Friday, December 28, 2012

Jallah-din Rumi

The Masnavi, by Rumi, tr. by E.H. Whinfield, [1898]


Book VI.


O LIFE of the heart, Husamu-'d-Din,
My zeal burnt within me to write this sixth part!
The Masnavi became a standard through thy influence,
Thy sword (Husam) has made it an exemplar to the world
O spiritual one, I now offer it to thee,
This sixth part of the entire Masnavi.
Enlighten the world's six sides with its six parts,
That it may illuminate him who is not illuminated!
Love has naught to do with five senses or six sides,
Its only aim is to be attracted to the Beloved!
But haply leave may be given me hereafter
To tell those mysteries so far as they can be told,
In a discourse more closely approximating to the facts
Than these faint indications of those abstruse matters.
Mysteries are not communicable, save to those who know;
Mystery in the ear of infidels is no mystery.
Nevertheless, this is a call to you from God;
It matters not to Him whether ye accept or reject it.
Noah repeated His call for nine hundred years,
But his people only increased in rebellion.
Never did he draw back from admonishing them,
Never did he retire into the cave of silence.
He said, "At the barking and howling of the dogs
No caravan ever turned back in its road.
Nor does the full moon on a bright night cease shining
Because of the howling of dogs on earth.
The moon sheds her light, and the dogs howl;
Every one acts according to his nature.
To each one his office is allotted by the divine decree,
And he acts agreeably to his nature."
Art thou thirsting for the Ocean of spirituality?
Disport thyself on this island of the Masnavi!
Disport thyself so long as thou seest every moment
Spiritual verities revealed in this Masnavi.
When the wind blows the grass off the water,
The water then shows forth its own purity.
Behold the bright and fresh sprays of coral,
And the princely fruits growing in the water of life!
So, when the Masnavi is purged of letters and words,
It drops all these, and appears as the sea of Unity.
Then speaker and hearer and spoken words
All three give up the ghost in that consummation.
Bread-giver and bread-eater and bread itself
Are purified of their forms and turn to dust.
But their essences in each of these three grades
Are distinguished, as in those states, so eternally.
Their form turns to dust, but their essence not;
If one says it does, tell him it does not.
In the world of spirits all three await judgment,
Sometimes wearing their earthly forms, sometimes not.
The worth of a man depends on the objects of his aspiration.
One day a student asked a preacher,
Saying, "O most orthodox ornament of the pulpit,
I have a question to ask, O lord of learning;
Tell me the answer to it in this congregation.
A bird sat on the top of a wall;
Which was best, its head or its tail?"
He replied, "If its face was towards the town,
And its tail to the villages, then its face was best.
But if its tail was towards the town, and its face
Towards the villages, then prefer its tail to its face."
A bird flies with its wings towards its nest,
The wings of a man are his aspiration and aim.
If a lover be befouled with good and evil,
Yet regard not these; regard rather his aspiration.
Though a falcon be all white and unmatched in form,
If he hunts mice he is contemptible and worthless.
And if an owl fixes his affection on the king,
He is a falcon in reality; regard not his outward form.
Adam's clay was kneaded in the limits of a trough,
Yet was he exalted above heaven and stars.
"We have honored Adam"  was not addressed to the sky,
But to Adam himself full of defects as he was.
Did one ever propose to earth or heaven to receive
Beauty, reason, speech and aspiration?
Would you ever offer to the heavens
Beauty of face and acuteness of thought?
O son, did you ever present your silver body
As an offering to the damsels pictured on bath walls?
Nay, you pass by those pictures though fair as Huris,
And offer yourself sooner to half-blind old women.
What is there in the old women which the pictures lack,
Which draws you from the pictures to the old women?
Say not, for I will say it in plain words,
'Tis reason, sense, perception, thought, and life.
In the old woman life is infused,
While the pictures of the bath have no life.
If the pictures of the bath should stir with life (soul),
They would uproot your love to all the old women.
What is soul? 'Tis acquainted with good and evil,
Rejoicing at pleasant things, grieving at His.
Since, then, the principle of soul is knowledge,
He who knows most is most full of soul.
Knowledge is the effect flowing from soul;
He who has most of it is most godlike.
Seeing then, beloved, that knowledge is the mark of soul,
He who knows most has the strongest soul.
The world of souls is itself entirely knowledge,
And he who is void of knowledge is void of soul.
When knowledge is lacking in a man s nature,
His soul is like a stone on the plain.
Primal Soul is the theatre of God's court,
Soul of souls the exhibition of God Himself.
All the angels were pure reason and soul,
Yet when the new soul of Adam came, they were as its body.
When in joy they crowded round that new soul,
They bowed before it as body does before soul.
Fear of men's censure the greatest obstacle to acceptance of the true faith.
O Husamu-'d-Din, I might tell some of thy many virtues,
Were it not for the fear of the evil eyes.
From evil eyes and malice-empoisoned breaths
Already have I suffered fatal wounds.
Therefore I cannot relate thy ecstatic states,
Save by hints of the ecstatic states of others.
This manoeuvre is one of the devices of the heart,
Whereby the heart's feet wend their way to the truth.
Many hearts and souls would become lovers of God
Did not evil eyes or evil ears hold them back.
Of these Abu Talib, the Prophet's uncle, was one;
The malice of the Arabs scared him from the faith.
He said, "What will the Arabs say of me?
That my own nephew has perverted me from my religion!"
Muhammad said, "O uncle, confess the faith to me,
That I may strive with God for thee!"
He said, "Nay; it will be published by them that hear;
'A secret known to more than two is known to every one.'
As I live in the midst of these Arabs,
It will cause me to lose caste with them.
Yet, had the mighty grace of God led the way,
How could this fear have vied with God's attraction?
O Granter of aid, lend us aid
In this dilemma of the feeble will.
Prayers for right guidance in the use of free will, which gift was refused by heavens and earth, but accepted by man to his own.
This flux and reflux of resolves came to me from Thee,
Else these tides of will had rested still, O God!
By the same fiat whereby Thou madest me thus irresolute,
Of Thy mercy deliver me from this irresolution!
Thou triest me; O give me aid!
For men are as women through this trial.
How long, O Lord, is this trial to last?
Give me one ruling principle, not ten principles!
The whole world flees away from its own will and being
Towards self-abandonment and intoxication.
In order to escape a while from self-consciousness,
Men incur the reproach of wine and strong drink;
For all know well this existence is a snare,
This thought and memory and will only a hell.
Therefore they flee from self to being beside themselves,
Call it intoxication or call it preoccupation, O guided one.
Ere it is annihilated, no single soul
Finds admittance to the divine hall of audience.
What is "ascension" to heaven? Annihilation of self;
Self-abandonment is the creed and religion of lovers.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Vera Di Campli San Vito


'If you would have the message of the Gods
to direct your life, look for that which repeats,
again and again…'
                             — Marion Zimmer Bradley

Taking my leave but wanting to stay
It'll all come with me, anyway
These small revolutions in my head –
Will the Gods explain them when I'm dead?

Have a nice life

You, with a hole in your sock,
red beard, long straight hair,
looking to belong somewhere.
The mild autumnal air is still
and at last, at last I don’t
care for this struggle any more –
wish you all the best
and have a nice life. For the rest
I’ll put you out of my mind,
let no thoughts of you intrude,
lest I’m tempted into longing.
You, with your quick blue eyes,
cruel mouth, airtight heart –
make yourself another cup of tea
and relax. This is the last you’ll see
of me.

Dead End

You’re at this dead end
where pavement meets wall.

There’s no good friend  

on whom you can call.

Where pavement meets wall
a skip’s overflowing.
On whom can you call
where are you going?

A skip’s overflowing
what you’ve not said.

Where are you going?

Shed your black dread.

What you’ve not said
crows pick and crow.
Shed your black dread
don’t feel so low.

Crows pick and crow
shadow thoughts scatter.
Don’t feel so low
know it doesn’t matter.

Shadow thoughts scatter
where crow spirits fly.
Know it doesn’t matter.
Ask yourself why

where crow spirits fly
there’s no good friend.
Ask yourself why
you’re at this dead end.

Halfway to –  (post-journey reflections)

Limited express tracks over the river
between towers of glass under mare’s tail skies.

Outstretched arms of cranes point to tunnels &
silver escalators moving deeper to a centre.

To unearth the uncommon: our destination.
All the newness of spring.

Blankness comes from movement,
like a horse in windy weather: keep it
moving & it won’t spook.

Sweeten the feeling.
If all this disappeared, what would take its place?

Peppercorns & pines, more sun than ever &

We’re swimming in camaraderie,
the air serene, mare’s tails swishing in the blue.

Each stop another line written
yet lost in this formlessness.

Alphington not Framlingham & Ivanhoe no crusader.
Poplars & pickets recede.

Red & green signal lights blink,
tracks slide together – the horizon.

Here is a platform for our company,
we work on the move.

Cranes beckon us back to glass towers,
each thought fluid as river water.

No fixed frame of reference – only a to & fro
till each finds a still point: blank, lined, squared.

What lies beyond?
Bend in the river, curve of the tracks.

Wind Poem #1

Oh the wind is anything but ordinary
in its organ loft in the clouds.

It turns the washing to origami
and blows leaves off the oleander.

An obstreperous ogre huffing and puffing
it makes a dust bowl of everything.

We wait for the off-season,
onlookers of an occult game of the elements.

This wind wants to nuzzle my norks
and make my nipples stand on end.

Wind Poem #2

This dun coloured dray horse
pulls a heavy load.
Its dreary work is never done.

Accompanied by the music of a dumb piano
he stops now and then to pluck
a mouthful of eau-de-Nil coloured grass.

All never ending work is divine
by nature, whether or not
it makes you feel ecstatic.

Eden never had electric lights
and living there meant
you could never be eclectic.

Wind Poem #3

Around the time of the summer solstice
the twins next-door would sleepwalk in my garden.

I’d taught them short-division
and we were working on the long.

Stalwart in their dreams, they used to
spit at snails on the grass,
ran the spectrum of bizarre acts.

Once I saw them breathe
into the spiracle of a stick insect.

They lived within their own sphere
and were supicious of all else.


When I arrive home later than expected
she's pacing up and down the street
one hand shielding her eyes
the other clutching a wooden spoon.

Never will I understand
why I'm punished when I'm late.
Sometimes, I have a good reason.
Shouldn't she be glad to see me?

But no. She has to Teach me a Lesson.
'Wait till you have kids –
then you'll know what it's like to worry.'
But I haven't. And I don't.

So what do I do instead?
Perfect my ability to get waylaid.

Dare's Lane, Ewshot

A woman rides a dapple grey horse
on a blue sky winter's afternoon,

rides a steady, collected canter
da-da dum da-da dum da-da dum.

She goes round big, goes round small,
navigates jumps and obstacles, then

halts at the far end of the manège,
dismounts in one swift, fluid movement,

adjusts the bridle and with slight effort
remounts. The big grey awaits her sign.

I lean on a fence a short distance away,
standing in mud, foot-numb.

Relentlessly round and round they go:
da-da dum da-da dum da-da dum.

She's rocking gently on her cantering
horse, a constant slow-time rhythm.

I watch and watch and wish it was me;
it's a perfect day for riding.

Little Mermaid

First time I broke the waves
and saw him, he danced
till dawn on his ship.
When the storm came
and he was drowning,
I gathered him in my arms,
kissed him and wished
he might live. I saved him.
But I lost myself.

At home I’d embrace
my statue, remember
the prince’s head,
limp on my breast,
the curve of his mouth
damp locks of his hair.

Imagine my desire,
my fierce, fearless hope,
wanting always to be
amongst humans,
amongst forests,
fields and mountains.

Love is a gamble.
I gambled my heart,
my art, for love.
I crossed my destiny,
paid a price.

My prince, I saw the best
in you, believed you would
give your best to me.
I left home and family
for you, forever lost
my siren’s voice for you,
lost my tail, my fishy scales,
and you married another.
I saved you, not myself.

On his wedding night
I danced and laughed,
though daggers
stabbed my feet,
plunged deeper still
into my heart.

O bride, who cherished
my story in your childhood,
hear me now.
You will never
change your destiny,
try as you might –
never change another,
love them as you will.
Accept your fate,
love others as they are.
And be wise to whom
you give your heart.


From a potterer

What can I tell you about myself? You, a stranger. I guess we’re all strangers to start with and, as someone once said, “How could the world continue if somebody didn’t kiss a stranger?” Autobiography reminds me of being asked by someone you’ve just met, “So, what do you do?” 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt like a black sheep. My family’s traditional values and love of material comfort and security frustrates my less pragmatic ideals. Perhaps it began when I started to show a love for animals? The only pets I was allowed were goldfish, tadpoles, budgerigars and mice. My father kept a succession of sulphur-crested cockatoos. Cats, dogs, and even guinea pigs were out of the question, never mind the fact that for a while it seemed that every stray dog and lost kitten would follow me home. What I wanted most of all, of course, was a pony. I grew up on the banks of the Yarra River, in an inner suburb of Melbourne, and I was obsessed with horses. When I was twelve or thirteen, I used to visit an old Thoroughbred, Matlock, at Creswick Reserve, having befriended his owner, a girl my age whose parents had succumbed to their daughter’s desire for a horse. One day, Matlock wandered out of his yard, out on to the main road. He was hit by a car and had to have stitches in his head. Even I knew that the city was no place for a horse.

Having decided that when I grew up I wanted to be a veterinary surgeon, I worked as a veterinary nurse for a local practice all through high school. I began by volunteering, just because I wanted to be around the animals, but eventually was offered a part-time job. I worked on Saturdays and in the school holidays. Even before I finished high school, I knew I wouldn’t have the grades to enrol in veterinary science. I studied maths, biology, chemistry and physics, but I wasn’t any good. The standard of the teachers at my school didn’t help. I barely scraped through my leaving exams and eventually completed an arts degree in creative writing, literature and music history.

I was always wayward. It came with my image of myself as a rebel. Having heard the wayward youth stories of others, I’m aware that it’s all relative. My rebelliousness was mild to say the least, but in the context of my parents’ strictness, it counted for something. Although I never felt particularly encouraged in my interests,  neither was I expected to do anything I didn’t want to, apart from find a suitable husband, marry and have children. None of this eventuated. I was always disappearing on my bicycle, sneaking off, late coming home, worried about getting into trouble. Once, in my student magazine/radio days, I arrived home at 2am with a long-stemmed red rose and a fifty dollar note in my hand. I had a hard time explaining to Dad that I’d been working legitimately, packing up a college fashion show.

I’ve spent all my life around books. My father loved books, especially encyclopaedias, dictionaries and atlases. I devoured books when I was a kid – from fairytales (The Little Mermaid made me cry) to popular children’s fiction by authors such as Mary O’Hara, KM Peyton, the Pullein-Thompson sisters, John Christopher, LM Montgomery and SE Hinton. I read lots of pony books, until my English teacher suggested I was a little too old for pony books now and might like to read something more grown-up. I don’t think he suggested anything in particular though, and so I came home from the local library with titles by Ian Fleming, Gore Vidal and Vladimir Nabokov (who dedicated all his novels to his wife, Vera). Perhaps they seemed the most “grown up” books to me? My mother said I’d go blind if I read too much. I paid no attention to her. I’ve worked in secondhand bookshops, in a university bookshop and in lots of different libraries. My hands have absorbed quantities of book dust and grime. The acid in the paper dries the skin.

I have friends who, like me, feel that they are in the world but not of it. Perhaps it relates to the black sheep feeling, its roots in our upbringing? Some of these friends I met at a Womenspirit camp in the early 90s. These women are the sanest, strongest, smartest people I know – creative, artistic, psychic, able to walk across a bed of hot coals at will. In theory, we’re capable of doing anything we want. In practice, we’re limited by the society we live in, the choices we make, our lack of confidence in ourselves. We struggle on, pull through, ride our ups and downs, our lives and the Great Weaving ultimately a mystery. My friends have had a great influence on my life. I’ve learnt about all sorts of things from them. Their presence shapes my identity, as does their absence.

When I finally departed Melbourne in 1993, bound for London via a visit to the relatives in Italy, I felt like a caged bird set free, with all the ambivalence that implies. I lived in London for nine years and loved it, worked mainly in libraries and, for the last two years of my stay, at The Poetry Society in Covent Garden. I’ve never felt quite settled in Melbourne – the grass has always seemed greener elsewhere. Having been back for ten years, I still dream of a place in the country – just me and my pony.



Monday, August 13, 2012

Love By Any Name

John Unger, the man who is pictured lulling his 19-year-old arthritic dog, who is racked with pain, to sleep in the water to ease the animal's suffering has revealed he is only repaying the favour after his faithful companion rescued him from despair.Mr Unger, who is now 49, initially adopted Schoep 19 years ago with an ex-fiance. But after the relationship ended he fell into depression and told the Duluth News Tribune that one night he went to a breakwater off Milwaukee, where he contemplated suicide. "To be honest with you, I don’t think I’d be here if I didn’t have Schoep with me (that night)," he said. "He just snapped me out of it. I don’t know how to explain it. He just snapped me out of it. … I just want to do whatever I can for this dog because he basically saved my ass. I’m just repaying a favour."

The pair have been inseparable since Schep was a pup, but Mr Unger was recently informed the dog had developed arthritis, which led to the now-famous picture, taken by his photographer friend Hannah Stonehouse Hudson. “Schoep falls asleep every night when he is carried into the lake,” Ms Hudson told Mailonline. "The buoyancy of the water soothes his arthritic bones. Lake Superior is very warm right now, so the temp of the water is perfect."

Schoep's veterinarian, Erik Haukaas, told Mailonline: "John is a great guy but he doesn't have a whole lot of money. He does the best can to care for the dog but he's failing he's slowing down. Most dogs don't live near this long."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bob Dylan

Water-colour on paper by Bob Dylan.

                       'Self Portrait With One Eye Closed On A Winters Day'

31st July 2012
“Dylan has been challenged about his use of material being plagiarist. His album Modern Times included lines lifted from blues songs and from the Civil War poet Henry Timrod. And recent exhibitions of his paintings turned out to contain images from other sources.”

 ♣ ♣ ♣

About a year ago Dylan had this to say, relevant to the above and other aspects related to the current era named by the intelligentsia from the academy, the arts, letters and literature as ‘Post Modernist’:

 “Well you know they used the term ‘modern’ early last century and now they call the theory of what’s happening in the world of ideas ‘post-modern’ among others. You know – no absolutes, no absolute reality, no absolute first cause, no absolute rule of behaviour and so on, so why shouldn’t I borrow whenever I feel like it? If you want to put a label on what I do then give it the label of ‘plastic post modern’, that’s as good as any. I mean plastic in the sense of flexibility and movement and not in the sense of phoney, you know, like a plastic fork instead of a real iron fork. Plastic, flexible, able to adapt to form or environment that’s what I mean. That’s what I do, just like the Romans took ideas and things from the Greeks before them and which the Greeks got from Sanskrit Aryan India before them, which they got from an earlier culture, and earlier period – everybody borrows, if it works then use it, you know. 
Now I’ll tell you something I ain’t told nobody before and I got it direct from the thoroughbed's mouth so to speak – one day I was sitting with Woody Guthrie in the hospital when he was dying and we were alone and he told me that his whole style of story, song, and sound he got face to face from an old guy in the Appalachian mountains, a hillbilly you could call him, by name of Ezekiel McDougals, and that was back in the 1920s when Woody was really no more than a kid. McDougals was a very old man back then and Woody said that there was always a bunch of musicians in McDougals house, everyone from all over wanted to play music with him – jam with him – because he knew so much and the history of it. Now back then this old man told Woody of how he personally had known a travelling Negro musician by name of ‘One Eye Willie’ who was a legend – but almost nobody had ever come across him – and McDougals told Woody that he got most of what he knew as a musician from One Eye Willie back in the 1870’s. Now One Eye Willie he told to McDougals that he got most of what he knew from an old Scottish ex-slave from the plantations when One Eye himself was no more than a kid. 
Now that’s something you probably never knew - that thousands of Highlanders from Scotland were sold as slaves after they were hunted down for years by the Duke of Cumberland, brother of King George II of England, after the battle and massacre of Culloden in 1745.  
Them clansmen, the Highlanders, was shipped off across the Atlantic in chains and sold as slaves to work alongside the Africans in the plantations of the South. So I can trace my protocols of artistic lineage all the way back in a direct line over 250 years, and back in those days the current theory and label that the intelligentsia – so called -  named that period of time and the term used was ‘The Enlightenment’. And while we're about identifying antecedents here's a late one - the Chicago Blues sound of Paul Buterfield Blues Band of 1965, that resonated with me big, my kind of sound, I could see myself putting dust bowl ballads to that kind of sound.  So they can shove their accusations, their rules and regulations, their labels and matrixes, their parameters and terms of reference, all the way up their styro-foam assholes. And anyway, what's your lineage?

In an interview with ‘ Black Ear Abraham’ at the Sleazy Easy, a blues dive in the Cajun quarter of New Orleans, 2011.

Some abstract water colour paintings by Dylan from 2006.

                          'Black Coffee and Cake.'




Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lisa Gherardini

The  Mona Lisa

Buried in a crypt beneath a convent in Florence, Italy, archaeologists believe they have uncovered the skeleton belonging to the model who posed for Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece in 1504. The wife of a rich silk merchant, Lisa Gheradini, is generally accepted by historians to be the woman with the mysterious smile.Lisa Gheradini, whose married name was Giocondo, became a nun after her husband's death. She was buried in the grounds of the Convent of Saint Ursula where she died in 1542, aged 63.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

David Shepherd & Anna Gruenz – film makers, photographers writers, and actors.


Again & Again
            for David Shepherd and Anna Gruenz

from time to time and for a long time
the need has been there
scattering bits and pieces to the winds
wild notes of despair and joy floated on thermals 
over mountains and oceans 
to those Desolation Angels
hanging out at the distant four corners
for old friends to arrive.

karl gallagher

David Shepherd – film maker, writer, and actor.

Born between Liverpool and Manchester on the River Mersey, England on 16 Nov 1949. Died on 6 June 2012 in Melbourne

and his close friend

Annaliese  ‘Anna’  Gruenz – photographer and video artist.

Born in Germany on 1 July 1947. Died on 8 June 2012 Melbourne 

 david, fitzroy 2011, photo by anna

That Screaming Silence

That screaming silence
in a barbed-wire cage
when someone pulls a shiv
sinking it in
with quiet rage.

That screaming silence
after ringing a familiar door bell
of a house which seems empty
but you really can't tell.

That screaming silence
at night
across an empty back lot
after the crack and echo
of an unwarranted pistol shot.

That screaming silence
after the last death rattle
when your mate gives up
his life verses death battle.

That screaming silence
after the final bell's toll
at the funeral in the rain
feeling fucked and fucking cold.

That screaming silence
alone in bed at night
wide awake after the nightmare
sweating in fright.

That screaming silence
in my own bottomless ears
when I ponder my precarious life
and the soundtrack just disappears…

 david shepherd: winter. 2002


this was david's first online site and features the award winning 16mm movie from the late 1970s.
he connected up with anna, an old friend, when he moved back to Melbourne and they started working on videos. 'Snodgrassish' is david's nom de plume. Otherwise known to his close friends as 'Snoddo the Pom'. But whichever way it's cut . . . 'a very good bloke'. 

'Poeteye Productions' - poetry and visual collaborations by david and anna. This one

King Kong got it wrong - No man is a Manhatten

is the first of a number of productions that were in the making. Anna's illness progressed some time back and the video collaborations were put on hold. 


◎   ◎

The lovely Anna was also making her own videos, this is a good place to start:

                                               Anna, 2007


BIO. - - -  david emailed this sometime ago, this is the full earlier version

Life in God’s Test Tube # 2

I was born in 1949 above my ole man’s Aquarist’s shop in between Liverpool and Manchester on the River Mersey, the dirtiest river in England. It was black with floating brown foam. No one in Warrington would have read  Burrough’s ‘Junkie’ or any other Beat stuff, it was strictly a ‘Knees Up Mother Brown’ town. Only a few Teddy-boys and the occasional invasion of Gypsies broke the dirty, drab, cloth-cap monotony. Sometimes I’d see a Tramp. They always intrigued me. Where did they come from and where were they going? Dirty and free. Homeless and happy – they always looked happy.

‘My mother she was orange and my father he was green’.
They were petit bourgeoisie/aspiring middle class. My father’s father was an Irish Catholic who ran a big pub opposite the station. It had four bars and a Billiard room with two full size tables called The Prince of Wales. I had my first drink there when I was about eight years old. A shot of rum, served by grandfather much to my mother’s vociferous objections. (“Don’t be ridiculous, woman. It’s good for the boy!”) That was also the year I started smoking. I’d crawl into my parent’s bedroom just after dawn and pull a cigarette out of the pack on the bedside table next to the ole man’s head. The noise of a cigarette grinding against the cardboard pack as it’s slowly pulled out is deafening at that time of day. Then I’d go down and smoke in the cupboard under the stairs. If there were only a couple left I had to go without – too obvious.

My mother was an English Methodist. Her father was an engineer/wire-rope boffin. He was also a part-time conjurer performing at vaudevillian halls and clubs. He taught me tricks and how to walk on six foot high stilts.
The Persil factory was just down the road. Every week, whale blubber would come up river and the neighbourhood would stink for a couple of days as it was rendered down into fat for soap. Warrington was Oliver Cromwell territory. The Battle of Preston Moor was fought a few miles away. In the middle of town was a huge black statue of Ollie, hands on hips, standing on Charles 1st’s severed head. I was fascinated by that statue. I thought Ollie was a hero; the leader of the first revolution.

The queen-mother came for a visit. We were in the crowd, cheering, waving Union Jacks and I noticed Ollie had been covered by a huge tarpaulin. I asked my ole man why, he said, “You know that head he’s standing on? That’s the head of her great-great-great-great grandfather. They’ve covered it so she won’t see it.”  I thought, fuck! If she’s the queen’s mother surely she already knows it’s there? Besides, the tarp stood out like dog’s balls! Across the road was a double story, thatched roofed Tudor house with ‘Oliver Cromwell slept here’ plastered on it.

In the 1920s my grandfather had a wire rope gig in Spain and the family (12 of them) lived the good life there for years in a big mansion replete with servants until Franco banished all the Brits in the 30’s. I could never figure out why some of my aunts looked like Mediterranean mommas. My grandma’s maiden name was Hill. I concluded that grandad must have been rooting the servants and that even my mother was one of his bastard children they had obviously adopted, what else could account for my olive skin? My ole man’s mother was Welsh! I discovered years later, during a Sherry session with my mum that her mother’s mother was indeed Spanish (it’s the kind of thing one didn’t admit to). I knew I had a bit of The Moor in me!
It must have been a big shock for them landing back in dirty old Warrington and then came the second world war. My father survived the Normandy Invasion. He only copped two broken legs, not from the enemy - an English jeep broke its ropes in the landing barge and ran over him! He never made it to the beach. Evidently most of his company was wiped out. He spent the rest of the war in the Honourable Anti-Aircraft Corps in Scotland.

The ole man could do anything, he sang, played sax and clarinet in his own jazz band, he was a qualified butcher, a boxer, a French-polisher, he bought and sold cars, ran his own taxi company, second-hand furniture shop, tobacconist, bred Cocker Spaniels and drove coaches full of ‘Ee Bah Gum’ stiffs to Blackpool at week-ends (sometimes I’d ride shotgun). On the way home the passengers would continue their drink-a-thon and have a sing-a-long. It was bizarre, careering through the night with fifty drunken men and women in the back yelling ‘Roll Out The Barrel’ and ‘I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts’. The ole man would pull over every half an hour for a piss stop. (“Ladies to the left, Gents to the right please.”) He was also the President of the Warrington Aquarist’s Society. He bought a Mark Four Jaguar Sports Saloon, an ex R.A.F. staff car painted battleship grey. I used to sit on his lap and steer it, peering through the gigantic steering wheel covered in chrome switches. The headlights were as big as dinner plates and they made a powerful ‘fumph’ sound when they were turned on. One and a half litre, four on the floor and man, could that thing fly!

For some reason my ole man sold the shop. No more fish, snakes, lizards, tortoises, axolotls, frogs and mice for snake food. He bred Siamese Fighters (for looks not fighting). The males had to be kept apart but occasionally one would jump out of its solitary confinement slot and attack the one next door. Unable to be separated, I’d watch in morbid fascination as these amazingly coloured, elegant fish, fins like The Dance of the Seven Veils, ripped each other to shreds until one or both died. I always had an aquarium in my bedroom with some kind of breeding program in progress. 

We moved out of town into a house opposite The Manchester Ship Canal. Huge cargo ships sailed past my bedroom window from exotic places like Genoa, Panama and Iberia. I spent hours gawking at the ships, yelling at the crew. What a life, sailing around the world! I later discovered the crew never left the ship except in home port.  When a ship came along me and my mate Colin would torch the nettle bushes along the embankment. They went up like napalm in thick black smoke covering the whole ship. Scavenged fluorescent tubes were launched as torpedos exploding in a cloud of white dust when they hit the hull. Radio valves and light bulbs made good hand grenades. We’d climb under the nearby steel-arch swing-bridge and ride it across the water as it opened to let ships through. We were stricken by fear, excitement, terror and awe simultaneously, lying on our stomachs, clinging to that riveted steel girder under the road. Imagine falling into that giant network of greasy cogs grinding around or the murky water sixty feet below. We couldn’t get off even if we wanted to until it closed again. Sometimes three ships would go through at once so we’d be up there for twenty minutes. It was too long, every feeling dissipated except fear. 

My mother’s parents had died, my ole man’s mother had died and he’d had a tremendous blue with his ole man (my mum’s non-Catholic heathenism was mentioned) culminating in grandad declaring, “You won’t get a penny out of me. Young David will get the lot!” I thought, good one grandad.
Years later he remarried and his new wife got the lot.

The ole man scored a prestigious Aquarist gig at the Melbourne Zoological Gardens, designing, installing and managing their planned aquarium complex. All bets were off! We’re emigrating to Australia at the end of the year by ship.   Poor Colin fell off the bridge and drowned in the canal not long after I left. One year later I’m aboard the S.S. Fairsea with five thousand other ten pound poms, packed like sardines (there were fourteen men and boys in my cabin) heading for the bottom of the world. I’m sure no one on board would have read Burrough’s ‘Naked Lunch.’  The Suez Canal was surreal. Standing in the middle of the ship it looked like it was sailing through the sand. Now, I was aboard ship yelling at them land lubbers. They wore turbans and Fezzes and rode camels and donkeys.

The first dead body I ever saw was my grandma, laid out in the front room. My mother made me kiss her goodbye. I didn’t want to. Her cheek was cold but she looked like she was asleep. I cried for a long time over that. The second was in Aden. An old stiff had been stabbed and an enterprising young Arab was making a few bucks showing tourists the grisly art object. The ole man, who had hooked up with some young Irish guys from the ship, whilst the girls went shopping, said I was too young to handle it but eventually caved in to my protestations and let me tag along (“Don’t tell your mother”). I was pretty impressed by the realism of the huge knife sticking out of the guy’s chest and all the blood on the floor but he just looked like he was asleep. I was more impressed with the local administration for suppling wire cages full of straw mattresses spread around the city for the beggars to sleep on at night. How thoughtful, I thought.

Finally, we arrived in Melbourne. It was January, about 100 degrees in the shade with blow flies the size of lobsters. A priest from the Catholic Immigration Board met us at the old, creaking wooden wharf and drove us through the poor inner city suburbs of Port Melbourne, South Melbourne, Fitzroy and Collingwood to our new home in Clifton Hill. Not this desperate, little, peeling, weatherboard terrace house with the rusty corrugated tin roof? We must have gone back in time! I’d never seen so much rusty Victorian wrought iron-work. I’d never even seen a house with a corrugated tin roof before. I went to the toilet but there wasn’t one. Just a stinking can full of shit and flies in a shed at the bottom of the back yard. I told my ole man but he didn’t believe me. He checked it out, came back and said to my mum, “He’s right, love. There’s no sewerage.” My mother broke down (“Oh my God! What have we done?”) She cried for two weeks. When the ole man was out and about scouting, mum, my two younger sisters and I spent most of the time traipsing around the city ‘sight-seeing’ until we moved to East St Kilda. A brick house with a real roof and a bathroom, not far from the beach and there were even palms in the middle of the road. My mother finally stopped crying.
Surprisingly, the ole man, straight off the boat, got shafted on the zoo gig. Something about a low starting salary then later on…maybe more. He told them to shove it - he could make more money driving a fucking truck! A week later he was and did for a few years until he started up his own Aquarist business in Prahran. He also sold rock pythons and carpet snakes. I’d waltz down Chapel Street, Prahran with a 14 foot carpet snake with a head as big as a man’s fist draped around my neck. That snake was so docile I could do anything with him.

I was enrolled at the local Catholic boy’s school. In his wisdom the headmaster decided that the Australian education system was far superior to the English and put me down a grade. I felt swindled getting an extra year added onto my school sentence but it was a blessing in disguise. Suddenly, I was a star pupil, third in the class then first. I was in the top six of the class for four years running. I’d done all the work before in England. The only subject I had to study was ‘Social Studies’ which was an amalgam of Australian history and geography. It was a pretty thin book. I spent most of my time drawing under the desk in a sketch book on my lap and learning how to speak Strine. 

There were only two kinds of aliens at my school, Dagos and Pommy Bastards and with my thick Lancashire accent I was definitely one of the latter. I worked out a technique losing all the vowels except two, soften them, elongate them, then run all your words together. I rehearsed and listened to the other kids and never opened my mouth until I’d gone over the pronunciation in my head. Within two years I was speaking perfect Strine and no longer an object of ridicule except when performing for the class. My favourite trick was drawing a characterization of the next period’s teacher, in chalk on the black-board. It was always a winner, until I got sprung by the actual teacher. Brother Corrish whose nick-name ‘Cork-head’ (he had bad acne scars on his face) I’d emblazoned it across the board. He gave me six cuts for it but even Cork-head found it slightly amusing. I was the class clown but I was still getting good marks and my French and Latin were excellent. They were the only subjects I needed to study – still! Then I won a scholarship to Christian Brothers College, St. Kilda. This meant five more years added onto my school sentence then another four at University. More time than I had already done, all up, in two countries. 

I did Mechanical Drawing on the premise that I wanted to be an Architect. I just wanted to work with pencils, paper, rubbers, compasses and all that other stationary but what I really wanted to do was just leave. I had already counted off the days till I could be legally released.
There were other ways out. I toyed with the idea of joining The Cloth and become a priest. Cut out the middle man. Therefore one becomes closer to God, gets a presbytery to live in with a house-maid and a car. Blesses people with incense and holy water, wears vestments, speaks Latin and drinks wine on the altar/stage and then stands in the pulpit for hours raving on - nobody walks out during a sermon. I could have been a Monsignor by now.
We had these ‘Holy Days of Obligation” which meant a day off school in order to engage in church rituals. The day before each of these ‘Days’, in which one had to be in a state of grace, the form master would enquire if anyone wanted to go to confession at the church. Of course we wanted to go to confession in the church! This was time out of school work. We’d make bets with each other on how long we could stay in the confessional. The priest would always want exact details (“And how many times did you do this and etc?”). I was in there for half an hour one day bullshitting on. I got over an hours penance and made two bob. Returning to class at three o’clock the master attacked, “Shepherd, where have you been?” “Doing penance Brother.” “Very good then, sit down.” 

I investigated the Navy but it seemed too much like being in gaol, in the middle of the ocean, taking orders, no thanks, Sir. 

I liked riding horses and I thought about becoming a jockey. Right size but not at 4am every morning. I got the sack from my gig as an altar-boy after being late for 7.00am Mass 5 out of 7 days during my first and only week.

I could get an apprenticeship but what? If only I’d known then about demolition, people actually getting paid for blowing up buildings.

Of course the whole idea of ‘throwing away my scholarship’ was anathema to my parents who had sacrificed everything to give their children a good education. I eventually bribed my parents into letting me go to work when I was 16 on the proviso that I continued to study at night school.

I did a 180 degree turn, cut my hair short like some of my mates and became a Sharpie. Melbourne in the mid sixties was the only place in Australia and the rest of the world where the Sharpie phenomena existed. Gangs of youths dressed in fine Italian knitwear, hand made Italian chisel-toed, suede, Cuban heeled shoes, tailor-made wide pants or imported Lee jeans with an ironed crease in them. I used to get my haircut every Friday night then go out marauding with the boys. We’d fight gangs from other suburbs, go to dances and start fights, go to the footy and start fights, bash guys with long hair, engage in random acts of vandalism and roll drunks. One night a member of the gang lost it at the South Yarra station and caved a guy’s head in with a spade. There was blood everywhere. That was the last straw for me. I didn’t like the ultra-violence, bashing drunks or anyone else for that matter. Besides, all the music we were listening to was made by guys with long hair. I did the 180 degree turn back and so did some of my mates. We became Mods. ‘The Who’ was our ideal cool. The violence was in the music not in the streets. I tried to emulate Pete Townsend’s hairstyle for years.

When I turned 16 I went to work in a clothing factory where I’d been working after school, on week-ends and during holidays for a year or more. The owners were South African Jews from Durban. Although incredibly racist they introduced me to Bagels, rye bread, Roll Mops, baked cheesecake, Kosher food and Yiddish humour. The Schmuck, the Schlemiel and the Schlimazel gave The Marx Brothers, The 3 Stooges, Jack Benny and even Lenny Bruce another dimension. I’d never realized there was a complete philosophy about humour. I filed it for later use. Sadly, I had to keep my side of the night school bargain with my parents. I went to Taylors College in Flinders Lane and my boss paid for it. Across the road was The Star Theatrette and I found a way of getting in through the toilets at the back. It was the only cinema in Melbourne that showed 16mm European films with subtitles continuously. Needless to say I spent more time at The Star, for free, than Taylors. I never finished night school but learned much about French and Italian New Wave films. I filed it for later use.

I worked my arse off at the factory for about 2 years. 10 sometimes 12 hour days but only till 3pm on Fridays on account of the Sabbath but to offset that I’d work on Saturdays till 2pm. The boss called me a little Kaffir and I was. One long weekend on the piss I got into work a day late and the boss had a go at me so I had a go back. I ended up calling him a cunt in front of 120 Greek female machinists. It was too much for him in front of ‘them’ and he gave me the sack. I told him to stick his factory up his arse and joined the Public Service where my girlfriend and a few mates worked. Nobody got the sack from the Public Service. Coming to almost a dead stop after working like a maniac for years was so boring I only lasted 6 months. When a friend of the ole man offered me a job assisting him at his Lithographic Plate-making firm I jumped at it. After about 12 months I was Camera-operating, working in the dark room, re-touching photos and burning plates. It was always busy but I liked it. He went broke and handed the business and me over to one of his debtors. Now I was working for a big printing firm with state of the art dark room and plate-making facilities. Eventually, I was managing the plate-making department but I couldn’t handle whipping the workers and demanding they work overtime to meet ridiculous deadlines. I asked to be demoted and was. I definitely wasn’t manager material. 

Six of us moved into an old house in Carlton across from the University. It was just up the road from The Prince Alfred hotel which was ‘our’ pub. Every night after the pub closed it would be back to our place to continue drinking. I’d wake up with a hang-over the next day, vomit then go to work. At week-ends we’d start on Friday after work and drink until Sunday. The only real drugs we took were Purple Hearts or Bennies which enabled us to stay awake and drink even more. There was a core group of about 10–15 of us. We weren’t Hippies but we listened to The Fugs (first time I’d ever heard of Ginsberg), The Mothers of Invention, Velvet Underground, Jefferson Airplane and Hendrix etc. Then, in 1970, we went to Australia’s first Outdoor Music Festival at Ourimbah in New South Wales and smoked dope. This was a monumental turning point which probably saved my liver and my life. If one smoked dope - one didn’t drink. Only juice freaks did that and drinking was very very uncool. I went to Launching Place (Vic), Wallacia (N.S.W.) and Myponga (S.A.) where I met a whole new crew and we dropped acid and started shooting up Morphine.

I fell in love with Rae, a young cocaine blonde with blue kaleidoscope eyes but I’d previously arranged to go to England with a couple of the old crew to see the bands we’d never see in Oz and my departure couldn’t be postponed any longer. I had to say goodbye to my lover/best friend. I spent 12 months in the U.K. When I wasn’t travelling I lived in London then discovered Oxford. I saw 100’s of bands and took various drugs in between working on the Leyland assembly line spitting out Morris Marinas. When I had enough cash I flew straight back to Rae in Melbourne instead of doing the Hippy trail through India which had been the original plan. Within a week I was back at my old plate-making gig. Just a little over 9 months later (we calculated it as a particular lunch-hour quickie) we had a baby, Zoë. I went to my first poetry reading in Fitzroy one night and someone read ‘Howl’ It blew me away. It was the first time a poem had done that to me and I started writing.    

I read ’Naked Lunch’ more times than I care to remember in the bluestone winter of 1975. I was freezing to death in the ‘D’ Division yards of Pentridge prison doing cold turkey waiting to be classified to somewhere or other to begin serving an 18 month sentence for breaking into a few chemist shops and stealing their narcotics. Enough to last for months.  If I’d known then that ‘Naked Lunch’ was randomly edited it might have made it a little easier to read! At that time there weren’t many junkies in prison and the few there, were treated like paedophiles. It was shear masochism reading and rereading a book about drugs but I figured for an old, queer, junkie probably the same age as my ole man this guy was cool. When I got out I read ’Junkie’ and ‘Nova Express’ and some Jean Genet stuff and it just vindicated my lifestyle. If The Stones and Bob Dylan and Burroughs are using it, it must be a cool drug obviously conductive to creativity. Even Edgar Allen Poe was a laudanum addict!  I started writing and burning poetry with a vengeance.

Before my incarceration I had been a ‘client’ of a drug referral centre in Carlton called Buoyancy. It was more of a meeting place for junkies and other deadbeats. A place where transients could have their mail sent to, see the doctor or get legal advice. It operated on the pretext that drug addiction was a medical problem and that crime was just a side effect. June Bryant ran the place and she got to hear so many humorous anecdotes and stories she posed the idea of making a film about our nefarious activities in the Melbourne narcotics scene. A friend of mine, John Hooper, whose sister was married to film director Bert Deeling, got him interested. John and I wrote the whole story, based on fact, in 3 days. Bert liked it, submitted it to the A.F.I. (Australian Film Institute) for a development grant and the cult classic ’Pure Shit’ was born. We went to The Pram Factory and La Mama in Carlton to see plays and eyeball actors. We saw ‘In the Year of Lacertis’, a play directed by Phil Motherwell, at La Mama and almost the whole cast were junkies! We’d hit pay dirt! Gallagher was in the play but we didn’t use him  – we wanted real junkies who would take real drugs in the movie!

I met people like Lindzee Smith and Barry Dickens and Helen Garner whose book ‘Monkey Grip’ was written during and about that period. I discovered a whole new world of people who were, to my mind, real bohemians. Many in the Carlton scene used junk and were in the film (some wish they hadn’t been now!) The title was banned by the censors and was released as Pure S***! We thought that was pretty ridiculous but good publicity. I worked on the film from script to mix. I was enthralled by the film-making process and wanted to make more movies so I applied for a place in the most avant guard art school in Melbourne at the time (and for ever after), Preston Institute. I got in on the strength of a poem and my involvement in ‘Pure Shit’. Bert was the new film lecturer! Motherwell and Gallagher were already there as ‘mature age students.’ Carlton/Fitzroy was the centre of the universe back then. Theatre, music, writing, painting & drugs - the joint was really pumping! I figured it was the new Melbourne rendition of the old beat generation.

I had just finished the script for a short 16mm experimental film, ‘The Edge’ which was going to be my directorial debut. Instead, I got the 18 month sentence on the morning of my first production meeting.  On account of my dark room experience I was classified directly to the Print Shop in ‘A’ Division developing and printing mug shots. It was arguably the best job in Pentridge. When that red light was on not even the Governor himself could enter MY dark room! After another court case I got 4 years with an 18 month minimum which wasn’t bad for a stick-up. With good behaviour and remission I was out in 2 years and back at Art School with a brand new script, ‘Mike’s Blood,’ the story of a guy who goes to bed one night and wakes up next morning as a woman. It was based on my bizarre gaol experience of becoming a sex object (I WAS only 26 and a damn fine looking young man at that). 

Then, I directed ‘Terror Lostralis’ which was nominated for best short film in the 1980 A.F.I. Film Awards. Mitchell Faircloth who wrote the script and acted in it along with Tracey Harvey, Simon Thorpe and Gary Adams were members of a satirical C&W band/act known as The Whittle Family. Mitchell and I created a cabaret act called ‘Dr Cloth, The Most Intelligent Man On Earth and Douglas, The Living Experiment.’ I played Douglas and made a 10 minute, 16mm doco showing the Doctor assembling me from bits and pieces of body parts scavenged from medical school and bringing me to life with a little electricity and the spinal cord of a dog. It was supposed to be a tacky magic show with tricks you could see through like mind reading. The grand finale was sawing him in half to sever his spinal cord. His death would therefore prove his theory that the spinal cord is the centre of the life force not the brain! When I pulled him out latex guts and intestines would plop out. It was completely different from anything anyone else was doing. We were even on ‘The Mike Walsh Show” and ‘Night-Moves’ I started a stand-up comedy routine, a character called Yonny Stone, a knockabout crim, just out of gaol who spoke in rhyming slang. Then a group of us formed ‘Punter 2 Punter’ a comedy racing/tipping radio show on 3RRR. We were the top rating show for years then we got snapped up by 3XY where we actually made MONEY! We did Melbourne Cup Specials on A.B.C. 2 for a few years.

Then in more recent years I made some small films/videos for a one man show I directed for Tony Rickards at the Universal Theatre. I was also acting in plays with Motherwell and Lindzee Smith and doing lights and sound for cabaret shows, plays, and bands. I was still writing poetry (and burning most of it) and film scripts that would never be made. I gave up comedy and read poetry instead.

I travelled around India for 12 months in the mid 90s which completely changed my life. Back in Melbourne  I was offered a job as a Disability Tutor at a technical college for about 8 years (unqualified but bullshitted my way through). Then on visit north in 2003 I met and I fell in love with a bush-babe in northern N.S.W. I moved up there and lived for a while in a tent, then a caravan, then a granny flat, then, finally, for 3 amazing years a Crow Tee Pee in the rainforest. Now 2010, I’m back in Melbourne. My daughter, Zoë has her own daughter, Lily which makes me a gramme-pah.  

Rae (Frances), his first great love and mother of daughter Zoe, at the airport to meet Dave on his return from the UK, early 70s

     Zita, his last great love, photo by David

Snoddo, at his gypsy camp in the valley of Terrania Creek


I first heard the name Meher Baba at the first music festival in Australia, Ourimbah, in 1970. Tully were the band that chanted his name and they had a gigantic 25 foot picture of Baba’s head as their backdrop. They were the resident band for three days and stole the show with their eclectic brand of rock fusion, a cross between Hawkwind/The Moody Blues and Fairport Convention – if that’s possible. They had a Moog (the only one in Oz at the time I believe) and did 3 hour sets. They blew me away and I could definitely dig “Don’t worry be happy.”
I saw them (and that Head) again at the Wallacia festival and later in concert at the Dallas Brooks Hall. Adrian Rawlins was the M.C. dressed in a white sudra (and nothing else). The only single they released was “Krishna Came” the B side was “Lord Baba” which I preferred – I’ve still got that single.
I was heavily into drugs but going to Ananda Maga meetings in Carlton. My friend was in the same boat but he went to Divine Light Satsang. We went to see Baba Muktananda in Camberwell early one morning. He definitely had something – I could see his aura! We both decided there was something in this and we were going to get off drugs post haste and find out what it was but we didn’t.  But “Lord Baba” twirled around inside my head for 20 years.

In the late 80s I had a house in Thornbury and Karl Gallagher moved in. He ranted on about Meher Baba being the Avatar (in those days, always with a drink in his hand). I was a recovering Catholic and a confirmed agnostic so we’d debate the pros and cons about this Avatar concept over a slab of beer or a flagon or two of wine.  One day he threw a copy of ‘The Godman’ at me and said “Read this, It’s either bullshit or it’s for real.” So I read it and ‘Listen Humanity” and I had to admit to him that I thought this could be for real.
Not long after we visited Betty in Eltham and I had the opportunity to hold (without gloves) and meditate on Baba’s Sudra. ‘Something’ happened which made me cry for quite a while and then I felt ‘blessed’.  I thought, maybe this is for real.
A few years later in India at the 25th Amartithi I bowed down at The Samadhi (Meher Baba's Tomb Shrine). And then  I knew dead-set . . .  this is for real.
If it hadn’t been for Karlos  I would never have found Meher Baba. Thanks Karlos. 

auf Wiedersehen


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