... off to NZ today, back in a week's time ...


Go into the study, I say, your slippers are at the ends of your beds; but the slippers, black with Chinese dragons on the tops where the toes go, are not there and none of us know where they have gone. It's like the crocodile letter opener, disappeared into a vacuum or black hole that can't, in any ordinary understanding of the world, exist. I, desgraciadamante, / el dolor crece en el mundo a cada rato, / crece a treinta minutos por secundo, paso a paso ... The tear of muscle in the lumbar region, on the left side, I mean, the hot wire that runs from humerus to radius, the exquisite burning of the styloid process. Tenosynovitis. RSI. OOS. We humans spend ninety percent of our time indoors, most of it sitting down somewhere or other. We are seldom naked and we don't know much about our bones. I want to be buried upright in the earth, at or near the place I was born, with a tree, perhaps a towai, planted over me. They use the bark for tanning hides, or they used to. We had a big one in our garden, it's not there any more, neither tree nor garden, and it's hard to see how I'd get back in time. A wormhole, perhaps. Down there with the slippers, the letter openers, the other lost things, flints and bones, the strange fungi that grow under Five Finger Trees ... Jamás tanto cariño doloroso, / jamás tan cerca arremetió lo lejos, / jamás el fuego nunca / jugó mejor su rol de frío muerto! I buy the kids new shoes, Ug boots with Bart Simpson on the sides for the younger one, Volleys for the older, who never wore his slippers anyway; he runs and leaps all the way home, admiring them, and doesn't take them off for hours. I put a deposit down on a new desk, this one I'm at is four centimetres lower than the recommended height, it's a table top with the legs sawn off, placed on a base from some other structure, I've held onto it for sentimental reasons only, how stupid is that? It belonged to a friend who has died, he matched the two ill-matched parts, sanded down the top and painted the base green, I repainted it black afterwards, I like sitting and writing where he sat and wrote or painted or perhaps supped on one of the many whiskeys he liked ... Pues de resultas / del dolor, hay algunos / que nacen, otros crecen, otros mueren, / y otros que nacen y no mueren, otros / que sin haber nacido, mueren, y otros / que no nacen ni mueren (son los más) ... we walk over to Leichhardt to buy books, in Berkelouw's the top ten places in the top ten are all filled by the same book, I won't say it's name, I haven't read any of them, in this I'm guided by my son who says they're no good, he's reading The Ranger's Apprentice series at breakneck speed. The other one likes Tin Tin, he chooses The Shooting Star, soon he'll have the complete set. They sit on a bench at Petersham railway station platform side by side reading. No steam train comes through, just a Millennium that doesn't stop and, much later, a Silver Passenger train that does. They won't let me cross the road to look at my new desk in the window of the second hand shop, they want to get home and continue reading while I make potatoes in their jackets for lunch ... Señor Ministro de Salud: ¿qué hacer? / !Ah! desgraciadamente, hombres humanos, / hay, hermanos, muchísimo que hacer.

quotations from: Los nueve monstruous by CÉSAR VALLEJO


what bird is that?

This morning, very early, before it was properly light, a bird called three times outside my window. What bird? I do not know; and yet I think I know all the birds that come around here, and their cries and songs. I'd been very late to bed, must have only been asleep for a couple of hours and I didn't wake properly. It wasn't a dream but in my half-dreaming state I seemed to be on the green-black slope of some far moorland, with the grey sea in the distance; or perhaps on the nether side of Ruapehu, looking out over the Rangipo plains towards the Kaimanawa; or ... I don't know. Then, just now, I was over at The Imaginary Museum reading Jack's latest post on the metamorphoses of the Metamorphoses and saw the cover of Ted Hughes' book Crow. The augurous bird whistling out my window might not have been a crow but its cry did bring to mind lines from that book that I memorized years ago: Dawn's Rose / Is melting an old frost moon. // Agony under agony, the quiet of dust, /And a crow talking to stony skylines ...


Over at Passages, Jacky Bowring's site, there's three photos of churches. The second is of one I know well. After a visit there in 1980, I wrote about it:

On a high green hill just outside Raetihi stands a Ratana church with twin domed towers upon which Arepa and Omeka, Alpha and Omega, are traditionally written. We stopped the car by a clay bank on one side of a cutting through the hill, stepped through the fence and climbed up a steep slope luxuriant with gone-to-seed grass towards the church.

Flags were flying on the marae next door—the Ratana flag, the Union Jack, the New Zealand flag, the Rising Sun. A light rain was falling as we walked over to where a young girl sat on the steps of the whare kai. She got up and went into the building. Peering after her into the gloom, I could see the long trestle tables covered with newsprint, the orange and yellow and green and red of the bottles of soft drink, the big plates of sliced buttered bread. A man with red-rimmed eyes and a distracted air came out. He looked doubtful.

The church?
he said. It might be a bit difficult, you know, because we're having a tangi here today.

He stood on the porch looking out at the falling rain.

I don't know about the church,
he said at last. I'm not a Ratana, see. There's a fella in there who's a Ratana. He might be able to help you more than I can.

He turned and, stooping slightly, went back into that dark interior. He came out again with a younger man, short, stocky, well built. This man radiated that inner certainty and strength called mana. The deep, regular lines round his eyes were like the ravines we had seen up on the mountain.

Well, it's a bit difficult really,
the Ratana began. It's not us younger ones you see, it's the old people ... maybe not if it was any old time, but today, with this tangi on for one of our elders ...

Both men lit cigarettes, Rothmans, using a Bic suspended in a leather pouch on a thong round the Ratana’s neck. A scatter of kids drifted nearer.

How many go to the church?
Barry asked.

About two,
said the Ratana. No, I mean it. Two or three.

The church is down there now,
said Redeye, gesturing with his thumb towards the town.

Down the pub,
said the Ratana.

A thin woman came up, trailing a couple more kids. She lifted a smoke from Redeye.

I'm going home now, she said. There's no place for kids here.

She rubbed her thumb and forefinger together. Redeye reached into his pocket and pulled out some crumpled notes. He offered her a two, but her bony fingers extracted a five instead. While this was going on, another character appeared out of the darkness of the building. He was very black. The whites of his eyes glittered strangely in the gloom of the afternoon. He looked like a Dravidian.

Hey, why don't you get Him to turn the tap off up there? he said to the Ratana, jerking one hand towards the sky.

It would just come down again somewhere else,
was the equable reply.

The Dravidian’s eyes gleamed. He went off down the side of the building muttering to himself. There was a pause.

You can go in, but you can't take photographs. You can photograph the outside and you can have a look inside.

Inside was a little piece of heaven. The same segmented five-pointed star inside the cusp of the crescent moon was carved into the pew ends. Each segment of the star has its own colour: blue for the Father, white for the Son, red for the Holy Ghost; purple for the Angels and gold for the Mangai, T. W. Ratana. Everything in the church was painted, even the altar, which was strewn with flowers. On the wall behind it were murals, copies of the originals at the temple at Ratana.

They had been painted by a youth who was held to be a reincarnation of the prophet's son, Arepa; like Arepa, like Ratana's son Omeka, this boy died when his work was done. The murals tell the story of the movement, especially during the 1920s, when a crusade went out into the world: to the USA, to the League of Nations, to England to see the king. At Geneva the New Zealand representative to the League made sure the delegation was not received. In London, George V, King-Emperor, refused Ratana an audience.

In Japan, however, he was greeted with great ceremony by Bishop Juji Nakada of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Gifts were exchanged, marriages made. Ratana taught that both Maori and Japanese were among the lost tribes of Israel. The idea grew that Ratana had married the Maori race to the Japanese race, had enlisted their support for Maori grievances and prophesied the coming of a world war between the non-white and white races: this is why the Rising Sun still flew over Te Puke marae next to the Haahi Ratana at Raetihi.

from Waimarino County & other excursions, title essay, part VII


Yesterday I went into the ABC in Ultimo and recorded one of the essays out of Waimarino County for a program called Lingua Franca. It'll be broadcast on Radio National on 21st July at 3.45 pm and there's a repeat the following Thursday at 9.45 pm. They're also going to post a copy of the text on their website when I get around to sending it to them. It's a piece called an.aesthetic that I wrote at the request of a magazine called A Brief Description of the Whole World, since shortened to the far more manageable brief. Curiously, it was a last minute inclusion in Waimarino County, I'd forgotten about it and only remembered when I felt there was a gap in the book that needed to be filled by ... something. I love reading my work, or anyone's really, aloud and it was very satisfying and enjoyable doing it in the Tardis, as they call their studios there. Afterwards I wandered through the tunnel under Central Station on my way back to the train, and stopped in at a bookshop there that I sometimes like to visit. It is full of remaindered titles, often quite trashy and always very cheap; but there are surprises to be found among the dross and I had a feeling, like you sometimes get, that there was a book in there for me. I didn't have a lot of time and I didn't know what I was looking for, and several times I almost left the shop ... it was on the last of the remainder tables, up the back, that I found it: The True Face of William Shakespeare, by Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel. I've read this book, there's a copy in the Ashfield library, but I never thought to own it. A hardback, it retails for about seventy dollars but here it was for sale for $12.50. In it is the story of the death mask of Shakespeare found by artist Ludwig Becker in a junk shop in Mainz. Ludwig Becker was the artist/scientist on the Burke & Wills Expedition. He was an extraordinary painter of landscapes and a meticulous scientist too. I want to go on a journey soon, retracing his path to his untimely death in Bulloo in S.E Queensland. And then I hope to write about him. Finding Ms HHH's book, which is in itself meticulous, fascinating and at times inadvertently hilarious, and which is or was also the inception of my desire to write about Becker is, perhaps, a Sign.