Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Vera Di Campli San Vito


'If you would have the message of the Gods
to direct your life, look for that which repeats,
again and again…'
                             — Marion Zimmer Bradley

Taking my leave but wanting to stay
It'll all come with me, anyway
These small revolutions in my head –
Will the Gods explain them when I'm dead?

Have a nice life

You, with a hole in your sock,
red beard, long straight hair,
looking to belong somewhere.
The mild autumnal air is still
and at last, at last I don’t
care for this struggle any more –
wish you all the best
and have a nice life. For the rest
I’ll put you out of my mind,
let no thoughts of you intrude,
lest I’m tempted into longing.
You, with your quick blue eyes,
cruel mouth, airtight heart –
make yourself another cup of tea
and relax. This is the last you’ll see
of me.

Dead End

You’re at this dead end
where pavement meets wall.

There’s no good friend  

on whom you can call.

Where pavement meets wall
a skip’s overflowing.
On whom can you call
where are you going?

A skip’s overflowing
what you’ve not said.

Where are you going?

Shed your black dread.

What you’ve not said
crows pick and crow.
Shed your black dread
don’t feel so low.

Crows pick and crow
shadow thoughts scatter.
Don’t feel so low
know it doesn’t matter.

Shadow thoughts scatter
where crow spirits fly.
Know it doesn’t matter.
Ask yourself why

where crow spirits fly
there’s no good friend.
Ask yourself why
you’re at this dead end.

Halfway to –  (post-journey reflections)

Limited express tracks over the river
between towers of glass under mare’s tail skies.

Outstretched arms of cranes point to tunnels &
silver escalators moving deeper to a centre.

To unearth the uncommon: our destination.
All the newness of spring.

Blankness comes from movement,
like a horse in windy weather: keep it
moving & it won’t spook.

Sweeten the feeling.
If all this disappeared, what would take its place?

Peppercorns & pines, more sun than ever &

We’re swimming in camaraderie,
the air serene, mare’s tails swishing in the blue.

Each stop another line written
yet lost in this formlessness.

Alphington not Framlingham & Ivanhoe no crusader.
Poplars & pickets recede.

Red & green signal lights blink,
tracks slide together – the horizon.

Here is a platform for our company,
we work on the move.

Cranes beckon us back to glass towers,
each thought fluid as river water.

No fixed frame of reference – only a to & fro
till each finds a still point: blank, lined, squared.

What lies beyond?
Bend in the river, curve of the tracks.

Wind Poem #1

Oh the wind is anything but ordinary
in its organ loft in the clouds.

It turns the washing to origami
and blows leaves off the oleander.

An obstreperous ogre huffing and puffing
it makes a dust bowl of everything.

We wait for the off-season,
onlookers of an occult game of the elements.

This wind wants to nuzzle my norks
and make my nipples stand on end.

Wind Poem #2

This dun coloured dray horse
pulls a heavy load.
Its dreary work is never done.

Accompanied by the music of a dumb piano
he stops now and then to pluck
a mouthful of eau-de-Nil coloured grass.

All never ending work is divine
by nature, whether or not
it makes you feel ecstatic.

Eden never had electric lights
and living there meant
you could never be eclectic.

Wind Poem #3

Around the time of the summer solstice
the twins next-door would sleepwalk in my garden.

I’d taught them short-division
and we were working on the long.

Stalwart in their dreams, they used to
spit at snails on the grass,
ran the spectrum of bizarre acts.

Once I saw them breathe
into the spiracle of a stick insect.

They lived within their own sphere
and were supicious of all else.


When I arrive home later than expected
she's pacing up and down the street
one hand shielding her eyes
the other clutching a wooden spoon.

Never will I understand
why I'm punished when I'm late.
Sometimes, I have a good reason.
Shouldn't she be glad to see me?

But no. She has to Teach me a Lesson.
'Wait till you have kids –
then you'll know what it's like to worry.'
But I haven't. And I don't.

So what do I do instead?
Perfect my ability to get waylaid.

Dare's Lane, Ewshot

A woman rides a dapple grey horse
on a blue sky winter's afternoon,

rides a steady, collected canter
da-da dum da-da dum da-da dum.

She goes round big, goes round small,
navigates jumps and obstacles, then

halts at the far end of the manège,
dismounts in one swift, fluid movement,

adjusts the bridle and with slight effort
remounts. The big grey awaits her sign.

I lean on a fence a short distance away,
standing in mud, foot-numb.

Relentlessly round and round they go:
da-da dum da-da dum da-da dum.

She's rocking gently on her cantering
horse, a constant slow-time rhythm.

I watch and watch and wish it was me;
it's a perfect day for riding.

Little Mermaid

First time I broke the waves
and saw him, he danced
till dawn on his ship.
When the storm came
and he was drowning,
I gathered him in my arms,
kissed him and wished
he might live. I saved him.
But I lost myself.

At home I’d embrace
my statue, remember
the prince’s head,
limp on my breast,
the curve of his mouth
damp locks of his hair.

Imagine my desire,
my fierce, fearless hope,
wanting always to be
amongst humans,
amongst forests,
fields and mountains.

Love is a gamble.
I gambled my heart,
my art, for love.
I crossed my destiny,
paid a price.

My prince, I saw the best
in you, believed you would
give your best to me.
I left home and family
for you, forever lost
my siren’s voice for you,
lost my tail, my fishy scales,
and you married another.
I saved you, not myself.

On his wedding night
I danced and laughed,
though daggers
stabbed my feet,
plunged deeper still
into my heart.

O bride, who cherished
my story in your childhood,
hear me now.
You will never
change your destiny,
try as you might –
never change another,
love them as you will.
Accept your fate,
love others as they are.
And be wise to whom
you give your heart.


From a potterer

What can I tell you about myself? You, a stranger. I guess we’re all strangers to start with and, as someone once said, “How could the world continue if somebody didn’t kiss a stranger?” Autobiography reminds me of being asked by someone you’ve just met, “So, what do you do?” 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt like a black sheep. My family’s traditional values and love of material comfort and security frustrates my less pragmatic ideals. Perhaps it began when I started to show a love for animals? The only pets I was allowed were goldfish, tadpoles, budgerigars and mice. My father kept a succession of sulphur-crested cockatoos. Cats, dogs, and even guinea pigs were out of the question, never mind the fact that for a while it seemed that every stray dog and lost kitten would follow me home. What I wanted most of all, of course, was a pony. I grew up on the banks of the Yarra River, in an inner suburb of Melbourne, and I was obsessed with horses. When I was twelve or thirteen, I used to visit an old Thoroughbred, Matlock, at Creswick Reserve, having befriended his owner, a girl my age whose parents had succumbed to their daughter’s desire for a horse. One day, Matlock wandered out of his yard, out on to the main road. He was hit by a car and had to have stitches in his head. Even I knew that the city was no place for a horse.

Having decided that when I grew up I wanted to be a veterinary surgeon, I worked as a veterinary nurse for a local practice all through high school. I began by volunteering, just because I wanted to be around the animals, but eventually was offered a part-time job. I worked on Saturdays and in the school holidays. Even before I finished high school, I knew I wouldn’t have the grades to enrol in veterinary science. I studied maths, biology, chemistry and physics, but I wasn’t any good. The standard of the teachers at my school didn’t help. I barely scraped through my leaving exams and eventually completed an arts degree in creative writing, literature and music history.

I was always wayward. It came with my image of myself as a rebel. Having heard the wayward youth stories of others, I’m aware that it’s all relative. My rebelliousness was mild to say the least, but in the context of my parents’ strictness, it counted for something. Although I never felt particularly encouraged in my interests,  neither was I expected to do anything I didn’t want to, apart from find a suitable husband, marry and have children. None of this eventuated. I was always disappearing on my bicycle, sneaking off, late coming home, worried about getting into trouble. Once, in my student magazine/radio days, I arrived home at 2am with a long-stemmed red rose and a fifty dollar note in my hand. I had a hard time explaining to Dad that I’d been working legitimately, packing up a college fashion show.

I’ve spent all my life around books. My father loved books, especially encyclopaedias, dictionaries and atlases. I devoured books when I was a kid – from fairytales (The Little Mermaid made me cry) to popular children’s fiction by authors such as Mary O’Hara, KM Peyton, the Pullein-Thompson sisters, John Christopher, LM Montgomery and SE Hinton. I read lots of pony books, until my English teacher suggested I was a little too old for pony books now and might like to read something more grown-up. I don’t think he suggested anything in particular though, and so I came home from the local library with titles by Ian Fleming, Gore Vidal and Vladimir Nabokov (who dedicated all his novels to his wife, Vera). Perhaps they seemed the most “grown up” books to me? My mother said I’d go blind if I read too much. I paid no attention to her. I’ve worked in secondhand bookshops, in a university bookshop and in lots of different libraries. My hands have absorbed quantities of book dust and grime. The acid in the paper dries the skin.

I have friends who, like me, feel that they are in the world but not of it. Perhaps it relates to the black sheep feeling, its roots in our upbringing? Some of these friends I met at a Womenspirit camp in the early 90s. These women are the sanest, strongest, smartest people I know – creative, artistic, psychic, able to walk across a bed of hot coals at will. In theory, we’re capable of doing anything we want. In practice, we’re limited by the society we live in, the choices we make, our lack of confidence in ourselves. We struggle on, pull through, ride our ups and downs, our lives and the Great Weaving ultimately a mystery. My friends have had a great influence on my life. I’ve learnt about all sorts of things from them. Their presence shapes my identity, as does their absence.

When I finally departed Melbourne in 1993, bound for London via a visit to the relatives in Italy, I felt like a caged bird set free, with all the ambivalence that implies. I lived in London for nine years and loved it, worked mainly in libraries and, for the last two years of my stay, at The Poetry Society in Covent Garden. I’ve never felt quite settled in Melbourne – the grass has always seemed greener elsewhere. Having been back for ten years, I still dream of a place in the country – just me and my pony.



Monday, August 13, 2012

Love By Any Name

John Unger, the man who is pictured lulling his 19-year-old arthritic dog, who is racked with pain, to sleep in the water to ease the animal's suffering has revealed he is only repaying the favour after his faithful companion rescued him from despair.Mr Unger, who is now 49, initially adopted Schoep 19 years ago with an ex-fiance. But after the relationship ended he fell into depression and told the Duluth News Tribune that one night he went to a breakwater off Milwaukee, where he contemplated suicide. "To be honest with you, I don’t think I’d be here if I didn’t have Schoep with me (that night)," he said. "He just snapped me out of it. I don’t know how to explain it. He just snapped me out of it. … I just want to do whatever I can for this dog because he basically saved my ass. I’m just repaying a favour."

The pair have been inseparable since Schep was a pup, but Mr Unger was recently informed the dog had developed arthritis, which led to the now-famous picture, taken by his photographer friend Hannah Stonehouse Hudson. “Schoep falls asleep every night when he is carried into the lake,” Ms Hudson told Mailonline. "The buoyancy of the water soothes his arthritic bones. Lake Superior is very warm right now, so the temp of the water is perfect."

Schoep's veterinarian, Erik Haukaas, told Mailonline: "John is a great guy but he doesn't have a whole lot of money. He does the best can to care for the dog but he's failing he's slowing down. Most dogs don't live near this long."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bob Dylan

Water-colour on paper by Bob Dylan.

                       'Self Portrait With One Eye Closed On A Winters Day'

31st July 2012
“Dylan has been challenged about his use of material being plagiarist. His album Modern Times included lines lifted from blues songs and from the Civil War poet Henry Timrod. And recent exhibitions of his paintings turned out to contain images from other sources.”

 ♣ ♣ ♣

About a year ago Dylan had this to say, relevant to the above and other aspects related to the current era named by the intelligentsia from the academy, the arts, letters and literature as ‘Post Modernist’:

 “Well you know they used the term ‘modern’ early last century and now they call the theory of what’s happening in the world of ideas ‘post-modern’ among others. You know – no absolutes, no absolute reality, no absolute first cause, no absolute rule of behaviour and so on, so why shouldn’t I borrow whenever I feel like it? If you want to put a label on what I do then give it the label of ‘plastic post modern’, that’s as good as any. I mean plastic in the sense of flexibility and movement and not in the sense of phoney, you know, like a plastic fork instead of a real iron fork. Plastic, flexible, able to adapt to form or environment that’s what I mean. That’s what I do, just like the Romans took ideas and things from the Greeks before them and which the Greeks got from Sanskrit Aryan India before them, which they got from an earlier culture, and earlier period – everybody borrows, if it works then use it, you know. 
Now I’ll tell you something I ain’t told nobody before and I got it direct from the thoroughbed's mouth so to speak – one day I was sitting with Woody Guthrie in the hospital when he was dying and we were alone and he told me that his whole style of story, song, and sound he got face to face from an old guy in the Appalachian mountains, a hillbilly you could call him, by name of Ezekiel McDougals, and that was back in the 1920s when Woody was really no more than a kid. McDougals was a very old man back then and Woody said that there was always a bunch of musicians in McDougals house, everyone from all over wanted to play music with him – jam with him – because he knew so much and the history of it. Now back then this old man told Woody of how he personally had known a travelling Negro musician by name of ‘One Eye Willie’ who was a legend – but almost nobody had ever come across him – and McDougals told Woody that he got most of what he knew as a musician from One Eye Willie back in the 1870’s. Now One Eye Willie he told to McDougals that he got most of what he knew from an old Scottish ex-slave from the plantations when One Eye himself was no more than a kid. 
Now that’s something you probably never knew - that thousands of Highlanders from Scotland were sold as slaves after they were hunted down for years by the Duke of Cumberland, brother of King George II of England, after the battle and massacre of Culloden in 1745.  
Them clansmen, the Highlanders, was shipped off across the Atlantic in chains and sold as slaves to work alongside the Africans in the plantations of the South. So I can trace my protocols of artistic lineage all the way back in a direct line over 250 years, and back in those days the current theory and label that the intelligentsia – so called -  named that period of time and the term used was ‘The Enlightenment’. And while we're about identifying antecedents here's a late one - the Chicago Blues sound of Paul Buterfield Blues Band of 1965, that resonated with me big, my kind of sound, I could see myself putting dust bowl ballads to that kind of sound.  So they can shove their accusations, their rules and regulations, their labels and matrixes, their parameters and terms of reference, all the way up their styro-foam assholes. And anyway, what's your lineage?

In an interview with ‘ Black Ear Abraham’ at the Sleazy Easy, a blues dive in the Cajun quarter of New Orleans, 2011.

Some abstract water colour paintings by Dylan from 2006.

                          'Black Coffee and Cake.'