Like Molly Malone

In winding paths a pale, pretty girl walks

Like Molly Malone

Wheeling her barrow

Through the city streets narrow

Selling flowers

Only this time someone could have saved her

 

But alas she went singing her own way

Where the sun shines bright

Prognosis is grim

Where the flowers grow lovely

All around her

At the dark bank where the River Lethe flows

 

Such purple blooms of Bella Donna glow

Fruit like live black eyes

Tattered leaves on stems

They told her they would heal her

She believed them

So she gathers them to heal others too

 

Sooner or later I do not know when

Her coffin will go

To an unknown grave

And they will all weep and wail

Cry why oh why

Did she die in such an untimely way?

 

They will say she did not laugh quite enough

Not honest enough

Did not love herself

As she synthesizes thoughts

So cure means heal

Sucks the goodness of the earth through a straw

 

She is desperate but they don’t know that

All her fairy friends

All her well-wishers

As they laud love and applaud

All this Queen’s men

Time time running out is not on her side.

 

It’s one thing to toast death before dying

And another to

Pretend it’s not there

Where the chasm is crashing shut

No exit clear

For how long will you wheel your wheelbarrow?

-Megan Payne

The Wonderful World of Doing Nothing

Dot had done nothing all her life. All her life she had imagined she was doing things, rather than going through with the bother of actually doing them. All night long she had rocked herself to sleep with dreams of resounding success with endeavours she had imagined she was doing. All day she sleepwalked through her mundane life while imagining herself achieving brilliant great things to the constant applause of a rapturous audience.

 

In her mind, Dot was not just intelligent, she was a rare genius with one of the highest IQs in the world. She imagined herself being interviewed on television about what an amazing IQ scientists had discovered she had had after years of laboring under the impression she only had an average IQ. ‘Oh I just feel as dumb as I’ve always felt’ she imagined herself saying ‘But I don’t think intelligence is about what you’re given, but how you use what you’re given. The only stupid people are lazy ones’.

 

Dot did not have many friends. The truth is, people found her rather distant, flat and colourless. And indeed Dot was far more interested in the brilliant and vividly colourful people of her imagination rather than anyone real around her. Dot saw most people in the world as clods irrevocably chained in some way to an earth she did not feel she was a part of and did not want to be a part of.

 

Actually Dot never saw that she actually could make her own way in life by burrowing through the matter of the universe and changing things to suit herself. She didn’t think she could actually change anything. She couldn’t change people’s minds, she couldn’t alter the circumstances in her life. Everything that happened had to happen. Dot did not see herself as a free agent and she simply did what she had to do, went where she had to go and hated it. Only in her mind was she even freer than a bird because she dipped, swerved through air, sea and water and even matter and shape-shifted at will.

 

A long time ago when she was a child, Dot had had a series of bitter disappointments and had discovered that her imaginary life was so much more wonderful than shuffling, humdrum, ugly universe of reality. If she wanted to climb Mount Everest, bing! She was there, obligingly posing for a photographer on top of the world in a skimpy bikini. If she wanted to win first place in her exams for the year, bam! She took the prize. If she wanted to be a brilliant piano player, all she had to do was imagine a Mozart piano concerto in all its elegant, intricate moves and pretend to play along with it. That way she was even better than the girl who actually was coming first in her piano lessons.

 

As a teenager, she had drifted like a shadow through the world of her acquaintance. Her exams had come and gone.   Friends had proved elusive. So had boyfriends. She was always imagining that special somebody and those scintillating conversations in her mind that were so much more exciting than what was in front of her. She never imagined the world out there as something to explore or discover.

 

As an adult, she got a job in an office and for years she did exactly the same thing each day – showered, dressed, ate, commuted, worked, had lunch, worked again, went home, had dinner and then went to bed. That was the way she liked it, or thought she did.

 

Then when she was middle-aged, crisis hit. Her imaginary world was too heavy for the flimsy grey life she was living. She realised with a kind of horror, that she had become exactly the person she did not want to be: colourless, quiet, drab and uninterested in life. All she was brilliant at was doing nothing. She played doing nothing like a jazz musician and none of her exploits made the slightest difference to the life she was leading. She didn’t know how to change things.

 

Then one day, she took pen to paper and began to draw. Her first efforts were awkward, but out of wanting something to do she persisted. She drew plants, bowls of fruit, bottles, the streetscape. Sometimes she even doodled intriguing faces. She found a drawing class at night school and took lessons and became even better. She discovered colour and began to experiment with paint, taking herself outdoors although her forte seemed to be still-lifes.

 

She got praise for her work and was encouraged to put on an exhibition. She was retired by then, but found herself busier than ever creating her art. She was happier too, having found at last the perfect fusion of her real and her imaginary life. Through the lens of her art, she could explore the outside as well as her rich inner life and even bring the two together. But the funny thing was, the thing she was best at in her whole life was the thing she had never imagined she would do.

 

***

Kata Tjuta

Valley of the Winds

Over whose august cathedral of natural stone

Soars like a shard of hope

Piercing the sky

And there is silence

The echoing cavernous hush

As the sundry breezes

Ply their dry and stringy grasses

And the weeds

That live rich and green and spout out

Alien globes of bristled green pods

Courtesy of shelter

– Megan Payne

Threshold

That chime in the air

With a kind of sting

I feel I am no longer young

Alone today with rain

Draining gently into cold blue-white

Crystals of miles of pipe

And the gusts of cold wind

Driving it spattering over bitumen road

These days many cairns of memories

Hail my steps

Before I know which

Corner I should turn and why

They cluster like rings on my fingers

And wind about my flying years

Before they fall like dying leaves

Into blackness and mulch

Then all over again

Another spring arrives

And like an idiot once more

I dare to think

My thoughts are crowned

Like the May Queen

– Megan Payne

The Swan – A very short story

Swan

Tundra Swan

There once was a lone cygnet, a child of a pair of wild swans, who had to share the river with a lot of ducklings.  Naturally the ducklings made fun of him as he was clearly different from all the rest of them.  The parent ducklings, who were always around, made sure however that the ducklings curbed this teasing and minded their manners, as good parents do.

But the cygnet, for his part, considered himself vastly superior to the ducklings who waggled up to the banks in their customary group and who all talked about things that struck him as pretty dull and trivial.  So he didn’t want to join their circle of friendship anyway.

Alone and rejecting all company, the cygnet was beset with fantasies of how wonderful he was and how one day this belief that he was destined for greatness would be vindicated.  The river bank seemed so little, so muddy and ordinary and so unlike the majestic, blue, sun-dappled lake that he would one day find and be lord and master over it entirely.

One day as the duckling’s parents were sunning themselves in their usual indolent way on the grassy ledge just above the riverbank, two men with long black sticks appeared on the other side.  The cygnet saw them raise their sticks towards the ducks and then suddenly and unbelievably a loud burst of thunder and lightning came from them and two ducks dropped dead like stones and lay bleeding on the ground.

Pandemonium ensued as the alarmed ducks quacked frantically to their ducklings to follow them as they fled for cover amongst the shady undergrowth beneath the nearby thicket of trees.  Only four orphan ducklings were left behind flailing around in circles, cheeping dismally.  Their parents had died and that was why no-one had called for them.  They waddled towards their dead parents and tried to wake them with little cries.  But nothing could revive them and the men came, picked up the dead ducks and slung them into a rough, hessian bag.

‘Good shots there, hey?’  said one.  ‘Yep, good specimens too!’, said the other ‘We’ll eat well tonight!’.

‘It’s a pity we can’t touch the swans’ said the first, eyeing the little cygnet’s mother who was watching the scene with quiet concern from a bank of reeds on the edge of the river a little further away.

‘Yeah, I haven’t had swan since my grandfather died!’ said the second ‘but they’re protected by her Majesty the Queen and I wouldn’t want to cop the fine.  Grandfather never let a thing like that worry him though!’

So saying, they walked away with their brace of ducks, leaving the motherless ducklings sorrowing in their wake.  When it was safe to come out again the ducks adopted the motherless ducklings and looked after them as if they were their own and after a while, life on the riverbank went pretty well back to being normal and peaceful again.

He never said so, but the incident and the conversation had made a strong impression on the little cygnet.  The revelation swans were protected by her Majesty the Queen meant that he was indeed as special as he had always imagined that he was.  The common ducks would always have to fear men with sticks, but the cygnet not so.  The cygnet now imagined that he was of noble blood and must surely belong somewhere else.  Maybe he was not even the child of his parents!

Because of this feeling of separateness and superiority, he wasn’t too upset when he woke up one morning and found that marauding foxes had attacked, killed and devoured his parents.  It was simply a sign that he was to move to that wonderful lake that he had so often pictured in his mind.

So he packed up his things and said an airy goodbye to the common duck colony and the ordinary, muddy riverbank and sailed confidently downstream, around a bend in the river and was soon out of sight of his old home forever.  He was older now, with a long, serpentine neck that could make short work of unwary fishes and large, strong, webbed feet that made light of water currents.  And his baby fuzz had given way to raiment of resplendent, snowy white feathers.  Admiring his reflection in the calm, reflective parts of the river, he felt that very soon, that brilliant destiny he always knew was his would come to be.

After a few weeks of paddling downstream and many adventures, he took a tributary in the river, turned down it and there was the lake!  It was large and on that perfectly clear day, was a wondrous sapphire blue rippled by the strong breezes that played upon the waters.  The dazzling sunlight danced on it, with triumphant, silent chimes and swifts wove their arabesques around the edges.

As he paddled towards the sandy shore of the marvelous lake, he saw a woman with dark brown curly shoulder-length hair and dressed in a T-shirt and loose-fit blue jeans standing uncertainly.  In her hands was a packet of stale white bread.  As he saw this the swan (he was cygnet no longer) half rose from the water, cried a long harsh cry and flapped his powerful wings.  Bread, made by the kings of the earth was so much superior to common fishes and boring insects!  It was a noble food and as he was of noble blood he was entitled to it, so he thought.

The woman still stood there as he advanced with his great powerful legs, hissing ferociously at her and flapping his wings.  Soon he had reached her and he pecked her hands viciously to get at the bread, his birthright and his due.  He was a big bird, who from feet to beak reached up fairly to her chest.  Alarmed, the woman shrieked and hastily dropped the bread still in its plastic and ran towards her husband (who was busy taking a picture), while the swan greedily devoured the bread.

‘God, what a horrible creature that bloody huge swan is!’ the woman said to her husband.  ‘Did you see how aggressively he came and attacked me?  Honestly he’s more like a monster than a bird.  I can’t understand what people see in these ugly, nasty creatures!’  So saying, the woman turned her back on the swan and holding hands with her newly wedded husband, they walked away…

To the Love of Jazz

Thanks to my new smart-phone and Pandora application, where you can tune into radio stations that specialize in different kinds of music, I’ve taken to listening to Jazz. I like turning it on after hours in the evening, often when I’m doing some writing but today I’ve got it on in broad daylight because I’m sick with a cold and need to stay indoors and rest.

What is it that I suddenly like so much about Jazz? I love the mellowness of saxophone, the fresh, electric, off-beat rhythm, the light, tinkling dance of the piano. Whether just relaxing and listening to it or doing something with jazz in the background it sounds so soothing to my state of mind, lifting me out of blue, sad moods and looking at the world in a lighter, happier, more laid-back way.

When I’m tired, it comforts with a drink and a soft, velvet couch in a stylish little bistro while I listen to the gentle tones of a piano as it winds its soft, exploratory way around the doors and walls and ceilings that lie amidst place, time and space. I don’t even need to drink or go anywhere, just listen and my imagination does it for me. The music alone is a leisurely sip of the purest cognac in a soulfully deep, crystal glass.

Jazz speaks to me in lots of different ways. It could be ironic, evoking visions of hard-bitten cops in the 1970s driving around in cars in dusty, desolate bitumen paved streets in run-down suburbia and pummeling criminals. Or it could speak to me about the whole of modern life itself, as I have known it from the age of 7, when I first saw the cubist art of Picasso such as his ‘three musicians’ and experienced the topsy-turvy world of dreams about many things I perceived and not yet understood as reality danced, tangled and untangled itself into a multitude of new meanings before my eyes.

Painting of Three Musicians

Three Musicians, Picasso

Jazz is a place in the modern 20th century and onwards world where minimalism, abstraction, angles of buildings, the colours of paint on the walls, electric lights in white paper globes shone over gold-coloured carpet matting, the lives of other people, and a life comfortable enough to perceive these things set themselves to this strange, energetic, wayward new music.

Jazz has aged well and always sounds fresh, now and welcoming, even when it has a vintage feel. It’s music with a past, present and future. A successful jazz musician can be any age and often they get better with age. Whereas a lot of older rock and roll musicians are having a hard time staying relevant these days, the quiet achievements of the greats of jazz are revered and they keep their lustre and their listening power. Successful Jazz musicians have also been virtuoso players in classical music before they turned to jazz, like the guy who did the wonderful ‘Cantaloupe Island’, so it’s deeply serious music and steeped in greatness. Wikepedia reminds me it’s Herbie Hancock.

Forgive me, I’ve only newly fallen in love with Jazz and am not au fait with the names of the compositions I particularly like apart from my long-time appreciation of the singer Billie Holiday. But the Pandora application is a wonderful thing that tells me about the composer/s while it’s playing the tune, so I’m learning and I keep on playing it and enjoying it.