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From my new collection of poetry, ‘Animal Kingdom’

This is one of my prose pieces from my new collection I’ve been working on…

Seven steps to a Tableau Vivant.

 

1.

 

In unadulterated working cubicles

 

and further galaxies—interstellar space

 

every day is

 

a morbid anatomy.

 

We are conjoined twins

 

you speak to me and a dead weight presses against my lips

 

you are a possum’s tail

 

a bat

 

a spawning salmon.

 

I am a guttered salamander

 

immersed in a posture of surrender

 

 

2.

 

We have labelled incorrectly these dead beings

 

at the Zymoglyphic Museum,

 

under your skin a panorama of living creatures

 

the soil under your painted toes

 

is fossicked

 

these strange currents that run within you

 

culminate in the fogginess of your gaze

 

we both know the controversy surrounding

 

mermaid collecting

 

we both know of leather-winged folk

 

who left city lights

 

to swim again through other jungles

 

such spectacles at night

 

moving in a breathless flight.

 

3.

 

You and I Virginia,

 

are fraudulent animals,

 

our inviolate limbs,

 

and queer protests lust after kingdoms

 

amaranthine

 

under our pendulous breasts,

 

prehistoric folk wanted to take our skin

 

flayed salted stretched and sun-dried

 

 

4.

 

In a black and white photo

 

albino animals behind glass

 

toad, rabbit, birds, and a wallaby

 

poised in movement

 

theirs is a heartbeat in consent behind glass,

 

secured with metal stilts by dexterous hands

 

in a garden you and I will never know.

 

 

5.

 

I have entered through two air-locks

 

it is not for security

 

but to keep the formallin

 

from spilling out

 

People at computers remain mephitically productive— entries and emails hold the clockwork universe together,

 

timetables of pink, purple,

 

wooden owls lucent, perched on keyboards.

 

 

6.

 

doll-pink, doe-eyed, cloven-footed, limbs in cheese-cloth.

 

not like a japanese paper house

 

and not like the hay-bale houses we made at school

 

not like the partitioned houses made of itchy blankets

 

but the crash-pads made behind eyes

 

7.

I am late today because no amount of needle and thread will do,

 

my head flops onto my shoulder,

 

my tail is dry and brittle,

 

my ears are filled with fluid,

 

and even my murmurs sound like nefarious screams

 

but at least the sound of my longing is tailor-made.

 

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What’s with a name

I woke up this morning with Dolly Parton’s ‘Working 9-5’ in my head and could not get out of bed. Obviously I eventually did and with enough muesli and eyeliner I left my shoebox to venture out into the big wide world…the big wide world. There is seldom eye contact and perhaps that’s a good thing on a tram, people are caught up in texting, in daydreaming, in fading hopes and failures.The tone of this piece of writing is slightly depressing, and I can assure you, I am trying very hard to get myself out of this funk I am in. I look for clues, I look for patterns, in the floor, on the bus, in the sounds and conversations…but patterns that will give me the answers I seek to what? I’m not sure I even have clarified the question.  I walk into a supermarket, which I do not recommend, to buy some things for a meal, and I am paralysed. You know what I’m talking about! You look at the shiny trough of broccoli, the tomatoes, the spinach in packets and you start thinking about all the packets and all the avocados and all the broccoli and where it all comes from and how far away, and then I start to calculate how many supermarkets there are like this in Melbourne, in Australia, in the world and I am paralysed on the spot, with people pushing past me.

Personally I think anyone who cross-dresses, plays with gender, drags it is admirable in as far as gender performance goes and courage. Most of the time I feel like a horse on the wrong side of the paddock. I have not left my inner-six year old’s conception of make-up….colour lines smudge–more colour!! I am rambling this morning, and I fear this may not be the finest of my posts, but I’m going to keep writing, even if I don’t post this.

I wonder where my poetry will go…where it will come from. I wonder about travelling to Mongolia and Italy and Brazil. And I am lost to the now. The now. Do you think people are addicted to their iphones? Maybe a chemical reaction between the brain’s reward system and blinking messages happens and so it become completely addictive.

I smelt cat piss this morning in my house. My oldest cat Babooshka has had a peeing problem for ages…”Miss Pissy pants peeing parlour’ as we grudgingly call our shoebox. I clean up her cat pee every morning and night. N and I take turns. I know it usually points to feeling of territory, feeling insecure, feeling the need to dominate…I’ve tried a variety of things over the years.

People are very serious in the business districts of Melbourne, They talk about policy and promises and government and holidays and wait for their coffees. I am writing this all down because I feel if I do not write this all down something is lost. Hopefully not your time reading it. I have been sitting here for 20 minutes and I feel utterly displaced. but you know what? That feeling of being displaced is not a sad lonely feeling. It is freeing.  I feel unrestricted and unbounded, I feel I have unraveled myself because I have chosen to do so.

But have I? Have circumstances, have synaptic connections and disconnections propelled forth this unraveling. I wonder if I would have enjoyed the Paris Boulevard and the small coffee houses in back streets at the turn of the century?

 

6 billion stories

Take off your headphones! Stop the texting…for a moment, and look around your immediate environment. Move out of your comfort circle of colleagues, associates, friends occasionally…I recommend it to all writers-artists-folk-everyone actually. Where I am currently doing my professional practice I make a genuine effort to talk to everyone. I get here early, usually an hour or two before I’m meant to be here, so I can sit and write and observe. And everyone has a story and if you give them enough space and listen with an open mind they just might tell you a few things. I’ve recently met Diana, who cleans the library and has been working here for 25 years. She is from Macedonia and she has four daughters with beautiful oceanic names. Her husband who she loved very much recently passed away from a heart-attack and she visits his grave and sometimes she puts on music and dances around in her wedding dress and thinks of him. As she tells me I start to cry. He was from Egypt and he was very kind and intelligent and was studying engineering at a university in Melbourne. I wonder as she tells me, how many people in this huge institution have ever really given Diana the time of day, how many people have just assumed she is a cleaning woman with no stories? 

And what about one of the security guards I had a conversation with, I shall call him ‘Edward’ He told me he was in the Royal Navy and that once, many years after his Grandma died, she appeared to him but at the time he didn’t think it was unusual.  She was ‘solidified’ in front of him walking across his field of vision and at the time he said he forgot she had passed away and only after realised the strangeness of the experience. 

I also spoke with a Librarian, I shall call her Peta and we had a discussion of body image and aging. She told me she lived alone and that meeting men her own age had pitfalls since most of them are stuck in their ways with prostrate issues and a lifetime of disgruntled opinions. I told her to date someone younger but she doubted whether someone younger would be interested in an ‘older lady’. She told me her body didn’t look good naked, and we talked about how so many of us are plagued by our feelings of inadequacy.

And if you get here early enough…you might catch a librarian reciting Romeo and Juliette across the reading room at her fellow librarian descending the steps. Librarians getting off on Shakespeare.

It is curiousity and a love of connecting and learning from others that I would like to bring to any teaching practice and to share this love with my students. Maybe I can give them the space that all curious beings need without expectations, agendas and outcomes to just simply (complexly) absorb, and be completely present with their senses. Working here affirms through  a far more esoteric and deeper level what learning is for me.. and it’s not when I’m ‘guided by observing and told what to teach and encouraged to reflect’ It happens outside of what I”m supposed to be taught or guided towards. I guide myself….by curiousity….I cannot remove the writer-the artist from my blood..it is instinctual-primal-powerful. My urge towards creativity, towards finding stories, making connections, digging in the dirt, finding the seeds sprouting, getting dirt under my nails is a potent elixir of life-giving sustenance. Dig! Climb! Stand in the rain everyone is trying desperately to get out of! The indoctrination of ‘responsible and justifiable activities and occupations’ has left the curiousity and playfulness that all children have as a by-product of earlier years. I don’t want to give it up. I just won’t do it! And you know what….neither should you.

I see dead people talking

Have you ever met a person who when they enter a room, you feel a warmth, a smile stretch across your face, your shoulders relax, your breathing steadies? I’m sure you have…maybe a lover, friend, someone you admire, maybe even a stranger? Okay..have you ever met a person who even from the beginning of that meeting, your hackles went up, you felt your shoulders hunch, and the room suddenly felt chilly? I suspect this feeling is a very primal feeling..an animal instinct.Because, I suspect  this instinct comes at us from non-verbal communication. Or rather it’s not the words that the person is saying, it’s everything else. Have you ever noticed that for one to detect sincerity it doesn’t need to be heard? It can be felt in the way someone positions themselves to you, in their eyes, in their mannerisms? Of course, I can’t believe they think they are getting away with their exiguous gestures…I feel like saying ‘ I can read you so clearly..stop pretending, let the charade cease please!’ But no, we just nod, or try to avoid their eyes because they seem so dead and cold. Of course avoiding eye contact can also be read by another person as 1. inferiority complex, or 2. guilt. So we must face the orbs of winter! We must be brave and know that we know and they remain oblivious.

What are we doing when we are talking?  What are we saying when we are saying something?

Is it to win someone over to our side of a story? Is it to tell our tale because we need to talk otherwise we don’t exist?

I know that much communication, both non-verbal and verbal IS about the attempt of one or more people to make meaningful connections, to engage in the sharing of perspectives, develop and extend their understanding, challenge and contest knowledge, create new synaptic pathways of understanding, learning, scope…HOWEVER…so much of it seems to be about POWER. The ego…essential for creating a subjectivity and being able to interact as a social being…grows to such importance that the messenger becomes more important than the message. AND people manipulate each other through a combination of mannerisms and words and their associated position constructed in society. I know this is such a simple explanation but I would love to hear more talking in the spirit of sharing and listening–in developing more intricate and moving experiences of ourselves and the our world than just the gibber-gabber goobledegook that we all do.  Less ‘bossing and demanding, less coercing and manipulation’…more passionate dialectic–more singing, more art, more silence that is not the silence of the oppressed but the silence of the introspective deeply engaged being. More wit and gumption, heart and panache…oh and more silliness! Yes silliness please! More laughter…eeek in a serious corporate world of outcomes and adjustments and pep talks and money and serious adult considerations, and justifications and distribution of responsibility and power… more laughing!! Not the kind of forced laughing you feel you have to do to fit in with the team or group of people which thereby asserts you are part of the team and you are not a threat to the joker, but real guffawing ROFL with the possibility of peeing your pants and forgetting for one moment that you were a responsible
communicating adult. We have constructed guardhouses with our own hands, some of them made of words, we have fabricated tombs that we live in and starved the offspring of our imaginations so that the responsible adult may live.  But what is the ransom of this hostage crisis? To live half-lives…regarding the dreams of youth as simply no longer ours to have..but another generations to dream? It is a high-price..and a price that has no insurance policy.

White Noise

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White Noise

I’m feeling irascible—wondering if there really are any winners?

the planet has lost, all the animals, endangered species, rivers, the blighted land, the oceans burdened with human waste and plunder… everytime the elections roll around I lose a little more hope,things seem damp and murky—people seem damp and cloudy—maybe they sense my incredulity about them. Are people able to see and fathom trans-generational issues? Are humans capable of seeing how the future is entrusted to us now..but something blocks humans ability to care enough? Is it just simply a basic instinct to care about one’s immediate family and social class status and money and way of life at the expense of the indubitable narcissism of the now.  Don’t we have a duty to this Earth? To the future? What will our grand-children think of us? Is greed for money and a certain entrenched way of living really the motivation for people voting?  It’s hard enough to get Year 8 students to think about life before the internet…so is it generational anesthesia? Has a lack of imagination and the lack of really sincere political debate and philosophical forums resulted in a society that obeys vainglorious avaricious leaders? And where pray tell are they leading us? Into what glory and future?  I’ve become suspicious and rather than looking for the sincerity, I’m picking up the insincerity and leaving conversations hanging. I cannot attempt any more of these pretend conversations when Australia is really going to shit. I cannot smile and feel happy and meditate on the wholeness and oneness of it all. I cannot avoid, nor can I void. Voiding is easy—it’s that thing most people do on the tram in the morning, or when they are having a conversation. Maybe you, dear reader, sense it to? This unmistakable sub-reality grid-like existence that catches the edge of your shirt-skirt-pants-scarf-conversation? The awareness of this grid—I really can’t explain it any other way, results in conversations left hanging in mid-air, becoming painfully aware at the lack of eye contact going on between strangers AND the desire beginning in oneself not to have eye contact with others. There is a mist that tastes metallic and synthetically perfumed, a suffocating mist of insincere sythentic perfumes and car fumes and fresh leather. You know the mist I’m talking about. You feel it leave your clothes damp, you are aware of the edge, and the feeling that you might take me with you. So let’s go. Press yourself into me. Let me feel the sigh against my cheek, let me see the poetry you hide on receipts. Let me see you sink, I want to feel your tears, I want to see your breath fog up the windows of this tram..the lines of graphite, the certainty of destination, feeling blissfully derailed. I feel my thoughts have become even more dangerous because they have no measurable outcomes, thoughts that haven’t been written down or tweeted, ideas that are dangerous enough NOT to be even considered for a dangerous ideas conference. These ideas come about when I am thinking of the farce of democracy, when I think of the pendulum swinging—traps within traps but we are on the ride and we don’t feel the pendulum swinging. It feels like free-falling. I think of all my books in storage in my Muslim father’s shed—safer there than anywhere—I think of intellectuals being herded into storage containers, of artists—creative inventions scientific inventions silenced, moved on…starving. I think of anyone who isn’t one of the boys in the boys club.What has Australia done? What did they think they were doing? Retrospectively those that decided to do the deed will not discuss it publicly—when the containers of human cargo are full, when the prisons overflow,

when even the libraries empty, when the rivers despise the fish and the fish suffocate within them, when the smog asphyxiates us in our sleep … philosophical and passionate dialectic —intelligent intervention—political protest—will they disappear in the silent metallic perfume of mornings and nights? Gestapo exercises—curfews–words banned—not even the space or the tools to learn philosophical debate-dissent-activism-interference. Removing university courses that support philosophical and cultural critique…now that’s a great way towards white noise.The line seems to be perfectly clear now…and there is no interference—white noise.

In your madness a friday

This post goes out to you. Because I know the world is full of taxis and full of take-away shoes.

So this is to you, to your madness a Friday, to your beauty that did not bow so low you forgot to rise,

to your weirdness, your perversity, your pervert beauty.

Even in this tetris game and even with your take-away shoes you cannot hide your immensity—so do not shrink

there will be time enough under the earth for that–I dare you to grow into your immensity

you brush pass the buildings, you wake the ghosts of old libraries and they tell you stories–profundity of paint

and bags that keep opening with stolen goods-vials violas a diaspora of sighs

ubiquitous love ubiquitous wild inside the lining of your skin–you sew up in your dreaming

a scramble of electronic primitive calls

A nightingale, a collision with sparrows who have taken refuge in your heart–and it flutters and it sparks these

sparrows, pigeons, leaves on a slipstream–you have to sit still and quiet to detect the currents—but you always

find it.

I am there with you.

Dorothy Parker for Dinner

I would have had this posted earlier but I was looking for Enough Rope. You know you are on the hunt when that strange thing you do with your tongue on the edge of your lips occurs and you hunch forward into the computer scouring for…a 1st edition 5th print run of Parker’s Enough Rope. I’m thinking at this point ‘Ahh it’s so cheap! Fools! How is it no-one else has found it??? This is incredible! I think I know where I want all my spending to go from now on!!’ And so I begin carefully looking at photos of the old brown book, all the while conscious of my purse just disappearing off the table edge. So I looked at the photos of the rather plain brown hardback book. I thought about having it and reading it on the tram and then thought about how dangerous on-line shopping is. I’m not the kind of girl who buys expensive shoes or bras, and I’d perhaps be better supported and dressed if I were, no….I’m the girl who stresses over not having enough money to get my teaching registration and then begins to salivate over a 1st edition book of Dorothy’s. I imagine holding it in my hands…no I imagine coming home tired and checking my letter box and finding the bundle of joy, clutching to my cheap brassiere  and relishing in that delicious vanillary smell of old books. I don’t open it straight away, no I take my shoes off, wash my hands because the tram is full of flu-ish sickly looking folk and click the switch on the kettle. I put the package down and pretend I don’t want to rip it open… I casually turn it over in my hand all the while inspecting the finer details of place of shipping, what stamps they’ve put on there, the way my name feels very important and certain on the front. I feel for the book, its hard exterior seems so much smaller than I thought it would be. I feel it through the packaging, the thin wave of bubble-wrap. See!! This is what happens when I had decided to look up Mrs Parker’s birth date and death date to make sure I had the right details. Ah the details! And sure enough, I hear the postie rattle by but not for me, and I’ve boiled the kettle twice and have not managed to move myself from this incredibly uncomfortable sitting position. Perhaps in another life I would have the expensive shoes, the perfectly fitted bra that lovingly caresses my decolletage and my first edition copy of Enough Rope. But I have bitten off more than I can chew, I retreat from the electrical lights of internet shopping and remember my copy stashed in storage in Brisbane in one of my father’s ten sheds. I wonder if I can get someone to get it to me. Looking for Dorothy means I am in need of her smarts and wit, it means I need to be the broad that is not ashamed to be broad, to be big and bold, to be out-spoken. I need that Parker gumption, I need that tenacity to play with the boys and win their marbles! I need my smart ladies around, plotting to overthrow every big book industry giant in the world ( Vanity Fair kicked Mrs Parker out for her leftie tendencies! )

Dorothy Parker

you did not take shit

though often,

you did like to dish it.

Dorothy I need you,

your bravery and charm,

I wish I had your skills

with words to dis-arm

all the pallid girls

and the wretchedly cool men

But I have only boring impatience,

and an uncertain pen.

 

These Bloody Chambers…a review of Angela Carter’s macabre magnificent work

MALTHOUSE-The-Bloody-Chamber_1079-744x496

 

Let’s go to the theatre Annie! Let’s go! Well I was singing this with Mr T as we headed off to the Malthouse theatre to see the last night of ‘The Bloody Chamber’ by the unconquerable Angela Carter- the English Gothic writer, the English realism writer, as she might have suggested. I kept accidentally saying I’m going to see ‘My bloody Chamber’ and this was because I was menstruating at the time, and what more perfect an opportunity to witness the depths of masculine brutality and feminine uprising. The redemptive powers of the maternal force unleashed and not holding back their strength against that nasty Blue-beard. An all-female cast, the main protagonist Alison Whyte also presented herself as Blue-beard via the brilliant application of voice effects. It was almost like the Benne gesserit witches from Dune, modulating their voices. Do you know what I’m referring to. Anyway I was anxious, anxious that my beloved memory of the story might be adapted with panache and accuracy to some degree but also hoping and daring the play to be violent, uncomfortably unsettling the audience. It was. However Miss Bumble, who was the woman sitting behind me ( I have named her this) fell asleep apparently during the show, since she was apologising to her entourage. Miss Bumble also said something before the play started that had me in stitches, the kind that are capable of setting in like a rumbling storm. Here is the gist of the dialogue as I recorded it. Miss Bumble sitting in the seat behind me, had short hair and wore a rather large pearl necklace. Upon seeing a young boy she knew who was about to take his seat next to her, she declared. “OH MY! what are the odds? How wonderful to see you!’ The young boy and his mother also expressed their delight, though maybe not as flamboyantly. ‘What are you doing here?’ she says. The boy begins his puzzlement. ‘haha haha of course’ says Miss Bumble, ah I mean ‘how long are you here for?’ The boy responds to this with a deadpan accuracy, ‘As long as the show’.  Hahahah ahahahha
I could not stop laughing and neither could Mr T.  Thankfully the blood and dripping ceilings and the intense performance of Alison set my giggle fits into rigid anticipation. Despite the character in the book being a young virgin, and Alison Whyte not being a 17 year old, I think she was a perfect choice. In a way I felt ( how very un-post-modern of me) that Angela was working through the actress and seeing her words come alive in the slim vulnerable strong bones and flesh of this actress made me feel the power of this maternal manifesto. The heroine is the mother, who rescues her daughter! Yeah! No more fairytale mothers, or step-mothers who are neglectful or dead ( and so both )  or mothers that are naive or weak! Yeah to the Carter’s envisioning of this mother who is strong and fierce and not to be messed with. I began to cry at the end and thankfully only heard as the lights were raised that Miss Bumble was snoring. Poor Miss Bumble..if only she had not been so tired, if only she had been awake to see and hear such a fantastic tale of maternal love, monsters that can be conquered, young women who become brave like their mothers.

 

THE BLOODY CHAMBER
by Angela Carter

Directed by Matthew Lutton
Music by David Chisholm
Performance Text by Van Badham
Set & Costume Design Anna Cordingley
Lighting Design Paul Jackson
Sound Design Jethro Woodward

Cast Shelly LaumanAlison Whyte
Musicians Jacinta Dennett, Jess Fotinos, Yinuo Mu

 

Publications-awards

Publications and Awards

Peril Magazine 2013

Imran, Irfan, and the Electric Lights’

<peril.com.au/author/misbah>

Contemporary Asian Australian Poets 2013

Published by Puncher and Wattman.

Possessed, Ruins, The Onyx Ring, The Plastic Comb Vendor, Veils as Flags, The Land of Smoke.

Highly Commended 2010, 2011, 2012.

Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize,

Queensland Poetry Festival

Cordite Poetry Review: 36 Electronica Dec 2011

The Freedom Fighter

<http//cordite.org.au/content/poetry/electronica>

Mascara Literary ReviewIssue 10 Oct 2011

Rooftops in Karachi

<mascarareview.com/article/390Misbah_Khokhar

Australian Poetry Journal: beginnings Vol 1, No 1. 2011

Metaphysics, Soldiers near the Khyber Pass

Foam:e, an on-line poetry Journal Issue 4 2008

Algorithms

<www.foame.org/issue4>

Australian Women’s Book Review Issue 142 2008

Writer and Reviewer

<http://www.emsah.uq.edu.au/awsr/awbr/issues/142/poets.html&gt;


Australian Women’s Book Review: Issue 143 2008

Writer and Reviewer

<http://www.emsah.uq.edu.au/awsr/awbr/issues/143/sequinedhearts.htm&gt;

Brisbane City Council’s, One Brisbane many stories 2008, May

Short-listed for The Storm-witch who loved the son of King Minos

Hecate 2008

Scholarly & interdisciplinary journal:Vol.34 no.2

UQ.

Contributing Writer

<http://www.emsah.uq.edu.au/awsr&gt;

Poetry Festival, Austin Texas 2008

Writer, performer of poetry film shown, Daughter of the Catastrophe.

I wasn’t there but good friend and fellow rebel of word and image Reverse Butcher

performed her work and showed our collaboration.

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0v2q5I2ycc8&gt;

Hecate: Scholarly and interdisciplinary journal: Vol 18.1. 2006

Editorial and Production Assistant

PMT

I am on a tram or a boat, well not a boat, not for a while anyway. But maybe a tram. So listen lady, there is a seat next to you, and you have bags on it, and I am TIRED –my feet are hurting ever so much and I know you are important with your Gucci face-plant and your 150 dollar nail polish talking to the secretary of some parliamentarian lackey but I am tired. So don’t ignore me and then look distastefully at me when I want to sit there. I smell good! I smell of a little bit of jasmine and ylang ylang and I am doing you a favour by sitting next to your run-of-the-mill drab Gucci wear and conditioned bleached-blond hair and sucker-fish face of boredom. So this is going out to all you ladies, ‘sisters’ I THINK NOT! You bourgeouis pretentious bitches! We make the music and the poetry, the ‘bohemian’ scene you so badly want to be a part of, in as far as you will live in the places we once inhabited like Brunswick or Fitzroy but we cannot afford anymore because you just had to buy another inner-city unit and become a landlord three times born. I am going to scratch poetry in my period blood on the white guard walls of your houses at night. I am going to direct you into highly unusual pathways and change all the signs on your way to work so that you will be forced to abandon your heels and your Gucci slave-trade shit and walk barefoot in a square inch of grass. I know the revolution failed, but sometimes I just want to scream it from every fibre of my being, ‘Down with the rich, the pretentious cruelty, oh and the pretentious hipsters too!’

 

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