Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Self Control

Self control is not calling out to your sisters in the street
Because it’s uncouth
It is pretending you are full because it’s rude
To take a second slice
It is pacing instead of picking up the phone
To call an ex lover
And not running away when they’re nipping at your heels
For the sake of composure
Self control is holding back tears that might avalanche
Into solid fits
The biting of nails that substitute the hard spitting
Of unpleasantness
And a million other things we swap and bargain over
“I’ll give you a heart attack for staying even though it hurts”
“And some cancer if you’ll hold this guilt a little longer for me”
“Or a big gold star because you learned restraint”
“I’ll pin it on my heart disease; I’ll lay it by my sadness strong, all for you and self control”
“For you”

If self control is command over you, then why is it control?
If I am one person, then how can I control myself?
Self control is recruiting schizophrenia for a suicide mission
Hiring a hit man – and the target?

Self control is hiding feelings so when you really need them,
You won’t find a single one
Staying at the desk although your heart is swollen and your brain bust
Because it’s not knock-off yet
Self control is mistaking masochism for fortitude
And running some gauntlet
Of bruising illusion and sorry stray animals picked up for pity’s sake
And forgotten soon after
Self control is staying in a job you hate, and waking with a bruised brain every day
But staying because you don’t leave one job until you have another
Self control is forcing down coffee because there’s no time
For resting

Angela Sidoti © 2006

--- 20 October 2006 ---

The Breaking

Described by author Peter FitzSimons as a true, adults-only version of Lord of the Flies meets A Night Mare on Elm Street, the story of Batavia takes place in 1629.  The story of Batavia also takes place amongst the elements and grace of nature; in waters as unforgiving as the tortured souls of those brutally murdered by the diabolical mutineers, in winds that whip as ruthlessly through human skin and flesh as their shining blades did, and on islands as desolate as the humanity that was present on the day of their massacres.

Screams travel through the sea breeze gaining speed and shrillness until a gale of such proportion has amassed a rage so pure that the sails it assaults can only hope to keep their stitches.  It whips through the deck encouraging the growing rivulets of blood to divide and travel like the roots of a tree straight into hell.  And the ocean, once still and compliant, on high tide on the stubborn reef, throws the boat back and forth so that the victims are impatiently rocked like neglected babies, too rough, too hurriedly, their faces countlessly swung and bashed from side to side against the woody pillow of their final sleep.  A woman, not twenty, and pregnant lies inside the darkened cabin in a metallic stench of stale air and blood that laden the air with an evil that even the invasive gale cannot blow away.  Like cradle-cap, her hair and now her scalp too, are worn away from the constant tossing of her head which hangs from the flesh of the back of her neck where the quick blade lingered momentarily before hurrying to another victim.  Her child waits.

The sea spews its salt spray onto the deck as though to both preserve and destroy the awful scene.  It lands in splodges on the bloodstained deck, dissipating the gore so that liquid red runs thin while little pieces of congealed blood break away and float before being beached again like jelly fish on the wood grain.  So many secrets already held in her.  Like the night she took into her buoyancy the plan hatched by Jacobsz, his savage whispers into a willing ear, stolen and carried by the good-natured night breeze, and then bounced across her before finally, she, the guileless sea, would take them into her.  Surrounding them.  There they floated, not judged, but stark in their true form.  Magnified by her strength.  And later she would also hold some of the bodies these whispers would produce, and they would float peaceful in her knowledge, calmed by her fair witness.  Hair curling in her current, clothes billowing in a beautiful ebb and flow, small air bubbles sliding off of lashes like exclamation marks to frightened eyes, before rising to join the breezes above.  The sea would become them all.

The mutton birds squawked in terror sensing the carnage that was to come.  Dumbfounded islands awaited the spilling of these visitors, the Batavia's human cargo, onto their shores, and later, their sands cleaned the blood in a slow and unsuccessful forgetting.    The islands each ruffled and flapped about like a bird frightened from its roost.  Resisting the tragedy that was to stage itself on their pristine skins.  And forever mark their landscape.

The Batavia.  Her maiden voyage of unparalleled horror.  Raped, torn, spoiled.  Easy prey for the unsuspecting reef and its choral blades and now her eyes polluted by a far crueler massacre than her own, her woody countenance hit repeatedly by the foul echo of a mutinous scheme to produce still more death.  Her coming out into society was marked by her early Morning awakening, the cruelest realisation of her womanhood, and the killing off of innocence with a sunrise which would blind her with too much that is stark and irreversible.

Her body flexed and groaned with the murderous words that assaulted her ear.  And then amongst that, the ordinary, the flesh and breath noises of the unsuspecting; a mother chastising her son for pulling his sister's hair, the clatter of dishes, cries from children, and carried by the wind, the deep calls of men as they worked the deck.  These haunted her almost as much as the depraved whisperings of Jacobsz and Cornelisz.  Therefore as she ran aground that early morning, she found momentary peace, and groaned gratefully as she surrendered and broke herself upon the coral. 

Lucretia Jansz, lovely, womanly, and married, if she were able, would have done the same.  A silver shadow woman clutching the ship's taffrail, white knuckled and shaking, believing it might save her.  Eyes as lifeless as the dead who she sincerely wished to join, Lucretia, like the Batavia, was left a broken woman.

[entry by Angela Sidoti in the 2011 Random House Batavia Competition]
Angela Sidoti © 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Oh you faltering fake and unhappy ending

Oh you faltering fake and unhappy ending
Obvious, stated as a disclaimer, in italics and small in print
None the less there and available for consideration
By the careful, the paranoid, the clever.
Not for me this small and ungrateful prick
In the trustful, luck-full, optimistic mind
Of me

For I am stupid and willing like a domestic animal
Stolen nature fighting the rule it is grown against
Thrown against, loaned against
I am there and absent in my care for self
A bad bang repeater, deleater, he-beat-her
To a pulp of disappointment, self hate sad and dragged anointment
When the rail you lean against, scream against
Folds down and fallen you lay cheated
Hurt and bruised like flower petals in a careless fist

It was blissed, kissed and left for dead or else a gist
Slow coming, like her
Arriving too late for the rest, the best
She thinks she can do
While getting done, it’s just fun shoots the gun
Of her masochistic, too sadistic – lack
And sits heavy like stone chilled bone
in the home of “not there”

Angela Sidoti © 2006

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The stomach cloud

The stomach cloud
Sinking like stoney silence
Unfinished business
Or unforgiven delay

A scattered herd
Running scared but not over
Dust ridden movement
On a still, sunless day

A mouth overworked
Scarring as spoken sad
Light laden truths
Cover a dense unrhyming word

Or eyes seeing nothing
Refracting with their light
A massacre of form
Floating above earth-beds

Angela Sidoti © 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Something Soft…

Something soft, like a face held open
Something soft, like feeling hope again
A gentle word, an unknown phrase, an insight into things held close, sometimes too close.
Something soft sees the possibility of all things given life beyond their likelihood so that they stand like great trees of chilli, bountiful, red and passionate. Through any season.
Something hard, like hidden goodness
Something hard, like cultivating defence
The shiny edge of an unknowable world, a slippery step forward into obvious disaster
Something hard sees the death in all things before their life and the futile, the frail, the fickle, as ordinary. When they are not.
In truth all these things bounce from scene to scene, dependant on the extras, necessary for authenticity to reign.
In truth great chilli trees are grown not by observation but by dropping red to the earth and rotting.
In truth songs are made more for the musician than the muse
And unheard, will remain with sweet words and symbols quarried

In truth, something soft is a mythic saviour, a sister to her reverse, a belief and brief but beautiful sensation.

Angela Sidoti © 2006

Menagerie 2

It’s a game, so lame, who’s to blame. Menagerie.

Colour cropped by pretty fences furling up to brightness
Eyes that blink in haze too bright and flutter finding lightness
Posing pretty leafy calm that reaches for a table
Giggles from the little girls who taste of nature’s fable
Kindness in the eyes of all who watch that gorgeous scene
Of other in the land burnt bright by focus in between

It’s the same

Angela Sidoti © 2011

A Return to Native Consumption

The transition had been slow. It began with Japan most probably. A couple of big corporate catering restaurants serving it as a delicacy. Their fine dining experience of a rare and bloody steak on fine china, a delicate yet decisive jab at its tenderness by a genuine silver fork in a dimly lit room with attentive yet demure waiters and living flower arrangements - was as foreign to Australian bush dwellers, as the spectacle of a flyblown kangaroo stinking in a highway table drain was to the Japanese. No, kangaroos belonged in photographs taken at the airport, accompanied by little plastic Australian flags, or as stuffed toys made in China. Or, as already noted, in one of those exquisite restaurants as a delicacy.

A 'roo shooter's dog paces the dusty yard, waiting as his master hacks off the matted tail of a scrubber and tosses it with a careless thud and a little puff of brown dust, at his feet. Better than emu. That really gave them the runs. Good for dog meat it was – and that was about all. Some of the Blackfellas ate it, but you could hardly count that. And everyone knew that kangaroo was full of worms. In fact everybody in town seemed to know somebody who had pulled a metre long tape worm out of a perfectly healthy looking carcass during a cull. Dozens of kangaroos lay productively letting off decay like a baked chicken let off its baked-chicken-ness, in paddocks, massacred and left to the elements. Great mobs of caviar, seeping, fallen, all spoiled furs and fly-crusted death, back into earth, wasted.

And then it started, mainly in the cities, of course. The queasiness of the educated middle-class subsided, slowly at first, as they were drawn to the delicacy of it all. It helped that some clever marketing person had begun labelling the meat as “environmentally friendly”. That would unburden them of any moral judgements on the matter, and in case they were forced to feign the act of actually thinking for themselves, they could pull out a quote from some notable environmental scientists – Archer and Beale or the like – and hold it up defensively against the moral judgements which might fly at them like hot wind. Some of the more hardcore 'tree-hugger' types were more difficult to win over. The idea of eating something they had placed in some kind of Australian Utopian Garden of Eden was sacrilegious. Hell, even the red meat eaters were lower down in the food chain of environmental vandalism than that. Having yet to retrieve the kangaroo from its museum case it still tasted of formaldehyde, or temperature controlled oxygen, or maybe even polyester fibres manufactured in a Chinese factory. Eating kangaroo was wrong.

But slowly, it happened. And don't imagine it wasn't without its hiccups, because there were plenty. The 2037 bombing of the Walgett kangaroo farm was just one example. Over two thousand kangaroos pulverised into fresh 'blood-and-bone' as a militant animal rights activist throws twenty kilograms worth of plastic explosive into the middle of the holding paddock and detonates it using a hand held GPS. In that one act of agricultural terrorism or misguided euthanasia, he sent pieces of kangaroo flying so far that the highway looked like a 'roo works floor. And that was at least four hundred metres from the blast. No B-double truck ever created that much mess.

They left the Aboriginal farms alone. It was far more powerful and less damaging in a public relations kind of way to destroy the property of 'the man', the big fat, money hungry, capitalist, white man. And besides, they seemed more comfortable leaving the Aboriginal people in a museum cabinet with the kangaroos they harvested. It was easier. Less incongruous even. And then there were the worldwide Kangaroo Rallies, where people from countries whose wildlife lived only in storybooks, natural history museums, and zoos spoke out against the evil of eating native animals, the absolute and horrific immorality of consuming something so bloody cute and harmless looking. The cold-blooded murder of Skippy. At one point five out of the eight major kangaroo export markets had boycotted Australian kangaroo – well any kangaroo really. Japan was not one of them. Secretly, eating 'roo became an even bigger status symbol, like shooting a white elephant or an endangered snow leopard in a designer safari suit whilst sipping on Dom Perignon, and so the world elite paid dearly to continue smacking their lips to the flavoursome temptations of a variety of Skippy derived delicacies.

That was all history now. Throwing a slab of skippy on the barbie today was as natural as lamb chops or steaks had been all those years ago. Yes, it had become decidedly unfashionable to eat non-native. The marketing term 'organic', in the meat industry at least, had lost almost all of its currency after the contained 'natural harvest system' became industry standard. It hadn't always been that way. Earlier on, multinational conglomerates had attempted to squeeze some extra profit out of the industry by segmenting large scale properties into cattle-style feed lots where they pumped kangaroo full of growth hormones and super-foods. As if in defiance the kangaroos, while growing faster and bigger, produced a meat which scientific testing proved to be nutrient deficient. It also had an unattractive grain to it, and a bloated, pimply texture that no amount of nutritional meddling could solve. It was an though nature, finally, had spoken.

They abandoned their enterprises and reinvested in a chain of fast food Skippy outlets in the USA, where they successfully saw kangaroo become a fast food staple in almost every continent. In fact the native food eating phenomenon was so powerful that other native animals were slowly making their way, for better or worse, into gourmet menus, lunch boxes, and deep fryers, worldwide. 'Skippy & Friends' was born. And not long after, came a string of franchises – 'Skippy & Friends Burgers', 'Skippy & Friends Kebabs', 'Skippy & Friends Sandwich and Salad Bars'. It was limited only by a fast food imagination. By the year 2084 every McDonalds had a 'Skippy & Friends' Eco-Bar where people could purchase the 'new health food' – environmentally sustainable meats and native foods imported mainly from industry world leader, Australia.

Knowledge, sent underground, shunned and shamed, now re-emerged – in this new climate, popping up through the soil like seedlings, while its keepers battled alongside a new movement for their rightful share in its profit.

In what was really quite a radical shift, people suddenly cared about the context of production in a deeper, more holistic sense. The new eco wasn't about eating organically farmed produce. It was much more intelligent than that. Extinction Credits became the new currency in the environmental costing game. Based on the same concept of the only partially successful carbon crediting systems of earlier times, extinction credits were serious business. Products were measured against the balance of habitat destruction, and species extinction. The new catch cry was 'extinction risk management' and the radical plan was to commodify native animals and their habitats in such a way that their survival was intrinsically linked to their reinsertion into the national food chain. Large scale breeding programs were established for endangered Australian species; once they were no longer endangered they were introduced into the native meat market.

Earlier superficial attempts to represent an Australian cultural identity through fauna and flora were seen in the replacement of the land-scouring Ebola Virus-riddled symbol of the European rabbit, with the native Bilby, usually moulded in chocolate or machine stitched into a cheap plush toy in an overseas factory. These days the consumerist public didn't just present quaint reinterpretations of the European Easter fable by giving the kids a confectionery Bilby – they threw the real thing on the grill at the family BBQ as well.

Beef, lamb, and chicken became swear words. Asking for them was akin to asking for a white rhino horn, offensive, vulgar, unethical. Australia's landscape was being gently massaged into a living entity as it became repopulated with native fauna and flora. The ravenous eyes of toy company marketers and traditional tourism operators were being replaced by new appetites. People consumed their landscape – literally. The country had all but annihilated its 'English garden' curse.

Somewhere on a lonely parody of an outback road a traveller's windshield is pelted with a machine-gun shower of gravel, as a truck driver runs critically low on no-doze. Fishtail, skid, and fishtail, on and off the cracking road edge. Crystal light, broken beer bottles, stirred up earth. A smaller vehicle would spin. A mob watch curiously from the scrub beyond the road, buoyant, ready to take off in a great mobile formation of tail and back. Bounding away.

The museum cabinet had produced cracks too central now, too distracting, and too numerous to ignore. That tempered glass, fingerprinted and dividing as is was, had been shattered. A throng of patrons crowd in on the mixture of formaldehyde scented dirt and final shards. Hands reach forth, unable to acknowledge the space between in quite the same way, seeking only to touch what it had held. Not minding the sharp edged glass in the reach toward the perfectly embalmed half-life which swam amongst it.

Angela Sidoti © 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Be Like a Tree

Be like a tree said old woman to me
Grow in the ground and happy you’ll be
Reach for the sky with your limitless green
Dig deep in the earth so your roots can’t be seen

For trees are so happy to stand there all day
Reaching and digging each opposite way
Smiling inside with their trunks growing strong
Not judging the weather as right or as wrong

But stretching and bending and learning those things
That make tree so peaceful with all that life brings
Be like a tree said old woman to me
Toes in the ground, and be happy, you’ll see

Angela Sidoti © 2006

Thursday, January 27, 2011


You caged and cankered brilliance
Calling in your tongue
An echo only heard in place of truth

With wild and worried instinct
Wavering for grace
But kept for nothing more than light

Your beauty soft and decadent
Plucked green from nature's soul
Last chance at being sold for breaths not yours

You squawk and cry and struggle
Hidden from clear view
Exotic sounds of free none capture here

Angela Sidoti © 2010