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Archive for May, 2013

Just prior to going to India last December, I moved into an inner city suburb of Sydney called Camperdown. It’s very close to where I was living previously in Glebe, on the other side of that great dividing road, Parramatta. The nice side, in my opinion, for Glebe runs down to the inner harbour and is by far the prettier of the two suburbs. Camperdown, however, has many attractions, one of which, technically, is the University of Sydney.

Parramatta Rd, into the west

Campus aside, Camperdown is a curious mix of old light industrial – factories, warehouses and workshops, and residential – of the bungalow, flat and terrace kind. Indeed, like so much of Sydney, Camperdown has swathes of Victorian and Edwardian terraces and semi-detached Federation (turn of the 20th century) houses.

The ubiquitous Sydney terraces

The area was first named by Governor Bligh (1806-08) after the Battle of Camperdown between the English and Dutch in 1797. Bligh received a 240 acre grant of land, which also included parts of neighbouring Newtown. Early in the 19th century, Camperdown was established as a residential and farming area. Lying just four kilometres west of the city centre, it was only a matter of time before it became swallowed by the city.

Australia Street

Camperdown is a small suburb, though this is in part an imposition of its division down the middle by Parramatta Road. It is a very built area, with a few good parks and small reserves, but nothing especially large – again, not including campus. Most of the houses are, however, one or two storeys, and, apart from the hospital, few of the reclaimed and gentrified warehouses and factories are especially tall. With streets and gardens full of trees and vegetation, it thus retains an old-town feel which adds to its appeal.

Camperdown

The Dutch houses

Denison street

We are fortunate to live in a tree-heavy cul de sac which fronts onto Camperdown oval. Our apartment block is a creaky old firetrap, which, from the back lane, looks awfully un-inspiring, but from the front seems well-disposed.

Cricket poetry

Penalty shot

Camperdown oval

Inside, the place takes on the curiously nostalgic complexion of an old, wide-corridored hotel in the Blue Mountains. The flats themselves have a pleasant vintage character to them and certainly scrub up nicely, with redundant fireplaces and tile features. It is hardly baroque, but rather an elegant sufficiency.

Rooftop garden, dying

Mantlepiece

Downstairs, in the base of the apartment block’s front are two cafés, Gather on the Green and Store, both of which are perfectly okay – the former good for coffee, the latter for food. Because of their proximity to the park and the dead-end nature of the street, customers regularly take their orders on the grass beside the oval. With the prevalence of youngish professional couples round these parts, the park and cafés are usually full of young families with a good number of children running about. This creates what my friend Paul calls a certain “prambience.”

The cafes downstairs

Foggy morning

Camperdown always struck me as an in-between sort of place. It is stuck between Parramatta Road and King Street in Newtown – then stuck between the university and hospital. In a sense, it just peters out into the west, hemmed in on the other sides. For this reason, I never felt comfortable about moving here, knowing that I was, to some degree, cut off from the water. To compensate for this I have extended my run considerably and now I cross Parramatta Road and follow the canal down to the water.

Wet Parramatta road

Glebe point sunset 2

Glebe, Rozelle Bay

It’s a lovely run once on the other side – under the aqueduct, through the canal-side parks, under the great curve of the Glebe railway viaduct, then along the promenade in Bicentennial Park. After cheering on the wind-turbine, I swing past views of the Glebe Island Bridge (now sadly renamed Anzac) and Sydney Harbour Bridge. My long ago established love for the Glebe area is such a powerful thing that I feel uplifted just running through it, but the sight of the water and bridges from the park takes things up another notch.

Glebe Island bridge

Glebe afternoon

Back to Camperdown, the land of the in-between. It is a very handy place to live, pure and simple: King Street with all its attractions is a ten minute walk away and, most Saturdays, we head up to the markets at the old Eveleigh rail-yards.

Eveleigh markets

Carriageworks

The beautiful campus of Sydney University – V’s workplace – is just ten minutes walk to the east. Public transport is plentifully available for the price of a short walk – to Parramatta Rd for buses, King Street for trains – and it takes me fifteen to twenty minutes to get downtown.

Parramatta Rd

King street crossing

When we have access to a car, it takes us roughly twenty-five minutes to drive to Bronte Beach – every Saturday and Sunday – which is not such a big imposition. Camperdown also meets one of my toughest conditions when it comes to choosing a house – being within walking distance of an art-house cinema. It also helps that the locals all seem to be friendly, harmless, open-minded lefties and that rare breed of unpretentious hipsters. It all feels perfectly safe.

Camperdown

Amor Laura

There are, inevitably, a couple of drawbacks: despite being mostly quiet, Camperdown is often the victim of flight path diversions and there are some eyesores. The huge slab of old hospital near the modernising Royal Prince Alfred is particularly unattractive. Surrounded by chain fence and barbed wire, it has a post-holocaust hollowness to it that is chilling and disquieting.

Dead hospital

Dead hospital

It is a monolith of arrant functionalism, yet, despite its ugliness, it often inspires enjoyably melancholic thoughts of the end of civilization. Now overgrown and toweringly glum, it invites one in with its brooding lassitude and I long to break in and explore the corridors. It is probably riddled with asbestos.

Parramatta Road doesn’t exactly leave a lot to be desired and I suppose there isn’t actually anything to do in Camperdown itself. Apart from a few dumpy sports pubs on the main road, there aren’t really any bars or cafés. This really ads to its in-between feel, because in order to do anything it is necessary either to walk to Newtown or Glebe, or bus and train the hell out of dodge. Still, nothing is really out of reach, so being sleepily stuck in the middle isn’t such a bad thing after all. Either way, it certainly has grown on me over the last few months.

Autumn, Camperdown

Camperdown

Victory

Australia street

Chesty Bonds

Glebe, rope ladder

Wet Pavilion, Camperdown

Camperdown tree shadow

Biblical Sky, Camperdown

Missenden rd

 

 

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This collection of photos dates from 2004-5 and were all taken using my second digital camera – an Olympus of some description. It was hardly a very professional camera, clocking in at around 3.2 megapixels, but with a decent 10x manual zoom, it gave me a degree of flexibility I had never had with a camera before. Prior to this, my first digital camera had been purchased just a year before, in 2003, before a flight to Venice. It was a neat little Minolta with a 3x manual zoom, which I truly loved for its design and ease of use. Sadly, however, it died a sorry death when a Gatorade opened in my bag and drowned its circuit board.

I owe a great deal to both of those cameras for being just good enough to give me the confidence to take photography more seriously. The images seemed excitingly clear and impressively accessible and available. This was, of course, when digital cameras were in their early phase of expansion – going from a novelty item to a technology commodity that everyone owned. It was also before mobile phones could offer anything like the same level of quality as a compact.

Prior to this I’d used a range of compact film cameras, never having owned an SLR. I certainly enjoyed taking photographs, though I understood very little about the craft. It was, after all, difficult to experiment without access to a dark room or committing to the cost of developing regularly and immediately, so I mostly focussed on taking snaps of people. I did, however, have a strong yearning to record the many places I visited when I was first travelling around Europe and, later, doing the same whilst based at Cambridge. These photos, whilst ambitious insofar as what I hoped to achieve, were technically naïve and taken using cameras that weren’t quite up to scratch.

Getting my first digital camera, however, opened up the opportunity to experiment as much as possible and it wasn’t long before I grew in confidence. Another great leap forward for me came when I first printed a digital photograph using my own inkjet. I was absolutely astonished at how perfectly clear and glossy the reproduction was. I sat staring at it in wonder for some time, and kept going back to take another look. The capacity to shoot and print my own photos for so little cost and with such ease turned into an obsession, and soon my walls were covered in prints. This fuelled a strong desire to get out there and shoot as much as possible, and so I did, starting the habit I’ve had ever since of never leaving the house without a camera, and was often to be seen carting a tripod around in the hope of some good long exposures.

These photographs all date from that period of great enthusiasm, when I saw how I might tell stories just as easily through photography. Prior to this, I’d seen photography primarily as a means of recording, rather than a means of expression. I was, at the time, writing novels, poetry and short stories with a furious passion. Photography added the much needed colour and a pleasingly easy adjunct to what I considered those more difficult arts. I don’t mean to suggest that photography is easy,  especially not for those who agonise over setting up compositions and technical exactness, yet as someone whose photography has mostly been opportunistic, I’ve always seen it as a refreshingly easy and fun means of creating a vignette or narrative.

In retrospect, these photographs aren’t all great by any means and, coming back to them, they seem disappointingly low-res. Yet there are some here which I dearly love for their compositions and the memories they bring me both of how much I liked them at the time, and where and when I was in life when they were taken. Everything here is from Sydney, and many were taken near to where I was living at the time – Glebe. Either way, I hope you enjoy them!

City of shadows

John Howard's Australia

Derelicte 2

George V

Waiting for Guinness

Glebe Seminary 2

Harbour bridge fireworks 1

Night train 2

Jesus airlines 1

Light rail special 2

Four legs 1

Hydrant

Grasshead 1

Glebe, Rozelle Bay

Leichhardt wires

Crane 3

Harry Tangiers

Help! 1    Lamp 4

Monorail 4

Palisade Hotel

Newtown Festival 3

Tea bag 1

Performance Anxiety

Night train 4

Reindeer 1

Parramatta Road sunset 1

Night city rain

Rainswept

Stink bug

Smoking dish rack

Sydney University lawnmower

Nightship

Storm telegraph

Silver Pathway 1

Carship window 1

Simon Tracey, garbo

Tree Wires

Glebe Sunset

Valhalla

Window-cleaning ballet

Used Cars

Windowsill glass

Sunset chimneys

Bronte surf

Bridge lights

Shane Warne, the one and only

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It seems ironic in retrospect that I doubted the wisdom in returning to Darjeeling. After all, I had spent nine days there on my first visit and wondered what was left to do and see. Much of the joy of my first visit had come from being alone and spending my time thinking, walking, smoking, photographing and taking notes. The battle against the elements – my undying hope of seeing the mountains on a clear day – provided an exciting and compelling challenge. While my failure to see the mountains was a huge disappointment, the excitement of getting up at dawn in the hope of doing was more than enough reason to be alive and in Darjeeling. Much time was spent watching the sunrise, or sitting in silence at the tea shack on the corner of Chowrasta, watching people and enjoying feeling completely and utterly free. Would Darjeeling have the same appeal a second time around, and now, with someone else in the picture?

When we woke up that first morning and saw the mountains on the horizon, it was immediately clear that we had made the right decision in coming there. Not only that, but as V and I contemplated what we might do over the next few days, it dawned on me how little actual sightseeing I had done previously. Sure, I had walked all over town, up and down and around the fringes back in 2010, but apart from a few outlying monasteries I had come across, there was much that I had ignored: The Zoo, the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, the Happy Valley Tea Estate, the view of the sunrise from Tiger Hill. Admittedly, I had ruled out the zoo, having mixed feelings about such places, and, despite being interested in the history of regional exploration, never worked up enough excitement about the Institute. I dropped Tiger Hill on the grounds that the mountains were not visible anyway and I didn’t need to ride in a jeep somewhere NOT to see them, when I could do that perfectly well from the town. As to Happy Valley, however, it was just an unfortunate oversight.

Two kids, Darjeeling

Darjeeling bearers

This time around we determined to try to see everything we could, as well as do a lot of wandering about. We spent the first day doing the latter – wandering about and re-orienting. I was trying to avoid that terrible habit of constantly referencing experiences from my last visit, but the excitement at seeing things again was too great. The one major disappointment for me was that my favourite tea and momo stall on the edge of Chowrasta was not open. After the first couple of days, I’d eaten almost every meal there and drunk a river of tea. I figured they must be having a day off as their signage was still in place, but felt a sense of foreboding that I would not see them this time around.

Prayer wheels

Darjeeling Monastery

The second morning was even clearer than the first, without a trace of cloud anywhere to be seen. After some strong coffee and a huge breakfast at Sonam’s Kitchen, we set off for the Happy Valley tea estate and promptly got lost. The road we took, however, turned out to be that which led to the Zoo and Mountaineering Institute, so we decided to go there instead.

Local Motorbike enthusiasts

It was a lovely day of bright sunshine and cool air – around 11 degrees – just warm enough to wear a tee-shirt when walking keenly. The road we followed afforded occasional jaw-dropping glimpses of the mountains on the horizon and sunlit views of Darjeeling, houses stacked up above wooded slopes.

Mountains

The zoo brought out the usual combination of excitement and pity one experiences in such places. Seeing a snow leopard, a Bengal tiger, a panther, red panda, bears, Himalayan wolves and the world’s oldest living variety of deer was all very pleasing, yet seeing them in cages was not. Their miniature habitats, where some effort had been made to provide a natural environment, were just a bit small for my liking.

Yawning leopard, tres cute

The Bengal tiger certainly made an impression – after we found it, that is. Its enclosure was one of the larger ones; a sloping hillside, overgrown with trees and shrubs, full of camouflaging shadows. Our first sighting was of the tiger’s enormous head, surrounded by dark vegetation. There were not many people around, and little of the excited noise that often assails one at a zoo, and the tiger seemed languidly un-harassed. Its eyes stared ahead, straight through the fence and beyond us, as though, with appropriate contempt for its captors and tormentors, it had managed to pretend we didn’t exist. Later, we found it pacing about behind a tree, which was an altogether sadder sight. The weight of its muscle was evident, and despite its obvious agility, it had a fearsome heaviness about it. Such great power, when combined with adrenaline, must be one of the most awesome sights in nature. As we walked away, I remember thinking that at least this one was safe from the poachers; a thought swiftly followed by despair at just how dire the tiger’s plight now is.

Red Panda

The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute lies directly behind the zoo and is available on a combined ticket. After a couple of circuits looking at the animals, we followed the path to the courtyard outside the building, in which the centrepiece is a statue of Tenzing Norgay, one of the first two men, along with Sir Edmund Hillary, to climb to the summit of Mt Everest in 1953. Originally born in Nepal, Tenzing moved to Darjeeling at the age of 19 and, on account of his incredible achievement, he is revered by the locals with no small amount of awe.

Standing before the statue, inspired by the weather, the views, the cool crisp air and full of the spirit of discovery, both V and I were deeply moved. There was something so heroic about this handsome man who had done such extraordinary things. In the statue he seemed happy and kind, humble and unassuming. My father, who dreamed of climbing Everest for years but never did so, had told me about that first ascent in my childhood, placing, with his classic socialist support of the little guy, appropriate emphasis on the role of Tenzing Norgay, whose name I had never forgotten.

Tenzing Norgay - what a handsome dude!

Tenzing was one of my early heroes, though I knew very little about him, and standing there before his statue I felt myself choking up. What a champion! What an incredible thing to do! It was almost as though I was finally meeting him after all these years. V, funnily enough, felt just as I did, and both of us came away with moist eyes and lumps in our throats, appetites keenly whetted for the Institute itself.

The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is certainly worth a visit. It is full of wonderfully tired old displays – decrepit stuffed birds, dusty, mangy wildlife and lots of climbing equipment from various eras. The displays trace the history of Himalayan expeditions in a series of time capsules full of equipment from different mountaineering teams, which map the gradual evolution towards the present. Despite the obviously more primitive nature of the earlier expeditions, some of the equipment seems surprisingly modern and ahead of its time – which, no doubt, it was when they set out. The museum also displays a lot of old photographs and newspaper clippings, which remind one of just how important the climbing of Everest was in the popular imagination. These days, the North Face is more like a busy highway, though no one in their right mind would belittle the effort in climbing it.

That same day we checked out of the Dekeling Hotel and into the Windamere Hotel for one night. This was in fact a belated birthday present for V. Back in November, I’d given her a mocked up “Passport to pleasure”, entitling her to a night of luxury in India. Originally I’d had the idea of staying in a Maharaja’s palace somewhere, but things didn’t quite work out that way and the Windamere seemed like the best option.

The Windamere Hotel, once described as “One of the three jewels of the Raj”, is actually a converted boarding house for bachelor English and Scottish tea planters. It’s cozy collection of wooden cottages wasn’t converted to a hotel until just before the outbreak of the Second World War, thus making it something of a late-comer to the Raj. Located on Observatory Hill, it occupies a special place in Darjeeling both geographically and historically. We arrived to find that we had received an upgrade, to one of the Colonial Class cottages, if I remember correctly, which was everything I was hoping for. The cottage included a sunroom, a large bedroom, small dressing room and a lovely bathroom. The wood-panelled walls, the antique fittings, the historical photographs and prints on the walls, the gorgeous carpets and furnishings, all exuded a charming Britishness that was both quaint and tasteful.

Windamere Hotel, our sunroom!

Devonshire Tea at the Windamere is listed among the Darjeeling things to do highlights, and we weren’t about to miss it. At 1600 that afternoon, we were shown into the reading room – another time capsule of colonial luxury and restrained decadence. As we waited for the tea and scones to arrive, we explored the hotel’s common rooms – the bar, the music room – it was all bloody splendid, what.

When the tea arrived it came not merely with a couple of scones, cream and jam, but with a large tray of cakes and pastries. My excitement at this was only slightly diminished by the knowledge that we were booked in for a three course meal later in the dining room, which promised to be lavish and hearty. Wanting to enjoy the hotel as much as possible, we stayed there all evening, taking baths, lying in bed with the coal fire burning and only venturing out for what proved a smashing dinner.

When the alarm went off at 0330 the following morning, I can’t say I was keen to leave the hotel. We had, however, determined, on the back of the amazing weather, to go out to Tiger Hill to watch the sunrise. This, we thought, would be easy, because the Lonely Planet suggested that all one had to do was walk down to the bus and jeep station and there would be a positive scrum of tourists and drivers ready to roll. Whilst this may be the case in the high season, nothing could have been further from the truth for us. Indeed, when we did finally reach the bottom of the town, rugged up as best as we could against the still freezing darkness, there were just a few locals kicking around, none of whom were planning on driving to Tiger Hill.

We asked around, followed the odd moving jeep, then finally, out near the Toy train station, found a driver who had arranged privately to take a couple of other tourists out there. He said we could wait and check with his customers if they were okay to have us along. We ended up waiting with him for almost half an hour, before another jeep full of Bengalis up from Kolkata swung by. The driver said we could squeeze in the back, and so we did at around 0430.

I can’t say I was very happy at this stage, being overly tired and insufficiently warm. The ride itself was interesting – rocking back and forth in the steamy jeep, full of dark men in dark clothes, occasionally muttering to each other. We smiled and were friendly, but I was too tired to be open and affable. When we did finally arrive at Tiger Hill, after a half hour drive, I was still not in the best of moods and kept sullenly to myself.

Considering how quiet it had been at the bus and jeep stand, we assumed Tiger Hill would not be so busy on this occasion. When we pulled in, however, the dark road was thick with jeeps. Up at the observation point, there were already hundreds of people all huddled together, waiting for a view of the sunrise. It wasn’t an easy wait, either. The biting cold crept slowly and painfully into my fingers and toes and I tried to keep them as warm as possible, but had no gloves and was wearing thongs with socks. When the sky finally began to lighten and I started to take photographs, my fingers soon became so stiff and sore I could barely adjust the settings on the camera and struggled to hold it steady. I wondered if it was really worth being here at all, and then, something incredible happened. The sun came up.

Sunrise from Tiger Hill

It was, in itself, a beautiful sight, even before its rays had hit the mountains. Yet what was so great about this particular dawn was the collective gasp that came from the huge crowd of frozen, anoraked, beanied and gloved-up people. The exhalations of the watchers were full of excitement and wonder and an almost desperate relief. It was not merely a beautiful sight, but the sun’s warmth was so utterly necessary in the cold.

Sunrise from Tiger Hill

The sun rose slowly but surely and cast its light across the long range of the Himalayas. The view left nothing to be desired. From Tiger Hill it is possible to see a very long, craggy stretch of the range, including distant sights of Everest. As the sun struck Mount Kangchenjunga, its bold ridges came starkly alive with gold.

Himalayan sunrise

Sunrise from Tiger Hill

Sunrise from Tiger Hill

We remained on the Hill for another half hour or so, before finding our way back to the jeep. The road home included a couple of other pit-stops. One, a splendid view point, and the other, a Ghorka war memorial.

Sunrise from Tiger Hill

Ghorka war memorial

By this stage, however, despite feeling fully respectful of the Ghorka people, we were ready to go home. I took a few more photographs, but was feeling pretty sore from freezing and thawing a few times. We returned to a marvellous breakfast and spent the rest of the morning luxuriating in our warm hotel room. At midday we were to check out and move back into another, different and equally cosy room at the Dekeling Hotel.

Traditional outfits

That afternoon we finally found our way to the Happy Valley tea plantation. There the land view really opened out, for the slope was very steep and covered only by the low, hardy, neatly-clumped tea bushes. We followed the rocky road down the undulating hillside, sunshine belting on down. Below, the road was lined with tall cedars, straight and magnificently proud. We found a nice place and sat a while in the sun, still feeling some of the morning’s chill in our bones and muscles.

Happy Valley tea estate

A local champ who wanted to pose for me!

Local kids, Darjeeling

Earlier, at the hotel, V had arranged to go one a one-day trek into Nepal the following morning. I was interested in going, but initially opted out because I had no shoes other than my flimsy, worn-out thongs. It had seemed crazy to buy a pair of shoes I would not keep just for a single day of walking, but then, sitting there amongst the tea bushes and soaking up the afternoon sun, it ceased to seem crazy at all. I knew how much I would regret missing the experience and decided to go after all. The real problem was going to be finding some shoes that fit me in a country full of small feet, and once I’d decided I wanted to go, the search for a suitable pair of shoes could not wait. Up we got, a little reluctantly, and began the walk back into town.

Darjeeling shop

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Novice Wisdom

2850 Mussoorie

 

Novice Wisdom

1

An emotion one rarely knows

what to do with: beauty.

Once, reading Proust, being so overcome by the Vaseline

of his lyricism, (cornflower, umber,

hawthorn, yellows – few words remained, but the colours, Impression)

I wondered, after Morris, whether beauty should be

useful after all;

where else to deploy this ache, this disturbance?

 

My brother once helped an old lady

from a bus and was duly praised;

mother, father, driver, old lady. It struck home

in him and in me, from whence

he was saintly. I was

yet to show this

and sought old ladies.

 

“How old are you now, son?” my father asks.

Yes, I am ageing

and still not THERE.

 

2

I have a favoured myth that I uphold

(though it does me no immediate good

to instill, myself, the doubts in your appraisal)

that greater trust will come from honesty

about past indiscretions.

 

These are not the actions

of heroes, nor men

you’ll hope to love.

 

“Now your ships are burned…”

 

3

Yes, old friend, this line

will also lend to me subdued Athens;

long walls demolished, proud fleet scattered,

empire nipped and tucked. This line

will clang and scrape with the chairs

of room seventeen; the cold morning echo

of thin air, thinner, shriller sound,

and the meandering certitude

of Mr Jones. But earlier than that,

 

before then, when we started there and knew

but a little of each other and the world,

when we feared naively all the corrupting

we’d been warned to avoid, thinking we, as children,

had no say in it, then what was good

was obvious, uncomplicated. Or was it just

that our desires did not yet involve others?

 

Love was still to be conducted

honestly; ethics and morality were not

understood, they were known.

 

4

Twenty-one, balcony morning running

fast behind the night. Woke tired, wanting everything

but work. In the early hours we came out

to catch a glimpse

of Knowledge in the fanning light.

On a borrowed bicycle the bear

went over the mountain

to see what he could not see:

that as we expand, so the space expands.

Since growing was equated with knowing

so youth as a state of mind was fixed eternal.

“We’re learning,” you said

“and knowledge can only make us children. Hence Socrates,

wise and petulant.”

 

5

Took this naïve youth for a state of beauty,

off the main and down the slower

bronze and iron side streets

sat and smoked up pipes and durries

stared across the corrugations,

plaster, brick and concrete houses,

ached for women wanting nothing

more than a restless looking

for a place and mood alone

and not a thing.

 

Was that not better than knowing?

Was that not more pure than “purpose”?

A useful beauty?

 

Another all-night morning

off in the park with the chirping,

all-night affirmations primed a fancy,

going through the rising dew. That was love

most visceral, love like scent-stirred

recollections, only in it.

In it

in it.

 

In time it seemed she was merely there

to be broken.

 

6

“You have to be strong about things,” she

warned too late. “I ought to be a good thing,

like new bottles of shampoo, well-cooked

mushrooms and deep green fabric,

not the be all and end all. If you hold

something fragile too tightly…”

 

Perhaps it had been too hot, or we were too dizzy

after the ordeal of essays and exams

 

“It was two animals, scrapping, savaging each other”

 

Inside, the currency of our moments

remains unspent, for she never wronged me.

That our love was the Axis Mundi,

she did once know. Possessed by its dogma

I closed my grip; tightened

these smotherer’s hands.

 

She puts her hairbrush elsewhere now;

hangs her tartan scarves and leggy skirts,

her blouses, berets, bras – all likely

new and not the ones I’d sometimes choose –

I don’t know where.

 

7

Having lied and cheated, having done so again

how long must we wait to be trusted?

The prisoner serves sentence, the liar instead

depends on the mercy of friends, of himself.

Must we apologise for ourselves

to those we have

not yet wronged?

When can we again say we are good?

 

From tyranny to the rule of law

so Solon followed Draco

 

8

Yet still there came Peisistratus,

 

in the urgent days with another.

I’d refused the church

to join the lovers’ guild of thieves.

 

My brother shone like a silver lining;

through the storm he’d stuck it out

for a later, cleaner break.

 

“This dream girl must have been

quite a catch,” he said.

She was quite a wicket

 

for old butterfingers;

an ageing novice, surrounded

by the zip-lock bags

 

of shot-up beauty.

“Why must you always put beauty

up your arm – the highs are gone,

 

let beauty be

the active thing, and let yourself

be passive in its gaze. How like

 

those wild oil barons, those violent guzzlers,

how like a junkie you’ve sucked and sucked

(and wisdom may in time limit the range

 

of feeling, of enthusiastic hope –

experience lends a brevity to myth,

our passion for the novel loses heat)

 

Run with the beauty and be it,

run with it down to the river,

run with it up to the heavens, my sour old friend.”

 

5689 Cambridge

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