Sunday, February 7, 2010

~ metamorphosis

They lived together in a house which made sense - even though one of them thought it made sense to acquire as many interesting, potentially useful objects as possible and keep them in the house, while the other liked clean open spaces containing as few objects as possible. Enough of the things in their lives, and in their house, made sense for them to agree, most of the time, on pretty much everything. They exchanged things, physical things and things that were not physical, and this was sufficient to make them feel comfortable, loved and happy. In the house with them - and with all the things - lived a daughter who was also comfortable, loved and happy.

But slowly, so slowly at first that it went unnoticed, one of the people in the house began to change. Deep inside her, in the muscles of her heart, a seed of sadness took hold, and it began to talk to her. It began to tell her that the other people in the house, and those beyond in the outside world, had no use for her, no respect for her and didn't really love her. To quieten the voice, she drank soothing nepenthe, but it weakened her judgement and skewed her understanding of many things. She swallowed cool lozenges of euphrosyne and played for hours with her daughter, which the daughter enjoyed tremendously, though she knew something was out of kilter and that for every hour of playtime there would be an hour of unavailability, spent in another room, with the blinds drawn, in deep consultation with the voice of the black seed. At last, in a desperate effort to regain her clear vision of the world and to shut out the voice - which now was louder than all the other voices in her life - she began to take the Milk of Mithras. But things only got worse. The elixir was the sperm of the black seed; it was the vapour of forgetfulness, sweet and lethal, it gnawed at her vital principle and soon what was left of the person she had been shriveled to the size of a pea and - somewhere deep inside where even a master surgeon could not have found it - slipped into a profound coma.

Her friend and their daughter no longer knew if she was the same person. She looked the same, if a bit worn, but on some days the sweetness inside was replaced by bitterness and anger - and on other days by by fear and misery. Soon they began to hide in the other rooms of the house, for even the brief glimpses of the person they had once known, which appeared with increasing rarity, were painful - because they were reminders of what they had lost.

For years, they woke of a morning hoping that everything had returned to normal, only to be disappointed. Sometimes they wondered if it had been some fault of theirs. If there had been something they could have done. But these were questions to which they would never know the answers.

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

* Sunday 12 July 1981 7.30pm

Little as happened. There’s something wrong with my voice. I’m getting fatter and drunker. The Ovaltine advertisement has been completed.

It involved many hours of idleness.

I’m getting sick of P---. Gus is particularly dissipated. I’m getting sick of this diary and of spending all my money on heroin.


It’s been a while since I’ve pulled out the old green diary. Pity the next entry in line wasn’t more interesting.

But since, at some time in the future, my character will be judged by a jury of my peers, I wonder how wise it is to mention drugs? I can only hope that, if they happen to read this, they will see it in context.

During that Ovaltine shoot, the director had a lot of difficulty getting me to smile. Perhaps it was because I was wearing a frilly white shirt and jodhpurs. More likely, I just didn’t consider myself the kind of person who would voluntarily smile in front of the camera.

There was a gorgeous, olive-skinned female model working with me that day. I almost fainted, in my innocence, when she began swanning around the dressing room utterly naked.

The art director didn’t like my silver Latvian ring - the one my recently deceased father had given me. I took it off, gave it to someone on set for safe-keeping, then forgot to ask for it back at wrap time. Despite my frantic phone calls to the producer over the next week, the identify of the ring-bearer was never ascertained.

I was so angry with myself - and with the anonymous thief. My solution was to pretend it didn’t happen. I acquired another ring not too long after, made by a little Latvian handicrafts outfit run by smiling old ladies on the second floor of an old building in the city. (Rings are very important in Latvian culture.) My girlfriend of the time, Michele Hallgren, gave it to me as a gift, and to anyone who asked I would explain it had been given me by my father a long time ago.

Later, two and a half decades later, a guard at the Melbourne Remand Centre ground it off in a shower of sparks with an electric cutting tool.

I have yet to replace it.

Diaries - 1981

(Don’t forget to come to Poetica at the Carlton Courthouse on Monday night)

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~ the skinkatary

Let me speculate upon this image.

Both our cats, like cats the world over, are intensely interested in small running things. Tweety Bird catches and eats them. Little Kitty, who doesn’t know that they are food, just plays with them.

Garden skinks (ampropholis guichenoti) are a favourite and their local population is under constant pressure. We find so many tailless, dried up bodies that Polly and I decided to found a skinkatary. Thus far, there has been only the one burial, but doubtless there will be many more.

I have deduced that the ill-fated skink in the image at page top, while fleeing one of our cats, somehow found its way into the hollow beneath what I believe is an aquarium ornament in the shape of ... a rook perhaps? A donjon? A letterbox?

Somehow the lizard’s route of egress was closed, leaving only a tiny window at the top. (There are, by the way, similar small windows in old castles called ‘dream-holes’ which were built so that dreams could reach the bed chamber from the universe outside.) (It may also be possible that skinks are unable to travel in reverse.)

(In the movie Black Dream Hole Sailor Moon strives to prevent the evil queen, Badiyanu, and her loyal fairies using the "Black Dream Hole" to swallow the earth.)

Anyway, it seems the skink had the choice of dying within the musty confines of the ornament or making a bid for freedom. It appears to have chosen the latter.

And almost succeeded. Almost. But died, writhing twisting thrashing, its efforts waning as the last of its energy was spent. A ghastly death. A cave death. Pinned, stuck fast, doomed. The only consolation being that its small reptile brain may not have had the wherewithal to appreciate the claustrophobic horror of its circumstances.

Without doubt, it had dropped its tail. Skinks around here do that at the very first hint of an approaching cat. But the rear section of its body - what we would think of as the hips - was simply too wide to pull through, particularly given that there was not much to use for leverage.

There is a particular horror for me in this creature’s nasty end. It disinters a childhood experience which, though trivial, is cemented in my memory along with a very uncomfortable feeling.

We had returned from a three or four week summer holiday and opened up the house - this house, the one I live in - which had been very diligently sealed. I saw my mother looking at something on the kitchen windowsill.

“A bird got in,” she said, pointing to a cream bottle on the sill. Cream bottles in those days were of glass, roughly the shape of an old-style milk bottle and approximately half the size. They were sealed with a foil cap, which, I recall, was usually silver but sometimes golden, and were delivered by the milkman with his dray.

In the bottle was a black-bird. Head down. Beak agape. Eyes dead. Jammed like a feathered sardine behind the clear glass and smeared with dried yellow cream. I gaped at the bottle with dismay and utter incomprehension. It was my father who explained ...

Somehow, the bird had become trapped in the house. Over time, perhaps weeks, it had despaired for water. The only thing resembling water had been a tiny residue of cream at the bottom of the bottle and, in mortal desperation, the bird had tried to reach it, dooming itself in the process.

I found myself wondering how long it had taken for
the blackbird to die: secured absolutely by the solid glass confines, upside down, unable to move ...

Unable to obey a single of its inborn instincts.

I've drawn a picture from memory ...

When I posted my picture to Photobucket, they offered to print it on a mug for USD15.00. They even produced an image of what it would look like.

Tempting, no?

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

~ ghastly and heart-rending

I’m pretty sure the majority of parents yeilded their bubbling hyper-active children to the first day of the primary school year with a light heart, a gentle smile and an excusable measure of relief. At Pinewood, there was palpable excitement in the air. It warmed my heart to see Polly hugging and nattering with the friends from who she had been separated for what, in her terms, must have seemed an eternity. I can remember just how endless the summer holidays used to feel, and how the prospect of the looming school year seemed so thrilling.

I greeted the other parents - some of who I know quite well, others just by sight. I wondered how their Sunday nights had gone. Getting the kids to bed at a reasonable hour because of school. Perhaps a civilised dinner, at the table or in front of the TV. Perhaps they worked through those comforting, familiar routines on which children are said to thrive, that instil life with a reliability and an aura of security that give them room to develop into balanced, functional adults.

I wonder if any were woken around midnight by a sun-bright flashlight in the face? If any sat upright and stared, immobilised, like a rabbit under headlights, uncertain of whether to trust the unfamiliar voice behind the beam that was instructing them not to panic. “Everything’s alright. I’m a policeman. Could you get some clothes on.”

Some families would have had difficult, even traumatic nights. I know of at least one who must cope with an autistic child who has reached the age where he is difficult to restrain. But I wonder where my night falls on the sine curve that tracks from sweet and memorable to nightmarish?

I wonder how many rode a taxi to a booze bus in the afternoon to pick up a bewildered little daughter who was soon to be in grade two? Did anyone have a burly, tired, worried-looking cop guide them up their own hallway in the dark to confront a scenario which, though ghastly and heart-rending, was becoming all too familiar?

Were any of them unexpectedly required to describe the salient details of their family life to strangers in the middle of the night? Were any asked to contemplate a hypodermic injection of nail polish remover? Were any left wondering what such an act might do to a person?

Who cleaned a mysterious bloodstain from their floorboards after returning from school assembly?

My plans for a month of diligent work are already under threat. I can, largely, close off my emotions and continue to be functional, to address my responsibilities - but grains of stray madness still slip through the cracks and, despite my best efforts, the last few days have been more than a little bumpy.

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