Friday, November 29, 2013

Birthday thoughts.


Answers? No, thanks.

I just want to keep on asking questions. Hoping for the mysteries to be more than ever before. 42 is not the answer to anything, and it’s not the end. Unless you’re Elvis Presley, and then, barring some mistaken identity in Walmart or a waffle burn shape, you are gone.

There’s this beach I like to go to which has moods. You wouldn’t guess that straight off the bat, but visit it enough and you’ll see: When the tide is coming in, the rock pools are a foamy flurry, but when the tide is low, the little ecosystems are tiny arrangements of shells, fish, living creatures and seaweed slow dancing to the breeze. 

The sand on that beach can be a range of textures: Soft enough to dig a little castle out of, and coarse enough to turn up brilliant mother-of-pearl shards and unholy digging beasts.

Sometimes, after a spring tide or storm, reeking swathes of kelp litter the strand and provide perches for seagulls. The hunch-shouldered brutes bully each other away from scraps of dead things and shriek above the rolling belch of the waves.

The beach is always the same, but the sun, sky and sea act as sculptors in a contest using the same material, snatching the clay from each other and tinting it backwards and forwards. A plastic bottle wedged between rocks turns out not to carry a romantic missive from another continent, but just one from nature: “10 000 years before I disintegrate”, it whispers, “10 000 years, 10 000 years.”

Trains pass intermittently on a track just metres from the shore, and there will always be one small child lifting a hand to wave as you stand on the rocks. You can wave back, but it’s probably the same child travelling up and down, simply to offer acknowledgment to those who are trying to embrace their isolation as they stare out to an ocean which never pours off the edges of the world.

The smell of coconut hangs in the air from the lotion rubbed on the flesh of the visitors and washed off by the shower which dribbles fresh water into the saline pools. If you stare long enough into the blue-green-white-black void of the surf, you may see a dolphin or a seal, but your eyes will start to hurt so you’ll look away, willing that rock to move again.

Footprints form temporary craters that get filled and emptied every day, brittle, brief reminders that people walked where once a sea creature shoved itself out onto the sand with fins and slid off into the hills wondering why it couldn’t find fish to eat.

My children would report, having visited there: We went to the beach, the one with the pool. We looked at the rocks and picked up shells. We dug holes and had fun.

A poet took her wax paper-wrapped ham sandwiches with her in a scarred leather satchel and pushed into the breakers, sank like a badly reviewed volume of verse.

Bring on 43.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Goodbye is an echo which never fades. 

It hangs, reverberating, off canyon walls of grief. 

Words ill-chosen and clumsy, a distraction from the warm greeting which was life.

They’re shades, wraiths and mists drifting over the graves of the dead, blending and folding into themselves in a constant drift. 

Light retreats from them and the darkness consumes them.

What can be said of this absurdity we call life? 

That it can be a consummation of humour and love and that it consists of nothing at all. 

A legacy written in invisible ink; 

A vapour.

Nothing survives the analysis of the living, flawed with hope, fear and optimism. 

The contents of a beast’s belly cannot criticise that which consumed it. 

A butterfly’s wings blown free of colour, rendered translucent flightless. 

The echo of a doorbell in an empty house.

In the light the creatures are cornered in shadows, but in the dark they slip across the floor, scattering to their nocturnal pursuits.

A clock chimes, but nobody hears, and so it chimes again. 

A tar-coloured bird giggles in the darkness and then yells as if it is day.

But it isn’t.

A copper bowl sings with the strokes of a leather mallet.

Goodbye is an echo which never fades,

Goodbye is an echo which never fades,

Goodbye is an echo which fades, fades, fades.

There’s memory held in shades, shades, shades.

Death is the negative snap of life.

Life, inverted.