this is a prosaic story about choice, choice is thirteen. choice is growing up in a fairly well to do neighbourhod. she has all the things the other options in the street enjoy, a neat house built by free willy (her dad), an allocated amount of pocket money in return for contributing to keeping the house ship shape (as her dad always says), three meals a day chosen by responsibility (her mum), a bike for moving around her immediate environs (which she has never extended) and an obligation called obligation (her pet black cat with a collar and tinkling bell to warn away the birds).
choice likes her life. it is predictable and secure and fun and she never has to worry about what to do next because there is always free willy, responsibility or obligation to let her know.
the other options in the street are pretty much the same. they go to school to learn how to behave away from home, they join clubs and play sport to understand how to be organised and they sleep comfortably tucked into warm beds with soft toys and billowing duvets and down filled pillows and electric blankets for the colder nights.
they all think waffles for breakfast are a delightful Sunday treat and one hour of tv each night is enough to keep them talking all the morning after. it never occurs to any of them life could be any different.
then one night something different happens anyway. choice feels it in a change of the wind, a new taste in the air, she feels it when she wakes at 2.36am to cramps and a bitter chill that makes her turn up her electric blanket. something is not right and she squirms and twists fitfully in bed for the rest of the night such that she wakes to a crisp bright sunny morning exhausted and grumpy for the first time - only to look out her window and see old mr routine next door being wheeled out to an ambulance never to be seen again.
the new neighbours come from some other place. they play a lot of music and always seem to be fixing and constructing in their backyard, their front yard and their house. choice can see an easel in the bay window opposite her room and a mess of paints and palettes scattered around. choice feels very uncomfortable about this. she knows proper people are always neat and tidy, careful and predictable. she and her family avoid these disruptive new people. free willy and responsibility say they don’t want choice introduced to anything or anyone who might be a bad influence.
at school choice sees the new boy from next door. he is in the next year and he also looks untidy, but whenever he is around choice can’t take her eyes off him. he moves differently, acts differently, speaks differently and when he turns her way it feels like he looks into her instead of at her. choice experiences uncertainty for the first time in her life. this boy unsettles her in ways she hasn’t felt before.
days go by, choice making no choices, just being choice, except she finds herself looking for the boy at every opportunity. find him she does like a a bee finds a flower. she finds those deep grey eyes swinging toward her as if he knows she is looking, as if he wants her to be looking.
without knowing it choice begins to find reasons to be outside in the street more often, obligation gets a leash, the bike gets ridden more than ever, a daily constitutional becomes a health necessity, chores start to be delayed or missed altogether, other options are no longer considered of worth.
then it happens and nothing is ever the same. he is waiting for her at the gate after school. would she mind if they walk home together? they are holding hands in minutes without knowing how or when, they are talking without pause, laughing and listening in wonder. at his house to say good bye he brushes her cheek with his lips. his hand lingers. she never wants him to let go and choice finalises the choice she doesn’t even know she is making. every future choice flows from there and then.
This week the dVerse prompt comes from Christopher Reilly. It is about choice. I chose to write a poem, but I couldn’t make it stick. It turned into prose, a short story and that happened, so here it is.
OK, so it’s a beautiful morning. Cold, about 1 degree when I got up. Just a touch of frost. The grass is very green and I can’t see a cloud in a very blue and crisp winter sky. The air is sharp, crystal and the light breeze has a bite that penetrates. Nonetheless (I love that word), it is a beautiful morning with the stripped bare deciduous trees revealed in their all their steak naked glory and the evergreen indigenous trees contrastingly clad in their full, puffed up grey green winter coats. It is a beautiful morning. It is silent except for the gentle rustle of that surprisingly penetrating soft wind. Oh, and the always there hushed background tumbling sounds of water spilling and falling, running and spinning, turbulent and dashing over flat granite shelves into rocky hollows and against small stray boulders pushed along by the intermittent pressure waves of variable winter flows as they surge with irregularity down the creek. It is a beautiful morning.
Against the cold I am wearing my favourite jumper. There is no heater on, just the layers of clothes capped by this marvellously insulating and cosy thickness of wool are keeping me warm. Lovingly knitted by my loving wife, it only really gets a look at the world in winter. It is too warm most of the time for wear in other seasons. I think that is what makes it all the more special. The built in love and warmth reflect its specialised purpose.
It is big and old, enveloping, creamy and embossed. These days it is a little on the stretched, sagging and droopy side (giving it a 10 on the affection scale – which as everyone knows is the top score for a jumper). It sort of hangs around me rather than is worn by me. In fact it could be called an affectionate jumper. The first of its kind and a quality to be aspired to and emulated by all knitters who learn of it.
The crew neck now has a cute little “V” shape from under which diverse collars can peek. Otherwise the knitting has held its pattern for years, making it sort of tight and loose at the same time. I love the detail of its repetition. This jumper has character. Maybe it even is a character in its own right. Yes, i think that is right, it has become a character in the story of my life because I have an emotional attachment to this jumper. We belong together. And that’s the way I like it.
Such a turbulent, pitiless, brutal battering.
This powerful storm wind pushes relentlessly through
the defenceless trees of the creek.
It lashes most at the isolated and vulnerable,
stripping them bare of grey green winter cloaks,
whipping the fabric of canopies to ragged threads,
blasting layers of protective cladding away into a roaring tempest.
This scouring wind probes incessantly for weakness,
fissures in the gnarly bark skins,
cracks in the very bones of each noble specimen
mercilessly exposing deficiencies
as it flails and lays bare its victims
with neither remorse nor respite.
Over extended over and over, flawed limbs fail first
fracture, snap and drop.
Crowns too heavy with water shake and quiver.
Sodden feet lose their grip on the world.
Once stately trunks twist, rock, waver, shudder
And the sound of the final defeat is an explosive crack,
the collapse a mighty crash,
and the thud at the end is dead.
For today’s dVerse poetics Sarah prompted us to think and write about the elements. I chose air/wind because I often find myself contemplating the fierceness of a storm’s breath as it can turn the tranquility of our peaceful riparian zone into a deadly maelstrom.
From birth through growth to the time of decline
From decline to decay such a time is mine
For all that went before for all that went astray
For all that has been given and will be taken away
I see many patterns unfold around my life with the wisdom of hindsight
I see the brightness of knowing through latter years insight
As the past stretches out behind me the future road becomes short
The decisions I have made will shortly come to nought
I take one last chance to pass on the learning of my years
One last chance to give advice to those to come if those to come have ears
For history is our greatest teacher in handling the vicissitudes of life
For human nature is our undoing when handling the inconvenient truths of advice
Secure your future with love and enough wealth is the best advice I can give
Working to this end gives hope which gives purpose to how you live
Start early and start young to earn a path to joy and be your very best
Don’t deviate from this path but keep it flexible and ensure rest
Loss may strike you without notice grief may rock your solid floor
Grow from your loss for better to turn haunting to past lore
Change will come unanticipated and shake you to your core
See change as opportunity to put a foot firmly in each door
When love comes your way hold it closely to your heart
If love lost should leave you reeling be proud that you took part
Know you have been loved and can love again because love is all around
If one thing is known it is we all want love with time it may be found
Victoria is a beautiful state
big as the United Kingdom,
but in Australia rates
as quite small.
If you travel in any direction
from capital city Melbourne
there is pleasure and inspiration
in visiting the natural world.
1/2 hour short distances,
8 hour long distances,
extremes of snow or desert,
amazing bushland instances.
Every place I choose to go
provides a kind of joy.
No two places ever show
the same kinds of joy though.
But also losses are mounting.
I see it in most places now.
Degradation is a haunting.
Yet to fix it we know how.
Let’s do something about re-wilding
as Attenborough says we should.
Let’s stop the carping and the chiding
and talk about how we all could.
Written for the W3 on The Skeptic’s Kaddish Britta prompted for a poem that included the name of a city, town or village.
She was translucent in that you could see her much as you could see anyone else in the reflected light of the sun. But even more so because that very light, the light of the sun, seemed to penetrate her flawless fair skin as if the silky smooth surface was entirely opaque. It gave her a subtle inner incandescence, slightly phosphorescent with those self emitting hints of blues and greens that warmly peaked in her eyes and the waves of cascading hair. Her teeth showed it gently sparkling through in a radiant white smile, as did her fingernails and earlobes adorning hands and face with beckoning ripples of a delicate halo. Also, it appeared to come out the other side of her as a a soft white aura. One that flowed behind her like a short comet tail. Present, but never quite seen. Gently wavering before your eyes fully caught on. A ripple across space. In such a way you knew of its definitive presence despite its elusiveness.
Everyone wanted to know her. Absolutely, and me more than most. She gave me a feeling of desperate hunger - for what I could never be quite sure. It felt like I could be satisfied with just ..... a look from those penetrating eyes, a touch with those sensuous long fingers, any form of acknowledgement. However, I also recognised unreality when I saw it. In reality I wanted everything she would never give and that scared the shit out of me.
For a long time I had longed for her from afar. Drained of other interests, preoccupied with dreams of passionate love and warm companionship. Yet whenever I got close I found I had only a faded shadow of myself to offer. Dulled. Stultified by her imposing mien.
Standing in a dark space she exuded a glowing presence. Her very own unique light. Standing in a light space she somehow overcame the ambient lux with her very own lustre. She could not be unseen.
So, I watched from a distance instead. The best thing I could ever have done as I saw one friend, champion, lover, partner, suitor and sycophant after another get irreparably burned. Scorched to the point of disfigurement by a desirable body and a vital heart, a quick brain and a ruthless mind, an unsolvable enigma beyond anybody’s ken. Eventually, I understood that for all the attraction of that internally lit, beautiful, vibrant, illuminated woman, her translucence meant no matter how close you got, no matter how hard you tried, no matter what you applied - I and no one else could or would ever see into her, just right through to the other side.
This was an infatuation I would survive, but even today, years later, the mystery, the hope, the longing, the anticipation and speculation have never fully subsided.
The dead are calm for a while
In complete stillness immediately after death
Whether lying at rest or contorted in pain at that last moment
The dead are calm
As they anticipate the gathering of themselves for the final stage
When the very very last tiny surge of remaining energy is harnessed
Every wisp of spirit every tendril of soul every puff of being has to be marshalled together from all the distant peripheries
Centralised into a quiet holding pattern
Somewhere deep within the dead heart
This is necessary to ensure nothing is missed
Not a dream, not a belief, not a skerrick of moral fibre not an essence of being
It all has to be there
In one place quieted settled and at peace
Before the final ascent
Where a last breath of essence is expired into the void
Up through the chest
Into the nose and mouth
And outward to mix with the other floating souls
That make up the ethereal worlds around us
That quiet calm puff of elemental existence
Dissipates into nonentity
As a becoming of everything once more
It serves the purpose of unity
Without serving any purpose at all
I missed you from the many everyday and milestone events in the life of a child and mother’s son Although I always tried not too The other deaths in the family to come I always tried to avoid them as well The ailments, injuries and recoveries The aspirations, failures and victories The exploration of new learnings The celebrating of new skills The sharing of self discovery The chore taught domestic fundamentals The sharing of hopes and sadnesses The soundings decision sharing The turmoil of adolescence The breakdown of family The need to talk when there was no one at home The anonymous housekeepers who worked on their own The living with grandparents who couldn’t understand The attempts to erase your death The problems and joys of schoolboy life The holidays in your absence The welcoming of new friends and girlfriends to our empty home The experimentation The wonder of a loving wife who might have been your friend The graduations and award ceremonies The choices about where and how to live The arrival of children you would never know and who would never know you The financial advice and life counselling The support during child raising The new jobs and directions The sadnesses and hopes The welcoming of our children's partners The arrival of grandchildren The transition to retirement All the things we could have enjoyed together, but never got the chance I missed you in all these times And every now and then I still do Although I always try not too
the long grass dead brown the short grass stunted green faded blue skies with no summer bright sheen
grey come the clouds hanging low overhead heavy with moisture that will drop like lead
the air has a bite bitter snaps each night and each day frosted crisp icy as any day has been
the cold sodden earth awaits its rebirth fresh food supplies border on lean
as breath mists the air those rugged up don't care but the strugglers blanch at the scene
winter cold eats budgets of those who can’t afford it where constant warmth is but a seasonal dream
homeless under bridges in doorways and niches families living in cars huddle away unseen
as others drive over bridges secure in their riches to homes warm inner glow where no want has been
The dVerse prompt today came from Sanaa. She asked we poets to recognise August. We in the southern hemisphere may see it in a different seasonal light to that which Sanaa had in mind. However, one sad thing we do have in common around the world is the widening gap between the haves and have nots.
that magpie has been sitting on that bough for half an hour black and white against the crying sky it chortles and carols from time to time i watch and listen biding my moment despite the march of time i look up and down magpie looks left and right we witness the crying sky present and separate each in place some kind of joy and the sky cries on
today i am wrapped in a cloak of rain enclosed in my own world the smallest of human worlds rain’s grey shawl renders me invisible everything around me, invisible the sky is invisible the only thing i know to be true is that my feet are on the ground i can almost believe i am the only person to ever have been here and now then i realise i am and it is kind of nice
I read poetry and that strikes me as something of a strange thing to do because I perceive the large majority of people don’t. Why would they when it is so often hard work? Finding the rhythm if there is one, gleaning the meaning, interpreting the language and often deliberately obscure references to matters of apparent yet not obvious significance.
Poetry is where we can discover more than words alone can convey. Where more can be said than with words themselves by unconventionally contextualising their expression.
But without effort there is no reward. Oh my, I read poetry because it calls to me. Whether baldly belligerent or so subtle as to confound. I often thrill and marvel at meanings real and imagined, stimulated through another’s mind in the most pure yet ill defined form of communication I can follow. Where numerical patterns, rhyme, metre, syntax, verse and free form prose all rate as valid, where everyone who can write has an opportunity to write in their own unique way. Where understanding is so fluid you can literally read a passage as if it’s meaning is either explicit, implicit or complicit. Every which way will be different. Where poetry trumps language there will always be found adventure!
To be deceived by art
Is where the pleasure lies
As Oscar Wilde said
When the finished work dries
Awaits reference in time
For art to have context
Someone must find
An intrinsic meaning
An enchantment or spell
A hard fact or history
That explains it well
This imaginative bent
Where art creates product
But may not pay rent
The elusive success
Of an artist such as me
Depends on the work
And conveying what we see
To be reminded of something
That may not be there
Is the way we see art
Reminiscent or bared
The artist displays
What the artist portrays
The observers creates
What the observer says
And the feeling is surreal
This fraught disconnect
Must artists defer
To the critics subject
Is it in artist’s deceit
Where the pleasure lies
Taking the work
and working it wise
Psychological or literal
The interpretation applied
Is anything worthy
In a meaning belied
With all the definition in
Every artists hand
The lines of description
Are at critics command
The intensity of design
Or depicting a glance
For artist and critic
It’s the art of chance
Is ugly ugly
Or is it brave and true
Is beauty beauty
Or a sop to me and you
Only the artist knows
Where the artist goes
But as deception grows
Across art shows
The artist bows
To the stories faux
As the critics row
And the sponsors crow
And the buyers coo
Gallery owners woo
Attempt to choose
The number 1 pick
That makes art slick
To turn a buck
Art by the truck
Instead of art refined
As in the artist‘s mind
But only the artist knows
Where the artist goes
Ever watch a kookaburra Sweep in from on high In a perfect arc Geometry made art Beak as an arrowhead Body flat as an arrow Piercing the air Fletched tail as rudder Precision steering A dart to the bullseye Wings not moving a millimetre Purposeful focussed targeted Missile like glide Ever watch a kookaburra?
The artwork that changed me Art in the time of pandemic Let there be love Making in isolation Being in the vanguard of art and commerce brings depth and meaning and joy to the human experience Art and engagement in times of change Returning to unfinished works Playful sessions Return to simplicity Art and design that speaks Art and design that speaks to stories, preoccupations and traditions of our past, the moments of our times, the anticipations of various futures With an intelligent eye A familiar panoramic landscape Bush walks highlands Unconscious thoughts deigned to tease Free form associations in response to amorphous Deceiving the eye visual forms Linear perspective Questions of perspective, identity collective lack of knowledge Reinvigorating textiles Reworked to shift the original message Monumental canvasses of vibrant colour Markings in the sand with a bent stick Monochrome drawings strike a chord Audaciously different Leaving their travels in the sand A fluid state of synchronicity A black and white stencil through a coloured door Uncertainty fragility and unrest art calm connection and inspiration Something unexpected Reflect and expand Shifts and transformations Arts education is not a luxury Day to day scenes of everyday life of regular people Drink it all in Bathe in it Melted int the scene The agonising process of resurrecting An avid sketcher visually documents surroundings Inspired by vibrant street life Gravitation fought my attention as an invisible but omnipresent power Nothing is simple, nothing is something, nothing is nothing Everything is influenced by gravity A force with a strong shaping effect Th most important step is the mixture of the materials A gathering of dear friends Art compels us to reflect on our own uncertainty Find the richness there Artworks that provide intrigue and inspiration This reminds me of Calming and upsetting at the same time The sadness in your eyes Who is watching over you The comfort and security this can bring In dark times, when things seem absurd and surreal, companionship can bring us solace Capture my imagination in a thousand ways It is not a picture of something, the image is a character. Are you a ghost or some sort of divine being? Off kilter, uncertain. Floating in space. The space it inhabits is rich. The textures are luminous and creamy. The character maintains a clownish buoyancy in a transitional realm. Awkward and serene at the same time Printed, flocked and foiled Beauty exists in paradoxes and puzzles. Reflect on your own uncertainly and find richness there. The quiet observer. Meet the challenge, decipher the layers. How to slow down and reengage with surroundings Unravelling significance A direct gaze, expressive hands conveying self assurance tinged by a light sense of uneasiness or tension Hybridisation of life Worlds based on symbiosis rather than exploitation and domination Each person is lost in private thought about their own personal existence. She now lives her life at the peak intensity the rest of us pretend too. The images are figurative, liquid non realistic and strange This work this artist this friend this moment change everything Texture dapples depth and luminosity
1. My father read Tolkien to me as a kid. It was the 1960s. 2. Tolkien is still popular now. Sadly this fact more arises from movie reviews than book reads. Movies can be great, but also they lose so much. I wonder why people do not experience FOMO when they have only viewed the movie and there is a whole book waiting to be read? 3. A single book can change the world. Tolkien’s four books of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings created new worlds of imagination, changed the world of literature and the world of art would never be the same again. 4. My father’s copies had stiff cardboard covers encased in a red fabric fading to pinkish. The fabric was worn to threadbare in places such as the corners and finger grip sites. The spines were ragged and peeling. 5. The physical books themselves looked and felt to me as timeless as the story. 6. My father was in his late 20s or early 30s. He was full of energy. He loved to read. 7. I don’t know where those books went. I have owned other editions in paperback, but despite three rereads, they never read quite the same way. 8. Possibly one of my sisters still has those first Lord of the Rings books I inhabited. 9. In my teens, I met many people who read and reread Tolkien. Quite appropriately at the time, another thing we had in common was being permanently stoned. 10. Tolkien was interesting all over again in my teens while we smoked and toked like chimneys. 11. It didn’t matter who you mixed with when you were permanently stoned. Almost everyone was interesting in a pumped up, flattened out sort of way. So you could readily share Tolkien imagery in one way or another. 12. I met many people who thought they were connected to other worlds in that time. Middle Earth was often their gateway. 13. Middle Earth was my gateway to the other amazing worlds of sci fi and fantasy. They remain as close as I ever got to the more esoteric experiences though. Not for lack of trying. 14. Some people said they had mastered astral travelling. I liked the idea of watching my detached body from the ceiling while it lay on a bed or the floor or a couch below as I prepared to launch myself into otherworldly places. 15. I never mastered astral travelling. Although I did master tripping on several occasions. 16. As weird and wonderful as tripping could be, Tolkien’s Middle Earth was more real, coherent and creative. Eventually I decided I preferred the Middle Earths of this world. 17. Middle Earth has deep cultural experiences in which to partake. It is full of creativity, new beings, new languages, rituals, text based and oral histories, poetry and songs. 18. Every time a poem or song came along my father went into character such that he gave life to these many cultures so I could understand them better and live them through him. 19. As an adult I will never return to Middle Earth in quite the same way, so I am so grateful I went there first as a child. 20. I hope I have given some of the same experiences to my children as a father and I look forward to trying again as a grandfather. 21. To CRT Mathews and JRR Tolkien - I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the world of Middle Earth.