Lunch in Glebe
The nose & mouth of Akhenaten opened
the week, a postcard out of
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
sent to me from New York by Michele Leggott
on her way to or from a writers’ festival
in Germany. The televised death
of Allen Ginsberg in his apartment
in New York, at the end of a documentary
on his life, rounded it off. & somewhere in
between an email from John Parkyn, now
living in Mexico but going to New York in a
week’s time, bringing me up to date with what
people are doing two suburbs away from me
&, seemingly apropos of nothing, telling how
I had introduced him to the work of Lorca.
In the same logging on
I discover through a fortuitous combination
of keywords that there is a review of
The right foot of the giant in the latest
issue of Landfall. Search the on-line catalogues
of the local university libraries to see who holds
the journaI, find it listed at Sydney University,
go there on Saturday & track it down. See
that it’s by Ian Wedde so skim it with some
trepidation but it’s a favourable review. I
photocopy it on the only machine
that still takes cash & leave; & on the way
back to the car drop in at Gleebooks, the
first time I’ve been there since the launch
of Nigel Roberts’ book six years ago. I buy
The Magic Mountain for Lauren & a
$5 book of translations of Apollinaire for myself.
I’m feeling pretty good by now
so a little further up the road stop off
to have lunch — two sandwiches & a flat
white coffee — & read the review again.
Am flattered by the association with
LeRoi Jones, bemused by the congruence
of having lunch whilst reading references
to Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems & to
O’Hara having lunch with LeRoi in New York
& wonder, apropos of everything, if it was Lorca’s
Poet in New York that triggered John’s memory.
& my memory is triggered by
Ian’s comments on my Robert Desnos poem
of a much earlier email from Michele
in which she tells me of going out to buy
a book of poems by Desnos after
reading that poem. I momentarily
wonder if this is to be my lot
in life, an introduction agency for dead
poets, with today’s special Apollinaire.
But the thought recedes as some of those
with whom I’ve shared the week turn up
to share my lunch. Frank O’Hara &
LeRoi Jones arrive together, are
joined by Desnos & John Parkyn
& Ian Wedde & Apollinaire & Lorca
& Thomas Mann & Nigel Roberts. At
first it’s a bit of a boys’ club; but before too long
there are so many people having lunch
with me in Glebe that when Akhenaten
shows up there is no room for him
inside. I see him from my table, face
pressed against the glass, nose & mouth
prominent. I buy a disposable camera
off some Korean tourists who have a
duty-free bag full of them & take a
photo. Shall print it off later & send
it to Michele, to open up her week.
George W’s Language Primer
He put words in my mouth.
I do not like the taste
of them, I said. Certainly
I have used them all before,
but they feel strange in this
context, have no real meaning
to me. This is not
how I would arrange them.
Spit them out & let me
look at them again, he said.
So I did. Out they came —
American terrorists fucking.
Arab mother burning.
An advisor hurried up &
whispered in his ear. Let me
re-arrange them for you said
George W. when the advisor
had finished. Swallow them
again, taste them, roll them around
in your mouth & see how they feel
now, how they sound. Say
them over & over, like one
of those Buddhist montereys or
manta rays or whatever
they are called. Remember too
that you are either for us or
against us, a friend or an enemy —
there is no middle ground.
I put his words in my mouth again.
I tried what he said. Tasted them
as they came out. This time
they had a ring to them that I could learn
to live with. Hate mother-fucking anti-
American flag-burning Arab terrorists.
I tried them again & they felt even
better the second time around. Now
I use them all the time. I am proud
to be called a friend of the President.
Faded oxides. Cat on patterned
concrete. Organic on
overhead, (guns) thunder
in the northeast. That way
Lands have been given back
to the traditional owners. Along
with their words. Familiar names
have gone. The new ones
Stereotypes. There are for snow
so many words. Know them all. One only. Qualified
as many times as possible & even then
not enough. But who needs any?
Something not seen here. If otherwise
then eyes only. Sufficient.
Ice only. Ages. Car bodies rust
to form inorganic pigments. Cyprus
burnt umber as the earth
decays. Everything fades. Not everything. Not that
already escaped from memory. The names
not recognisable. Tortoises. Hellcats.
Disjunct syllables. Free ions.