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“Superfluous lags the vet’ran on the stage…”, Samuel Johnson, l. 308, The Vanity of Human Wishes, 1749, derived from Juvenal, Satire X.

Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. Deuteronomy 32:7, King James Bible.

It’s no use. The Veteran cannot hide from the truth. It’s not just that his triumph in Northern skies comes in the middle of a Coronavirus-infested winter, as humanity struggles to celebrate the turning of the year with breaking heart, or that in Southern skies his diminutive opposition to a searing Sun needs the compensation of the un-moonlit symmetry of the Eurocentric mythical Twins to impress, but having crossed the Lethe immediately before syzygy, he realizes in his curtain call only the magnitude of the reintegration which lies ahead for the audience (who are yet oblivious to the Acheron River which daytime has just crossed), and the possibility that he no longer has the will to help. Oh God, not more feelings!

On the other hand, the Veteran has died and been reborn so many times that the Bardo provides his second name: “The Hell You Say!” The Tenth Bardo House of Boredom is one he particularly enjoys, where the cleansing of the Lethe affords him the luxury of staring out of the window of the Northern Tropical Indolence bus on his way to Total Withdrawal, paying no attention to dark continents rolling him around their clocks. His fellow-passengers cannot wait to get off: being bored is akin to being boring; the emissions from the bus out-thrust its propulsion; grasping is mindfully consuming acceptance; and forests of wild viruses are being cleared for the graduation of sated ignorance. “We must alight at centre-stage,” they cry. Not the Veteran. He is indifferent to the footlights, and to his demotion from a starring role for the next twenty-four times he appears on this stage: you will not see a Full Moon in Gemini (the Constellation) until January 2023.

What tortuous labyrinths of despair might just squeeze a sleeper up to the surface? What convulsions of suppressed hatred, what intestinal convolutions of corruption and deliberate pain? What catacombs of memory, what collapsed and utterly expunged escape routes out of anxiety? What tectonic shifts of catatonic stress? And reversing direction, the Ngaanyatjarra Lands in the Australian Central Ranges is no country for old fish.

It is time and memory which stamp Veteran country, a duration of exile from the permanent present. Aligned with the course of the Moon’s progress across the faintly visible constellations between Sagittarius and Gemini, Woe and Forgetting, and irrevocably past Regulus and Spica and Antares to the Acheron again, an artesian underworld meanders beneath a landscape dotted with caves, one of which is yours, another mine.