13.12.07

I think I have no other home than this

R.A.K. Mason, the ur poet of New Zealand modernism, lives in my street. He has the long head, the unruly hair, the old-fashioned clothes, familiar from the photographs. He wears shoes with heel and toe plates that rasp against the pavement when he goes to the wine shop with his khaki canvas knapsack on his back to buy two bottles of cheap red for $11.00 the pair. Or down to St. Vinnies to look through the second hand books for something to read. I met him the other day opposite the dim hallway of his building, at the Red Door Gallery, where a young woman friend was putting him down on the mailing list; that's how I know he goes by the name of Alan these days. He has Parkinson's disease; when he parcels up a manuscript to send off somewhere, he has to stop someone in the street so that they can address it for him, since his hands shake too badly to inscribe any more. I don't know what kind of machine he uses to write with, we haven't yet discussed technical matters. It may be that he has a dictaphone, and that the young woman is his amanuensis. Sometimes when he has been drinking he looks truly frightening: the stumbling abrasive walk, the lumpy flesh, the staring eyes, the impression of wild and inconsolable grief on his face. As if the news that god has died had only just reached this obscure Pontus.

Bernardo Soares, formerly assistant bookkeeper in the city of Lisbon, also lives here but I am unsure exactly where, only that it's further up past Alan's place. He is much attenuated from the long journey, much reduced: so thin as to be almost insubstantial. A shadow of the wind. He has no companions and I do not even know what name he goes by now. I see him pass sometimes in the late afternoon, walking with that peculiar gait of his, swayed back from the hips, hunched forward at the shoulders, his neck extended as a counterbalance to the hands thrust deep into the back pockets of his jeans. He will eat alone at one of the cheaper restaurants in the village, drink a half bottle of wine, and walk superstitiously back home on the other side of the street from the one he came down. There isn't much work for a retired assistant bookkeeper in today's world, but Bernardo has always lived half in a dream, so perhaps his lack of occupation doesn't worry him unduly. He too must spend the long solitary evenings writing in his room. When it rains, and the drops gather on the small round glasses he wears, he seems to see a grey throng of people moving up from or down to the ghost ships that pass constantly on the river. And then, and blessedly, it is as if he had never left the Rua dos Douradores, that dim street along the way to eternity.

8 comments:

Soapbox Press said...

What interesting people you share your neighbourhood with!

Martin Edmond said...

You should come over and meet some of them sometime.

Michael Steven said...

Well, I just might do that.
I'll soon need to track down another 'reluctant' poet & have him sign 80 copies of his latest poetry collection. . .

Martin Edmond said...

How we going to do that? And, we have to stop meeting like this.

Rod said...

I figure you have spent many years sharing the neighbourhood with Bernardo Soares.

Martin Edmond said...

yes, quite a while. first met him up the Cross in the late eighties ... he keeps popping up ... but I don't know if it's me following him around or him following me ...

chiefbiscuit said...

I read a RAK MAson poem the other day ... cannot recall exactly where now but do remember thinking that is a great poem ...
Interesting to read what you write about him.
Fleur Adcock walked into the Albatross Colony the other day! That was fun meeting her!

Martin Edmond said...

the one I was thinking of chief is called Old Memories of Earth. it's a great poem. jeez, Fleur Adcock! what did the Albatross think?