The forest is closing in
black and white, twigs snap
underfoot ghost stories
told in the night. In those days
at least you could tell
your stories from ghosts
and see the confusion
of laughter and fright
in the glow of her face.
As for these days you have
grown to know how to use now
to locate her glow
in the face of your art,
though surely you know
she would doubtful consider it that
or see the confusion
of laughter and fright
in the rock-steady glow
of the black and the white.
There are two tables in this spare room at the back of my home. One is a large computer desk repurposed from what was a dining table. Along with my tower, printer, monitor, and various other peripheral objects it occupies fully the length of one wall. The other table has a smaller working area, is a couple of inches closer to the ground, and is also a repurposed dining table. It is in the centre of the room, and it serves as my indoor writing desk. When I am at my indoor writing desk the sliding glass door to the lounge room is closed in front of me and the large computer desk is at my left. I can see my coffee table through the sliding glass, and the bulk of my books and records on shelves along the wall beyond that. Half a dozen books are on the coffee table at any given time. At the end of the computer desk that isn’t in the corner is another door. This door leads to my outdoor desk when weather permits and from it when weather does not. Currently, weather permits.
I saw my brother working at my indoor writing desk in the hours leading to daylight. I noticed a spider had woven a wide, thick blanket extending between my computer desk in the corner and the centre of the room at the ceiling. Before I could point the spider web problem out to my brother he’d vanished, then a large wasp with a stinger the size of my thumb flew in from outside and went for the spider. The spider dropped to the table below, ran around the edge, and went into hiding beneath it. The wasp turned on me. I had a can of Mortein at hand so I sprayed it, and sprayed it again and again until it had dropped to the floor. I started to lower the base of the can over the wasp to contain it but then its back split open like a cicada shell does when the cicada inside is emerging, and from it a glorious pair of glistening lorikeet wings unfolded. As I reached out to touch it my brother emerged from under the table holding the spider, and as he was gently returning the spider back to its blanket he told me it just goes to show you—not every thing is connected.
Two young men inspect a batch of sunset photos that one of them has just taken with his smartphone, thoroughly oblivious to the fact that they are blocking the view that it took me half an hour to compose and another half hour to wait for. I exchange knowing headshakes of disbelief with the grey nomad couple beside me who have been sipping white wine and observing my careful tripod and camera adjustments all this time.
Later, I congratulate myself for taking their inconsiderate behaviour into my stride and choosing to view them as meaningful parts of my landscape, however unpeopled I often prefer my public spaces to be.
In the swift whirl of time music is a constant, reminding us of what we were and of that toward which we aspire. Art thou troubled? Music will not only calm, it will ennoble thee.
—Ralph Ellison, Living With Music
I have been acquainting myself with my small vinyl collection of Jean-Luc Ponty this week. Of the four albums of his that I own, I had previously only listened to one of them, and that was many years ago. His name had entered my radar sometime in my early twenties, in the fledgling phase of what would become a lasting affair with the music of Frank Zappa, and so, each time I spotted a Jean-Luc Ponty album I would diligently add it to my collection, assuming that one day I would fully appreciate his music without the psychological support of Frank Zappa’s presence.
If music has ennobled me, and I believe it has, it has nevertheless failed to equip me with the vocabulary to write about music. I have wanted for days to write you a poem about John McLaughlin’s Lotus Feet performed here with Jean-Luc Ponty and Zakir Hussain, but my desire to share the music and video has overwhelmed my patience. I will keep working on the poem, but in the meantime I would like simply to direct your gaze toward the radiance of John McLaughlin’s smile. If there is one thing I truly aspire to, it is to learn how to smile like that, again. Also, the music is painfully sublime:)