Rules

I started with the following rules:

  • Must be written at my kitchen table.
  • Must begin with the specific things that lie before me.
  • Must regard nothing as unworthy of consideration.
  • Must take shape as a single prose paragraph.
  • Must write 100 altogether (although I have now written 101 because of the full moon which appeared on day 50).

This quickly led to more rules:

  • Must begin with no sense of what will be written.
  • Must each be eleven lines long when displayed on my blog (this means in practice that they must be between 145 and 190 words long). [The 101st is an exception. It is twelve lines long.]
  • Must be completed in a single sitting. No false starts permitted.
  • Must not stray from the table unless the table permits me to stray.
  • Must write an average of at least two per day.

[I must confess that there were a few, additional, privately determined rules. I will make no effort to describe them here. Very briefly, they indicated the ultimate failure of all my perverse efforts at communication and silence.]

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Full Moon

Tonight, the fiftieth night, the night I had no need to write, the night beyond the limit of what was required, I cannot help but notice that I have not hung out my washing. It is there on the chair, wet inside a white laundry basket. Earlier this evening, I looked across the IGA car park towards a wooden fence and some trees. The moon was already above them. I wondered where it was heading. Last night, before the moon was quite full, I imagined an endless series of Christians being thrown to the lions. No matter their terror, no matter their sad composure, their little heads exploded inside the jaws of the lions. They were gone like grapes. And those left were mercilessly slaughtered with barbaric weapons thrown from the crowd. Only when all the Christians were dead – every doomed group of adults and children, every lone individual – did the audience come to recognize the terrible wrong that had occurred. At that point the dead were offered a legal reprieve and the moon rose above the stadium like the fantasy of real estate.

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Relieved

The nights are not innumerable. It is just that I cannot count them. Streams of molten tar pour down the road. I am stripped of all illusions. I would like to describe the table again. I would like to find adequate words to register this experience – which is also the negation of experience – but I can only make false starts. I have a heavy heart. My heart is laden with things. Each thing is itself laden with memories of neglect. I have received another letter for the former owner of this house, Geraldine Harrison. It is a superannuation statement. Seems about time that I received a superannuation statement myself. A friend sends me a photograph of another place. I am relieved not to have to go there. Apart from anything else, my car needs a service. I am hoping to get some sleep. I welcome the darkness that approaches on all sides. I welcome the new moon that I cannot see. I lean forward and then sit back in my chair.

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Stems

The sky is blue. I am definite about that. A strong morning blue. Huge orbs of soft, white water in the tree tops. The slow flight of a lone bird. I am trying to find my way through a forest, but it constantly disappears. This is not a forest of shade. This is not a forest of trails. This is not a forest to emerge from. I seem to be ascending a smallish, sun-drenched hill. The trees are scarcely trees. They have no branches or leaves, just towering, spear-like stems. I speak of spears, but cannot see the sharp tips. There is just the confusion of variously angled stems, the high glare from the hanging sacks of water and the relentless sound of birds. I cannot get to the top of the hill. I look up at the pendulous spheres. I try to make sense of them. I try to continue walking through the forest. I try to make each step count. Yet I am stuck within the motion of each step. If only the day were less bright. If only I had prepared properly for this.

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This Place

I have looked forward to leaving this place for so long. In consequence, it has no loyalty to me. I may as well have left already. Still, some urgent red scribbling on a piece of paper catches my eye. I also notice the perfect alignment of a wine glass and an empty bowl of ice cream. But these observations instantly withdraw. They grow obscure and impregnable. I am forced to look away, if only to demonstrate some measure of decency. My easy relationship to this place is gone. I would like to object. I would like to insist that nothing essential has changed, but I know this is untrue. While everything remains scrupulously still, every aspect of this stillness is different. It is unhinged and shakes with rage. It is unimpressed by everything that I say – most of all by my insincere expressions of love. Clear enough, after all, that nothing can make me stay, that I am leaving on my own accord, that I am already looking elsewhere.

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Evening

In the confused depths of the evening, beyond any of my childhood thoughts, beyond any of my adult aspirations, beyond anything determinate, I once again find my way here. Only here. The night exhales until all air is gone, until the moon itself is extinguished. Two chairs face toward the window, toward the garden, toward the the sense that nothing whatsoever will ever happen – that fashioning an event is unlikely and impertinent. And all the gates are closed. And only one window is ajar – my bedroom window, which opens on to the clouds and the memory of the sea. And cars still travel past – even at this hour. If only I could find my way within any of this. If only things were less scattered. If only less time had passed. I hear rushed voices in the midst of silence. I see figures meandering about in the darkness outside. The time descends. It plummets down an endless mineshaft, past flickering lights, past the limits of dug systems.

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Tidying Up

I have gone through all my books and stacked them in two orderly piles towards the far end of the table. The most distant pile is roughly double the size of the other. I have also gone through all my letters, removing all the bills and placing them together in one place. In the process of tidying up, I discovered three pens – red, black and blue – beneath the various bits of paper, also a few coins, which together add up to 85 cents. Neither of the two bowls have moved. There is a pineapple and a large banksia seed pod in the wooden bowl. The ceramic bowl contains small, easily lost things, as well as two bereft pieces of fruit – an apple and an orange. I expect that I will eventually eat the orange, but the apple, despite its proud sticker, will almost certainly be discarded. I had expected to clear my table completely, but that would be pointless. The contents of my table undermine the abstract possibility of surface.

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Pear

A remaining pear – perfect, with pink and red blushes on yellow, unblemished skin. Wide hips and buttocks, narrow curved shoulders, thin, elegant neck. Leaning like an odelisque against an unassuming mandarin. The pear is heedless of its various admirers – encircled by books – Hegel, Baudelaire and Perec. All manner of marginal things are drawn towards its bright and compelling presence. They jockey for position. They struggle to be close and, in being close, gain a muted capacity to appear. While the pear itself is relaxed and indolent. It is completely unconcerned. It has no sense that it risks becoming over-ripe, that its luxurious existence must soon end. Instead it meditatively gazes across a wide open bay of towels and coats towards a dark and obscure hinterland. At the same time, it looks inward towards its own perfection. It experiences this perfection, without reflecting upon it or seeking adequate ways to articulate it. The pear is increasingly swollen. It pulses with beauty, darkness and putrefaction.

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Landing

The high pitched whine of my washer’s spin cycle. Descending, as though a plane coming in for landing – then taxiing quietly along the tarmac towards the terminals. In this gentle, rumbling lull, Mr Airplane Man’s album Moanin starts up. The occasional slosh from my washer in the gaps between songs. I pause to answer an email from a friend. The sun shapes angular patterns on my grass. I realise that the white wall is not consistently white – that all sorts of shadows and fields of intensity play across its surface. The blue wall is harder to differentiate. There is a dark upper section – a kind of stratosphere and a more yellow, middle level troposphere, but none of this associates the blue wall definitely with the sky. If anything, I associate it with the depths of the ocean. Recently a large passenger jet – MH370 – disappeared from the sky and descended into the sea. Or at least this is the assumption. No traces of it have been found.

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Stroll

Tonight I decided that I had seen enough of the sea, so I took a stroll through the suburbs. I wandered along the tree-lined Chenhalls St, with its old wooden houses and distant view to the steelworks. I turned left towards the lights of Woonona Bowling Club and then veered right along the flat towards Hollymount Park. In the darkness, I could scarcely see the knee height cable that had to be crossed to continue on to the cricket oval. A long white cloud was visible just above the horizon to the south. It appeared speared on a tall and unlit playing light. The moon was surrounded by an oily haze. Crossing several ovals, I found my way back to the Princes Highway. I followed Hale, Albert and Alfred St until I reached Chenhalls and Gray St. Then I was home. I’d left the front light on, so my house looked bright and hospitable. I walked up the blue steps to the small landing, opened the door with my key and entered a place curiously mine.

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Mardin

I loom over the table. I look down upon it. A blue gym towel gives birth to a yellow and black screwdriver. My keys point in all directions. A black cloth shopping bag resembles an incinerated giant clam. More books. I am piling up more books, just as I am piling up more unopened envelopes. What do the two piles have in common? They both contain items that are unlikely to be read. I am listening to Turkish folk music again. I can remember the surprise of looking off towards distant snow-capped mountains on the bus trip to Mardin. The town stood on a rough desert escarpment above the Syrian plain. To tower over one’s neighbour. To render the other country visible to the horizon. Just as the table grows more determinate as I stand at one end. Yet it is not another country. It is my only home. The glass door is ajar. I can hear the chicken sizzling on the barbeque. I sit down for a while.

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Path

In the woods behind the schoolhouse was a narrow track that wound off towards the near hills. I had followed it many times before until it became obscure. Unable to determine a viable route forward, I’d turn around, only to discover the route out itself branching and confused. At that point, I had no sense what path led into the woods and what path led out of them. But despite this, each day I would find myself back again at the schoolhouse and walking full of hope into the woods. I felt certain that I would find my way through to the near hills. Even when the path broke down, even when I was hesitant and unsure, I expected to rediscover the proper way at any instant. The repetition made no difference. It scarcely touched me. I was convinced that nothing could prevent me from walking where I intended. Now that I appear to be actually elsewhere, I realise that I was completely mistaken.

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Categories

There are sets of things – four oranges, two candlesticks, a tree full of partially ripe lemons. There are also isolates – the single pear, the ageing apple, the plastic cover of a small container of picture hanging fixtures. Then there are the things that are distinct without joining a larger collection or withdrawing into singularity. The various bits of paper seem to manage this best. Although roughly associated, they refuse to form a neat pile or a properly common kind. There are envelopes and the letters within. There are notices, sheets of a guitar tablature and even an essay on the ‘cybernetic view of cognition.’ But without more effort on my part – more sorting, discarding and arranging – none of these bits of paper discovers a social reality. Finally, there are those things that are neither collective, singular nor loosely arrayed, but that instead act as a media for other things to appear – the table, the blue wall, the glass door.

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Squid

Rushing flow of white envelopes – unopened letters from the NAB and NRMA. My keys spread across them – a doomed and glittering squid. The black plastic tops are closely aligned and the silver keys trail down as tentacles. The metal loop that holds the keys together is pressed back by the sense of inadequate propulsion forward. Despite its maximum effort, expelling water, sand and milky internal fluids, the squid cannot dash off. It is transfixed – eyes rolling in its silky, black sockets. Suspended in the foamy torrent, it grows limp and unconscious. The instant that it expires, the foam recedes and the supporting envelopes become hard. The squid gains a frightening clarity. It is borne aloft on white planks. It becomes a solid thing with no relation any longer to water – no capacity to escape into the depths. It must be conceived entirely differently, but nothing can be said of its new identity.

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Shed

I imagine sliding open the glass door, walking up the grass and past the citrus trees to the rear shed. I imagine entering the open door and standing on the tiled floor. Around me are garden tools and ripped up blue tarpaulins. Some timber is stored above my head. It is dark and I can see none of this. There is no real reason to be standing in the shed, so I walk back out and look over the fence and between the near houses to the sea. I stand there looking for a while, then I go back inside and sit down here. But this never happened. I never moved from here. Nothing ever moves from here. The gathering hum of many silent moments. I turned off the music sometime ago. I had promised myself that I would clear away everything on the table, but everything remains pretty much the same. I wonder what kept me standing outside the shed for so long. Was I actually looking at the sea? Or was I thinking?

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Doubtless

I imagine counting the blue lines on a blank page. That’s about all I can manage now as the night grows weary and taciturn. It spreads out in deceptively bright terms, like the vague onset of illness. I search all around for darkness. It is everywhere, but prefers not to properly manifest itself. Instead there is the shrewdness of visible things – born of the night, but not letting on. Only their passivity and immobility provides any sign of the space above and below. It is no use trying to describe a disordered arrangement of paper. Two non-corresponding edges – like saw teeth. Stepped pile of books. Black wires with a number of strong bends. I am very tired. But I can stare this scene down as long as anyone. I can remain here as long as necessary. No doubt if I look long enough – if I examine not only the scene before me but my heart – I will find a means of actually seeing the darkness, of not mistaking the night for something else.

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Oranges

Three oranges intimately conferring – or so it would seem. Newly here and keeping their distance from everything else. But they have clearly lost contact with one another. Nothing genuinely links them together. Even as they seem to touch, they drift apart. One hangs back and gazes up towards the ceiling, its blue label a subtle barrier to communication. The other two appear more clearly aligned, their navels leaning into a common centre – an imaginary point of contact – but they are simply posing. Despite their orientation and healthy rotundity, their skin does not actually touch. The slight gap between them attests to the lie that they care for each other. They are as isolated as the rest of the fruit – the pears that passively give in, the lone apple that gradually grows brown. The fruit are simply placed here to disappear. One by one they are eaten – or possibly discarded. Even in summoning the figure of the holy trinity, their society is an illusion.

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Alone

The roar of the wind in the trees. The interior of my home remains quiet and listens. After months of nothingness, I went on a long trip, running through Singapore airport to catch a connecting flight, hanging about in Paris before boarding a plane home. The chandeliers seem dim tonight. One of my coats hangs over a chair. That trip was months ago. It was the end of last winter, before I moved in here. Many things have happened since then. I repaired some walls and planted a garden. I bought a car. I had some people over for my birthday. The garden is entirely dark. Superimposed upon it, however, is the reflection of this room, which is bright in contrast. I listen once again for the wind. It comes in strong gusts. It tests my front door – as though somebody were standing there, expecting me to hear them and let them in. But I know well enough that I have no guests or strangers calling. I am alone.

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Patience

This morning the corridor is light. The mottled glass panels – white, yellow and red – cast blurry beams along the floor and draw glints of colour from the hall chandeliers. Further light pours in from the doorways of the front rooms. Yet it remains cold and windy outside. The wall clock continues to tick but is stuck on one o’clock. The second hand flickers on 49, never quite making it to fifty. I removed some of the clutter from the table, but this has simply exposed further layers of neglect – wayward things that cannot be arranged convincingly in stacks and a dense patina of dust. Something has to give. This situation cannot continue. Either the elements in this room – in this house, in the air – will discover their proper entropy or some new, unexpected element will intervene. Easy to experience the stalling of things and events, but patience will reveal other conditions – or at least lead me to the cusp of that revelation.

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Zombies

‘I know better than to let her go.’ A lyric from Thurston Moore’s song ‘Bendiction’ on his 2011 album, Demolished Thoughts. A long, cold day when I should have shut-up. The dusk surf lifts smoothly and serenely in the face of an onshore wind. The clouds are pillows of weird, soft grey. A lone swimmer swims laps in the pool. I make my way up Campbell St to the shops. Apart from a few naughty, young women, all the RSL diners stand and face west for one minute. Remembering the dead, they look like zombies themselves. I must not write to her. I must do nothing that provides any scope for further rejection. The sound of wind in the backyard. I have gained the capacity to see the future, to recognise the certainty of loss. But this loss is not general. It does not affect everything. Two people on bikes talk to one another and roll quickly down the hill. I have only a short distance to walk before turning right up my steps.

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Earthbound

Suddenly, despite all the evidence to the contrary, I find myself unable to fly. The morning is cold and grey. Rain looms. I should take some consolation in the poor weather, but only feel even more incapacitated. Even turning my head and sitting very quietly, even examining the various books that I have not yet read, even attending to the curious posture of my brown bag or the tendency of envelopes to sink while their contents swim – absolutely none of this does any good. My only option is to conceive a world without flight, to accept this as a given. This must be possible. I am defined as much by my inadequacies as by my accomplishments. I went outside and brought in the yellow recyling bin. It was meant to be emptied two days ago, but the truck only came this morning. The whole street had left their bins out in protest, confident that the matter would have to be addressed eventually.

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Fox

I walked down to the beach to make some time disappear. Dark from the outset – and cold. The long, flat, scarcely visible footpath. The twinkling lights of distant freighters. I was held up at a level crossing on the way back. A passenger train heading south, a coal train north. Friday night is always full of the endlessly collapsing sky. The whole weekend moist and curled up for sleep. An empty glass at the far end of the table. An empty cup much closer. A startled fox at the edge of a deep forest, preparing to venture out, but suddenly seen. It contemplates retreating into the depths, but is unable to move – eyes shining like wet glass. The night collects every last negative thought – the more the better. I scarcely say a word. I am unable to recognise my voice when I am finally called upon to say something. I bow my head and allow myself to be corrected, all the time muttering dumb words of love.

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Lament

I almost forgot my bike when I picked up my car this morning. The mechanic had to remind me that I had left it leaning against the wall. “People leave all manner of things here,” he told me. I drove through morning traffic and remained captive to currents of indecision. I drove all the way home, hours passed and then I was home again. My home has become a dusty trail in which all manner of fates are lamented. I remind myself over and over that if I am here now it is my doing. Should the worst happen – should long resolutions spin slowly and abjectly through the night, only to become tangled in the fiery tendrils of dawn, it will not have gone unanticipated. The darkness of this awful night is now safely ensconced. It has no need to gather itself up, because it is already lucid and coherent. It speaks to me of her eyes. I cannot see her eyes. I cannot see the shadows in which she abides and disappears. I cannot see her endless changes.

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Pineapple

I wandered through the markets searching for the very sweetest fruit. I had sampled the most extraordinary peaches and plums, cherries as red and as delightful as coffins, pears and apples as gorgeous as praise, but it was the pineapples that genuinely concerned me. They were stacked in pyramids, with their green heads upright and curious. It was their squat, corpulent bodies that attracted me – orange and blue, yellow and red, speckled with the blackest black. I insisted that they were cut open. I demanded that they were split in half with a sharp knife and that the fibrous interior was removed to leave on either side, prior to the limit of the harsh, reptile skin, a liquid flesh of golden sweetness. Yet I scarcely ever tasted it. I left it untouched. I left it to the craven fruit mongers to deal with. That is until I found the perfect pineapple, the most utterly delectable piece of fruit. This I consumed with a sense of oblivion.

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Wave

A wave passes across the table. More accurately, the various things on my table – the latest to have been deposited there – together adopt the pose of a crashing wave. The piles of books are partly obscured – swept over by a red hydration sack, which pushes bits of paper up into the froth of a breaking wave, but in this case inexplicably jagged. Very appropriate that the most conspicuous of these crystaline shards is a water bill. It looms over an orange art theoretical text on the ‘situation’. Another shard suggests that I ‘Read our Annual Report’. It is in soft, environmentally sound green. I am also aware that things are slipping into chaos. The floor needs to be swept. The dishes need to be done. I have a pile of dirty washing in the washing machine. I have absolutely no plans whatsoever. Any moment is as good and as indifferent as any other. Perhaps I should go for a walk down to the ocean. It is cold enough tonight.

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