Rorschach tests for trees

Nothing could be like Ohakune.* Not the purple sky in the south against which the conifers resemble Rorschach tests for trees; not the fat cold spitting rain in my face; not the icy wind reaching inside my skin to clutch at the bones. The Body Corporate cannot fix the broken back window if they do not know about it; and who knows if they do? The air that seeps in through those starry cracks has been to the pole and back; it has been breathed by penguins and, soon as the thought comes, there's that fishy, feathery smell in the kitchen. As if the fridge door was open. Mould on the bread, the cheese melted then frozen into formlessness, I've been reading (seriously!) a review of an exhibition in which the paintings are made of butter. They look like ... butter. Now thinking about the Billy Apple show I saw many years ago in Wellington, he'd kept the thirty shitty bits of toilet paper he wiped his arse with that month. Seriously. It was unforgettable. Try as I might and do. Was standing outside the entrance to that gallery just a few days ago eating an apple. A sweet Pacific Rose. Already turned to shit. The cracks in the window look like an art work: a dog perhaps, an Aurignacian dog. Nothing like Ohakune. Could be. Remember one morning, May holidays probably, the grass upstanding frost-sheathed spears of white, the puddles all frozen over, going out into the porch to put my gumboots on and there was something in the toe of one of them. Took it off, put my hand inside, it was a mouse. Ran back into the warm kitchen where everyone was still sitting before plates of rapidly cooling porridge - Vi-Max, not that it matters - with the rodent held triumphant in my clenched fist: Look! Mouse upraised furry little head and sank little sharp teeth into the index finger of my left hand. Ow! Let it go, it ran away. Screams? Blood? Don't recall. Scar still there, was looking at it just the other day. Looking at it now. A raised semi-circle, proud flesh, with a curl at the nether end like a koru, beaut shape, could be an art work. What then? Like, nothing. These emblematic memories have no issue, narratives conclude without arriving anywhere. Except a scar. A little piece of me subtracted, a lack that has in it some incalculable advance towards adulthood. Meaning, I suppose, death. Could be. Nothing like. The farmer's ute without a back window, the headline in the newspaper on the seat beside him: Coldest winter in almost forty years. No, that's a Rod Stewart song: Maggie May. Cannot tell you the resonance those words have for me now. After the game was over she and her friend were in a bar on George Street. The bar was closed but a Kiwi girl came in anyway, wanting to use the loo. We're closed, said the bouncer. Find a tree, said my friend ... the Kiwi girl punched her out. Bruised nose cartilage, a split above her eye. As if you'd played the All Blacks, I said. It isn't funny but it is. Made me feel obscurely better about the deficit. And worse. Her too, Maggie I mean, Maggie maybe. Like Ohakune, nothing could. Be. Another memory, the dressing room at Ruapehu College, a Saturday before the game. Smell of liniment, Maori thighs, laughter, sprigs rattling on concrete, those blue and white jerseys, unstained shorts. Did they win or lose? Incalculable emotions, desire and fear, hope and its opposite, dread maybe. Penguins for dinner again, oh well. Ohakune. Nothing could be like.

* Mark Young


artandmylife said...

Oddly today I have been reading a book where Raetihi features prominently.
And yeah - butter. Billy's efforts had rather more style

Elisabeth said...

Every day I trawl through my small collection of blogs, yours and artandmylife, among one or two others.

I'm new to this, relatively speaking, and I am in awe of all your work.

Martin, you write like a dream. Your words soar. And the memories fill me with longing for such an ability to recall, the colour, the sound, the taste and smell.

I wish I had something more worthwhile to say. Hopefully it's enough to acknowledge your words from today.

Kay said...

WONderful - don't believe I've been to Ohakune - it's where the carrot is right? Pure middle NZ.

Martin Edmond said...

Apparently that carrot is made from concrete - wasn't there when we were growing up. All the carrots were in the ground then ... until pulled up.