Academic journal article Antipodes

Ekphrasis

Academic journal article Antipodes

Ekphrasis

Article excerpt

"Manhunt Near My Home" by Irvine Homer (for Tom Garment)

The artist was a farm laborer

in what he called "jam tin country"

and himself a captive

when he painted the escapee.

Nineteen fifty-nine, Emu Plains

there met at a prison farm,

while they were held for car theft,

the young Simmonds and Newcombe.

They broke out. One was caught

in days. This picture reminds

of how at fourteen I admired

that "Houdini," Kevin Simmonds.

Each day for weeks, the largest

manhunt in our history,

and yet the wireless told us

that again he'd slipped away,

despite 500 police,

with submachine guns and flares

and a helicopter, and despite

the 300 volunteers.

For all the legends, rebellion

is light in our inheritance.

What outraged the populace

was in fact a mischance

Surprised, in making their escape,

one of them gave a smack

to a guard, with a baseball bat,

and caused his skull to crack.

Something they had often seen

in a Saturday picture show,

but the sort of weight to apply

was difficult to know.

There are, 1 realize now,

further victims in such a crime.

They made him "comfortable"

with a blanket- waste of time.

The police look to their own

and moved like a bushfire;

brought back Ray Kelly, inspector,

who'd wanted to retire;

his style, an axe's bite;

the professed killer of three men;

in trench coat, felt hat, iced

spectacles; temper worn thin.

Newcombe was caught. Later,

they found what Simmonds would do

was break into cars and listen

to the police radio.

He flickered through ragged suburbs,

eluding the blades of torches,

dissolved in misty streetlight

(food sometimes on back porches).

After school, with my bike, I had

the newspaper delivery

for a country town; and each day

paused, to follow this story

in different papers. Then pedaled

at twilight about the town

on gravel streets and grass verges;

the rolled newspapers thrown

into the yards I pretended

were sticks of dynamite

that would scare off the bloodhounds

and put the police to flight.

A rebel with cause- the suburbs.

Ahead of the sixties, his hair

like Elvis. I admired him

more than any pop star.

And here he is in this picture,

near Newcastle, New South Wales,

a hundred miles from Sydney,

in a culvert as light fails.

Along the base, a dirt road,

at a see-saw's tilt, and under

this is where he's hidden;

above, two policemen linger.

To the left, the road turns in,

along a black, cairn-shaped hill;

from the right, a forest headland;

between's a skewed triangle

of orange grass, with wind-break trees. …

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