Lag

May 23, 2018 at 7:12 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Going deep …

I sit opposite the jury, giving my evidence.

I don’t know whether to look at my peers or not.

If I do, will I appear defiant?

If I don’t, will I appear aloof?

I have trouble communing with one good friend, let alone 12 strangers.

They’re just out of focus, so my glasses go on and off. (Too often?)

The lawyer (our side) guides me through my testimony with questions I can grasp and answer.

Eventually, we conclude the first episode of my sexual assault.

As my second narrative begins, I sense something in the jury box.

Nervously, I look up from the microphone, tissues, coaster and water glass.

There’s faint movement and murmuring from most of the jurors.

The 12th (back right) is clearly asleep in her leather chair.

The jurors look at her, each other, the legal teams and the judge.

The court staff do likewise.

No-one looks at me.

I look at the judge, waiting for him to twig.

He’s looking at his notes, so it takes longer than you might think.

I pass the time wondering if my childhood abuse story is really that boring.

At last, realisation dawns.

The judge confers with the tipstaff and the jury’s foreperson.

Other jurors helpfully add that the sleeping woman has flown from overseas and is jet lagged.

The judge addresses her as ‘Madam’ at three ascending volumes.

Madam groggily comes to and, on being briefed, offers that she is jet lagged.

The judge orders an early lunch; but I’m far from hungry.

Outside the courtroom, my team assures me it’s not my fault.

I can hardly ‘sex up’ my testimony.

On our return, the judge explains that, since Madam hasn’t heard the same evidence as her colleagues, she must leave the jury.

This seems to suit her well, and I picture her tumbling into pillows and doonas.

The judge then explains that we can proceed with 11 jurors – if the accused agrees.

The defence lawyer consults her thrice-convicted paedophile.

I can hear him breathing and creaking behind the screen that was offered to me before the case and which I accepted.

The former scoutmaster swiftly rejects the 11-juror option.

Thus committing us to a second trial, months hence.

In the darkness of that not-very-good night, I conclude that my attacker hopes I’ll die before our next round.

Silently, I commend his tactic.

As I feel

I may.


Still awake?

I could use a coffee …


 

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Gun handling

May 12, 2018 at 6:27 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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jesus-gun

And this is the safety …

For years I wondered how christians got around ‘thou shalt not kill’.

To me, this seemed pretty clear cut – with little to no wiggle room.

Then dad set me straight on his terrace one fine autumn day.

‘Bloody druggies!’

‘Pardon, dad?’

‘I’d line them up against the wall and shoot them.’

‘Drug addicts?

‘Yes. And the dealers.’

‘But, what if they had a reason for their addiction?’

‘Not interested.’

‘What if they’d suffered terribly and were trying to mask the pain.’

‘No excuses.’

‘So, you’d execute them?’

‘Yes. Grab a handful. Line them up against the wall. And shoot them. The rest would soon get the message.’

‘I see. But dad … ‘

‘Yes?’

‘What do you reckon … Jesus would make of that approach? You know: “thou shalt not kill” and all that.’

He consults the sky, as one might a flight schedule.

‘He’d understand.’

‘He would?’

‘Yes. He’d consider it … justified.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes.’

‘You sound so … sure.’

‘I am.’

‘Geez, dad … ‘

‘I’ll get you to cut the tops out of the jacarandas.’

‘No worries.’

I sip my beer and glance sidelong at his jutting countenance.

‘dad?’

‘Yes?’

‘Do you think it’d be fair to say your religion is somewhat … convenient?’

A pause, during which the jacarandas tremble in his thick-framed spectacles.

‘Yes. I suppose you could say it is.’


Evil’s root.

Can you dig it?


 

Through the wire

May 9, 2018 at 9:28 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Room 20 C View Fly wire

View with a room.

It’s 2015 and dad has days to live.

I visit his nursing home room with the garden view.

dad reports that while he didn’t sleep well, he was comforted by the spectacle of a wedge-tailed eagle.

‘Oh, I watched it for hours and hours. It was over there; way up high. Soaring, soaring … tremendous!’

I follow his pale, tremulous finger to the quadrant of sky, but see naught.

‘Look! There it is again!’

Again, nothing.

dad can’t believe me, so I crouch by the deathbed to gain his line of sight.

‘Do you see it?’

‘No, dad … I’m afraid I still can’t.’

‘But it’s just over there … ‘

I try every focus, then finally glimpse a tiny blob

in the window’s insect screen.

I rise to examine

a dead, desiccated mosquito – with wings spread.

I return to the bed and view the sky anew.

‘Can you see it now? Do you see it?’

‘Yes, dad.

I can.’


Death and taxes.

Let’s light you a candle.


 

The wisdom of weeds

December 31, 2017 at 8:43 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Battlefield earth

Battlefield earth.

I’m in the garden.

And the garden is in me.

Clay in my nails. Dirt in my heels. Barbs in my fingers. Good [?] bacteria in my blood.

I sweat – as if to change the earth’s pH.

What weeds are these?!

Astonished at their powers of surface regeneration, I dig an inspection trench.

It soon turns archaeological.

Under the mulch, communication lines link camouflaged outposts.

Hook a finger under one and you take out a redoubt.

Satisfying.

I work at this, thinking I have the weeds’ measure.

But at the fifth skirmish, a deeper network briefly appears under refilling soil.

Thicker cables; taking two hands.

The first yields easily in loose aggregate. A flank surrenders!

A shot of dopamine for my pains. Better than a computer game.

But the second line resists in difficult ground. Fighting, fighting … until the engagement suddenly breaks off.

The third fibre parts instantly. It’s darker than the others. Rotting. An abandoned line.

I scrabble at the deepening mystery.

Clods, stones, lesser roots; nothing exciting.

Until I hit pay dirt.

A nexus! With branch lines crossing. Think Hurt locker IED with multiple shells.

Loosened, they tear down crazy tangents – each a new rabbit hole to explore.

I check progress.

I’m doing four inches per hour on a three-foot front.

I need these old measures. I’m dealing with the archaic.

My mother was in this place.

Can she feel my touch across the divide?

Do these weeds note her half-strength scent on my laboured breath?

Before us, the Germans. Planting lemon groves. Building their church from local stone. Did they join battle too?

Before them, the first people. Who doubtless knew these plants as intimate relations.

Perhaps a broth of the damn things could ease my dreams.

The sinews thicken as I descend. Like a Soviet metro if they really put their backs into it. Tunnels without end.

Now I’m led to strange, pale nodes – like crushed balsa. Are these the weeds’ archives? Their intelligence? Their command and control?

I stop.

What right have I to evict this network for my piffling planting?

To undo eons of effort.

Who am I to pry?

But then, I stare at the long row I’m yet to hoe.

And realise

these weeds will be here

long beyond

the Anthropocene.


To keep me in potting mix, you may wish to

Whatever the sum, I’ll down a bulb in your honour.


 

 

 

Rank outsider

December 29, 2017 at 7:01 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I was so crap at this …

I was hurtling along Melbourne’s Nepean Highway with a family of four in my hideous taxi.

I’d picked them up from the international airport.

With a four-hour window in their global sojourn, they’d organised to meet long-lost relatives in a bayside suburb.

Time was precious.

‘Leave it to me!’ I said, flooring the accelerator.

Having read most of Wilbur Smith in the endless cab queue, I was elated to escape with such a massive fare.

It was a glorious Sunday – fine weather, light winds, little traffic.

For once, the tires and engine sang.

Smiling, I watched the meter tally my burgeoning wealth.

Even the smashed gas cylinder indicator seemed to wink.

The family chattered excitedly about their impending reunion.

Lovely day for the seaside, I thought, as the sun stroked my face.

Brighton …

… Chelsea …

Funny how we inherited so many names from England …

… I wonder if they’re both by the sea … like they are here …

After 40 minutes, the wife asked how much longer we’d be.

‘Not long now!’ I replied cheerily.

To be on the safe side, I glanced at my map. Yep. Chelsea was just ten more lucrative clicks south.

‘I didn’t think it’d be this far’, she said. ‘Are you sure this is the way to Brighton?’

‘Brighton?’

(We’d passed it 20 minutes ago.)

‘Yes. We said Brighton.’

With beet face and white heart, I threw a screaming 180 and backpedalled furiously.

My sunny reverie had slashed this family’s face time (in a time before FaceTime).

I switched off the meter and apologised ALL the way back.

The wife was chillingly silent.

The teen kids vocally hostile.

Only the husband, sitting next to me, responded to my vomitous mea culpa.

When we finally got to the restaurant, surly kin shot my tyres with daggers.

(This was before we all had mobile phones, you see.)

Completely overwrought, I refused payment and tried to make a getaway.

But the husband pressed notes into my hand and said, ‘These things happen’.

He even …

tipped me!

Despite his kindness, my massive service fail haunts me to this day.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

 

When Dutch grandmothers attack

December 1, 2017 at 7:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I have just one memory of my father’s mother.

A looming, powerful presence in our lounge room – booming words I didn’t know.

‘Oma’ gave me small, red-striped candy canes.

Perhaps it was xmas.

She was on a world trip.

And, after single-handedly bringing 12 out of 13 kids through World War II, who could blame her?

My dad called it her ‘Glory Tour’.

He expected her to show off to neighbours upon her return.

As she left us, she souvenired some photos.

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I may be wrong, but I feel the way she did this is a poignant, silent testament

to a forceful character

forged in adversity.


To keep me in coffee, you may wish to

Whatever the sum, I’ll toast your health.


For sale: haunted bed!

November 23, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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s-l1600

One owner.

 

Used to considerable effect in cult 70s child-abuse series.

May trigger sweats, night terrors and near-fatal apnoea.

Forced sale; moving to new life.

Will swap for Datsun 1000 ute or late-model Kreepy Krauly.

Make an offer!

(Pick-up only.)

 

 


To keep me in coffee, you may wish to

Whatever the sum, I’ll toast your health.


Haz bean

August 16, 2017 at 11:32 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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My counsellor wants to demonstrate what we’re doing.

She fetches a cup, a plate, and a jar of coffee beans.

‘Smell these! Wonderful, isn’t it?’

It is.

She puts the plate on a low table.

And the cup on the plate.

‘This is the child’s mind.’

She pours beans into the cup.

‘When trauma occurs, the young mind can’t take it all in.’

Beans spill onto the plate.

‘When the brain is full, additional information is forced to go elsewhere.’

Beans skitter across the table.

Bounce onto the floor.

‘Each of these beans is a part of the child’s mind. Split off, but containing valuable information. Our task is to bring these back to the main brain.’

I get it.

I go home.

My wife asks how I went.

I want to show her.

We have no coffee beans, so I cast around for a substitute.

Corks.

I need a bigger cup and a bigger plate.

I’m faintly surprised I have more than enough corks with which to demonstrate.

I pour them and tell the tale.

They’re a lot bouncier than beans.

One launches off the kitchen bench.

It’s immediately snatched by our Jack Russell terrier, who capers off with it down the hall.

My wife gets the idea.

Next time, I tell the counsellor what happened.

She tries to stifle her laughter.

I assure her it’s OK.

All my medicos laugh.

When she regains her composure, she says that a dog running off with a cork is actually an excellent metaphor for a dissociated part.

I say I’m glad,

and that I greatly look forward to getting all my bits back.

We return to our work.

 

Pic by Roger Karlsson.


To keep me in coffee, you may wish to

Whatever the sum, I’ll toast your health.


Steele-eyed span

June 24, 2017 at 10:04 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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In Year 5 or 6, there occurred one of the most corrosive incidents of my life.

I was in an experimental ‘open area’ – far removed from standard school rooms.

Several classes occupied a common ‘free-range’ space and we were given phenomenal liberty to learn as we pleased.

One day, a group of teaching students came to marvel at our set-up.

They wandered among knots of kids who were very much doing their own thing.

My thing at the time was cubits: small plastic cubes that connected in a kind of low-tech fischertecknic/LEGO way.

I could play with them alone for hours – and even took them home.

Yet I didn’t realise their educative value.

An earnest student teacher quizzed me about my model making, then offered to show me how the cubes could be used to grasp mathematics.

I wasn’t keen, but onlookers had gathered, so the student teacher went ahead.

He explained that 1 cube could be joined to 9 others to make a line of 10. He then joined 10 lines of 10 to make a plane of 100. For 3 x bonus points, he then showed how 10 planes could be assembled to make a cube of 1000.

Unfortunately, he had lost me at 5.

It wasn’t his fault. Looking back, I certainly wouldn’t have tried to engage a twitchy loner with autism.

After considerable effort, his enthusiasm finally waned as he realised I just wasn’t going to get it.

By this time, I was completely overstimulated by the exercise and freaked out by the observers.

I stumbled away muttering, ‘One times ten times ten times one times ten times … etc.’

That could have been the end of it, but Mrs Steele stepped in.

Having watched the botched interaction, she was livid I’d disrespected our guest.

She pursued me, span me round, knelt down and hissed at my face:

‘Paul Hassing:- You. Are. Miserable!!!’

I looked at her cold eyes, iron hair and lined (now frighteningly compressed) lips.

Her words shot straight into my heart.

Where they remain to this day.

When her fingers finally unclenched from my arm, I tottered off in a different direction, this time muttering, ‘I. Am. Miserable. I. Am. Miserable. I. Am. Miserable.’

And, after several 100 repetitions,

I believed it.

At my session last week, a new counsellor suggested a link between this experience and my childhood sexual abuse.

No-one has posited this before, but the years roughly match.

The counsellor said abused children often act up in class, drawing teacher ire.

And while I don’t think I was misbehaving per se, I feel her theory could have

merit.

It’ll be fascinating to see if EMDR therapy can finally draw this sword from my soul.

Thank you for reading.

Here is some suitably sad music to play us out.


To keep this tale fresh and strong, you may wish to

Whatever the sum, I’ll be filled with thanks.


 

 

 

 

 

Battle stars

June 15, 2017 at 8:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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If I seem a tad maudlin, it’s because I’m recording unpleasant vignettes with a view to putting them in their place via EMDR treatment, which starts next week.

The ultimate object of this game is to ‘normalise’ childhood sexual abuse memories. But let’s start with something a little lighter …

I was so taken with Pat Benatar’s Love is a Battlefield that I bought the 12-inch single.

On hearing me play it in the lounge room, dad informed me that:

  1. Love was not a battlefield (indeed, far from it).
  2. The lyrics were therefore stupid.
  3. The song thus had no merit.

I was disappointed at this assessment.

I had enthusiastically embraced his music collection.

From Bach, Oompah and Zorba to Nina Mouskouri, the Red Army Choir and Scottish Pipes, I thought I might have been a colleague. But I was merely an acolyte.

On reflection, dad’s perspective made sense.

When mum’s first husband died, dad rescued her (and her two boys) from a 1960s social and fiscal scrapheap.

She was thus forever in his debt.

He used to boast that, despite their long marriage, they’d never had an argument.

This was also likely true, as Mum never dared to say boo to him.

It took her ten years of faint, nuanced suggestion to replace our frayed carpet.

And almost as long to add a humble Vergola to our crumbling terrace.

Not really battlefield stuff.

In contrast, Mum said she quite liked Love Action by The Human League.

This was handy, as I played it until the groove nearly went through to the other side.

After her death, dad announced that he’d, ‘Loved mum but never been in love with her’.

I excused myself to punch out one of the five slatted window panes which, for almost half a century, had sat high in our toilet wall.

It was difficult to eat after that.

 

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