rewound world 12: transmutation

Previously on the rewound world: at a café in the Nullarbor Plain, four post-apocalyptic travelers were transmuted into two, Autónomo and Primaverity, by the insignificantly bearded waiter. The first episode is here.

We bid the waiter farewell, thanked him
out of misguided courtesy, and he returned
our diary, responsibly accepted
by Autónomo.


We journeyed to the north,
and on a Sunday evening,
we reached a castle
made of sand or ice or quartz.

The battlements and ramparts were festooned
with ash and glitter, and from each turret,
bright auroral fireworks shot into the waning sky,
a welcome or a warning from the occupants.

You’re a dreadful notetaker,
Primaverity commented,
Discontinuous and ambiguous.


There exist unreachable realms,
lost through searching
for the mirage of truth.

In one of them, we’d been together,
Primaverity and I, not driven
from each other by the fear
of unexpected transmutation.

The halogenic realms are borderless,
as uncertain of their form as bromine,
and there, all sounds are whispers
beside you on the pillow.

We are of our bodies, the voices say,
chemical compositions with a middle eight.
Do you remember what might have been
the soft apocalypse?
Did you go forward with a weighing
of abstention and acceptance?

In two ways, you may face the incomprehensible:
—turn back to safety, cradling your misunderstandings
—embrace its mystery with feline curiosity


Primaverity pressed a buzzer or rang a bell
or disturbed a cicada by the door.

From within the frozen castle (where all fantasies
begin and end), footsteps approached.

Tragic melodrama is redundant
in this world, said Primaverity,
and you’re still a terrible notetaker.



  • The town of Nullarbor in South Australia broke state temperature records this week, reaching 49.9C. Many more records will be broken during the soft apocalypse of anthropogenic climate change.
  • the previous transmutation
  • Residences at the North Pole are a fantasy staple; one of my favorites appeared in Frankenstein Unbound by Brian Aldiss (1973).
  • Michael Dransfield, who came from another planet; one of his insights into existence is revealed in Pas de Deux for Lovers (Collected Poems, University of Queensland Press, 1987). Here is an extract:
    Morning ought not
    to be complex.
    The sun is a seed
    cast at dawn into the long
    furrow of history.


alternating realms, youtube video made with VEE, the visual evolution engine.

27 thoughts on “rewound world 12: transmutation

    • Thank you for that generous comparison, Gina. I wanted to leave uncertainty, ambiguity, making a space for hope in this concluding episode. I need some, I think many of us do. Glad you enjoyed the video; as often happens, it was a bit of an accident, and I didn’t expect it to work. Now I’m hoping to do more…

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The heat hasn’t affected your brilliance Steve. ‘Bright auroral fireworks shot into the waning sky a welcome or a warning.’ ‘Realms lost through searching for the mirage of truth’ and ‘turn back to safety cradling your misunderstandings’ are delightfully thought provoking phrases. I hope you enjoy writing as much as we enjoy reading your work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Margaret. Yes, writing is a distraction from the less pleasant parts of current reality here.

      We’ve had some relief from the bushfires over Christmas, but unfortunately the fires are too extensive to be extinguished, at least not in summer, so they are always ready to flair up again when the heat and winds return.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Autónomo seems to have swallowed an ambiguity, and it’s gone straight to his head. I think I would choose to turn back to safety, as we all know what curiosity does to Cats (also sometimes expressed as “I wonder what would happen to the cat if…?”)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I suspect Autónomo has no idea what’s going on; but he’s not the only one, he’s reflecting my state most of the time. 😸

      Cats leap where angels fear to tip-toe, although in our new world I’m not sure where the safe options are, or if they exist.


  3. As the fires burn in your part of the world, your poetry continues to add beauty to our lives, Steve. The two ways to face the incomprehensible is brilliant…I think I will go with the latter option 🙂 Happy holidays!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hope you are safe from the fires Steve. I never realised Nullarbor was a real place. The colours in your artwork are fabulous and I love the image of the castle. Feline curiosity is definitely the way to go as there’s no such thing as a safe place anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Nikita. Yes, I’m as safe as is possible, although the smoke pollution is a problem for many people. I’ll probably get a filtration unit for home eventually.

      The Nullarbor it is well known in Australia, but, embarrassingly, its Latin significance didn’t occur to me until I started writing this series.

      Glad you liked the artwork: I thought it suited the fantasy castle dream (and I agree that safe havens only exist in our imaginations).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I like the multiple choice options, a parody of the distorted reality the unreliability of witness testimonies and the addled decision-making processes that confront those of us who are priviliged to still have a perceived choice.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Paul, I’m going make a New Year Resolution to keep up with WP comments. Haha, nope.

      I agree: what to believe, where the truth is, it’s hard to know when it’s all about popularity. In the end, we have no choice about the laws of nature; they will be followed no matter what the opinion of the focus groups is. We are seeing this in Australia right now, but it’s no consolation.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I’d rather be friends with a dreadful notetaker than an unreliable narrator. 🙂
    The video reminds me of the Magic Eye series of books. I was never able to see the 3D images popping out from the 2D pictures no matter how much I tried.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “chemical compositions with a middle eight”…got a laugh from this, the Beatles of course were masters of the middle eight…”when I’m home, everything seems to be right etc”….there’s mystery, humour, loneliness in this series along with your usual originality…..keep them coming Steve and a happy new year… JIM

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jim. Glad you noticed the middle eight. Hard Day’s was definitely playing at some stage when I was writing this.

      Happy Chinese NY, well apart from the latest issue… The Chinese are taking action, but as usual with a secrecy-related time lag, and with exponential epidemics, that lag really matters. Still, I suppose my attitude is glass half empty.

      Liked by 1 person

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