shooting at shadows

No, this is not a review of Scott Sneddon/Darkwing Dubs’ new poetry/performance work by the same title – although that’s certainly a blog post waiting to be born after the skinpeeling joy of Laura St Festival yesterday.

This is something entirely different, although in some senses it hums on the same frequency as parts of Scott’s extended poetry play, touching – as it does – on both the collective journey for meaning through the light and the dark, and the greater, personal journey to understand just “who is our solid”? But more about that later.

This post is, instead, about living and dying in Brisbane or at least some early stab in the light-dark about it.

I won’t explain the project overly at this point, because I think that applying the word project is a serious overstatement, and sometimes you just have to start cooking with the ingredients you’ve got, before you even decide what you’re making. And some things are kind of obvious, even when they’re not fully explained. So this is what’s cooking, good looking.

The light at 5am in my house today is unexpectedly calming and soft, grey in a way that is not simply a dilution of black, but a genuinely warm tone of its own making – the perfect colour of ambiguity and unresolve generated by un-silvered clouds.  Lately, the mornings have been golden and heat struck, the sunlight ringing like a bell, even at 5am.  But today, it’s just the right tone of quiet and tender to write to you about Trish.

I have written about her recently, and other times in the past. Finding one of the earliest poems that I have about Trish, I smiled to see a line asking people to look “past the Audrey charm” to see the “heat-fired porcelain grace”. I stand by that imagery. Trish is truly one of the most physically and emotionally beautiful people that I have known but – like delicate fine china – outsiders can often imagine that that beauty is somehow innate, rather than the outcome of unimaginable heat, or equally miss the point that the void, the vessel, that is created (the non-being) is exactly what gives that beautiful material (the being) its value and its art. The cup and the things it holds are the same unified beauty. For Trish, I see that her beauty and her pain are indivisible elements of the overall definition of her character and the strength that she brings to her existence.

She and I talked recently, about what it means for her to be alive, how she feels about death, and if and how that connects to her experience of this place – Brisbane, a city that for me at least (as an outsider) had always been defined by the most expansively banal elements of Australian suburban culture.

This is some of what we talked about.

Thank you to Madredeus for the fado that underscores it. Don’t fret, you’ll be future-spared endless cinema soundwash. But this just felt right for today. Fado is a beautiful musical genre from Portugal, renowned for its mournful sentiments of regret, fatalism, and the unresolvable longing of saudade. Ironically, although Trish is a Carla Patricia, I’ve often nicknamed her La Tris(h)tessa, evoking as it does the Kerouac novel, the Latinate sense of a woman who is sad and my own terrible impersonations of her mother-tongue.

Like many of my “projects”, I always feel I’m desperately exposed in terms of what it says about me in that I want to do this at all, rather than objectively creating something “abstractly” or independently meaningful as “art”, apart from the meaning I ascribe to it. Reflecting back on this conversation with Trish, which moved me in such a silencing and lovely/painful way, I realise again that my definition of love relates entirely to the way that people talk with each other. Every small act of honesty and vulnerability between two people is my contemporary chanson de geste. Whether you love for a moment in the street, or a lifetime as partners, I have frequently considered the greatest demonstration of power/love to be the acknowledgement of weakness, the most precious objects the ones we have already allowed to be lost. Love is the turning away from the heroic and the monumental, to gaze at the humble and unfixed.

I can only say thank you to Trish for the years of friendship, for this conversation and others like it, for all the many moments of love.


This bird is a phoenix burnt to brightness in the ashes, golden and with some fire-forged song in its throat, ready to unfurl each precious wing, to count each feather on its own wings, and then, as each as enumerated quill shudders, ready to take flight; the sun will strike it with a heat shimmer light, a light so bright that this bird will be seen for miles and miles, everyone lifting their heads from their fields where they toil, each one wondering just what can have made that burst of life, of light, of bursting life, this bird of sadness, of joy, of life burnt to brightness, and then, this bird it will take flight.

By Eleanor Jackson

Eleanor Jackson is a Filipino Australian poet, performer, arts producer, cyclist, writer, gal about town, feminist, freewheeler, and friend.


  1. My experiences of place are always intertwined with the people I meet. And that’s one reason (Eleanor!) why I keep wanting to go back to that sweet little cafe up on Enoggera Tce where we had brekky with Trish and Russell. Because on that one particular morning it seemed like the centre of the world.

    I am counting on the attraction of family ties and a certain poet to continue to draw Trish back to Brisbane … so I can share the occasional thunderstorm with her.

  2. This post could not be more relevant as this point in time as I’m sitting in the hospital feeding my newborn girl and telling the midwives that yes, I am here to stay in Brisbane having pulled up my Maple tree roots…but that post is not about me.

    Having said that, that is what meaningful art does – it strikes a cord with the center of ourxistence.

    How incredibly brave of Trisha to talk about her experiences and contemplate these powerful concepts that are often left unsaid. Having met her at the family dinner, I am not surprised at the eloquence with which she speaks. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  3. Such moving comments by such genuine beautiful piece. And you Ms Jackson, your magic never ceases to amaze me – i’m honoure, in awe & forever loving you.

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