Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I am from

I am from William, how close kept his secret, from trunks of books and from Shakespeare and Homer, I am from a convict who covered his tracks, a gentleman scholar he was till October last, when we found him out, yes, we did.
I am from Norfolk and London and Sydney Harbour on a fine wooden ship. Transport courtesy of her majesty. Yes, then.
I am from Telemachus and Cordelia and all that lot, thirteen children all up, from here to Victoria.
I am from William who buried his head in books and sailed southerly for the lace in his hand. How tall the heads into Sydney Harbour still I marvel at the sight and the dark green smell of the fizzing water, I marvel just the same as he.

I come from the secret language of Changi prison camp written in the juice of forbidden berries, such tiny letters on bible pages, secret words to tell the world the atrocities and injustice and deprivation, words that carry penalty of death encoded into language so secret it will remain that way evermore. Written in the dimlight by he of the pale blue eyes and long face, that’s what he gave me, and his propensity for secrets, sneaking back in the dark to undo by night the making of the Burma Railway by day, he makes it home a husk they miss him so much but they don’t show it, especially the tacit blue eyed son the waiting at boarding school for dad to come back.
But he doesn’t. That large hole continues on. My mother fell in it when she married that boy, long out of boarding school up in the mountains.

I am from the two grandmothers: one likes me not, me of the long face and blue eyes that remind one of absence and the other of happiness.

I come from the runnels at the bottom of the sea because dad shows me out the back, in the deep, he so big and I so tiny, under under under, hang on to the sand, and me never afraid of that place ever again, I was there with my blue eyed dad under the veil of roaring foam.
I am from eskies and beach umbrellas and camping, mum with a billy swinging it round, leaves burning make a lovely smell.

I am from the backyard pool which greens my hair and I there so long I cant hear Mum call me in and I tell stories and go round in circles only the tink of the surface ringing softly in my ears I can sleep there.

I am from the deep end such a long way down, me so small there is noone to race only a big kid, I can jump through the air and come up in a turquoise arc
Gee she isn’t bad you ought to get her some training they say. I can hear nothing under there. I like it.

I am from incandescent light.

I am from girl guides. I am from an ocean of books firmly pressed to my face my blue eyes suited to printed words, my world soft and blurred at the edges . I am from that string of cousins running down to the weir to poke sticks in, maybe find a yabbie or two, one time a snake on the path, my plaits catch in the branches of trees. I am from that gang on a dragster bike past the brick veneer houses.

I am from the brick house the white house the timber house the tall house the little house the house with no grass the house with the five gum trees the house near the sea the house near the mountains.

I am from suburbs with no end and rooftops so desolate they glare and go on and on in my eyes. I am from rockpools so deep I could lie at the bottom and hide for weeks.
I am from the sea.
I am from the mountains and the riverbed full of fat round stones and the small orchard
I am from hard packed earth full of spider hole and clumps of wiry grass. I am from acacia and paperbark and rivergum and banksia. I am from sand and ocean and wave and tea tree. From the clay soil of the Cumberland plain excavated for treasure with a stick, so hard and sticky once I found a dolls teacup in real china. I found bitumen in a clump. I stuck it to the paling fence and embedded it with sticks and stones took me all day.

I am from meat and three veg things from a packet roast dinner on Sunday cutlery correct and no elbows on the table, please. I am from Iced Vovos and Scotch finger Biscuits and lemonade and one time a cake from the French cake shop on my birthday I have dreamed of it to this very day.

I am from Ivan Southall Hesba Brinsmead Ruth manning sanders.
The magic Faraway tree, Narnia, Carbonel. Witches, Mermaids, Wizards, Coppelia and Giselle. I am from Classical Mythology over and over again. I am from Sunday school with a prize under my arm a book how do they guess? Jesus knows everything. Jesus is beautiful, Botticelli tells me so then it seems my affections shift to Botticelli. I draw in my bible like he in changi only I have a pencil not a carved stick and berries spat out.

I am from textas and derwents the craft box bits of wool and perkins paste and watercolour sets and is there such a thing as a job where you sit and people come and ask for a picture and you just do it?

I am from the edge of the light where love flung me .
I am from the cliffs down south where love banged my head.

I am from the darkest shadows of the ocean.


molly said...

Fifi, you fishy artist you! love the picture you have painted for us with your words the paint and your memories the brush. I remember leaqrning in school about the likes of your john of the long face and the blue eyes. For daring to object or protest they were packed off to "Van Diemen's Land."Thank you for taking the challenge!

riseoutofme said...

Beautiful, evocative post.

I love the way you use words.

meggie said...

Wonderful post, wonderful past, Fifi.
Thankyou so much for sharing your words with us.

Mary said...

Oh wow.

I am amazed and moved.

For once I really have no words.

Except that it is lovely to have found you.

Pam said...

Goodness, how lovely but also how intriguing! I want to know more.

Jess said...


I love your prose!

Jellyhead said...

Fifi! I haven't read blogs for a few days and LOOK what I missed.

Your writing is sublime. Please keep this piece for ever & ever.

Anonymous said...

This is really wonderful. Elizabeth Taylor, (the novelist not the actres and very well worth reading if you haven't already) said she wrote because she couldn't paint. Clever you who can do both.


fifi said...

You are all so nice,
and so very flattering.

Thank you!

Thank you molly for your urging.

Ampersand Duck said...

The more I read your posts the more I love your writing. This was absolutely exquisite. Thank you.

meli said...


i'm always too busy thinking about where i'm going...

jane said...

I was waiting for you to credit the author who I thought must be published and contained in gold fore- edged leather bound volumes, tucked away for eternity in the national library.
You, my dear, need a publisher. I can taste the Perkins paste.

Anonymous said...

A Ruth Manning-Sanders reference! Wonderful!!

Anonymous said...

Oh wow, that was truly magical and very very clever. I am rather speechless (which is most unlike me!).

Do you find it effortless to switch between writing and painting? Or do you have to make the effort to engage a different part of your brain?

fifi said...

hi Rb,
yes i do find it hard in a way between the intuitiveness of picture making and the more careful ways of thinking in words.
I try to navigate both.

thanks miss jane. funny you should say...

Arcturus said...

Sigh. Speechless.

Anonymous said...

very lovely. I felt so there. thank you for sharing that.

Catastrophe Waitress said...

your words are so beautiful, Fifi that they make me cry.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

I've only just discovered this and I'm so glad I have .
It's truly wonderful . Thankyou !