the long bow

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No.17

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This swaggering nebbish, occulted by reticence,

Ambivalent of all save the rare volant sentence,

Shies from public performance, such feckless adventure,

Declines documentation, crave constructive censure.

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A reclusive archer, then, a’quiver this singular arrow;

The scope of his genius, then, if any, irreducibly narrow.

Standing self-conscious at crossroads; Solitude, Loneliness,

Shrugs off discomfort, fits his shaft, sets about business.

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Slips after his quarry among shadows city-cut by daylight

Obsessed by a singularity of vision, a vanquishing insight:

To be the one ineluctably occupying your memory

Achieved by honing words (until there aren’t too many);

Just enough to lodge splinter-like, begin subtle burrowing.

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He shoot, then waits breathless, his own heart hammering.

Will his words be dislodged, though barbed with raw sentiment,

Too dull to pierce, or too few to whisper what he meant?

If archers pass unnoticed; how can arrows find their mark;

Would you even notice if one found your heart?

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I’ll stand quiet across from you, maybe smile when you hum

The words of my poem to the beat of another’s drum.

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No.17

Erik Kaisson, 2017

… and my 200th post.

huxtable butterscotch

I wasn’t going to blog again today, in fact I had promised myself not to talk about this at all — but then I read yet another feminist diatribe against the Cosby mistrial, this time citing ‘flaws’ in the system such as the right to silence (men shouldn’t have any), the burden of proof in criminal cases (should be lower for women), the systemic sexism of the criminal justice system as a whole (purge it with fire), and how the vagaries of a female’s memory and post-alleged sexual assault behaviour should not be taken into consideration even though we all agree sometimes sexual assault allegations are false and just a grab for some old rich guy’s money.

Under the guise of a moderate and thoughtful piece, more of the usual man-hating bullshit. I am sick of it. But on this discrete issue, there may be a simple legal fix that would end all this ignorant, one-sided bile: a trade-off between criminal and family law. Every time a judge directs a jury to ignore the inconsistencies in a female complainant’s evidence against a male alleged-rapist, a judge in the Family Law court must grant a father equal access to his children. What do you reckon, ladies? But of course that doesn’t mitigate in favour of women at the expense of men they want to punish, so I can’t see the feminists lining up in support. Oh well, I tried.

Which minds me to repeat the question: is feminism about achieving equality between the genders, or is it about giving women the upper hand?  I’ve worked in the legal system for 20 years, and found no difference between the treatment of a male victim of assault or a female victim of sexual assault, except the amount of ancillary care devoted purely to female victim support. We talk endlessly about the plight of women who are victims of domestic violence–justifiable because it is outrageous and endemic–yet, as the father of two sons, I’m keenly aware that the overwhelming majority of murders and grievous assaults (domestic or otherwise) involve male victims. So where are the feminist mothers of these young men, where’s their public anger? Or do they believe that men’s lives matter less?

My real reason for this outburst was an aside from the above. The author of the piece quoted a Professor about consent before sex. One suggestion by the Prof was that we should all be using an app —  “apps exist now that allow women to tap to consent or refuse sex and record the decision” — which surely presages the end of humanity as we know it. Why not have a lawyer at the foot of the bed with a written contract standing by as well? I’m not sure people even do this anymore, but I was borderline rolling on the floor laughing my ass off.  A consent app? I know for a fact this is NOT going to catch on. Instead, we will continue to navigate two discrete rape-scenarios: (1) where one partner does not give consent before the act and gets sexually assaulted, and (2) where one partner gives consent before the act, but later denies it and alleges sexual assault.

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Please. Being raped may destroy your life, but being falsely accused of rape may also destroy your life.

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But, luckily, there’s an app for every occasion. Problem solved:

 

the pressure-test

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No.16

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Your door is always open, but does anyone walk through?

Is that because your employees don’t want to talk to you?

So far as they’re concerned, your door is almost always shut.

You take full credit for ideas that other minds dreamed up.

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You demand opinions (to ward what critics may impugn)

When privately you think yourself the smartest in the room.

How well you maintain this belief against prevailing facts!

This self-deceit, dissembling fraud, a key part of your act

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Gold-medal micro-manager, were it Olympic sport.

Our competence in doubt? You say it’s nothing of the sort.

But facts don’t matter much if you’re the one up on the throne;

Our reality is dismissed in favour of your own.

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So you’d do well to watch your back and wonder where to turn;

Yes you, the architect of this chaotic slash-and-burn.

Red-team all you like, but be aware you’re isolated.

Did you wake at dawn and plan by dusk to be this hated?

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Maybe I overplayed it, no-one’s out to claim your scalp.

You’ve been left to swim or sink without hindrance or help.

Dull-eyed now, do you have what it takes to make us eager?

Little pressure-test to sort the loser from the leader.

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No.16

Erik Kaisson, 2017

birds of a feather

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Back on 1 December 2016 I voiced my doubts about the alleged abduction and torture of Sherri Papini — maybe a little ahead of the curve at the time, given what a clickbait frenzy the topic has become. I’ll make one further minor observation which only deepens my doubt: how many new photos of Papini have flooded the interwebz in the six months since her ‘harrowing ordeal’?  Let me answer that. Six — six new pics in six months, despite the white-hot interest surrounding the case. Screams of careful media curating to me. Maybe that’s why the California ‘supermom’ is said to have hired Nicole Wool, founder of Jones Social & PR, which usually deals with celebrities to ”leverage name and brand awareness.” Alarm bells? You decide, but I know what I think.

Less adroitly managed, but with an equally avid eye on the $$$ prize, Schapelle Corby’s release means yesterday was the day to run naked down Martin Place with a swastika tattooed on your dick, because all the media in Oz were either on the wrong plane back from Indonesia, or following the wrong Mercedes to the wrong hotel. She’s already tried to profit from her crime, to the tune of a $128,000 book deal, so don’t think Schapelle won’t spin this into a fortune. I mean, all those years spent wasting away behind bars, the poor thing, when all she did was smuggle a small enormous bag of drugs into a foreign country. It takes embarrassingly little to become a celebrity in Australia; lets see if Schapelle can’t beat Sherri Papini onto the cover of GQ. That said, she too may need some private time to start a bidding war recover from her ‘harrowing ordeal’.

Which begs the question, doesn’t it. What can I do to become instafamous and make buckets of loot from the insatiable public? Something contentious, obviously, which will divide the nation for and against and generate enough heat to motivate the eleven surviving print-media journalists left in this country to paparazzi the shit out of me at every public appearance. I could easily pretend to become lost in the Blue Mountains, surviving for three months on goanna droppings and my own urine. I could even do some cagey product endorsement, along the lines of “and I would surely have perished from hypothermia if not for my Thermarest™mattress” unquote. All I need is a nice cave to duck into when the search party get too close. Hey, as it happens, I know just the place!

Knowing my luck, I’d let slip the Freudian error just as the swag started to pour in. Something along the lines of, “Fifty thou? Sure I’ll do the interview. Wow, I didn’t think faking my disappearance, I mean, oh shit, making an appearance on the ‘Today’ show would be so lucrative!” It would give Karl Stefanovic another opportunity for some faux-rage to create some frisson with his increasingly plastic-looking co-host. Just give me the mayhem, Karl baby; mayhem and a bucket of cold-hard cash. Or maybe I’ll keep my day job, my self-respect, and that little thing called integrity, all of which means (of course) that I am gonna die poor. It just pisses me off that it always seems to be the cheats and frauds that are flying Business Class, not people like me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

sargasso seas

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No.14

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Dream to sail the world, yet you remain moored here.

Dry-docked fearful life, when ocean beckons near.

Hate the corporate piracy of ruthless deals,

Rudder unresponsive; your hand at the wheel?

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Mythic monsters lurk, the rising Kraken’s beak;

Even raiders must bend to the wind or break.

You’ve heard the Siren’s call, do you stand or kneel;

Time to shrug away from land and flex your keel.

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No map or compass, the sun and stars will guide;

Your options as endless as the oceans wide

Find the ancient winds, my love, master your ship

Leave sargasso seas behind, give fate the slip.

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No.14

Erik Kaisson, 2017

pieces of her

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No.13

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Joe Bell kept a whiskey bar near 86th and 3rd.

Sixty years since she came by, his precious bird.

Skinny girl, so fast and straight, to check for messages,

A little peck, and big Joe Bell would fall to pieces.

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In a room out back Joe stuffed the letters as they came,

Overflowing milk-crate full of letters with her name.

Every one by different hand, all shaky, all from men

Joe wants to burn the lot, but just can’t do it to them.

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One eye on his customers, the other out for her

A straight-backed scrappy girl in trademark black, perhaps a fur;

Peering over trendy shades through saloon’s stained-glass doors.

Joe sees her all the time; just pieces, never more.

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Today, he sees another face from summers way back then,

Nineteen-fifty-something, when they were still young men.

Vision, milky now, too old to direct camera’s view,

Mister Yunioshi comes right in and takes a pew.

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Yuni smiles, says ‘Hello Joe, let me have a Sidecar.”

Then from his pocket a yellowed photo drops on the bar.

Over-handled, edges worn, the picture’s faint and dim

“Bet you never guess, Joe Bell, where Yunioshi been?”

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Joe Bell lifts it from the bar, sees writing on the back

‘1956’ it reads, with ‘Africa’ in black.

Staring, there’s her face upon some tribal effigy,

What complex thoughts drove simple hands to carve so lovingly?

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“Thought you dead,” says big Joe Bell, but Yunioshi’s gone,

Downed his drink, pushed out the door, another old man done.

Joe can’t look, folds it in half, and takes a walk out back

Finds the dusty crate and drops the photo on the stack.

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Pauses now, he hefts it’s weight, “Their burden’s also mine.

All these men their lives half-lived to see her one last time.”

Rubs his eyes. “I had my chance, was too afraid to speak;

Like a fool I threw some near-dead flowers at her feet.”

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Joe Bell kept a whiskey bar near 86th and 3rd

Kept it open sixty years, though nothing else was heard.

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No.13

Kai Eriksson, 2017

small blue box

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No.12

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Raise a hand, let reflection settle on your finger,

Give him time to notice, catch his eye, let it linger.

Dowsing rods or divination, crystals balls or chance,

Do you leave it now to hope, to fate or happenstance?

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Will he pick a jewel to match the colour of your eyes,

One to capture azure glints that scatter from the sky?

Diamond’s depths signify relationships lustration,

Pearl’s opacity mirrors better your frustration.

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One whole year you’ve waited, having told him he’s the one

Wasted, if he missed the hint and won’t get this thing done.

Have you been too subtle? Maybe letters ten-fleet high;

Hire an aeroplane to scrawl instructions in the sky.

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‘Marry me, you fool!’ are words you’d summon from his mouth

Sometimes it just feels as if your time is running out.

Agony men seem to face when trying to buy ‘The Ring’

Why such mortal terror over such a little thing?

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Sulking, you don’t notice when he pulls off your left glove

On a cheering 6-train kneels and dedicates his love,

Presents a small blue box, which you then fumble open.

Slips onto your finger — love’s everlasting token.

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No.12

Erik Kaisson, 2017

the sixth republic

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I wrote with unfeigned pessimism in an earlier post of fears that Marine Le Pen and her National Front would sweep into power in France. I assumed at the time that Francois Hollande would arrogantly hang on (despite his 4% satisfaction rating) and face her at the final ballot, but he bit the bullet early, opened the field, and paved the way for a savage clearing of the political decks. Continuing this vaguely nautical metaphor, they’ve shoved Cpt Edward J. Smith out of a porthole and appointed Jim Moody, Petty Officer, to stand watch on the bridge and steer us clear of the icebergs. But Jim Moody was on the bridge, wasn’t he, when the Titanic sank? Oops…

One could argue (and one does) that sanity has prevailed and the politics of hate failed in both la France profonde and the cities. Chiefly, the result rebuffs the alt-right trend which now, with the Trump-slump showing its drab colours, may have lost its worldwide steamroller-like impetus. You might argue this, swept up in the euphoria of the French result, but what’s the real message for liberals in an election where 11 million people voted for an ultra-right loon, 12 million abstained from voting altogether, and more than 4 million defaced their ballot papers? If that (27 million) wasn’t a protest vote against the status-quo of progressive-vs-conservative, then I don’t know what it is. This so-called win delivers a ‘centrist’ as the 8th President of the Fifth Republic, without a left-wing politician left standing. What is this brave new world we’ve created? And why so serious, Emmanuel? What’s in those emails?

Had the ultra-right loon I referred to above also tapped into the youth-power element  so evident in Macron’s win, I wonder if the result might not have been closer. Certainly it wouldn’t have lost the National Front any votes. But maybe it’s too early to play your trump card just yet. Marine Le Pen says she’ll continue to lead the party, which is now legitimised as the ‘opposition’ in French politics, but will she lead it to another election? I doubted it then, and doubt it now. She may, however, go down in the annals of Wikipedia as the harbinger of extraordinary change.

Most worrying for me is that the far-right will draw oxygen from this. They are now no longer just the angry knee-jerk of the disaffected masses; they are the barbarians at the gate, normalised. Marine Le Pen will ride Macron like a bitch as he grapples (with youthful zeal, no doubt) the same issues that toppled the previous government: the threat of terrorism (230 killed), mass unemployment (9.6%), and a stagnant economy. Macron is going to take a savage beating, and when he staggers gaunt and grey-headed to the next election, there’s little doubt who will be his fresh-faced opponent.

NYC Day 13

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Our final hours in the city (versus the eternity it took to get home) will only fill a couple of paragraphs. I’ll provide that in a second, but what’s more important (to me) is what the experience meant overall–its affect–and if you’ll allow me some grandiosity here I suspect it changed me a lot. Like it or not, culture in Oz is a hybrid of which American customs and social mores feature significantly. So it was enlightening to trace some of my ‘adopted American values’ to their root.

But facts first: we woke on our final day in the US to a blocked toilet. Not blocked by anything nasty we put into it, just blocked. Our plan was to have breakfast, pack bags, grab lunch and enjoy Bryant Park one last time, then check-out and begin the commute home. We didn’t want to sit around twiddling our metaphorical thumbs while they unblocked the dunny, so we left housekeeping a ‘Surprise!’ note, a bit extra by way of final gratuity, and my MetroCard, in case she can make use of the remaining $16. Stepping out, we discovered no desire whatsoever to frantically tramp the streets one last time: we both just wanted to go home. So after a bite to eat, a quick circuit of the Park, and a look through the New York Public Library, we left.

Insert here, if it interests you, a 5.25 hour trans-American flight, a thirty minute transfer at LAX, a 14.5 hour trans-Atlantic flight, one headache-inducing hour in a succession of queues with about fifteen hundred exhausted and bad-smelling travellers at Sydney airport, and then suddenly we were in our car driving home on a bright, bright Sydney autumn day. So good to be home. We stayed awake, unpacking two massively overloaded suitcases, lunching with my daughter, repeating summaries of the trip to different persons. Everybody being kind in the face of our fatigue. But when I got a quiet moment, what I felt was a bone-deep satisfaction. I used to think I wanted a bigger house, but now I’d rather stay in my modest dwelling and save money for more trips. So where next? Italy, Scandinavia, or the British Isles?

I suspect impressions, like waves, never stop coming, with every seventh one or so a complete surprise. I’ve already returned to favourite NY-based books and movies for a greedy fix, but those are other peoples’ memories of the place, not mine. Reading ‘Humans of New York’ on the way home proved one thing, though: I didn’t meet any real Americans. Just as those employed by the French tourism industry made sure I kept out of the banlieus of the Parisian périphérique, I didn’t get to experience the working-poor of Brownsville, USA, either. But, so what? Was I meant to? More offensive, surely, are those bearded, sandal-wearing, bandanna-clad 18-35yo wankers who seek out the shittest locations on Earth so they can update their Fakebook with ‘look at me keepin’ it real in Aleppo‘ selfies. It was a holiday, ffs, not a sociological mission into deepest, darkest America.

Home at last, I’ve indulged myself in an extra week of leave to get over the fatigue, but also to prevent work from overwhelming my thoughts before I finished processing them. From a poetry perspective, expect some. This is some good shit. But I want to give the poetising time too, because I need to work out how the homeless girl with acne-scarring in Time Square relates to the plastic-surgery victim I saw on Lexington. Because they do, somehow, and that’s exactly where my poems are born, in the interstices. And excuse me in advance if I can’t help betraying an now-unrequitable longing for NY pizza and cheesecake.

But you can keep your coffee, aight, it was terrible.