Ken Bolton
Head Supernumerary

Halogen Pam

I picture

Pam's halogen lamp sending

a warm cone of light down


onto her desk

- white -

& the warm, transparent brown brandy


- or what was the drink? - sits there -


- still,

exuding calm

& "just reward"


- merely by its light translucence -



Pam is seated to right, a silhouette

down lower than the desk, somehow, as I picture it -



determinedly - & successfully - 'lost' -

after the irritation of walking home from work

into a drying, hair-blowing wind.


But she is fractiously lost, at best, her mind

coming back to sorrows, till the book succeeds -

in calming her to think them through,


or to leave them & follow the book, talk to Jane,

check the garden or whatever it is that

Pam does do - shower, change her clothes,


do some washing & read again then hang the washing

out & cook maybe & plan the night: to

read or write or watch television,


or go out: I think she & Jane

visit more - than I do. Though I expect

visits would be planned, arranged more in advance


& she would likely not have had the drink or done the chores

or would have done them at once if they were going out.

The idea of the casual visit - of dropping in - of even



to say "I'm coming over - alright?"

is a dream it seems, for me, though why is that?

I know no one, have no transport, never 'think'


to use the phone (have work, am tired . . . ) - habits,

developed over time, to keep me from what I might do.

What kind of friend can I be - to my friends - really?


A disappointment. Imagining the drink,

standing, still, in a deep, 'martini' glass,

I try to imagine it as painted: but I imagine it more 'real'


than Vuillard, who would be intimate enough - more

detailed, less modish, than Margaret Preston, not

as brushy as a Monet flower piece - a still-life I saw in


a catalogue recently that was so evenly

& thickly inflected - all grey? all rose? like a Leon Kossoff -

is that right? - but far nicer: every stroke was


small & flicked & petal-shaped - pink (or grey) &

loaded with white & it was an instant of perception

of contentment heightened & raised & made live on -


but when I return to what I'm thinking about - the picture

of Pam -

it is inappropriate. I think briefly of Janet Fish (it

should be more clean-lined) whom I had not thought about much,


in years, though I have not forgotten - a picture

I saw of hers once made an impression though I am not sure

at this distance how great or how reasonable


that impression was. It was a picture of gin bottles -

up close - Gordons or Gilbeys - through which

light reflected & bounced. A kind of new realism - a


bit like early Susan Norrie - though less claustrophobic, less

boringly pointed - though in the book I saw the Janet Fish in,

the reason why I think of her again - it is surrounded


by other artists doing similar things to Norrie. (So that

kind of thing

happened in America, too: overdetermined: the time required it

though it didn't need it (much) (if you ask my opinion -


anyway, I'm giving it). Walter Sickert, maybe, could paint it,

though I want less gloom. Anyway - I was going to say -

Richard made this joke about Janet Fish when I pointed to it


how she was like [someone he named] only obviously on


& alcoholic. It sounded pretty funny. Only,

I didn't get the art reference & so I don't remember it.


It would be great to visit Pam now -

for a few stiff drinks - just ghost in &

sit, or stand - having them with her,


looking out the window


at the garden, or the harbour, modern,

neither at a restaurant, which is too noisy & 'ends' anyway,

or at a loss for words (because I'm no conversationalist)


& ghost out again, conversation done, or just

sink to the floor drunk mildly (though thoroughly),

a visitation.



as I sit in this coffee shop Pam,

the next morning, about to send this letter, to you,

& this poem - looking out


at the Richard Estes view - maybe

from this angle it is Ralph Goings -

I watch some twenty year old drunks


carousing a little as they cross the street

pathetically buoyed by their idea of themselves -

drunk still, at 10 in the morning,


pretending to hail a car, in whose way

they nearly get in crossing

& stagger down the road less heroic than they imagine


in pale t-shirts & baggy shorts & thongs, gormless.


I have behaved that way too, in all probability

though less through certainty in my uniform

or my enlistment in the order of good ol boys.


But certain about something, probably.

Best not to think about it. Conformism does

make people feel better: I like being a human too -


& the differences I congratulate myself on

don't measure up to much.


You probably do remember

Richard Estes, Pam. Typically he paints

a photographic looking New Realism: a line of


new pickup trucks, parked out the back,

of The Texas 'Bean' Diner - all shiny & bleakly

meaningless - plenty of blue sky, lots of


chrome & glass & metallic paint-job & cement & macadam.


Reality looks better, though sometimes it is

aided by resembling these pictures.


Pam, you've tried

Adelaide - & it didn't work for you. Otherwise

you could be here. Would we see each other much

living in the same city?


Sydney - could I live there & be happy?


After all, you can't spend all your time

looking at the harbour, listening to the frangipani leaves

slither & rattle, late at night, a drink in your hand


feeling cheerfully or mellowly existential. After all, do you?


Though there are other things to Sydney - the balmy,

milky, soft air on a cool summer day,

the radios buzzing with the races, that emanate quietly

from the pubs &


TABs, the old men in thongs, cigarettes in their

t-shirt sleeves,


so nicely seedy, the corner shops - but these things

are tiny patches:

of Annandale, & other bits - of 100 yards or less - of


footpath and aged picket fence, & the mixture of cars -

broken &

flash - the particular charm of which

is tolerance for everything else, or reads that way.


One facet of a tough city. Can you 'say' that?

And there's the poetry scene.

(One down here too.)


"Decoupage" - I guess that does mean putting

a lining inside something (a box you said) rather than

cutting little bits, from the top of a box, to make it

castellated - like a toy soldiers' fort - because you say

you are doing it

to some cupboards too. I have an image of you & Jane,

in triangular paper hats, dressed in primary colours


holding aloft small wooden half-swords,


bursting out of open cupboards (slightly castellated)

- a crowded, vertical composition - a little like

those de Chirico gladiators: they're usually


waving their swords about - with a bit of pillar handy

& one incongruous lounge chair,

a fallen bit of pediment - though my picture of you & Jane


is more 'Stanley Spencer' - though less crowded

& manic & airless. Though anyone who behaved like that -

imagine stepping into your house & finding you & Jane yelling

& whooping


looking up, interrupted, while playing 'pirates'!

At that thought I nearly spit nonexistent cake

from my mouth

- a noise like a motorbike starting - the little Greek man opposite


looks up. We often sit at tables near each other - he

with The Greek Herald, me with The Guardian. (Didn't you know

I was English?)


Actually, Pam, you should move down here: I go outside -

& the air is exactly what I want from Sydney - so moist

it is almost cool, & softly bright - & there's another thing


that is very Sydney - or Melbourne's idea of Sydney - the great

doorway to the T-shirt shop, filled with the fake jaws of a shark -

that you step through. When it first opened up


I saw a Japanese tourist

delightedly getting his wife to photograph him

standing in it. Unfortunately, the t-shirts they sell


are terrible - full of jokes about sharks - gross

views of Australian life, the sense of humour they appeal to

making one despair - of creeping Americanization

- like an old man.


On the other hand, they seem to be going out of business.


I write this

with a pencil - it's my lunchbreak now (these last

seven lines). But the pencil drags too slow -


on this particular paper - so I stop here:

back at the same table

in the coffee shop.


I read instead.