Self-portrait: Robert Lukins


Autumn 2022

A book, Loveland, will be published and I’m still not sure how much of all this I will include in the story I tell of the novel. When the time comes, I hope only that I find some pride. I hope I can add it to the good side of the scale, to work against the weight on the bad. If your scale ends up anywhere near level then you’re one of the rare ones.

Winter 2021

I’d never spoken of this because I spent so long moving on from it. It makes me sick to think of trying to gain from it. To have it become the story I sell. Yet, here we are. Here we are because not speaking about all this has become its own trap. A little cell with padded walls. So here we are and I’m writing this down to see how it feels. What it achieves.

Robert Lukins, photo by Eve Wilson
Robert Lukins, photo by Eve Wilson
Winter 2019

I sit on a mossy rock on the side of a Tasmanian mountain. It’s freezing, it’s just dawn, and I’ve come again to the end of things. I raise my arms and laugh like I’m in a bad film and I give in. I ask nature, the universe, all that, to deliver me a vision. I go to the place that I’ve avoided for so long, where things are uncertain and magic can be true. Where reality is a wall that leaks.

Easily it comes, the vision, and it comes in the form of a story. Complete and all-consuming. Two women standing in the shallows of a Nebraskan lake, fire all around. I laugh again to be back in that bad film.

Summer 1998

The weeks, months, of sleeping wherever feels safest. Garages, the concrete outside the Gabba, the hollow beneath one of the fig trees in the park. Making calls from public phone boxes. Saying the things I’m required to. It’s Brisbane so the nights are warm and I only need to worry about someone stealing my stuff.

Summer 1997

The first time the police nab me I’m naked. They guess I’m high, I suppose. The summer of breaking into cars and houses and stealing worthless things. Jumping out of moving cars. Getting to the top of the buildings in the city and making the leap between rooftops. The summer of visions. So then a year, a year and a half, off-and-on in the psychiatric hospital. The days sitting outside on plastic chairs; the guests making a smoking circle under the shade of the big gum. The escapes and the police. The room with the padded walls (they really have those). The funerals. The rounds of ECT. The overdoses and the coma.

Here, at the end of things, a mind could change reality. Not the perception but reality itself. Or was it that the line between the two was permeable? This was it. The line between things is permeable. It’s a realisation that I would learn to shield myself from. You can’t get by in the regular world with this thought. You bury it. You talk it away. You take up yoga. The thought would remain though, quiet and distant: the line between worlds is permeable.

In the 2019 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, Robert Lukins’ The Everlasting Sunday was shortlisted for both the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing and the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction. His new novel, Loveland, will be published in March 2022.

This story appears in Openbook spring 2021.