Saturday, December 28, 2013

Everything that has leached from you

I realised today that what always makes me surprised to see cockatoos flying towards the radiata pines in the neighbouring land is that, once they get there, it will have seemed as if white short-limbed monkeys had been sailing the backyard air; a red wattlebird, though, will stare at you, dinosaur-like, from any branch that scratches the house, and when it dives at you to snap near your ear, it won't have been you that it wants but one of the myriad insects that, drawn to the colour yellow, hover near your lobe, or one of the flies that, having pulled the sounds of bleached paddocks with them over the sandstone cliffs, have grown so tired that they will drown in your tea but, first, need to crawl all over your face to taste everything that has leached from you and that you have leached from everything else.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Kurtz's mouldy house

I've been noticing everywhere in the city, but mainly in the strangest, hottest places -- where the footpath takes you, for example, across the out-breathing mouths of underground parking stations, opposite fenced, greyish tropical gardens (Kurtz's mouldy house that the city has grown around) -- young adult Europeans with their middle-aged parents in shorts and thongs who seem to be listening, keenly, to their offsprings' account of the way a humid Christmas in Sydney needs artificial snow and plastic holly, and how coffee must be taken seriously, and how they have learned hundreds of lazy practices in their year of being crowded in share rooms and picking deformed fruit in dust-rimmed towns.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Otherwise a snail

From the platform at Wolli Creek station the ibises on the wet green lawn beyond the scrub look like Mary Antoinette's sheep; along the cafe strip on Abercrombie Street I see a student look up at a pigeon that has just landed on the sign he's passing under; in the garden I step on something that is already disintegrating: probably a putrefying once-pink Illawarra Flame flower. Otherwise a snail.

What a Mod becomes in the long decades afterwards

In his house in Ryde -- with its view of the trees obscuring the river where, some years ago, a woman and her lover had been found naked and dead on the slippery rocks beside its trickling brown (whose freak poisonous gases, it has since been surmised, had killed them) -- he told me about the way that, as a young man of twenty in the south-east of London in the nineteen-sixties, he'd had to wear suits on the weekend just to get the girls. It was only afterwards, when I was relating this story to someone else, that it was pointed out to me I had actually been talking to a Mod -- or at least to what a Mod becomes in the long decades afterwards. I'd described the way that, as he'd told the whole group of us about how a teacher had once hung him from his collar on a coat hook, he'd raised himself on his toes by the wall of his large open-plan living room: mimicking a hanging of his schoolboy self -- which I'd now dressed in a pale blue sixties suit with wide lapels -- hanging himself on his long white wall among various original artworks whose glass was reflecting the greyish afternoon sky above the trees beyond the deck outside and so what could also be assumed to be the occasional noxious gases of the river.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Highly flammable objects

When we stepped out of the office after lunch to see that the reason the leaves of the trees through the glass had looked such a bright sappy green was that the sun had grown small and shrunken in the sky -- small and shrunken but the colour exactly, as one of us said, of a flame -- and as we googled the whereabouts of these fires that we could smell, which could have been anywhere on any side of the city as the wind from the west was scorched and the cloud in the south, which usually brought any change of weather, and possibly rain, had an underbelly of brown --  Eliza told us about the cicadas she'd seen in Katoomba in the mountains about a month ago: about how in Leura there had not been a single cicada when she'd stayed on the north side of the highway, and yet on the south -- or at least in Katoomba, in the south -- everywhere you went you were bombed by cicadas -- and all down the door jambs on the outside of houses there were shells of cicadas -- and everywhere you put your hand in the garden, even on the stalks of bluebells or the wire of fences: shells -- and there on the footpaths were the eaten out bodies of them, all of them lying prone, exposed -- even the live ones still helpless on the footpaths or crawling, one leg gone, on the roads. As we walked to the cafe we were all thinking about the cicadas, then, even though we continued to relay, one to the other, where the fires were burning according to our phones, and even as the afternoon darkened -- the green of the leaves near the buildings losing their light and the clouds growing purplish orange -- it was hard not to think of the crusts of cicada shells on the houses and the rasp-dry wings on the footpaths in the mountains, and so when got back to our desks with our coffees none of us, probably, had any idea of where the fires actually were -- the places were so numerous and the names unfamiliar -- but the cicadas in Katoomba, we knew: we could see them crawling, and I for one was thinking of them as highly flammable objects -- crawling little incendiary devices for ruining a town.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Notice how I wondered

Notice how I wondered: is it vomit? You walk along the footpath towards the pulped white pile and the asphalt that is darkened down the slope in the silhouette of a dried, dead octopus, and it matters how you stride towards it -- whether you pick your way over the tentacles or flatten them nonchalantly -- because it seems, even as you are alone on this street and all the windows in the houses are blank, that there is always someone who is watching how you walk and taking note how you react to the leavings of others.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Should you feel engulfed by the tenebrous

Don't you find it heartening, she asked me, that a shop called Body Stimulants should be right next door to the only funeral parlour on King Street? Should you feel engulfed by the tenebrous while making funeral arrangements for a relative yet to be deceased, you can easily slip next door to get the fluids flowing again; should you feel overwhelmed by sensations while being massaged or having your cuticles seen to one after the other, you can always press afterwards into the dark marble portal of the funeral parlour to choose the one casket that will ease, with plush, your pulsing finger ends.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

And to whom am I speaking?

It is possible to believe that the receptionist at the doctor's remembered that you called the day before to ask about the details of your appointment in such a way that she had to respond, with the kind of tired, deliberate manner that you hadn't heard outside of the theatre: and to whom am I speaking? It is possible that she remembered you because she had made a caustic note against your name when your answer failed to adjust to the seriousness of her tone. It is highly unlikely that she recruited the oldest and sickest to fill all the chairs in reception so that you had to stand out in the corridor when you arrived, but not entirely implausible that she went on that day to draw strange pointed shapes in the register next to your name with the fat-bodied pen that she was not even thankful you returned.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Bankstown Stand C

Although I did not get to see Kafka's grave as I'd planned, since the cemetery was closed on the Wednesday and the Thursday that week in May, I was lucky that the Veolia buses passing through the Žižkov bus station on Israelská just on the other side of the wall from him pulled up at Stand C at the Bankstown bus station in Sydney only five days later, and so, turning back towards where, in the Prague guidebook and from the sign, his body was said to be lying -- which was 250 metres east of the locked iron gates -- I could make something of a man through the bush hazed fence walking several metres below us on a platform towards an approaching train, the figure with elbows at remarkable, exaggerated angles, as every part of a person now appears to me through the palimpsest of the diaries I've been reading, even though they are also overlaid, or should I say pinched in to initials and simple absence, by the prudery (and caution) of Max.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The burning crane

We like to sit on the narrow wooden veranda of the cafe and twist around to look at that dark, sand-strewn spot on Broadway, where the burning crane, that morning, failed to fall and so failed to crush dozens of cars, people and dogs.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Making a vista in Victoria Park

Apparently, according to the bird book, corellas aren't supposed to be this close to the coast, so even when they bleat in the trees on either side of us or take off from the grass in agitated groups, their wey faces startled, eyes smudged with the eager stupor of the follower (of course, theirs was the last complaint after the fireworks died at the end of Chinese New Year) it is possible to imagine the park without them. After all, many years ago, I remember black swans on the artificial lake (a whole side of the continent displaced) before the bottom of it was shallowed and a bridge pushed across the middle to make a vista to the Great Hall from a couple of blind-fronted buildings on City Road.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The yellow-gold stain

When the genial, gentle owner told me how to clean and look after the tawa after roasting flat bread and about the exorbitant price of cassava since the cyclone, it no longer seemed possible that the far back room of his shop, where sacks of besan flour filled the middle of the floor, would continue to stink of urine -- and nor that his assistant would know nothing at all about anything I asked him but instead keep touching the yellow-gold stain on the front of his T-shirt as he stared at my chest.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mona Lisa

With classical -- no, late Romantic -- music rolling like Leura fog from the open hatch of her car, the woman moved rotting boards, sandwich-coloured foam and a split plastic laundry basket from what must truly have been the Mona Lisa lying face down at the edge of a gravel drive for the council pick up on Wednesday.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

More tenderness than embarrassment

Sometimes you glimpse a small occurrence -- say, a man in dusty shorts carrying a statue of what looks like a shepherd boy (with more tenderness than embarrassment) through four lanes of moving traffic -- and something stops you from continuing to watch it -- that is, until the man opens the back of his ute to settle the statue in a nest of blankets -- since the banality of the probable ending is more than you can stand.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The occasional falling note

I couldn't help thinking now, walking through the park this early in the night, of the series of YouTube videos of their new house in Brazil, where each of the rooms opens out in beautiful, destitute silence, newly cleared of rubbish but with grey fringed holes in the walls yet to be filled, the sound of dogs barking in a distance which is still so much closer than here, three sets of working bathrooms, plenteous space and a delicate forest of fruit trees beyond what seems to contain a loft; people walking, chatting, by the front of the not unusually caged front yard whose single chair must have been placed by the former owner as it has the look of someone lingering -- thinking of this house as I listened to the bleating of the hundreds of settling corellas in the Moreton Bay figs and gums in Victoria Park and trying to be sure, as it was impossible to single them out, that the series of upward inflecting cries, once sounding together, still managed to hide as soon as it revealed, the occasional falling note.

Friday, February 8, 2013

We don't call that walking

The whole time we were walking behind the man whose posture was so upright that he walked on his toes -- his bunched calves pulling his springing heels high -- we wanted to tell him to walk properly, to make his heels touch the ground. We even wanted to lay our hands on his head and press him to the footpath so he might be able to walk like us -- although we knew that, in order to do this, we needed to place ourselves higher. The rust-bottomed fridge lying flat on its front in Chalder Street was perfect for this kind of leverage. Your tennisy outfit doesn't fool us. You look ridiculous. Your way of walking is obviously a joke -- or is it that you're ignorant of the normal methods of locomotion, in which case your way of walking is making us anxious. Who are you trying to impress with your toe tip stepping? What on earth do you think you are doing? Walking? We don't call that walking. We just had to lure him into the backstreets off Salisbury Road to release these thoughts.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Still only the afternoon

I've decided: no more rats, no more insects for the moment. It is already too much to see a well loved human who, still, in my mind, is waving goodbye from the doorway he is unlikely ever to stand at again -- to watch how he stares at his unrecognisable self in an institutional mirror, harried by the gothically distorted utterance of some irritable, over-worked nurse who has insisted he change out of his pyjamas as it's still only the afternoon.