The writer who didn’t read enough

~ The owner of the book ~

At the park, a couple find a bench that has the best combination of shade and dryness available, and sit down to read. The husband feels a pang of apprehension as he reaches for his book, what is he about to uncover? He half hopes it is rubbish, and that that will help him stop thinking about its owner.

Unfortunately it is very good: an anthology of short stories that he can easily relate to. He tears through one story, written in reportage style; direct, concise, and on the surface, quite dull. In four and a half pages of plain language however, the story illuminates the internal life of a paranoid bigot in a way that is understanding, yet not sympathetic.

He flicks through the volume, letting the shape of its pages guide him to the next story. A dog-eared page catches under his thumb so he reads what sits under it: the story is titled ‘The actors’.

~ The secret message ~

Two actors are mediocre, but with their own special talents. They are both competent entertainers, though the narrator prefers one above the other. Neither of them compare to the third actor who is breathtaking. When he enters town to perform, the other actors are forgotten. The narrator of the story is almost relieved when the third actor leaves town, as she is able to enjoy the other actors again, who remind her more of herself.

~ The wrong target audience ~

The husband’s heart is beating rapidly, he is taken with the desire to write. He slams the book shut. The wife places her thumb against his jaw and turns his head to face her.

“You have something on your lip.” she says with genuine sweetness, brushing a piece of grit from the corner of his mouth.

He wonders what is wrong with him: he is thinking of the story he wants to write. His target audience consists of one person: the owner of the book. He wonders whether the page was specifically dog-eared by the owner as a message to him.

The wife laughs; he has already finished reading, and after only a few minutes.

“I’m gonna go get some spring onions, see you at home.” she tells him before a quick peck on the cheek.

~ The raindrop ~

When he gets home, the husband realises that many pages have been dog-eared: the only pattern he can discern is that all stories marked in this way are very good. He starts to write.

A song by Chopin is playing, called the “Raindrop” prelude. It is so familiar to him that he feels he wrote it in a dream once. He looks the song up on Wikipedia to read that Chopin wrote it after waking from a dream in which he had drowned in a lake. He entertains the idea that they had both shared the same dream.

One day, maybe he will write a story that will make readers forget about other writers while they read it, then feel relief when they have finished, being able to return to stories by authors that remind them more of themselves. Maybe one day he will make something from a dream and readers will feel they had shared it with him.

~ The spring onions ~

Dinner that night is delicious: a traditional Korean stew. The spring onions add a delicate note to the heaviness of the sweet potato and chilli.

The husband decides to finish reading the book. He will write many more stories, and he will try to write for people other than the book’s owner.

As he massages his wife’s shoulders, he thinks about George Sand; Chopin’s companion the night of his drowning dream. He thinks of the many people she fell in love with. He wonders if all writers have such tangled hearts.

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The shadow of Rudolf Nureyev (Part 1)

It is a little known fact that the shadow of Rudolf Nureyev—the greatest male ballet dancer of all time—belonged to a freelance project manager by the name of Andrew Lamb.

Long ago, one black Siberian night, when Rudolf Nureyev was still a child, his shadow slipped away into the darkness, never to return. The next morning—feeling as though a burden had been lifted from his heart—he found himself unbound from the constraints of ordinary physics. It was not long after discovering his love of dance at a performance of the ballet, ‘Song of the Cranes’ that Rudolf Nureyev leapt and spun himself to the pinnacle of the dance world with supernatural ease.

His shadow however, enjoyed no such luck. Rudolf Nureyev’s shadow had found itself attached to a very flat-footed wallflower of a man. Wherever Andrew Lamb went Rudolf Nureyev’s shadow was compelled to follow. During the week, the shadow slumped limp behind flickering monitor screens irradiating Ghant charts and spreadsheets, and was dragged to morning teas where it stood politely at attention while Andrew attempted to project an aura of friendly confidence to his subordinates. On weekends the shadow found itself trampled underfoot at rugby matches and cramped into smokey sports bars where it was forced to mingle with the blurred shadows of Andrew’s drunken mates. Andrew was a good-natured sort, a hard worker with a pretty good sense of humour, but he was no ballet dancer.

Rudolf Nureyev’s shadow passed its time stretching—elongating and distorting itself—in an attempt to detach itself from Andrew and his sedentary life. At rugby matches it would stretch across the stalls, reaching for the shadows of walls and heavy objects, hoping to peel itself away and escape into the darkness like it had years ago in Siberia. In sports bars it would bend itself into fun shapes to avoid boredom, sometimes impersonating the silhouettes of other patrons to confuse anyone with enough imagination to be staring at the wall instead of making bland jokes with Andrew.

This went on for many years, and as Andrew got better and better at project management, the shadow got better and better at stretching. Eventually the shadow got so good at stretching that it could almost detach itself from Andrew while he slept. It would bend itself under the door or through the window, and out onto the street. One night Rudolf Nureyev’s shadow managed to stretch itself to the street corner at the end of the block.

It was there that the shadow discovered its love of dance: on that corner was a dance school, and on that particular night the students were rehearsing a ballet by the name of ‘Song of the Cranes’.

PART 2 HERE

A babe in the woods

wandering down Ponsonby
in a brand new tracksuit
purchased by Lord knows who
parents long gone
not looking competent enough
to have ever bred
looking 75+
rolled into 60 years
of hard living and
with 10 more lost
to the lithium and
clozapine

he passes us by
sipping on our flat whites

I tell Heaven he looks naked
with his arms clutched
to his chest
like a bird yet to grow feathers
fallen from its nest—
with that wide-eyed,
glazed-over gaze lolling
back, twisted over his shoulder–

a babe in the woods

Heaven says he grins cheekily
at her sometimes
like he remembers
being young for a second
like she’s someone
he was competent with once…
and then he’s lost again

he’s lost a lot of weight
Heaven says he’s looking good,
well, as good as he’s ever looked
in a long while, and
I want to believe
something’s changed for the better
but all things considered
it’s probably cancer…
all he can do is wander

he wanders across the road
looking back twisted,
over his shoulder—
the wrong way—
and a truck swerves
he tugs at his pants
so loose now,
he tugs at all the lost weight

no matter how hard
we work at it
how competent we grow
no matter how many friends we win
how many people we influence
it breaks my heart
to see him every time

he reminds me of us

we all enter
and exit this world
naked
helpless as birds
yet to grow feathers

(Echo) Chamber Music

You’re preaching to the choir, but

the tenor’s voice broke some time ago, in June of ‘97,
when the dihydro test came crashing in
—since then all he wants to do is find new ways to fuck.

You’re preaching to the choir, but

the soprano joined a screamo band together with the bass,
who left her for a grindcore act called desiccated face
—she felt so bad she just gave the music up.

You’re preaching to the choir, but

the two best tenors turned out queer
—they’ve been trying for an in-vitro kid all year…
and no one from the church have wished them any luck.

You’re preaching to the choir, but

the lead OD-ed on some dirty, home-bake smack
—his girl insists he’d still be OK if he’d stuck to crack.
She says it was an accident, but perhaps he’d just heard enough.

You’re preaching to the choir, but

the hymns we all once sung out loud
have been echoing round and round
—the sounds make very little sense, and the melodies all suck!

What time is wasted?

There are no oceans on the moon—
that’s why I want to swim in them.
Listening to a dead man’s voice,
willing to believe his lies.

We are never where we think we are.
I am eight years old…
sand in my teeth…
I hear laughing.

To-do list (part one)

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                                                                • To be continued…

The festival of festivals

The festival to celebrate
every festival ever celebrated
is always in the planning stages.

The campaign managers keep raising
the most astronomical funds.

The event organisers keep improving
on already spectacular programmes.

The promoters keep discovering
performers more talented than the last.

The headlining acts keep perfecting
every fine detail of their craft.

The set designers keep extending
the scope of the pageantry.

The festival of festivals is far better
than any festival ever celebrated—
we are always looking forward to it.

The little mute boy (Federico García Lorca, trans. Robert Bly)

The little boy was looking for his voice.
(The king of the crickets had it.)
In a drop of water
the little boy was looking for his voice.

I do not want it for speaking with;
I will make a ring of it
so that he may wear my silence
on his little finger

In a drop of water
the little boy was looking for his voice.

(The captive voice, far away,
put on a cricket’s clothes.)

—Federico García Lorca (trans. Robert Bly)

Life drawing exercise

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I started a life drawing class. This is a 10-15 minute exercise with pencil and some cheap acrylic. I plan to do a couple of short courses in drawing and painting and then start a series of large format portraits of my wife.

Untitled

I am not lying on the floor
of my apartment

a cool breeze
passing over me
on a Summer’s day

I am not thermoreceptors
constricting blood flow

in Mexican waves
of excitatory response
across skin dermis

I am the wind