About Sean Mathews

Life has value when you choose to be interested and active.

Shades of Strathbogie

Visitors to Strathbogie see

Verdant hills of rolling green

Vast tors shaped fantastically

Amongst which sprites roam unseen

The tales are told of ancient times

When across the landscape and in the glens

First Nations travelled along song lines

For sustenance, spirit and their ken

Their spectres still hunt the Tableland

Taking what’s needed leaving the rest

Some of us glimpse their wraithlike bands

Ghosts flitting through trees as spirit mist

Their home the forest barely survives

The existence they shared quickly fades

Both cut down by lethal scythes

They fell like wheat to harvest blades

Fear

I feel it behind me

stalking and faceless

skulking and malevolent

The hairs on the back of my neck

stand on end

like highly sensitised

oh so brittle antennae

 

I walk more briskly

I am tempted to run

but not tempted to tempt fate

Each step announces

a deepening sense of dread

a heightened anxiety

a rising feeling of panic

 

Evil is about tonight

amongst the chill night air

and the cold dull haloes

of the too distant streetlights

 

There it is again

The faintest of scrapings

rapid and sequential

advancing along the pavement behind me

Demonic footsteps of malicious intent

portents of pain and suffering

They strain my hearing to the point

of questioning whether I hear anything at all

but I know they are there

coming

closing

 

My eyes dart urgently

from side to side

A tic

twitches my cheek

I am shaken to my core

I startle at a moth that brushes my cheek

My head flicks left

My head flicks right

My fully dilated pupils

black as any pit in hell

scream at me for more light

and scour the edges of darkness

for a bolt hole

Sanctuary

any hope to cling too

Peripheral vision

reams in the sidelines

desperately seeking refuge

struggling to see ahead and aside at the same time

 

Sweat begins

to bead my brow

Cold sweat

Shivers

wrack my body

I begin to whimper

I don’t want to hurt

to plead for my life, my soul

for mercy

I don’t want to die alone

I don’t want to die here

and now

 

A movement

in the corner of my eye

I stumble in fright

miss the kerb

roll my ankle

The pain shoots up into my calf

and something tears

I gasp

My flight becomes hobbled

I limp on in fear

dragging my injured foot

scraping the rubber of the sole

on the hard surface

of coarse concrete

 

Then

comes the first touch

An icy point

A razor-sharp prickle

pierces my jacket

In one swift motion

needlelike it penetrates the fabric

just breaking the surface of my skin

 

From my lower back

a cold finger of ice

tracks a paralyzing pathway

up toward my right shoulder

Muscles cramp

then seize

into an excruciating knotted strip

of rock solid pain

Futile teardrops begin to fall

I sob in absolute horror

and misery

“Oh God, help me, somebody help me!”

I wheel

there is nothing there

 

 

The second touch

burns

as a keenly sharp edge

slices a clean shallow line

fully across my left cheek

This one is hot

like dry ice

The blood flows

as thick warm syrup

It makes its way down my pallid face

mixing with the tears and snot of fear

dripping onto my stained clothes

gluey on my hands

I didn’t even sense the blade coming

let alone what wielded it

 

Dread wells up inside me

threatens to overwhelm me

I pursue escape

from terrifying pursuit

The road is empty

straight

as far as the opaque darkness

allows my eyes to see

Where pavement ends

terraformed tracts of bare earth begin

A homeless housing estate

 

At the periphery of illumination

feebly provided by each dreary streetlight

is murk

thick with ominous foreboding

It envelops the world

on this souless, moonless night

Hope fades

 

The third touch

is a heavy thump

in the small of my back

It cripples me

I stagger

It is all I can do not to collapse

I must stop to breathe

to fall on my haunches

straining to fill my airless lungs

 

I double over

when I need to stand

I pause

when I need to run

I falter

when I need courage

I give into weakness

when I need to find strength

I heave

when I need to draw breath

 

The fourth touch

comes as a surprise

Desperately preoccupied with surroundings and survival,

my head and neck are parted,

as I miss the prophecy of imminent death

but fleetingly register

oh timely release

oh sweet oblivion

Savoured Moments #1

I wake at 4 in the morning
In the small hours
When small things matter
and ideas can repeat in your brain
taking on more significance than they deserve
eroding your ability to unwind
Like a tap dripping in the next room

But not this morning
This morning it is soft rain I hear
gently tinkling on the metal
of the carport roof outside

It is warm under the covers
I feel secure
as your soft regular breathing resumes
after you roll onto your side next to me

Was it an interrupted dream?
I like not knowing everything that goes on in your head
After all these years you can still surprise me

I snuggle up to your back
and rest my forehead between your shoulder blades
As I contemplate what it is to be us
your heels settle into the angle of my ankles
your calves align with my shins
your thighs mold to mine
and your backside schmoozes deliciously into my groin

I raise my head to create more space
so I can wrap my arms around you
pulling your upper body into mine

As my arms embrace your warmth
I soak up your textures
I draw in your smell
With my eyes closed
I sense every point at which we touch

I feel our body rhythms synchronise
as my muscles relax
and my mind smiles
with the intimate pleasure
of as much body contact as we can muster
I savour the moment
as peaceful sleep reclaims me

The Bees

20140306_pho_GrevilliaBees

I walk under the flowering trees

I hear a mighty incessant drone

The canopy is filled with bees

The bees that pollinate our homes

 

A gift from flower to flower they spread

The food chain thrives and grows

They keep all animals and people fed

With pollen transfer and honey flows

 

At our peril we ignore their plight

Bees are dying around the world

As they depopulate out of sight

Desiccated bodies shrivel and curl

 

We blithely march into the future

Pesticide monoculture deforestation

While bees cooperate store and nurture

We blithely march toward desolation

 

Save the bees should read the banner

The banner we have left unfurled

Plant more trees in every manor

Preserve this insect and save the world

33 kinds of rain

The misting rain as light as being

The pitter patter rain of anticipation

The sun shower rain of joyfulness

The dawn lit rain of new awakenings

The driving rain of persistent harassment

The piercing rain of pain and hurt

The bleak rain of uncertainty

The saturating rain of grief

The pounding rain of anger

The cold rain of fear and loathing

The persistent rain of melancholy

The drought breaking rain of celebration

The tropical rain of surprise and relief

The tin roof rain of night time snuggles

The slanting rain of getting under your skin

The fat wet rain of things to come

The dull rain of misery

The easing rain of hope for a day

The sheeting rain of washing your sins away

The aerosol rain that never settles

The eddying rain of indefinite endings

The ominous rain of growing darkness

The thunder laden rain of shock and awe

The storm driven rain of nature’s authority

The drenching rain of no escape

The floating rain of disproportionate outcomes

The harrowing rain of oppression and spite

The lightning flash rain of vision burned

The unexpected rain of scrambling for shelter

The flooding rain of tears

The icy rain of an unknown future

The sleety rain of chilled to the bone

The sunlit rain of clarity of purpose

The dancing rain of swirling possibilities

The evening rain of contemplation

The elemental rain of fundamental outcomes

The cloaking rain of secrecy

The wispy rain of dissipation

The hard rain of death

The transparent rain of release

The soft rain of peace

A poem of parental love

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Head for home my darlings

Run the very last mile

Take your mother in your arms

Revel in her smile

 

See the family home awaiting

Doors always open for you

Embrace the love inside

The love that greets you two

 

To see you home again my loves

To look into your eyes

To touch your cheeks, your hair

Makes parents come alive

 

We hear the stories of life being lived

Interested and entranced

We see you grow and give

Toward life’s merry dance

 

Through all trials and tribulations

You know we’re always here

We hold you in our hearts

We hold you ever dear

 

Accepting your achievements

Your foibles and your flaws

Our pleasure’s in the hoping

That there’s always to be more

 

Lay down your heads our children

On the pillows of your youth

For sharing and for solace

This home is yours in truth

After the working bee

 

IMG_2396My colleagues have gone with a wave friendly

I sit enjoying my third cup of tea

restorative, after work as a volunteer bushy

the silence is golden, post a productive working bee

 

there is a koala up high looking down at me

a bee hive opposite, in the hollow of the tree

a cockatoo sits in shade on the creekside lee

blue sky above, sun shining brilliantly

hot on my back as summer clings enduringly

the wind is still, as still, as still can be

all I hear are sweet biscuits crunch, recharging energy

 

the water at my side this year flows sluggishly

not a ripple, not a splash, just mirror brown and glassy

the grass is dry and crisp, the colour yellow sandy

the eucalypts grey green, their heat resistance handy

not a breath ruffles the leaves hanging limp and lazy

the world outside is a world away, way too fast too crazy

 

the peace is as complete as any peace can be

as I sit in this place to savour, post working bee cup of tea

 

 

 

 

Don’t let them in

 

15yoDeathMask

When there’s tracks that bring you down

Pick up the phone

I’m glad you called

I’m surprised to hear from you

No, it’s not ok

You only call me when you fall

I know you don’t really want to see me

It won’t be much fun for either of us

Still we couldn’t be much closer

There’s so much more for us to discuss

Maybe we will last an hour

Before another breakdown takes place

What’s the difference now you’re older?

It’s the addict lines, etched in your face

I’ll light the fire to keep us warm

You place the flowers to freshen the room

We’ll find some hope to keep us calm

While I listen to you

Then I know the infiltrators will come

Make the room cold again

You’ll throw in a line, to bullshit me some

To ensure there’s an escape route at hand

Back to the life you just retreated from

That hooks and tears and claws

The life you chose that defeated us

Relentlessly demanding more

Don’t let them in

Our house

Could be a very fine house

With children in the yard

It doesn’t have to be this hard

Everything could be easy, if not for you

With apologies to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

The violent sky

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Storm light hues

A days greying light

As aggressive wind

Precedes nature’s might

The horizon darkens

Dry matter flies

Cumulonimbus

Pile up high

Scattered fat drops

Precede storms eye

Shredded black cloud

Goes racing by

Driven rain follows

Meets a dry earth sigh

As flooding water

Dust defies

Lightning brilliance

Thunder nigh

Magnificent concussion

Vault occupies

Above us all

The Titans vie

For heavenly dominance

In the violent sky

The bed

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“It’s not really a bad sort of a bed”

Yes, I think that’s verbatim, what she said

As the sheets of the bed turned brightly red

 

As the blood pooled, ran, dripped onto the floor

As it stickily coagulated, could run no more

She, holding the knife, felt she’d settled her score

 

The body lay prone with wounds in the back

I couldn’t believe our assailant’s strong hack

Or the size of the knife she wielded with such knack

 

Her slightly built body, her small fine fingered hand

The ring on one finger, the jewelled wedding band

The wet sleeve to the elbow, all bloodied and damned

 

Her action reaction, tragically violent in hew

In her mind no alternative, nothing else to do

With everything gone and nothing to lose

 

When I walked in the room she was standing there

A satisfied smile, a flushed face, a hand in his hair

I approached quietly for the knife from this desolate pair

 

That’s when she said, “It’s not a bad sort of bed”

One that they’d shared, planned their lives up ahead

But it seems he’d had others in the bed instead

And the only life she saw had him on the bed dead

A surprising diversity of women and performance

The ceiling and internal walls are painted black. The beams across the roof space are black. The pipes and cables, ducts and vents are all black. It is a coarse black, like a paint mixed with sand, light deadening black. One lateral wall is raw bluestone. Rough and light absorbing, dense cubed blue black cut rock chunks, mortared one on top of the other. But there is a small ray of light on the opposite side. A backlit bar of low yellow light filtering temptingly through glamorous bottles of spirits. They look inviting, sophisticated, sitting there on their top shelf, surrounded by sparkling, glistening, gleamingly clean glasses. It is a combination that speaks to many in the crowd. Pick me up, pour me out. Lift a glass, drink me down. Feel my calming warmth, my warming confidence. Dull your inhibitions, sharpen your connectivity, drink me toward carelessness, toward the fun side, toward letting yourself go.

There’s also a bit of a haze in the air. It’s incense. Maybe this is an atmospheric substitute for the cigarette and dope smoke of the good old days.

There is a lot of noise in here too. If a band isn’t playing, the mixing desk fills the room with sound. The bass is a palpable presence. I can’t find the melody. People are milling and chilling, hanging and slow dancing, like it is all some sort of discordant pagan ritual.

A new band is setting up. A pity for them that the previous band seems to have taken their crowd with them. Or else they have all gone out for a bit of smokey fresh air. I have no idea what is coming next. Just as I had no idea what went before. They were a group of young women playing synth rock in heavily modified bathing suits derived from the glam era. Their costumes were fashionalised using hi vis silvery satin in the form of a quilted one piece on the singer, as opposed to a high rise buttock displaying deep bikini brief, with a collared halter above and thigh high boots below, and including an elegant fascinator on the very top and across the face of the keyboard violinist. The latter appeared a bit like a layer cake of semi revealing fashion statements with plenty of skin in between. Theses two made their male drummer and relatively conservative female guitarist look tame.

They ran a concurrent fashion show en masse on the dance floor. Ten or so young women broadcast their fashion credentials to the audience with great enthusiasm. Designers were celebrated from the stage. It was an interesting combination of performance and presentation.

And now, the crowd is seriously thinning. It seems my $10 at the door is going to buy me quite an intimate next performance. The new band arcs up. Three young men of indifferent attitude. Except that they all have white plastic chains around their necks. The bass player looks a bit like Hagan. I take a second look. However, I hear his name is actually Matt Hayes. So, I conclude Hagan hasn’t been out band moonlighting after all. But it does take me back to more good old days, those of The High Suburban.

Oh, now this is getting interesting, three women have emerged from the taffeta, satin, chintz and chenille vulval gateway at the side of the stage. An Asian ethnic in customised white Buddhist(?) robes, a Caucasian ethnic in an over size t shirt and with a fringed veil across her eyes, an African ethnic in a Nigerian(?) style of shiny evening dress and shoulder strapped top that drops hanging panels of fabric vertically over her thighs. The African girl presents her peroxide crew cut capped face to the audience. She performs a musically accompanied monologue, then leaves the stage.

The music continues as she is followed by a procession of inter ethnic beauties who repeat the pattern of emerging from the vulval fabric gateway to perform individual dance solos on stage right. Their duration is of a few moments each, before stepping down into the crowd to continue some attractively sensual moves as writhing nymphs, each presenting diverse designer fashion statements to the room. The unexpected nature of the collective performance and sound is rather exotic.

The music is a sort of techno electro pop blend I guess. The Asian principal, Japanese I think, pumps a keyboard synthesiser and cuts on the violin. It turns out the veiled white with blonde curls is lead vocalist. She rocks and rolls while sliding and dialling up effects that expand the auditory spectrum. The backing keyboard player drapes his shoulder length dark hair across his face with every forward dip to the rhythm and then flicks it back again. His pale, lightly whiskered face against a black backdrop and above a black t shirt, bobs along in the background like the legendary bouncing ball of the good old days of cinema sing alongs. I can’t see the drummer, he is so low and set back on the stage, but they keep him working hard. Hold it, there he is. His head appears in a gap between the frontline surrounded by projected radiating laser light centred on his scone and pulsing outwards to infinity and beyond. At this point in time it is fair to say he is putting on a dazzling display. There is definitely a lot of energy on the stage.

The show continues as an interesting mix. There is clearly an acknowledgement of a dual discipline camaraderie going on here. I sense it is personal for most of the crowd. There is the enjoyable quality of hopeful up and comers, as yet inexperienced, tending toward the amateur end of the professional scale, but showing how hope can keep you inspired and endeavour can keep you switched on and up for the up and up, if you have the perseverance.

The fashion statements are slowly subsumed by a modestly thickening crowd. I mean it is hardly dense, but I don’t mean it detracts from the atmosphere. On my count, there are around sixty silhouetted gyrating shapes up front of me. I can’t say dancing because the rhythm is largely inconsistent, but there is certainly a lot of sound happening and plenty of episodic rhythmic grabs to hold on too. It is nice to see nearly everyone is on the dance floor instead of hunkered down in even darker corners or blankly tapping their toes in stage remote seats. I think the band and the audience are getting a mutually pleasurable buzz from their collective effort at novelty and vigour. It is great to see so many young women with so many different backgrounds going for it. It is hope that keeps me warm (with thanks to Mel C).

The Elle Shimada Band will be back at The Evelyn in Brunswick St next Wednesday. I do not know if the whole fashion thing happens again, but I hope it does for the next crowd as well.

A thought on photography

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My ageing 70D may not be in the professional class, but coupled with the Tamron 18-400mm super zoom it has the flexibility to engage with many subjects effectively. A day out with the camera is a day of  exploring and investigating. That is certainly enough to keep me happy – with every satisfying image a bonus!

The best things about using a camera are the ways in which it makes you observe more closely, see more clearly, examine subjects more intensely. That being said, the worst things about using a camera are the ways in which it can tempt you to be exclusive, focusing on the photo instead of being mindful of the present, capturing a photo moment instead of a set of contextual memories, creating an image for putting yourself in or at a scene, instead of understanding and appreciating your place in the scene.

Photographers should always be clear about their purpose, either recording an aspect of reality or creating a new one. Photography should not be deceitful.

Love’s gauntlet

Here once on this path love’s torment

Found me quietly pleading in fear

Then twice by this way love’s sonnet

Helped me to see my way clear

As I thrice put my case love’s comet

Struck me, rendered me seer

Four times in the midst of love’s torrent

My heart stricken by love beyond peer

A fifth run to the end of love’s gauntlet

Win or lose shapes my life on from here

Nicholls-BogieMerton-Jukes Loop

nichollsbomertonjukes

The welcome arrival of Lesley, Marie and Michele usually leads to a walk. Today was no exception. Since they were on the way back to Melbourne this afternoon, the time between lunch and departure was fairly tight. We needed a route, preferably a circuit, of around 5km. At 5.05km, this loop fitted the bill.

Starting at the corner of Nicholls Lane and Jukes Rd we headed toward the Strathbogie Merton Rd on a gentle downward gradient. The dirt had been recently graded smooth to the driveway of the only farm house. This was a just few hundred metres down the 900m lane. Beyond was a pretty, little used, leaf-littered, dusty grey track. This track cut between dry woodland above. Below is a rustic dell including a rush bordered pond within romantic farmland, submerged in forest.

Turning left into the Strathbogie-Merton Rd began a modest incline on narrow winding white gravel. This road is closely skirted by forest across steep slopes and within deep gullies. All are dotted with beautiful, lichen draped granite boulders and formations. The grey green of eucalyptus leaves is set against the walls of white trunked manna gums. The salmon patches exposed by long strips of ribbon bark falling to the ground create a glorious summer palette.

Cresting the top of the rise, we made the transition to the rolling hills of wood bound farmland. The cultivated top of the Tableland. From there it was downhill to the Jukes Rd intersection. There is a short stretch of bitumen to the sharp “V” where the roads meet. Jukes Rd takes off up the hill in a climb that has to recover the previous loss of elevation. It is enough to get the heart rate going if you push it.

The usual wildlife presented. However, unusually, we saw a wallaby chasing a hare as they both bounded down the slope and over the road in front of us! Something I can’t explain. A white throated tree creeper was spotted working the tree trunks. Currawongs chimed and kookaburras laughed at our passage with gusto. We startled a pair of common bronze wing pigeons into a panicked flight. They looked very guilty. A large echidna was foraging in the bush, but dug in deeply before Marie could get a good look. Very sensible with Marie around! Three swamp wallabies suspiciously watched our progress from behind a fallen log. They looked like they were waiting to ambush someone, but fortunately it wasn’t us.

This was a very pleasant walk. A fairly steep rise through the manna, narrow leafed peppermint and stringy-bark forest to the peak would make an interesting side expedition. However, the tree clad crown might not lend itself to a view.

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A not so bold political statement

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It is Australia Day. For the first time, I attended an Australia Day event. I have never supported the notions of nationalism and jingoism that the day implies.

I thought I might attend this year for the simple reason I plan to do more roving reporting for Tableland Talk. I want to attend more community events because I believe sharing and supporting each other is the pinnacle of human endeavour. I also want to acknowledge achievements recognised by the community. But still, I kept changing my mind. I wasn’t going, then I was, then I wasn’t, then I went.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Australia is a great place to live, with many great people. However, although I feel we are fortunate to be here in the land of Oz, I don’t believe for a minute Australians are any better than other members of humanity. We too are subject to human nature. We have the potential to be as good as and as bad as anyone else.

To my mind, a principal strength has been our adoption of other ethnicities and cultures – over time. The shameful treatment of the indigenous community being the glaring exception. Otherwise, I love the diversity and multiculturalism that is largely celebrated here. This should be the real reason to enjoy a national day, not the arbitrary “Australian values” espoused by desperate Conservative politicians.

Our un-revered Prime Minister Scott Morrison tipped me over the line. He provided me with a mode of protest. I wanted to make a statement as a rebuttal of Morrison’s anti-democratic announcement that he would “protect our national day from people trying to skirt the rules or playing politics”. How would he achieve this? By threatening elected local governments considering changing the day of their citizenship ceremonies and insisting attendees adopt a dress code imposed by the Department of Home Affairs.

Australian values or un-Australian, you be the judge. I for one chose to attend the local Australia Day gathering dressed in thongs, shorts and a T shirt. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone recognised my bold political statement.