” … the lonelier a person gets, the less adept they become at navigating social currents. Loneliness grows around them, like mould or fur.” (Oliva Laing)
Stilness of an early autumn evening is predatory,
Disguised inside small pockets of dozy, warm air,
For the first frost at dawn,
As fine as the fresh gauze over a new wound.
Before the rains expose the earth anew.
And there were some rains this year already.
Opening river banks and washing small settlements away.
Peoples and dogs swimming for each other.
And before that there was a summer without warmth.
It never arrived.
When my daughter returned from her travels abroad.
Where ‘abroad’ names any place outside our floating islands.
Otherwise you could say that she went to visit home country outside of which lays ‘abroad’.
It all depends on the name you give to horizon you see while standing with both feet planted in the soil.
We can only ever see one.
Unless you are a character in Murakami’s novels. Two moons might be handy.
It would certainly explain a lot.
Anyway, it was a slow summer and I was teaching myself to write poetry.
What a mess!
Silences stretched across summer nights like the elaborate tablecloths my dead grandmother made from the thin white cotton she called ‘konac’. They were heavy.
She would lay them across our wooden table to fully show their opulence.
While all I learned is that poetry is like a fickle lover; it tempts, it seduces, it intoxicates,
Only to turn away without a warning,
Or a word of comfort,
Or a word of hope.
And still one waits.
In our times, they are serious people (and seriously trained for number of years) whose job is to name such state of affairs. They come up with such names as ‘psychosis’ or ‘disorder’. It helps rest of the population cope.
But I did learn other things too.
For instance – a man to whom I wrote a poem some four or so years ago invited me out.
He still remembers it.
I do too.
The trouble with people in poems is they take it for real.
Poetry is not real! No more than our souls and our hearts!
Otherwise what would be the point – you can hug your knees – they are real enough!
Still, I listen while my daughter talks.
She carefully pronounces names of streets in Zagreb she visited, people she spoke with, dishes she tasted.
She watches me carefully waiting for recognition.
I have none to offer.
The trouble with exiles is that everyone wants them romantic.
They are not.
Your memory makes a fool of you.
There is no square you swear on your mother’s grave was there once complete with flower sellers and an old man playing accordion in all weathers.
Your words desert you.
You say not what you want but what you can.
No language would have you.
And that surely is a death of any poet;
True or Imposter alike.
First morning of a brand-new year landed on New Zealand’s shores all wet and shiny, shivering from wind, and still full of things yet to be. The new things we know not of. Not yet.
May they be kind to us all.
On average, 2016 was not terrible to me.
I read some good books and watched some terrible movies.
Or it might have been the other way around.
I was occasionally struck by an overwhelming need to cry or say “I love you” to perfect strangers.
Or both. In the same time.
Once or twice I did.
Taking wines (some even sweet) from a wine merchant who wanted to be a writer of erotic trilogies.
Or perhaps he wanted me to write them for him.
It cannot be resolved.
Sky is low and colour of sour milk. Sheets of rain fly over the city on the wings of winds as strong as this land’s flightless birds.
All of which makes me remember why:
Why I Am Like New Zealand
My feet stick out from beneath the sheet, Pointing to where death thrives.
I am right side up.
I wake between tectonic plates that hurt.
I have five faults, called senses.
My brow is furrowed into alps.
My best volcano thinks
It’s high geologic time
To euthanize the sky.
Excuse me while I euthanize the sky.
My fjords ache.
My glaciers hurry.
My spine is a train wreck in a tunnel.
No one survives.
There is a bridge to nowhere, and it’s mine.
I count on being left alone.
I love the Abel Tasman Sea.
I can’t remember my discovery.
By James Galvin
The people have spoken and there is no escape from it.
Not even on my little island bathed in the fragrant rain of late spring.
While primroses and billy-bells are preparing to burst into new season.
Full of hope.
Not unlike people who voted for a man who some other people pronounced laughable.
And then proceed to employ never-before-seen heavy and well-oiled media artillery to defeat.
Enter the utter disbelief.
Of those whose well-insulated worlds shield them so well from reality of many that they dismissed them as ‘undesirables’.
Clearly they have forgotten history lessons of their expensive educations.
“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche“!
Nothing unifies and ignites masses of ‘undesirables’ quicker and stronger than disdain of elite.
Anyone could have mobilized the sea of raw hurt in the same way.
Anyone who could convincingly promise to restore dignity.
When you offer a jobless man a job, even as a promise – you give him back his dignity, or at least a promise of one.
The man with funny hair and panache for provocative rhetoric happens to have both necessary qualities; a drive and a stomach for it. In addition to a completely clean slate when it comes to politics; a quality highly prized by those dismissed by the ruling elite. His long-standing friendship with his opponent and her family was of course conveniently overlooked as it always happens with inconvenient minor details.
It is questionable whether he himself was/is fully aware of what he has unleashed and/or how is he going to cope with it. Only time will tell.
While the woman with a severe face and highly-polished exterior continued to remain oblivious of the number and power of those she dismissed. After all they do not future in the world she knows and therefore they cannot possibly matter.
In doing so she, perhaps even unwittingly, sharpened the blade that divides her country to possibly dangerous degree. Still, the onslaught of hatred of those who brought her opponent into power continues everywhere. Why? What is to be achieved by sawing seeds of hatred against large number of people who did nothing but voted for their preferred candidate?
Because this was not a vote for Trump against Hilary – this was the vote against elite and all it represents.
This was the vote that fervently wished to deliver one message and one message only – We the People will not be dismissed!
Whatever you choose to call us, and however ‘racist’, ‘misogynistic’, ‘islamophobiac’, ‘sexist’, etc. you think we are … we will be HEARD!
If that sounds familiar … because it is.
Not long ago voters of another western country shocked their elite by voting out of European Union. The basic motivation was/is the same – give us back our country, our jobs … our dignity!
While it is certainly not the first time in human history that the ruling elite first invents than proceed to believe in a ‘new and better human being’, existence of which would always benefits their interests, the reality of human nature continues to show itself for what it is – survival instinct first and foremost. And when those appear at risk … all is and will be possible.
To start with I have never cared much for either Trump or Hilary.
But all that changed on the day a woman in my office looked at me with such an open disdain that it was palpable. It was clear she thinks me not only a dimwit but beyond contempt. Because I tried to voice my concern over the clearly orchestrated media-onslaught of Trump during the election camping. I did not even say that I favour Tramp (because I don’t). Imagine if I did.
It was the day I learned first-hand how ‘undesirables’ feel.
And why Trump would win.
Sitting by a window in a shelter of an unnamed winter evening,
I solicit words.
But they are slow in coming.
Writing, like love, cannot survive neglect.
But not neglect,
Deliberate act of abandonment.
Lovers who hide from love in pain or fear, soon
See it perish.
As do writers who hide from words.
Shrivel and wilt, scorched by salts of sorrow.
And so I think I should sit here,
Until I have enough
Words to describe
Slow hum of town living below my balcony,
Brilliant colours of geranium’s flowers spilling from terracotta pots nestled against the rusty balustrade,
Smell of sea mist dissolving over dove coloured hills,
Shapes of travelling clouds touched on the edges by a rose brush,
Sound black and white can makes when passing softly under a naked tree,
Taste of loneliness.
I might be waiting for a long time,
A day, or
Each year at the end of summer a dawn arrives when tiny gold and yellow lights hang in the morning breeze.
You do not notice them at first over your cup of coffee and morning papers.
But then something always happens; a lonely bird cries high above in the misty skies, kids call each other’s names on their way to school, neighbour’s dog barks, and you stop reading news about cyclones and rise in house prices and Isis and clowns running for presidents, and look about you.
Suddenly it is there.
Your hands are cold around now empty cup of coffee. Breeze rattled your papers and is blowing them across the balcony. You tighten your gown around you and go inside.
Put the “Best of Bach” on.
Boil the kettle for cup of tea.
On one such morning I received small parcel of books from my usual online retailer.
Inside, separated by nothing more than a tissue paper; two very different looking books: Anne Enright’s “The Green Road’’ and Jane Juska’s “A Round-Heeled Woman”.
A solitary tree growing from the stony earth against vast skies adorns the cover of Ann’s book. Ann writes Ireland in the best tradition of Edna O’Brien and other fine Irish writers. Her stories are delicate, authoritative, scary, fractured. “The Green Road” promises to be all that and more. The blurb tells me that it is “a story of fracture and family, selfishness and compassion – a book about the gaps in the human heart and how we learn to fill them”. Indeed.
On the cover of Jane’s book tiny red hearts posing as rose-petals are arranged into a bigger heart shape. Subtitle reads: “My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance’.
I only heard of Jane Juska’s ‘A Round-Heeled Woman’ couple of months ago when a friend of mine suggested I should read it. I did not ask why she thinks that or what the book is about. Title failed to make any impression on me. I never heard expression ‘a round-heeled woman’ and did not know what it means. But I ordered it anyway.
Later, on my way to the beach to court whatever still remains of summer, I took the volume with me.
On page five I read: ‘My heels are very round. I’m an easy lay. An easy sixty-seven-years-old lay. “Twas not always so. As these pages will show.’
And I smiled. That small, foolish smile of those who think they are in the know.
Jane will soon see to that.
At the end of the first chapter the text of the add Jane is about to place in ‘The New York Review of Books’ emerges:
‘Before I turn 67 – next March – I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me.’
It was the moment of no return.
For Jane as she lived it.
And for me as I read it – utterly captivated.
At the age of 66, Jane – a respectable, retired English teacher from California, divorced for 30 years, and ‘except for a few skirmishes with men that ended sadly’ celibate – because ‘celibacy was better than humiliation’ – decided, on her way home from watching ‘Autumn Tale’ to do just that – to write an add. The following day she did.
The book I was reading in the shade of a tree on a sunny beach in Wellington while babies, kids, teenagers, and their entourages passed, skipped and giggled by – is the report of what happened after the add was placed.
And what happened could be summoned in two words – life happened; messy, sticky, witty, heart-breaking, funny, moving … real.
Jane is neither prude nor superficial. Her descriptions of sexual encounters while explicit are told with taste.
Her add receives many responses, and the joy she feels while reading them is palpable. She did not have a date in three decades while raising her only child alone and working as a full-time teacher. Her son has since grown up and Jane has retired from full-time teaching, spent a year in psychoanalytical therapy, and has lost more than 100 pounds in the process.
Reading the letters she received Jane sorts them into three piles; ‘no’, ‘yes’, ‘maybe’ and then sets to meet some of the men on ‘yes’ list in person.
Interesting arrays of characters emerges – men whose fantasises far outweigh their resources both; emotional and physical, those who enjoy interesting and stimulating intellectual conversations as long as no meeting in a flash is required, those emotionally unavailable, those suffering from old-age’s worse malady – absence of curiosity and the resulting incapacity for surprise.
And yet through all of it – Jane soldiers on with honesty, good humour and impeccable wit even when heartbroken, or despite of it. I learn that, falling in love at 67 and being rejected hurts just as much as it does at say – 17 or 37 or any other “number” that comes to mind.
Because despite marketing herself as an “easy lay” Jane is actually looking for love. Preferably with a sexy man who is also smart and available. Oh dear me! (this is me taking to myself on an almost empty beach).
Tucked inside the report on encounters with men, is the story of life Jane has lived as a young woman – both unprepared and unaware of the pain ahead. Pain of childhood abuse, unhappy marriage, and loneliness that ensued and which was inevitably of the kind that only inhabits lives of those whose capacity for love far exceeds realities of their lives. They often turn to art. Writing in particular.
Slowly I pack the book into my beach bag and make my way towards the city.
On my way home and before the pale dusk settled over the rooftops, I remembered Ann’s book and realize how wrong I was to think it very different from Jane’s.
In their own way they both seek to fill the “gaps in human heart”.
They agreed to meet in a pub near where she lived.
It is what he does from time to time – asks her out for a drink or a meal, depending how much money he can spare.
Only rarely he lets her pay and only if she insists and he judges that she can afford it.
She was late and reproached herself for it; the place is only few minutes from her flat, while he probably had to walk all the way from his downtown office. She really should have been more organized. The whole day she was aware of that engagement. And it was after four in the afternoon.
She tried to remember what was she doing all day; it took an awful long time to peel herself off the bed, the wind rattled the front door all night – she hardly slept. Sweating was terrible too. Must be withdrawals. Her doctor said something about that last time she saw him which was not long ago but she could not remember what. She remembered him (the doctor) standing very close to her and stroking her arm then brushing his hands over her breasts. Which, she briefly thought are still rather firm and responsive.
Only later it occurred to her that she should have probably said something. Like – what do you think you are doing – or something like that, like those English women say. Easy for them – their mothers probably taught them how to do it.
Then there was business of washing and dressing. It took even longer. She felt big and ugly and lazy. Every move was like wading through the thick undergrowth. Paddling through swamp. In the end she threw well-worn dress over and shoes she once thought boring. It does not matter she thought – he is just a friend.
The place was empty but for a few middle-age men loudly betting on horses under the giant TV screen. Interior arranged to match shabbiness of their living rooms. Working-class pride.
She spotted him immediately – caressing a pint of a pale-yellow beer at one of the tables close to veranda. So she can easily go outside for a smoke.
He had a fresh haircut and a new looking shirt.
His greeting was of a familiar, carefully rationed warmth. She once asked him about it and he explained that he must be careful not to encourage her feelings for him since he cannot possibly give her what she truly wants and deserves, which he pronounced to be; ‘all consuming passion’. He is just not capable of it being of Anglo-Saxon stock and raised by a war-veteran father and an overly strict mother.
At the time she thought of asking him what does he really mean by it, but thought better of it. She learned that, every now and then he would say odd things like that.
By the time she sat down and managed the smile, beads of sweat were traveling down her spine soaking her back and making stripes of her bra cutting into flesh.
He walked to the bar to bring their drinks and hot chips. She watched him eat in a way he does; with an apologetic greediness. A little boy comforting himself – hands deep in his mother’s most precious jar before she catches him. Guilty.
Yeah, not too bad. You?
Ok, I guess. Still on holiday.
Wow that’s long.
Yeah, coming to an end, dreading going back.
Work is good – pays rent.
You should do something with yourself.
Here – it is your local I am introducing you to.
Look around; see those men over there where TV is?
She laughed hysterically; high pitched, uncontrollable outburst. Covered her mouth with hand and rubbed tears (supposedly from laughter) from her face.
What are you laughing like that for? Don’t you know what happens in pubs? You look around, flirt a bit, they buy you a drink or two, have a chat, take them home and if you still like them in the morning – do it again.
Really? I think I rather stick to my hourly rate.
You still doing it then?
Nah, just kidding. Too tired.
Nicking you mean? Nah, lost the touch. Too slow. Got scared of cops after the last time.
Good. Stay scared. Don’t get into any more trouble.
What’s to you?
They left the pub and he walked her into the nearby dairy where loud noise announced their arrival to an Indian man standing behind the counter over-stocked with sweets.
He insisted on buying her a bar of chocolate before walking her home.