Ian Gibbins


Phase 1:  Suppositions / preliminary / mutable / for the record //

Iron bars, venetian blinds, vinyl across shadows, under foot,
in the scarifying fluorescence of guilt, remand, prosecution,
no one smokes anymore, no one breathes asbestos or
whiskey or unwashed armpits. Meanwhile, behind fading
ranks and serial numbers, drenched by acrid innuendo
and fear, perhaps an answer, maybe a workable Plan B.

1. For the record, please confirm your name, the one usually recognised by local dogs, the postman, your mother-in-law:

         Ricardo, occasionally Johnny, sometimes Frank, sometimes just a click of the fingers.
         Otherwise, Alexandra (or Ali, if you prefer, or Lexy or Sandy) or else...
         * * * * * *
         Barcode || index || retrieve when ready ~ ~ insert denied.
         According to your passport, bill of lading, last will and testament, your need to fill in blanks.

[ No answer, no progress, no kisses, no flights of fancy. Is this the prospect you were trying to avoid?
Look out, Sweetheart, be careful what you wish for... ]

2. We know times are difficult. We know you have been under stress. You know we have read your alibi. Nevertheless, with all due allowance for shifting phases of the moon, impending asteroid impact, colliding black holes, you must tell us ...

the truth                               the whole truth                                nothing but the truth

[ An attempt to rationalise, to experiment with conceptualisations of free-will, to test the philosophical constraints of quantum mechanics, Dada, network theory. ]

3. We have affirmed our legal status, our rules and regulations, our responsibilities under the Act. So let’s get down to tintacks, right down to leaky gumboots and skidmarks, worm castings and broken fingernails: what about the following scenarios?

Of course...
How could it be otherwise?
Surely a joke,
a jest?
again, as always.
No comment...
(eyes closed, grimace,
feverish sweat).
Statement of Intent / Admission of Guilt / Declaration of Innocence

Pangs of Conscience /
Terms of Endearment / Conditions of Trade

Bug in the System / Fly on the Wall / Snake in the Grass

[ Prior convictions, herd immunity, comrades under arms: none of that matters.
We are simply doing our job.
Weather conditions, the league ladder, political intrigue?
Not on our radar, nowhere on our current agenda... ]

4. We have a problem. Your numbers do not add up. Help us out. Give us a hand.
    At the height of the autumn equinox, at its absolute peak, how long was ...

A hawkmoth’s wingspan
(fleeting, barely glanced).
Hours beyond reproach
or any sense of dispute.
13 chapters,
a prologue,
an afterword and index.
Your shadow,
shortly before sunset.
Just enough
(rope, chains, tie-downs).
the lawn
(unmown, turned to weed,
thistle-burred, rampant)?

your line of credit
(authorised, certified)?

her hair
(before the wine flight, the chocolate mints)?


[ There are other options: consider newspaper advertisements, sky diving, a cold snap or heatwave,
your .45 Magnum... ]

5. The voices you heard, the whispers and songs on your playlist, the relayed instructions as to what will happen next ...

         were enclosed in silence.
         echoed with chorus, falsetto, fearful castrati.
         rattled your resolve, reminded you of home.
        lost connection with navigational aides, highway markers, the full range of compass points.

[ Pages fall to the floor, dog-eared, ink-stained, as staples rust,
bindings are devoured by beetle larvae and lice.
Did you remember your lines? Have you rehearsed the escape route?
Will you be ready on the night? ]

Move on, for a glimpse of your future.

Phase 2:  Technical constraints / cover of darkness / whistle stops //

All too often, the barking dogs, caterwauls, a giant owl on the wing,
your wavering sight-lines inscribed with hesitation.
Mosquitoes strafe your ears, or else the cry of a baby
whose name evades you, whose reek of sour milk and cradlecap
 follows your breath-holds through thunder-roll curses
and the last-chance swill straight before the sunrise.

6. Although we never trust press reports, word-of-mouth innuendo, stab-in-back asides, some leading journalists have claimed ...

... as a matter of indisputable fact.
... as a matter of public record.
... as a matter of fundamental principle.
... as a matter of immediate attention.
“a publicist’s dream”
“significant and immediate risk”
“the incidents occurred”
“[a threat] to blow [name withheld] up at [undisclosed location]”

“violated ... feelings”

[  Excise and duty evasion / extortion / attempted armed robbery / conspiracy for homicide:
what more do you want? ]

7. We have the forensics, the laboratory reports, the trusted eye-witness accounts. Now, show us your side of the coin, confirm your weapon of choice ...

         Bourbon (Kentucky Straight).
         Bobbins, stainless steel, unspooled.
         Balustrade or stairwell or fire escape.
         Bandoneon, amplified, bisonoric.

[  While we understand your situation,
between here and eternity, pride and prejudice, home and away, love and liability,
it means nothing to us, other than a clue, an insight, an indication of modus operandi,
an new opening into a line of enquiry. ]

8. Who took responsibility for kindling the fire, preparing the accelerant, igniting the wick?

my hands, my heart, my guardian angel,   _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _,  the others, alone, beside, in hiding

[ There is nothing to shirk, nothing to step back from:
these demands must be met, these requirements must be assuaged. ]

9. Naturally, there was an aura of disbelief. Of course, there is doubt. Almost certainly, there will be disagreement. However, we are obliged to determine, by whatever means possible, if there...

one final sign of life.
no pulse,
no flicker,
no movement of the sweep second hand.
penance in purgatory, extended remission unlikely.
hell to pay, regardless, regardless.
was ...
is ...
will be ...

[ No need to worry about an exit strategy, we have you covered:
we know all the keycodes, the combination locks, the emergency ways out... ]

10. In case you missed the point, in case our explanations have been unconvincing, perhaps the problem is ...

         cosmopolitanism, the vicissitudes of the New Right, drifting magnetic north.
         constitutional malaise, ennui, a tendency to faint under stress.
         deracination, exile, a failure to pay the rent.
         Marinetti, Sartre, Sylvia Plath.
         laryngospasm, extravasation of essential bodily fluids, apoplexy, stroke.
         this... or this ... or this...

[ You can feel the despair.
The failure to commit is palpable.
Ducking for cover is not an option. ]

An opportunity to reconsider your case.
Confess, your life on the dotted line.


[Two interactive on-line versions of this text are available:

https://www.iangibbins.com.au/1708-2/ ]

Ian Gibbins is a widely published poet, video artist and electronic musician with four collections of poetry, all in collaboration with artists. His video and audio work has featured in gallery exhibitions, public art commissions, performances and international festivals. He previously was a neuroscientist and professor of anatomy. See www.iangibbins.com.au.
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