The perfect light of resplendence

In between certain places

In between places

when our bodies were done
we found ourselves
more or less in ashes

bound to a mantle
we caught glimpses
of ourselves through
creases in open doors

the children were scared
and peered into our urns
the cat ran away

we attended the wake
wakeful and filled with space

somewhat surprised
at the turnout we were

still warm
empty
alive and
ultimate

A secret valley

A secret valley, Langtang

A secret valley, Langtang

                                                it is said that no one knew about this valley
                                                that it was secret for some 500 years

                                                but i wonder at the role of such fables,
                                                somehow able to illusively embolden us,
                                                to make masks for the fact of our smallness

                                                                                    the fact is
                                                we are procured from thin air
                                                and other astral flotsam

                                                                                    our one ostensible aim
                                                to make sense of the strangeness of being

                                                coaxed cleverly by specific histories
                                                we have evolved to think we speak for all things

                                                how we cannot

                                                in this secret valley, hid for 500 years
                                                memories of ascetic pilgrims are stored
                                                in the stellular veins of mica rock

                                                much later down the track
                                                we walk and hack our heels in,
                                                lustily

                                                these rocks are ghosts
                                                that weave our clothes
                                                with silver dust and

                                                now we are made from earth
                                                our own ascetic robes loosened by
                                                valley echoes of benevolent laughter

                                                                                    the truth is
                                                                                    (though mostly we don’t feel it)
                                                we thrill the pilgrims with
                                                our thorough artlessness

                                                we are so out of touch

                                                but for such
                                                intents and historic purposes
                                                this does not mean
                                                so much to us

Screwed up and human

we are this wanting –
belief to be believed
vulnerable and small
like children we scream
“see me! tell me what
you think!”

moles on porcelain
screwed up and human
wanting to be none
and everything and
always, ever
trying

This is not a grand declaration

bedroom still life

bedroom still life

this is not a grand declaration

this is not a banner and plane

this is not one of those
love song dedications
web testimonials or
tattooed names

not a play in three acts
nor twelve sonnet verses
not a ring on a finger or
a silver-filled purse

’cause with you

i don’t need to make
those kinds of gestures
or use so many words

We are the keepers

we are the keepers
archaeologists
we comb catacombs
like beggars our
fingers irreverent
for sprinkled gold
filling bags with
trinkets sage and
shining under dust
we are hoarders
we grab with
lust and just
store things away

When we were young #1

Self-portrait

when we were young
(teenage girls)
i suppose we had fun
being ponied about
upturning our noses to
other noses and
kissing on both cheeks

i suppose it was fine to
make artless portraits
of faces and nails (mine
always chipped)
hair loose on ironing
boards, toes cut
for shoes that poked
other girls like needles

when i was young (a teenage girl)
i glossed my lips with rubber filler
and prayed for no gaps

but backed against
confessional scrawls
on toilet walls when
we clawed at each other
and you rattled off flaws
(a trademarked munition)
the dog-eared bits at
my fingertips made
jokes of the chips on
your shoulders

could i be forgiven
that when we were young
(as teenage girls)
i tried on your short dress –
but once, and
only for size

Treading water

The river at Pashupati

The river at Pashupati

                                                               we tread viscous circles
                                                               convinced for the dive
                                                               now hours, days, years
                                                               have made ridges in our
                                                               heels
                                                                     we are wet ghosts

                                                               you trick me for buoys
                                                               but i know you swim
                                                               if you make me laugh
                                                               you’ll only choke me and
                                                               bust
                                                                     water through my nose

Gutted or not

Barn

garbed by
mourning skies
rivers carved
in our cheeks
we spoke without
speaking breathed
between breaths
throats fish-hooked to
intercostals breathing
and not breathing
ribbed palms reeling
in and out and in
and out we watched
strewn crumbs
disappear
i like to think
somehow
gutted or not
to some stranger’s
eye we were
pretty

There are no pictures

A bed and corn

Beds and corn

there are no pictures

the scuffed knee freckle
rawbone part

the garden sprinkler caper
sticky hand and tender skin part

the stumble off the mark
little athlete clutching mud and
ribbons at the heart part

there are no pictures

growing up is hard and
fast without them

When the skin doesn’t fit

patting down my dress i did my best to glide
smile greased like chicken wings hovering
in your shadow as you curled a fist and knocked

beyond blonde pine fences laughter sizzled
faceless like hot-plate beef
ice clinked to the click of camera shutters
shuddering to witness the gold bangled
wrist of another sophist’s photo

carrying the uncooked slabs of some-label meat
i felt like a plastic bag casually toted and filled
with morsels other backyard people
were primed to eat

We were the metaphor


it took us a long time driving too long
too long a long time on the road
beating off on chemical sweat to cleanse
each other, flagellating words against each
others backs but
                    once we crashed
                          sick in each other
                 we caught up
                to the metaphor
we were the car
hoary, run-down
and speeding
way too fast

Like any other little seed

The Kathmandu valley

The Kathmandu valley

it began like any other
little seed, pulled deep from
earth, divined by soil and
sand, visceral and total
it made you think of the
fatal, the end place where
all your human efforts have
come to nothing because
everything was already
already decided anyway
it made you sick to think
of inevitability because
you’d never believed in that
but because you languished
to feel everything ever
possible to feel, because
you hungered to go deep
with someone, anyone
you recognised the wanton
mountains, tangled rivers, the
quivering and crowning of new
life, and you made it her

Monsoon summer

Displaced. Source: newspaper, Kathmandu

Displaced. Picture from local newspaper, Kathmandu.

in monsoon summer
the sky grows sad
its eyelids sag and
heavy tears wash
dirt away from river
banks. houses sleeping
up on top are lost,
the people bits of
driftwood dislocated
from their villages.
now who are you
to say a home
is just the heart with
which you fill it?

Over the last three weeks there have been enormous floods and landslides in rural Nepal, particularly in the west of the country. Though statistics differ, the local papers are reporting that up to 200 people have died and a staggering 20,000 families have been displaced. Though the reports say ‘families’, many young children have found themselves without any relatives. They are now living in makeshift environments with little to no santitation or clean water, limited to no access to medicine, food or clothes, and are at high risk of water-borne diseases.

In the last week I have assisted the Women’s Foundation Nepal (WFN) to generate funding to provide emergency relief in the form of food, clothes and medicine in the rural areas in which we work. It is also expected that the organisation will begin a long search for surviving relatives of the parentless children with the hope they might be resettled with family. However, it is likely that many children will be brought to WFN’s shelter for women and children in Kathmandu, provided that is what the children themselves desire.

WFN runs three shelters in Kathmandu for women and children who’ve escaped situations of domestic violence. Two of these are in secret locations, much like a witness protection program. Through these shelters children are given the opportunity to go to school, and the women are also given educational and livelihood opportunities.

One such job offered to these women is to become ‘mothers’ to children who have been rescued from violent situations as babies or young children. These women are paid a wage, but despite what you think, by all accounts these women are mothers to the children. Last week when I visited the shelter for Teej festival, many of the children who grew up at the shelter and who are now studying for their final leaving exams were excited to introduce me to their mothers, proudly showering them with kisses and hugs. A positive alternative to the standard orphanage setup? I’d be interested to hear what you think – comment below if you feel to.

If you want to learn more about the Women’s Foundation of Nepal and the work I’m doing in Nepal as Director of the Global Women’s Project, please do visit the organisations’ websites.

http://www.womenepal.org
http://www.theglobalwomensproject.com.au

In gratitude,

Briony

Everything we’ve lost can be found

The bowl in question

The bowl in question

at the cliff edge upon which
everything still sane with the world
teeters or is lost completely,
there are moments
when with utmost clarity
humanity reveals itself
wide and deep like an old bowl
to save sanity from falling.
in that human moment we
might be forgiven for thinking
that everything we’ve lost
can be found.

Yesterday i bought the most beautiful handmade Nepalese-Tibetan singing bowl. I’d played scores of them all over the place before I found this one that resonated deeply with something in me. They say sometimes of instruments that the instrument chooses you. This felt like that.

On my way from the singing bowl shop to another appointment, I caught a taxi with a nineteen year old Nepalese man called David who had a crooked homemade cross and the word ‘Jesus’ tattooed on his forearm. Over the heavy bass of a strange but rocking Nepalese-Anglo dance remix, we talked about Christianity, guitars and other things. It was a good twenty minutes following my exit from the cab before I realised I’d left my singing bowl in it.

To my surprise, this actually didn’t upset me too much. There’s something really cool happening internally over here – a combination of acceptance, awareness and something magical I can’t quite put my finger on – so I was sort of resting in the conviction that I’d manage to find it again.

And find it I did. It took me most of the day today, but with the overwhelming generosity and help of a group of Nepalese cab drivers, who truly went out of their way to rally the troops and to help me locate David – one young cab driver in a BIG city – I’m happy to say I have my singing bowl back.

It’s really nice to know that against a pretty bleak global backdrop, there are still really good humans out there. Sometimes you just have to be open to the possibility and look a bit harder.

Side note:

In addition to the cabbies, I also want to pay credit to a couple of people I’ve had the honour of acquainting over the last few days – even if just in a literary context. I came across Alice Walker’s title ‘Anything We Love Can Be Saved’ the other day at a truly inspiring talk on ‘Men Against Sexism’ in Nepal which was presented by Ben Atherton-Zeman. Ben travels the world talking to communities about gender-based violence and gender equality and is a pretty inspiring guy. You can have a look at his site ‘Voices of Men’ here. Ben cited Ms Walker’s ‘text and I thought it was so beautiful and profound and poetic I wanted, in some very small way, to pay homage to it – hence the title of this blog entry.

She writes:

“It has become a common feeling, I believe, as we have watched our heroes falling over the years, that our own small stone of activism, which might not seem to measure up to the rugged boulders of heroism we have so admired, is a paltry offering toward the building of an edifice of hope. Many who believe this choose to withhold their offerings out of shame.

This is the tragedy of our world.

For we can do nothing substantial toward changing our course on the planet, a destructive one, without rousing ourselves, individual by individual, and bringing our small, imperfect stones to the pile.”

Pretty beautiful stuff if you ask me.

x

A love letter, from autumn to summer

Boys climb stairs outside Pashupati, Kathmandu

Boys climb stairs outside Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu

 

i met you just as the last of your flowers
bid their wishful goodbyes to branches
that had cradled them for three months
or longer. you grieved into my outstretched
arms, seduced my chill with warm fingers
breathing perfumes from your mouth
lovers grasped at the last straws of light
we tickled their noses with fancy
that this year, we might just skip the other
seasons.

but you knew as i that change should be
the only thing as certain as death so
we burnt gold the leaves with our fierce affair
others swayed in verdant envy breathing
as we danced each other hard and fast
those lovers bounced beneath branches orange
sad and heavy with the brevity and sweetness of
seasonal romance.

when you pulled away and made to
voyage unknown ends of the universe
the first leaf fell like a tear and the lovers
peering from their safe window
watched them pile up and up and up
they deluged the earth until all the trees
were exposed in their nakedness
accusing skyward with skeletal fingers
i wrapped them up in blankets made
of my melancholy and reminisced for
you.

crisp days turned into cool nights
though sunshine often teased of your
absence. and the trees whispered they were cold
without their clothes, without your sun to
keep them warm. but i was soon used to you gone
we were all soon used to you gone
your memory a footpath puddle evaporating
at a time when you were in your
body.

now the happy lovers make fire
lie by the hearth entangled in limbs
they read to each other
imbibe red wine from glasses that
shine with their reflections
they make love while
piles of leaves outside combust
and slowly turn to
mush.

Dear human, just feel me

Dear human, just feel me

Dear human, just feel me

yesterday i spent three hours
at guru swami dada’s place
through esoteric talk of
chakras ghosts and death
he said: you see the problem
with humanity is that
communication has
simply broken down

we don’t believe each other
how bizarre that we should
need ID to prove that we
are us as though plastic
has more weight than word
imagine god at heaven’s gate
turned us back because
we lacked a visa

Krishna’s birthday in the clouds

Krishna’s temple

she calls the people and
the mountains to her
valley-bound the sound
falls like tumbling hair
the people tuck it
round their ears and flock
like moths, tributes to her
amaranthine spirit
upon her alpine throne
she beams pink-skinned
and owns the dawn
as if it is only hers

Briony’s Homecoming Gig, Melbourne – SCORCHER FEST, 9th Dec

Ok, ok, so this is a bit premature, huh? Well, excuse me for getting all excited like.

Mark the date. On the 9th of December, about a week after I return to Melbourne after volunteering in Morocco for the better part of this year, I will be playing my first gig back in Australia at SCORCHER FEST, an awesome music festival in its 10th year, proudly supporting local musicians.

I can’t think of a better homecoming than to have you there to support my set, and to enjoy the other 49 acts over 3 stages that will be on offer throughout the day jam-packed full of awesomeness.

Tickets are only $25!

They can be purchased through me (preferred – shoot me an email at briony_mack@hotmail.com), or through the festival website. If you use the latter method, just make sure you select me as the act you’re coming to see.

 

If you haven’t already checked out my music (a mix of indie/folk/jazz/blues), you can find me by clicking here. If you have bought the EP I released in March, hopefully you’re enjoying it immensely and if you haven’t (and like the music) please consider buying one. You’ll be helping to support the volunteer work I’ve been undertaking since April this year in Taroudannt, Morocco (you can read about this in previous posts).  CDs are selling for $15 + $3 postage. Just shoot me an email (again, at briony_mack@hotmail.com). You are awesome (in advance).

I seriously can’t think of a better way to celebrate my return, than to have an audience of my friends listening to all the new material I’ve come up with while I’ve been over here. Seriously, it would be awesome.

Until then, take care and stay warm wherever you are (Melbournians, I’ll blow some 50C heat your way if you like),

x Briony

Robbie Buck features my song, Sunday, on “The Inside Sleeve”, Radio National

In the last few days I’ve had a couple of nice deliveries from the universe with regard to my music. I’ve woken up several mornings in a row to emails from complete strangers seeking copies of my CD. Overjoyed, but at first a bit perplexed, it soon came to my attention that Robbie Buck (established Australian music radio personality, formerly of Triple J’s breakfast show with Marieke Hardy and Home ‘n’ Hosed) played me on last Thursday’s edition of his show “The Inside Sleeve” on Radio National. Pretty freakin’ awesome, huh!

Just as awesome, is the fact that there are people who’ve connected with my music enough to shoot me emails and buy my CDs. As a songwriter and performer you do like to think you write primarily for yourself. It shouldn’t matter what other people think! This is your outlet! Nonetheless, you can’t escape the joys of a little bit of appreciation or validation. So thank you universe, new fans, radio personalities, friends, you are amazing!

You can listen to last Thursday’s edition of “The Inside Sleeve” by clicking here. I feature towards the end of the hour. You can also visit the ‘my music’ page on this blog to listen to a couple of tracks.

If you like the music, please consider buying a CD. In doing so, you’ll not only be supporting me, an independent Australian artist, but you’ll be supporting the volunteer work I’m currently undertaking in Morocco with street children and their families.

You can email me at briony_mack@hotmail.com to order a CD; they’re going for a measly $15 + $3 postage. Failing this, if you’re strapped for cash like me, you’d also be doing me a huge favour by simply “liking” my Facebook page (in the right sidebar on this blog). Oh, and tell your friends.

I’ll be here in Morocco until early October (having arrived in April), and following this will be busking and gigging my way around Europe, sleeping on peoples’ couches. I’ll be back in Australia early December to play Scorcher Fest on the 9th of December. Put this date in your diaries – there’ll be more on this to come!

All in the name of life and living it,

Briony

The legalisation office

Rough hands
Slough me atop a pile
With the rest of the cadavers
Faces red-inky, fixed and sticky
In two dimensions

We’ve been split apart
Under close observation
Then quickly forgotten
Cash made, men paid
Histrionics maintained

I would love to have posted a picture to go with this short piece, though even after my extensive Photoshop work blurring out names, numbers, stamps and signatures, the fear of being arrested remained. Imagine, if you will, that in order to extend my stay over the three months initially allowed for Australians, it was necessary for me to get no fewer than 30 copies of various documents officially authorised. I don’t know where they are now. Though, of course, I’m sure they are in good hands!

Stay tuned for more music!

In addition to my update on work, play and pain below, I thought I’d just post a short update about my music. After spending the large part of two months lazing around on the couch, my guitar has *hurrah!* decided to forgive me my infidelity and take me back. Since last weekend, I have been furiously writing and composing, and feeling so inspired! Today I sat with my window open, the sun pouring in, and spent hours rediscovering myself musically, playing around with new chord progressions and riffs, and jotting down lyrics and ideas.

Photography: Kim Holgate-Ryan

I was feeling a bit guilty and sad about not  being able to find the time to do something that I love so much, and that makes me so happy, though I suppose that often it’s actually a good thing to take a step back from creating; to let yourself absorb new and familiar surroundings and experiences alike, without thinking too much about how you can use those things for the production of your music.

Because I’d been so busy (and still am) I hadn’t really noticed I’d not only stopped playing, but stopped listening too. So I’ve started listening again to some great music both new and old; after reconnecting with both my music and that of others it feels like a new creative space has opened up! I’m really excited to be able to share some of my new material with you soon via YouTube.

Thank you also for everyone who has bought my album, and made such incredible comments about it. If you haven’t checked it out already, you can visit the ‘my music’ page on this blog on which you can play a number of tracks, or go to my Facebook page (in the right-hand sidebar of the blog).

Details of how to purchase a CD are available on both of these forums. They cost a measly $15 AUD + $3 postage, and include 7 original tracks in diverse styles.

What are you waiting for? More?

Well, stay tuned, *ahem*. You know what I mean.

Photography: Kim Holgate-Ryan

I am now covered in henna

I am now covered in henna

protected by
a fragrant drying shell
reddish ink settles in
making a home
of two hands
and happy feet

A thought on acquiring a new language…

A glottal stop
Releases your phrase
A syntactical undulation
Of staggered consonants
Cylindrical vowels and
Praline clicks of the throat

(When you talk
I pay a lot of attention to
The way you sound)

Even though
For the most part
I am ostensibly silent
Behind that half-smile
And occasional giggle
Are crackling synapses that
Converse and collide

To forge me
As if by magic
A fancy new pathway

There’s only so much you can say about the heat

there’s only so much you can say about the heat

– it’s a drag, yeah, a real queen of the desert
it’s blisters of sleep yoked to bubblegum sheets
blisters of sleep yoked to bubblegum sheets
you know, it’s a drag –

before you start repeating yourself

but honestly

who decides to install an
air conditioner
at one-thirty in the morning?

In the tree hollow where my soul lives

Here in this tree hollow is where my soul lives
Cocooned by ground scored with ruts and ripples, my roots
Have been fashioned into mounds by
Tectonic up-swell

I am telling you, my love
This old stuff
Is what I’m made of

Let me give to you these gifts so that
You might begin living:
Shoots of another infant plant
Germinating from cracked earth
Encouraged by rain

Take those shoots
Look at that natal sky
Wake up from your dreaming!
Tell me you understand
That you are already
Living within it
You are a part

My love for you emerges
From that very same vastness
Your home is the hollow in my tree, and
Mine is a trunk
Whereon something might
Be etched

While the sun played a rhythm on the ground

The street sighed as it prodded a blister
Bodies slumped in the shadows they’d found
Dust spiralled and breached
Filled the cracks in my feet
While the sun played a rhythm on the ground

I determined to carry on walking
Pricked my ears for that burnt and brown sound
Could be sure I heard more
Than the thump of a door
‘Twas the sun and its rhythm on the ground

The wind blew a smooth incantation
Its vocalise gathered me round
My internal din
Murmured out through my skin
While the sun played its rhythm on the ground

I breathed awe of its great expectations
Of its constancy, scorching and proud
And when soon came my turn for percussion
I learned
In the sun I beat rhythm on the ground

I played so my arms filled with fire
Kicking dirt ’til it whorled in a cloud
Through the prickle-hot pain
I grew happy again
As the sun made its rhythm on the ground

Fragile harmonies bloomed ’til they echoed
Our tempo, the rhythm, was drowned
I shouldered the drum
(We agreed we were done)
And trekked home with the silence I found