Fiction

Two works to “sing a song of exhaustion” and to lament this country’s “lust for smoke”. By Andy Jackson and Bron Bateman.

Two poems

Betrayal

Before I had a voice, words landed, penetrated
into the marrow. Defect. Deformity. Disorder.
The spinal fusion operations were failed successes.
        As in, my vertebrae were determined, no matter

what straightness I desired, to be bent, their own peculiar
version of upright. It’s difficult, fused, to turn
       around, look behind myself. I am trying not to take this
as a metaphor. I need to perform surgery on these words,

to sing a song of exhaustion, strip back
       the humiliation as eyes glance, then gaze
beyond, or, worse yet, render me completely
invisible, not only by age, or gender, but infirmity.

I extend my hand-cane hybrid towards the ground
in front of me like a diviner – this path,
this body, not the only crooked things. I mean,
       look, I could trip and plunge

into the hollow of myself, distracted
by this noise in my ears – if you have a go,
        you will get a go. What about the unpicked
threads of the safety net? And who are these people

simply watching as we fall? I am trying not
        to take this as a metaphor. We yearn for the
possibilities of another city, another body as we
fall, knee-first onto the blunt fact

of crip promise. We pick gravel out
of pitted flesh, and the ruination of these bodies
leaves us roaming where we are, persistent
        inhabitants of a breaking country.

Andy Jackson & Bron Bateman

 

What endures

Our throats are on fire, yet some aren’t fussed by smoke.
Where there’s money and mirrors, there must be smoke.

The mountains are veiled in grey, and the future
has turned into a myth. What can we trust? Smoke?

Some deaths can never happen, in the heart’s logic.
Our eyes, our lungs, refuse to adjust to this smoke.

We imagine Shakespeare, Darwin, Einstein and Gandhi.
In the long run, what endures is plastic, arsenic, rust, smoke.

Eucalypts, ferns, koalas, frogs, skinks, too many to name.
You can taste a billion worlds in a single gust of smoke.

It murmurs over your shoulder, whichever way you face –
you can be a seed buried in the earth, or dust and smoke.

We ignored the warnings, became a pack-a-day country.
What now? No poet can reason with this lust for smoke.

Andy Jackson 

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on August 26, 2023 as "Two poems".

For almost a decade, The Saturday Paper has published Australia’s leading writers and thinkers. We have pursued stories that are ignored elsewhere, covering them with sensitivity and depth. We have done this on refugee policy, on government integrity, on robo-debt, on aged care, on climate change, on the pandemic.

All our journalism is fiercely independent. It relies on the support of readers. By subscribing to The Saturday Paper, you are ensuring that we can continue to produce essential, issue-defining coverage, to dig out stories that take time, to doggedly hold to account politicians and the political class.

There are very few titles that have the freedom and the space to produce journalism like this. In a country with a concentration of media ownership unlike anything else in the world, it is vitally important. Your subscription helps make it possible.

Select your digital subscription

Month selector

Use your Google account to create your subscription