Way out in the Gibson desert, not far from Lake MacKay, at the end of a long day crossing the desert at an average speed of 20kph, I came upon an old man sitting by a campfire . His back leaned against the tyre of an ancient troopy. He was cooking something that smelled good. It was kangaroo stew and damper.
He introduced himself as Pete, and invited me to join him for a meal, which I accepted cheerfully, bringing out some canned fruit and creamed rice from my stock as a dessert offering.
His stew was really good. His damper was unexpectedly extraordinary. It tasted like the best sourdough bread I’ve ever had. Damper is usually made from self raising flour or using baking powder. I complimented Pete on the bread, and he told me he used raisins to make a starter dough. It seems the yeasts naturally found on the dried fruit were perfect for making bread. The starter fermented all day in the hot car as he travelled and was ready to bake in the camp oven at the end of every day.
He showed me how it was done. He opened an old pack, pulled out a bag of raisins, mixed some with flour and water in an old Tupperware container, and put it on the bonnet of his Troopy ready for the next day. Then he put the raisins beside the container on the bonnet. We sat down to share dessert.
As we ate, there was a whir of wings and a large crow landed on the car. Without hesitation, it grabbed the bag of dried fruit and flew away with it.
Pete watched the bird fly away with the resigned acceptance of one who is used to the vagaries and tragedies of life. “Ah.” he said philosophically. “There goes my raisins for leavening”.
There’s water in the scuppers and the sea is cutting rough The bilge pumps are not working and if that’s not bad enough There’s salt water in the rum lads, there will be no getting drunk We’ll all drown stone cold sober when the fucking ship has sunk
The skipper’s drinking brandy, for he has a private store He says he’ll go down with his ship and what can he do more? He ordered the abandon ship, we cut the lifeboats free Not one of them would stay afloat. They sank into the sea
The life jackets are useless. They are soggy wet kapok We tossed them in the ocean and they went down like a rock The first mate said to swim for it, we’ve minutes to get clear Before the old girl founders, and drags us down with her
The bosun said there was no point for where then would we go? Unless there is an island near and that, he did not know So even if we swam and swam, and then we swam some more The bloody sharks would take us all before we reached a shore
I’ll take me chances here said he, and go down quick and clean Just then a huge wave swamped us. The biggest we had seen The old ship groaned and foundered, then settled on a reef The water’s really shallow here, to everyone’s relief. .
Now westlin winds and slaught’ring guns Bring Autumn’s pleasant weather; The moorcock springs on whirring wings Amang the blooming heather: Now waving grain, wide o’er the plain, Delights the weary farmer; And the moon shines bright, when I rove at night, To muse upon my charmer.
The partridge loves the fruitful fells, The plover loves the mountains; The woodcock haunts the lonely dells, The soaring hern the fountains: Thro’ lofty groves the cushat roves, The path of man to shun it; The hazel bush o’erhangs the thrush, The spreading thorn the linnet.
Thus ev’ry kind their pleasure find, The savage and the tender; Some social join, and leagues combine, Some solitary wander: Avaunt, away! the cruel sway, Tyrannic man’s dominion; The sportsman’s joy, the murd’ring cry, The flutt’ring, gory pinion!
But, Peggy dear, the ev’ning’s clear, Thick flies the skimming swallow, The sky is blue, the fields in view, All fading-green and yellow: Come let us stray our gladsome way, And view the charms of Nature; The rustling corn, the fruited thorn, And ev’ry happy creature.
We’ll gently walk, and sweetly talk, Till the silent moon shine clearly; I’ll grasp thy waist, and, fondly prest, Swear how I love thee dearly: Not vernal show’rs to budding flow’rs, Not Autumn to the farmer, So dear can be as thou to me, My fair, my lovely charmer!
It is the early bird that causes the earworm, because I find myself mentally playing that tune as I go about my routine. The rhythm infiltrates almost all of my tasks. I clean my teeth, and realise I am doing it in time to the beat. The same happens when I wash the dishes, shave, or sweep the concrete.
And now I find that having written ‘brush’ that many times, it looks wrong. And. I’ve forgotten what I was going to write next.
So. To other matters. On my way back from Woolworths this afternoon, I saw one of my lady friends was working at the pool. I called in to say hi and ask how soon the pool would be open again. Next Saturday! Yay!
But it will be restricted, and swimmers must book ahead. The announcement goes out to all members by email tonight. Guess who is the first to book in for 07:00 Saturday morning.
Your smile. Is. Sausages, sizzling in a skillet Sounds like sage leaves singing sadly From the botulum of their hearts While the parsley and potato purr The yellow of the egg yolks hurts my ears Avocado. Avocadenza Thanks. Don’t mind if I do.
I do not like you little fly And I shall surely tell you why You walk on shyte and things that die And then you land upon my pie.
Don’t come here with your shitty feet And walk across the things I eat I just want pastry, gravy, meat, Not hours upon a toilet seat
So shoo fly, do not bother me Fly far away and let me be I only want to eat my tea Not Campylobacter jejeuni.
The poet has used several literary devices to consolidate his theme. Firstly he has chosen to write only three quatrains with a simple aaaa bbbb cccc rhyme scheme. This sets out the poem in a deceptive, child-like simplicity, almost as if the it were a nursery rhyme, seemingly concealing rather than accentuating the depth and significance of the tragic theme.
He uses internal rhymes, assonance and alliteration to establish a rhythm that seems to support the nursery rhyme theme, belying once again the significance, indeed, the very the depths of despair and desolation plumbed in the work. For it is important to know that this opus was written during the great pandemic of 2020, when people around the world sat isolated in in their homes, afraid of death, and talking to flies. And dying.
He hauntingly starts the first and third verses with clever literary references to great literary works written before; one an ancient Latin tale of distrust*, translated and extemporised, it is said, by Tom Brown himself during his schooldays, and the other a song now considered racist, by Brigham Bishop. It was ostensibly about a fly and a negro soldier in Company B during the American civil war. It may have deeper, darker meaning. He was not the boogie woogie bugle boy.
Both references reflect and project the anxiety and stress of the poet’s own times.
It is known the poet suffered a serious bout of Campylobacter diarrhoea shortly before he wrote this poem. It was severe, and lasted eight days, at the end of which he was beginning to fear he might not just pass more crap than should really be in one man at any one time, but actually pass away.
The poem ends with both a bit of scientific erudition, and poetic licence with the pronunciation of jejeuni.
So this poem can be seen not as simple doggerel, but a deep and meaningful metaphor describing the poet’s state of mind, and the state of the world around him, in which the pie represents a life full of happiness and fulfilment (meat and gravy), the fly a wandering traveller, unknowingly infected – or perhaps a thoughtless fucking food vendor who made a ham and egg burger after not washing his hands after using the toilet on Friday the 20th of last month at about 06:30 just after I picked up Lyn at the airport – (sorry!) – thus unintentionally bringing chaos and pain with him.
The brevity of the poem mirrors the brevity of life itself. The three verses represent the three stages of life; childhood, maturity and decrepitude, also known in literary circles as beginning, middle and end. The poet pulls no punches here.
In the poem, the toilet seat is a subtle metaphor for social isolation enforced as Lockdown, that leaves people sitting alone and lonely at home, unable to leave. Unable to be in company.
“Eat my tea” is a metaphor for “live my life”.
Campylobacter jejeuni is clearly also a metaphor, and a clever one at that, for the dread COVID 19 coronavirus that threatens the enjoyment of life itself.
By cleverly not mentioning toilet paper, a necessity when one has the trots, the poet brings it to mind by carefully not juxtaposing shitty and toilet seat in the same verse. This reminds us of the vast amounts of paper (read money) that the pandemic is costing society.
My word this guy packs a lot of meaning between a few lines.
You didn’t know I could be so bloody deceptively deep.