This bartender doesn’t like me. I used to enjoy reading great literature and could recite poetry…“what happens to a dream deferred?” – might still help me make enough of an impression that someone sitting at the bar won’t mind making up the coins I lack to pay for my beer.
Woodrow was showing visiting professors around the facility. They were eager to learn all they could, in the quest to increase production of SaltyNectar®, the much sought after finite resource.
Pointing to the subject, Woodrow began to explain his findings:
“EL-AINEDOB150816 is responding well to memory convergence. Synapses effectively returning to previous points of extension, resuming plasticity. Connections have been observed, with neurons firing in response to simulated seasons visible through the ‘window’. Relics have also been left in the mock bedroom, including a basket full of sentimental assortments, such as printed images of people known to the subject, and the shell of a nautilus, held dear to her, according to her file notes, as a treasured memento from her childhood that it is likely to conjure memories- a conjuring nautilus.
“Conjuring nautilus” he repeated. Woodrow liked the sound of these words. He was one of the rare re-births who had the ability to program himself to register small pleasures, in this case resulting in a curious upturn of his lips and crinkles at the corners of his eyes.
Today was a public holiday here in Australia. 26th January is known to some as Australia Day, to others as Invasion Day. A day of celebration for some, for others, a day of mourning and/or activism- acknowledging the past and present injustices to the indigenous peoples of this country- for others still, simply a welcome time off from work.
Today, I didn’t celebrate, but thoughts of injustices were on my mind. There are gaps in health, mortality, education, social inclusion, services- you name it, there is a gaping hole that divides the original custodians of this land from its other inhabitants. I was not going to write about it, until an email from a friend inspired me to share some words, a quote attributed to Lilla Watson, although she prefers to see it attributed to ‘Aboriginal activist’s group, Queensland, 1970s’.
If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.
I love the quote, as ‘help’ is too often about making the ‘helper’ feel good without an understanding of what is really needed- be it a government initiative, or the voluntary act of an individual. The alternative is acknowledging the other person’s humanity and seeing that we need one another- a good place to start- with a paradigm shift still needed, some 40 odd years after those words were spoken, and 228 years since the arrival of the First Fleet.
26/01/2017: This was first published on 26th January 2016. It is still relevant a year on. Prison populations, education, employment and morbidity and mortality rates have not made any forward leaps for positive change. This time around though, I am not merely a saddened spectator but playing a small part in change by participating in a Reconciliation Action Plan working group at my place of work.
The emphasis on political discourse rather than scientific rationale in arriving at 2C was my first experience of the compromises that my degree had not prepared me for; sure, we had the Monte Carlo method to deal with uncertainty in numbers, but no amount of elegant code could model the unpredictability and irrationality of my species.
Months before the inauguration of the Leader of the Free World, my department was earmarked for the puppet show it was to become, strings dangled in wait, to be tied as soon as the acceptance speech concluded; I couldn’t bear to make any more compromises so I resigned and now, years later, as I wade through my submerged island home, occasionally diving in to retrieve mementos of my sunken world, that decision haunts me more than the sight of a bloated corpse, for I could have been the change that I so desperately wanted to see.
I write this in the hope that if it is found, the world I inhabited is not shrouded in mythology; it happened, we were here, and perhaps our failings can be lessons for whatever or whomever is to come.
Not for the first time, I approached the table that had been set for eleven, my mother’s best plates out for the occasion and a sense of abundance and joie de vivre conjoured on the surface by a decadent floral burst and fruit too waxy to tempt a bite. I stood at the head of the table, guests paused in a still life for my perusal, waiting for their cue. I noted they were all there- my three brothers, mother, father; their faces, clothes, expressions and mannerisms reflected by their mirrored selves across the table; my role as hostess was to select the ‘right’ version of each family member to take a seat, at which point I’d wake to the clammy anxiety of the pre-emptive consequence of getting it wrong, leaving the cold bone china plates empty, my appetite suppressed.
This structure’s eye accepts light but not wind. Within the rectangle I cannot see my breath’s product. The floor resembles cork; our senses fill gaps in perception. Does one read emptiness with disdain or horror? The sun recedes. I fear ice in the trees, weight on my chest.
heaven’s clowns release their tears
sink! or swim time’s tide
silver trails depreciate,
mollusca’s retreat for one
Tanka inspired by Robert Okaji’s prose. Robert is a poet extraordinaire who blogs at O at the Edges. He is a beer connoisseur, foodie, sharp knife aficionado, and doesn’t take himself too seriously. Thanks so much for collaborating Bob! It was through reading this post on Bob’s blog a while back that I came across the haibun, beginning my love affair with the form.
Half a Haibun is an ongoing (and occasional) feature here at 10000hoursleft. A collaborative project with bloggers I admire- they write the prose that I then use as inspiration for a tanka or haiku. The intention being that together, we’ll create a whole; 2 halves converging to add a richness and complexity to one another, in the form of a haibun. Others in the series:
Over the course of November, I wrote 50,012 words towards my novel, pieced together as:
Scenes for the first 5 turning points and first step of the 6th turning point of my WIP
Off-shoot stories about some of the cast of characters who are part of my protagonist’s journey.
In addition to NaNoWriMo, I completed a writing course, applied for 5 jobs, and fulfilled family, work and personal responsibilities. The writing milestones are personal highlights of the past 12 months. Funnily, when I co-wrote my first post of 2016 (on maintaining goals), I hadn’t set out on this path, conceiving these goals in the final half of the year (and working on them in the last quarter), giving me a more tangible target than my previously vague goal of progressing my WIP over the year (it is never too late to start a ‘new year resolution’!).
Here, I share lessons I learnt about myself, my writing, and the writing process. Continue reading →