Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A means to an end

The slow peel of the muse
exposing inner emptiness
is as pure a death
as Juliet's 'distilled liquor'.
Both equal in beauty.

A slam into a power pole
achieves an equal end,
but with more mess.

The muse is the dance
of the painful slow reveal
rather than instant, black oblivion.

Strolling into the white light
with a pen as weapon.

Written in response to aprompt from the Tenth Daughter of Memory, a writers' collective

Monday, September 20, 2010

Riding shotgun in the suicide seat - a political allegory

Roger ignored the imperatives of riding shotgun at his peril: dump, deny, duck, dodge.

It had been a long three months since that frenetic night in late June, the night of the boojum. I had been Roger's muse then, as I had been intermittently for the previous decade, eschewing the power, but cruising the corridors none-the-less, wraith-like. Infatuation will do that, turn one into a lady of the lake. Roger found proximity to power an aphrodisiac; whereas, for me, he was the only turn-on I needed. We shared a small town house behind the Manuka cafe strip, within walking distance of the gallery, curating being my only other indulgence in a life mired in tedium.

But, back to riding shot gun down the corridors of power.

Honourable leader of the government, Caesar, had launched himself upon the road to ignominy, when he executed a wholesale dumping of inconvenient truths, a dive from the high platform, clipping his head on the board during the double-flip, causing much disturbance upon re-entry. This dive mirrored a dive of equal ugliness in the hallowed halls of public esteem, which Caesar needed to confront, but being momentarily disoriented, he failed to rise to the occasion. Esteemed deputy, Brutus, was called upon to steady the ship of state, to give direction, all the while denying her hand, instead of the hand of Caesar, was upon the tiller. The cloak of Judas lay around her shoulder as she navigated the canals of Gethsemane, three times forswearing her loyalty. Each time my poor, poor Roger did not see the knives for the spinning smoke and mirrors.

That June night, the legislature was empty of members, honourable or otherwise. All the action was in the executive wing. They came to praise Caesar, except for Brutus who took her lead from the glory whisperers. Not that Brutus was entirely absolved from overwheening hubris. Breaking the glass ceiling in the people's house guaranteed a mention in historical despatches. She was not averse to this, our red-headed lady from Altona. And Roger, my Roger, was her eyes and ears, her Chief-of-Staff, although Aide-de-compte had a more appealing ring, at least to my effete ears.

And so the multitudes assembled that night of the long knives, and wither goest the multitudes, so attend the hyenas and jackals of the fifth estate. By morning, as a weak winter sun struggled above the waters of Yarralumla, the deed was done. The king was mortally wounded, long live the queen. Music to my ears, darlink. A teary king, devoid of attendant acolytes, mounted the ramparts, to deliver a soliloquy, awash with the tears of the vanquished, ego triumphant, and yet inconsolable. With one eye cocked to the assessment of history, Caesar positioned himself as white king, sans pawns.

As a loyal lieutenant, Roger drew the fire. That was part of the role, to stick his head above the trenches, to see if the opposing forces were still gung-ho to rumble. Roger ducked the silver bullet, more by good luck than good management. As he relayed to me later, sipping chilled verdelho while the tepid bath water eased his battered flesh, the bullet had come from within, causing maximum damage as it ripped into the red head's flesh. Everyone knew that Caesar had cherished a personal vision upon a white charger with lancet erectus, scattering the philistines, the believers in the essential goodness of the market left to its own devices. Outsiders had no conception of the depravity to which Caesar could stoop when thwarted, until they saw the whites of Brutus' eyes when the bullet struck, a momentary stutter, a public flicker of incomprehension. Roger should have known it was coming, that in his quiver Caesar always packed a weapon of last resort, in this instance a poisonous tip from Jabba, the doyen of the press corps. The point being, that Roger had not realised that Brutus should have been warned to duck.

Anger that is white hot, frequently overplays its hand. Although Caesar did not play for our team, his bitchiness qualified him for a wild-card entry should he have so desired. He went for her again. With Jabba as jockey, Caesar's riled stead turned at the end of the field and readied for a second charge. This time, Roger had his head above the battlement facing the right way, and our lady Brutus, the redhead from Altona, entered upon the field, nostrils flaring, hooves pawing the dust, ready to rumble. She dodged the flaming arrow-head aimed straight for her inner core, and gave forth a god-awful whack, toppling Jabba from Caesar's trusty steed, leaving the erstwhile opponents toe-to-toe in arena central with just a trickle of blood from one of them, dripping into the sawdust. The dodge mechanism gave Our Lady essential breathing space, which she needed for the main game was about to commence. She was now, courtesy of Caesar, and his Jabba, positioned to play to her strengths.

Roger feared his days of riding shotgun were numbered. The redhead had been burned too many times, had sustained damage to the flanks, singeing to the tresses. She was left exposed, scrabbling for foot-soldiers as the barbarians stormed the battlements. The redhead exceled at the close in tussles, prefering to leave the grandiose set pieces for the likes of Caesar. Roger was despatched to sound out known enemies of her enemy: he cosied up to the gardeners, who joined her ranks; the singular poet's of the kingdom were endowed with the title Laureate; but, the renegade who marched to his own rhythm was last seen disappearing over the dales. All was in readiness for the second battle of the season. With Caesar castrated, and her troops augmented, Brutus readied herself for the battle with the Babarians, those who spread doubts of her legitimacy upon the waters.

Roger once again rode sidecar, his heart in his mouth, and with reinforced chainmail. I retreated to a gig on the side, as conservator of a collection of 18th century velvet wallpapers for a Fine Arts Gallery in Adelaide, our relationship once again, intermittent.

Written in response to aprompt from the Tenth Daughter of Memory, a writers' collective

263. Lying in a made bed

He never thought it would come to this, Ken didn't. Which probably stood to prove his father's opinion of his only son. From the age of 15 when he lost his virginity to Annette Johnson, on the hay bales high up in old man Winter's shed, Ken had a liking for women and the sports they play. He just had not thought through the consequences.

So, here he was aged 32 with four children under the age of ten, a basic job driving road grader for the Wingecarribbee Shire, living in a weather-board two bedroom shack on the outskirts of Picton. And he still had the shelia from the pub on the side. It wasn't that he didn't love his kids, he just didn't take responsibility for his actions.

Ken, blamed his father, which was par for the course. His father adored his grandkids and was in a bind.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

262. A slow waltz to the end of time

For once their children were speechless. The evening when Andrew gathered them around the table and told them that he and Alison were separating, they all just sat there affixed, uncomprehending. He wanted them to yabber, to argue, to remonstrate with him. Not this stunned silence. He actually wanted them to side with him, to console him, to understand. After all, he was the aggrieved party.

Well, not really aggrieved. That would suppose that she had done him some great wrong, some infidelity. But that was not the case. As the children soon unravelled, Alison had gone in search of her lost self.

That was nearly forty years ago now. Andrew had driven over to Adelaide to see if there was anything that he could do to help her find what was missing. And, of course, there was. And, together, they pieced the puzzle together in a more fitting way.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

261. On the insufficiency of beauty

One could say that the passage of the years had been unkind to Maud, not cruel, as nothing is cruel to one of such distressing loveliness. Just unkind, in that the years did what they always do - rather than protect her from their ravages.

Maud had been a striking beauty in her youth, of the sort to take one’s breath upon entering a room, or strolling a laneway. She was not consciously aware of the passage of time, being more focussed on day following day. Surprisingly, Maud did not trade upon her beauty, did not use it as currency. Instead, she invested it in cultivating her own depths, similar to an economic rationalist’s investment in infrastructure.

As blousy maturity edged past callow youth, Maud revelled in the depth that shadow and rough line etched, revelled in the beauty of character. Hers was a looking glass of a different hue.

Friday, September 17, 2010

260. Silver threads

The image of the iron flat on the ironing board flooded Cyndi’s brain, and confused her wits. She bounced the heel of her palm off the flat of her forehead, as the shock of the bitumen resounded from her ankles, through her knees to her hips and sent an echoing shudder through her spine. A deafening ‘whoosh’ filled her ears and buffeted her balance.

Cyndi had long a mania for the forgotten everyday action. Was the tap left on? Did she turn the hotplate off? What was that dripping water she could hear? Had the hoses come adrift in the laundry? She flooded her being constantly with inadequacy and apprehension.

Shortening her stride to nip in behind the approaching cyclist, Cyndi did not notice the reversing lights on the Patrol that also awaited the passage of the cyclist. They say you never hear the big one that’s meant for you.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

259. The corner deli

Although the hour was early, the sun was weak, and Brian was not done with the night before. Yet again, he had managed the bench outside Nick Gianni’s corner shop, and no further. Nick was used to keeping an eye on Brian, getting to him if the flashing colours warped the ground too much for him to remain upright; getting to him before the thin blue line came down from its patrol along the Macleay Street ridge.

Brian was a likeable enough chap, but there was less and less of him remaining, his moments of sanity being sparse in the hours of each day. He lived three doors away, through the laneway to the automotive repair shop, in a studio that banked into the damp of the rocky escarpment. His disability pension covered his meagre needs. His habit was funded by plying his body along The Wall over in Darlinghurst.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

258. Sucking the life force

It stuck in Wal’s craw whenever he thought of that day. It got him going each and every time. That particular day was the worst he had ever encountered, and it was all the fault of Eric Margin. What a fool he was; no - worse than that, much worse.

As units go, theirs was a small rural fire service, seventeen men with five trucks to cover the area west of the Goulburn River from Hollydeen to Baerami, including Mount Dangar. And the Council rep went and put Margin in charge. This was a man who got excited. He got off on the sound, the smell and the power of flame.

They had struggled with containment lines all morning, fighting a losing battle, near the end of their tether. As they neared the crest, Wal could smell more than ash on the wind; he could smell a change of direction.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

257. Bulls-eye

This was their third time around for the morning, and Will could feel the warmth beat against the seam of his singlet. He had trained his mind over many seasons now: concentrate on the sound of the oar plop into the water, keep the rhythm regular, think of nothing else, hear the voice drone on, understand and obey. But, monitor the passage of time by that regular plop.

Another cafe he could take her might be Gusto’s down at Five Ways. The ambience was nice, and Eloise being a Francophile ... bugger ... plop, pull, raise, rotate ...

The shell flew across the still water of the bay toward the marker buoy. The old boys from Scot’s were faltering as the morning progressed. Not a sport for the flaky minded. The rhythm of the oar had a stutter this morning, with the shell pulling just a fraction to the right.

Monday, September 13, 2010

256. Idling

Turning the corner, Yvette was instantly on guard. A querulous niggle plopped in her gut, her body in overdrive, her pace slackened, her mind raced. Don’t be daft, commenced the interior monologue. He’s probably waiting for his kids. Might not even be a ‘he’. She kicked her own butt. Was she no better than Auntie Raelene crossing the lane as the black fellas kept coming?

She could smell sausages and onions frying. Here she was, some prissy chick, too scared to walk down the bloody road. She stepped over the gutter where the debris had banked up from the downpour of the night before. The parking lights were drilling into the back of her iris, and the idling engine puffed out the stench of carbon monoxide. She sensed the head in the dark of the cabin, the white of the eyes drilling her in return.

The driver’s door creaked open.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

255. Sitting in the morning sun

In 1954, Maggie and Joe first went to Paris.

There they happened upon the Jardin des Tuileries. Hesitantly, they carved out their antipodean window into an older world. As they sat, they heard the crunch of the pebbles beneath the shoes of the young lovers strolling arm-in-arm down the terrasses. They caught the crisp swish of the turning page of Le Monde, as monsieur tut-tutted his way through the turbulences of the world. Maggie and Joe soaked up more than the sun.

Maggie and Joe no longer journey to Paris.

In the early morning, they potter from their small appartemente in Wooloomooloo over to the gardens beside the fountain. They sit with the sun at their back, and reverie as the cathedral bells herald the day. Their eyes trace, and their ears catch, but their thoughts are elsewhere.

Maggie and Joe relive Paris, together, on a bench, in the antipodes.

Another view of Maggie and Joe

Saturday, September 11, 2010

254. The mere idea of you

Marianne grew into her wounded heart, right from childhood it beckoned to her. It was a big heart, where one could struggle to touch the edges. It was wide-ranging, a heart that encompassed many landscapes, a sensitive heart open to the wounded. Size was not the problem. No, Marianne’s problem was an inability to give her heart away.

Marianne had packed her heart well with love of country, with love of animal, with love of weather. She was a down-to-earth woman, a doer rather than a princess. An industrious person, well she knew the exigencies of a life of the soil rather than the tiled forecourt.

But with people, she was hesitant, unsure, too ready for the rebuff, and when you are ready for that, that is what comes your way. She had twigged to that of late, but knew not how to correct it, until Harry came along. Snap.

Friday, September 10, 2010

253. Tuning out

Marianne thought of this as a nook, her nook. The slope was gradual and the surface even, well relatively. What she treasured about it was the ‘out-of-the-way’ quality. Sometimes a tennis ball landed up here, quickly followed by a dog of the snooty variety, but even they still slobbered. That was about the extent of the interruptions.

Being up here meant that the other people using the park ignored her, didn’t feel obliged to include her, which suited Marianne just fine. The sound of modern families playing always intrigued her. More so when the sound arrived as through a glass darkly. Modern families intrigued her, full stop. The very modernity was scandalous to her narrow Presbyterian upbringing. She blamed it on the ‘schism’ and those pesky ‘United” parishioners.

Scraping her foot in the gravel to form a red scar, Marianne wondered if this surface could host a game of boules.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

252. Silence lies broken

He watched her progress gingerly along the pier, heels chattering between the voids, echoing down the finger of wharf. One lone gull screeched overhead. Mesmerised by her fiery tresses bouncing, a flash of pubic curl shifted him self-consciously on his chair. He reached for his wine, already a glass half empty. A dry Spanish white suited his mood, and his task.

The day was sunny but not fine, the sky blue and cloudless – except to the south, where towering clouds rumbled, boding later explosions.

She looked up, and he caught her eye, her unblinking eye. Her lips parted, and his mind’s ear could hear the intake of air, as her ribcage expanded, and her loins girded. Was it his imagination, or did her lips purse? He tapped three fingers on the starched linen cloth, broke off a wedge of Manchego, and scooped a dollop of quince into his waiting mouth.

A Tenth Daughter of Memory contribution.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

251. Remembering ravens

The hair on Lenore’s forearms tingled, and a shiver snaked up her spine as she wended her way between the sunken plots and vainglorious mausoleums. A lone black bird watched her progress from the white slip rail on the graveyard boundary. He tapped his gleaming beak on the beam, and wiped it along the splintered wood, his gleaming ruby eye tracking her every progress.

Reaching the quiet of the decaying oak, Lenore allowed her gaze to range toward the smudge marking the blue of the ocean melding with the blue of the sky, out beyond the precipitate cliffs, out beyond this mortal coil, where she had wandered alone for ten long years. She valued this serenity, this seclusion.

She settled down onto the grasses going to seed at the edge of the plinth, leaning back tenderly against the granite headstone, engraved with gold inlay ‘Paul Edgar – a life shared nevermore’.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

250. Gliding, we are gliding

Magdalena was loaded, but she had issues. She was intelligent, well-educated and, for some reason that she simply could not fathom, had not a conservative bone in her body. If there is such a thing, genetically she was a black sheep.

Born on the windswept plains of Patagonia, her lineage stretched back to the bursar to Captain Robert Fitz Roy, the captain of Darwin’s ‘Beagle’, who in 1834 travelled up the Rio Santa Cruz, then jumped ship with stars in his eyes. She was a throw-back to this one act, a way-throw-back. In the ensuing 150 years, her ancestors grew wealthy, and powerful, and stolid. The stars were replaced with pesos, the adventure, with responsibility. The Estancia Monte Leon generated such wealth and power that the spark of rebellion, the step of the different drummer, was dimmed and extinguished.

And yet, here was Magdalena, exhuming the recessive blue family heritage.

Monday, September 6, 2010

249. Be buggered if he would

The sun was low, the air was fresh and the pavements were well trod. Just the way Morrie liked it.

He was determined not to succumb to any black dog, not to pay unnecessary heed. Adapt to things that eased his progress, but keep down all unnecessary barriers. The only barrier he would acknowledge was the simple pine box. But that would be then, this is here, this is now.

He paused, bent over and redid the fraying shoe-lace on his runners, with just a hint of a smirk about the irony contained in a simple noun. A sugar ant scurried across the cracked pavement, just one of many in a quavering row. Leaning against the lamp post, he turned to the morning sun. It glinted off the ebb-tide, gently rocking the moored vessels.

The air was laden with a tangy salt. Morrie breathed deeply. He was finally at ease.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

248. Overshadowed

It irritated Ivan immensely, but he did not know how to rectify it.

It first flashed into his frontal lobe the week before he turned eleven. Uncle Joe was on stage playing his accordion, with Mrs Rose on fiddle, and Brenton on shuffle drum. The next dance was the Pride of Erin, and Ivan had the steps down pat. He had memorised and perfected them in front of the full-length mirror in the laundry. His knees knocked as he hauled himself erect and turned in the direction of Roslyn Ellings. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jimmy heading in the same direction, a vision of confidence. Ivan gave up, rather than fall short.

That turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. He never got the hang of self-promotion, in the face of a known competition. He always gave up.

He turned, pulled his coat around him, and walked away.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

247. The revenge of the silver fox

Richard was neither a motor mechanic nor an options trader. Still it irritated him that people made assumptions based exclusively on appearance. He blamed the mane for much of this. It had been thinning for maybe ten years, but the silver was well-entrenched by the ripe old age of twenty eight. The beard grew during his thirties when he realised that the bottom half of his face simply had ceased to exist.

The hang-dog contemplative look resulted from life’s marinade. Richard was an interior monologue. He was not hard-wired for the main chance. If the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune passed him by, it did not faze him. Richard exemplified a bloke satisfied with his lot. He lived in his head, hearing Bach Preludes and the drone of Plath reading her own poems in the classic early 60s recordings.

Neither an accountant nor an actuary be, keep ‘em guessing.

Friday, September 3, 2010

246. Once more unto the breach

She wouldn’t have picked him as her sort, which she found strangely reassuring. Her ‘sort’ often resulted in disaster – a man who was all package and no content. It was difficult to imagine that result with Derek.

She had met him in the early morning, squiggling amongst the residue of the previous autumn to photograph the ducklings nestled beside the lake. Large signs proclaimed the proclivity of the parents to ‘have a go’ at intruders, which Derek simply ignored on the assumption that they did not include him.

She sat on the wooden bench, back from the water’s edge, tracking his progress toward confrontation, laughing uproariously, as he high-tailed it up the rise with the confected outrage of one flapping mother-duck in hot pursuit.

Now, as she watched him walk toward her across the forecourt, she agreed that he may not be ‘her sort’ but, by golly, he would do.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

245. The other side of you

Ellen turned into Master’s Road. She was in a contemplative mood as she moved steadily in the early spring warmth. Not one to be a closed book, she was never-the-less hard to read, looking at the cover was never enough. There was a depth to her that was not apparent to other than the most thoughtful and patient of observers.

Ralph was just such a one. He squatted beside the tabac, idly rolling leaves of lavender between thumb and forefinger, lifting the bruised fragment and taking a deep draught – without once taking his eyes from the woman swaying his way, crowned in a halo of morning light. He shifted his buttock slightly as the exigencies of age prevailed over the passions of youth.

He knew the person walking toward him, the figure beside her, too.

From the corner of his lips, he acknowledged the tinkle of her fingers at hem-length.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

244. When sitting on the sidelines is not enough

They go back a long way, to those final years of high school out in the fringe suburbs of this massive metropolis. The decision of others to leave school for the freedom of a regular wage, bound them more tightly together. Just fourteen of them thought that there must be more to life, the universe and everything than packing shelves at Permewans in Camden followed by the Royal Oaks on a Saturday night after an afternoon watching from some sideline somewhere.

Watchers on this far-removed sideline, see the camaraderie bubble over as flabby middle-aged bodies flow across the field, chasing and cajoling dreams. Instant gratification is not a quiver to their bow, time is on their side. They use their brain to gear up their capacity for hard work, working smarter, not just harder or longer. They are not into oysters, but if they were the world would be theirs.