At the writing workshop on Saturday I realised I really did want a couple of the threads within the poem to be more present. I wanted the reader to be with me in the moment of poignancy that spawned the image. It’s unusual, but nevertheless this prodded me, made me think I could write something about the poem that would be more in line with my aims. The discovery was that I here had an aim. I like that feeling.
The hidden snap that emanates from my neck is pedestrian. We all have these moments, odd structural shifts in our body that aren’t easily explained. You can research such things, sure, but you often don’t. There’s a complete science of cracking knuckles out there somewhere. Similarly, that clicking sensation you might have felt inside your skull can be explained, and there are some interesting medical factoids that could come out of such an explanation. But we leave these things alone and don’t puzzle too much at the unexpected announcements of bone and joint fluid. Perhaps this unexamined aspect is what is presented as the beginning of a poem. Perhaps it is the real subject of any poem, and can be explained as such, much like just about anything. From this point all that is needed is tool of comparison.
It becomes jugs full of ‘illusions’, a farcically standard cocktail made with midori. There was a time when I would go out with friends as an inexperienced eighteen year old alcohol expert, and we would order these things like wine aficionados, observing the gradations of colour, the waft of melon, the taste of expense. In a sense the metaphor comes about in just the same unexpected way. This is what the two things have in common and this is what they give each other. Parallelism and nothing more. It’s almost as tacky as the stuff you’ll find on the wall of a Hog’s Breath Café, but does the trick, in a way you presume no one would really utter aloud of the restaurant. The specificity of the year and the pat arrangement of feet just trails along out of the drinking idea. Feet. Who uses those old things anymore?
When I presented the paper on blogging in Canberra (the one that’s taken up so much space on this here blog), I worked myself up to the moment (even madly emending paragraphs minutes before the scheduled start, propped next to statue of Winston Churchill) and then felt kind of spent. I had no desire to talk to anyone anymore. I went outside and kept walking even though there were more official proceedings. I walked until I found myself in Civic, in a bookstore, and then in an Irish Pub. So many of these things are just pushed into place by their relative temporal closeness. It’s just a bit fresher than other more apt memories. That’s why things turn up. I reverse the logic of it all for a bit of ‘poeticness’, but that’s easy, and not too important. This is the mood, sitting in the pub, reading (but not Byron – he jumps out of Craig Shuftan’s book as one of the first ever emo rockstars) and observing the persistence of smokers as they persevere with their twin sins out on the pavement.
But why not? I don’t know. I wasn’t even too sure what ‘presage’ means when I came upon it sonically at the workshop. I know now, but only just. It doesn’t mean that much. But I had a feeling it wouldn’t. I combined this ignorance with a similarly ignorant manner of broadcasting what might not be fit for publicity. Anita Heiss was tweeting details of a date she was on, telling hundreds of people how things were going, down to something like ‘we’ve been holding hands’ issued from her bathroom. The likelihood of referencing that in a poem was intriguing and therefore it presents, however, without her name attached. So you see the voyage I go on. It’s refreshingly normal.
I’ve now reached the point that drove me to attempt this tract. The stories of child minding. That’s what I wanted to get across to you. These stories are very close and personal things, things that I probably can’t tell because of that. And yet, I splashed out the poem; at least to me, the poem revolves around them. Told to a trampoline because you (the you in question my love, and not ‘you’) were on a trampoline when I started speaking of the stories. He was six years old when I was left in charge (the checkers were not that age, but could have been I suppose – this was a point of workshop confusion for some reason); tazos are small collectible objects that were coming in chip packets in those days (I don’t know what they are doing with themselves now…); the ‘tone’ relates to a phone call that turned into another phone call and a lot of emotional upheaval – it’s one of the small parts I am not going to expand upon.
For some reason, the NSW Premier’s Prize shortlisted poet Sarah Holland-Batt praised a certain ‘violence’ in poetic images in perhaps three separate workshops while she was in town. Because of my job, I was privy to all of these workshops, and noted the repetition, this above all other things. (We take one small thing from most larger things – during Nathan Curnow’s stay it was ‘If you’re performing a poem about the circus, don’t wear a clown suit. That’s completely out of context and quite funny but we have heard ot before haven’t we…) As a meaningless response to Sarah’s advice – which is by the way, very good advice – I threw in the line. Is it joking? And if the stories about childminding are the most important things, why do I throw in a ridiculous in-joke like that? No one will understand. Am I courting a status of ‘misunderstood’? Yes and no.
Story the second: I was nervous about the second debut of child minding. The boy was, and occasionally still is, a sleepwalker. At this stage of familial life I had no idea what I would do. So I worried it into a stultifying nervousness that was to no point, because he slept soundly. The heat of after that is somewhat an attempt to structure relief. And structuring things! My goodness! I awoke last week straight into the thought of how to write a poem. Should I be conceiving the images in all manner of situations, not simply when sitting down at the computer? With this in mind I found myself locating the most local of images and figuring myself into it: the eyes adjusting to the reality of air after sleep; the teardrop that can result. I simply become this large in the poem. It’s non-poetic but cleverly so, and so forth.
Later I’m thinking about this version of myself as teardrop. I’m trying to imagine that if I keep rolling it over in my mind, it will become legible, it will become real in a different way to that that is rendered concrete by hitting ‘save’. My mind is my database as I drive out to work, and now (as this manner of writing has no doubt led you to expect) we all realise the face of our car stereo was stolen from the car. It was my fault – I just left all the doors unlocked. I always do. And so now the consequence is I have to drive everywhere without music. I think maybe it will allow me to think more, but it hasn’t really turned out that way. I feel sleepy while driving. It’s a worry. But we keep driving because we were initially and now we drive through a different morning, where I’m frantically trying to sketch out a picture of the fog over the river. The river disappears on a foggy morning, and so you drive into a peculiar globule of white, akin to floating, but not quite. That’s there. The Gobbagombolin, the name of the bridge, has it’s own interesting story that could be delved into. It relates to two Indigenous tribes apparently – there’s a mythic love story that may have resulted in a love / death / merging, and the merging of two names into the awkwardly named bridge (which locals shorten to ‘Gobba’).
Finally, there’s the boring old reversal where I have an inanimate object do something, but here it’s an idea. The image confronts you – peruses you instead. I think to myself this is awesomely cool. The final failure of the poem is another idea for a poem. Me up in the Blue Mountains, thinking to myself, ‘construct this view…’ The real subject of the poem it seems is the lining up of failed poetic impulses. This might be a good idea. No. What about this? No. Maybe that’s what I’m hurling out at you. And of course that last sentence was written as I printed off copies of the piece for each and every member of the workshop group. I felt the thing needed something there, and hastily shoved it in. But why? Someone picked up on the fact that he title connects with this last sentence. I was neither happy nor displeased at that. It just does. I like the sportiness of all that, and now I shall actively presume this great long expulsion of words will be taken in good sport too.