these days

Sunday night. The street all charcoal and mystery. Someone walked along there a while ago, whistling a snatch of Waltzing Matilda. Snatching a whistle perhaps. Venus blazes these spring evenings, then sets. The head of my beloved was sculpted in mammoth ivory 25,000 years ago in the place we now call France. Haunting the future is the task of art, accomplished here thoughtlessly, with grace and brevity, with an insouciance that is before and after the plain fact. And the word. Have been spending a lot of time these days on trains. White Australia not even a memory there. Or, if it is, one that scarcely troubles the sleep of reason. Thinking of that bloke passed out with a bottle in one hand and his mobile in the other, on the 6.12 to Museum. Mostly we are in India, China, south and east, west and north. One day I watched on the seat in front of me a flinty old digger making love to an immense, flushed, girlish woman in blue jeans and a winsome flowery top. The vast expanses of flesh he uncovered with his caresses a wonder to behold. Like being on top of one of those jumping castles, she said when I mentioned it. Or underneath, I replied. They left the train at Broadmeadow, heading off into an unimaginable splendour of love in the afternoon. The carriage rising slightly as they stepped off onto the platform. It is an old tune, perhaps a Northumbrian marching song brought down here by soldiers. Banjo heard it banged out on a piano somewhere west of Rockhampton in the 90s. The 1890s, that is. Legend has it. Billy Tea picked it up for a jingle and that's the version we all still sing. Does anyone seriously think it was tea they served down there by the billabong? Or in the woolshed. 1892 was when my Venus was disinterred. Her face triangular and seems tranquil ... Forehead, nose and brows carved in relief, mouth absent ... She emerged from the ground into a colonial, intellectual and socio-political context nearly obsessed with matters of race ... The proportions of the head do not correspond exactly to any known human population of the present or past ... Interpretative questions have shifted from race to matters concerning womanhood and fertility ... and so on. The song on the lips of that absent mouth would not have had anything to say about jumbucks and tucker-bags. I don't think. But might have been sung by the Be Good Tanyas if they'd been around in the Paleolithic: I tried to kill the pain, bought some wine / And hopped a train / Seemed easier than just waitin' around to die.

1 comment:

artandmylife said...

Brassempouy and Willendorf in the same post :-)