2003 - Saloni M swims East
Michael Elliman (aka Michael Linden) was born in the industrial north of England in 1951. Came to Australia as a Fairbridge Society child migrant in 1959. Grew up in Elsternwick but the muse led him inexorably to Kris Hemensley’s La Mama readings and the Melbourne poetry renaissance of the late sixties.
He has written verse since his early teens but has rarely published, preferring to privilege the spoken over the printed word.
Studied at Melbourne Uni. for many years – far longer than his sanity could tolerate – picking up degrees in English Language & Literature, and Linguistics. So, inevitably, he now makes a living as a wholesale vegan baker punctuated with occasional forays into inner-city spoken word venues to keep in touch with his soul.
The prose pieces printed here arose out of a seven month sojourn in a mountain village in the Troodos range of southern Cyprus in 1985.
You can email
The huge furry caterpillar was halfway to the shelter of the vine leaves when he spotted it.
With all the brutish instinct of a born hunter he sprang to his feet, rushed to the whitewashed wall, and repeatedly stabbed at the creature with the hot tip of his cigarette. Then, with obvious pride, he turned to face the other guests in the courtyard.
But the stranger yelled at him. Her words tore into his drunken consciousness creating a sudden stillness.
He, a killer? He, a murderer? Who was this woman? He'd never seen her before in the village. Where did she come from? She didn't belong here. She must be mad to shame him like this in front of everyone.
He glanced at the remains of the caterpillar which were oozing in a thick green glob down the stark white wall.
Ignoring the stranger's cries he strode back to his table and sat down again. Smirking, he took a deep gulp of brandy then let out a loud nervous laugh.
She wasn't going to spoil his night, damn her! But he'd find out who she was; and then, maybe...
The stranger and her family must have left early; for later, when he looked again, he saw their table was empty.
He stayed on at the party until dawn. The young men would leave that day to become conscripts. His brother was one of them.
The village was bidding them farewell.
They buried him on a hot afternoon in the cemetery above the village.
The army had sent its representatives: a couple of strutting officers, and a motley handful of privates to fire the salute.
They lined up as discretely as they could, well back on the slope behind the other mourners.
There was a string
of histrionic commands; then they pressed the triggers of their automatic
Later, of course, they would say that her grief had overtaken her reason but we knew that every word she said was true.
With the last
volley I glanced up into the harsh blue sky.
I could not have
Why should I
have doubted such a sign?
Two weeks after
the funeral we were walking downhill when a car appeared
We stood to one
side and let it pass.
told me he was the dead man's brother,
His brother had
been crushed against a wall
The dust raised
by the car settled on our skin and clothing.
In the vineyards
along the road the grapes had reached their full size
In progress there
the real cost when they contemplate the future profit?
As the roots
are disturbed, the trees felled, the earth torn asunder,
Now we have left
the land and turned to the town with all its phantom pleasures:
We have sold
our bodies to a toil from which we do not share the harvest.
once took in the swoop of the swallow,
He dodges the
cars at the crossroads.
The ships in
the harbour have unloaded their goods.
Later he will
go to sell his soul and bravely smoke a cigarette
© Michael Elliman 2003.