Venie Environmental Poetry Prize

Anthropocene Poetics Part 2 by Noemie Huttner-Koros

the man next to me on the train has a swastika tattooed on his left forearm,
three empty seats to my left.
the man next to me on the train is wearing a green and yellow t-shirt of the Australian cricket
the man next to me on the train catches me looking, checking, making sure my history isn’t
deceiving me.
avert my gaze. History tucked into a back pocket.

English-speaking, jeans-made-in-China, op-shop green converse shoes, never-seen-a-
shtetl-or-a-pogrom, lives-with-a-housemate-on-a-diet-of-toast-and-bananas: third

culture Jew
the man next to me on the train has other stuff tattooed on his left forearm but they don’t
bear repeating so i won’t.
A Fascist on the Fremantle line
i hear grandma whisper something in my ear about how symbols chase/pounce
Questions for grandma:
-Do they chase us or do we chase them?
-Who do they pounce on?
-How hard?
-In this interspecies metaphoric paradigm, are fascists clawed or pawed creatures?
the day after the election, dad and i run a half-marathon together
we cross the finish line hands lifted to the sky in celebration
i am wearing my 350 t-shirt
By 350, I mean 350 parts per million, that is, the amount scientists have agreed is the safe
limit of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.
(when i was 16 i was obsessed with this number).
every time we pass a group of random people on the side of the roads watching the race go
past, we go full performance spectacle.
dad and i whoop and cheer and wave, like we are champions.
I hold my shirt out.
somewhere around the 8 kilometre mark dad murmurs: ‘yes, 350, that’ll be a
museum piece. long gone now, 400, 410?…’

the morning of the election,
handing out how-to-vote cards at morley primary school,
on the way riding my bike through wide suburban tree-lined streets & white picket fences,
feeling like Democracy Oprah,
every house I pass yelling:
you get to vote! and you get to vote! and you get to vote!’
democracy sausage smell wafting through the air,
through the facade of choice,
as we all line up to play the game.

that night,
watching the country becoming blue,
magicians turn over cards,
stupefied like we didn’t even see him put one card behind his back,
shuffle the deck, rigged like so, pick out more from his top hat…
but i digress / detour / delineate / deliberate / devastate…
the playwright at the panel on theatre and politics says artists shouldn’t talk about their
feelings in public political spaces:
“We don’t want to hear it, stick to the facts”,
she says.

But I’m sad, I wanna yell. Aren’t you?
dad is an agricultural plant scientist,
goes to a meeting in Seattle,
and talks to other scientists about food security.
‘how was it?’ I ask.
‘The other scientists were mostly wheat experts’, he says.
‘Most wheat cycles last ten years. They joked that we’re 3-6 wheat cycles til the end of the
feet dangling off the side of the wooden bridge at Baigup Wetlands,
meaning ‘place of rushes’,
the Derbal Yerrigan murmuring softly below.
A yellow-billed spoonbill digs digs digs.
Eduardo Kohn says all living beings think.
Animals, plants, forests, spirits,
– all living beings forming habits, using signs to make sense of the world around them, of their
world – that this pattern forming is “what makes life a semiotic process”.
“All life forms continuously engaged in appearing to one another in a process of sign making.”
That the tick differentiates between mammals and reptiles for survival,
but not between a lion or a deer because it doesn’t need to,
That the ant eaters snout is shaped like the burrows of the termites it feasts on,
That pumas don’t eat you if you’re lying sleeping face up,
because then it sees another self, another being.
sign-reading / sign-making / misconstrued signs / misreading
(i don’t know what any of this means)
(contradictions? interspecies love?)
(they are just signs after all?)
as fremantle fascist and I look at each other, across three empty train seats

[The quotes come from the book “How Forests Think: Towards an Anthropology beyond the
Human” by Eduardo Kohn (2013), published by University of California Press.]


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