Elize continues to be a blazing talent. I continue to have tired eyes.
A recent addition to the list of unexpected things I’ve been asked to do in the name of “work”: write a poem for one of the regional towns we choose to spotlight during the weather. I got Castlemaine, where my friend Emma has recently bought a house. Here it is. If you want to hear me read it, and flub my lines, you can do that here.
Castlemaine is a Shibboleth
An empty room is all potential
But to achieve this you must discard some things
Where do all the abandoned mattresses go?
Are the chairs offended by how often we turn our backs on them?
Consider the act of leaving.
Consider the nature of attachment.
If you want to frighten your friends,
Tell them you have bought a house.
Soften the blow by inviting them to celebrate.
On Carol Street in Castlemaine
1970s brown brick veneer
The house is unfurnished
Please bring a chair.
Spring, that slutty season
Bursting with achievement
Warms the house before we arrive
So we start early too: the airport bar,
Like international waters,
Is a liminal, lawless place,
where day drinking is allowed.
My favourite moment of any party
Is when everyone who is leaving has left
And, half-drunk on dancing and half-drunk with drink
We who remain, together, brush our teeth.
Some lucky bastard gets the bathtub
And the rest of us lay out on the floor
A microclimate of human warmth
Dampening the air with our breath
Draped in sheets and still with sleep
Like furniture arranged in a shut up shop
Offering ourselves up
To be a thing of use to someone
To be a place to rest.
I have been listening to Cathy’s Clown on repeat. There’s something reassuring in its resoluteness: don’t want your loo-oo-ove anymore.
One of the great wonders of my life is the kindness of my friends. They are a marvel. Kyle puts me to bed with warm milk and lavender oil on my pulse points. Elize brings me flowers “just because”. Ange wakes up the day after surgery, in incredible pain, and asks me how I am. It rains for eight days and Jess asks me how I’m coping with it, knowing that it gets me down.
I love advice. I seek it out, I give it with great enthusiasm. (Hell, I even have an advice segment. Is it wrong to plug it here? Wednesdays, 7.40am, triple j, or on the podcast.) One thing I have been confronted with of late, though, is the ferocity of people’s advice. Where do they find their certainty? Feelings aren’t facts and they’re what I’m dealing with. Ambiguity. Plausible deniability. Some wisdom from Elize: life isn’t about being comfortable all the time. Sometimes you have to learn to sit with the discomfort. “We’re going to hold you accountable,” Paddy says. I’ve never seen such aggressive caring. The sharp edge of kindness.
A lesson recently learnt: to forgive someone is not only to absolve them of the hurt they caused you, but also yourself, for allowing that hurt.
Acknowledging this has its implications. How complicit am I in my own downfall?
The internet loves cats, right? Well, this story I wrote has a cat in it. It is also about shame and motherhood and burger phones - and it’s been published online by the brilliant Seizure journal. I’d be chuffed if you read it.
I had bought the jeggings quite by accident. This is what happens when you shop online: you think you’re buying jeans, and then when they arrive, they’re clearly marked as jeggings on the tag. Oh, how embarrassing, I thought, I can’t wear jeggings! But then I tried them on and they made my arse look incredible, and with a belt to disguise the elasticated waistband, no one knew my secret. They looked just like jeans.
But, karma will find you. Wear jeggings on the plane ride to your holiday in tropical paradise and the airline will lose your luggage. On a Sunday in Samoa everything is shut and you’ll count yourself lucky when you finally track down a sarong and a t-shirt at a convenience store, sweating in the humid heat.
All our plans had revolved around water, but with our bikinis in our luggage, lost between Auckland and Apia, my sister and I had to settle for less. Let’s get a massage, she suggested. As is customary they played new age relaxation music over the speakers, but my masseuse was wearing headphones and listening to his own music. Every time he leant in close I could hear it: Pony by Ginuine, ON REPEAT, for the whole hour. This is was as unsettling as you can imagine.
We walked around directionless, passing churches that tempted us with their choirs but not going in on account of our scrappy travel clothes. Taxi drivers slowed to offer us rides, and when we said “No thanks” they’d yell out “I love you” or, on one occasion, “blonde hair blue eyes”.
Our luggage arrived at midnight that second night, and I unpacked like a child unwrapping her birthday presents.
The To Sua Ocean Trench was my motivation for visiting Samoa, and there it was in front of me, deep and glorious and quite unbelievable. You can lie on your back in the water there and the rim of the earth sits where you expect the sky would be; the sky is far higher now than you ever realised.
On our way home we went and disobeyed TLC.
The speed limit across much of Samoa is 40 km/hr (25mph) and the driving culture so courteous, so lacking in the competitiveness that we’re used to in Sydney. The cars slow to let you in, beep to let you know they’re passing. Driving is a great guilty pleasure of mine - my favourite type of drive is a long and directionless one, polluting all the way. As you pass people on foot, they all wave, and smile an honest smile - if I drove around Upolu enough times, I might have waved at everyone on the island.
My hair was also on holiday, the humidity bringing it to new heights.
Jump off enough waterfalls and eventually your older sister will proclaim that you are braver than her. I stored this compliment away with the other ones that mean more to me than I care to admit.
We caught a ferry across to the other main island, Savaii. My sister napped on my shoulder. We took a taxi out to the lava fields, where a village and a church had been trapped in a lava flow early last century, the hot liquid earth only stopping when it reached the sea.
We rose early on our last day - 3am - to go to the airport for our plane home; at the airport, 4am, we learned our flight had been cancelled, we weren’t going anywhere until the next day. We were ropable. But the airline put us up in a hotel where we went back to bed and under the air-conditioning we slept the best sleep we’d had the whole time we were there. We went to a resort for lunch and snuck into their pool, sat in their deck chairs and drank cocktails in the shade, reading books, soon giggling and confessing to one another that this had somehow become our favourite day of the whole trip.
Spurn a man and he’ll find a way to hate you. Spurn a woman and she’ll find a way to hate herself.
Tonight what feels important is this: we saw a female kudu this afternoon—you can tell the females from the males by their lack of horns—running back and forth across the savannah, frenzied, while the rest of the kudus around her stood still. We laughed, and found her behavior odd but amusing. But what she was actually doing was teaching her month-old children how to leap.
Shakily, they started to follow her until they managed a few leaps of their own. Only then did she finally stop, exhausted from the effort.
It is easy to dismiss a woman because you don’t understand her behavior, but she may in fact be doing something so vital and selfless that you cannot even recognize or conceive of it.
I have a poem in The Suburban Review Volume 3. It’s about octopus sex, of course.
Me: “I mean, I am resilient.”
Me: “Yeah, I think I am.”
Sarah: “I’m quite surprised by that.”
Me: “That I’m resilient?”
Sarah: “Oh! I thought you said Brazilian!”
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