Beckoning

Necessity need not beckon. Beckoning assumes scope for choice. I am beckoned at – I can ignore the beckoning or allow myself to be drawn to the one who beckons. However, if the beckoner does not actually stand at a distance and beckon, but instead approaches me directly – allowing me no escape – then things are different. Better in this instance to conceive an erotics or an etiquette of necessity. Scrupulously polite and reticent, but always desirous, necessity makes a show of beckoning when it actually imposes itself. Arriving in a split second – in a darkness that cannot be countenanced – it is an intimate breath from afar. The stench of an ancient cloak. Necessity strides along with a spritely step and an invisible laughter. I can only follow. I would inevitably follow if such a grim figure were to appear, but instead we have only this. The table spreads out before me tonight like a graveyard, like the clucking of geese, like the temptation to sleep.

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Intestate

A list of things to accomplish today would be useful. Documents to prepare, include in agendas and distribute. A new front motorbike tire and repairs to my car transmission. A visit to the doctor to attend to my hand. Drop in on a few people. Do some housework. And especially don’t forget to phone the lawyers. After all, I have paid the account. Crazy not to have my name on the will. All I need to do is make an appointment and go in and sign the thing, but I have put off this simple task for months. Once I have neglected something for a sufficiently long time then it becomes tempting to see if I can neglect it altogether. After all, does it really matter if nothing is accomplished? Who will notice? How long will it take them to notice? By the time they notice it is quite likely that everything will have moved on, that none of this will be perceived as important anymore. Neglect is the impulse towards life.

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The Decline of John Fahey

Currents in the grain of wood indicate that the table is not simply a piece of furniture. It incorporates motion within its attitude of quiet reserve. In his late middle age – actually near the end of his life – the guitarist and writer, John Fahey, came to regard his early work as pretentious. He ate popcorn, drank too much beer and let his heart go to ruin. But this was also to permit his spiritual and corporeal self some latitude – some scope for change. It scarcely matters in the long term whether the change was ruinous or beneficial. I have been listening to his album, “The Dance of Death and Other Plantation Favorites”. His music has the capacity to return static objects to a state of flux. Now that the album is finished, I can hear the crickets whirring in the yard and the roar of the ocean in suburban streets. There are always too many surfaces and too many depths. Once again it is time to find my way elsewhere.

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Memory of Her Smile

I follow a steep track up between two high cliffs. The ground is blue with the anticipation of cold. Patches of snow in the gneiss scree. To stop here even for a moment. To imagine this possible. To remember now that I passed this way. The turmoil of two bags fractured upwards, nothing like clouds. They thrust above the layer of paper and books beneath, which itself lies above the flat, brown tabletop. I must somehow continue. Endless series of switchbacks leading up to the pass. The mountains resemble the diminishing day. Buckles attached to the grim rock. Zippers running along their soaring aretes. I must pick my way between them. I must find my way to the place where the difference between one place and another disappears. I must keep walking – the weight of countless homes on my back, but with their contents constantly spilling out behind me. She smiled at me for several weeks. That’s enough.

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Another Morning

If I am being honest, only the most minor things have changed since yesterday. My phone is almost certainly in a different position, although it still straddles the divide between the table proper and its extension, and it is still rotated some twenty degrees away from the perpendicular table edge. My wallet has also almost certainly moved. I seem to recall that it was on my left, now it is on my right. It lies resolutely closed to me. I can only just see the edge of some plastic cards. I do recognise one new thing – a letter that arrived yesterday from the Australian Electoral Commission. Once again, I have not opened it. I must however have placed it in my back pocket last night. It has been folded a number of times. I placed it in my back pocked to avoid throwing it out with the rest of my mail – all unwanted stuff. I will say nothing of changes in the garden or sky. I will do my best to remain simply attentive.

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Beasts

Scanning the table for the horizon and discovering only soft, puffy things or smooth, giggling things, or silent things. An axe, a concrete porch, an immense beast that pulls a plough. The Earth itself is upturned, tripping forward under its own weight. A snorting, bellowing, unevenly proportioned, ultimately gaseous and indeterminate thing. And with that, the wind lifts in the garden. The dark streets, the gentle surf, the twinkling lights. I had planned to write of hardship, but hardship leads nowhere. No amount of suffering can be safely assembled here. Instead I notice a long yellow extension lead poised at the top of a vacuum cleaner box. It has not collapsed into the box. It has not abandoned its sense of coiled resilience. Instead, with its multiple curved horizontal lines, it suggests an intemperate patience. If nothing will take coherent shape then let all lines be drawn. Let the spine of reality itself be sketched. Let the viscera that flows from its absent stomach become food for the poor.

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Thermos

The screech of a cockatoo above my house and out the back. I’m wearing this black jumper with the sleeves rolled up. Actually this is not true – most of the day my sleeves were up, but now they have slipped down. Luckily I have an adjustable spanner to fix the leaking gas bottle. Ended up stupidly buying a whole new connection when all I needed was a small rubber O-ring. Standing in Bunnings with some tough woman and her painted daughters just ahead of me. They placed three wet citrus trees and a thermos on the counter. The daughter asked, “why the thermos?” The mother didn’t answer. She was typing in her pin. The sky above my untrimmed hedge is pink and blue. The pink is rising higher, while the blue slips behind it like a dutiful friend. But already the blue, while never stepping forward, prevails. Dusk is a work of inveigling and false obeisance. I was listening to a long piece of music but it finished some time ago.

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Identity

The brim of my upturned hat describes an arc at the far end of the table, roughly similar to the arc described by the most distant upper lip of the wooden fruit bowl. The closer porcelain bowl appears as a proximate relation. It too is circular, but – brightly yellow with blue lines – it appears much less gloomy and withdrawn. It also has no patience for fruit. It is full of loose items that would otherwise become lost. Apart from a few coins and my coffee cup, the remaining geometry is rectangular – books, pads, letters and so on. But none of this suggests conformity. Piles of books and paper are arranged as splayed sets of playing cards or as curious pieces of modern architecture with large, heavy concrete projections. One of the jutting roofs curves upwards at a corner to rest on the slightly higher edge of the porcelain bowl. It suggests a level of tentative communication between unlike shapes – a point of passage between one form of abstract identity and another.

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Prey

A fold in the top sheet of a spiral bound pad of lined paper, like a bed sheet pulled back to enable easy entry into a single bed on a cold winter night. The branches of the trees are laden with snow. The street lights reveals footsteps on the path below. Everybody has left. They went today or yesterday. Their faces are obscure to me. The mountains are hidden beneath a pall of darkness. I walk up each of their steep, pine-bound paths simultaneously. My breath spreads though the night. Demons rise up from their hutches. They drag their long, filthy nails through the snow and across the rocks and the trunks of the trees. Limited creatures – they imagine that they are predators when they are in fact prey. They are prey to the disappearance of the forest, of the mountains, of the cold night itself. I withdraw everything I have given them. I can no longer even recognise the bed – only the folded blank page.

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Housework

Morning brings other thoughts. All thoughts disappear. I am no longer sitting in the sun. My mobile phone, angled slightly sideways, straddles the line separating the table proper from its extension. A book on the Oulipo faces me much more directly, its title neatly underlined by the top edge of my monitor. I really should read it. Jack runs a service called Top Chop Tree Services. His card is green. His number is 0455 294 499. Beneath Jack’s card is a letter from my lawyers. I have yet to sign my will and pay the account. I know this already. I wonder if there is any point in opening letters anymore. I can imagine what they contain. I leave them unopened as reminders. All the fanciful places that no amount of lingering will lead me to. I have walked deserted Parisian streets. I have been ignored by touts. If only I could find some means of making sense of any of this. If only images could actually appear. Perhaps once the housework is done.

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Fuck Off

Dusk was blue, red and pearly white above the sea. I headed away from the coast, north along the railway line. The creeks had been recently dredged – inky black with mud, stacks of reeds on the shore. A dark figure avoided me as we crossed in opposite directions on an unlit bridge – his hoodie pulled low over his head, his backpack strapped close. I walked across the grass to the end of Sandon Point. A piece of seaweed covered driftwood blocked the path down to the beach. I noticed solar garden lights glowing in the sand beneath – purple, red and blue – and a dim shape beside them. A woman’s voice yelled at me, “Fuck off and leave me alone” and “I can see you up there, you bastard”. I briefly considered responding, but thought better of it, turned around and made my way back to the main bike path. Crossing another little bridge near the Bulli Caravan park, two little girls were skipping ahead of their parents. They bravely said hello to me.

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Ghosts

She observed that the house probably had ghosts and asked me if I was afraid of them. This had not occurred to me, but since she had mentioned it I responded that I was not afraid of any ghosts that may haunt my home. I explained that I was happy here and that most likely the ghosts regard me with affection. Since then I have thought more carefully about this. I believe that the ghosts make no attempt to frighten me because they sense our genuine kinship. After all, I am also in the house alone. I also move from room to room silently. I also occasionally wander around at night. I am really not so different from them. No more than a small accident of time separates us. Indeed, returning to my sensible self, it seems to me that haunting is actually something that living people do. In imagining that I am alive I reproduce the imaginary conditions of death. I am my own ghost. Early this evening, I planted five more plants in the garden.

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Sun and Clouds

Bright, sunny day – the clouds return to my table, crumpled, shiny and soft. The yellow one at the rear billows open for a moment and then returns to its supplicant attitude. Translucent catacombs, with curved, straining arches. Just next to it at the left the bulwark of a ship, an ice breaker heading through a black sea and still far from the prospect of ice. Or equally the looming presence of an albino shark, jaw open as it lunges up to bite some blithe seal. And then there is the sea itself – a squashed, black, uneven thing. It presses its lumbering bulk down upon an empty fruit bowl. So there are three plastic bags altogether – one yellow, one white and one black. I have been shopping. I have walked amongst crowds of people. I have spoken to shop assistants. I have nodded at a former student as he walked down the hill towards some kind of retro record sale. His girlfriend wore yellow stockings. I deliberately chose the slow way home.

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Strap

A bit of metal on my brown bag juts out like a shoulder. A loop of thicker meal hangs from it. The latter is linked to a strap that shapes bold curves alongside the outside of the more passive bag. It is though a quick eel makes its way between the legs of a partly submerged rhinoceros, avoiding being squashed, but still locked to the life of the rhinoceros – still unable to precisely escape. Even when the waterhole is empty of terrestrial things, the eel has only one thought – less a thought than an instinctive inclination – to wait for the heavy legs that will provide its cue to swim and dance. The eel’s bright eyes flash in the muddy, sombre, middling depths. It can sense the pull of the metal at its head and tail. It can sense the risk that this entails, not only of being crushed, but of being held forever by this scene, unable to overcome it, unable to imagine any other way of subsisting – ecstatic in this terminal state.

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Gushing Hose

A small pile of waste paper is arranged at the right side of the table. I deliberately placed it there in preparation for me to fetch it up, exit at the sliding glass door, turn left beneath a modest verandah, head left again through a garden gate, walk down a short section of concrete driveway and deposit the paper in a large, yellow recycling bin. But I have yet to do this. Instead, in the gathering darkness, I dragged a hose down past the bins to water the new plants in the front garden. In the midst of this, the watering attachment popped off the hose, leaving a gushing naked tip. The concrete became wet as I pulled the running hose back to its proper place at the rear left hand corner of the house. The pile of paper remained utterly unaffected by any of these goings on. Even now as a cold breeze blows in at the glass door, it retains its composure. I can only regard it with awe. I can only wish I had similar tenacity.

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Strikings

Sunlight zig-zagging up a low tiered garden wall. Getting cooler. I am wearing a black jumper. Listening to John Fahey’s “The Legend of Blind Joe Death”. The volume fades down in the middle of a track for no particular reason, lifts to become loud and then fades out again. Very little seems to have changed on my table. The table itself, of course, rarely changes. Only the material on top of it. Only the orientation of the chairs. Only the quality of the surrounding day or night. Only the person who types these words. I can hear the garbage truck out on the road. Six small black plastic pots arranged in a row in a clear spot in my rear garden. My neighbour has gone away for three weeks, leaving me to care for the strikings. I wonder what chance they have of growing. All I can do is water them regularly. The rest will depend upon the efficacy of the miracle formula he has applied to their buried stems. My favourite track is “Sligo River Blues”.

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Moon

A smiling young man in a Godzilla suit towers above a small artificial city. Fetch TV – some kind of on-line movie delivery system. $9.95 a month, and for only $20 more, the full entertainment pack, with additional television channels. I try to imagine watching lots of television. Beneath this lavish piece of promotional literature is a large white envelope from the Australian Government. I am quite confident that it contains a bowel cancer testing kit, having already received one some five years ago. I pick it up, test its weight, squeeze and shake it – as though it were a Christmas present. Just a moment ago I was contemplating watching a great deal more television than I currently do. The next I am painfully aware of my own mortality. I can hear the quiet bleeps of innumerable small insects in the garden. The bugs seem to be everywhere, yet I cannot see a single one of them. They lull me into sleep – despite the full yellow moon.

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Cloth

Darkness again. The only light. I lost my way today. Muffled sound of rain. I am searching in the shadows for the certainty of ghosts. Somebody had to die here, but why should they bother hanging around? No idea, especially as the world itself is becoming ghostly – a tentative, soon to disappear thing. Coils of white power cord on the ground. Red wine. One chair angled back from the table. My brown bag has pulled back its hair, revealing a blue flap of soft skin. It nestles into the black bag of gym gear, with its ridiculous white rope handles and cursive promotional text. Their intimacy permits no intrusion. I should leave them be, but am shocked by the visible towel – that two things should indulge in such close exchange in the midst of this terrible silence, that they should ignore the messy stacks of printed materials, that they should risk the sweet embrace of cloth. I wish them well in the midst of their uncertain future.

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Conjunction

A long, sharp knife beside the laptop, shining with a thin slick of lemon juice. Beside it a half drunk bottle of beer. In the air above, one of three lights on the chandelier – a pool of glowing glass, with the bulb a solitary bather. Then back down at table level, my upturned and askew reading glasses. These four things, perceived in quick succession, prompt me to sit down – to put on my glasses, to drink the remaining beer, to notice that the lemon juice is now only faintly visible on the vibrating knife. I cannot help looking up again towards the chandelier light, but suddenly it no longer makes the same impression. It is just one of three chandelier lights. It no longer enters into relation with the three things on the table, which in the same instant suddenly drift away from one another and grow opaque. There is nothing here. There is nothing to see. The evening darkness has descended. The rain has stopped.

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Grey, Blue and Green

No end to this rain. The sky is a dim and striated grey. I bought a ceramic bird bath on the way home to put beneath the Christmas bush in the garden. I was the last customer for the day. The birdbath is glazed blue. I hope it will attract birds. Two items in my mailbox – a Dominos pizza advertisement and a letter for the former owner. The latter comes in a reusable envelope made from recycled paper. A green arrow and some green text explains that the recipient must open the letter at the green end to reuse the envelope. The return address is STATE DEBT RECOVERY OFFICE, LOCKED BAG 2128, NORTH SYDNEY NSW 2059. I consider opening the letter. I consider forwarding it to the former owner. But then I remember that I don’t have her current address. There is also an undeliverable option – a PO Box address. To be honest, I’ll probably just throw the letter out. I will at least make sure to put it in the recycling bin.

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Mandarins

I can recognise implicitly that I should write about the mandarins. They are so strikingly orange. They nestle into my wooden fruit bowl like clouds above a low valley, or better still, like bloody offal in a saucer – the offal, perhaps, of a slaughtered white horse that is scooped up to feed cats. They can also be likened to a group of football players packed in closely to gee themselves up for a big effort – their shaved heads so closely pressed together that they resemble clouds or offal. But these are definitely mandarins. One even has a blue label, which is fortunately bound to come off before I eat the piece of fruit. It is my practice to always skin mandarins prior to eating them. The good thing about mandarins is the you can eat as many as you like. There is no sense of excess if one eats a substantial number in a single day. In this sense, the mandarins may be likened to cigarettes for somebody who has a pack a day habit.

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Walk

I walked up Gray St and across the Princes Highway to the new housing development on Woodland Avenue. Completed about a decade ago but still unconvincing. Small blocks, big houses, lots of brick and half grown gardens. Turned right at Red Ash Drive and then left at Gahan’s Lane, heading up steeply in the direction of the escarpment – the houses becoming older the higher I climbed. Then an overgrown fire trail, with lantana closing in on both sides, to another fire trail leading up to Rixon’s Pass. Followed the track from the top along in the direction of Broker’s Nose, but the afternoon was growing late so I stopped at a powerline clearing with a view over the coast. Large swell rolling into Bellambi beach. That’s about all I noticed before I turned around, worried that it might be dark on the descent, but no problems. Only became dark when I got back and was watering the new plants.

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Sparklers

Beyond the limits of all my naive hopes. Inky, ice-filled northern air. Branches of greater darkness split through the night. Shards of imaginary light play at the borders of invisibility, like sparklers in the hands of the dead. I wiped the table with a wet cloth. I could have done a better job. I could have waited until the water was hot. I could have shifted everything off the table and wiped it thoroughly. Instead I wiped in broad, unsystematic strokes, leaving some areas damp and the other dusty and dry. This is the scene that I contemplate, that leads me into the forest, into the very depths of the night – though it is only mid-afternoon. I can barely stand. I have lost my bearings completely. The branches of darkness twist my head about. There is no need to reach into my pocket for matches. Bright specks of painful light erupt from a thin bit of wire at the end of my incalculably distant hand.

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Capacity for Evil

Circular echoes. All in close proximity. That small rubber band. The opening of a pouch and its looping draw string. The bronze guitar slide in the pouch. The top rim of a coffee cup. The rubber band and bronze slide are drawn into particularly close relation, like the shadows of chickens, like the certainty of temperature extremes. The dark pouch would consume the shiny bronze slide, but cannot quite succeed, which only accentuates its slack and gaping maw. The pouch is stitched at the sides. It resembles some exotic seed. With the slide visible, it also resembles some dark, disconsolate eye – fated to be evil, but somehow lacking the appropriate resources. Instead it is the rubber band that reveals grim determination – a steady, elastic poise. It will not blink. No trace of shining. It is imbued with gummy light. It knows the legitimate power of its circular shape. Sun. What does he sun matter? What additional circularity does the sun offer?

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Dope

People were here. They have gone. A unopened bottle of wine, or better, a bottle of wine not drunk, stands close by and in the near distance a morbid relic – a collapsed headstone, actually a breadboard. Bread, olives and cheese – these are things people expect to eat, but not on separate plates. A breadboard is much more convivial. Now that my guests have descended uncertainly down the front steps, nobody can stop me listening to George’s McRae’s “Rock Your Baby” – “Woman take me in your arms, rock me baby”. I listened to that song a lifetime ago as we drove through the back blocks of Miami looking for dope. I can recall thinking that I was somehow growing up. I envisaged some kind of future, but it never happened. Nothing is ever as envisaged. No matter how closely I attend to the immediacy of my current circumstances, I am always distracted. The nights spread across the far hills.

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