The Writer at Work: The Job

On the Failure of Oracles

In love and

on the loose, he is

safe to inspect

for the purposes of


the predator’s fortress

is no longer absolute

distance is necessary

the weight of omens

it is essential

to ask at the right altar

futures blur and fly

nothing is certain

watching his bleak

would-be alien wife

play hard to get

with some cunning

I make an exit

breathe air, breathe again.

Mother’s Day

Waking up flooded with longing for Eamon. How he used to. Does it matter. Weird how some details become so important as the dead depart even further into their watery depths. Watch the cold rain, how it falls on graves and headstones, pooling in the depressions that the brass plaque makes. Who comes to witness these untimely passings. My soul is tired.


Playing Alan Stivell’s Three Songs for A Dead King endlessly, and there is so little to write that is worth the ink I use. How time spares none of us, least of all me, was I expecting some papal dispensation? But none of this is what I intended to write. These endless journals that record the trivia of existence and to whom am I actually writing? Myself again, proof that I exist.

Deluge of self-loathing, yes I know tomorrow I should go the Gallery and clean the house and do the godforsaken shopping. The rain comes. I hate half hearted rain. It stops again. I go on with this drivel when I should be writing Nijinski. Sometimes not even the surface of reality will stick to my persona. Pretend. Play pretends. The alternative is the nameless abyss. Somewhere above me lightning crackles and the promise of what? ‘She will not die of drowning but of life’ so Dransfield wrote such a long time ago and he now resides happily in the country of the dead. And I have yet to forgive him for leaving me.

Reality is a harsh mistress. Keeping it together through the living child who must sense the awesome weight of this burden. At least I tell him stories: Prince Merlin and his only friend, a bird, called Silverwing who takes him into a country of unadulterated magic. Meanwhile mad people appear to be irresistibly attracted to the house and arrive by strange coincidence. Today a lovely young woman who wants to die. Temptation. I try and drag some meaning out of the closet of reason and make it authentic but who is to know with what degree of success. And time creeps and crawls away, leaks down the sink like water from a badly fixed tap. Stuck in a paradox between life and death its not really surprising I don’t have much energy and asthma hacks at me like a dry and dusty day. My chest constricts. Will it ever go away. It rains again.

The Equinox comes treading, treading, my throat is sore and my life feels like a rotting piece of cloth left on somebody’s clothesline. Tomorrow I might just stay in bed all day. Life is predictable, like the Gobi desert. The day labours towards its end. The moon is full.

I sleep with dead leaves and a ginger cat. Trees claw at the window. In the wasteland of my dreams gods decay and angels break. I fall and fall. My brother makes a poem with words that die. His mind dries up. A figure lurches in the distance.

It has potential as a piece of poetry. Why bother? No doubt a Jungian would deconstruct it as a dream rather than a poem. It has bones that are too sharp. Its music is all unhinged.

Monday. What the fuck is the date? Don’t know, don’t care. Last night another dream about a ring with a cat on it which I lose in an ancient palace. A king tries to find it for me, no luck. There is something wrong with the whole scenario. One of those dreams that will colour the texture of the day. More work on Nijinski. Text nearly there. How it arrived let alone got almost finished is one of those mysteries. Me, I’m considering abdication from what the rest of the world describes as reality. Waking once more into a life of shattered glass and broken crockery. Try not to think. Concentrate on sensation where breath begins and ends. Having a tongue and a barrow to push I am sometimes not quite myself and am quietly dying. Little things. Fold the washing. Listening to the wind. Another kitten comes skidding into the loungeroom, white cat morning madness. Unable to make friends with death or peace with wisdom I contemplate these fractured journals and wonder what sense they make. A kind of lifeline perhaps, a distorted map. A supply of something to something. Unconsciously perhaps my life echoes my grandmother’s, who lost two children, between the washing and the reading somewhere it fell apart. Did she, too, yearn for something else apart from justice?

For some obscure reason I re-read Plato, techne tou biou, the craft of life. I suspect Socrates and I have much in common. There is a craft to living, a subtle dance, an attention to detail, an ability to weigh and choose an action or set of them. But is any of this applicable to someone who finds life an activity into which she is coerced into participation, whose responsibilities to ghosts and children ensure this particular charade. The Gods, if they deigned to look downward, would find much amusement here. Enough philosophy, it’s late and time for Nietzsche if anybody. The music from the Last Temptation of Christ now reigns supreme on the stereo, ad nauseum, obsessing music. I appear to be living a life of minimalism. Lists of things that must be done now include driving the child to school. Can’t seem to convince myself that’s there is much worthwhile beyond the bare minimum. Suppose I’ll have to be like Avis and try harder. And this house, madre mia, it puts up no struggle. Its neglected corners that gather dust and become the nests of bad spirits that rarely bother to reproach me. It is as if we are both in the grip of some paralysis, some form of cosmic negation. It has become a cage of silence, its bars grimy with my futile grasping at escape. Somehow I manage a Nijinski rehearsal anyway.

With something akin to spontaneity we all decide to take a quick trip to Pebbly Beach perhaps it was the intervention of some compassionate deity for as I sit here and contemplate this earthly paradise something like peace settles over me. Beauty. I watch the water, the hiss and fall of foam, the blue domain of Poseidon. And for this most special visit a pod of whales come to bless the waters, better than any priest. Majesty of their huge presence. Twilight. Watching day turn into evening, soft the sky as pastel pink as the perfect beach. The kangaroos and wallabies bound down to the sand. King parrots demand their feed, the kookaburra aunt will be arriving shortly for her meat. And later in the night the mischief of possums fed only on grain bread and strawberry jam. We cook outside over the rustic fire, simplicity. Here I will sleep under the stars. This place has some old magic that surrounds it, nothing evil this way comes.

Dawn, birds wake me. An old and somewhat scarred Big Red looms over me with an inquisitive eye. I am not suitable for breakfast so he moves away. The sea is calm. Later in the day the small child goes swimming in the natural rock-pool just right for his size and age. Standing on an outcrop of rock I get so excited about the return of the whales that I lose my footing and fall into the water. My old sun hat is now part of the treasury of the King under the sea. My sweet son is almost hysterical with laughter about this event and will re-tell this story often I suspect. We sleep all afternoon. Wake and collect wood for the evening meal. Reduced to the essentials, life is cleaner if not clearer. Evening and we watch first star burst, the stellar world so pregnant with its power, its deep mystery. I long to be among them and understand how only music could begin to encompass something of their stately dance through night. To keep still long enough to watch their trajectory. I would like to live within the crystalline heart of some ancient mountain, safe like being with a grandfather, warm and wise. Untouched by all my volatile moods, just able to accept. The last clouds linger in the light like fat guilty children stealing lollies only somehow laughing at us and the air cools in this temple of paradise as something inside me continues its lethal waiting. Time moves here at its own pace, for its own reasons. Watching the fire, entrancing as it dances its own sacred dance, the energy that Prometheus stole from the Gods at immortal cost. The child and I continue the old game of watching the salamanders shape change and find exotic animals, castles, kingdoms and an old man’s face, all of them slipping and sliding back into the flame. I watch his eyes tire, the golden droop of his head, the sea is in his blood and he savours this fragment of peace knowing too well and much, much too young that it cannot last. He sleeps at last and I watch the firelight play over his features as he dreams. He has been reading the Greek myths and Legends and finds correlations with his own family in them. The stunning wisdom of youth. Was he born like this?

The velvet claws of night slip over me as sleep encroaches. Just before I drift to sleep it occurs to me that in my case survival will be a stunning gift to bring to the feet of the Gods. Before I die I want to know peace again. Writing again especially in the morning, this place was sacred space to my eldest son; I make another poem for him.


To Eamon

Be not unquiet

my wise dead son,

I’ll write your name again

in cobwebs.

You, who are so

implacably dead

With what thin words

left to me, I’ll craft

another epitaph, veins

aching, clawing at

the ravaged, empty past.

And it is no long

journey, no memory

but a maze, hazardous.

It is the constant travel

of a colourless season.

But your life: so stormy

gleams and leaps somewhere

beyond me as if a

bright fish dreamt it.

So I’ll hunt the shoreline.

As some eagles would

be black and come alone.

I’ll hunt a feather, think

of nothing but the shell.

Fifteen summers, my first love.

Did they make you a man?

O Absalom, Absalom.

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