Friday, April 2, 2010

Dispatch From The Front: Day 33

Admiral Escher waited until the excitement over Dorothy Hewett’s arrival had subsided. He looked at the poets with a craftsman’s cold eye, his vision softened by understanding and compassion. He recognised obsession in the intensity of their gaze. “So, we are gathered,” he sighed loudly. “While I will not say that your being here has been pre-ordained, I do know there was always a good chance it would happen.” “Why us?” Lucinda Williams asked. M.C. Escher went to a whiteboard at the base of one of his staircases. He waited until the faceless, featureless figure ascending it had moved on to another level, then he took a marker and started drawing. “We are here,” he said, pointing to a Red Oblong. “And this is where we’re headed. The Red Abyss.” He had sketched a beautiful, perfect large asterisk. “The Red Abyss is an asterisk?” T.S. Eliot asked. “How will we enter it and what happens once we’re inside?” M.C. Escher smiled. The faceless, featureless figures stopped moving and peered down from their staircases and balconies. “The Red Abyss is the Heartland of the Chamber of Sorrow at the end of the Vanishing Point this sea-road has made from faith and determination. “Fucking hell” said Dorothy. “Stick to the graphics, old son, your philosophy is awful.” Ted Hughes stroked the badger’s head and said “When do we arrive?” Escher tapped the side of his leather boot with the board-pointer. “We should be there by morning,” he said. T.S. Eliot was leaning forward, concentrating and squinting.  He looked like Kenneth Graham in Carry On Up The Front. “My dear Cornelis,” he said softly, “I have encountered many an abyss in my time, and have burned my various selves away within the bonfires of regret and exhilaration. Not once did the fuse of my desire sputter out.” M.C. Escher stared at Eliot for a long time before tearing his eyes away. The he leaned on the beacon and said “Do the names Jethro Tull and Blue Oyster Cult mean anything to you folk?” Lucinda Williams pushed back the brim of her hat and said “Yes, why?” “Oh nothing,” Escher said. “I just love their music.”
Dransfield, Harry and Leves climbed down from the truck and thanked the driver. It was raining heavily. They stood in the main street of Bermagui, dripping and shivering. “So what’s the plan?” a crested tern said as it wheeled over. “Pull your head in,” Dransfield said, then turned to address the others: “Can someone remind me why we’ve come to Bermagui?” J.S. Harry and Kerry Leves scratched their heads and rattled their loose change. Michael held his hands to stop them making fools of themselves and said “Let’s get out of this rain.”
Standing on the footpath outside a travel agent, they discussed possible plans. The names Seidel and Shelby were mentioned. Blodgett was offered as a reason for their travelling. Dransfield turned and looked at the travel agent window. There were posters showing coral reefs, mountain temples, Cambodian villages and Times Square at night. There was a also a poster of Shark Bay, Western Australia, showing two people in swim-wear kissing on a deserted beach. Below this photo were the words: REMOTE CONTROL. Michael Dransfield’s hands were doing a fandango in the air in front of his face. “It’s time for a change of scenery,” he said. “We’re going to W.A.”
Robert Duncan snapped. “Right. I’m going back into the Masonic Hall, if you people want to waste your imagination and life watching this flight of Feargals pretending to be peculiar it’s your own business, I have to write.” Duncan turned on his heels and stomped back into the kitchen off the Hall. He meticulously cleared the table and set down his fountain pen and his Bic; he opened a legal pad and tore out some yellow pages and set about writing a poem. He wrote furiously, and as he finished each page he placed it on top of the one before it, soon he had a thick stack of drafts and redrafts. He kept writing into the night.
W.B. Yeats burst into the kitchen. It was 4am and he was flushed with the victory of his latest catch: a job-fish, a pike and a banjo-ray. He had cleaned and filleted them and was about to tell Duncan the details of the catch.  Duncan said “What’s happening to you William? This fishing has become some kind of obsession. I remember the first days, when you fished with the old Golden Codgers for blackfish with green weed and floats - their was some elegance, some delicacy and even art involved in that. I could see what you were drawn in by—This rough fishing for pike eels with bullock hearts, well that was bad, but now you are fishing for just about any bottom feeder that comes along. What are you doing to yourself, it’s like some form of twisted self-abuse. Why are you doing this to yourself William, you are a great poet and yet you don’t even write fishing articles for Fishing World, you don’t write fishing poems, you simply fish for the scum of the river and seem happy to continue to do so, what gives?” W.B. Yeats looked at Duncan and replied “Well Robert, what happened to the promised transmigration of the soul ceremony? Where is the old magic, have you finally run out of tricks?” The look in Duncan’s eye was beyond murderous. It was as cold as the eye of a dead job fish. Yeats said to Robert Duncan: “This is Easter. This is anniversary of the day Peter saw a blood-red moon come up and the dimness descend, the Lord was betrayed by his friend, pieces of silver,  a kiss, all the old tricks. We don’t need new tricks, the old ones and the old enemies are still with us, they will stab you where you stand, walk away and wont even bother to gut you.”
Spicer walked into the kitchen drinking a beer and reading the latest issue of The Monthy. “Take a look at this. Clive James. He’s quite an article. He’s reviewing Les Murray’s new book, well, he’s talking about it in print: Clive is imagining a bat cave where the bats have a bat library and they take out Les’ book Translations from the Natural World and read his poem about bats. And the bats all say: ‘hey man, this poet really understands bats, he’s a cool dude.’ What the fuck does that say about Clive James? He thinks bats can read poetry, that they can read Les Murray’s poetry about bats. This is better than my theory about the Marians beaming me serial poems or Blake transcribing what the angels say to him, this is really weird. Humanism again, the same old hurdy-gurdy, man at the centre of the universe. Mr James imagining a bat reading Les Murray’s bat poem and getting it?

G. Lehmann.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dispatch From The Front: Day 32

Charlie Daniels at the Mooney Mooney Worker’s Club.

Patty Loveless looking for Mary Oliver.

Ronnie van Zandt singing to Amanda Joy in Greenville, South Carolina.

Feargal Sharkey trying on a black, full-body lycra suit.

Dorothy Hewett had been waiting for Dransfield and the others long enough. She’d just read the local Bermagui paper again, and was looking out to sea from the verandah of the only cafe in town with decent coffee when she saw the Red Oblong. At first she thought it was a mirage, then the red bloom of a spinnaker heading for land. When she recognised the Oblong, she opened the paper, found an ad for water-taxis, and dialed the number.

Out on the Princess Highway, Michael Dransfield, Kerry Leves and J.S. Harry were in the back of an old Bedford truck, bouncing along towards Bermagui. They’d been hitch-hiking for hours, weathering the abuse of drivers and trying to keep warm. The truck driver had only pulled over because he’d recognised Dransfield from his photo on the front of Drug Poems. He was a bush-verse man, but he prided himself in being widely-read. The truck’s cabin was filled with fruit and vegetables, so the poets had to ride in the back. Kerry Leves was hypnotising himself by watching the telegraph wires  loop and switch and cross over each other, playing cat’s cradle and making wind-music. J.S. Harry was scanning the underside roadgrowth for rabbits. Dransfield was twitching and speaking too slowly. He needed a hit of LIMP2.

The country musicians had arrived. The makeshift accommodation off to the side of the oyster shed was full, so many had to find their own places to sleep. The oval above the marina as bright with tents.

John Berryman, Amanda Joy, Geoffrey Hill, Bronwyn Lea, Myron Wearne, Mary Oliver and Ed Dorn had formed an unlikely yet solid alliance. They were walking around town like the Magnificent Seven, wearing straw five-gallon hats and talking in Country Code - a language Geoffrey Hill had invented and passed on to the others. It was a language that involved the exclusive use of lines from country songs, and because they were all big fans, it was second-nature. Amanda Joy had attended the final Lynyrd Skynyrd concert in Greenville, South Carolina, the day before the band’s Convair 240 ran out of fuel and fell out of the sky into a Mississippi swamp. She was beside herself, having heard that Ronnie van Zandt was going to make a special appearance at the festival. John Berryman was good friends with Charlie Daniels, and had been with the road crew back when Charlie had played fiddle with Leonard Cohen’s band The Army. Bronwyn Lea was a walking, talking fan-base for Townes van Zandt. Townes had been staying with her in Brisbane, where they’d been writing songs and singing them at night on Bronwyn’s balcony overlooking the Brisbane River. Mary Oliver was in love with Patty Loveless, who was now fifty miles away on a Mississippi whiskey barge. Myron Wearne was pissed of because no Australian country musicians had been invited to the festival. Whenever he mentioned their names, the others laughed and made jokes about sentimental, obvious songs filled with tractors, snakes, billabongs, wheat and love-gone-wrong. He had to pretend that he liked The Wrinkle Neck Mules and Chris Knight, and when he spoke their lyrics he felt the bile rising into his throat. Ed Dorn loved it all. He didn’t give a fuck as long as there was a good driving country beat. He quoted indiscriminately from a wide range of country and country-rock artists, and he did it with such theatrical aplomb that it sounded amazing. The others knew he was a scattergun and didn’t seem to mind at all.

The Red Oblong was a distant red smear when Dorothy Hewett stepped aboard the water taxi. “Follow that Red Oblong,” she told the driver. He nodded and pulled away as if chasing ocean-going geometry were a common occurrence.

As they approached the Oblong it slowed, then stopped, displacing troughs and mounds of dark red water. “Can you get any closer?” Dorothy asked the driver as she climbed out onto the side of the taxi. The driver eased the boat alongside the Oblong. Dorothy knocked hard, and her hand disappeared. She looked through the windscreen and the driver was lighting a smoke and smiling at her. She pulled back her right foot and kicked out. “Good work,” the driver yelled as her foot disappeared. Dorothy prodded and kicked and punched and fought her way into the Oblong. When she’d vanished, the driver looked up at a gannet that had stalled above the Oblong as though it were preparing to dive. “Ya gotta love an adventure!” he shouted at the bird, then pulled away and rooster-tailed it back to Bermagui.

W.B. Yeats sat under a native willow tree by the Budgewoi River with a plastic bucket at his feet that contained three fresh bullock hearts. Feargal Sharkey had bought WB the bucket at K-Mart and Devin Johnston had managed to con the hearts from the local butcher at Woy Woy. Devin had joined Yeats as his Australian advisor because of his vast experience fishing the Hawkesbury with Bob Adamson and Anthony Lawrence. It was just after midnight and W.B. had already caught a pike eel without much trouble, except it broke him off when he pulled it up onto the bank. So he decided to change the breaking strain of his line from 100lb to 300lb. He wasn’t going to take chances.

Now Yeats was onto another fish, this one hit him like a train, it swallowed the heart and then took off at great speed, bucking and shaking its head violently. It was heading for a nasty snag on the other side of the river.  It wasn’t a pike eel because no eel that could make such lively swerving moves It just kept going and showed no sign of slowing down. Yeats was yelping with joy and shouting to Devin “Get the net, for the sake of god, get the gaff."

There was by now a some silver codgers gathering to watch the fight. Yeats wasn’t using a rod, his was fishing for pike in the traditional Irish manner with a hand-line, His hands were being cut into as the nylon slid through his fingers but he wasn’t worried because he was so excited. Finally he managed to bring the fish over to the bank where Devin was shining a spotlight. There was a huge boil of water and finally they saw colour. The trouble was, they saw the colour red - a massive waggafish thrashed around on the surface at Yeats’ feet, opening and closing its hideous mouth, making a gurgling sound each time it broke water, then it rolled and made a final dive for freedom, every fishy tricky in the book. Then something else happened - the line went slack and there was an even larger boil of water, and now something massive was on the end of Yeats’ line. A great fin cut across the tide. A bull shark had come up behind the Wagga and had swallowed it whole. The hooks set again, this time in the shark’s jaw, the wire trace held and Yeats found himself hooked up to a huge bull shark. Devin took up the line behind W.B. and helped with the hauling, the line slipping through their fingers on blood from deep cuts. Then for some reason only known to the shark, it changed direction and started coming straight at them. This gave Devin and WB a chance to get most of the line in and when the shark was almost against the bank, one of the old silver codgers managed to get a gaff shot in.  The shark exploded when it felt the cold steel in its shoulder and the men pulling it in were drenched with water and blood. Then Devin, Yeats and the silver codgers managed to drag the old bull shark up the bank of the river until finally it lay there in the wild grasses, defeated with the tail of the waggafish still protruding from between its jagged teeth. 

Back at the Masonic Hall there was great excitement as a truck from Sydney had arrived and was unloading many boxes. Duncan thought it was the delivery he’d been waiting for from California, the equipment he’d be needing for his spiritual experiments. There was confusion as well because Kate Jennings had arrived in the truck along with the cargo. She was supervising the unloading. Jack Spicer who was to help Duncan with the transmigration of the soul, was too impatient to wait, he grabbed a box and tore it open - he was hoping there might be a drink involved some how. When he saw what the box contained his face went totally blank. There was nothing but copies of Frederick Seidel’s book, Ooga Booga - there were endless boxes full of them, all containing the same edition. Jennings started ordering the old silver codgers to help unload the books and carry them into the Masonic Hall. Robert Duncan was furious, it was only a matter of time before he blew a fuse.

Then Devin and Yeats came walking down the main street carrying plates of shark fillets they were going to cook for dinner that night. Devin looked at Kate Jennings and said: “So the unloading has begun,” then he walked on through into the kitchen. 

Jack Spicer and Duncan were baffled when they saw a group of men in the main street who had formed a tight circle. They were dressed in black lycra full-body suits and seemed to be doing some kind of folk dance. Then they started to pull the hoods back from their heads. This was a confusing moment to Duncan and Spicer because the dancing men all seemed to have the same head. They were in fact, all of them, Feargal Sharkeys. He’d been reproducing himself, as if he’d worked out a way to photocopy three dimensional copies of himself. There were at least twenty of them now, smiling. “Fuck this” said Spicer “If they start to dance now I’m going back to San Francisco.” Robert Duncan glared at the gathering of Feargals. “This has got something to do with Ron Silliman” he said in a cold fury.
G. Lehmann.

Dispatch From The Front: Day 31

The interior of the the Red Oblong.

Admiral M.C. Escher.

Jennifer Maiden with some gifts for Robert Duncan in Budgewoi.

When Ted Hughes, Lucinda Williams and T.S. Eliot reached the Red Oblong, the humming was so loud the water at its base was vibrating and its interior was glowing furiously. It was much bigger than they’d imagined - at least three storeys high. Ted rowed around it, looking for a way to get aboard or inside. Its exterior was smooth. There were no footholds, no chains or ropes, no windows, deck or wheelhouse. “It’s just an oblong,” Lucinda said, with Nashville in her mouth. As Ted rowed around it a second time, the current pushed the dinghy against the side of the Oblong, and he put out his hands to steady the small craft. He withdrew his hands quickly. “The surface is hot,” he said. Lucinda reached out and touched the wall. “Yes, but it doesn’t feel oppressive,” she said. Together they placed their hands, palms down, on the side of the Oblong. They felt the wall give slightly. “More pressure,” Ted said, and they leaned hard into it. Ted saw Lucinda’s and Eliot’s hands enter the red surface, then his own hands were gone to the wrists. The badger was making low, grunting sounds that Ted took to be distress, and he went to remove his hands. They wouldn’t budge. “Come on,” Lucinda shouted. “This is how we get in!” They all stood and leaned hard into the wall. Their arms went into the glowing red wall. When they were up to their shoulders, they put their feet to the wall and eased them in. Then they did the same with the other foot. Then they eased their faces inside. They were entering and parting the Oblong’s molecular structure. Like figures in a Magritte painting, they were becoming the details where reality married nightmare. Lucinda was first to enter fully into the Oblong’s interior. T.S. Eliot followed her, losing his glasses as he went. Ted Hughes pushed forward and slipped on through. The badger was turning in circles in the dinghy, which was starting to drift away from the Oblong. It stared at the place where Ted Hughes had gone through, and then it leapt. Its head went into the wall and it clawed and wriggled, gaining purchase until it too had gone through to the other side.
Brooklyn was buzzing. As when the poets first arrived on The Island, this small river community was alive with hundreds of different kinds of craft. The marina was full. The boardwalks and narrow roads around the harbour were crowded with musicians wearing hats and carrying guitar cases. Some were busking outside the various cafes. Others were fishing from the end of the wharf. They had been arriving by boat, water-taxi, sea-plane and train. Emmylou Harris, Bill Wisely, Terry Hack and a large crew of locals had been busy erecting temporary accommodation off to the side of Yeats’ oyster shed. The Angler’s Rest was full.
John Prine and Kris Kristofferson stepped of the train at Brooklyn station and looked around. “My head’s shouting out to my heart Better watch out below,” Prine said. Kristofferson laughed and rubbed his chin. “Oh Lord,” he said. “It’s a loser’s paradise.”
In the Angler’s Rest, Johnny Cash was playing pool with Waylon Jennings. Everyone wanted to play The Man in Black, and coins were stacked the length of the table’s edge. Over in a corner, Dolly Parton and Robert Frost were deep in conversation, heads together. “You know, Robert,” Dolly said, just under her breath, “I used to read The Road Not Taken to my cousin Jim, whom I secretly coveted, in golden winter light in the feed shed at home.” Frost smiled and put the doomed flower of his mouth to Dolly’s ear: “And I used to listen to the long preparations for your arrival and place in the world through the needled headwind of gramophone static as the Watson family gospelled their way into my heart.”
Inside the Red Oblong, Ted, Lucinda and T.S. looked around and could not speak. The entire interior was a three-dimensional model of M.C. Escher’s Relativity, with staircases leading into impossible, yet correct dimensions and endings. The complexity and weirdness of the scene gave them intense vertigo, and they fell over. Lying on the soft red floor, as they tried to regain their balance, they saw that the source of the Oblong’s intense red light was a huge beacon. At its centre was a contained, raging fire. Standing over the beacon was Maritus Cornelis Escher himself. He was dressed in a navy Admiral’s uniform, with red flying fish on the lapels of his immaculate jacket and the word PALINDROME on the front of his cap. Slowly he turned around and said “Welcome. Please allow me to put things into perspective.”
W.B. Yeats was sitting by the Budgewoi, the full moon flooding across the in coming tide, the surface of the river black glass. He could hear green tree frogs croaking their high triple notes, then the weird chuckling calls from owlet nightjars waiting for a frog to put one foot wrong. The mullet were flopping and popping across the surface as they jumped and skipped against the tide. W.B. Yeats had given up fishing for blackfish, he’d met an old silver codger in the pub earlier in the night who had told him about the pike eels - huge olive-backed, silver-bodied fish that grew over a meter long and weighed up to 40lbs. Their teeth ran down the roof of their mouths, except for six fang-like cutting teeth in their bottom jaw. They were powerful eels and you had to fish with a wire trace or they would bite you off. Yeats remembered the pike in Ireland and how he had once fished for them with one of Lady Gregory’s relatives, Blackie O’Carrol - it had been an unforgettable experience and Yeats wanted to try again in the Budgewoi for a similar fish. The man in the pub told Yeats to use a bullock’s heart for bait and a length of 100 lb breaking strain line with a wire trace. Yeats was lost in the world of black water and moonlight, pike eels and the eerie calls of the night birds.  
W.B. Yeats didn’t hear Feargal Sharkey yodeling for help. He’d been to the hospital to visit Huncke and when he walked into Herbert’s ward he could see there was already a visitor. This man was taking down Huncke’s drip and filling it with a brown substance. He was about to say something when the figure at the bed turned around to face him. Feargal was in the bed, and yet the man changing the drip looked exactly like Huncke, it took a minute for Feargal to realize he was confronting Huncke’s doppelganger as it emptied the saline from the drip and refilled the plastic bag with a full bottle of Black Drops. The two Hunckes rose up and tore the ward apart, there was chaos and strife, orderlies running around and nurses calling out for help. Eventually the police arrived but it was too late, the Huncke twins were running amok in Woy Woy. The real Huncke was being pursued through the lake-side streets by his insane doppelganger. Feargal wondered which Huncke he should fear the most. Were they independent of each other or did they work together in their quest for totally anarchy and mayhem?   
Back at the Masonic Hall in Budgewoi, Robert Duncan was setting out the teacups for refreshments. He had a guest coming on the next train and was looking forward to talking to Jennifer Maiden about The Problem of Evil. Duncan was looking elegant in his black velvet jacket and silk shirt with his tailored charcoal grey superfine wool trousers. He had baked some teacakes in the Masonic oven and was warming the tea-pot. Jennifer turned up with her daughter Katharine, who looked like a young version of Jennifer and was as keen to meet Duncan as her Mother. When they started talking, Jennifer asked Duncan if he was sure he should be experimenting with the ritual for the transmigration of souls, and shouldn’t he be careful of chaos breaking out when he summoned the god Set? Duncan turned the question back on Jenny and asked her if she believed in direct action in the same way as Denise Levertov? Jennifer replied “I’ve always found poetry a useful tool for tactical and ethical problem-solving. I see it as a three-dimensional philosophy, like you have a human being in the form of the physical nature of language, incarnate as an idea that you set forth and explore, it lives out the problem as the poem tests it.” Duncan loved this and agreed with her. They were about to explore the idea and the myth of the transmigration of a soul when there was a knocking on the door.  When Jennifer answered the door, Feargal was standing there as white as the side of a pike eel, “What do you know about doppelgangers?” he asked in a shaky voice.

G. Lehmann.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dispatch From The Front: Day 30

A selection of hand-carved planks.

James Dickey’s plank.

Bill Wisely coaching his son in the art of planking.

The Witchdoctor, todays most successful game-fish teaser. The shape of Bill Wisely's original 'plank' can be seen under the smoke and mirrors.

A Short History of the Plank
The plank first came to my attention when I witnessed its use during The Island War. This particular version was a crude affair, consisting mainly of the kinds of planks one sees on backyard fences, though with a handle shaped for a better grip. James Dickey’s plank was another thing altogether: based on the clubs used in the trenches in WW1, Dickey wielded his plank with an artist’s flourish, skittling Waggaists and sometimes other poets as he went in chanting and smiling.
Bill Wisely was the first to use a plank. Fishing from West Fort late one afternoon, he caught a Waggafish using one of Ian the Squid-man’s famous live-baits. When the Wagga came up thrashing and snarling, Bill lifted it into the belly of his boat and took to it with the plank he’d ripped rom the Brooklyn jetty a few days earlier. The Wagga was bucking and throwing red slime. Bill’s hand was a blur as he turned the huge Wagga to red slime.
Soon Bill had a huge collection of planks. His room at the Angler’s Rest was bristling with planks of various lengths and widths. He had planks for dealing with Waggas, planks for sorting out fights at the pub, and planks he used as teasers - these were towed behind his boat while trolling for Waggas and yellowfin tuna. They were painted red, green and blue, and had fragments of mirror glued onto them to attract fish from the deep.
Bill’s plank collection soon became an obsession. The plank he’d used to kill the Wagga was framed and hung on the wall behind the bar at the Angler’s Rest. Bill’s talk became so plank-based, that hardly anyone understood him. The word ‘plank’ appeared so many times in each sentence, the word itself became stripped of all meaning. “Plank you,” he’d say, when giving thanks. “Quite plankly, I don’t give a flying fuck,” was another of his favourite expressions.
News of the plank soon spread, especially within Australia’s tight-lipped and highly secretive fishing community. Steve Starling, our finest fishing journalist, came to Brooklyn to interview Bill about his planks and quickly became a devotee. In Modern Fishing, Starling wrote “...if ten percent of anglers catch ninety percent of the fish, then Bill Wisely is owed one hundred percent credit for introducing Australia to this extraordinary wooden item.” Starling’s article appeared in the February 2005 issue, and within weeks Brooklyn was alive with those wanting to seek Bill’s counsel. He responded by barricading himself in his room, and abusing the plank-disciples from his second-story window.
It soon became clear that the plank, when in the right hands, was not simply a weapon or Wagga-pacifier - it had fish-attracting properties. Steve Starling found this out first-hand while fishing with his mate Bushy out at Rowley Shoals. The fishing had been slow, so Starlo brought his plank and lowered the polished blade into the water. He waved it back and forth, slowly. Soon a school of massive dog-tooth tuna swept in from the around the other side of the atoll and went berserk around the boat, tail-swamping Starling and Bushy with seawater like Flipper, and eyeing the plank as they ripped past, snapping and glowing. That afternoon they caught green job fish, huge barracuda, coral trout and wahoo. The prize was a 250 kilo Waggafish, which Starling attracted and then subdued with his favourite plank.
In England, planks are now used while coarse fishing. Many a pike has known the allure and bite of a deftly-wielded plank. In South Africa, planks are used in the long-distance beach fishing championships: 15’-long, curved and hollowed planks are used to fling a 150gram lead sinker the length of a football field. On the Bellinger River, planks are being used for yabbying and for smashing European carp. Even in the wheat-belt, WA, planks are now the mainstay for farmers wanting to catch the marron that migrate from dam to dam. Despite the Red K’s petition and a flurry of activity on his homepage, thousands of these huge, tasty crustaceans have been planked, cooked and devoured.
I myself have a plank. I fought the urge for weeks, but having seen Bill Wisely at work on the upper reaches of the river, his various planks singing and flying in his hands, I relented and placed my order. Bill is a master plank-craftsman. My plank is made from jarrah, has a handle in the shape of a dragon-fly tail, and one of the landscapes in my book Ross’ Poems has been lovingly carved into the blade.
“There is a teaser lure called the Witchdoctor, it is Peter Pakula’s first invention. Initially designed for use while trolling live baits, the Witchdoctor is accepted as the best fish exciter for all game fishing trolling applications. At trolling speeds the Witchdoctor stays deep below the prop-wash, sending out irresistible vibrations, flashing reflected shafts of fluorescent blue and purple light in all directions, and unlike any other teaser, it never comes to the surface to interfere and tangle with trolling lines.”  
The above paragraph is a typical description by a fishing writer promoting the most famous ‘plank’ in game fishing. It claims Peter Pakula invented the Witchdoctor game-fish teaser. It’s true that Pakula came up with many classic lures - the Konahead is one that comes to mind - however, it is not completely true that Pakula invented the Witchdoctor. Here is an account of how the witchdoctor was ‘invented’ and how it was manufactured and marketed by Peter Pakula.
Some years ago when Pakula was in Sydney, he wanted to catch a black marlin, so he hired a game-boat called The Sheriff and set out with its skipper and crew to fish Brown’s Mountain. It happened that Bill Wisely was one of the crew of and on this trip Bill was the live-bait and gaff-man. After a great session of tagging three black marlin and a Mako shark, Pakula had a strike and was hooked up with something big. It was swimming hard and deep and not acting like anything the crew could indentify by its behavior. After about a half an hour Bill called it for a black kingfish, a huge cobia. When they finally saw colour and had the fish on the surface they couldn’t believe their eyes.
What the hell was this incredibly ugly looking fish? Because Bill was handling the trace and gaff he decided to pull the fish aboard to get a better look. When it hit the deck the fish started to ‘growl’ and lurched at the nearest crew member and threw off a foul smelling red slime. This fish turned out to be the first recorded Waggafish caught by a game fishing boat in Sydney waters. When Pakula grabbed the gaff and poked the fish, the Wagga turned its head and snapped at the gaff, breaking it in two. The angry red fish was about to go for Pakula’s leg, but Bill Wisely grabbed his plank and started in on the fish. Something inside Bill snapped out there on the sea that day above Brown’s Mountain. Wisley went into a frenzy of planking the waggafish and within five minutes had turned it into a pulp of dark red jelly on the deck.
This action of Bill’s frightened the shit out of everyone on board. The skipper decided to call it a day. As they cruised back in towards the coast, Bill was trying to wash his plank in the live bait tank. The gunk, slime and red speckled scales embedded in the wood just wouldn’t budge. Bill decided the plank needed to be rinsed by sea-water, so he tied a trace around it and threw it over the stern into the wake. After The Sheriff had towed the plank for awhile, it started to dive and ‘swim’ in a peculiar manner. Bill pulled it closer to the back of the boat and saw that the red scales embedded in the grain of the plank were sparkling. A couple of the crew members came to have a look, they were astonished to see three black marlin were following the plank as Bill wound it back in. Peter Pakula started taking photographs and making notes. He then questioned Bill exhaustively about his old ‘plank’. Six months later, the first batch of ‘Witchdoctors’ appeared in the tackle shops, and these were not much more than versions of Bill’s plank painted red with mirrors glued to both sides.

G. Lehmann

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dispatch From The Front: Day 29

Robert Duncan and the Initiates of the Cult of Seth.

Seth the God of Chaos.

John Tranter impersonating Ern Malley.

Feargal Sharkey as a Tawny Frogmouth on the cover of his first album.

Devin Johnston was twenty four hours late. He’d been held up at Central Station waiting for the train to Budgewoi as there was track-work in progress. Devin got to know a fellow traveler in the crowd by the name of Feargal Sharkey, a singer from Dublin. Devin told him he was going up to the central coast to help W.B.Yeats who was stranded with a group of poets in a Masonic Hall. Feargal was having a break from his tour so decided to go along with Devin so he could meet up with the great poet.

W.B. Yeats had been on the phone to Devin early that morning, he told Devin about the Black Drop outbreak, that everyone who was staying at the Masonic Hall had sampled the Drops and were now too intoxicated to help Robert Duncan proceed with the ritual he needed to perform. Everyone was completely out of control except for Duncan himself and Richard Tipping. Richard was there on a fellowship from the Returned Mystics Association to film the transmigration of the soul ceremony and generally document the event for the future. He had already set up his hi-tech lighting system and had cameras focused on the stage and other strategic positions. He was pacing around looking for unusual angles. Richard followed Duncan everywhere asking questions. Duncan told Tipping how he loved one of Richard’s conceptual sculptures - a red brick that had the words ‘trick-brick’ stamped on the top and bottom. The Budgewoi Masons wanted to commission Tipping to make a huge quantity of these bricks, enough for them to build a project, a shrine to the ancient god Seth or ‘Set’ as the Egyptians called him. Set was the god of Chaos  and was often depicted in a human form but with an animal head. Some say this is the head of an aardvark - Seth has a curved snout, erect square ears, and a long forked tail.

The ancient Greek myths contained versions of Set but called their god of Chaos Seth - the Greeks’ idea of the transmigration is similar to reincarnation and yet different in some aspects. If, for example, the transmigration occurs after death, the person’s shade has to dwell in Hades and drink from the river Lethe until he looses all memory of his or her previous life. When all memory has drained away, the soul moves out from the underworld into another human form, and is then reborn.
Duncan explained to Tipping that this is very simplified version of the process, but it would do for the moment because he would soon be a witness to the real thing.

There were stories of transmigrations gone wrong. If even a tiny trace of a previous memory is retained, when the soul is reborn it becomes a troubled soul forever. There were other stories of souls that had transmigrated into the bodies of non human creatures, sometimes into birds, and at other times even fish.

Duncan set the date. The ceremony would be in two days. This would give them time to clean up the mess left behind in the wake of the Black Drop binge. It would also be enough time for the effects to wear off and for the poets to sober up. 

Devin Johnston and Feargal Sharkey arrived with John Tranter who they had met on the train. Tranter had his whippets with him, Jet and Blondie, as he was aiming on doing some rabbiting while he was staying in the country. Tranter was impersonating Ern Malley but none of us were fooled, although we went along with his charade out of kindness.

Devin took charge of things at the Masonic Hall. Before long he had Herbert Huncke booked into a detox program in the Woy Woy Hospital. Herbert was too far gone to even know what was happening. This was a good thing because he didn’t believe in a life without narcotics, and Devin had to think of the welfare of the whole group. There was no alternative.  When Huncke came to, he was going to be a handful, however this was a district with a high rate of addicts and the crew at the hospital would have seen all types and would know what to do. Devin also arranged a de-briefing session for Bob Adamson who was still convinced Anthony Lawrence should be living on green weed to boost the iron in his blood.

Johnston went down to the river and he soon took up with the old golden codgers who pledged their help with the preparations. A few weird things kept happening for a while - probably the oddest thing was when Philip Salom turned up on the dark of the moon and claimed that he was the Red K himself. He was dressed in a bright red silk jumpsuit and carried a big basket of vegetables he said were harvested in accordance with Rudolf Steiner’s gardening philosophy. Salom made some wonderful jokes
about Herbert Huncke and had everyone in stitches for hours. This totally blew his cover because, as everyone knows, the Red K has absolutely no sense of humour. We were never convinced by Salom’s mimicry but we were now in the habit of going along with the identity crises the poets were all going through.

W.B. Yeats had been laying low, he had been keeping to his room practicing a recitation of The Second Coming for Duncan’s ceremony. He decided to jump back into the eye of the action, he wanted to go out into the night and look at the constellations of the Southern Hemisphere. He loved seeing the Southern Cross and watching the shooting stars and the tails of the space junk as it re-entered the earth’s atmosphere and burned up. He walked along the banks of the Budgewoi and noticed the mullet were jumping, he watched the night herons preparing for the night’s hunting forays.

He was dressed in his finest grey Connemara cloth and wearing his new R.M. Williams boots. He ran into Ginsberg by the river who was trying to sober up by singing Dorothy Hewett’s song On An Island In a River accompanying himself on his trusty old harmonium. Ginsberg looked across to Yeats and said: “Ah Willy, this is a sweet life, and this is a place where peace comes dropping slow, just remember this now because in two days when Duncan gets to work on raising up that old red beast of a god, we’re going to need peace. Call him Seth or Set, whatever the name, he is the God of Chaos!”

There is one more very strange occurrence to report. When W.B. Yeats was strolling back from his walk in the night sky by the river, he heard the tinkling of little bells, then a flapping sound and then a chuckling male voice. Yeats walked out onto the main road under a street light, and there was Feargal Sharkey, swinging on the telegraph wires. He would swing and then move forward by passing his hands along the wire and moving an arm-span at a time. He was totally nude but his body was intricately painted with the full plumage of a tawny frogmouth owl and he was uttering the chuckling call of a male. He swung along for about ten metres,  and then slid down a telegraph pole and landed on the footpath. He walked out into the middle of the street and, looking like a huge nocturnal predator, shivered in his feathery skin then started reciting Chris Wallace-Crabbe’s poem A Wintery Manifesto. W.B. Yeats listened in amazement and then shook his head, thinking ‘The Black Drops’.
G. Lehmann.