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Horse Bazaar 28.07.2010




(a performance piece for Horse Bazaar, Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne)


Step one, stop
Step two, stop and start
Step three, neither of the above

Step one


She was complaining, something about the rice
There was no rice in the broiler
There were strands of rice dry in the bowl
There was something wrong but it wasn’t certain just what it was
Something wrong, something wrong
She said there was something wrong, with the rice
There was none left or it was still cooking or there were just a few strands left in the
bowl, dry
Dried rice
Hard, hard to the touch
Hard as you bit into it
Hard on the teeth
Not exactly appetising

We awaited further developments
Stop start
All kinds of things said by way of deflection
All sorts of things said just to keep you on the defensive and with the distinct feeling
that something was wrong and that you were responsible
That somehow it was your fault

That’s when we heard the garbage man in the back alley
The sound of the wheelie bin
Quick, she says, someone’s stealing our wheelie bin
Don’t be ridiculous, he says, who would steal a wheelie bin
People are stealing them all the time, she says
It’s just the garbo, he says, but she doesn’t want to believe this
Someone’s stealing it, she says, and I have a good idea who
Well who then, he asks, knowing it is a ridiculous question and just bound to lead to
Not trouble in general but for him in particular
The moment he asks that question he’s done for
The moment he asks that question he’s done for and he knows it

An ordinary foolishness, what drives us to it
Tell me, what drives us, what drives us to such ordinary foolishness
What drives us to anything in particular
What drives us to anything in general
What drives us, tell me, what drives us


There was a creak at the gate
A distinct creak

Don’t ask me to reproduce that sound, everyone knows what a creak sounds like

The cat recognised it
It looked up briefly then put its head down back on the couch
There was a definite creak at the gate
And then a less definite knocking on the door

He opened the door
There was a presence
The presence said, in a voice not entirely unpleasant, ‘I AM THE STATE’

Continued the voice, not unpleasantly, WE HAVE REASON TO BELIEVE THAT


So is that a crime, I said, to be in possession of State secrets that are stolen
In other words, not to be in possession of State secrets by virtue of the fact that they
are stolen

And the suspicion entered my mind that they weren’t State secrets at all but things the
State thought should be secret, someone in the State apparatus, that is, who didn’t
want certain information or ideas circulating about like wild rivers or moths in dizzy
flight and so who organised for whatever it is they wanted secret to be stolen which is
the moment it became  secret, not to mention a State secret

So I voiced these suspicions: When did these State secrets become secret?

That I am afraid I can’t tell you, said the person from the State for that is a State

So I said, What are you doing here?, fully expecting the answer, ‘That, too is a State
But I didn’t get that answer at all, I got another answer
‘I’m here to discover whether you are missing anything that might reasonably be
construed as missing, and therefore qualify, possibly, as a State secret’

I won’t complete this story now
I’m not sure I will complete this story now or ever for I’m not sure it can be

Some things are curiously open-ended
There are some stories you can just not conclude

Not in any satisfactory way, anyway


There’s a little bit of fluff on top
Meaning nothing at all or something
That’s how meaning works, between nothing and something
But never the literal truth

That’s the trouble with lie detectors, they’re interested in the literal truth

The literal truth is the last thing on people’s minds

The truth, the truth, the truth

Now the other day I was in Cairns and I went through security and I got checked
several times and I said, What is this all about, my beard or the fact that I’m one
hundred and seven years old or is it that anyone wearing a hat, even a National Party
hat, a rampantly fervid nationalistic hat, is already under deep suspicion
And she said, It is purely routine
Purely random
So I say, Is it random to be selected for randomness 13 times out of the last 20 flights
And none of them in Southern Australia but up north, up north
And nowhere else
The south seems not to care but up north you can end up with more white stuff on you
and your belongings than a cockroach could possibly encounter in a badly considered
expedition to a five star restaurant
And she says, Random, now are you going to sign the form or are you not
And I said, I didn’t say anything about signing forms
Of course I’ll sign the bloody form
And she says, You don’t sign unless you object
That’s when you sign, when you object
Otherwise you don’t sign
And we just coat you with whatever it is we coat you with
And that’s that

And so I got coated
And she said, That helps me fill up my quota
So I realised that what’s going on up north is that there are fewer passengers and so it
is harder to fill your quota as a security officer so you just pick anyone even vaguely
suspicious or not even suspicious at all
And you do them over in the name of security
But really it is just for purposes of the quota
The quota is everything, like the time sheet
So anyone is fair game, even children
Even especially children

And in I go and order a double shot short black

Yes, you can get them everywhere these days even in Macdonalds and it was very
And I ordered an apple slice too and she said Cream or icecream
And I said Both or neither and she brought it out on a little plate with a perfectly
metal knife and a perfectly metal fork
And the fork had perfectly sharp and perfectly honed tines
That’s the pointy bits in case you don’t know
And I thought, How cute, I wouldn’t mind having them myself
See how nicely wrapped they are in a nice little paper serviette
No, they would make quite a nice souvenir of my trip up north and was about to slip
them into my computer case for the flight southward when I realised that in
Townsville chances were I’d have to go through security again and there was no way
this rather pretty knife and this rather pointy fork would ever make it through

So honesty prevailed
Except it wasn’t honesty, it was calculation
That pure calculation that we call prudence

Yes, prudence prevailed
Except it didn’t, I took them anyway, just to prove a point, as it were
And in Townville I left them on the seat outside security
I just left them on the seat, nicely wrapped up in a white paper serviette and that was
I did have the thought that a child might find them and do themselves an injury
A momentary thought
So I put them in the garbage, which seemed a waste but at least I wasn’t doing a child
an injury

I was, you see, being a good citizen
A caring considerate person
A bit of a coward in not trying to take them through security to see just what might
And to warn the authorities of that anomaly where you can pass through security and
lose your knitting needles and your nail clippers but inside you can be given a
perfectly decent set of metal cutlery with which you might perform scrupulously neat
and tidy mayhem

Too bad about that

And I didn’t think any more about it until we were in Wilcannia the other day, en
route for Broken Hill and Adelaide and a woman called out to her child, Hey Bub,
don’t run on that road or I’ll punch ya
Which made me think of the vagaries of love
And the nature of a secure existence
And what it depends on

You still get metal cutlery in Business Class, don’t you know, that’s what someone
told me, my host in Brisbane
But then terrorists never travel Business Class
Their mother never said, Hey Bub, don’t run on the road
They always held their hand

Some people say that’s still happening

South Melbourne
Tuesday 27 July 2010

 john von sturmer 2010