empty of future, renew the sign: lucent paradox, ineluctable trace ...


whited sepulchres

Recall returning once to Sydney from the South Coast & seeing the towers of the City ahead, rising nacreous out of the grey-green of the schlerophyll forest - like bones afloat on a shimmering haze of gasoline residue. A whited sepulchre ... it's from the Gospel of Matthew, 23:27:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.

Probably the most famous literary usage of this motif is in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, referring perhaps to Brussels: In a very few hours I arrived at a city that always makes me think of a whited sepulchre. Yet any City, white or otherwise, might be characterised thus.

Remember, much earlier, my first sight of New York, from somewhere out on the wide polluted lands of the Jersey shore, & being astonished because, in my naivety, I had not thought those towers would all, or almost all, be flat-roofed. Had imagined spires, pinnacles, palaces, not an agglomeration of rectangles jostling skywards.

Another time, summer, down on the harbourside at Elizabeth Bay, after a day of bushfires, the setting sun appeared below the heavy grey clouds over the City & turned everything an unearthly white, some post-apocalyptic light whose radiance seemed skeletal.

And yet ... are we to paint our tombstones black?


white cities

The first White City was in Chicago, 1893, The World's Columbian Exposition; this was also the first time that an Exhibition included a separate amusement area, which somehow came to take the name given, from the colour of the buildings, to the Exhibition as a whole.

The next was in London, built in 1908 at Wood Lane near Shepherd's Bush, for an Anglo-French Exhibition. The stadium for the 1908 Olympic Games was included in the complex. Again, the name seems to have been adopted from the colour of the buildings, and it isn't clear if it was also a memory of the Chicago version. Some contemporary postcards of the London avatar:

Sydney's White City, of which there are a couple of photographs here, was just for fun, an entertainment precinct, a Luna Park. As was often the case, when it was closed, bits and pieces of it were dismantled and re-used in Amusement Parks elsewhere.

There's a Pogue's song of the same name on their 1989 Album Peace & Love; also a book by Pete Townsend of The Who. Haven't read Pete's book, or heard the song, yet, but the lyrics, which appear to refer to a dog track, go like this:


Here a tower shining bright
Once stood gleaming in the night
Where now there's just the rubble
In the hole here the paddies and the frogs
Came to gamble on the dogs
Came to gamble on the dogs not long ago

Oh the torn up ticket stubs
From a hundred thousand mugs
Now washed away with dead dreams in the rain
And the car-parks going up
And they're pulling down the pubs
And its just another bloody rainy day

Oh sweet city of my dreams
Of speed and skill and schemes
Like Atlantis you just disappeared from view
And the hare upon the wire
Has been burnt upon your pyre
Like the black dog that once raced
Out from trap two

It may well be that the White City Stadium, pulled down in 1988 to make way for BBC offices, was once used as a track for racing dogs; or there might have been a White City in Dublin, as there is in, of all places, Soweto.


eating the wind

The wind riffles through the pages of the future, out on the balcony. Finds nothing much there & passes on down the street towards the railway station. It's too late to catch a train, they've all gone west. Or east, as may be. Across the tracks & on down Sloane towards - what? The river. Listening to Tinariwen, the Radio Tisdas Sessions. We (will) all live in the desert (someday) (soon). The Simoon. Last night was a good night driving because the Devout were off work, feasting. The Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. No Arabs on the road, no Pakistanis, no Banglas or Turks. Money to be made, anywhere & everywhere. As usual, I was too tired, I came home early. Bought mats, feather pillows, today. The Umma is increasing, alone among World Religions, numbers of those who follow Islam will increase in the next few years, reaching towards two billion. An ethical sense of community that we have abandoned, I always think, handing back my keys, getting the receipt for my gas, such politesse among those young Muslim men who attend seemingly all of the all night gas stations. Mixed with an obscure pity for that I am, lost, eating the wind. It's what they say in Indonesia when asked, what are you doing? Going nowhere, doing nothing, eating the wind. Looking for the Umma, perhaps. Or not. Just looking ... ghosts tall as the wind / up the undertakers street / to the crossroads / where the gauleiter calls ein zwei drei ...


zig zag devil


IM Sally Rodwell 1950 - 2006