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A love, a loss

A personal story, set in Maasailand, Northern Tanzania. Performed at Perth Poetry Club, October 2012; published by Hypallage, 2013.

We met on the edge of a cliff

gazing into our own negative image

folding limbs and lips into caresses that we had always craved

floating on the words of our deepest desires uttered by another’s mouth

 

bridging worlds with hearts, weaving continents with cups of tea,

melding beads with blessings, black with white, Sabbath with savannah,

mother tongues, and mothers.

pulled by shared aspirations to climb mountains, swim oceans

and create another world.

 

Unsure just how we landed where we did in this unfolding of history

we rowed into unchartered territory with readiness.

and while the earth gave us laughter and texture; soul and pain

the trail that we had followed was washed away by rain

 

we met on the edge of a cliff

with one wing each

the ground was far below us

the sky

out of reach

 

warned about strange birds

far flung nests

we had chased the rainbow

blinded by her colourful promise

 

and as

the cliff’s edge crumbled

our destiny stumbled

we were enveloped by sky

our only hope was to fly

 

and we held eachother

each wing beating as hard as it could

flagellating with all of the rhythms we knew

but our wings beat out of sync

rivers of tears grew

and why – God only knows. We never really flew

 

no. we tumbled. we fell

through shivering winters

flowering springs

through hot summer rains

and old buried things

 

we broke our crowns

our hearts gashed open

our lips cut, dry

our voices hoarse with screams

until, in turn, we stopped.

 

there is always a branch to catch

if you are determined to get out alive

 

and now all I can do

is pick myself up

nurse my wounds

and weave my own second wing.

 

© Keren Gila Raiter

Autobiography of a plant killer

A few years ago I conducted some research about the threat of an exotic plant disease called ‘dieback’ (Phytophthora cinnamomi) to plants of significance to Noongar people on the south coast of Western Australia. Noongar (also spelled Nyungah) is the name for the Indigenous people and traditional custodians of southwestern Western Australia. I had the honour of going out into the bush with some of these people, and learning about their bush tucker and bush medicine. I also had the sadness of learning about the destruction caused by this introduced plant disease: beautiful under the microscope, ugly in consequence.

This clip was recorded in June 2012 at the Denmark Festival of Voice, Western Australia. The words follow:

Autobiography of a Plant Killer

 

They first found me rotting away in a cinnamon tree,

And I am a malaise of modern, mobile, society.

Virile, though sexless,

I am newcomer to these age old rocks.

And I am a detail by which technology killed the world.

 

I am small, almost microscopic, my translucent whiskers are shapely, charming, miniature versions of the coral reefs that lie stretched out beneath the oceans.

And like the reefs, I am huge too, my coralline whiskers have slithered, swum, and hitched from Sumatra all around the world, to the ancient woods of Tasmania, the famous proteas of southern Africa…

I slither

Imperceptib-ly,

Subterranean-ly,

Relentless-ly,

In the mud on the tyres of your four-wheel-drive-ly.

I stowed away in soil on ships and I now ravage the tall hardwoods of the Americas, and the great wildlands of southern Australia, where every peak in the landscape is a story from creation; and now the bush foods of the local ones are becoming less, and less, and less.

 

The old Noongar, she talks about the bush tucker.

She tells of the honey from the banksias, a good healing tonic.

Dead banksias now.

 

She calls me Drastic

They call me Insidious. Tragic. Deadly.

They call me Phytopathogenic Pseudofungus.

They call me Biological Bulldozer.

they call me Phytophthora cinnamomi.

They call me Worse Than Salinity.

 

I ignore signs. I ignore boundaries.

I ignore laws that say ‘no taking of native flora’; ‘no destruction in a national park’. I destroy the hillsides, I destroy the valleys. And those plants; I take half.

I take half and leave their skeletons, grey and dead.

They call me dieback. But I am a front. And I am in front.

And somehow it comes to be that my unconscious, mouldy evolution has outsmarted all the power and knowledge and gadgets of the human race, and all they can do is watch me do my work, try to grapple with my epidemiology, and hope to live longer than my victims and tell their story.

“Gotta speak good story”, they say.

I ain’t no good story.

I love the rotting of the living.

I scour the roots with which the windswept trees grip the ancient soil, as they turn red with silent, underground rage at their doom.

 

You see, I believe in simplifying the world. Just what clarity is there in a biodiversity that stretches from here to the moon? Why worry with those

Proteaceae

Epacridaceae

all them that are Myrtaceous

Fabeaceous

Papilionaceous

Xanthhoreaceaous

(words that your common physicist couldn’t even spell)

when you can so easily manage

sedge, after sedge, after sedge.

 

I creep underbark, through vessels built for water and food and all things good. I creep leaving lesions scarring up tall, strong trees that withstand wind and rain and the turning of centuries, but cannot resist my deathwish.

Parched, thirsty roots dying silently.

Cells without integrity once I’ve been through.

 

and so, even before full-scale industrialisation,

commercialisation,

post-modernisation,

I took advantage of exponentialization.

While young male patriots ran up and down the wild magnificent mountains, learning how not to fall over,

And pioneer farmers with high hopes cleared land for their woolly herds,

And roads were built,

And gravel was spilt,

I, without guilt,

flagged a ride on their shoes.

 

© Keren Gila Raiter 2012

No-one’s slave

An old friend, Benna, once taught a group of us this song while we sat around a fire, on a hiking trip across a stunning wild part of the Pilbara, in north-western Australia. We were walking the land on an ecophilosophical journey of learning and (self) discovery, led by an amazing teacher called Patsy. Years later, I hunted down the original lyrics, adapted them to suit my story, and made of them a spoken word piece. It was a shame to remove the music, but I hope that you enjoy it nonetheless.

This clip was recorded at the Denmark Festival of Voice, Western Australia.

Words adapted from the original lyrics from the song of the same name.

‘Beneath our Feet’ performed at Denmark Festival of Voice

Here is a piece about what I do in my day job – that is, one of my day jobs at the moment. I am an environmental scientist, and I work with climate change, forested streams and forest management practices. I investigate what happens to our streams when we log, thin, mine, and rehabilitate the forests (and combinations of the above) against the striking backdrop of our drying and variable climate, and what we can do about it. This poem is written specifically about the Jarrah forests and streams in the Darling Ranges to the east and south-east of Perth, although similar things are happening in many parts of the southwest of Australia.

An eclectic afternoon of music and poetry

Keren Gila Raiter will be performing in an exciting collaboration with the Chung Wah Chinese Classical Orchestra in May, as part of the Act Belong Commit Canning Music Series.

The Chung Wah Orchestra is part of the oldest ethnic association in Western Australia,founded in 1909. As cultural ambassadors for the Chinese community, they teach and perform classical Chinese music at various community events and special occasions to promote and preserve Chinese culture. The Chung Wah Orchestra is a ‘family’ of three generations playing together; the youngest member is 9 years old and the oldest is about 70 years old.

The event, organised by the City of Canning and proudly supported by Act-Belong-Commit, also featues the South Side Symphony orchestra in collaboration with Martin De Sousa Mealy, Nova Ensemble in collaboration with Kevin Gillam, and the Vocal Evolution in collaboration with Kate Wilson.

What: Concert featuring four orchestras performing with original poetry written and performed by four of Perth’s finest poets

Where: Canning Town Hall, 1317 Albany Highway (corner George Street West), Cannington, Western Australia

When: Sunday 24th May 2015 2-5 pm

This is a free City of Canning Event.

2015 Canning Music Series

Art and inspiration, Bungalbin

(Originally posted on Sustaining Ecology)
I was recently invited to contribute to the Wilderness Society’s exhibition of art inspired by the Great Western Woodlands, as part of an event held to celebrate the incredible but threatened Helena-Aurora Range, and gather support for its protection. To learn more about the event, the need for protection of Helena-Aurora Range, and ways of supporting its protection, click here.

The images and text that I exhibited and performed follow.

many-limbed

Many-limbed. Photograph © Keren Gila Raiter

Sunrise over Helena-Aurora. Photograph by Fiona Westcott (reproduced with permission)

Sunrise over Helena-Aurora. Photograph © Fiona Westcott (reproduced with permission)

Dianella revoluta – blueberry lilly. Photograph © Keren Gila Raiter

Moonrise almost as old as the moon fresh as the last burn

Moonrise

almost as old as the moon
fresh as the last burn

2. Verticordia chrysantha

Verticordia chrysantha

This is not the middle of nowhere
it’s the centre of everywhere
the sweet space between wet forests and dry deserts
where there’s more eucalypts than there’s elements in the periodic table;
more flowering plants than in the UK
where banded iron never goes out of fashion
with water in rocky cracks and rare views over subtle topography
what’s more, it’s my home

3. Bungalbin

Bungalbin

by the time we reached Bungalbin
we had forgotten what a hill looks like
and a range seemed impossible in this flat expansiveness
but the earth reaching skyward was unmistakable

We camped in Helena and Aurora’s wide embrace
long ironstone arms stretched out around us
striped with geology

4. Night creature

Night lacewing (Myrmeleontidae family)

the creatures of the night
remind me of the mystery
of life
of ecosystems
of the things that are hidden from our view
but that are nevertheless
essential parts of our existence

Abandoned mine

Abandoned mine

after the minerals have been traded
profits spent
workers retrenched, or retired
that water will still be a strange shade of green

6. red legged- arachnid

Red-legged

I walked a thousand kilometres
till my legs were red and hairy
I lost and found myself
in between these leaves and branches
and I won’t forget

It's us who decide 1 Slide2 Slide3 Slide4

All photographs and text © Keren Gila Raiter except where noted

Tealeaf Troubadours perform at Busselton Fringe Festival

Back by popular demand!

The Tealeaf Troubadours (Keren Gila Raiter, Alex Hey, Jesse the Wind Wanderer, and Jaya Penelope), previously known at Minstrel Gallery, are back at the Busselton Fringe Festival with two performances of Skywoman’s Basket (abridged version) featuring traditional folktales, original performance poetry and striking live cello. The shows will be perfromed on the New Courtroom stage in the Old Courthouse in the Art-Geo Complex, Queen Street, Busselton.

Show times are 8:15 pm on Friday 13th March, and 9 pm on Saturday 14th March.

Tickets $15, available at the Box Office. This is a show for adults, children under 13 will not be admitted.

Busselton Fringe