Perfect Blue
Kona Macphee
 
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Commentary: Self-portrait aged 8 with electric fence

When I was a child, we lived in a house that bumped up against the outermost membrane of suburbia. Just beyond the communal parkland of our housing development, there were farms, dams and orchards - agricultural land that has now been swallowed up by Melbourne's ever-expanding urban sprawl.

Quite near the house, beside the half-empty dam that was used as an informal hard-garbage dump, and from which we extracted a variety of mangled and soggy treasures, there was a field that intermittently contained cows. The cows were kept in this field by the judicious combination of a fragile-looking fence and an electrified wire. We proved the liveness of the wire by holding grass-blades against it, and counting the tiny clicks of attenuated shock that transmitted themselves like a pulse down the wavering green ribbon.

If you approached the fence, the cows would often come to you, hoping to lick the salt from your hands with their slabby, slobbery tongues. It was all too easy to bump against the electrified wire, and, if your timing was unlucky, receive a belt of electricity that slammed up your arm as far as your shoulder, leaving it tight and trembling.

In my experience, the writing process has genuine cathartic power; the sudden discharge of electricity to ground, through the channel of a human body, seems like an apt metaphor for the abrupt release of stored-up emotion that the act of writing can bring.

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