Or was that voice calling Arrêté!?


Last night I dreamed of a woman called Arete.

She is the one sung in the Song of Solomon. The one who sings in the Song of Solomon.

Her eyes like dove's eggs. Her mouth wide as a river of longing. Her hair the memory of time, glossy and black, to be climbed up or down or among. Her sweet white teeth.

Her children, a girl and boy, deserted by their father. The boy asks him to come but he is busy working. The boy does not ever speak to his mother about his father. He has his pride.

Pride will get you killed in a war, you would rather die than admit to fear.

She is from Persia. Her name is Greek because of Alexander's passing, two millennia ago. Or for some other reason, her courage perhaps, her spirit, the sheer elegance of her person.

I heard her name called three times, that was all the dream was; her attributes I divined later, while still under the spell of the vision.

Today I saw her in the street, looking into the bakery shop window while she waited for the bank to open. So slender. Immaculately dressed. Beautiful.

I could not tell if she had seen me or not, but as I passed by with my newspaper I turned, caught her eye, smiled and said Hello.

Hello, she said. How are you today?

I'm well, I replied. Then the door of the bank opened and she passed inside, out of my sight for now.

Arete! the voice called. Arete! Arete!


The Listener reviews Luca ...



arrived this morning at my door, six copies, before I'd even had my cup of tea. Answering the door wearing only pink boxer shorts with Chinese characters on them is something I haven't done before but the delivery guy was Chinese himself and didn't seem to mind. More about this particular publication here ... and subsequently ...


In the mirror of the world, the ten thousand things.


I have never seen:

the Aurora Australis from Outer Space



is the title of #44 in Alan Brunton's Fq. Full text here.

While here are the mysterious hexagonal clouds at the north pole:



... a ruby bead dried above his upper lip. Saturn was burning, tilted between Leo and Cancer, the rings would appear edge on by 2009, as they did fifteen years ago. You could see it setting in the evening skies. If you knew where to look. The hexagonal clouds at the north pole have no explanation. As with so much else. They were red too, the heavy crimson of velvet drapes, like those in his grandparent's house. Not a memory, a supposition: their house felt that way. Where a midget spoke cryptically, backwards, perhaps. Why was he dreaming of his mother? Two times this week. Once she held his hand and talked about her fear of dying, seven years after the act. If dying can be said to be an act. Then, the other night, falling in the foyer of the theatre, dexterously managing to spill hardly any of the glass of white wine she'd just refilled. Sinisterly, was that a word? Spellcheck says yes. The shame in her eyes, the drunkard's veiled plea for excuse of the inexcusable. He'd never seen her drunk, or not falling down drunk. Happy, yes. Excited. He'd asked his sister to look after her. Why not himself? Because he never really had, or not in later years. It wasn't his mother's parent's house, he retained no memory of that, it was his father's. In Hamilton. And it was his father who was the drunk, who sometimes stumbled and fell. Whom he always tried to raise up again. The blood was from a shaving cut, welling strangely away from where the sharp slant of pain was. In the yellowy late afternoon light, as currawongs whistled operatically and rain began to fall, he put his finger to the spot. The wound, the tear, the entrance or exit place of spirits. While Saturn burned, and his mother continued to die, blood flowed ...


Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon

Many years ago I wrote down this quote from Flaubert:

The melancholy of the antique world seems to me more profound than that of the moderns, all of whom more or less imply that beyond the dark void lies immortality. But for the ancients that black hole is infinity itself; their dreams loom and vanish against a background of immutable ebony. No crying out, no convulsions - nothing but the fixity of a pensive gaze ...

I wanted to use it as a epigraph for a book but I had, and have, no idea of what the book in fact might be. Or might have been, I should say. Then I lost the quote ... a few days ago it recurred in my mind but I couldn't exactly remember it. So I went looking on the web, and found it, eventually, here.

It comes from a letter Flaubert wrote to Madame Roger des Genettes and there's more:

... just when the gods had ceased to be and the Christ had not yet come, there was a unique moment in history, between Cicero and Marcus Aurelius, when man stood alone. Nowhere else do I find that particular grandeur.

This, it turns out, was (part of?) M. Yourcenar’s inspiration for her book Memoirs of Hadrian though I don't know if she uses it as an epigraph or not, never having read the book. Perhaps I should. Somehow, though this wasn't the case when I first copied it down, the remark now makes me think of this:

yesterday's papers / tomorrow's headlines

Sunday must be dream time around these parts. Last night it was my mother, a rare enough event for me, tho' I often dream of my father. We were sitting outdoors on some uncomfortable, perhaps wrought iron, chairs at a little round table. A wall loomed oppressively to her left, as she sat there on mine. Holding my hand. This is not just rare, it's unprecedented, at least since childhood. It was certainly her hand, knotted, veiny, wrinkled. She was expressing her horror of dying, which was very real while she lived, and remarking how bits of her liver were coming out her nose, a kind of powdery zinc or arsenic like deposit. There was more of the dream that lead up to this but I have not retained it. Nor what happened next, if there was any next. It was only as I made breakfast this morning, looking at the phone bill on the fridge to see when it is due, that I realised today is her birthday and remembered the dream. She would have been 83. The thing she hated most about dying was that she wouldn't know what happened in the world after she left it. Which means, I suppose, that her consciousness could not bear the thought of its own extinction. Strange how in the dream she seemed to have aged over the seven years since her death. As if the consciousness that could not bear the thought of extinction has somehow lived on, somehow survived the death of the body. It was a melancholy dream and left a slightly bitter aftertaste, like arsenic or zinc, on the back of my tongue.