Tuesday, September 30, 2008

In which the fish is swimming in spring

It is late. Not too late, but the sun is out of bed, and so am I,

Perhaps one might like to accompany the fish, on her sea-ritual this spring day.

It is bright and colourful, the flowers bloom from the salty headland, like a field of stars, not timid and soft, mind.
Brave flowers, which turn their faces to the horizon and drink in this incredible light until they shine with it,

In showers of gold and silver.

Perhaps one might to look along this stretch of sand on this spring day?

Where the girls are going dancing in the sea,

where the cliff rises solemn, and blue wrens weave the heath with the scribbling of their song.

let's go out now. I see the flags are going up, but i don't know these lifegaurds,
they are new.
let's be gone now, slipping under this wave, all fishiness called forth in the green.

out out out.
till there is nothing but us,
and the sky
and the cliff looking on,
of course.

all things forgotten, the time of day just bright enough to send
all pale eyed predators home to their lair
deep below. It's just
us out here, and the sound of the ocean breathing, listen.
If your heart is hurting
sometimes this sound will hurt it more,
sometimes not.

Lets head back to shore: dig deep through this part, the sea might want us longer. Be firm. We cannot stay forever.

No matter how much the sea might wish it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

in which the fish speaks about nicer things

Cofa Spring Fair: printmaking department

Evidently the black is too black, I see I will have to work on happier endings, won't I?
Perhaps the longer version of would have been more appropriate, more redemptive. Just thought I would give it an airing and some literary type may have given me some free editing. However, I seem to have alarmed everybody instead. Don't worry, blossoms!

In other news, the Spring fair was fun, so very very hot and I was covered in a crust of something by the end of the day. I vacillated between impromptu floor talks and forgetting I was even in public, so engrossed was I in my work that I was discovered hanging off the easel like a baboon attending to the top corner with my eyes all unfocussed.

The highlight of my day was when I looked up and saw my female cub come around the corner, having travelled for hours by public transport alone, to "see mummy". Very sweet, considering it was 33 degrees and she could have been at the beach.
In fact, she said, her resolve wavered somewhat when, waiting for the ferry, she saw all her friends diving off the end of the wharf in their bikinis and she had to tell them she was off to paddington to watch her mad mother paint and give talks.
We went down to oxford street after the fair, me having painted like a lunatic for five hours straight, and ate Indian and looked at the bookshops.

I am still suffering from the too much to do thing, I am wondering if it is not just my mad schedule but my work practice: I write everything out in longhand initially. This is rather an ingrained habit: at the parents house on friday night, I discovered this, my notes on les Murray, and I remembered very appropriately, falling in love with "Spring Hail". Here is the first thing I ever wrote on Les Murray:

and here is the last page of notes I wrote on Les murray just last week:

the funny thing is, at conferences even now, I do the same thing. Loads of neat writing. It's probably more legible than my typo-ridden typing, truth be known. I like writing, it seems to confer ownership of some kind.

I have had to travel around Sydney a bit in the last few weeks. Some places have always given me a strange feeling that I cannot always deal with, just a sense of time travel and the loss of old landscapes as well as other things.

Its strange when you are suddenly reminded of something which you realise has shaped the way you do things. Although I try to dwell in the present, the past dictates sometimes the strange paths you take, and why you are happy, desperately so, for the good things: like silver light upon the sea, mango lassi on a hot night with one's daughter, turquoise paint upon your brush, seaweed on the sand.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Backyard Pool

"Pool at night" 2006

A story

When she hears the cars pull up out the front she's up on her feet before their doors slam. There is no phone here, in this little weatherboard house perched on the edge of nowhere, no parents, just four friends and Julia’s little sisters. The usual. “Babysitting”. An open house of sorts, you know, Julia’s parents are always out till late on Friday nights. Everyone knows that.

She knows, without even looking, who it is, and instinctively seeks a place to hide: the front door is open, there isn't a back gate and anyway, there are only the dark suburban streets and beyond that a landscape lit with the sparkling fairly lights of nowhereland, the edges of civilisation, the suburban fringe spilling into a tangle of industry and flatland.

The screen door shrieks at the doorstep as it is flung open. She hears their voices and moves to the back of the house, looking for somewhere to go: the laundry doesn’t lock, and Julia’s smallest sister has already begun to cry when they all saunter into the living room, all swagger and threat. Having a party, girls?
She knows he is among them, she is sick of his pursuit. They smell of beer and bravado, with a deep base note of something rather dark and barbaric.
She hears Julia ask them,
What do you want?

But then he asks where she is and catches sight of her there in the hallway. As he turns towards her she is propelled into flight, and her movement pulls him along, like a thread.
I am on my own. I don’t want witness to this.

She is tired : there seems to be no end to the argument, the pursuit, the harassment,
Because I don’t want to seems to hold no meaning. It is silent on her lips, she is mute, because, as they say,
She has asked for it.

For some reason she has crossed some unknown and unseen boundary, a kiss at the school dance seems to have contracted her to endless harassment, a ride on the handlebars of the bike took her to a deserted oval. She has fought him off thus far, but there is a nastier, darker element in his voice, and he has brought backup, and the little girls are there and they all look at her as she takes off out the back door Lisa starts to cry there are angry jeers and beer and cigarettes and nowhere to go. Six of them.

For reasons belonging to some code she doesn’t know, she has done something wrong. Until she allows him into her body he will never leave her alone, though even then, she suspects, he would continue forever after to pursue her whenever she stepped out of the light, he would be waiting. He needs to live up to his boast now, now that he has bragged to all his friends,
I've had her.
Except that he hasn't.

She slips out of her skirt in one movement. They all run out into the back yard, some remain on the steps for a better look, smirking, laughing, hooting. Clothes are liabilities in deep water.
He takes off everything except his shirt, laughing.
If this is where you want it, fine.

He comes in after her.

They are tangled and grappling. He manages to grasp her waist, he is so close she feels the brush of his penis against her leg, and curls herself away from it. The water forces him up for breath, and he has to let her go. She curls like a water beetle in a bubble.

It is like the sky itself is shifting, with the pale glow of streetlights and the light from the kitchen in the house shining through the water like that. There are faces in that square of light, watching.

She lies face up looking through two meters of water knowing in a moment he will dive again and come down for her, but she has slowed her breathing, her heart barely beats. The faces of the others are dim shapes around the edge of the pool, it is silent down here, and she can’t hear them.

He is a large dark shape fringed with light, and makes a watery explosion. She tenses, ready, coils up with her feet against the edge. He can’t hold on to her as she explodes in a tight thin arc, twisting and flying, across to the other side, upward where her head, for a fraction of a moment, breaks the meniscus of the water and the noise floods in, the cold air floods in, the light flashes, the air smells like dark dirt.
She fills her lungs and hears them jeering and screaming, hands reaching out. Down she goes again. His shirt sodden and he flounders, standing shoulder deep, trying to find her. Enraged and clumsy, panting, he cannot breathe under the water.
Tonight however , it seems that she can.

When his hands find her, she goes limp for a second then uncoils all of her strength, spinning and twisting, down on the bottom where she knows his lungs will summon him to the surface. For a second he has a handful of her hair, but she retreats. The back of her head knocks silently on the bottom of the pool. Still her lungs are quiet and her heart slow, her hands, barely moving, fan her to the absolute bottom of the pool, almost motionless.


Next breath she hears the muffled shriek of obscenities as he screams at her. The others are watching this sport, six of them, urging him on, and the prospect of him losing face in this is enraging him more than the fact that he just cannot get a grip on her. He tries to herd her into a corner. Again and again she escapes, hiding in the shadows. Just as he almost entangles her in his limbs she sinks lower and spins out of reach, over and over and over

Twist me and turn me and show me the elf

He is running out of air.

I looked in the water

He lets go for breath

And there saw

She can stay under all night, if she needs to.


He gives up, and climbs out. For a moment she thinks he is going to launch a fresh attack, but he remains a dripping silhouette on the edge.

She watches him, lit sharply from the bluish streetlight which fills the yard,
pulling on his clothes, his penis recalcitrant with unspent hardness, bounding repeatedly out of submission as he hops around, seething with anger, pulling clothes onto this wet body, tripping. His friends watch him sideways trying to tuck this monstrous organ into his pants without much luck. Furious. His voice is distorted with threat. They have all seen his failure, and her fight.

I’ll get you, he says, and next time I’ll fucking kill you, as well as all the rest.

Only the top of her head shows. She is up to her nose. Her heart resumes thumping. She takes a breath.

It seems completely silent when they leave the yard. Fragments of fuck you float over the paling fence and car doors slam. fuckingprickteasingslut tyres skid, motors growl and thunder slowly and throb up the street. She waits.

She decides to stay there, where the water is deep and blue and the streetlights rock to and fro like stars in a bowl. She doesn’t want to face the others, she doesn’t want to explain why she has run into the backyard and dived into the pool: her skirt lies on the steps, accusatory. You took it off yourself, they say later. We saw him dive in, we saw you through the window.

I saw his cock, says Jane, as he was diving in, he had his pants off, I saw you there I had to lock the door.What about Lisa?What about us?
But mostly there is nothing to say. He was only after me, she wanted to say. I only wanted to be safe, I didn’t want them there in the house, with Lisa, with everyone.

They are all too disgusted.

She couldn’t explain, she had no words to say:
The water made me safe.
Suddenly the weight of such words as might make things right was just too much, and too unknowable. She hasn’t words enough to shake off that night: it clings to her and weaves itself into whispers. She wears her reputation awkwardly, thinking beyond hope that she isn’t wearing one at all.
She learns to erase her tracks, and cover her steps. One day she makes her escape for good, and they never find her. Years later when she finds an intruder in her home: she seizes him by the hair and roars into this terrified face until he begs in fright for her to let him go and she does not she breaks his toe she throws him down the stairs.


Even the love of her life one day says to her
I thought you did
And words escape her yet again, but this is one she loves and it matters. She proves it to him: she loves him badly, and it matters that he sees her shoulders bare of the stole of taint she may have worn in the eyes of others. That those claws reached out and soiled her, despite the fight.
He loved her anyway, as it happens.

The water saved her, then. The water saves her always, still she lies peaceful there where nothing can reach her, and thinking years later of all those things and the fragments of those people, all dessicated and gone, she escaped, and grew up to be a woman afraid of nothing. Almost forgetting about the night the water hid her, on the edges of civilisation. Before they got the hell out of there, all of them.

She stayed for quite some time that night, hours and hours, floating on the surface with her hair hanging down, watching the dark sky and the haze of streetlights. Floating endlessly in a bowl of stars.
After some time she closes her eyes, and the kitchen light goes off.

Copyright 2008
Fiona E.D.

Friday, September 19, 2008

moving right along

enough of that, says the fish.
No more of that!
Today is another day, and tomorrow another one still.
When the sun comes up it will light me up as I spin through the sea and all tears will be part of the ocean.

Anyway, I am off to the fair in the morning.
The College Of Fine Arts Spring Fair, I am.
I will be painting there all day and smiling at people till my
dirty blue face hurts.

I am going to buy an etching from the printmakers stall, or maybe two.

You are all invited. It will be fun. If you come, please say hello.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

in which the fish weeps for a day

Sometimes I wonder why I never seem to let go of certain things,
Especially since, at times,

They make me so profoundly sad.

Things surface from the indigo void and make me cry.

Then I think perhaps some things are so embedded
that to extricate them
might cause me to implode.

I will carry this with me always.
That is how I am.

How deep the ocean some days, and how dark.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

in which the fish swims in the forest

It is Spring.

In these parts the season is not measured by blooms or buds, but by the invisible forests and the different directions
From which the great entities cast their breath upon you.

There has been a usual spring tantrum, the sea is almost a metropolis of movement and business, lit by the white searchlight of a still-lowlying sun. The sea shows its olive underbelly in a wayward fashion, looks at me sideways and then tears more hair out. Great shakes, enormous moving walls carrying the contents of deep underground kelp forests.

In my rock pool it lies almost still, beautiful olive green, with the rippled sand showing through in patches of pale aqua.

Nobody else likes to swim in the kelp.
Makes them itchy, makes them twitch in fear. Things live in kelp.
Look out for all that weed, they say, but I just laugh.
I love seaweed and jump right into it, nostrils flaring with its eel-funk, that aroma so sharp it goes straight to the top of my skull and the depths of all my cavities, speckled and green.
I slither on in, watching the grand fronds wave like the Port Jackson Shark tails, everything rocking in unison, big columns of salty oxygen blasting down and sending up in a flurry. The sharp edges talk to me of scratching, they trace my cheeks and slither around my arms.

In my olivegreen wonderland today, I thought of things hidden in here, perhaps a Bronze Whaler shark, curving in and out. One time the sea sent me one of those along with the kelp on a huge roiling swell.
It couldn’t get back over with the waves that carried it in when the tide lowered.

On that day of high seas I had swum 30 laps or so, watching the kelp below and measuring the aqua patches in that half-lit state I reach after a half hour in my fish life.
I noticed Les O’Keefe there on the edge, putting on his cap. He asked me what I had done to my stroke, said my body rotation was different. My elbow height.

Sharp as a tack, Les O’Keefe. Doesn’t miss a thing.

I have in fact been to stroke correction, Les,
I told him.
In Canberra.

With Alexander Popov, Les. No less.
(And this was true, I had indeed had lesson from Popov and Gennady, which is a story in itself. Les noticed straight away.)

Ah, he said. 
I can tell.

Les represented Australia at the commonwealth games. He swam like a champ, even at 80 years of age. Last year at the winter swimming races, he appeared a little confused, lining up and standing indecisively on the edge, until all races were finished and he hadn’t yet swum. But that as to come, on this day he dived in smoothly and arced over the kelp at my side.

I finished another mile or so beside him.

I like the new stroke, he said,
as I slid out, seal wet and dripping. He turned to finish, and I ran up the hard sand of the beach to the headland and back, the water flying off me till I was wind-whipped and dry.

When I returned I was surprised to see
The Wildlife Ranger, and a crowd of hildren, one or two grownups, all peering into the rockpool.

Les continued to calmly swim, slap slap slap up and down gliding above the canopy of kelp.

there's a big shark in there,
everybody said, jumping up and down.
The ranger nodded.

Yep. Big Bronze Whaler, he said.

There is no shark in there, I said, 
I was in there not twenty minutes ago.
Ask Les, he’ll tell you.

Watch that patch of sand, the ranger said, so I did.

And as I looked at the pale clearing in the forest, a large shark shape passed across it, like someone had made
the shape of a shark out of the kelp shadows and breathed it into life.

It was circling the perimeter of the rockpool, calmly, with its dignity intact. Each ten minutes the patch of white sand dimmed as it glided across.
I had just swum two miles with a shark, possibly demented and enraged by incarceration.

I put my face at water level.

Les, there’s a huge shark in there with you.

He put his face up for a moment.
Did it bite you, when you were in here?


Well, it wont bite me then. Anyway, I’ve only a little way to go.
And with that he swam off, the shark patrolling the seaweed beneath him.

I haven’t seen Les this winter.
Just the kelp reminded of him me as I swam, one part of my gaze sweeping the waving kelp, looking for a tail or the pale blunt muzzle of a shark, though I’d be certain to have met it before.
I wondered if, from his usual haunt there by the sea, some ghost ship had come by, and Les had gotten on board.

Without announcement, the shark nets are back, that insidious curtain of steel, unseen from above. I saw the telltale floats this morning, dotting the deeper water off the headland.
Waiting to catch things by the gills, those shining bangles. One day I will make sure they are all taken away forever, those nets.

So now I am back to the words, and the work in the world, this is not so far away, from ideas of the invisible revealed, and the subliminity of the sea, into which I slowly make my way.

Just today was a day of deep sap-speckled kelp fronds, their uptuned roots in the oblique spring sun and pale aqua light, and me filled with the stink of it,
swimming in the guise of a whaler shark, just like a shadow of it,

just for a moment,

just for a moment.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

the fish and the holy macchiato

I have some writing to do which is very important: Two conference papers and a seminar.
So far the opportunity to write consistently eludes me, small chunks of time set aside for the purpose are usually hijacked. When i claw my way into the zone, I actually come up with nice things, but getting into that zone is the problem.

But I delight in writng a nice sentence, or discovering something splendid that someone else has written.

The other night, the soundtrack to my writerly efforts went a little something like this:

the socratic notion of wonderment as a passion of the soul mum is
there anything to eat in this house can you take me to maddys place no thank
you i won't be needing one of those yes i will meet you to talk
about your assessment what time is waterpolo the aestheticisation
of terror in images of the sublime husserl and the life world
(please, WHAM! songs played on the ukelele! stop! stop! at least play the whole song! not that sam darn bit over and over)
i dont want pasta maddy is staying for dinner was elizabeth the first worse than bloody mary no I don't like that riff, no.
Turn that down please. What time does the game actually
start? oh, non-vicarious art, theres an idea: non vicarious art. Journeys and return. *cooks dinner* is there any cheese?
Wonder in the face of the world.
Something. The Numinous. The vital Materiality of Objects. The spectacular.

Damn that cut-and come-again-pudding of a washing basket damn it entirely yes there is a clean shirt. Look properly like you have mother-eyes.

what is that the cat has brought in?

What time is water polo?

would an ontology of wonderment be a contradiction of terms?

You get the drift. Anyway,
The lovely lad at the cafe at the College of Fine Arts makes me a coffee
double shot latte in a small cup and a green chicken curry without the chicken, not together of course)
without me telling him what to make. On Tuesday I surprised him with a request for a macchiato.

he surprised me with this:

I immediately headed off to put it onto ebay as a holy relic, but the desire to stay awake got the better of me and I tossed it down in one go.

Please excuse me if I am sparse with the postings. i am on the verge of hysterics.

For someone of average talent and intelligence, I am blessed with an enormous dose of determination. Not to mention a very strange way of thinking and the ability to transform into another species entirely.

perhaps that is the secret of life.

if you see me hanging around your blog, hit me with a stick and tell me to get home and get on with it.