The Fencer’s Factotum, 1933

Now I run clumsy like a calf over spinifex over gibber, iron underfoot, iron soul unfinished under my skin. Three years I been swallowing wire, like the philosopher of metals Manic of Riga who made he self impervious to time and papal daggers, who accumulated demons to he service. I swallow the fence tailings: long piece short piece; we throw them away as we extend our lives across the spinifex and gibber in a straight line with no forks. You sight along the fence it invisible; at night the plain too invisible. The plain; the line.  I’m afraid our lifes they follow the latter. The dingo: he the plainsman, he the immortal. That why all dog the one immortal dog, because he does not know death. I fear the Old Man more than most and that why I will trick him. Me; my iron resolution. Me, like the rude demiurge who thwart time and papal daggers with he wire bone, nerve, sinew, and tongue, and with he wire words. The dingo feet inscribe the plain with indifferent impressions all he life long. But he don’t know what he write: he don’t remember and he don’t hope, and when he, bush–whelped, come to the dog fence it sniff, his nose, it twitch, his ears, it bite it worry it forget it lay down or howl or chase it tail round and round and round like wire on the spinner and then it £1 hide hung, it bones cleaned by crows next the rude jaws of the trapper’s trap, and it no worse off—or better. That how he life always recoil to rusted bones, like wire recoil—wire which sing Zeno’s lament one hundred years at the cursed line, and still try broken–backed to recoil when you pull it off. Now I crucified to the dog fence by the Old Man. He nearly in Farina by now. —Ostler, he say, Unhitch the quadrupeds, and have them fed and watered before the sun sinks low in the west, for this I will be thankful. He sit at the bar for whiskey, tell long story, and thank the Good Lord. He wire my ankles to a dropper, my wrists to the barb strand, and weave me a crown of barb wire; my eyes, my tongue I give to the tap–tapping crow, my feet, my organs fortify the dingo. But two days down the line, stripped clean to my hide of woven wire, iron soul unfinished, I already gleaming like a new calf over spinifex over gibber. My stride ring ironstone in the Old Man camel buggy track, my indifferent demons already after with kah–kaahs and clatter of blunt nails.

First published in overland No. 150, 1998


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