phone. Richard Tipping set up an account for him and had shown him how to use it. Yeats loved the mobile, now he was ringing everyone. At the moment he was talking to Hemingway, who was steaming past Lion Island as they spoke, heading up the river in his boat, Le Pilar. “It’ a grand day,” W.B. told Bill Wisely, Hemingway will sort out the Americans in RAW, he’ll know how to deal with them.”

Emmylou Harris had come back to book her band into the Angler’s Rest but every room was booked. She went down to Tom’s Lifeboat fish and chip shop to see if she could find some other place to stay. Geoffrey Hill was there sitting at one of Tom’s wooden tables with a sun umbrella in the middle, feasting on a huge fillet of Waggafish. Tom had fried it in beer batter especially for him, and Hill was completely engrossed in his meal. When he heard Emmylou’s Southern accent he winced, but looked up wearily. He didn’t need to talk, and by the time he’d focussed on Emmylou and caught her gaze, his eyes were growling.

There was a great cheer from the wharf as Le Pilar pulled up. Hemingway was up on the bow. He threw the rope around a pylon, tied up and jumped down onto the wharf. All he had on was an old pair of old shorts, his hair was wild and he was almost dark-skinned from the sun. Hemingway walked straight up to Yeats and threw his arms around him. “Where’s the fight?”  Yeats turned around to look at the reaction from the others with a big smile on his face. Emmylou had heard this commotion and was there, right in Papa’s face. “You’re a dreadful man, cruel and heartless, mean and selfish.” Hemingway looked at Emmylou and smiled.  “And why’s that, what have I done now?” Emmylou had a print-out from PETA. A list of animal rights, she waved  it at Papa. “Hold on woman, what particular poor beast have I abused lately?” Emmylou wasn’t taken in by this ironic machismo, and she wasn’t going to be patronised. She pulled out a Cuban newspaper about a month old. “Fighting Cocks!”  “It’s Inhuman behaviour. You set them against each other with cruel stainless steel claws strapped onto their feet, they slash each other to pieces and die from exhaustion or loss of blood.” Hemingway didn’t blink an eye. “Well what do you expect? In Finca Vigia, we bet on the fighting cock! Where else can you train cocks and fight them and bet those you believe in and be legal? Some people put the arm on fighting cocks as cruel. But what the hell else does a fighting cock like to do?”

“That logic is as straight as a gaff-hook.” The voice came from behind the others crowded on the wharf. Everyone looked around. It was Frank Webb, clapping two books together instead of his hands. He was highly agitated and fumbled one of the books,  which fell and went skidding across the wharf and landed at the feet of W.B. Yeats. W.B. picked up the book and read the title aloud “The Ghost of The Cock.” Hemingway walked across to Frank and shook his hand. “You’re a good man and a man with the spine of a marlin.” ‘Have a drink with me?” Papa whipped out a bottle of scotch and offered Frank a dram straight from the bottle. “We’re signing you up. You’re going to be my gaff-man.” Papa turned and introduced his first mate to Frank. “This is another Australian. I found him adrift in the Gulf Steam in a Haines Hunter with a Mercury motor that had thrown a piston, his name is Oboe.” Oboe just nodded, and smiled faintly for the sake of Papa, but he’d seen it all before. They’d picked up a dozen so called 'gaff-men’ since they rounded the the Horn. Hemingway had worn them out in a few days before they either lost their minds or jumped over board. Frank seemed pleased though, he said “Just let me bring my friend Randolph Stow, though he might be someone else today.” “Someone else, well, he’s a nut-case then, that’s fine with me! He might make a good live-bait man, can he sew a live-bait bridle on a yellowfin tuna?”

W.B. Yeats had Emmylou over in the corner reading her Leda and The Swan. She was listening intently, swaying back and forth with her eyes closed. When Yeats finished intoning the poem she said although it might be great poetry the subject was quite appalling. It went further than Leonard Cohen, like when he was working with Phil Spector on Death of a Ladies Man with the references to cruel and unusual practices -and while Leonard was ironic, Yeats’ metaphor was an excuse for attitudes condoning sadomasochism and then underlining it with authoritarian ideology. A gruff voice divided the air: “Well, I don’t know much about the the sex life of a black swan but I do know about Arctic Jaegers.” It was Geoffrey Hill. He was standing on the roof of the Hawkesbury River Fisherman’s Co Op with a huge Waggafish in one hand. Then he held his free hand to his mouth and cupped it there like a sad megaphone and started yelling “I am Offa, The King of The World.!”

On The Island, W.H. Auden looked over at the cage where the Waggaists were lying around, withdrawing from LIMP and eating insects and the scraps the poets had thrown them. He looked at the cage where he’d been spending a lot of time with a plank, silencing Grant. He looked up at the crow’s nest on the tall ship, where the heads of Rodney Hall and Tim Winton could be seen from time to time. He looked at the vast fleet at anchored off the wharf. Finally he looked at himself in the tin-foil mirror Ken Slessor had given to him. “You can do thith,” he said, then went off to find Rodney Hall.

G. Lehmann, at the Front.