July 6, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Posted in australian poetry, contemporary poetry, memoirs, poetry, writing | 9 Comments
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walking to West End from Stafford
in a cycle of recrimination and
justification a church sign plastic
letters clipped
‘to avoid criticism
say nothing
do nothing
be no-one’

hours later a strange misplaced nostalgia
at the sound of a Scottish Marching Band
as it escaped the shadow of the Big Wheel
with a bass drum ponder call to attention
and the rattle of steel carefully orchestrated

On the Art Gallery wall –
‘It’s between representation and the other thing,
whatever that is,
and it’s difficult to keep one’s balance.’
Ian Fairweather, 1963
the year I was born
coincidentally like the young
man’s soft nervous trilling triplets
before the march began, loosening his wrists and
thinking about the architecture of sound.

Lastly the river
a breeze not even birdsong
accompanying me
just the sun dancing
silver sparkling
from the water,
a memory of stars.



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  1. Some notes on this poem :
    It was written on Sunday as I walked to Speedpoets and I performed it there. So it is perhaps an extension on the idea of ‘liveness’ or improvisation. It is all literally true. To balance the fictions below. It was Scottish Heritage Day at South Bank which is why there was a marching band and Ian Fairweather is a local artist originally from Scotland. The quote is on the wall above his exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery. All strangely complete and synchronicitous I thought. And I suspect the unifying thingy that holds it all together is that the marching bands were originally martial, to accompany soldiers heading into battle.

  2. Paul, this was and is brilliant. A true pleasure to have heard its live debut…

  3. This is an evocative piece. I think the Fairweather quote could well describe this poem, indeed most poetry that is slightly out of focus. I have to say I’m stunned to find that the opening quote was real. I thought you were taking the mick.

  4. This is excellent, I love the last stanza particularly. I also love the misplaced nostalgia for the Scottish Marching band, specially being as I am in Scotland

  5. jazzzz… you do it so well. This is a firm favourite.

  6. Cool! I felt like I was there near the river. I’m not surprised the sound was escaping that big wheel – they are taking over the world in a giant Ferris wheel plot 😉

  7. Recrimination and justification and the other thing. Maybe they all return to that eternal lastly that you fixed our thoughts upon so beautifully and justly.

  8. I love this poem and the explanatory comment accompanying it. I feel like we have shared part of your walk. I have just finished walking to where I am (a university computer). It’s about 100 degrees today in Washington DC, and my daughter and I passed under the shade of every tree we could find along the route. Reaching the university we ducked inside a building to buy bottled drinks and feel air conditioning before walking further to our destination.

    And along the route we saw a crow perched on a sign, his mouth open. We had stopped to enjoy the same shade he had. And he almost took off, but I spoke to him, saying, “stay there, don’t move, we’re just pausing, we’re leaving now.” And he didn’t alight. And a few moments later we heard him calling to other crows. A bird with black feathers suffers especially in this heat.

    Then, this. How nice of you to write a poem about walking and send it round the planet to people on my side so they and I can enjoy it, me as I rest from my long walk.

  9. Lastly the river
    a breeze not even birdsong
    accompanying me

    (Claps hands. This is a lot of things in one small wording)

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