The Lucubratory Collaboratory » Zoë Erskine Sat, 01 Mar 2014 11:57:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Computers Sat, 10 Aug 2013 11:47:53 +0000 Computers
are boxes
hollow with air
and other things
that blink but
it’s the box of air
that’s mainly there cos
computers are boxes of magic
making the intangible
into our every day
and everyone knows
that magic
comes from thin air
or from a box

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Woden, after work Sun, 07 Apr 2013 09:11:33 +0000 I like to run through
Woden Bus interchange
after work
tired legs flying past commuters and highschool kids
freed from a librarian’s subdued decorum
leaping strides down the hill
to the city-bound 300
that is just about to leave
or running just for this
waiting bus or not
passing the tangled shopping trolleys
and cigarette stained cement
people made inert by timetables
stillness their tithe
for moving other places
blood pumping to my thumping feet
I’ve made my pact with gravity
Woden Bus Interchange is best taken at a run

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Touching and Talking Mon, 25 Mar 2013 09:10:37 +0000 Touching and talking
that’s what our time is,
touching and tucking up fucking
oh and then we talk, we talk about and out and around it. touching and talking
remember when I would wear nothing but bellbottom jeans and
they were pepetually getting chewed by cogs on my bicycle
and I always had rubber bands around my ankles to hold them back
rubber bands all over my floor
I never wear jeans any more, now.
I’m wearing your dress which came from her and it never felt like my kind of dress, or like I even wanted it untill tonight when I saw it, cos it’s green and I knew and I’m wearing it and I don’t feel like that person, in the jeans, any more.
And there are people here who I want to touch
and there are people here who want to touch me
there are people here who are touching and talking
there’s a pretty girl, I’ve forgotten her name because there are other people who I want to touch talk to
remember when we made that list
who am I kidding, we make lists all the time
remember when we first shared clothes
itenerant desires, an ordering to the mess of want, lists
remember when we first shared clothes, cos I don’t
sharing skin, sisters, cloth-of-kin
remember when we first forgot where your wardrobe ends, and mine begins
because life is a nostalgia factory
sit fat on a pile of memories
but, whyfor for what
living in the past tense
but I want to touch
and touching is now
fucking is now
speaking poems is now
reaching with words and fingers and hearts to touch the now

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Once Upon a Plastic Bag Thu, 14 Feb 2013 09:02:04 +0000 For Jinnie’s ‘help me clean up my villige’ fundraiser, September 2012.

To me, it’s essential
to know the names
(Black Mountain, Sullivan’s Creek
olive tree, acacia, banksia)
my grandmother spoke, offhandedly deliberate
the names of plants
(red box, melaleuca, echinacea, sage)


my grandfather knows the names
and calls of all the birds round here
and I would repeat them
under my breath
(currawong, magpie, eastern rosella
wattlebird, butcher bird, Indian minor)
so that when I meet them
I know what they are


my uncle knows forests,
and when I walk with him
no matter the continent
he tells me what things are


and by these names I know that
I am standing in a rainforest
or by a river
or on a beach
a beach, feet in the ocean – by a rockpool
I saw something scuttling
I called it Crab, but instead,
it was paper bag


swimming in the ocean
I saw something floating – a jelly fish?
no, not a blue bottle, but another kind of bottle, not
of the sea


perhaps I should learn the names of plastics
(polyethylene, polyurethane, PET)
my world is full of them
but I don’t know anyone
with a passion for these names

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Death Poem #2 Mon, 11 Feb 2013 09:01:21 +0000 We have this problem with things dying
fish in the rain
pigeons in the winter
pots of basil drying out in the sun

We have this problem with things coming alive
in the back corner of the fridge
in a forgotten bowl of… something
a flower                          in an abandoned                        cup of coffee

We have this problem with things dying
dreams, ideal, sunsets, relationships

We have this problem with things coming alive
bankers, East and West, blank cheques and balance of power power
power and supermakets

We have this problem with things that are dead
we don’t let them stay buried
we dig them up and burn them
to live in false brightness

we have this problem with things that are dead

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The Lucubratory goes to TiNA Wed, 26 Sep 2012 08:52:41 +0000 On the weekend we will be inhabiting Newcastle, in the manner of poets, for This is Not Art festival.
The Lucubratory is looking forward to imbibing the old coal town’s heady breezes and pungent culture, or if it all gets too much, maybe just a beer or two. Come find us at the Zine fair, so that we can attempt to sell you poetry, written down, on paper.

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The Bee Story Fri, 24 Aug 2012 08:44:46 +0000 On Wednesday I read at an event put on by the lovely folks from Scissors Paper Pen . I was impressed, (although not at all surprised) by the incredible quality of creation from the other performers: Canberra’s writers rock. The theme was wires crossed, and in writing this, I got lost between autobiography and poem.

It’s very much meant to be read aloud.


Like a rite of passage, on my 10th birthday I received a hive of bees.
Thousands of striped, brown bodies, in a box of wood and wax, singular, united, and mine.
A box of living breathing beings, sitting on the garage roof, above head height of those who might object.

Do bees dream of flying? Do bees dream at all?
Compound eyes closed
Dreams of being
leaving the moist buzzing honeysister hive
Sun coaxed, sailing up above the street-crossed, car-crossed, cable-coal and wire-crossed city suburbs.

To tell of bees is to tell of flowers
sought out, sucked up bellyful of nectar,
Then borne back on tiny wings to sisters, to smell, to dance, to tell the story of flowers.

You could say I was born into a dynasty of beekeeping
my father’s family are the beekeepers, he showed me the tricks, taught me the lore,
passed down over generations, here are
the broad wooden boxes, frames to build honey on.
Gloriously Victorian contraptions – this one puffs smoke from a fire in a tin canister,
this one takes in honey comb, winding handle, grinding cogs,
then flowing honey, clear and viscose, as we know it in jars.

And here I am, covered in wax and bee debris, with a pile of old wooden frames
stringing them with wire, like a rudimentary instrument, across the frame’s length,
wires cross the wooden rectangle, once, twice, three, four times, then I wind it fast around a nail, pluck the wire, listen to the tension.

Across these wires will soon be wax, imposing order, holding the hive together. The comb that will hold honey, or small bees, or both.
Each frame slots onto a box with nine others like it – like books in a boxed set, except with room for the bees to crawl in between.
The slotted boxes of beeswax frames can stack on top of each other, making the hive extendable, indefinitely upwards, like a library, or an office block.
At the centre of each of my hives is a network of wire, making the bees build, not any which way, as is their want, but according to my rules – so I can intervene and intrude.

Half way between agriculture and cult, to keep bees is to step into superstition itself.
Only wear white to a beehive.
Only visit on clear, still days, but never let your shadow fall on the hive.
Bring some smoke as an offering, puff it into their home to pacify, but only smoke from pine needles will do.
Eating pollen will cure hayfever, put wax on cracked lips, honey on wounds, and propolis – a bee version of gap filler – is good for everything, from toothache to tiredness.

Thought I’d call to tell you about bees
about sex and death and drones and the flight of queens
the drones are big and slow, and the queen she says
‘don’t stop chasing me
but if you catch me, you won’t win’

they meet, they mate in the middle of the air,
he flies right into her
right into her proffered sting
and he breaks apart, breaks and falls away
and she to her daughters,
to lay alone.

Which is why I don’t take romantic advice from bees.

So this hive of mine has been here for more than ten years
on a roof in O’Connor, through storms and fire, flood and drought.
The wood of the oldest, bottommost box is collapsing,
helped by persistent bee mouths munching out new doors and secret entranceways.

My father and I are excavating down to the damaged bit, taking apart the towerblock of hive,
to see that the order of wire and frame has been lost.
The bees have blurred the boundaries, built comb over comb like some golden slum for six-legged beings.
The sun is setting, and a breeze has picked up, but it’s taken quite a lot of effort and cajolery, not to mention heavy lifting, to get to this point. And unwisely, against science and superstition, we persist,
reassembling the overgrown comb in a new box, encouraging the apine architects to mend their meandering ways.
The bees themselves, usually so calm and compliant about this sort of intervention, begin to get kind of narky – like a kid up past their bedtime – they buzz at gloves and veils.
It’s ok, we’re experienced at this, efficient – soon we’ll finish the task and put the lid on all the buzzing, snug for the night.

Frames full of honeycomb are sticky and unwieldy with bees crawling all over them, wondering why it’s suddenly so cold and bright.
Give them a bit more smoke, puffed at the horde to make them lightheaded, and forget their misgivings.

A box full of bees and wax and brood and honey is even more tricky to manoeuvre, but all we have to do is put one on top of the other, stack them back into their office block shape.
A box full of bees is heavy, and complaining, and if your timing is wrong, if there’s dissent and confusion among the hive, everywhere you touch with your gloved hand is likely to be bees.
But, there is one thing that you should never, never do.
Even if the box is heavy and your hands are slipping, and there is an unwelcome buzzing at your ear.

Don’t drop the box.
Because instantly, everybody who was in a crawling confusion on those combs will become airborne, and unhappy.

A bee suit is almost like battle armour, you look a bit like an astronaut and a bit like a really paranoid bushwalker.
Between my face and the bees is a criss-crossing wire mesh veil, sturdy, proven to be bee-tight.
It shouldn’t have to come to this, many apiarists work without suits, trusting in intuition and careful handling not to upset things, to maintain peace, order and harmony.
And that’s lovely, but, as that box of bees came crashing down, I was very, very glad to be dressed as a bee-astronaut.

But, they’d found my gloves. Old, tight white lady’s gloves, I’d picked them up at an op-shop, assuming that bee stings wouldn’t get through leather.
But, where bees are involved, you should never assume.
That afternoon, I found out that bee stings do go through soft leather gloves just fine.
I found out, around twenty times over.

So I left with swollen hands, to carry their poison inside me awhile.
But by the hive, twenty brave soldier bees oozed into death, twenty stings ripped from twenty abdomens by old, soft calfskin.

Later I went back, made my peace, carried on
you may well ask why I still do it? Don the veil, anoint with smoke, lift the lid of the hive to hear the buzzing.

Yes, I can forgive them, because it’s their nature,
in certain situations, bees are just wired to get cross.

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Stranger Poem Sun, 19 Aug 2012 08:42:22 +0000 A slam piece, came into my mind in mondayafternoon sunshine
for your enjoyment

One Winter afternoon, fresh and clear and toasted sun warm, I was approached by a stranger
she of a coat green blue like smoke, asked me if this city was magic
pen poised rustle listening paper in the springsmelling breeze,
her voice was like new leaves and papercuts across me

“Yes I know about the kelpie in the O’Connor wetlands,
a most admirable project to manage ducks and the like
bad luck about that labrador,
I nearly lost my bike when I went to see it.
What else?”
“Yes I know about the construction workers keeping a minotaur as a pet,
It’s hardly a secret
Building site mazes a popping up left and right around the centre
Public servants and uni students now bring a ball of string with them to find their way
But that is beside the point
Canberra! Magic! What else?”
(a mutter from me)
“Yes, I know that the Norse Allfather is manifesting in Woden.
That will happen when you name a valley after Him, you know.
Over there where the wind always blows
Whenever I go I’m followed by a one-eyed dog and a murder of crows
You’re just fortunate that you didn’t name a town centre after Thor, or Loki, then you’d be in trouble.”


“Yes, I know there have been reports of Baba Yaga in the Inner North,
and while that witch is magical, I wouldn’t say that she really contributes to the overall magic of the place,
would you?”
“So tell me, of this city and magic”
Roused into speech, interrupting abruptly I espoused at length about planned parks and precincts, people flows and population density
parliamentary triangles, purview for parlance and for pen-pushing
pristine points of interest, ports of paper and pictures painted by planting pines trees and prunus plums,
purple in perpetuity, pink in the spring
the prescience of its pretentious monuments, oblique and perpendicular, pointing up up up to the amnesiac blue.
I looked at her, to see what she made of this more measured mode of magic,
but she’d gone,
I was speaking to Canberra and Canberra alone.

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A Pocketful of Pigeons Sun, 20 May 2012 12:00:54 +0000 One wintry night, an amazing artist named Jenna showed us her idea for a book, where the pages were cut into the shapes of a flock of pigeons. We all marvelled at the beauty of such an object, and wondered about what words could go inside such a curio.
These are those words – or one version of them, that I then chanted into the microphone at the Phoenix on a Wednesday night. You will see a different version of what goes inside Jenna’s book any time you look up at the sky.



A pocketful of pigeons


The pigeons that roosted under the eves of the great library found a book,

a blank book all potential and undreamt dreams

all orphaned and abandoned, face down they

turned it over, and cooed and coaxed it back to life.


In a matter of months the book was more bird than bound volume

spoke the language of columbiforms, knew the secrets of the skies

alongside its avian fosterlings, pecked pocketfuls of seed strewn over Garema’s grey ground.


The pigeon-book does not tell the pigeons how to be pigeons

the pigeons tell the book how to be

and the pigeon book, tells tales of tailfeathers spread taught to tame the air that is up and up and up above mount Ainslie and higher.


The pigeon book sneaks past security, squabs down to the vaults of the library,

below lake level, lest the library books’ breathing quicken and hasten their demise.

The pigeon book it whispers feathery secrets into the bindings of austere old volumes of stories and facts and letters and lore.

And inside their paper hearts, a stirring

a straining and a flutter to feel that hint of breeze

from the airconditioning vent.

Pages fold into wings and spines crack as they catch the spell of flight.


In the centre of the Canberra, paper passerines pour forth into the light,

and the cooing coddle of the under eve pigeons weave among the columns before soaring,

wingtip against paperflap they wheel and twist so close that you can’t tell where book ends and bird begins.

And the people of canberra can only look up

The people of Canberra they can only stare at the skies

as their little cache of knowledge is dissipated and evaporated

and all that was left was a few torn out pages and a feather.

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Playgrounds Fri, 16 Mar 2012 12:00:57 +0000 I’m recently moved to this suburb, and I’m not yet intimate with its interesting bits. Its blots and blemishes, surprises and gifts.
Today, I went out exploring after the storm. When the roads and gardens were steamy damp as if they’d just got out from a hot shower. Refreshed.
In old Canberra you can walk in almost any direction and count upon finding a park before too long. I picked a direction. I found the park and before it a pre-school, tiny little place, with sandpit and a bed of strawberries. Bringing back memories of being very small, Nine O’Clocks and packed lunches, that mix of love and fear.
It’s thanks to the ACT Government’s (past) program of having separate preschools, tucked away in the suburbs. Looks like this one survived the schools closure. Good for it.
And the park adjacent has a play ground. If you grew up in Canberra you’ll know the sort. Old, metal, uncolourful. Swings and a slide that, if you fell off, you’d properly hurt yourself. Years ago, they took the set from my childhood down, and replaced it with something modern, safe and fun proof. I mourned for weeks. Every time I discover another original playground still standing, I’m a child again, bare feet trot across the tan bark. My hips are almost too big for the seat, my legs too long, I have to tuck them under, but with very little effort I’m practically airborne, and I may as well be seven.
No two of these old swing sets are quite the same, shorter, taller, wider, longer. They’re most likely from the ’60s, as old as this suburb. Maybe built by a local plumber, climbed all over by generations of little ones. Someone had left a space ship on the park bench, out in the rain. Did it go for journeys down the slippery dip, as my favourite toys used to?
Ah old Canberra, with your established trees and quiet pockets of enduring love. Visionary planners. Places for growing up tucked away in this little suburban wonderland. Greened and paved and tamed from the dry wilderness.
The report that I’m not writing is about high speed trains in Australia – a network will effectively be creating more dormitory suburbs around Sydney and Melbourne. What kind of suburbs are we building these days? Bigger houses, larger roads?
It’s raining again, with drips and rustles, and I think of my fortune to live in a city that breathes. The cockatoos have certainly got something to say about it.

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