so long

West facing windows turn to lozenges of golden light in the last of the sun, momentarily transforming the city into an antique legend of wonder and sadness. Two black crows are drinking from the guttering on the shuttered and perhaps derelict NSWGR building at Petersham Station. GR must mean Government Railways. 1885 inscribed below the tower. No train ever stops at that platform, those Victorian doors and barred windows neither open nor close. I would like to go inside but doubt that ever I will. Behind its corrugated iron rooftop I can see the White Cockatoo hotel on Terminus Street where the ghost of Ern Malley props up the bar, remembering when it was an early opener and shaky old codgers used to dissolve Bex powders for their hangovers in the first schooner of the day. As number 20 goes by I can't see clearly enough to tell if that dim 40 watt bulb still burns behind the brown curtains in the front room but it probably does: some things never change. Which is what we say but it isn't actually true, things change all the time, change is the only constant ... already the burnt umber on the sky line in the west is succumbing to a smaze of gray, already I'm turning away from that brief vision of splendour and thinking instead about the evening ahead. At this point on my journey, leaving Town Hall station and going down into the gloom of Druitt Street to wait for a bus over the Anzac Bridge I don't know what I now do: that later, after wine and soup and cigarettes and conversation, even a joint, walking along Balmain Road past the former insane asylum at Callum Park in the charcoal night I will suddenly understand how three old griefs may be skeined together like thick strands of hair to make one rope that might, just might, hold together long enough for someone such as myself or any other like-minded dreamer to climb high into the air, for that gold to shine a moment longer than it did, earlier, when the sun slipped away. And as everyone also knows, and this is not some illusory old saw but a truth, when you manage one of those sleights that allow you to see what isn't otherwise there, when you climb a rope suspended without hooks from the sky, when you pull yourself up by your own plaits or bootstraps, what you find then will endure as long as you do. Or, if written in a book, as long as the book does. And, if remembered and told on, even longer. Like that proverbial sigh, as the Japanese say, long as a comet's tail.


Elisabeth said...

The way three old griefs come together on an otherwise ordinary night, suggests to me yet again the power of writing; writing to find out what is there submerged behind the ordinary facade of one writer's mind. This intrigues me as ever.

Richard Taylor said...

Martin - do you concur that Ern Malley was perhaps Australia's greatest poet!? !!

Scott Hamilton "alerted me" to the book about the Ern Malley Hoax which is of course an enthralling read..a tragicomic episode.

Great writing here: "...that sigh, a sigh as long as a comet's tail."

(Ern Malley would grin with envy...)