C. D. BARRON
3 POEMS & A LETTER
"Nevertheless the truth that is in the intellect, some is simple and some is complex."
Joseph Delmedigo, 1629
suckered with hope
as a garden postponed
A helmet of shady thoughts
for an artist's hand splayed
brittle as bread-sticks
A hallowed mountain
feathered with eyelashes
as a lost piece of puzzle
A fragment of moss
on which sits an angel
waving a periwinkle
A sealed fountain self-effaced
a broken bell upturned
holding seventy paradoxes
A palm at the end of the mind
beyond bitter waters
and a desert of moon
NEW MOON/Aspasia of the Archway
is the praxis of hypostatic unity
trinity in foil
res before convexity
finding your arche become
more knowing than epochal being
Beautiful you say
now shut up
and let the order begin
Only without principle can we properly live
self complacency our best hope
syllogisms full of bellis and systematic abuse
bending in haecceity catoptric for life
luteo scorpio this iron stillness is like hell
father fear the enemy in dwelling
"before us the future looms dark, and that we can scarcely...."
Gogol, Dead Souls
fly through water
whether this be deep
or the half life
is not the question
A half moon
like horns on the head
makes for better sacrifice
than the horizon of Marduk
his slavish destruction of chaos
causes us to forget cuppeity
and the filial tussle with quintessence
Thoughts arising from a reading of Kris Hemensley article on Grossinger: -
Basically I hold to the anarchist's tenet, that we are best not to be overly-concerned with endings as to do so is to be purloined by "means". Rather concentrate on the paradoxes and interactions of our times beyond solution. Perhaps the Homeric encounter with Calypso speaks best, where one sought, whether reasonably or unreasonably, release from specific mystification for a better journeying. Interestingly, the release was only made possible by Hermes, the mercurial one. For some the vessel of journey may itself bear the veiling name, as with Cousteau, the deep sea explorer: for for some there is no release, life is forever mystery, as with a mirroring sea. In contrast the seduction of the portal accepts some pre-existant framing which may or may not prove useful. Indeed a port-hole as opposed to a starboard hole, would surely have direct linkage with left brain/right brain posturing, which is where I come undone.
Goethe's "gross natural array" has long been seen as obdurate, and it may or may not have something to do with politics. I haven't read Williams' "Kora in Hell" but would be most interested, as formative work usually holds some germ that is enlightening. The present re-appraisal of Goethe's criticisms of Newton I find fascinating. But God forbid some elected or unelected ecclesia have power to declare one or other invalid. We would do well to preserve the Manichees and their unmediated black and white, at the same time, wisely and yet with relish, explore outside possibilities while we have the chance. Why should one exclude the other? Thank goodness for pamphlets and blogs which give rise to dialogue, to disclose, to explore, to express unwillingness to have wool pulled over our eyes, however charmingly . Yet the poet is not always sooth-sayer. I believe, perhaps you think wrongly, that his training should be sufficient to allow him to express untruth with positive outcome. This may be to launch again the good ship Calypso, and furthermore to pit poetry against reason for yet another season. It may possibly even force the composers of music into their diatonic vs chromatic camps again.
VERA DI CAMPLI SAN VITO
An orange halo wavers around the streetlight –
a gelatinous moon.
Walk past the children's playground, into the middle.
Let your eyes adjust to the dark.
Now you’re exposed like the whitewashed wooden posts.
Listen to the boom gates clang, train rumble past.
Continue on, away from the houses and the street, where it's darker still.
Beside the tracks looms the stump of the corroboree tree.
Circle it once.
Sense the warmth of its fire-blackened trunk, the didgeridoos, the chanting.
Turn one-eighty degrees to see the moon risen
and ready to burst over the city's skyline.
You could almost howl.
Up a steep cobblestoned lane, flies suck
the sun-withered corpses of black slugs.
Gaping ruins of a thirteenth century church
overlook a yard of fallen slabs.
Through an iron gate into a high-walled field
half-filled with graves, only you
the trees and the tombstones are standing.
Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted.
The wind picks up a heap of clouds
shoves them across the sun and cools your sweat.
You shiver and start back down.
“They don’t break ‘em like they used to,”
Mother said, picking blackberries at noon.
We’d gone to the edge of the cliff
where the brambles were thick.
“In those days we kept killer goats, ate anything,
chomped these bushes down to the ground.”
I pictured their cast-iron guts.
Mother licked blackberry juice from her fingers,
her voice as bitter as the juice was sweet:
“Afterwards we’d stamp on what was left with bare feet.”
The Tassajara Way or Refrigerator No.5
I had my first heart attack at nineteen. I was making bread in a narrow kitchen that faced west. The louvres were closed so that everything hot in an Adelaide summer Saturday, everything compressed and still in the quiet of the inner city block, could build in the room. So the yeast could get cracking.
I was working with scholarly diligence from the Tassajara Bread Book, making a bread sponge - that slurry of yeast, warm water and flour that has nothing in it to inhibit the yeast’s multiplication. The Tassajara Bread Book promised me this would be an investment in gluten development. I wish I still had this book, with its paper bag brown cover, Moorish font, and thick pages that almost had the texture of a dense sourdough. It persuasively explained a system for the care and nurturing of bread that everyone should read, and the chapter on sour dough was excellent.
I was by myself for the weekend, my first term in a new university and a new city. Don’t ask why I was there, nineteen, no friends and no money, living in a semi with a lover who was conspicuously absent and a friend of his trying to make the most of this.
Emeric lived next door, in the ‘mirror’ semi – number 22. Canadian, he said was a geologist, and perhaps he was. What he was definitely, was hunting for company. Anytime someone called in to visit at 22A, he’d slouch over to give his long Canadian vowels a run. At fifty or more, he was in the process of realising he had been jilted by his much younger girlfriend. Maybe she had figured out that the gris eminis and convivial conversation, boiled down to the unforgivably boring much quicker than they should have. I had the idea that he lived on money sent to him from his mother who had a cherry orchard in Canada. Whatever work had bought him to Adelaide, the vicarious grip on youth that prolonged his stay had trailed off to something asymptotically flat. Eventually his mother paid for his ticket home and he announced that was returning to Canada, like he was doing her a favour. In this circumstance, where I could see the end of him in sight, and that he had promised I could have his fridge when he left in 2 weeks, I didn’t mind when he appeared at the back door asking for a cup of tea.
I still have the drop side table he had his elbow on as he sat drinking the tea in the kitchen. The bread sponge was working up at a great rate and I watched it seethe upwards in the bowl as I drank my tea, my back jammed against the makeshift kitchen bench that swayed like a boat and flaked off flat shards of slate.
I can’t remember anything specific Emeric said on that day, until he said It’s very hot in here and I don’t feel so well. He didn’t look well. A fine beading of sweat was starting to slide down his forehead. I suggested in an off-hand manner that he sit in the front room for a while. It was dark and cool in there, in the way of a south facing room with front verandah that had not seen a beam of sunlight since the roof was put on in 1890. And I could get on making bread without his expert commentary.
Emeric went to cool down. I turned my attention back to converting the sponge to dough. It was rye bread, a putty grey coloured flecked with brown. It was a true gaseous mass and the spoon made slurpy belching noises as it broke through pockets of carbon dioxide. The gluten had come into itself and the dough followed the spoon’s progress like fond glue. It smelt sour, and fecund: productive. It was a pity to overwhelm it with oil, salt and more flour but the way ahead was the Tassajara path and I was on the road to bread.
Emeric reappeared in the kitchen. I was interested to see that people really did go grey and he was now one of them. Some distant part of my brain caste a clinical eye on his greyness, the funny hunched way he was standing and I suggested that he take 2 or 3 aspirin straight away. In hindsight this was excellent advice, if a little spooky in its unconscious choice of the need for something to thin the blood. Emeric went home.
A little while later while I was pummelling one load of dough, with another great mass growing like an opera chorus in its bowl, I heard Emeric singing. He sang quite a bit and very badly. My reflex was to turn a deaf ear. But this song had an odd rhythm and after a bit, I made myself listen to the words. Rather, the word, for it was just the one word repeated in rising scale. HELP.
The evidence that been churlishly, unconsciously collecting about Emeric’s bodily state seemed to rush with me as I did the loop out of my back door, around the fence, up the path and into his house. One look at Emeric flat on his bed with blue lips was enough to consolidate my suspicions. I said Emeric I think you’re having a heart attack. No, he said, he had pains, pins and needles in his arms. Sounded more and more like a heart attack. I said I would run to the phone box and call an ambulance. The idea that he needed oxygen, with its suggestion of mouth to mouth, shot me out of the room.
As I ran out of his door I realized my bread dough would need punching down, so I ran back into my kitchen and thumped the hell out of it, turned and ran out again, heading for phone booth a couple of blocks away. I didn’t have far to go, as I capitalized on fellow in the next block who was watering his garden, and begged the use of his phone. With the ambulance on its way I ran back to Emeric’s house.
The ambulance came very quickly, I had opened Emeric’s front door so they charged in like a movie. They asked him if he had had heart attack before. No, No he was saying as if to save himself. They had Emeric on the trolley and out the door while I was still loitering in his filthy kitchen. There was an unpleasant stale smell of dirty socks and sauerkraut.
There is an almost macabre fascination, standing in the kitchen of person who has been taken away by a wailing ambulance. I looked around in an interrogating way, at the dregs in coffee cups, then I opened the fridge. There was not much in it, jars of cheap red fish roe, sauerkraut, a bottle of milk that was mine, beer, mustard, wilted vegetables. A cold chop on a plate, much greyer than Emeric. Emeric did a line in damp dog-eared third hand books, with wrinkled corners and cracked paper spines, that would put most people off reading for life. On a kitchen shelf next to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged was a cookbook that caught my eye. The title of it went along the lines “How to Cook so you don’t have another heart attack”. I scrutinized the shelves more closely, this was the only cook book there. It seemed a bit of a giveaway to me. Was this his second heart attack? Was it vanity or some dreadful denial that had prompted Emeric to whisper emphatically to the ambulance officers that he had never had a heart attack. Perhaps he had experienced twinges and the cookbook was some sort of cut-rate insurance.
I thought about cleaning up, but decided against it. I went back to my place and the bread dough.
It turned out that Emeric’s heart attack might have been fatal. He spent a week in intensive care, before graduating to a ward. I got a message from his ex-girlfriend, who came with her friends to clean up his house, that he would have to delay his flight to Canada for six weeks. It would be weeks before he got out of hospital. I was annoyed, this meant that my two week wait for the fridge would slide into six week wait. But then I figured if he was in hospital he didn’t need a fridge. It was a heavy old lumbering fridge and I got my boyfriend and his mate, who was getting more desperate, to move it. It always smelt faintly like stale sauerkraut. But a fridge is a useful thing.
C D BARRON & CAROL JENKINS have been this way before [see the name index for appearances in previous issues]. Chris is surely due for a book soon, and Carol, if she can spare the time from her River Road Press [Australian poets on CD] publishing, due for a second. VERA DI CAMPLI SAN VITO has been on the edges since it began and at last tips into it. Before returning to Australia a few years ago, she worked at the Poetry Cafe in London. Why did I think she was an assistant at the Poetry Library on South Bank? Occasionally publishes & reads on the Melbourne circuit.
--Now I have a 'plane to catch!
April 6th, 2011.