in kindergarten & year 1 i would always thrust my hand up prematurely and spurt out a wrong answer. it got to the point where the teacher made a specific point of sitting down & talking to me about ‘letting other people have a go’. in response to this failure i started hanging with the wrong crowd – it consisted of one boy, the oldest boy in the class. we would stalk the boundaries of the playground in order to do things like throw handfuls of sand at trucks; or, use concrete as an abrasive to sharpen paddle-pop sticks into knives; or we might go & shout things at the kids on the senior side of the school, urging them to chase us. it ended when we were caught throwing wet paper all over the roof of the boy’s toilet, & when my family moved away from melbourne. thus ended my life as a victorian & began my association with regional nsw. we got a dog, a symbolic marker of the change. she’s been dead for the longest time & i still ache to play with her.
i was always an immature child. i was enrolled in school at the young end of the spectrum because i was intelligent enough. but i was uncertain of how to interact with other kids, over-thinking the simplest of friendship gestures. observe me nowadays if you want.. it’s a problem i’ve never really outgrown. it’s almost certainly the reason my parents vetoed a move to have me advanced a grade in year 3. i didn’t understand why. i thought it was a chance to show everyone how good at things i was. around the same time i sat on the newly concreted front porch of our house in forest hill, watching my sister & the next-door kids laugh as they ran up the street. i refused to go & join in for some reason, & i clearly remember sitting there, knowing i was over-thinking it all & missing out on life because of this. i sat there & thought to myself how it was happening because i’m a clever child – the other kids weren’t concerned about this minor issue that had overtaken me. i pondered my obsessive nature & i imagined myself doing really well in later life because of it (some kind of famous scientist was my favoured fantasy), some kind of positive outcome.. i needed something, anything. but really i was searching for & overlaying a positive slant. & i still am. the recurring result of overthinking – otherness, alterity, or whatever language you want to couch the concept in – is not fun. it’s fucking awful.
at school once a week afternoon sport consisted of football. rugby league. there was only one class at in each year level, & accordingly all the boys in my class formed the forest hill rugby team. this was the weekly sport on offer during winter. if you were a girl you engaged in various indoor craft like activities. girls don’t do sport in winter. it gets muddy. i was left in the middle because i wouldn’t play league. it’s a decision i stuck with. i would wander the grounds of the school like some vampire, peering around corners, constantly afraid a teacher would lambast me for ‘non-joining’. one afternoon i was made to go & join the boys. i remember it actually being not that bad. i just joined in passing the ball around a bit. more poignant is the memory of one of my classmates saying to the teacher afterwards ‘derek came and helped out at footy today’. obviously i was a cause for group concern. maybe i was meant to overhear. you see: the incident from near 30 years ago, occupying me on a sunny late august day in 2015. i can still hear those words & the way boy & teacher both glanced at me after they were uttered, small hopeful smiles on their faces. like someone smashing a brick on your hand just after you’ve had a lovely birthday party. i don’t know. the positive or negative connotations of the word complicated. is it just a matter of interpretation.
narratives were valued at times though; i think perhaps this was near the end of my primary school time. we would have story-writing sessions. you could go it alone, or you could compose something with a friend. my sense of story was valued here, because i did at times have to choose which friend i would write with from a group of eager partners. one morning two of us wrote a satirical sexual romp featuring two unpopular kids in the class. it was vicious & this is the real type of thing i have done. there’s no point denying it. it’s what i had – i would write the things legibly that the other kids could only shout at each other over lunch. we had a boy wake in bed with a girl, leap out of bed, realise he was naked, get back in the bed… & so forth. we had class excursions where our teacher would be busted with pornographic magazines. you get the picture. i’m not proud of what i’ll do to get people to like me. because there has to be some kind of performance to encourage a smile. if it’s just me, well, i’m just me, uneasy & worrisome. i’m hard to like. i’m just sitting here, confused, looking out a window. you don’t want to be around that.
because the truth always comes out even if it takes a while. in the 90s it took only a matter of a couple of months, but prior to that i do at least have the key moment filed away, the first time a girl had ever wanted to hold my hand. there on edward street in the gloaming & now that’s the only bit i need to keep. later she told me we should be just friends, that we never really made each other feel comfortable together. it was all totally true & with perspective i get it. but of course, a little later, she had to tell me more forcefully that it was really ‘over’ and that no we would not be friends. i don’t need those memories. just the first willing touch.
one day (again back in primary school) the whole class waited across the zebra-crossing to beat up a particularly un-liked kid. everyone waited so i waited. it didn’t seem like there was any decision to make. i didn’t like the kid. he offended pretty much every one. i don’t think i would have done any beating. it just seemed like a thing to do to wait there for him – it positioned you as not him. there were no teachers. there was just the lollypop lady. he wouldn’t cross the highway. he waited, for what seemed like hours, looking at us & quietly talking to the lollypop lady. there were no mobile phones. he looked scared. eventually we dispersed & i have no memory of if there was any fallout. i think i have to keep that image of him. there’s no reason to hurt anyone ever. we’re all just trying our best.
it was somewhere near this time that someone threw a rock at me across the dirt track as i rode my bmx home. i realised later it had made an indent in my stackhat, possibly an inch deep, maybe enough to have killed me had i not been wearing it. what could i have possibly done to deserve this. but then again… i mean, i can’t shake the ominous sense that that rock might have been destined to be corrective, that it could have served a true purpose by dulling something aberrational in my cortex.
my private catalogue of gestures,
entry noted: the way your eyes
flickered closed, accompanied by
this almost imperceptible brow
furrowing & a head shake, right-
to-left, barely a one degree rotation.
it’s a physical symptom of trying
to find the right words, maybe –
to rephrase something just said, to
recalibrate a position. was there
a slight blush of colour to the cheeks /
or was it the three point lighting?
a research issue i guess. but this
is my hill-indigo on the rocky outcrop:
one moment caught amongst
the otherwise empty riverside tract.
you are so beautiful it stifles my breathing.
repeatedly. here, as cataloguer i can
slow time to 1/100th speed, draw close
& whisper all the deleted things.
is this tension i thought observing the chequered
parrot flung over the windscreen framed by a half-
rainbow over wagga kim broke us with an anecdote
& you sighed into the pillow at least once it was
morning in a church lana del ray left an imprint
on the rafters she’s pressed to the streets even a
hopscotch anthem we were inimitable growing
older every month apart the coffee shop was listing
over the tracks like a scale model drained of interest
the whole structure surprised by cash payments &
my hand on your knee trembles lightly in the outtake
you turned back & lit the hazard lights only two hours
away the internet empty but for one search string
inverted commas to geo-locate us & a bracketing
of years every place we arrived at was pre-filtered
x-pro subtly straightened to aid walking i’m not
confident shirtless but i’m searching the room for
memories ordered your leftovers & wandered into
the sun alex leaves his lens open on the ground he
talks about a specific house then gifted me a certain
tired joy that crushed grass the sign of a real pro
in nsw in victoria or anywhere the mural artist eats
a meal with her wine i think it’s always me scared &
problematic under your gaze my jaw feels bent with the
worry but perhaps it is just staring down risk like a cowboy
i photographed your quartz ramping up the bokeh the
business card a pretty blur it seemed meaningful but
imagine a queue of shadows with purposeful stances &
charming eyebrows all of them landed gentry professional
suitors nothing complex natural conversationalists
you’d smile sweetly into the distance i boil the kettle
opinions are an anti-quality but talking always
fashionable & the entire west was ours the domed
houses the rain & each & every bar she asked if
i was writing just random words & i filled the couch
with a riverina crispness in the building foyer when
we spoke we were in a band i drank a room
temperature bortrytis from the bedside when you
were tired that day space was so empty then
violet told me things well into the morning but
i’m committed to distraction an atypical gemini
riding out this benchmark august plotting definitive
gestures in a car-park where i give you my hand
& the scratches are just a prop see insulated
by the car the universe is at last bounded
no references to interpret no need
the traffic island is more a boat. i think.
my earphone slippage was a major concern
mid passage. conclusions form in a bubble-
of-time beyond measurement, such expansion
everything i want. across the road my reflection
in the accountant’s frontage caught my eye –
dismissive, fixed his hair. just get on with this.
before, graffiti-lite under the footbridge & every
piece a variation on a theme: what were you
thinking? else, here you are. i’d admire the
coordination but it’s a half-lit afternoon &
liking things doesn’t seem right. so i don’t.
i get a little broken in all pursuits, crossings,
passages. simplicity is my enemy. words et
cetera: internecine. going to lengths to navigate
traffic or arrange flowers, everything is suffuse
with sentiment. if you want it to be. what means
more & what makes you smile. i’m anonymous
pink & yellow buds of light as i’m hand-
delivered into the final mirrored oblong.
the world within square frames & rain over a
lead-beaten footbridge smell the car heater
smell take a long hard look at pelicans
riding a log the lightning white flash
approximately as special as anything
this is a car death of sorts wallabies
so bouncy is it winter i’ve budgeted
to suspend animation to resist all
formal logic i want to drive this car
straight to you but really
it’s already planned
strategised the risk
inclement & definite
in the wine-dark evening everything seems like a good idea. even the silly things, the ‘read at 7.26am’ strings-of-thought you can’t undo. i guess if i have one talent it’s ruining things. i fell asleep with the tv on awoke with a start. men fixing the air-conditioning on the roof of the building opposite. there was a bathrobe tho, so i wore it briefly, that at least was good & positive. i thought this to myself as i was wearing it. is everything about the insistence of the ‘I’? i want/feel/need something & this makes it important. it’s selfish & i don’t like it but what else is there.
perhaps it was the bathrobe that made me late.. not stupidly late, no phone-calls and enquiries about my health this time. just enough to walk in mid-discussion & be noticed. i don’t like being noticed. or maybe i do. only sometimes. only with people i’m trying to impress.
there’s a christina stead plaque on circular quay that i didn’t read but walked over. one of our greatest writers. i have an anecdote about reading ‘for love alone’ that i remember every now & then & consider re-telling. this morning i briefly thought i was getting at the meaning of it. see i read ‘for love alone’ but it took a long time. a couple of years i think. i abandoned it a few times, only to keep coming back to it, not remembering the narrative but re-reading, picking it up again, persisting. during the process i told someone how difficult i was finding this reading. he said i was in fact not reading the book, rather than actually reading it. for some reason that annoyed me. it was maybe obstinacy that then made me finish the book. the point is that it’s a beautiful book but at the same time complex, difficult. it really would be easier to not read it. but i couldn’t. and the prose kept occupying me. i’d find myself thinking of something in the book all the time, wanting to talk about it, wanting to return to it. i still do.
last week i realised i still have email subscribers. a handful. what does that mean tho? should i be more conscious of what i’m writing here? i’m not even sure how it works. do you get an email straight away, every time i hit the publish button? or does it happen differently? more to the point tho, are you interested? do you get the email & then immediately click through, disregarding whatever else it is you’re doing? or do you note the email & return to the blog later, at home, lying in bed maybe? or ignore it altogether. it’s probably just too difficult to unsubscribe, not worth the effort. i don’t know.
this is me now. i pick up my girls each weekend & it’s routine. it’s a new version of life. i’m still completely occupied tho. i’m not interested in waiting for/four months.
romance everywhere or there’s
a chance you just notice things,
like a sheep plague after that
sheep dream. we started to walk
our skin was closer than ever,
a thin veil of atoms the buttress
& i feared this. needlessly. look
the fog-slapped street through
a window is desultory. tell me
things. the sun reads my tea
leaves in the car-park it’s
not to find out but. we
can’t know anything.
this is my buffer of just one more day. already students have begun introducing themselves, apologising for their eager & early postings. i remember that sort of feeling.
i’ve already told the story of the student looking me up online. it did teach me never to reference real things students have said. there’s professionalism at stake, sure. maybe it taught me never to reference real things that have happened at all? that makes sense. i don’t want anyone to understand. although it’s probably never an act of omission… more a burying. you know what i mean.
i have felt lonely & probably have done most of this whole month just gone. that was to be expected. but it’s a new type of loneliness. i’m not used to this. knowing what you want but not being allowed to act. that’s the most frustrating aspect. i think i was told that once before. ample time to reflect, ample space. i’m emailing people i don’t care about as i sit by the heater, 8pm-ish.
i drove to the lake & sat there for way too long over lunch. wasting time. i took a series of least ten images & chose the best one to post. i pulled the contrast up & slid the warmth to the blue end of the scale. a ‘success’. a pathetic fallacy. a footnote in my personal history of grand gestures. i’d do anything.
i stopped to photograph the stars on the highway towards west wyalong & it was silly – i struggled with the controls in the pitch black, couldn’t even recall the settings i’d used previously for this sort of thing. it was so absolutely quiet though & that ends up being the thing to recreate. it was at least fifteen minutes by the side of the road & not even a vague rumble or the distant glow of a single car’s headlights. it’s that unusual lack of sound then that affords the darkness a real presence, like it’s holding you in place. i don’t know.
regardless i still take away one image, one with the camera poised flat on the car roof, a thirty second exposure. later, when the levels are pulled up slightly the stars are tiny perfect baubles, & with the saturation emphasised, each takes on its own distinct colour. blues, yellows, reds. i feel like i can now see something my eyes couldn’t & it’s really pretty. this missed prettiness probably happens all the time. anyway, so it’s not the most impressive image but i kind of like it & i make it my facebook background image. it has a minor impact, 5 likes i think.
why do i need to recreate something in order to experience it fully? why the requirement for acknowledgement? words, words. hey i could have simply been in that cloistering darkness & quiet, underneath the milky spread of stars. i could have just experienced that. i did, i guess, but i also capture it to share. here & there. it’s a proxy for turning to someone & looking into her eyes – a moment shared then acknowledged with no exterior art. i remember ben lerner writing about some kind of dental procedure in his novel. the drugs put him in state of bliss, & he is certain that this state of perfection is only possible because he won’t remember it at all. of course he remembers it. & we should have known, i mean, it’s in the book. the conclusion he comes to is that what he experienced could not have been perfect. is this the only conclusion?
i was going to delete my skype account, some kind of digital burning, but it’s now the platform violet & i use. she calls me every night at the same time. she’s wonderfully suited to it, prattling on, never stopping to wonder whether she has anything interesting to say. she wanders around, showing me where she is, the things she has. it’s a communicative routine that pulls at the heart after-the-fact. i even took a screenshot, knowing i’d look back on this. courting sentimentality. maybe i’ll read back over these words. feel these feelings. if i can remember everything it’s not perfect, right?
being in the moment feels important but it’s also elusive. in one of samuel beckett’s novels (not sure which, i’m citing things from memory, i’m sitting in front of the heater right now & it’s too nice to move) his character ponders the different ways that he might walk around a table & through a room. the many routes & options are pondered at length & you basically experience all the different ways one could walk across a room. it takes pages & pages. you might say beckett is boring the reader, but i felt (or at least i think i felt – it’s been a while) like he was immersing the reader in the experience of being paralysed by options. there’s a miranda july short story where she conjures up the same feeling – she places herself in the centre of a room, narrating a sense of being unable to move from one spot.
i’m not sure where this is leading. i was also just thinking about samual beckett being the most noted intellectual to ever play first class cricket. that’s not really relevant though… i think maybe this ends with me trying to get out of bed in the morning. i get the feeling of options bleeding into paralysis. why get up at 6 when it could be 8? there’s no real difference, no imperative to action. besides there’s a tricky & interesting mixing of shadows as the dark turns to the early light grey. this is the real crisis i need to be documenting via image. i make up my mind to sleep with the SLR on the other side of the bed. or do i, i don’t know, it’s hard to tell.