Strenuous Sleep

I fought exhaustion like a gladiator,
before drifting into dreams with no colosseums in sight.
“Why dry July?” asked the bus stop graffiti.
“Are your droughts broken with floods?”
was scribbled on the weeping fig fractured footpath.
“Happy to collect locusts with the Baptists,
or trekking to the land of vodka rain”
was scrawled across the toothpaste ad
on the side of the bus.

“Fluoride is an industrial waste product”
said the chemistry encyclopedia beneath my seat.
The stench of tobacco and last night’s bourbon
hung in the air, like fumes from a volatile factory.
Owen’s breath was the keys to freedom,
for the contents of my stomach.
I painted the bullet proof glass
with something resembling the latest
Museum of Contemporary Art masterpiece.

A blue collar philosopher snapped a photo
of that chunky ticket to the visual art community.
The dazzling array of berries
in my vegan ice cream
had done a pretty face justice.
My one in a billion chunder,
looked like a gymnast riding a unicorn,
in what the ladies from Pride and Prejudice
might call a most improper manner.

As I departed,
the driver shook his mop in rage.
The getaway car
raced to Burrogorang Road.
In a forest gully,

Tawny Frog Mouths flocked
to the bottle orchestra man’s treehouse.
A cloud of red browed finches
obscured his dreadlocks.
He nodded with approval
at the poisoning of African Olive regrowth.
The oil on canvas version
of my vomit on window,
hung on his wall.

“Did you know there’s a lack of independent research
into the safe level of fluoride?” he whispered.
“Colgate’s spies walk among us” he continued.
“Is four parts per million too much?”
a sulfur crested cockatoo probed.

The bus featuring my one in a billion art work
flew from an unfinished bridge,
scattering my skull in eighty two directions.
It’s lucky his ghost loves jigsaw puzzles,
the funeral director whispered.

I thought I was dead, as I woke up in bed.
until I felt the intact portions of my head.

I felt like a ghost as I wandered to the bus stop.
My fellow pedestrians
appeared to peer right through me.

“Why dry July” asked the bus stop graffiti.
“Are your droughts broken with floods”
was scribbled on the weeping fig fractured footpath.
“Happy to collect locusts with the Baptists,
or trekking to the land of vodka rain”
was scrawled across the toothpaste ad
on the side of the bus.
The driver assured me I wasn’t hallucinating.
Owen’s bourbon and tobacco breathe made me gag,
I felt ill as I reached beneath the seat
and grabbed a book.
Cold sweat threatened to drown me
as I hauled the industrial chemistry enyclopaedia,
on to my lap.
A tsunami of relief washed over me,
as I remembered there’s no bridge on the farm.

The driver turned to me and said.
“I had this crazy dream last night.
You chundered a masterpiece on to the window,
depicting a mermaid riding a unicorn,
in an x rated fashion.”

“A mermaid?
Are you sure it wasn’t a gymnast?”

“Maybe it was a gymnast mermaid”

Alcohol, the Only Drug we Have to Explain not Using

From an early age my stubborn streak has rendered me immune to peer pressure. In primary school, if we were painting during art and I wanted to use textas, that’s what I did. During highschool, if the other kids were using Bunsen burners and I wanted to use a flame thrower, that’s what I did. At tech, if the other students went hangliding on the weekend and I wanted to hitch a ride on an eagle, that’s what I did. Possibly, I’m exaggerating a little. The point is, go your own way.

My way is not for the faint hearted. If I’m at the pub and someone repeatedly asks me why I’m not drinking, first I soften them up with copious detail about NYE 2000. In the early hours of the new millennium, my projectile vomiting spree melted a hole in the mirror and flash flooded the bathroom. Funnily enough, as I tell that story the puzzlement over my sobriety ceases; like the appetite of a sumo wrestler after the seventeenth watermelon. Everyone has their limit.

If they reflexively ask me one more time if I’d like a gin and tonic, before they lapse into a catatonic state, I just hold up my glass of water and ask them “what in hell do you think this is? You’ve just witnessed me pour half of it down my throat and seen the resulting gasp of relief. Then watched me massage my tongue with the upteenth ice cube and you would have me believe you don’t know I’ve already got a drink. Oh of course, it’s not a real drink, only drinks that damage the brain, punish the liver and k.o the kidneys are real. Water must be such an inferior beverage that to call it a drink is laughable because it’s not as toxic as the anxiety you seek to spread like the Black Death, whenever someone reveals the contrast between your alcoholism and their good health.”

I don’t say it too loudly though, otherwise the words “that bloke could do with a drink” are likely to ripple from one side of the bar to the other, with the echoes intermingling until one is not entirely sure if they’re merely in a room with too many conversations or suffering from auditory hallucinations.

If I’d of been sober in the early hours of January 1 2000, I would’ve realized it was still the 20th century because there was no year zero. As it was, if I had been aware of that, I wouldn’t have been able to tell anyone. My vocal ability had regressed by decades. Any thoughts that did escape made the barking and grunting of baboons sound as eloquent as Oscar Wilde.

During my mid teens, back in the early 1990’s, I had the same healthy paranoia about alcohol as I did about every other drug. I could be in the kind of mood where leaping from a bridge seems like the most splendid idea since Leonardo Da-Vinci designed the hellicopter but if someone had of put a glass of beer in front of me and told me this will make you feel better, I’d have been too consumed by visions of brain cells shrivelling and dying enmasse to take a cautious sip.

My propensity for thinking the worst is why I never jumped off a bridge. I’d use my suicide fantasy to make school days bearable. By the time I reached the bridge though, I’d be thinking what if I don’t die, what if I go from being a severely depressed able bodied boy, constantly on the verge of a panic attack, to a severely depressed quadriplegic, constantly on the verge of a panic attack? That fear was diminished in late 1993, after I was prescribed Lithium carbonate.

Lithium carbonate, the mood stabilizer that dulled my depression, anxiety, paranoia and mania worked too well. Lithium eliminates extremes but it’s not selective in which extremes it eliminates. My intense fear of alcohol was among the traits it banished. After I’d been on Lithium for a while, I got drunk about once a month, to make the real world disappear. Some people made fun of me for drinking a glass of water between beers. Obviously I should’ve toughened up and let dehydration cause the concentration of Lithium in my blood to rise to fatal levels.

Despiting consuming a potentially fatal dose of alcohol, I remember a surprising amount about NYE 2000. Advertising obviously works, I thought as I poured myself the first glass of Jim Beam and Coke. I hadn’t drunk a drop and I was feeling more witty already. By the time I was struggling to speak a word of English, I didn’t feel so sophisticated anymore. Instead of hiding the bottle my friends poured more bourbon into my cola. At about 3AM, the murky geysers of vomit that briefly gained on Halley’s Comet hit my reflection for a home run. 

The two day hangover that followed was enough to convince me it’s better to sample alcoholic beverages than suck them up like an irrigation hose. I haven’t had a hangover since. It was a close call after the 20 year reunion for the class of 95, at St Gregory’s College. We gave the Responsible Service of Alcohol Officers something to do that night. Without us they would’ve had more time to play cards than the Antarctic Forest Fire Brigade. The former National Rugby League players were wise enough to leave before any unwanted publicity arrived. Not being famous for anything, it was easier for me to keep a low profile.

I discovered that standing as still as a statue is good for more than making videos look like photos. Once the R.S.A officers attention was diverted by a decoy stumbler, I hit the gap at about three km per hour. By the time they looked around I was at the bar and as still as a statue once more. The bips of the cash register substituted for the referee signalling a try. If you’re American, that roughly translates as the proverbial touch down. “Air swing averted”, I mumbled as I raised my glass without missing my mouth. I drained it without spilling a drop, so you could say I converted my own try in a bounce on top of the cross bar and shave the inside of the uprights kind of way.

After stopping at Adam Cass’s room, with Mark Wyrzykowski, for mining industry anecdotes and more beers, I finally left the venue. In my inebriated state I felt like I was strolling along the sea floor. I picked a Bird of Paradise flower, from near the old Town Hall and looked around for a mermaid to give it to. Unfortunately there aren’t any mermaids in the shallow, murkiness of the Alcohol Sea. Alcohol, it has the dubious distinction of rotting the living and preserving the dead. Alcohol, what a blessing it seems until it causes lives to come apart at the seams.

This mostly biographical article was triggered by a Celeste Yvonne Facebook post of virtually the same name. The title and the topic is where the similarity ends.

Would You Like Coffee in Your Tequila?

Con’s converted his laundry into a brewery.
The old geezer’s backyard distillery
is flanked by beer can pyramids
as legendary as Giza.
His wine rack has more shelves
than the Library of Congress.
He lists vodka, whisky, Cognac
and bourbon as separate hobbies
and gets angry when you tell him
a flagon of rum after breakfast
is neither normal, nor the best way
to prepare for the daily commute.
zombie movie collection
is scattered across the cellar floor,
to make room for beer commercial compilations.
He believes the legal limit is 5%.
Alcohol, from specimen jars in the museum,
disappeared the same night
his local bottle shops went on strike.
Constantine’s terrified, tortured liver
is under siege from an ethanol river!
ut he’s not an alcoholic, just ask him.

Ronan Churchill

The Great Wall of China
never blocked Mongolian horseman
like Ronan blocks reason.
Catholicism is the perfect label, he insists,
as if his religion is significant
beyond this Milky Way backwater.

With enough venom to kill a herd of elephants,
Ronan accuses me of spewing nonsense,
for suggesting the first pope was Emperor Constantine.
To me it’s a trivia question,
as insignificant as the length of Elvis’ sideburns.
As if an unbroken papal lineage of two millennia
could rescue the church
from the absurdity of a virgin birth
and fence sitting between creationism and evolution.
Credibility doesn’t come with age,
just ask Rolf Harris.

Taking Ronan seriously, is harder
than solving a shapeshifting Rubik’s Cube blindfolded.
He can’t see the guilt trap
in banning premarital sex and masturbation,
contraception and abortion.
May as well ban breathing and suffocation.
We have sinned
and God demands
we drag boulders of guilt,
until sweet release in the confessional.
Denying the guilt traps is as idiotic
as ingesting a Valium burger
in preparation for a striking contest
with a rattlesnake.

The Great Wall of China
never blocked Mongolian horseman
like Ronan blocks reason.
The church runs addiction counselling services,
while its community clubs are awash with alcohol
and crammed with poker machines.
It’s alright if Supersonic Sid Salisbury
breaks Vince Cyclone Capone’s jaw,
in the auditorium, that’s rated G.
Risk is royalty, but nothing risqué okay.
No tasteless prancing and lascivious dancing
and nipples tassles cause all sorts of hassles.

Varnished and Vanished

Jade painstakingly sculpted Myrtle,
the bipedal, amphibious, octopoid,
from mottled marble.
The black garnet pupils
of her green fluorite eyes
looked ready to grow and shrink
in light and shadow.
Mining magnate Martin Martyn
paid more for this lifelike marvel
than his driverless Rolls.

Myrtle was Jade’s lover Opal’s preferred murder weapon,
in Art Museum Mayhem,
her latest theatrical gem.
Jade wheeled the loan on to the studio apartment set.

The place was as chaotic as manic poetry.
Opal’s sister Helena was assembling kitchen cabinets
without instructions, that alone
was as ominous as a tsunami warning in the Maldives.
Their cousin Hugo, had smoked enough weed
to believe a claw footed bathtub,
in the lounge room,
surrounded by a fern jungle,
was a home decorating triumph.
His husband Darius bored holes for picture hooks,
with a drill that hadn’t been tested and tagged
since Reagan continued his acting career
in the White House.

Between beers and bowls of ice cream,
Darius and Helena raced each other up the fire escape,
giggling like toddlers.
They’re in a competition to see who vomits first,
Hugo explained to the bath’s scuba diving gargoyle.

Jade meditated amidst the madness
with the aid of a blind fold,
hermetically sealed ear muffs,
and a cork igloo as thick as the Ross ice shelf.

Upon opening her eyes,
she noticed the sculpture trolley was as empty
as a politician’s promise.
Months of honing her search skills,
for the Federal Police,
proved as useless as a granite dartboard.

Her one thousand litre pot plants had been toppled.
Nobody remembered a mini tornado invading the balcony.
The wine glasses perched on the window sill
looked as stable as Olympic divers.

Opal once told her tower climbing, ex-girlfriend Jacqueline,
she buried cash in pot plants.
Had Jacqui taken her more seriously
than rumours of lunar cactus swamps?
Ecologists cameras ridiculed her crime time location claim.
Only an albino goanna and a graffitied turtle were recorded.
Opal’s radio was found in Jacqui’s back pack.
Detectives wondered if she’d
dropped Mrytle, the amphibious, bipedal, octopoid
into a foam rubber lined dumpster.
Shifty Shannon Shamrock, a homeless man,
camped in bus stop shrubbery,
was her suspected accomplice.
He was filmed climbing into the industrial bin.
His explanation sounded as unconvincing
as stories of Mars being terraformed
by Saturnian cyborgs,
but the damning evidence was circumstantial.
Rumours that Shifty was a pub salesman,
of everything from mobile phones
to comic book tribute toilet paper,
lead nowhere.

Multimillionaire buyer Martin Martyn
had seen Jade’s masterpiece evolve
from a slab to the finished form.
He waited for its twin to emerge,
from beneath her chisels and lathes.
Myrtle the amphibious, bipedal, octopoid, mach two,
was more lifelike than the original.

When Jade returned
from a book exchange adventure,
Myrtle the Second wasn’t herself.
Martin Martyn was as oblivious as an oyster.

After observing Helena glancing nervously
towards the kitchen cupboards,
Jade found the false wall,
behind the pots and pans.

The Good Intent

Jimbo anticipated record takings
from the Himey Hydrogen Bomb Heller
vs Tyrone Cyclone Capone rematch,
live on Gladiator Sports,
at The Good Intent.
Harry the Hooligan Henley,
brought proceedings to an untimely end.
His trouser leg became a sewage outlet
as diabolical as Vaucluse’s cliff face discharges.
‘Why’s everyone leaving’ he uttered,
as he skated across his pool of feces to the counter.
“Is the sports bar an ice skating rink now?”
he asked, as he ordered his twentieth whiskey on the rocks.

Jimbo expected record takings
during the Olympic freestyle finals.
During his youth, Harry the Hooligan Henley,
had been quite the pool shark.
This century drinking was his number one sport.
He was thirty six bourbon and cokes not out,
when he attempted the highland fling,
tripped over a pool cue mid flight
and triggered a brawl that spread
to the bistro and on to the street.

Harry regained consciousness in an empty bar.
“They’ve vanished!
Has Gandalf been drinking at The Good Intent again?”
he muttered to a statue of Don Bradman.
A cordon of police officers barred entry.
“Have they found out about the FJ Holden I stole,
from Sergeant Mcdonald in 68″, Harry wondered.”

The delayed telecast,
of the first human journey to Mars,
was Saturday’s main attraction.
Harry took the scenic route,
via an under 25’s dance party.
“Yep, they’re vitamins, all of them” Guru Goran,
the snake charmer, from Charlatanvale, promised.
Harry washed them down with a pint of vodka.
“They’re not televisions and that aint Mars,
they’re inter universal portals
to the realm of the Ice Breathing Lobster Fairies.
Their saute dragon breathe is flooding into the Milky Way
and slowly killing us all” Harry bellowed at the barmaid.
He peppered the televisions with shot glasses
until every screen was shattered.

Harry the Hooligan Henley died a month later,
while performing Swan Lake
on the pinnacle of a pint glass pyramid.
As Jimbo sent a champagne cork into the stratosphere,
the hearse carrying Harry’s corpse
crashed into The Good Intent with such force
the heritage building had to be demolished.

Jimbo was contemplating slitting his wrists,
until he realised he featured more prominently in Harry’s will
than The Petronis Towers in Kuala Lumpur’s skyline.
He transformed Harry’s palatial homestead
into a bed and breakfast inn.
Jimbo’s newfound success
funded a trip to the remnants of the Great Barrier Reef,
with his voluptuous lingerie model fiancée,
‘Woohoo, my first holiday in twenty years Pearl’
Jimbo raised his glass
of apple and cinnamon laced lager in triumph.
His lithe lady hinted at the course their evening would take,
with a series of provocative yoga poses.
A newsflash
about a country motel disappearing into a sinkhole,
interrupted Jimbo’s erotic reverie.

Would You Like Coffee in Your Tequila

Constantine’s terrified, tortured liver
is under siege from an ethanol river.
He’s converted his laundry into a brewery.
The old geezer’s backyard distillery
is flanked by beer can pyramids
as legendary as Giza.
His wine rack has more shelves
than the Library of Congress.
He lists vodka, whisky, Cognac
and bourbon as separate hobbies
and gets angry when you tell him
a flagon of rum after breakfast
is neither normal, nor the best way
to prepare for the daily commute.
Constantine piled his zombie movie collection
into the bathtub, to create shelf space
for beer commercial compilations.
He believes the legal limit is 5%.
Alcohol from specimen jars in the museum
disappeared the same night
his local bottle shops went on strike,
but he’s not an alcoholic, just ask him.