Published in Overland Issue 238 Autumn 2020 · Resistance / The university Poetry | Ode to the defenceless: from hypotaxis to parataxis John Kinsella poem to the v-c and university as a whole: a ‘position paper’ for discussion 1. The killers who think they’re life-givers surround themselves with people who will praise them – there are dead trees to climb, crows’ nests to be made, drones to fly, rebuilding the unmaking in own images – familiar back home reflections for the expeditionary to attach onto. Reassuring when the gun jams, a dust storm interferes with communications, strategy and tactics entangle with greater goods of nation, industry, striking of medals. Camouflage’s ghastly appropriation. The killers who think they’re life-givers have beliefs and loyalty but not ‘ideology’, and are only fundamentalist about family, mates, some versions of God, always country as originally gazetted by imperial measure but not as it was originally with different modes of quantification measuring the unseen depths above and beyond ‘resources’, ‘commodities’, topoi and motifs of heroism and ‘sacrifice’ – a word that’s like finishing a sentence with a preposition. Daily orders. Standing orders. Epodes. Codas. Euphemisms. Code names. The official correspondent. Artist. Official Official. War and professionalism. Conscript ideations. Camouflage’s ghastly appropriation. The killers who think they’re life-givers protect conscience with the idea that they won’t be forgotten ‘back home’, with home a variable in play with every threat and counter-threat, every hanging conjunction, every wound that fast-tracks medical knowledge. For these are people of peaceful uniforms who fight justly in ‘just wars’ and can detect a just person like the flutter of a gold leaf in its electroscope. They are built of similes. Insurgence isn’t the movement of fossil fuel through a pipeline, it is the flow of orders, Camouflage’s ghastly appropriation. The killers who think they’re life-givers know the meaning of security. To give just a personal example, which I’d be told is the exception to the rule, the rotten apple, the weeded out: a far-right kid (of a far right family) I went to school with became a soldier in the SAS, his telescopic sights trained covertly – kissing the hand that fed his ideals of white sovereignty. Or someone else’s face in the class photo – what became … ? The triumphalism of parading with the dead, the dead made dead – trophy is not trophy when it’s a natural occurrence … died of old age on the field? Someone’s back yard, the expedition’s field. To get in on the act – support services – singers, artists, entertainers, chips off the old block. Flown in. Flown out. Bright sparks under the radar. Kids at schools ‘back home’ who don’t ANZAC are given a hard time still – drilled in ‘old ways’. Camouflage’s ghastly appropriation. 2. Kissing the hands of babies has given way to encircling the family in weapons-making and weapons maintenance, in the glory of jobs as reality and deaths (always of the unjust) as collateral inevitable sad reality but in the mirror of the ‘democratic western nation state’, each drop of blood each scar each action outside the civilian is an exponential echo of non- participation, avoidance, and even ‘cowardice’. But the poem can’t give them what they want if it lacks the dirge or the rumble of movement, the trauma of tear and strike, the surge & release of mimesis. In a lull, on leave, music soothes and abrades, relieves and sets the nerves on edge but there’s not even that in this. Work made from profit for profit is cognitive dissonance of dummy grenade and machine gun round as markers of peace between allies. Kissing the hands of babies has given way to just treatment of the just in the just war machine. The unjust are reason for the just to get their justice machine rolling. The historically informed might quip about Judge Bowen’s limerick, and the retreat into the pastorals of Ancient Rome. The western continuum. Armed combatants picked out by AI selectivity which is frightening not because it is far from the human hand, but because it is so close. Mimic whose mind of its own is a mind in its maker’s image. Crusades by any other names – sonar in the suburbs, filling the Sound with insults to whales and dolphins and all swimmers. 3. Universities become military installations with the dilution of humanities into actions of death rather than reflections on the making of death to stop death outside natural causes outside the best that we can do to keep all people who want to be alive, alive. Scrutiny of death becomes the entry point for the making of death away from the security of enclave. Universities protect intellectual copyright, join forces, distil morality into applicable and conceptual and store or use accordingly. Rhetoric is contractual and a condition of employment. Articles of war are not articles of clothing, washed along holy rivers. Each in their own carrel safe under the collegiate umbrella. One hand links to another, and far up the chain is that hand we know from poetry signs the paper. Universities become military installations and predatory encryption is recognition among cognoscenti and civil discussion in civil society is pollen in a sterile room that will be cleaned away, burnt. The strategy is fuelled and ready, mothballs in the backroom, coercive faces prop a government decree a callout to placate an iron-clad agreement for ore and markets and manufacture and home-grown technology. Such knowledge deferment in the just peacefulness the cool places the modern amenities the broad array of targets as specific as needs must and informed decisions made after sleepless nights. Universities become military installations the lyric bent of capital molecules particles filmy spectrum on ponds and oceans, the shoreline the beachhead the batteries sustaining histories of expansion, rapid contraction of rights when needs must; but the poets aren’t leaving the room, aren’t dispensing with the shade of old trees, the ones that cling to the edge, drawn to river and old knowledges and conversations with eternity without agreements and divvying up for the greater good of the stems of buildings of industries of learning. And the irony is that where treaty is needed no treaty is made and the stakes go in as landgrabs and proxies. Who do we impress in our screenshot moments? The rise & the rise. Vexed peace-fire Prometheus banishment to come? Epode Delayed All employment contact people we know family all hand to mouth or hand to luxury undifferentiated in the policy acquittal to get truth out of the baby’s mouth that suits an aqualung a powderkeg mix ‘tribal’ and ‘oil’ and ‘strong men’ and now even a Bookchin focus from the island prison – an eco freedom to disrupt gender arguments on over the horizon conferencing, a potentate agitator shed to light in media booth or via phone or Skype or whatever informed words deliver ‘know not what we do’ as if moral position opposed to the data is ill-informed and lacking cogency, as the unarmed volunteer mops up no matter whose blood is spreading no matter who no matter in realpolitik of armoured offices all waves emanating all support of top brass all boardroom acquiescence as no trees grow from lament no forests are as inventive no deserts as clear-sighted no hungry mouths as grasping for footholds in the service of personal glory no baby’s mouths as clichéd as following the fortunes of a cheap and robust weapon the poor rising up the professional armed forces heaped- up in the gritty realism the broken and busted families (the ones collecting their dead direct from the field), the crops sown in bones sewn in camouflage to hide from surveillance developed outside and looking down from above over the shoulder eager with platitudes and research – cloth of skin on snag of wire, interventions of torpedoes mimicking fast sleek fish of many species – fish, just fish – enemies (unjust) in just piles (bothering stat all the same), how in dry places even blood is quickly dusty, pushing away the cold to die by. Read the rest of Overland 238 If you enjoyed this piece, buy the issue John Kinsella John Kinsella’s new work includes the story collection Pushing Back (Transit Lounge, 2021), Saussure's Kaleidoscope Graphology Drawing-Poems (Five Islands Press/Apothecary Archive, 2021) and The Ascension of Sheep: Collected Poems Volume 1 (UWAP, 2022). More by John Kinsella › Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. 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