Article out in Junkee on Stephen Hawking

I wrote an article for Junkee about Stephen Hawking and the media reception of his death. You can read it here.

Excerpt:

Stephen Hawking died two days ago. He was an extraordinary and uncommon academic, a scientist with a deep sense of artistry and a wicked sense of humour. And he was a bright fire in the lonely sky of disabled academia.

I am not a scientist. But I am a wheelchair-using academic, and I have a lot of feelings about space; my thesis has “cosmogonies” in the title. Hawking’s work was a joy and his presence in the world was a comforting reminder that people like me belong in academia just as much as any abled person does.

So it is disappointing, and deeply hurtful, to see how abled people are handling the news of Hawking’s death.

Many abled people have created artistic depictions where Hawking’s spirit is seen standing or walking away from his wheelchair. Leaving aside the fact that Hawking was a staunch atheist who described the idea of an afterlife as a “fairy story”, this fundamentally misunderstands the function of a wheelchair in a disabled person’s life.

Hawking is not “finally free” of his wheelchair now that he is dead. His wheelchair is the thing that gave him freedom during his life. The only time he ever envisioned himself mystically floating away into a sparkly cosmos, it was with his chair: go ahead and watch his cover of Monty Python’s ‘Galaxy Song’ if you want to see for yourself.

Read the full article on Junkee here.

 

 

 

HOW TO MOURN YOUR DEAD

The Rhysling nominations deadline has been extended by a month, to March 15. I realised while checking which poems of mine are eligible that HOW TO MOURN YOUR DEAD is only available online in .pdf form, so I have reproduced it here for the sake of accessibility.

I wrote this after last year’s Disability Day of Mourning vigil, for which I will again be the Sydney site coordinator in 2018 (details forthcoming). It was published in Honi Soit in March and reprinted in AFTER SAGAMIHARA, a zine commemorating the first anniversary of the Sagamihara massacre.

My other Rhysling eligible poems are CRADLE THE SEED and WIND HOWLS/BATTLE COME DOWN, AFTER THE CLASH.

Content note: filicide, ableism, explicit violence.


 

HOW TO MOURN YOUR DEAD

 

how to mourn your dead:

gather the candles. find a flame to light them with. look deep inside your heart. fuel yourself with butane fear passion and pride. remember that you know how to burn. gather the candles.

gather the cripples. they will walk and wobble and wheel their way to you. do not worry if your halls are empty. they are full of ghosts. gather the cripples.

gather the names of the dead. the ghosts are with you but they do not know their own names. the ghosts are with you but they do not know where they are buried. the ghosts are with you but they have not been put to rest. james lloyd age 4 shot by his mother. jeni cazares age 3 months head smashed by her mother. janet cunningham age 43 hacked to death with a hatchet by her father. dorothy cunningham age 62 hacked to death with a hatchet by her husband. gather the names of the dead.

gather your breath. you will need it. there are so many names and so many deaths. fill your lungs with love and flame and fear and fury. fill your lungs with oxygen and poison and clear water and sunlight. remember that you have gone without breath before. speak the names and the deaths. hannah carroll age 6 burned with bleach by her brother. trevor horn age 8 life support disconnected by a hitman hired by his father. tracy latimer age 12 gassed by her father. michael messenger newborn died after his father shut off his ventilator. danielle tucker age 3 pushed down a flight of stairs by her adoptive mother. gather your breath.

gather your courage. you are not afraid of ghosts. you are not afraid of the dark. look to your candles. remember that your heart is burning low and hot. do not falter. speak the names and the deaths. pierre pasquiou age 10 pushed into the sea by his mother. daniel leubner age 13 burned alive by his mother. lillian lellani gill age 4 strangled by her adoptive mother. cassandra killpack forced to drink water by her parents until she died of water poisoning. terrance cottrell jr age 8 suffocated by church leaders attempting to exorcise his autism. summer phelps age 4 drowned in dirty water by her stepmother. james many white horses age 2 abused and neglected by his mother. alex spourdalakis age 14 poisoned and stabbed by his mother and godmother. elisa manrique-lutz age 11 poisoned by her father. martin manrique-lutz age 10 poisoned by his father. gather your courage.

gather the forgotten. look to their ghosts. promise them that they will be remembered. baby doe newborn denied medical treatment by his parents. baby mckay newborn head bashed against the delivery room floor by his father. female name unknown age 33 shot by her father. baby C age 5 months smothered by her father. B. L. age 13 months shaken to death by his father. unknown baby girl age 6 months drowned by her mother. infant girl newborn buried alive by her father. yu age 16 months poisoned with pesticides smothered and thrown off a bridge by his father. unknown male age 4 stuffed into a refrigerator by his parents and frozen to death. zhang (first name unknown) age 7 thrown from a 9th storey window by his mother. gather the forgotten.

gather your joy and your grace and your heaven and your forgiveness and your harmony. remember that you are surrounded by those you love and who love you. joy martin age 69 given a lethal dose of morphine by her daughter. grace carlson age 13 poisoned by her mother. heaven woods age 5 beaten to death by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. forgiveness sibanda age 3 beaten by his father. harmony carsey age 2 neglected and abused by her mother. gather your joy grace heaven forgiveness harmony.

gather the candles. kill the flames. gather the cripples. kiss your lover and embrace your friends. gather the names of the dead. put them to rest. gather your breath. breathe deep and keep breathing. gather your courage. gather the forgotten. do not forget. gather your joy grace heaven forgiveness harmony. this is how you mourn your dead.

 

MELANCHOLIA

I have a blackout poem out in Streetcake Magazine today!

It uses the text of Robert Burton’s Last Will and Testament, contained in the front matter of The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it. In Three Maine Partitions with their several Sections, Members, and Subsections. Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically, Opened and Cut Up, first published 1621.

The poem and its transcription are reproduced below.

 

melancholia


 

Cui vitam dedit et mortem

Melancholia

 

Azure                   a crescent

death,                 following

casualties to which our life is subject

our                   unsettled states

have

perfect

adventure     of which I am ignorant

First

whensoever

I make

Legacies out of

specified

life                             Lady

if he be not

of the Ground                 I give

equally

other

days                                                                   I

long   to

bestow

purpose

to the

grave

perpetual

 

to redeem

my

remembrance

I desire

to be

where she is buried

besides                         I die

till then

 

UNSPOKEN WORDS: a festival of writing

[image description: collaged text in pink orange & white on purple background, UNSPOKEN WORDS June 3-4 RED RATTLER: performances/workshops/panels/open mic reading space]

oh gosh there has been so much happening lately & i have so little time to think let alone to write anything about any of it. i am running desperately late on a numberof important projects (including salvaging my Honours degree – i have just yesterday managed to get access to Dragon dictation software which i am very much hoping will help with the writing of long essays with dislocated wrists part of that!!)

most recently neglected: my appearance in a series of panels & lectures on at UNSPOKEN WORDS, a festival of stories. the sunday evening session (including a poetry reading from myself) was Auslan interpreted by the excellent Auslan Stage Left. i am quite proud of the accessibility guide i helped develop which is available here.

the program is available here & lists the incredible lineup of artists and panels, including Hani Abdile, Evelyn Araluen, Maryam Azam, Stephany Basia, the Black and Deadly Women’s Poetry Circle, Emily Crocker, Winnie Dunn,  Stelly Gappasauress, Isaac Green, Dan Hogan and Stacey Teague of Subbed In, Lizzy Jarrett, Gabrielle Journey Jones, Holly Friedlander Liddicoat, Fayroze Lutta, Paige Phillips, Poesifika, Candy Royalle, Sea, Ella Skilbeck-Porter, Effy Marie Smith, Margarita Tenser, Thelma Thomas aka MC Trey, Bron Watkins, and Joseph Zane. the festival was MC’d and organised by Emma Rose Smith.

i ran 1 solo lecture, was on 2 joint panels, & read some of my poetry in the evening.

defining-ourselves-for-ourselves

[image description: white text on pink and blue background. PANEL – DEFINING OURSELVES FOR OURSELVES]

Defining Ourselves for Ourselves

Maryam Azam, Winnie Dunn, Robin M. Eames

11:15am – 12:15pm, main stage

Can we define ourselves by writing ourselves? We write ourselves, in whatever way possible for our individual needs, so as to create alternatives to single narratives. We need to see ourselves represented by people like us. Too many stories filter the whole world of experience through the gaze of abled cishet white people. This panel discusses the resistant power of telling our own stories, through the symbolic dialogue between living, visibility and text. We ask if and how we can write despite and beyond the dominating gaze of dual invisibility/hypervisibility that often occurs around politicised bodies.

CRIPPING THE LITERARY

[image description: white text on yellow and blue background. LECTURE – CRIPPING THE LITERARY: FINDING CRIP CULTURE]

Cripping the Literary: Finding Crip Culture, Learning Crip Language
Robin M. Eames

2:30 – 3:00pm, main stage

A fifth of Australians are disabled. So where the fuck are they? Are they at your poetry events? Are you reading their work? Are you listening to their communities? Are you fighting alongside them for their civil rights? If not, why? How do we change that? How can a gig, or space, or culture, be accessible (or not)? What are we overlooking? Why aren’t wheelchair users coming to our non-wheelchair-accessible events? How does disabled culture & community even manifest itself? For few answers & more questions, come to this lecture by Robin M. Eames, a disabled queertrans warrior poet who is only mostly dead.

queering-poetry

[image description: white text on pink and blue background. PANEL – QUEERING POETRY: WRITING OURSELVES INTO EXISTENCE]

Queering Poetry: Writing Ourselves Into Existence

Margarita Tenser, Isaac Green, Robin M. Eames

5:00 – 5:45pm, main stage

Three trans, queer, & disabled panellists speak about queering poetry, trans retrohistories, art & intersectional identity, living in ill-fitting worlds & bodies, finding ourselves in stories not made with us in mind, and writing ourselves back into the narratives.

unfinished-business-1

[image description: white text on pink and yellow background. PERFORMANCES – UNFINISHED BUSINESS]

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Doors open (and dinner served) from 6:30, performances start 6:45. Main stage.

Hani Abdile, Winnie Dunn, Isaac Green, Robin M. Eames, Lorin Elizabeth, Dan Hogan, Elizabeth Jarrett, Gabrielle Journey Jones, Ella Skilbeck-Porter, Margarita Tenser, Auslan Stage Left

Come one and all to the biggest session of Unspoken Words! Hosted by the wonderful Lorin Elizabeth, this night will feature poetry readings by Winnie Dunn, Isaac Green, Robin M. Eames, Dan Hogan, Elizabeth Jarrett, Gabrielle Journey Jones, Ella Skilbeck-Porter and Margarita Tenser.

Hani Abdile will then present Absent Souls: A conversation with imprisoned souls. This new performance will be accompanied by a Q&A session and Hani’s performance of her own poetry.

This session will feature live Auslan interpretation thanks to Auslan Stage Left!

Dinner will be available thanks to Parliament on King, the social enterprise caterer. Beautiful food made with love. Proceeds from the catering are reinvested into hospitality training programs for locals with asylum seeker / refugee backgrounds at the King St café.

poster
[image description: event poster with a not-quite-complete list of artists, in the style of the featured image of this blog post, described above]

the festival was held at the Red Rattler Theatre, on the stolen lands of the Gadigal Wangal peoples of the Eora nation. sovereignty has never been ceded. always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

i really can’t emphasise enough how utterly awed, delighted, & proud i felt to be sharing a stage with such powerful & beautiful artists, & to have the chance to listen to their words. we did something really special last weekend & it gives me hope.

on disabled authenticity

today i had the unutterable pleasure of reading this article by Dan Monks, an Australian actor from the womb, who writes beautifully on the challenges of storytelling disability, & on the problem of authenticity, of choosing between the stories we want to tell and the stories that others want to hear. the following is a particularly excellent section from the piece in question:

But more than that, if when I first acquired my disability, I could’ve seen real, authentic representations of myself in the stories we as a culture tell, it would’ve changed the way I felt about my disability and the shame I experienced around it. When our bodies are seen and our voices are heard, we are telling the younger generation of disabled people that they are valid, valued members of our society, who deserve to been seen and heard in all their beauty and ugliness and humanity.

i think i have written here before that from age 5 i knew that i wanted to be a writer and nothing else. i used to staple weird little homemade books together & i wrote several 60-70000 word novel(la?)s over my HSC yr & gap year (one of which very nearly got published, & i will forever be terrifically grateful that it didnt, since i was going through a phase where i desperately wanted to be jeanette winterson but hadn’t quite figured out yet that the only person with the sheer guts & skill to be as fabulously infuriatingly vainglorious as jeanette winterson & get away with it is, in fact, jeanette winterson). i made money off my writing here & there and i got published in token lit mags here & there and then my disability (which truly onset in 2014 although in many ways has always been with me) started really degenerating & i just stopped. i used to fill shelves of notebooks of handwritten epics, but i just can’t write longhand like that anymore. even with wrist braces i can’t type for too long without dislocating my wrists & fingers. i cant focus on tasks or read long paragraphs (even if i wrote them! like this one!)

& fuck it all but i’ve started writing poetry? which is so utterly bizarre to me that i still can’t quite believe it. i have never been a poet. and yet recently i discovered my english workbook from age 7 and found the pages filled with poetry, and odd little sketches, and autistic earnestness, and alienly beautiful half-anecdotes. perhaps my poetry was always hiding inside me the same way my disability was. anyway it just makes sense to me now. i’ve lost a great deal of occipital lobe functionality but it’s like some pathways light up when others are obscured. fragmented things make sense to me. i’ve begun to really love polishing poems into something very honed & deliberate & that’s something that prose as a genre just doesn’t allow for in the same way.

it’s fucking hard & the world doesn’t make it easy but we find ways to get by. i’m so determined to fill the world with beautiful furious banal queercrip stories because i needed them so badly growing up and now. & whatever form those stories take, it doesn’t matter, we just need to put them out there. we have always been reaching out and storytelling and speaking. the world just needs to listen. we are here & we are alive & we exist in all our beautiful ugly unabashed authenticity, & we will be heard.

the slovenian cave adventure

a few weeks ago a beloved friend was in need of some soothing reassurance in the form of other humans sharing anecdotes of their silliest Avoidable Mistakes. i have detailed mine below.

i present for yr reading pleasure the Slovenian Cave Adventure.

i was travelling alone and had planned a day to the škocjan caves. in the morning due to a vending machine mishap i lost several euros before catching my carefully planned high speed train from ljubljana to divača. divača is a tiny town in southern Slovenia that basically only has a train station because it’s close to the škocjan caves, although it does also possess a Snake Cave Mass Grave, nearby the eponymous Snake Cave (Kačna jama, depth 280 meters), so named “because of the many snakes there”.

my high speed train was running late but i’d been keeping track of the stops. right before it got to divača i had my bag & camera and i was waiting at the train door (slovenian train doors have to be manually opened). the door had a confusing big red handle and some slovenian words that looked like they probably said “don’t open this door”. the train stopped but all i could see was track; i couldnt see a sign for a station; i thought we might be waiting to pull up to the platform or else maybe we were just waiting for a different train to pass. there was a train guard in the corridor ~3m away so i started toward him to ask “are we at divača and also how does this door handle work please” and as i opened my mouth the train pulled away and i said “was that…” and he said “yes” and i said “!!??” and he said “you’ll have to get off at the next stop” and i said “!!!!???????” and he said “its ok you can take a bus from there back to divača” and i got off at the next stop several minutes later (via a different train door with a yellow handle and nothing resembling safety hazard warnings) and i learnt that sometimes in slovenia you just gotta climb right off the train onto the track and they dont have platforms and like, ok, thats cool, i love death & high vehicular collision. that’s fine.

so i ventured into this miniscule Not-Divača station to find that it was completely deserted. there were no buses or anything resembling a bus stop. there were also no humans in sight, except for in a nearby construction site behind a tall wire fence. all the doors in the train station were closed and i couldn’t find the name of the station, although i thought it might have been “Vozni Red”, because the only officious looking words in sight that seemed plausibly large enough said “Vozni Red” and had the train times listed below it. the next train back to divača/ljubljana was in 6 hours (the only other train was in 2 hours and went in the opposite direction… to italy). the škocjan caves at the time held 2 tours a day one at 11am and one at 1pm and i was aiming for the 1pm one. it was 12pm at this point.

i started vibrating slightly & my anxious brain was screaming at me that even if i waited 6 hours to go back to ljubljana i would have wasted a whole day and i was only in slovenia for less than a week and i’d planned other things. it was winter and very cold and i didnt have a smartphone and it was 2011 and google maps hadnt made it to rural slovenia yet regardless. i thought “its ok i prepared for this” and i called one of the taxi numbers id written down in case i got stuck except it was a ljubljana taxi service and i was now halfway across the country. the operator told me they’d have to charge the distance all the way from ljubljana & asked where i was; i said at high speed & pitch “the stop after divača, i think its called vozni red?” and she said “yes but where are you” and i said with increasing frenzy “i think it’s called vozni red???????” and then i said i would try to call a different taxi line and call her back if that didnt work and i hung up and called one of the taxi numbers from a flyer on the wall only it rung out into silence. i tried to call back the first person, my phone ran out of battery, and i ran out of sheer fuckn human fortitude and started noisily weeping and contemplating the long pointless 6 hr wait ahead of me

and then two little slovenian blokes with grey beards presumably came off their lunch break, and opened a door to find this inconsolable english speaker leaking bodily fluids all over their train station. they said something to the effect of “??????” and i asked through gulping sobs if there was a bus and they said there wasn’t, and i asked if there was a payphone at the train station i could use and they said there wasn’t, and then i asked if there was a payphone at the (presumably existent) nearby town of Vozni Red and they said no, and they asked me where i was going and i said i needed to get back to divača because i was going to the škocjan caves only my phone had died & etc. they suggested hitchhiking and i started crying even harder and they looked at each other and then one of them left and the other awkwardly smiled at me and then the first one came back with another dude who was even smaller with an even greyer beard who had been fetched from the construction site

the first guy said in stilted english something to the effect of this man, he is going to divača, he has car, he will take you, and i kept crying because at this point i just didn’t know what else to do. i looked at this very small bearded slovenian man who was directing a somewhat terrified grin at me and i tried to very quickly think about what serial killers looked like & if i would be able to determine if someone was a serial killer by looking at him. he was older than my grandpa and frailer than me (!), and i said yes, thank you, thank you, thank you, and i got in his front seat and he offered me some obscure kind of slovenian wrapped sweet which i sensibly declined in case it was poisoned, and i thought very determinedly through the process of what i would do if he did anything Suspicious such as raping and/or murdering me (you see this was not my first rape & i was determined to be more streetwise about it this time) and i decided that i would jam my fingers or my penknife into his eyes and then get out of the car and run but only if we were still on a major road and not in the middle of nowhere, and i focussed Very Very Hard on the route he took to make sure all the road signs said we were going to divača (they did & we were)

he asked me what my name was and what my plans for the day were and i said “i’m meeting a friend at the škocjan caves at 1pm so i have to be at divača train station by 12.41 pm so that i can catch the shuttle bus to the caves because otherwise my friend will miss me and worry” (a TOTAL LIE because my nearest friend was in the UK which is in fact several countries away from slovenia) and he nodded and smiled and i’m quite sure totally disbelieved me and gave me some tissues to mop up the disaster of my face. a little while later he pulled up at a crossing and awkwardly gestured in one direction and said “that way… divača, 5 min” and then gestured in the other direction and said “that way… škocjan caves, 10 min, where do you want to go” and i looked at the signs at the crossing to make sure he was telling the truth and then i made some confused & grateful noises and started crying again and he started flinging tissues at me and making apologetic non-bilingual sounds

we pulled up at the škocjan caves regional parks centre and he said he hoped i had a good day and i thanked him a lot of times and then awkwardly tried to offer him some money, only i was poor and didnt have much so it was only a relatively low euro banknote, and he waved it away and i cried some more and then thanked him again and then he pulled away probably thankful beyond belief to be rid of me. i stumbled into the škocjan caves regional parks centre and bought my tour tickets and the ticket seller said “you’re lucky, usually we do one tour in the morning in english and one tour in the afternoon in slovenian but it’s low season and there are only two other people booked in to tour today so the tourguide’s going to do everything in both english & slovenian because you’ll have more time to go through the caves slowly without a crowd”, and then it was still only 12.30 so i sat down at a bench and breathed and ate the chocolate bar that i’d battled from the faulty vending machine and felt very glad & grateful that i had a chocolate bar and not the healthy but deeply uncomforting sandwich i’d planned to buy.

the tour guide showed up and i asked her if i was allowed to take photos inside the caves and she said “usually no because it slows down the tours too much, but today you can because it’s off season and there are only two other people here”, and i Did Not Cry and then the škocjan caves were some magnificent jules verne lord of the rings glorious bullshit (HAVE I MENTIONED I LOVE CAVES) and theyre enormous and UNESCO listed and theres a huge distant river that runs through one set of them and there are eleven chambers stretching over 6 kilometres (these were the days where i could walk distances) and one body of the cave chambers is called the “silent caves” and the other body of cave chambers is called the “murmuring caves” because you can hear the sound of the underground river rushing through them only they don’t murmur they fucking thunder and it’s like hearing the roaring arteries of the universe and inside the caves there are bats (I LOVE BATS) and in and around the caves there are several endangered species of alpine glacial relics and saxifrage and juniper and rare coral and algae and ivy and spleenwort and harts-tongue, and above the caves there are nesting ravens and peregrine falcons and rock doves and coloured wallcreepers and alpine swifts, and further inland there are foxes and badgers and dormice

there were cave temples there thousands of years ago and we’ve found shaft-caves full of votive/propitiatory offerings of helmets and ritually bent swords and spears and Baltic/Bohemian amber jewellery all covered in runic devotional phrases and people’s names, the historical equivalent of “robin was here” (robin existed, robin is alive, if there are gods here in the caves please be kind, please let robin continue to live & exist, please let robin be happy, please let me love & be loved, please take my suffering, please cure my mother of plague, please bless my child, please do not be angry, we are so small, we are so small in the hugeness of the earth), and i was just wandering through these enormous arcing caverns of faintly dripping Cretaceous and Paleocene limestone and gouring sinuous rimstone and flowstone and huge swathes of light and shadow and dappled puddles and i was so in love i could barely breathe and my feet felt like they were barely touching the floor

the river is called Reka, which means river, and it splits off from Vela Voda, which means Big Creek, and when you come into the cavern over the river there’s no space in your head for anything but the huge sound of the river, walking over this golden-lit high arching spindly bridge and I JUST LOVE CAVES A LOT and i took so many beautiful photos and yeah ok i cried again and it was so wonderful and my heart was so full that i couldn’t even begin to understand what emotions i was feeling and then as we left the last cavern the exit from the cave system is this enormous, enormous godlike hole carved into the planet and the sun was streaming in and everything was glowing and i thought, i am coming back to life, i am alive, and i could feel my heart beating through my whole body, and that cave entrance/exit was described once by Posidonius of Apamea, who was a scholar in the 2nd century BCE who wrote about moons and tides and skull-trophies and druidic customs, and the vital forces of the sun, and the soul, and he thought that the universe was all interconnected like one living organism, “through cosmic “sympathy”, in all respects from the development of the physical world to the history of humanity”, and there’s a lunar crater named after him, and he thought the entrance to the škocjan caves might have been the entrance to the underworld. and it was winter and inside the caves it was cool and soft and then walking out into the world was such a bright, sharp shock, i felt the breath come all the way down into my lungs

and then on my way home, on the shuttle bus from the škocjan caves to divača station, i learnt that “vozni red” meant timetable.