The war to prevent war has re-begun. It’s hard to be a saintly nation, certain of its virtues, its kindness, the generosity of its violence. They are bad men because they kill us, but we are good men because we remove them from this earth, by bomb or by drone. It’s done. No matter if we call the play from the office that lacks corners (he was astonished!) or from the golf course. Its faux slice of nature does include traps, though they’re easily evaded with a mulligan or two. Just like the convoy of death, several wars ago; beside the trucks you might find family photos or IDs, but inside there was only ash. Ash falls on the eastern shores of Australia. He walked through Sydney and “smelt of smoke.” I was surprised by the “smelt,” though that is what men do to metal to make it. When it’s hot, it bends, but earth is more like a paper straw that’s been bent so many times it’s wilted, like flowers, like travelers in the heat. But back to the actual war, not the one we poured gasoline on before hiding out on a bleached reef or simmering roof, we’re left in an attending position. I waited for signs of life on the screen, but the tech refused to tell me what it meant. The phone calls came later. Like secret messages from your enemy, wishing you the worst as you try to balance hope and cynicism, finally binding them with ribbon, then putting on a prefabricated bow for good measure. The festive time of year comes crashing to a halt with the news cycle, which is one. No more are linear histories possible; it’s all circulation, traffic circles without exit, an Irish refrigeration truck bearing down on you from what only seems the wrong side of the road. When you get to the turn, you have to calculate desire against circumstance, habit against this new frontier of obeying the local laws, shifting with your left hand, steering on the right. Tasman forests burn, the outskirts of Sydney burn, a woman collapses in Canberra from the smoke. Earth dies by our suicide. The writing that’s intended to go abstract, intended to avoid the knife in the back that stays in the back, the never healing from this damage, the PTSD that is no laughing matter, the bending over weeping in the kitchen not knowing how a man could do that to a boy, or a nation, or a koala. State flags fly upside down from legions of pick-up trucks. Pam has lost her fight, she writes, but wants to kill every politician in Australia. Grieving her partner’s daughter’s father and the bush, which is expansive but hardly abstract. The reason Australian irony is so strong, Tranter said, is that if you’re in trouble and you leave the city for the bush, you’re dead.
Susan M. Schultz lives and works on O`ahu near coastal roads that erode into the Pacific Ocean. She is author of two volumes of Dementia Blog and more volumes of Memory Cards. Her most recent book is I Want to Write an Honest Sentence, from Talisman. As publisher of Tinfish Press from 1995-2019, she published a great deal of work from Australia, including the recent anthology, Ashbery Mode, edited by Michael Farrell. On one visit to Australia, Ann Vickery took her to see penguins, koalas, platypuses and emus, all of them now in danger.
I'm a writer & teacher in Lawrence, Kansas who actually believes the scientists. I wrote a book of poems called Of Some Sky that seems to have something to do with all this.