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 -
& "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
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
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),
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?
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
TABs, the old men in thongs, cigarettes in their
so nicely seedy, the corner shops - but these things
of Annandale, & other bits - of 100 yards or less - of
footpath and aged picket fence, & the mixture of cars -
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
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
looking up, interrupted, while playing 'pirates'!
At that thought I nearly spit nonexistent cake
- 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
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
On the other hand, they seem to be going out of business.
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.