Casuarina Woman
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S e c r e t  P l a c e s

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by Hazel Smith

This is the story of Casuarina, but it is a story with several speakers.
This is my voice, not Casuarina’s.

This is a story of separation, but also a tale of threading lost needles.
Breaking to be, bleeding as healer.

                                        This is a story of forests and flight-paths, songlines and
                                        shellfire, cross-pollination of time-warps and mind trails.

This is a story which speaks for itself through mummified skins,
secrets as peeling.


                                            Cathy, what is the thought you were dreaming?

                                   A man leaving a room with a blood red door

                                               When Casuarina was a child she grew the most
                                                beautiful wings. They were white with purple spots.
                                                And the spots were ringed round with gold. But her
                                                father cut them off, so she could never fly. But later
                                                she decided she could move just as well on foot. So
                                                she went on her travels where she met a man who
                                                promised her eternal life. Casuarina was fairly dis-
                                                cerning so she said, if you give me eternal life what
                                                do you want in return? And the man said, I will
                                                extract my price, but you must agree in advance
                                                without knowing the terms. You have everything to
                                                gain and nothing to lose. Look at what I am offering
                                                you. This chance will never come again.
                                                Casuarina did not hesitate. She said, I certainly will
                                                not agree to that. I never pay for anything up-front.

Cass loves the simple things in life, coffee and cakes, skimming the
newspaper without taking anything in. This morning she reads about
the Siberian ice-maiden, undisturbed for 2,500 years, they think
she may have been a shaman. The dead in Sarajevo and the slaying
in Rwanda. The Hindmarsh affair. She’s pleased they are legalising
euthanasia. She likes TV and trash too, there’s a woman on Donahue
who thinks she’s reincarnated. She walks in the woods and finds a
shady spot to lie down. It’s great to be alive! Most of all she loves
secrets. To be able to think anything and nobody will ever know. All
those forbidden thoughts, those veiled acts, those hidden faces.
Yet things trouble her, they knock
but she never quite knows who they
are. Rooms sealed with red wax.                   Casuarina’s broadminded and reads both
Planes dropping bombs. Wounds
like tattooes. She thinks of the ice-                Freud and Jung without feeling there is any
maiden in her wooden coffin
roused from eternal sleep. Faces                   competition between the two. She likes to
come back to her, like the links from
a spreadout, recalcitrant sequence.                imagine herself lying in a grove with all her

                                                                    clothes off. Faces appear from above and stare

                                                                    down at her but she doesn’t mind. She likes the

                                                                    way they look at her, she likes the way they

                                                                    stare at it.


                Casuarina what’s needling you?

                                                 I just realised when I’m enjoying myself,

                                                  it’s always at someone else’s expense.

the silent slit from which voices erupt
   the threading of a needle with nerves
      a word-web spun from the wildest text

                       a book which stirs out of crinkled skins
                         a story made by a woman from stones
                            a sign composed of ambiguous dots


                                          the hollow cry of the hidden costs
                                             a journey towards a land beyond loss
                                                 the purple light on the reddest rock


       a place which is every and no place you know
          a wish that is never the want that you will
             a meaning that moves as memory unpicks


Cass, which wastes do your thoughts inscribe?

which songs does your silence kill?

which secret sites are buried in blood?

W e  h a v e  t r a v e l l e d  a l o n g  w a y   but the
                                                             is yet
                                                                to come

We  stood  in  line  at  the  edge  of  the  pit. They  started  to  shoot. My  daughter  kept  saying
“mummy  they  are  shooting  people, let’s  run away’’. They  shot  my  mother and  father, in
front  of  my  eyes. My  sister  was  a  beautiful  woman, with  dark  eyes and hair. She
begged to be saved. She met the guard’s gaze and said “let me live”. But he took
no heed. My daughter kept imploring me “let’s run away”. She was five years
old. He told me to give her up, but she would not go. A shot was fired, I
did not see, I could not look. Then he fired at me. I fell into the pit.
I knew nothing.
When I awoke I thought that this was the land of the dead. Then
I knew I was still in the world and maybe I had a chance to
live. The pit was corpse-full. There were limbs on top
of me, over my face. There were other bodies help-
ing me push. But I had not the strength and if I
had risen I would have been shot again. It
was still light. I waited till night, I waited
for hours, I could not breathe. Then
when it was dark, I climbed
out, crawled away. Now
I know the guilt that

         These are the stories of Casuarina, but these fables leap
            from several seedlings. These are my words, not Casuarina’s.

                                 This is a story of places and people but also the intertwining of spindles.
                                     Blinding to see, wounding as weaving.

                          This is a story of pine-groves and pistols, bright sun and dark shade, links between
                              lines and rites beyond living.

                                              This is a story which pleads for itself through dread and delight,
                                                  secrets which listen.


                                                    Cathy, whose is the death you are grieving?

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