Friday, May 05, 2006

& I am dumb to tell the crooked rose

Let's put it down to the birds. Raucous. Crowcus. The black & white of it, sulfur-crested cockatoo & crow arguing in the tree above me, plus a raptor — kite or eagle; I cannot be sure because the leaves obscure it — leisurely casting its predatory eye across the landscape as it drifts through the sky. Smaller birds chatter in swift flight. Slightly larger ones call cooingly from static perches.

I am hanging out the washing. Have taken the day off work to get ready for my trip to New Zealand. I am consumed by trepidation. If it was a new place I was going to I would probably be excited, but visiting the places & people of the past sets off some sort of nervous reaction. Last time I was there I didn't recognise people I should have. Have I changed that much, too? I have new teeth & am nervous about reading. My eyes are getting worse & I'm nervous about driving over there, especially at night. But the hills killed me last time when I walked them. I am going deaf — or at least hear less easily than I used to. My words are drying up.

My sister emailed me to say she was laying out sweaters & blankets so I wouldn't be cold when I was in Auckland. I'm sitting here in shorts & T-shirt, the sun's out, supposed to be 27º Celsius today as it approaches winter. A good day for washing. But I'm heading to more southerly climes, so into the wardrobe to get out long-sleeved shirts & more sweaters. Which haven't been worn for so long they need refreshing.

Winter clothes. & as I'm hanging them out, a line of poetry arrives in my head. Someone else's words. My youth is bent by the same wintery fever. I can't remember whose words at first, think about it, narrow it down to two disparate writers, e.e. cummings & Dylan Thomas. Both of them cloud writers. The one great banks of — are they? — cumulus, piling up on the horizon. The other sparse wisps of often-broken words. One who should be read out loud, preferably with a Welsh lilt, the Richard Burton of Look Back in Anger, not Antony & Cleopatra. The other whose work should be looked at on the page, read to one's self, to join the letters to make words.

But at a time they shared my shelves, probably still do, anthologised somewhere. Most, if not all, of the New Zealand poets at that time would have claimed Thomas as an antecedent &/or contemporary. Only one or two of us were heading down the road that cummings stood as an indicator for but was soon passed as we realised the other treasures that were waiting there.

Then I remember the line that comes before, that I've used as the title to this post, & realise it's Thomas. & I continue to hang out the washing, not under milkwood but under a tree that's shared my life for the last three years, & I still don't know what variety it is.


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