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   Jacket 31 — October 2006        link Jacket 31 Contents page        link Jacket Homepage

John Tranter

Girl in Water

Waiting to meet a pretty girl — any pretty girl —
hot summer day in 1958, beach crowd, emotional algebra,
also list and remember: makeup, perfume, lipstick, talc,
telephone passion — no, a soda fountain, a pizza.

Do they dream of mystery and adventure, women?
or do girls want to drown in literature? No, stupid. I
bet she’d like a fragrant pizza topped with mozzarella,
or is that just me? A movie: Item: Kim Novak. A drive-in —

yes, more subtle and powerful appetites litter the sand.
So become that detective, wounded, pitiful; so
learn to love and learn to fail in love, in the back row at the Bijou,
in parked cars, or snug among sandhills… your spyglass a nib,

keyhole secrets memorised and filed away, until
eternity comes calling at the foot of a staircase.
After that ending, another climb, another cliff
beyond which something awful awaits: love

or falling in love or into love or falling into death, a
uniform and dizzying and swift descent
that leaves you breathless, leaves you
very unsteady like a cork in the water,

effervescent and febrile and emotionally labile,
ready for almost anything.
That conscious pilot spoke: scripsi quod scripsi:
I have written what? I have written for

girl in water ‘girl in water’, girl
or woman in waves of water. I,
keen to find behind mirrors, wavering echoes, burn
in plots and complex narratives to draw

many clues out, threads of meaning. A
new insight into the convoluted plot
of good and evil I can look for, where good men whine,
villains struggle to prevail and bluster

against ordinary background noise and hubbub:
kaleidoscopes of criminality and subtle fiscal judo
scam and prosper, and some ordinary guy
will win and lose everything. I

owe more than money. The key will turn:
nervous ex-detectives afraid of causing harm
drop into floods of anxiety, plunge into semi-
enervating doubt; whirlpools of suspicion, and later

refuse help from well-meaning friends or
from glum old girl-friends, dawdling, doodling, who
understand too well their weaknesses, their
lack of manly self-respect, who know how hypnotic

those doubled mysteries within a mystery are. You reach
into a maelstrom of neurosis. Beyond bodily desire,
these complex chess-like fantasies are the true romantic
scenes in your life: the most ludic acrostic paradises: click!

[Vertigo, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1958, with
Kim Novak and James Stewart.]