Friday, April 2, 2010

Dispatch From The Front: Day 33

Admiral Escher waited until the excitement over Dorothy Hewett’s arrival had subsided. He looked at the poets with a craftsman’s cold eye, his vision softened by understanding and compassion. He recognised obsession in the intensity of their gaze. “So, we are gathered,” he sighed loudly. “While I will not say that your being here has been pre-ordained, I do know there was always a good chance it would happen.” “Why us?” Lucinda Williams asked. M.C. Escher went to a whiteboard at the base of one of his staircases. He waited until the faceless, featureless figure ascending it had moved on to another level, then he took a marker and started drawing. “We are here,” he said, pointing to a Red Oblong. “And this is where we’re headed. The Red Abyss.” He had sketched a beautiful, perfect large asterisk. “The Red Abyss is an asterisk?” T.S. Eliot asked. “How will we enter it and what happens once we’re inside?” M.C. Escher smiled. The faceless, featureless figures stopped moving and peered down from their staircases and balconies. “The Red Abyss is the Heartland of the Chamber of Sorrow at the end of the Vanishing Point this sea-road has made from faith and determination. “Fucking hell” said Dorothy. “Stick to the graphics, old son, your philosophy is awful.” Ted Hughes stroked the badger’s head and said “When do we arrive?” Escher tapped the side of his leather boot with the board-pointer. “We should be there by morning,” he said. T.S. Eliot was leaning forward, concentrating and squinting.  He looked like Kenneth Graham in Carry On Up The Front. “My dear Cornelis,” he said softly, “I have encountered many an abyss in my time, and have burned my various selves away within the bonfires of regret and exhilaration. Not once did the fuse of my desire sputter out.” M.C. Escher stared at Eliot for a long time before tearing his eyes away. The he leaned on the beacon and said “Do the names Jethro Tull and Blue Oyster Cult mean anything to you folk?” Lucinda Williams pushed back the brim of her hat and said “Yes, why?” “Oh nothing,” Escher said. “I just love their music.”
Dransfield, Harry and Leves climbed down from the truck and thanked the driver. It was raining heavily. They stood in the main street of Bermagui, dripping and shivering. “So what’s the plan?” a crested tern said as it wheeled over. “Pull your head in,” Dransfield said, then turned to address the others: “Can someone remind me why we’ve come to Bermagui?” J.S. Harry and Kerry Leves scratched their heads and rattled their loose change. Michael held his hands to stop them making fools of themselves and said “Let’s get out of this rain.”
Standing on the footpath outside a travel agent, they discussed possible plans. The names Seidel and Shelby were mentioned. Blodgett was offered as a reason for their travelling. Dransfield turned and looked at the travel agent window. There were posters showing coral reefs, mountain temples, Cambodian villages and Times Square at night. There was a also a poster of Shark Bay, Western Australia, showing two people in swim-wear kissing on a deserted beach. Below this photo were the words: REMOTE CONTROL. Michael Dransfield’s hands were doing a fandango in the air in front of his face. “It’s time for a change of scenery,” he said. “We’re going to W.A.”
Robert Duncan snapped. “Right. I’m going back into the Masonic Hall, if you people want to waste your imagination and life watching this flight of Feargals pretending to be peculiar it’s your own business, I have to write.” Duncan turned on his heels and stomped back into the kitchen off the Hall. He meticulously cleared the table and set down his fountain pen and his Bic; he opened a legal pad and tore out some yellow pages and set about writing a poem. He wrote furiously, and as he finished each page he placed it on top of the one before it, soon he had a thick stack of drafts and redrafts. He kept writing into the night.
W.B. Yeats burst into the kitchen. It was 4am and he was flushed with the victory of his latest catch: a job-fish, a pike and a banjo-ray. He had cleaned and filleted them and was about to tell Duncan the details of the catch.  Duncan said “What’s happening to you William? This fishing has become some kind of obsession. I remember the first days, when you fished with the old Golden Codgers for blackfish with green weed and floats - their was some elegance, some delicacy and even art involved in that. I could see what you were drawn in by—This rough fishing for pike eels with bullock hearts, well that was bad, but now you are fishing for just about any bottom feeder that comes along. What are you doing to yourself, it’s like some form of twisted self-abuse. Why are you doing this to yourself William, you are a great poet and yet you don’t even write fishing articles for Fishing World, you don’t write fishing poems, you simply fish for the scum of the river and seem happy to continue to do so, what gives?” W.B. Yeats looked at Duncan and replied “Well Robert, what happened to the promised transmigration of the soul ceremony? Where is the old magic, have you finally run out of tricks?” The look in Duncan’s eye was beyond murderous. It was as cold as the eye of a dead job fish. Yeats said to Robert Duncan: “This is Easter. This is anniversary of the day Peter saw a blood-red moon come up and the dimness descend, the Lord was betrayed by his friend, pieces of silver,  a kiss, all the old tricks. We don’t need new tricks, the old ones and the old enemies are still with us, they will stab you where you stand, walk away and wont even bother to gut you.”
Spicer walked into the kitchen drinking a beer and reading the latest issue of The Monthy. “Take a look at this. Clive James. He’s quite an article. He’s reviewing Les Murray’s new book, well, he’s talking about it in print: Clive is imagining a bat cave where the bats have a bat library and they take out Les’ book Translations from the Natural World and read his poem about bats. And the bats all say: ‘hey man, this poet really understands bats, he’s a cool dude.’ What the fuck does that say about Clive James? He thinks bats can read poetry, that they can read Les Murray’s poetry about bats. This is better than my theory about the Marians beaming me serial poems or Blake transcribing what the angels say to him, this is really weird. Humanism again, the same old hurdy-gurdy, man at the centre of the universe. Mr James imagining a bat reading Les Murray’s bat poem and getting it?

G. Lehmann.

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