Coalcliff House

Coalcliff House
Ken Bolton & Sal Brereton standing beside house. Photo by Kurt Brereton (1980)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Force Zero

This is a poem I published only recently but it was inspired in part by the beach and by the coastal Utopia I experienced at Coalcliff, when I would visit Alan. This poem marks an episode that post-dates Alan Jefferies' move out of Coalcliff in the early 1990s which was sad to say the least. His subsequent move to Bondi Beach was however, a continuation of a lifestyle, modified by the limits of the medium density beachside living. I'd been a Bondi person since 1989 so there was a certain symmetry in my "showing him about" Bondi, swimming the bay, writing poetry, and generally appreciating the hedonistic possibilities. Alan's arrival allowed him to share with me a certain continuity of vision and lifestyle from the Coalcliff days.

This poem is haunted by the threat of cancer and of forgetting: the dementia that overtakes the mind and the body over time, the dis-ease of decay. But sometimes poetry forestalls the inevitable, hopefully, in nostalgic celebration of youthfulness.


Force Zero
for Alan Jefferies

the waves flatten out to ripples on our breath
suntan lotion pearls the water

both surface and suntan
inflect prisms in the morning light

we blink as it stares us in the face

the heart beats out the days
blended through these fountain-pen desires
made foundation for our skins

so troublesome, this skin
so many bodies

the message of the surface
is joy squared, exponential!

all around there are the beautiful,
naked, tattooed, proud

do my looking for me
you say,

and I look for you
swimming into the West, celebrating

this remission from care
in our “days of azure”

on this blemished horizon
shambolic real estate no one owns
I think of cells gone wild
sucking up resources

I think of your
coded poems, your demi-monde

I think of you
mutating in the sun

I think of becoming
a small minor god

a miniature god of mutation
or a god of small things

as Arundati Roy puts it
in her mini-epic of small Indian things

the almost-whisper of a zero wind
promises good things

the way Christmas morning was
silence worth unwrapping

like Polynesians we sink down
into our earth our oceans

unlike Polynesians
we make metaphors of Polynesians

because the word is beautiful
and Polynesians are beautiful

a pearl diver's heart skips a beat
the ghost in the machine

a film of bubbles
rises up from the hidden reef

God? the pearl diver asked
but I never found Him
what pearl does not wrap itself in a shell?

there is nothing deeper

I thought of Lorca and
your duende
and the duende of Dulwich Hill
and knew it suited you

like a battered sports coat
that reeks of ganja
in that brasserie in Barcelona

- how Paradise threw out the poets
as dusk shut down like a shop

I remembered Machado's last stand
in a forties film noir

and we were purified
in Tzara's
“bath of circular landscapes”

Yes, it was so
but the doubt remains:

if you were dead
would I know you

would I know you perfectly?
In a mood

of revolutionary happiness
despite everything, the virus

wave never breaks
and the body wavering

is alive and remains just so

that zero
wind in my heart.

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