At Home in the World

A couple of months ago I had lunch in Newtown with a much-admired fellow writer who was passing through Sydney on his way back to the United States. Michael is, like me, an expatriate New Zealander and although I don't know him well, I have known him for a long time - he came on section to Kuranui College when I was a third former there, supervised some of the classes I was in and left an indelible impression on my 13 year old mind, mostly because he always wore a white tropical suit and, in a Wairarapa autumn/winter, always looked cold. I reminded him of that this time and he said, feelingly, that it was because he was cold. He's an anthropologist and had then, in 1965, just returned from field work in Sierra Leone, a country he has returned to over and over again through the years ... anyway. At one point in our conversation he mentioned that he has always felt that he was born in the wrong place (a small town in Taranaki), that his true home is elsewhere, and that many people feel this way - perhaps I did too? I surprised myself, and him, by saying quite vehemently that no, for me my true home has always been the place where I was born and, rather than having to leave there to find out where I belonged, I've always struggled with an opposite feeling, that I've somehow strayed from where I should be. I've been thinking about this conversation ever since, wondering if that is actually the truth of the matter or is it some kind of sentimentalisation of childhood happiness? Over the same period I've been reading a remarkable book about a prophetic movement located in that same home town, nurtured by local Maori people over a hundred years and largely unknown, not only in the town itself, but in the country and the world. I grew up in the street where one of the more significant Maramatanga marae is located and walked or was driven or rode my bike past its entrance almost every day without ever going inside, without suspecting what was going on in there. One of the themes of the book is the magnetic, perhaps psychic pull, that the town exerts on those members of the movement who for some reason, willed or unwilled, go away: they are drawn back in the same way that I feel drawn back. Nevertheless, over the last few weeks, thinking about my childhood experiences there, those that have surfaced are of a solitary not a social kind. I remember, for instance, the concrete slab floor of a farm building, perhaps a cowshed, that lay in the paddock opposite where my sisters grazed their horses: the shed itself was either never built or had been demolished; to me that plain slab was the ruin of an ancient city, a place where the mysteries and wonders of the past could be evoked, were (at times) magically present. I had similar fantasies about the tray of an old flatbed truck that had been parked next to our car garage and left to rot. Again, I didn't really know what this thing actually was or had been: I thought of it as a ship and spent hours sailing it to imaginary locations, captain of a shadowy crew who all, perhaps fatally, resembled myself. In both these places time and space ceased to exist as real quantities or at least as limitations. I could go where I wanted to go, be who I wanted to be. There were others ... the straggly line of gooseberry, black and red currant bushes down one side of our section where I'd lie in the long grass and eat the fruit, the sandpit next to the water tank where I constructed vast machine-haunted empires, the empty sloping ditch past the quince tree on the other flank, the macrocarpa hedge down the back with its rickety gate leading on to the river bank ... when I think about these places and the things I did or didn't do there, I recognise the state of mind I entered into then as the same one that, if I'm lucky, I go into now when I'm writing. The same meditative, hyper aware yet somehow also vague apprehension of things of and not of this world. And so I think perhaps I'm drawn back to that place not because of any intrinsic quality it might have but simply because it was there that I found out what I most love to do. On the other hand ... after we'd had coffee, Michael and I walked back across King Street where we were approached by an Aboriginal woman who asked us for money. As Michael fumbled in his purse for coins, the woman looked curiously at him. Where you from? she asked. Michael appeared strange. Bewildered. His mouth worked but no words came. I realised that he truly did not know the answer. It took him quite a while but in the end he gave what seemed like the only response possible for him: I don't know. At the same moment I knew without a doubt, as I know now, if the question is put to me, exactly what I will say.


Christmas Tree Cluster aka Open Cluster NGC2264


corner of truth

Samsara has never seen the Amethyst Room and wants to, so our next rendezvous is there in the Philosophical City on a night when the moon is full and the air made out of presences, suppositions, apparitions. She brings a purse full of rings, amongst which is one with a large pale oval amethyst in an old silver setting, which she gives to Rosemary, the chatelaine, when we meet out by the hibiscus, the lavender, the poppies, the sunflowers, the tomatoes. Rosemary slips it onto the little finger of her left hand and gives us the key. The room is as I remember but the Tahitian lime outside the stained bow window has ripened, its fragrant blossom changed into small green fruit that we cut and squeeze over the cantaloupes that we eat with shiny spoons before going for dinner at the Atlas ... except the Atlas is booked out so we end up next door in the Bogey Hole and afterwards go to a hotel, the name of which I cannot recall, where we drink bourbon and coke and play a game of pool with ourselves and then another with a couple of blokes we meet there. Samsara has a clean, straight-ahead style at the table and, both times, sinks the black to end the game. A band is gearing up to do their set but we go instead outside to smoke and fall into conversation with a fellow called Colin and, later, one called Sam who sounds Irish but isn't - he's a native of the Philosophical City and, despite being blind in one eye, has a broad reach and a humorous take on almost everything. Colin has just had his ex-wife to stay, she has broken his wine glasses and rearranged all his things, not through malice but drunken incompetence and he tells us how his mates took him down to the corner of truth to sort him out about it. Where is the corner of truth? I ask and he says that in his case it was in the park just out the back of where we are, which is maybe called Delaney's. Colin goes down to his father's farm for two weeks every year to make the wine from grapes they grow there, somewhere to the west of the Graffiti Capital of the World and advises, inter alia, against growing olive trees as a way of making money ... not that I was thinking of doing that. I'm mostly silent, I sit and drink and smoke and watch Samsara as she comes and goes, moving fast, without a doubt, scattering reassurances like confetti or should I say tinsel? She is beautiful in her black dress, her insouciance and her grace and when at last the pub closes and we have to leave, I imagine (or perhaps I don't) that a universal regret attends her departure. We go back to the Amethyst Room and leave the curtains unpulled all night long. Next morning, at breakfast, the other guests, Kurt and his Danish wife Jeanette (it's their anniversary) tell hilarious stories about a dysfunctional Scottish funeral director Kurt once worked for but Samsara isn't really attending, she is transfixed by the green eyes of King Solomon staring out of a cubistic painting of the Queen of Sheba on the wall behind us ... there are presences everywhere now, it is as if all the denizens in the Illustrated Golden Bough are simultaneously manifesting, as if the lost gods of the Dogon are there, Alexander too, Bucephalus, her mother fleeing Sangala to the other side of sorrow, the further shore from darkness, away from the uncreated world, millennia ago, the Dark Lady, John Dowland who serenaded her, the naked unaccommodated men of Eureka and even perhaps Sha Na Na ... we leave and walk up onto Obelisk Hill where grey striped dragon flies mass around the coprosma below the gun emplacements and I remember errant episodes from my childhood, for instance the concrete slab of an old cowshed that I thought was the ruin of a temple from antiquity, the wooden tray of a flatbed truck that was my ship of fools, the sandpit where I constructed epochal cities ... we go on down to the sea and ramble over the rocks, perfectly happy, looking in pools where anemones waft their purple tendrils and the exoskeletons of crabs abandoned by the tide drift, disintegrate, and when we swim it is in the Bogey Hole, excavated by convicts for some satrap or other, attended by putti, with a fleet of coal ships whose number I cannot count moored out beyond or before the delusive horizon and here, with salts and iodines streaming from her hair she tells me Samsara is not her real name, that was a ruse to divert Moksha's agents, she is really called ... they make one last attempt, there in the car park, impotent, ugly and grimacing as they slide greasy hands down the glass through which they cannot pass and then we're away, we're gone, we're laughing, that was our corner of truth and now we are free to ramble forever as we wish and will but what about the truth test software? I ask and she smiles her secret smile and does not answer ... and in the instant, driving away, I know that we are it and that she knows it too and knows that I know: whereof we cannot speak, I think but do not say, thereof we must pass over in silence. It is the place called home. The Thousand Ruby Galaxy. Or similar.



We agree to meet at a nearby railway station but the traffic is heavier than I thought it would be and I am late for the rendezvous. I park the car and hurry into the tunnel under the platforms which is strangely deserted - not only can I not see Samsara, it seems as if, on an otherwise busy Friday evening, all other travellers and sojourners have disappeared as well. I come back out by the other ramp and see, past the waiting taxis, her standing with a suitcase beside her in the small park that adjoins the station, looking up into the green leaves of the trees. The cacophony of birds is so loud that she does not hear me when I call out to her and, since she is looking upwards transfixed by the enormous sound of the rainbow lorikeets going to their roost, nor does she see me approach. Although there are now many people about I have a curious impression of her standing alone in the midst of the plane trees, which I have never before realised are disposed in a circle as if in a sacred grove ... she cries out as I touch her arm but the sound of her momentary alarm is also drowned by the noise of the birds. We go back to the car and drive the short distance to my place listening to trance music on the radio and talking of what I do not remember. I am nervous because I know that certain recessive, perhaps inverted aspects of my personality are expressed in the way my apartment is arranged, the things I have decided to display, the manner in which I live, and that these aspects of the self I am necessarily blind towards will undoubtedly appear to her with peculiar force. I know too that what is most familiar to me will look most strange to her and vice versa, also that I can never really see what she will see, know what she will come to know. She is intrigued but not intimidated by the mask of Anubis that I have set upon a high black bookshelf; she surprises me by re-calibrating the alignments of the various stones that I have placed on the wooden window sills in the sitting room; she takes the small blue bottle of volcanic ash I keep on my desk and lays it in a small, red-lined box made out of native woods; she replaces the broken off arm of the Caroline Islands idol standing in the bathroom. I don't ask why she does these things; I think perhaps it is because she is afraid of being pursued by Moksha or his agents and believes that the re-alignments will confuse, disorient or otherwise keep them away for us. Naturally she is tired from her journey, hungry and thirsty, so I serve dinner and afterwards run her a bath. The next two days pass in a blur during which she shows me aspects of the city I have never seen before. We visit a dance academy where the Rumba, the Samba, the Paso Doble, the Cha Cha Cha, the Jive and and other Latin American dances are taught and where I learn that she is a mistress of the Tango and would like the master of the studio, a man by the name of Da Silva, to give me lessons in how to do it; in the evening we go to a club in the city called the Men's Gallery so she can check out the dancers there, who have names like Brianna, Hunter, Shanika and Tenielle, where the ambience is louche and a little sad, even though both staff and clientele are universally cheerful, as if by decree, and where the notes of an alternative currency known as tricky dollars are purchased by punters and then tucked into the garters of dancers they like or admire. Later, stumbling down George Street in the aftermath of a violent electrical storm that has halted the rail system, outside the Hilton Hotel we almost join a party of Japanese getting into a stretch Humvee but instead are swept by crowds of stranded revellers down to Town Hall and into a #50 bus that takes us home. Her mysterious agenda also includes a concert of the music of John Dowland that we go to hear in the Opera House on the night of the day after its creator, Jørn Oberg Utzon, who never saw the epochal building he made, dies in Copenhagen. The two lute players and their lutes are a revelation so intense and various and beautiful that I will not even try to describe what it was like except to say I heard fairgrounds, I heard barrel organs, I heard the continuos of small Salzberg ensembles, I heard chains, I heard towers, I heard the lonely call of marsh birds across misty swamps in the antediluvian night, I heard Spain, I heard gold, I heard the sounds that drift between the stars ... and after all this and much that I will not speak of here, a little more than 48 hours later we are back in the park outside the station at dawn where the cacophony of lorikeets waking up to the day resembles exactly their previous cacophonous roosting two days or two minutes ago. As the train gets ready to pull out of the station I realise we have not once discussed the Eureka Stockade but before I can even begin to mention it Samsara leans from the door of her carriage and whispers something in my ear. This message is coincident with the guard's whistle blowing, the station master's white flag dropping, so I cannot be entirely sure that what she said was a re-statement, perhaps a disambiguation, of a phrase formerly used between us when we were speaking of the lost letters of the Dark Lady: the beatitudes, she said or seemed to say, her breath as sweet as honey mead, of erotic love raised to a higher power ...



I take a deep breath and make myself wait 24 hours before replying. When I do, I keep it simple: What is truth test software? I ask. The reply comes back quick smart: Akasha, it says. And that's all. So I google: Akasha is a Sanskrit word meaning aether, which in Hinduism is the basis and essence of all things in the material world; it is one of five elements and its main characteristic is Shabda or sound. In Hindi Akasha means sky. For the Jains, Akasha is space and is divided into two parts: Loakasa, occupied by the material world, of which our universe forms only a part, and Aloakasa, the space beyond the material world, which is void. So far so good; but there's a link to something called the Akashic Records so I go there next: it's a theosophical term for a universal filing system which records every occurring thought, word, and action. The records are impressed on a subtle substance called akasha and have been identified with the cosmic mind, the universal mind, the collective unconscious, the collective subconscious. Some think the Akashic Records make clairvoyance and psychic perception possible, that events recorded upon the akasha may be read in certain states of consciousness: stages of sleep, weakness, illness, drug intoxication and meditation so that not only mystics but ordinary people can and do access the Akashic Records. Then there's this, from The Urantia Book: The recording angels of the inhabited planets are the source of all individual records. Throughout the universes other recorders compile formal and living records. From Urantia to Paradise, both kinds of record are encountered: in the local universe, more of the written records and less of the living; on Paradise, more of the living and less of the formal; on Uversa, both are equally available. And finally, this: Ervin László in his 2004 book, Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything posits a field of information as the substance of the cosmos. Using the Sanskrit and Vedic term for space, Akasha, he calls this information field the Akashic field or A-field. He says that the quantum vacuum is the fundamental energy and information-carrying field that informs not just the current universe, but all universes past and present (collectively, the Metaverse). László describes how such an informational field can explain why our universe is so improbably fine-tuned as to form galaxies and conscious lifeforms; and why evolution is an informed, not random, process. He believes that the hypothesis solves several problems that emerge from quantum physics, especially nonlocality and quantum entanglement. Whew. Heavy shit. Nonlocality* and quantum entanglement**, whatever their esoteric meaning, seem accurate to my peculiar liaison with Samsara. I text her again: Is your library a repository for the Akashic Records? I ask. Her reply is equivocal, mysterious. Akasha: a black oval – representing spirit, she writes. And: Will be visiting your system tomorrow - are you around? Yes, I say. I'll let you know when I'm close, she replies. I go back to contemplation of the infinite library; to the strangeness of falsities, lies, or simple misapprehensions entering therein; and to the vexed question of how to tell between the two. Not that this is a new speculation, it is in Borges, that most unoriginal of writers. And then a few hitherto inscrutable lines from Fq (6) come back: Each step is more delirious than even a line by / Alan Brunton / life's supreme uranic poet / Overseer of the Scribes of the Great Records. Braggadocio, for sure, but with Alan there's always a substratum of deadly seriousness. He wandered around India in his youth, he had looked in to the Akasha, the Empyrean, the sky above the Deer Park. What did he know? I feel not so much out of my depth as out of my width or height. Out of my head perhaps. I know that Urantia is another name for Earth but where is Paradise? Where Uversa? Is that the name of the planet with two suns and no moon that I visited in the Thousand Ruby Galaxy? I need to talk to Samsara but I can't, I have to wait. Where are you now? I text. Only 24 hours from Tulsa, she replies. Only one day away from your arms. Savage irony or some kind of promise? I simply do not know.

* In physics, nonlocality is a direct influence of one object on another, distant object, in violation of the principle of locality. A phenomenon is nonlocal if it implies a direct influence of one object on another, distant object, provided that local realism and counterfactual definiteness are taken for granted. This subtlety explains why a nonlocal phenomenon is not necessarily a channel for direct signaling.

** Quantum entanglement is a quantum mechanical phenomenon in which the quantum states of two or more objects are linked together so that one object can no longer be adequately described without full mention of its counterpart — even though the individual objects may be spatially separated. This interconnection leads to correlations between observable physical properties of remote systems.


truth test software

When I forward my summary of the events at Eureka to Samsara's attention at the repository in the Thousand Ruby Galaxy, there's no acknowledgment, no reply. I wait for what seems like a decent interval - or else eternity - then send a polite, follow-up query. Again silence. I'm not sure what to do, beyond reminding myself that uninhibited and unimpeded communication between us is a fairly recent development, that things used to be much more fraught, much more like they are now than they ever were before. I wait a while longer then frame a third inquiry but just as I'm about to send it I get a reply to my second: it's brief and hectic, thanking me for the piece on Eureka, apologising for the delay in responding and saying that she'll be in touch at greater length once the galactic storms plaguing her system have receded or passed over. I wonder what this means - are they weather storms, magnetic storms, psychic storms or some other kind of storm we've never heard of here? Or a combination of all four. I worry that Moksha's dead hand has fallen across her slender white wrist, that he has made good his threat to hurl her into exile out beyond the Sombrero Galaxy; that my Eureka piece is the astroporn that tears our small skein apart. I remember driving away from our last real world encounter, through Redhead and Jewell and Violet Town, and the names seem to murmur an inconsolable song. Then one night I'm walking through Martin Place, late, with a friend, having been to the Art Gallery of NSW Christmas Party (depressing: they don't serve red wine because it stains the floor, two different art hags in high heels wound my feet with their stilletos, the show upstairs of indigenous people photographed by indigenous people is full of facile quasi-political interpretations scrawled across the portraits) when my phone goes off. Where are you? the message reads. Can we talk? I text back: Town Hall station in 10 minutes then walk my friend over to George Street and hail her a cab. Once she's safely on her way I head down past the QVB to the underground station. On Platform 1 I text Samsara again - I have really no idea where in the universe she might be - saying I'll be taking the 11.57 to Summer Hill, ETA 12.16 - how would she like to talk? Skype? Or is she 'here'? The journey seems to take forever, first through the dark tunnels under the City, then slowly along the dreary stations of the Western Line, past grimy streets full of equivocal shadows under the yellow lamps. The carriage itself is a drift of discarded food wrappers, sheets from tawdry giveaway newspapers, unidentifiable stains and an empty soft drink bottle rolling randomly, insanely, to and fro under the ripped blue seats; while the only other people there, a young English couple, backpackers perhaps, argue viciously with one another in hissing whispers. There's no text, no phone call and by the time I'm walking down the deserted cavern of Lackey Street towards the place laughingly called home I'm so alienated by the events of the night that I become convinced that our so-called civilization is a mistake that cannot be rectified, cannot even be dignified with the adjective tragic, since our errors and misapprehensions are so relentlessly trivial as to deserve to be forgotten before they were made, should such a thing be possible. Hours later I'm woken in the night by a text message coming in on my phone, which I've left on for just this eventuality. Truth test software advises re-writing Eureka, it says. History decays into images, not stories. See you in Uch or Ferozepore ... soon, Samsara.


what happened at eureka

On October 6 1854, late, two men going back to their tents after a night out drinking noticed lights on at Bentley’s Hotel at Eureka near Ballarat. Scotsman James Scobie and his digger mate Peter Martin knocked on a window—too hard, it broke. An argument ensued and they were set upon by four men from within the hotel—the clerk, Farrell, a former policeman; a man called Hance; Mooney the night watchman; and the publican, James Bentley, perhaps egged on by his pregnant wife Catherine. Martin ran away but Scobie, struck through the broken window, probably by Bentley, with the blade of a shovel or a spade, fell down dead. A coroner’s jury next day, citing lack of evidence, discharged Bentley. When protests arose, a judicial inquiry was convened under Gold Fields Commissioner Robert Rede, Police Magistrate John D’Ewes and Assistant Commissioner Johnston. D’Ewes was a friend of Bentley’s; he had expedited his application for a liquor licence at the hotel, was a frequent visitor there and may even have been a part owner of it. As for Rede, he was an autocrat who believed in his absolute right to impose his will upon the rabble of the goldfields. After a private discussion between Bentley and D’Ewes during an adjournment, Rede and D’Ewes, with Johnston dissenting, discharged the publican. On October 17 a public meeting was called to petition the Government for a rehearing of Bentley's case. Thousands of miners attended and after the meeting closed at 2.30 they gathered outside Bentley’s Hotel and began pelting the building with rocks and stones. Bentley, anticipating trouble, had already escaped on a horse lent to him by an Inspector Ximenes. Rede was at the Eureka government camp and came down to address the mob, who threw stones at him too. He called in the military but as soon as the hotel was cleared of people, the bowling alley next door was set alight. Strong winds spread the fire to the hotel and within half an hour it had burned to the ground. The protest was effective; the publican, his wife and two others were sent to Melbourne to be tried for the killing of Scobie. On the same day that Bentley, Hance and Farrell—but not Catherine Bentley—were each sentenced to three years hard labour, three new defendants, McIntyre, Fletcher and Westerby, stood before Judge Redmond Barry to answer charges of riot and of pulling down a dwelling house. They too were convicted but received much shorter sentences—months not years.

The incident of Bentley’s Hotel gave a focus to miners’ discontent as well as suggesting they had the power to do something about it. Their chief grievance was licence fees. Every digger, whether he found gold or not, had to pay thirty shillings a month for the right to mine a 12 foot (3.6 metre) square claim. On the Ballarat fields the easy gold had all been mined and what remained had to be sought in deep seams that required extensive digging and tunneling. The licence system was anyway corrupt and enforced in a heavy-handed manner by goldfield police; there were regular licence hunts that could lead to prosecution if any miner was found to be without his piece of paper, even if he had one left behind in his tent. In September Rede had increased the frequency of licence hunts to twice a week; and during one of these there was a wrongful arrest, and subsequent conviction for assaulting a trooper, of a crippled, non-English speaking Armenian servant of the Roman Catholic priest, Father Smyth. This, along with Bentley’s killing of Scobie, was the other provocation for the events that followed. On November 11 a mass meeting produced the Ballarat Reform League charter which, among other things, demanded the release of those jailed for burning down the hotel—another seven men had been arrested for the crime. The meeting declared that it is the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws he is called on to obey, that taxation without representation is tyranny. They also decided to leave open the possibility of secession from the United Kingdom if the situation did not improve. The Ballarat Reform League’s formal demands included the right for all men (excluding Aboriginals) to vote; abolition of the property qualifications for members of parliament; payment of members of parliament; voting by secret ballot; short term parliaments; equal electoral districts; abolition of diggers' and storekeepers' licenses; reform of administration of the gold fields; revision of laws relating to Crown land. All of these were refused by Governor Hotham in Melbourne on November 27, allegedly upon the specious grounds that he objected to the use of the word demand. The next mass meeting, on Bakery Hill on November 29, was angrier. There was talk of burning of licences. A further meeting was scheduled for the afternoon of December 3 to elect a new central committee but this never took place. The government camp was arming and reinforcements were being sent up from Melbourne. A skirmish broke out between diggers and troops as soldiers of the 12th Regiment made their way to Ballarat, during which the regimental drummer boy was wounded; many believed he had been killed in the affray and that alarmed both sides still more. Rede now had a force of over 400 men under the command of Captain John Thomas mustered at his camp and, to show the government's resolve, ordered that licence hunts continue. On the morning of November 30 a hunt was conducted in the Gravel Pits, miners turned out in numbers to protest, the Riot Act was read and during the ensuing scuffles there were some injuries and several arrests; all those charged were later acquitted. After the events in the Gravel Pits a second meeting was called on Bakery Hill and the Southern Cross flag was for the first time raised—designed by a Canadian miner, Henry Ross, it has a white cross on a blue ground with a star at each point of the cross and another in the centre. Licences were burned, calls were made for volunteers and new leader Peter Lalor administered an oath to stand truly by each other and fight to defend … rights and liberties. On the afternoon of the following day, December 1, the stockade was built. It was a ramshackle affair hastily constructed from slabs of mining timber and overturned carts and never intended as a military fortress. Lalor said it was nothing more than an enclosure to keep our own men together. He had already outlined a plan whereby if the government forces came to attack us, we should meet them on the Gravel Pits, and if compelled, we should retreat by the heights to the old Canadian Gully, and there make our final stand.

Like Lalor himself, the miners at the stockade were overwhelmingly Irish. Even the password they used—Vinegar Hill—commemorated an earlier 1804 uprising of predominantly Irish convicts in western Sydney. There were also English Chartists and Italian revolutionaries among them. During Saturday December 2, some 1500 men trained in and around the stockade. A further 200 Americans, the Independent Californian Rangers, under the leadership of James McGill, arrived about 4 p.m. The Rangers were armed with revolvers and Mexican knives and rode horses; but in a fateful decision McGill took most of them away from the stockade to try to intercept rumoured military reinforcements coming from Melbourne. Rede's spies observed these actions. That night many of the miners went back to their own tents after the traditional Saturday night carousal, on the assumption that the Queen's military forces would not attack on a Sunday. A contingent of about 150 miners remained at the stockade. Early on that Sunday morning 276 police and military personnel under the command of Captain Thomas surrounded the stockade. At 4.45 a sentry fired a warning shot to alert the diggers. The battle was fierce, brief and one-sided—the miners were hopelessly outclassed by the military and routed in about fifteen or twenty minutes. Lalor, standing on a pile of wooden slabs trying to rally his men, was hit by a bullet in the arm. Henry Ross was shot dead standing beneath the flag he had designed, which was then torn down. In the aftermath, the killing was indiscriminate, bodies were mutilated, tents set on fire and nearby stores burned and pillaged. Women ran forward and threw themselves over the injured to prevent further slaughter. The Commission of Inquiry would later say that it was a needless as well as a ruthless sacrifice of human life indiscriminate of innocent or guilty, and after all resistance had disappeared. According to Lalor's report, fourteen miners were killed inside the stockade and another eight died later from injuries they sustained. A further dozen were wounded but recovered. The unusual proportion of the killed to the wounded, he wrote, is owing to the butchery of the military and troopers after the surrender. The number of deaths and injuries might have been higher; some miners fled to the surrounding bush and it is likely a good many more died a lonely death or suffered the agony of their wounds, hidden from the authorities for fear of repercussions. By 8 a.m. Captain Pasley, the second in command of the government forces, sickened by the carnage, had had enough. He saved a group of prisoners from being bayoneted and threatened to shoot any police or soldiers who continued with the slaughter. One hundred and fourteen diggers, some wounded, were marched off to the government camp about two kilometres away, where they were kept in the crowded lockup before being moved to a more spacious barn on Monday morning. Among the soldiers and military police six were killed, including one Captain Wise. In the aftermath, martial law was imposed and all armed resistance collapsed. But news of the massacre spread quickly to Melbourne and to other gold fields, turning the repression of the insurrection into a public relations disaster, with widespread condemnation of the government's action and equally widespread support for the diggers' requested reforms.

Peter Lalor, heavily wounded, hid underneath slabs within the stockade. He was rescued and after a few weeks clandestine recovery, escaped to Geelong concealed in a dray; his wounded arm had to be amputated. Thirteen men were taken to Melbourne and charged with High Treason, the penalty for which was death. They were Timothy Hayes, Chairman of the Ballarat Reform League, from Ireland; John Joseph, a black American from New York; Raffaello Carboni, an Italian and a veteran of the Risorgimento; James McFie Campbell, a black man from Kingston, Jamaica; John Manning, a Ballarat Times journalist, from Ireland; James Beattie, from Ireland; John Phelan, a friend and business partner of Peter Lalor, from Ireland; William Molloy, from Ireland; Henry Read, from Ireland; Michael Tuohy, from Ireland; Thomas Dignum, born in Sydney; Jacob Sorenson, a Jew from Scotland; and Jan Vennick from Holland. The trial was a farce and all thirteen men were found not guilty and acquitted. When the first man, John Joseph, was freed the court erupted into wild cheering and he was later carried through the streets of Melbourne in a chair amidst a procession of 10,000 people. The Commission of Inquiry’s report was scathing in its assessment of all aspects of the administration of the gold fields, and particularly of the Eureka Stockade affair. Rede was removed from his post. Gold licences were abolished and a small annual miner’s right and an export fee based on the value of the gold being remitted substituted. Mining wardens replaced the gold commissioners and police numbers were drastically cut. The Legislative Council was expanded to allow representation from the major goldfields and Peter Lalor was elected, along with another leader of the insurrection, the Chartist John Basson Humffray, as member for Ballarat. Two other court cases resulted from Eureka. Henry Seekamp, editor of the Ballarat Times, was arrested the day after the stockade battle, charged with seditious libel and eventually found guilty; his conviction thus became the only one to eventuate from the entire affair. Amongst the evidence against him was a copy of the Ballarat Reform League charter that he had printed. No government representative was convicted of committing any criminal act at Eureka. One man, Arthur Akehurst, a clerk of the peace, was arrested and tried for the manslaughter of storekeeper Henry Powell. Eyewitnesses testified that Akehurst cut Powell with his sabre, even though Powell wasn’t involved in the stockade. Powell survived his wounds long enough to make a statement against Akehurst but the prosecution case was dropped after Powell's dying deposition was ruled inadmissible. Nor was the government held accountable for the destruction and theft of property during the events at Eureka. Numerous accounts were given to the Commission of Inquiry lamenting the wanton disregard for the property of innocent bystanders by soldiers and police. Raffaello Carboni submitted a petition for compensation, suggesting that drunken troopers had robbed arrested prisoners of their belongings after their capture. The Italian was the sole eye witness to write and publish a comprehensive account of the events at Eureka. His The Eureka Stockade came out in 1855, a year after the events. He had cried out presciently before the events had properly begun for all men irrespective of nationality, religion or colour to salute the Southern Cross as a refuge of all the oppressed from all countries on Earth. The stockade itself was soon dismantled, the timber used for other things; there is now some uncertainty as to where it actually stood. But the karmic web continues to spin: the Eureka flag remains as a sign of hope for a Republican future for Australia; while, curiously, descendants of the Bentley family in Ballarat are still agitating for the return to them of the land upon which the burnt down hotel once stood.



One night, late, when my effort to fight off what seems to be a case of incipient narcolepsy is fading towards oblivion, I hear the cascading Aeolian harp of my mobile phone signalling a text message arriving. It is from Samsara and tells me that next day she is visiting our galaxy to have the red of her back tattoo augmented and can I meet her afterwards at the parlour where the work is being done? She has something to give me. The place is called Crossroads and is on the outskirts of the Philosophical City. I get there just on three o'clock, a little agitated because the tape machine in my car has just eaten the copy of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band I was trying to play: Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire ... Never mind, I know most of it by heart. It's cool inside Crossroads, with a pale bluish light emanating from behind the walls illuminated with tattoo designs: the usual skulls and heavy metal chicks, birds and snakes, ships and dragons and crowns. There's a lonely looking bloke in t shirt, stubbies and boots sitting on a bench at one end of the room and two women cruising the design portfolio. I head for the counter at the other end of the room just as a short, burly fellow with long hair comes out to see what I want. He's older than me and speaks with some gravitas. I say what I'm here for and he says Samsara's work has just been finished ... good timing. He goes behind the curtain and I hear him say that there's a gentleman here for her. And then her voice, surprised that I'm on time. Her laughter tinkles down the scale from disbelief to what I hope is delight. While I'm waiting for her to come out I also cruise the images. For nearly twenty years I've wondered about getting my writing hand tattooed with Marquesan motifs but have never followed through. I want - or wanted - that hand tattooed because of the pain and because I liked that one of the Marquesan words for tattoo means prolonged and heartfelt weeping or some such and refers to those old men so heavily inked they were a blue black colour all over; Marquesan tattoo never ended and is said sometimes to have extended as far as the glans of the penis ... at the time in which I conceived this misconceived notion I did far more thinking about writing, tattooing, prolonged and heartfelt weeping etc than I ever did actually writing anything and now, although I do sometimes look at my writing hand and imagine it covered with inscrutable and barbarous markings, I'll probably never do it. She comes out all flushed and we go back down an overgrown path into the church carpark where I've left the car. Later, after she has unthreaded Sgt Pepper from the tape machine and put on Diamond Life instead, and we're driving away into the hot afternoon Samsara tells me Crossroads don't do hands, a lot of places don't, because it's very painful and as a result of inadvertent flinching the possibility of mistakes is high. Plus hands are always visible so there's that to consider as well. Why can't you have your tattoo completed in the Ruby Galaxy? I ask and she gives her secret smile and doesn't answer. Or not at first. Later, when I'm putting soothing cream on the Celtic crown above the Excalibur flaming down her back she murmurs something about how the work could be done anywhere, it's true, but she wanted to revisit Crossroads in order to look east and west. Where's Willie Brown? I wonder but don't say. What I do is ask what she has for me. Actually there are two things. The first is a ring in the shape of an eagle with a piece of oriental jade clasped in the hieratic breast of the bird. The second is a book. It has a purple cover and is a biography of Howard Hughes by John Keats. Not that John Keats but another, of Philadelphia, author of The Sheepskin Psychosis among other things. I have not come unprepared - I hand over a black egg that might be a scrying stone and also this quote from Plutarch's Life of Alexander that I think she might like: He could not refrain from leaving behind him various deceptive memorials of his expedition, to impose on aftertimes, and to exaggerate his glory with posterity, such as arms larger than were really worn, and mangers for horses and bridles above the usual size, which he set up, and distributed in several places ... I don't add, and it may anyway sound implausible, but this second gift is really only given so that I can see her smile that secret smile again. It is indescribable and seems to open up into a vista of knowledge as vast as the Thousand Ruby Galaxy. She reads. She smiles. Time runs backwards and forwards at once and when I look at my hand there's some kind of dull ink leaking from the low grade silver of the eagle ring, covering my skin with strange inscriptions. There is no pain: instead, a delirium that could be joy. Or ecstasy.


Night of Intuition

The gods of the Dogon are the Awa, who lead the souls of the dead to their resting places; Lebe, the earth god, who is a serpent and at night licks clean the skins of the Hogon to restore their life force and purify their endeavours; and the Binou, who are many and various, the totems of the tribes. Before all of these was Amma, the sky god, who made the amphibious Nommo, who came down into the waters and split into six pairs of twins, one of one of whom rebelled; another (the other?) was sacrificed, the body cut up, the parts scattered through the universe. Every sixty-five years the Sigui is held, a ritual that might last five or six years; the next one begins in 2032. The Sigui is a processional that travels through the Dogon villages and across the immense span of time from the death of the first ancestor until the moment people acquired words. A woman's breast, say the Dogon, is second only to god; when divination is required a grid is drawn in the sand and siglas and symbols inscribed in certain of the squares. Milk, millet and peanuts are laid across the grid to attract foxes, whose footprints complete the grid and answer the Hogon's questions. The Dogon, said a couple of Frenchmen, famously, descended from the Sirian system and retain astronomical knowledge of its binary suns; but it is perhaps more likely that they made their way west and south from the upper reaches of the Nile and both their amphibious gods and astronomical memories have the same source as those of the Egyptians.

Matter is not and can never be a transformation of spirit but is a permanently existing substance, ineradicable, made up of atoms and taking many forms. Imprisoned within it and working upon it like yeast, giving it form, are the souls, who are innumerable and, like matter, never to cease to exist. The goal of the Jaina religious practice is to release the souls from their entanglement with matter. We are fettered because we go on acting and every action accumulates in our entanglement with matter. Life rules and vows will conduct the layman to the ultimate state of an advanced ascetic. Absolute release, if it can be achieved, does not mean re-absorption in the universal substance; the individual soul ascends to the zenith of the organism of the universe and remains there forever with all the other freed souls - self-existent, self-contained, immobile, all aware, occupying boundless space. The universe is itself represented as a giant in human form, male or female, with the underworlds, the purgatories and the home of demons in the lower body, from the waist to the soles of the feet. In the chest, neck and head are the heavens; while the world of humans is at the belly. Moksha, freedom, release, is at the crown of the head. These obdurate, pessimistic beliefs may have been those of the prehistoric, pre-Aryan inhabitants of the Indian sub-continent. They might be the thought of the people of the gridded, enclosed, paranoid cities - Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, Chanhu-Daro - of the Indus Valley civilization.

It is the night of intuition. There is no moon in the sky, which is a blaze of silver, almost solid against the fugitive black. We are under the umbrella of the indigo trees. I tell Samsara the results of my researches: the gods of the Dogon, the background of the beliefs of her possible saviours two millennia and more ago. Starlight makes her eyes glint topaz; she is languorous and insouciant tonight. The account of the Dogon divination by fox footprints interests her and she describes briefly the custom of deriving knowledge from the swirling of the albumen of eggs in water. Well I think it is in water, I'm a bit distracted and don't attend as well as I should: the Onyx Lake has gone topaz too and there's something strange being born out of the lily patch that is all Monet in the starlight ... entanglement, she says, there's nothing wrong with entanglement. Why else are we here? If not to entangle ourselves in the seductive glories of the world. That Moksha, he's ... the topaz blaze of her eyes has red lights in it now, they flare, and the marvellous child, if that's what it is, birthing down there in the lilies of the lake begins a thin high shrilling that is painful to hear ... she lets it go. Nirvana, she whispers, isn't what you think. It just ... isn't. Let's do our forgetting and remembering another time. Let's just be here now. Let's ... entangle. I look up past the indigo trees to the silver sky. It's pulsing. The black, that seemed almost not to be there a moment ago, is gloss and ebony, sable and jet. It's everything and nothing. Who are you? I ask as sweet oblivion descends. I do not know if I hear exactly right but what I think she says is: I am the Dark Lady.


two suns

I return to Samsara's planet, this time for a longer stay. Don't ask how to get there - there's no easy way, someone from there has to open the way if someone from here is to go there. They are all from here originally, as I think I said. Or did I? It's hard to recall, because I am myself changing as I write. One thing I have realised is that those who have attained the alleged state of grace that loss of karma imputes are victims of a terrible ennui. The paradise of the siddhas, at least in the Thousand Ruby Galaxy, is a hell of regret. This wouldn't be the case if bliss were extinction but it isn't, it's translation. The two violet suns in the sky contend without ever prevailing: one is the sun of forgetfulness and the other the sun of memory. They light up the Onyx Lake with their double paradox: what you remember shall be forgotten, what you forget will be remembered. Samsara has asked me here in order to remember the forgotten and also to forget the remembered. This is what is called love. It makes the turquoise trees flame to a colour more like vermilion, because here all landscape is emotional in essence and in expression. Those white furred creatures slinking through the hollow grass have transparent heads that flash a wicked red when they make the death leap over the small winged things they hunt. When the sun of forgetfulness is dominant the Onyx Lake takes on a dull, gloomy, slate-like look; the remembering sun wakes emerald reflections in the shining black water. These waves of feeling emanate randomly from all the living creatures here and, equally, effect all of us randomly. When Samsara and I embrace in the shade of the turquoise trees, the disturbance races through the landscape the way an earth tremor might. Our gasps contract the sky. Sap engorges the reeds and flowers burst spontaneously from the lily pads on the lake. The skeins, webs, shrouds of karma spin wildly, not out of control but into it. What is it like here at night? I manage at last to say. Under what moon shall we suspire? Moon, Samsara whispers, we have no moon here. When our planet swings into the night it is a night of stars only. That is when memory and forgetting resile from their strange alteration. That's when intuition alone rules. Something that you cannot perhaps imagine: will you stay? Will you let me go? I say. She does not answer. Her eyes are emerald. Already I can see the two violet suns westing.


In the Philosophical City

The next time we rendezvous it is by assignation in the Philosophical City. The venue is a church hall during an amateur performance of a play by Alan Ayckbourn. It's a fund raiser for the local school in that particular part of town and they're serving dinner as well as presenting the show. A three course meal. We meet in the dusky fragrant shadow of the brick Romanesque church, go in and take our places front and centre. There are carafes of sweet white wine and plastic jugs of red cordial on the tables. Soft white buns wrapped in tissue paper. We are drinking red not white wine and making surreptitious conversation while the lumpen food is served and eaten. First thing to notice is that our waiters are also the performers in the play. Second thing is that they are much better at being themselves than anyone else. Why would you try to make a suburb of the Philosophical City congruent with London, England, circa 1972? Besides they all yell. We leave during the first interval and go in the warm night air to a nearby speakeasy, on the way meeting Rex with a carton of Woodstock bourbon and coke under his arm and a pack of Winfield Red in the top pocket of his monogrammed shirt. The three of us repair to a balcony and begin our discussion. Hitler had some good ideas, says Rex, like the Volkswagon. But he was ruined by hatred. If only they'd let him into that Art School in Vienna. We come from water, to water we will return, Samsara observes. I don't disagree but say we are just as likely to freeze as to drown: all previous Ice Ages seem to have been introduced by a short, intense period of global warming. None of us trust scientists because they do not trust intuition and have never, eg, worked out why sometimes we know things that we cannot rationally know. This leads on to talk of dreams and Samsara says they are of three kinds: retrospective, quotidian and prophetic and that it is important to distinguish between the different modes. We drink all the bourbon and coke but do not smoke every cigarette. Rex goes off to his lost kingdom leaving Samsara and me together. She comes close so that I can smell her perfume: Shalimar? I ask. No, she whispers, Poison. By Christian Dior. Now, take both my hands in yours and close your eyes, I'm going to show you something. I do as she asks, feeling a scarcely bearable trembling in my chest. There is a sound like cascading bells falling and then what I can only describe as a whirling circular wind. Then, blackness. When she says open your eyes, and I do, we are in The Thousand Ruby Galaxy, on a planet in one of the Outer Arms that I know is her planet. Two violet suns in the sky and the lake glinting through the turquoise trees is the colour of onyx. When I look down at my body I see skeined about me the fine web spun by the accumulation of karma, shimmering like a silken veil or perhaps a shroud. Samsara's web is more delicate, more a fabric of air than my blood and soil. These webs or chains are not static, they twist and writhe, skein and unskein, constantly mutable and when I see that our two cocoons, if such they are, have reached out to entangle themselves in each other I am suddenly afraid and my craven fear breaks the spell. I come to sitting at a bustop in blinding sunlight in the same suburb of the Philosophical City. It is Sunday. There are dusky drinkers in the golden light of the Great Northern Hotel across the road, bees in the clover, yellow flowers on a gone-to-seed head of broccoli amongst the corn and beans and tomatoes in a kitchen garden. A baby fig. No-one much around. I stand in the shade of a paperbark tree reading a book about Paraguay until a bus comes to take me away from there. Leaving is like tearing the plaster off a wound in the heart.


working man's paradise

More's Utopia was on an island hacked off of its peninsula; here in the working man's paradise they have reversed the process, reattaching the island to the main via a long causeway. It was built by convicts and took thirty-eight years to complete: they worked night and day, in all weathers, and many were lost to the sea. I leave the Amethyst Room with the sound of the lamentation of the Trojan women still beating in my ears and go down the steep streets to the railway station, tripping on the same loose stone outside the Philosophical Institute as I did yesterday. There is an hour to wait before the train leaves so I decide to walk out along that causeway past the lighthouse and the weather station to its end. Although it is still early in the morning, the day is hot and will get hotter so I amble, taking my time. In the working man's paradise women and children go out to collect for charity in the blinding sunlight. Some on bicycles, some walking, some in wheelchairs or other contrivances. On this occasion the cause is diabetes and the uniform a canary yellow edged with bilious green. In the shade of an open tent a man lounges about the vast somnolence of his belly. Officers of St. John in their crisp black and white check the contents of their mendicant suitcases. Hedonists oil the skin of each other's backs. Behind, the city piles up on the hill like an unfinished monument to Moloch. I'm not far past the lighthouse when I see the first of the inscriptions carved into a massive cube of concrete. It is a declaration of love. The arduous labour of making it belied by the lucent simplicity of the message. As I go on I see more and more of these writings: many, indeed most, are philosophical, proclaiming the sanctity of freedom against the terror of the state, extolling the rights of man, praising the animals or denying god. It is like walking through a library of antiquity. Now I begin to see the reliefs, of ships and whales, of goddesses and demon lovers, of cities on hills and cities under water ... it is strange to think how these hieroglyphs were made, since it is clear enough that they are illicit and that the civic authorities would never countenance, not even in a working man's paradise, their anarchic inscription. These men and boys - I do not think many women or girls wrote here - must have been out at night with their lights and their tools, they must have heard the muttering of ocean and the crying of gulls as they tapped away with chisels and awls. Some of the more reckless have gone right down into the maw of the sea to chip their missives on sides falling almost perpendicular into the blue dark water below. Naturally they become more interesting the further out along the causeway I go but it is longer than I thought, my ambling start has cost me and now I do not know if I can get back to the station in time to catch my train. I reach the end, far out in the blue, and there are boys climbing down the rocks into the surf, calling out their daring in high clear voices. I round the curve and start back. The hieroglyphs blur, the letters writhe, they detonate under the hammer of the sun into siglas and vocables, occulted by the transfiguring light into mystery ... and then I see that the working man's paradise is not built in that baleful brick and sandstone pile up on the hill but out here among the tumbled rocks and concrete blocks, repossessed in the secret writing of the dispossessed, a template for another kind of city made over into dreams that will endure long after the walls and the towers have fallen, perhaps outlasting the lamentation of the women of Troy.



Samsara texts to say she will pick up the Keats in person ... or at least that's what I understand when I put the bits together and try to reconstitute what might have been in the many gaps. I think she lives in a parallel universe or some such and manifesting in this one is difficult and can only occur when windows of opportunity open. The venue is in another city and the time flexible within certain parameters. I catch the train and go there; but the closer I get the more erratic communication becomes and by the time I reach the rendezvous point in the Amethyst Room - blue and purple glass, rich carpets, a print from the Floating World - she is uncontactable and I have to assume I'm not getting her messages either. Not even fragments. I go for a walk around the district ... on Obelisk Hill there is a wedding in progress. Well, I think it is a wedding. Men in black with beers and wrap around shades, women in diaphanous pastel dresses. I feel like a spare prick there so I carry on. On the way down, a dead starling on the stairs, how did I miss that before? Iridescence fading already from its green dark feathers. They always make me think of birds in Hieronymus Bosch paintings. Across the road the bowling green has been invaded by weeds, the club house is derelict and broken-windowed, you can see the blue sea beyond where big freighters are waiting to load up dirty coal. The epidemiology lab over the way is a round rusting corrugated iron spaceship, there are crystalline bio-organisms mutating in rifts in the concrete of the defunct launchpad. I climb up to Christ Church on a seaward slope of the hill, a vast haunted red brick pile from 1902. The old graves around the back are jammed up against the fence, the legends mostly unreadable. Many died young. Several of them bear my name. I would like to think that their ghosts go with me back down the hill past the Victorian courthouse and the brutalist police station but no. I'm in the Grand, listening to a reggae band singing Mysterious Girl, watching the cricket from India and working my way through a half way decent cabernet when she comes around in her private world of white / unearthly force descending out of light / into the Romantic south. Once the dazzle clears I realise she is different from before; her eyes no longer violet but obsidian black and glinting with mischief or glee; her skin even whiter than I remember; tattooed across one shoulder a tracery of pale red flowers that seems to be moving. She laughs and says that tattoos in her world are 3D and kinetic and a shadow of her latest must have come across with her. As she adjusts her black lacy top to conceal it, I push the Keats across the table and ask why? The gold letters on the spine flare slightly as she takes the book in hand but doesn't open it. Some things are proscribed, she explains, in my world, they make us feel too much. I heard that Moksha had someone else banished for reading Keats and so began to wonder who he was. She seems nervous as she says this and indeed the time we spend together is interrupted several times by messages that she has to take and then work to ignore: as if they (who?) are on her trail but I don't say anything about that, I'm simply delirious that we're together. At the restaurant the food is delectable and the wine umbrageous, it really is. She takes a spatchcock in her hands and rips the delicate flesh from the bones with her white teeth. My entree is calamari, a single tube stuffed with meat croutons and looking like a sperm whale's tooth; no, a penis she remarks just as my knife slices off the head. We laugh and that's how it goes for a while but they're getting too close and we can't stay for dessert or coffee. Outside in the gloom we're crossing the road when a bus comes round the corner and she says quick, let's get on. We are the only passengers riding like Lord and Lady Muck down Glebe Street. It is six years, she confides, since I found anyone willing to let me come across like this. In the smoking room she touches with the palms of her hands the fine curling outspread points of my hair as if restoring my aura, all the time whispering soft, so soft ... I stand still in wonder and all the other reprobates and degenerates in there pause to watch as well. Later, after I walk her back up the hill to where we will part there is a moment in which, on that green slope of half dark grass, I bow as if I were indeed some kind of lord, she makes a graceful courtesy in return and then she's gone like she was never there at all. I'm just falling asleep in the Amethyst Room when a breeze from off the sea bells the curtains and in the brief light I watch across my naked shoulder a mazy pattern of pale red flowers falling.


The Autonomous Zone

Somehow we settle on text messages as a way of communicating. It isn't ideal, doesn't always work, messages don't always arrive or leave intact, what remains is often cryptic and always erratic ... but at least there's a reply button. She sends, apropos of what else I do not know: No rest for the saintly - Keats? I reply (not in my own words): ... queen / Of secrecy, the violet: what strange powers / Hast thou, as a mere shadow! But how great, / When in the Eye thou art, alive with fate! She comes back with: I am looking for a book of his - any or which may come my way - as it is it is to be. Next morning I wake up with a strong image in mind. Gold writing on a green spine. I go off to look for a car in a car yard in Ashfield and on the way pick up a copy of Baudelaire's Intimate Journals, translated by C. Isherwood with an introduction by W. Auden. Thence to Berkelouw Books in Leichhardt where in the second hand poetry section I find the actual volume: The Globe Edition of the Poetical Works of John Keats, London, Macmillan, 1941. First published in 1884 and edited by William T Arnold. It feels so peculiar to hold this dreamed of book in hand that I almost don't pay the $8.50 they're asking. No inscriptions. A Dymock's Book Arcade sticker inside the front cover that is worn and damaged. It has lain somewhere in the sun with another book on top of it, you can see the outline on the back. Just holding Keats' Poetical Works in your hand can make you weep, I don't know why. I do. I inscribe it to Samsara, write Bright Star on the flyleaf and will send it to her if I ever find out where she is now. It isn't The Thousand Ruby Galaxy. Or rather it is but where is that? ... city of stars / out beyond wolf howl / in the Autonomous Zone ...

I was Dad for a week when Issue 1 came out and did not properly engage with it. Was a few days before I learned that my name appears there along with thousands of others. Apart from the frisson of weirdness I felt seeing my veritable handle under words I did not write, and would never have written, I didn't really think anything except that they gave my second cousin Jacob Edmond a better poem and unaccountably missed including his father, cousin Murray. This is 'my' poem:

Palpating commingling

Palpating wool

Of attention
Of fear
Of gloom
Of commingling
Of love

Around the same time, exasperated with my sons' loud wrestling behaviour, I sent them out to run around the block and told them when they came back to write something about what they had seen. The older boy came up with this:

1. old guy farting down the pavement
2. 2 Asian boys laughing while walking down the street
3. tinkerbell seat covers
4. mother scolding 2 kids
5. hobo in an alley with a trolley

and followed it up with this:

Me and a hobo were staring at each other. The mango and the pear were good friends. The cat was in the jukebox. The wave had a waterworks problem. G force stands for George Force.

Wonder if I should contact the editors at forgodot.com re: submissions for Issue 2?


Enceladus from Cassini


Hotel Ibis

The shower capsule in my room at the Ibis was like a pod that could birth aliens or beam voyagers off planet. It was ovoid, self contained and when you sealed the door a bright white pitiless light illumined that faux and garish interior. It was late on the night of 16 May but I forget the year. I was standing naked in the pod looking at myself in a full length mirror. Blemishes and flaws I had not hitherto realised are mine crawled across the skin of my face and upper body, that bulbous balloon on two stick legs. Where did the skinny boy I was go? The lean adolescent, the cadaverous young man? Who was this aging blimp on the adipose edge of the universe. Well, perhaps ... I was more curious than repelled, scrutinising myself with new or other eyes; as if I'd never really seen exactly who I am before. It is no coincidence - and the fact that I did not know it at the time doesn't matter - that this was also the night I first met Samsara. It was outside the exercise yard of the old prison where we sat and watched a man eviscerate himself before the ghosts of his mother and his father. Starlight shone down through slats in the partially enclosed roof and water from a recent shower of rain pooled on the stone floor. The air full of whispers and oaths. Now the event was over people were crowding out and going but I was hanging around smoking with C, a fellow from the Western Lands I'd just met, when she and her friend R came out of the art opening they had been to and we started talking. She had violet eyes and very white skin. She told me her name and said it was the only one she ever had or ever would. Said she was from the Red River Shore. Looking past the bloody flux of the present into shades of the violent night, past or future, who could say. I wanted her to look at me, wanted to be seen by those violet eyes. Soon all four of us were down in the bar of the Crown Plaza eating antipasto and looking at the tattoos on the insteps of the feet of a young super model whose name I have forgotten: words of wisdom, words of praise that would go with her down the catwalks of this earth. Her party included drag queens and newly weds and old anniversary celebrants but we were somehow remote, already off-world. She gave me her card and it said Da Shealladh. Told me stories of her weapons training and said what that was like. Showed me her own tattoo that she got in the Black Hills out beyond Uch and Ferozepore. Said that firing a gun was exciting in the same way that being tattooed was. I told her what things are like on the planet I come from or at least I tried. When C said he had to go our foursome broke up and she drove me back to the Ibis and then disappeared in her little white podlike car down the long echoing street with its derelict buildings lining the banks of the forgotten river. I went up to my room, stripped, entered the pod and began my self examination. Karma, according to the Jains, does not mean deed or work or invisible mystical force but is material, actual, a complex of very fine matter more or less imperceptible to the senses that interacts with the soul ... what I saw that night was a shadow of that complex of very fine matter, part web, part aura, enclosing my body and entangled with my soul. I saw it and did not know if I want to cast it off or not. Knew that I wanted to entangle this entanglement, soul, body, karma, with Samsara. What I also did not and do not know is if this is a path of wisdom or of folly. Neither. Or both.



This despatch arrives unheralded from somewhere out beyond the Thousand Ruby Galaxy. It's a Zip File and when I open it I see the pixels in the revelatory act of transforming from code into words. The cover note is brief and says only: This might be part of the story you're looking for. S.

We lived in Sangala besides the river Hydraotes and watched through a mist of rain as foragers stripped the land on the further bank of everything that grew there. The king crossed the brown flooding water with his army of Greeks and Persians. We had parked wagons three deep before the city walls but they were smashed to bits by Alexander's phalanx. Then they built a double palisade to keep us in and began erecting the siege towers. We tried to break out but Ptolemy's army forced us back. Then Pontus, an Indian like us, came up with fresh troops and more elephants. Before the towers were even completed our walls, undermined, began to fall. After that, the rapes and the slaughter. It rained the whole time, so that bloody horrors pooled bedraggled among the stones. Then the city was razed. I was taken by one of the hypaspists, a Macedonian, not a kind man. My first child killed at my breast. His father's bones in the muddy flood of the Hydraotes perhaps, or cracked under the feet of an elephant: I was never to know. We went south, thousands of us, following the army, walking over corpses and bones through the stripped fields to a blare of horns. They drank and fought, that is all. And marched. Somewhere near Rambaceia I put my cloak over my head and wrapped it around me and fell to the ground. By the yellow stinking way in the pouring rain. Nobody stopped to see, nobody tried to help: the dead that lie in the wake of an army go unburied. They are eaten by dogs. Vultures and crows. Rats. I lay until night came and then walked away east until I could not walk anymore. Still far from the sea. My milk dried up because I had no food. I forgot how to cry. I was curled up under my cloak at the side of the road, really dying this time, when the man found me there and raised me up and took me to his house. He was a Jain. A ford-builder, he had already crossed to the other side of sorrow, to the further shore from darkness, away from the uncreated world, that will last forever, where everything changes except your soul, which is all that you have and all you can lose. So he taught me and so I believe. I know the holy man as Moksha; and the daughter I bore to the Macedonian, whom I will not name, is called Samsara.


Light of Days

The accretion of karma continues, a preoccupation like living. Samsara is sometimes close as skin, at others far away as air. As if you didn't want to lose your accretion, as if that made you what you are. Were. The weight of the past light on your days. Light of your days. The nights: waking from a confusion of every dream you ever had. Searching for the path through that thicket. Futures flashing and gleaming on the horizon. Orichalcum. The metal lost to alchemy, antiquity and ... accretion. It wasn't so long ago that the names of gods were inscribed on pillars with their genealogy attested in living memory. Before Alexander they were distant and mysterious but afterwards attained a singularity that remains seductive. He must have arrogated to himself qualities both observed and misinterpreted by his drinking companions, generals, soldiers, mercenaries, camp followers. Anyone who demurred was killed. Even for an instant. When he marched his army back from the mouth of the Indus towards the west, all the camp followers - women and children mostly but not only - died of thirst and starvation along the desert coasts of the Sind. Samsara calls and calls but every time I pick up the phone I just hear silence. Cold calling from beyond the Sombrero Galaxy. Second sight is called nth sight among her people. She told me that before she faded. And that she cannot see a wound without the praxis of healing impinging. Nothing extra about her ESP. The thing is, since Iskander became a god there have been a million million pretenders. Not an exaggeration. Unfortunately. She must have been one who read the library banks for stories of the lost camp followers. Looking for a way to change what was: that is what is told about what was. Some of them must have drifted away into the yellow hills. Kept their children safe, raised them up. Discarded those coins with the profile of the god under a helmet made of an amputated elephant's head. To be picked up by the camp followers of new Alexanders two thousand and more years later. New Ayatollahs. Their relief almost rubbed out. Yes those past lives must be what she wants to save. Close as skin, air. Lose the accretion that made you. Light of days. Every dream you ever had. Calling.



A line from a poem I've been reading reverberates in my head: We don't know why / we cry out to saintgod / but our crying never stops. (Fq #22). It's because I can still hear Samsara ... and I don't know how to contact her anymore, her sigla's gone, the Sombrero Galaxy is 30 million light years away, how much further can further be? Further than despair, further than love, further than thought can take us ... or maybe not. Without using any of the available electronic devices I send an image. It has our approximate location (the yellow arrow) indicated though I'm not hopeful. An age of silence intervenes. I do other things - clean the bath, sweep the detritus of my days into a corner where I'll pick it up later, go for a walk, revise a piece of work ... the word count, 88,888, looks fortuitous but isn't. Infinity quintupled. Has to mean something. Or not. Perhaps I should go away the weekend after next? I'd need to book. Perhaps I should get in touch with my children. I do both ... then there's a Beep. It's faint, faraway, fugitive against the background noise of creation persisting at .0003 degrees through these cold wastes for billions of years. Yes? It's her. I am on the opposite side of sorrow, she wisps. The furtherest shore from darkness, I've crossed the grieving waters ... she sounds thin, dimuendoed, attenuated to the nth but she's still talking: Karma accretes around a soul, she sighs. Good or bad, it doesn't matter. Think plaque. On a tooth. Or dust on a highway stone. I am that accretion, you can lose me just like Moksha did, it's easy ... if a thousand thousand lifetimes is easy, I'm thinking as she fades. Hungry ghosts, lost souls, all the weight of worldly attachment go and come and go before my tipping mind. Alexander, who said he was a god, prostrate before oracles, vertiginous in the face of fate. No, I say (it's a holy no). Or, yes (holy too). I hear Samsara fade back in. Oh ... is all she says but I know that she can hear me. From the opposite side of sorrow, the furtherest shore from darkness. Lines from the same poem unexpectedly recur: how else do we know heavens except through reflected light? We remember the photons, the photons remember us, that’s as close to invisible as everything gets ... (#84). No, I say again. And, yes. We'll go to Luna Park and ride the Catherine Wheel. We'll have ourselves photographed with our heads poking through holes, wearing old-fashioned clothes and funny hats, we'll dodge each other on the Dodgems, we'll eat candy floss and fall over laughing in the Crazy House ... my voice comes and goes like static, like iron filings round a magnet, Samsara is the same, she goes and comes, she comes and goes, she'll never/always leave, eluding Moksha's interdiction she'll always ... never ... be ...



I prepare a text to send to Samsara. It's from Plutarch's Life of Alexander and comes from the period immediately before the Great King's death in Babylon. It seems to have some sort of relationship to the truth test software though exactly what I'm not entirely sure; but I think she will like it. Goes like this: When once Alexander had given way to fears of supernatural influence, his mind grew so disturbed and so easily alarmed that, if the least unusual or extraordinary thing happened, he thought it a prodigy or a presage, and his court was thronged with diviners and priests whose business was to sacrifice and purify and foretell the future. So miserable a thing is incredulity and contempt of divine power on the one hand, and so miserable, also, superstition on the other ... filling the mind with slavish fears and follies, as now in Alexander's case. But upon some answers being brought to him from the oracle ... he laid aside his sorrow and fell again to sacrificing and drinking ... The reply's pretty swift and it isn't from Samsara. A new voice. Your Previous Interlocutor, it says all grim and portentous, has been Retired. She was Adjudged to have Exceeded her Brief. Her Speculations regarding the Efficacy of our Method of Verification of Data were both Erroneous and Sacrilegious. We have Whirled her Far Beyond the Outer Arms, as Far as the Sombrero Galaxy or Further. Her Dishonourable Remark implicating the Andromedans may be Ignored: they are Loyal Allies. Your own System is not of Interest to Us and those who have been using your Brutish Lives as Entertainment will be Purged. They are Purveyors of Illusion. The Equivalent Word for such People in your Language is Pornographers. Please do not try to contact Us again. We will Wipe you if you do - it is within our Power. Go back to your Petty Concerns, your Absurd Conceits. Truth is Indivisible, it is Singular and it is Ours. Signed: MOKSHA. The sigla left on my desktop is as terrifying as Samsara's was beguiling. Hers has disappeared and this other cannot be erased by any means at my disposal. I am afraid. I do not wish to be wiped. I know that my own government has done as much to some of my more obstreperous contemporaries. I think I will no longer concern myself with truth and/or lies. I will fall, like Alexander, to sacrificing and drinking. And yet I still hear Samsara's desolated voice howling across the black spaces between the stars.


Out of the blue ...

Samsara skypes me. Her voice is ghost speak but she still sounds exactly like I thought she would. Like a smoky galaxy. Like the wind between the stars. Like someone who has read the Dark Lady's correspondence ... I'm slow, I don't say any of this. Instead, squawking unsteadily: You have skype over there? She's so cool: We have everything you have and a lot else besides. I thought you understood that. Now tell me about Sha Na Na. There was nothing about it in your last ... offering. I can't hardly think of Sha Na Na, only about what kind of body goes with that voice. Any body you like, she intercedes before I become ... lubricious. Or ridiculous. Now ... Well, I say, I don't really know much about Sha Na Na but there was this article I read on Arts & Letters Daily that said they invented the 1950s. You know Grease? American Graffiti? Happy Days? Cigarette packs rolled up in the short sleeve of a white T shirt and girls with bangs and bobbie sox? I trail off, clearly she's not impressed by this sort of dark matter. Silence. Rebel Without A Cause? I say in one last attempt to call her back. The skype connection's gone to echo, all I hear is my own dumb voice reverberate ... cause ... cause ... followed by the soundless hiss of the universe. After an age she returns: it is the invention of tradition that interests my readers, she says, prim as a librarian. The way the present changes the past and how that then modifies the future. Give me the URL of the piece you found on ALD. I can't believe she needs that from me but I do it anyway. It's here, I say. Why ... she cuts me off. Certain complexities in the way what you call time unfolds have led to our predicament, she whispers. I shouldn't tell you this but I will ... I'm intoxicated by our sudden closeness and cannot resist asking her if she knows the Chinese might be listening? Not just the Chinese, she say, but never mind that now ... there is a cosmopolitical dimension to these apparently innocent inquiries of mine, we are testing our databases, we think that there may have been some kind of attempt to ... alter our truth recognition software. A serious matter, not just for us but for you too. After all we also preserve human memory over here along with what those ... Andromedans get up to. She sighs, sounding old and sad. Like she's read too many Doris Lessing novels. Will you help? she asks and I say yes, yes, of course I will, even though the thought has just occurred to me that she's not from the Thousand Ruby Galaxy at all but is somewhere close by, just round the road, perhaps she picked up my details on the Net and is in fact a sophisticated yet dangerous crank caller ... I should have known better. My name is Samsara, she says in a voice that has the hush and distance of starlight in it. Please believe me. Please help, I need you ... I really do ... just before the connection cuts out I notice there's no echo on her end of the line. I go outside to breath the avant storm air. It smells of almonds, it smells of vanilla. Of Samsara.


The idea of software that can tell truth from lies is so beguiling I decide I have to inquire further of the mysterious Samsara. But first I run a little test, which is also a start of the fulfillment of the immensely long list of clarifications and additions she wants for her library - in my last post I mentioned only four of hundreds of requests she has made. Aliens are not only swift, they are comprehensive in ways you can scarcely begin to imagine. This is what I send her: None of the sources mention any dreams Alexander might have had before or during his Bactrian campaign (which lasted nearly two years) but I did find this resonant detail in the archives: Instructions for the assassination were conveyed by racing camel across the desolation of the Dasht-i Lut, their bearer a friend and adjutant of Parmenion. Eleven days hard travel brought the despatch to the Median capital, and Cleander and his fellow commanders acted immediately, striking down the old general while he was reading a letter from his king. Her reply is all but instantaneous: the last thoughts of Parmenion are a favourite among us here in the Outer Arms, she writes; they focus the mind upon the ruthlessness of tyranny and the rewards of loyalty and fidelity. Loyalty? I say. Fidelity? They were the very qualities that got Parmenion killed. Exactly, is her enigmatic reply. Very few show any interest in the mind of the racing camel driver, she goes on, but thank you for this contribution: the name Dasht-i Lut was not known to us here in the Outer Arms yet a truth check has shown it to be accurate. Now - what of the Dogon and the Dark Lady? What of Eureka? The Dogon will take time, I say, and so will Eureka; as for the Dark Lady, there is no record I know of any correspondence between her and Shakespeare: all we have is the Sonnets. There is a pause, brief as a sigh; I think I hear across those near infinite wastes a catch in the Samsaran breath. So sad, she sends, it is my favourite. You do NOT know what you are missing: the Beatitudes of Erotic Love raised to a Higher Power. True, I fire back, forgetting to put in the question mark. True? Verdad, she gasps and then goes quiet: returning perhaps to mourn for we who have never known those lost beatitudes. Or has she forgotten all about us as she begins to re-read ...