From Book “Poem”

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I

Everything mystiqual, enveloped by a lovely intelligence
that seduces the rigmarole of the hours. The mornings
so beautiful it’s worth waking early every day. A
knowledge that ignores the bland classifications of science
and weaves itself down a tunnel of endless consequences.

This poem wants everything
and does not think it asks
too much.

II

To house these things
‘under the roof
thatched by my hair’:

A malancholia soft with memory, where moments proceed
unresolved; a dispassionate nervousness, one foot to
another — back and forth shiftings of the universe; a hungry,
but gentle fear.

I walk, arm in arm with this poem, into a night
endless with such things.

III

for Bob & Jenny

Taking such care
with these words I do not know
to balance the I and the You
as though
the possibility of such evenhandedness
did exist, even in
memories:

I arrive in your kitchen
in the early morning
carrying a bag of oranges
and a broken heart
and I talk

(three miles away
my car has a flat battery
and I’m
hungry
tired).

We have strong tea and
eat the oranges as I
attempt to find the
‘Grand Design’ always
hoped for, to
explain away those
little things.

I’ve taken you from your bed
and brought you three oranges
as gifts, hoping for
Communion.

You drive me to my car
as you go to sell yours
(there are some who’d find
symbolism, allegory there).

And it’s hopeless,
the car will not move.
I walk off in the hot
(still morning) sunshine
to some other place
(without oranges).

What does it
all mean (image,
memory)?

Talk.
And the rest is left
unrecognised.

IV

And comes
as though again
to simple things that
go back so often to
love or its counter
parts that have us
make it — just
make it, ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Neither grand melody nor
an ear to each dumb thud
trodden by mistake or ‘fate’,
but a modest transcendence
from the ‘everyday’
— the mysteries of
secular mysteries or
words lovely in their
intelligences or
anything
lovable
(a word
not yet hopelessly lost
to us).

V

for R. L.

And there
in the early morning
ever increasing the silences
that wind gently through
the bush or grass or the old car
wrecked and stranded amongst
the trees, they growing up
through the chasis ever
increasing its oneness with
the dirt suckling itself
beneath itself (such
independence!)

Or the birdcalls
through the mist
just bridled by the sun
— so idyllic as we walk
at that very real hour of dawn
that shows forever that
words (these)
are not finally to tell any
thing.

Yet so much is
imbued in their
useless nows,
endless, never
‘consumed’.

VI

‘I am a poor robber, a productive consumer
looking for honest labour …’

And where does a consumer
whose productivity can never
be consumed
look for honest labour?

I go into the street
conscious of the poem’s
narcissism.
At the delicatessen
I buy cheese conscious of the hands,
either bored or loving,
that have sometime, someplace
helped fashion it, conscious
of Div as he wraps it
and yes
conscious of cows.

And for what?

I walk back
past the Post Office
and in my kitchen
I eat the cheese.
Do all those hands
know they’ve contributed
to this ‘useless’ thing?
— which is neither here nor there,
Kris tells me Pound was sent
to the madhouse for
non-sequential thinking
and I’m looking
for honest labour
(o honest I am).

I will go out again

I walk up the hill
to the employment office.
I tell the clerk
that my product suffers from
the ultimate decadence
— it refuses to be consumed,
it’s ‘everlasting’,
it can only be
forgotten, or
left in some drawer
unable to be found;
it works only upon
and within itself.

He sympathises with me,
gives me forms,
but I leave.

I’m an honest man,
guilty of theft sure,
but an honest man
and I’ve been looking for
honest labour

conscious of conscience.

Everything is as usual here.

VII

Is the usual
the soliloquy
of everything?

Does the edge
of any
thing
mean anything?

Does it matter if
I now bring
into my poem
my kitchen-sink only
because it is subjected
to a tradition of
denigration as
the absolute
last thing
to be taken
anywhere?

(I’m an honest man)

As if that were as good
a reason
as any?

As one or another,
or some, no matter
which, whatever it
may be
in any case?

And is any
thing unworthy
of consideration
in any way?

Is everything?

Even taken
as a whole, and/or
all taken
separately, or
piece by piece
placed
side by side
then
by process of addition
together again?

Is the subject
any more than
the what the word
brings to mind?

Does any word
bring the same to,
or have the same
consequences for,
every one?

Does every word
bring the same to,
or have the same
consequences for,
any one?

VIII

There is nothing particular to distinguish this sink from
all other sinks made at a similar time, to a similar de-
sign principle, by a similar craftsman (whose name or
firm’s name is unknown: the small plaque bearing such in-
formation has been removed leaving a scar on the other
wise smooth stainless-steel surface, and leaving the land-
lord as the only person possibly owning such information
— he having a particular interest in this house, even able
to give the exact date the old gas stove left its mother
factory in England). It is, as said, made of stainless
steel, and measures ninety-one centimetres by forty centi-
metres exactly (albeit allowance must be made for expan-
sion and contraction caused by temperature change; the
very phenomenon of which has caused it to no longer meet
the wall as it should on the right-hand side). Half this
area is taken up by the actual sink (14 centimetres deep)
and half by the horizontal corrugated bench on which, at
the time of writing this, sits the three crystal glasses
from which Robyn, Coral and myself drank port the night
before last (I’m a lazy man). In the sink itself rests a
yellow-handled dishmop which usually hangs from a hook
upon the wall above the sink but now, due to unconscien-
tiousness (possibly on my part), lies water-laden in the
sink next to the saucepan in which Robyn cooked her
porridge this morning. On top of the saucepan sits a bowl
from which, no doubt, Robyn ate porridge. There is also
a spoon. And a glass, which several hours before held
chocolate-flavoured milk. At the moment, the sink,
like the dishes, needs washing: around its side is grey slime
caused by the failure of the last person washing in the
sink (again possibly myself) to wipe its sides with the orange
sponge that rests on the sink’s edge. Beneath this sponge,
as though in hiding, there is a sink plug made by Double-
T-Products Propriety Limited to a patented design (no. 14
6384/50). This sink is, obviously, in the kitchen. The
kitchen leads to an eating area onto which opens the back
door. Outside this door is a door-mat. It tells of comings
and goings and should never be taken anywhere.

IX

I’m sick of soft edges
anyway.

A face, an orange and a date
arrange a connection, a
series of factual consequences
eventuate — I will give you
the story:

Ms Y, unaware of the complexities of my sink, sits in my
garden on one of those peculiarly hot days Melbourne al-
ways manages to begin Autumn with. The date then is the
first of March. The year, 1974 (my car has, by this time,
a new battery). The face is Y’s — the name, a touch of
discretion. She is eating, of course, an orange, having
first peeled it and stacked the peel on the grass next to
her. If she was in the Botanical Gardens, for instance,
she might throw the peel to the swans, though she might
easily not. Here she could throw it onto the compost
heap, and perhaps she will later. I do not know, nor
probably does she, if swans eat orange peel. The compost
heap, which is to her right, is not a proper compost heap,
that is, it is not structured in layers, but is merely
organic waste thrown into a heap and turned occasionally
with a spade. Y is reading a book on Tantric Art. She
finishes the orange and throws the peel onto the compost
heap. She then, perhaps because she is tired of reading,
stands and walks to the red garden-shed. She opens the
door with the letter B on it. Inside is full of cobwebs,
bamboo, vines and boxes of anything. One of these is
filled with small plastic packages of coloured slides. She
takes out a package of these slides inscribed ‘HONEYMOON
(TAS) 1964’. The first slide appears to be only black
when she holds it to the light, then, faintly, she is able
to see a green murkiness with an object in the centre. The
object becomes a turtle. Swimming. The next slides are:

A man with a big face. The same man with a woman with a
smaller face. Standing outside a house. Both of them
with a baby. The woman along, pregnant. The man alone,
raking leaves in a backyard. A procession through the
streets, a poor man’s Mardi Gras. A thin man shivering
before jumping into a pool. Two men in the procession
carrying a banner reading ‘BEST NOVELTY UNIT TROPHY’.
And finally, a picture of the recently married couple looking
out across Bass Strait in the Summer of 1964. Y throws
the slides carelessly away, recognising only the last one as
having anything to do with ‘HONEYMOON’, ‘(TAS)’, or
‘1964’. Nor does Y have any connection with the married
couple, and there is none between Autumn 1974 and Summer
1964, except a coincidence of numbers. Y leaves the
shed, disinterested. She goes back to the garden and the
book on Tantric Art.

X

The consequences are
arbitrary, or,
at most,
differential.

There are countless
‘fictions’:

On the first day of Autumn, 1974, Y, driven by a love for
the serene beauty of the Botanical Gardens, walks
casually past the spot where my car once stood limp with
a flat battery and, at the corner of the street, walks
through a gate into the Gardens. She is eating an orange.
She throws the peel to the swans but they do not eat it.
She gathers up the uneaten peel and places it in a rubbish
bin. Some weeks before, partly because of my car’s flat
battery and partly because of Y, I stood at a door three
miles from the Botanical Gardens. I was hungry and had a
bag of oranges in my hand. There is nothing significant
about oranges. An orange has neither the mythological
endowment of an apple nor the symbolic characteristic of
a banana. Its only compensation for such deficiency is
Vicamin C — and its effects are open to controversy. Some
will praise it as a cure for all casual ailments, while
others will damn it as a cause of so much ‘evil’. Y, like
myself, believes neither and, like myself, eats the fruit
because it provides a cheap and tasty refreshment on a
warm day. Having eaten the orange, she walks around the
lake, across a small bridge and finally sits in the sunshine
near a Eucalyptus Bancroftii, which (coincidently)
is known as an Orange Gum.

Only the arrangement is ‘fiction’: My garage is made from
corrugated iron, painted green, over a simple wooden
structure. I do not know how old it is. At least twenty,
maybe thirty years have passed since its construction. The
floor is paved with red-bricks. Under years of various
different car-wheels it has become undulating rather than
flat. The walls lean in various directions and the doors
hardly fill their spaces. I stand there on a cold wind-
swept day (today) thinking of Y’s face, oranges and the
date. I realise that, ‘in truth’, I cannot recall what I
was doing on the 1st of March 1974. Nor do I know what Y
was doing. I do not know why I stand in the garage —
except for the ‘sake of a story’. Through the side-
door I can see the red garden-shed with the letter B on
its door. Inside the shed is a box of coloured slides en-
titled ‘HONEYMOON (TAS) 1964’. Y has read a number of
books on Tantric Art and walked many times through the
Botanical Gardens. She has also, like myself and many
others, eaten vast amounts of oranges, and once went into
my garden-shed and found packages of coloured slides.
There is, at the moment, little room in the garage because
my car fills most of the space. It is what the space is
intended for. The car has a new battery bought only two
months ago. In a corner there is a red bicycle. It is
very old and, sadly, not ridden very often. On the back
wall are two yellow plastic square ‘plates’ with the letter
L painted in black upon each of them. I do not know who
used them or when. They are not mine. When the car first
had a flat battery, in February 1974, I replaced it with
one that cost very little. It was a mistake. Two months
ago the casing cracked and, unable to find either the re-
ceipt or the two-year guarantee, I was forced to buy an-
other. A week ago I had to replace the gear box. I fear
my 18 month-old love-affair with the motor-car is coming
to an end. Through the side-door of the garage can also
be seen the small Eucalyptus Bancroftii that I planted in
early Autumn this year near the compost heap. Tonight I
will drive my car out of the garage and visit Y.

XI

The poem presents itself as a multiplicity of problems
unsolved beneath a sunny June sky. A presumption open to
doubt — at least as controversial as the properties of
Vitamin C. Seemingly, the exemplification takes over.
In the garden, the Orange Gum continues to grow. The
Wattle also. A deciduous tree rises bare, and in vain,
towards the sun. Beneath the surface, beyond sight, the
Mint continues to colonise wherever it is allowed — as
imperial as any European. To the left (from the old, very
worn cane chair on the concrete near the door-mat) an
unknown disease sadly eats into the otherwise flourishing
Bay Tree. Next to it, an indoor plant (name unknown),
mistakenly planted outdoors, develops almost to the height
of a ceiling. Another does the same on the right next
to the bungalow next to the garden-shed. Directly in front
of the chair, a wind-chime hangs from the Lilly Pilly tree.
At the end of the garden the compost heap rots. Near the
Bay Tree once stood a plaster garden gnome. A creation of
a fantasy world, stolen mysteriously. Now, near the bung-
alow, another gnome hides beneath a sign bearing a warning
to thieves. Bamboo grows out from under the bungalow. The
letter B and the letters L remain in their places. Over
the sink the tap drips. The poem dispenses with argument.

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