Trump’s Victory

He comes on stage

self-riveting manhood

slow clap death knell

posture’s chance

He had it like it always would

Like he always knew

He would win

Without trying

In vain

Opponents’ disdain

Was there ever

A chance

It could all go wrong?

This prize fall

Into Gotterdammerung

We hope

for safe landing

some assuring

sotto voce

and obsequious

But another

voice rises

A leader once,

Fallen and derided

Long lost in the crowd

Now straight-talking

purposeful

Backpack strapped

striding off into the gloom

with that same undaunted confidence

And sanguinary air

– Megan Payne

Looking at 60 Years…

Today is the afternoon of a whole day rostered off from work.  Tomorrow and the next day will be the same, already maturing into golden globules of exciting possibilities of things to do.  Today was warm and moist, with the sun shining through big fluffy clouds most of the time and a brief afternoon thunder-shower, which passed as lightly and as pleasantly as it began.

I have decided to leave the career that has caused so much dissatisfaction and frustration, that has wrung so much exhausting patience from me.  Sometimes my forbearance has fortuitously uncovered strengths I did not know of.  At other times, I have cracked under the strain, only to get back up and stagger on again.

In its entirety, for more than 20 years, this career has been like a man I have never loved (not to be confused with my actual partner, whom I do love).  I am sick to the death of counting the hours down to the minutes and watching them slowly erode by, every time I get to work.  ‘That’s my life!’  I have screamed inwardly so many times, and then silently endured this wasting of the hours that could have been spent on doing something more creative.

In two more months, I will be free to focus on going in a different direction.  I have some plans in place.  But still, the enormity of uprooting 20-something years of being in a secure, well-paid job is slapping me with its fear of the unknown, like a wet branch as if I head through a rain-lashed bush-track in the dark to the brink of a steep cliff.  What of failure, of making mistakes, of happiness, of doing the responsible thing?

Then I read Tim Lott’s article in The Guardian, about his reflections on reaching the age of 60.  Tim is measured and sober and mellow.  He sits in a large, discreetly modish, blue plush chair in his lounge room in which brown wood panelling predominates, set off by a glimpse of red persian carpet.  There is a fireplace, a bookcase and a glass show cabinet, some colourful ceramics on the mantelpiece, a nice art-work on the wall and the kind of modern but comfortable-looking upholstered chairs my lean, spare, intellectually- minded grandfather would have felt quite at home in.

Tim is a nondescript and harmless looking man, the chief feature of his visage being a pair of glasses, which he wears like a mole in the sunlight, looking perkily upwards towards the viewer.  Tim wears a brown jacket over a dark mauve shirt and a pair of loose, daggy indigo blue jeans that have shifted with his sitting cross-legged to somewhat above his ankle, revealing stripy though muted socks and one nice, shiny brown brogue.

There were conflicting views from the commenters on those brown brogues:

Ultracrepidarian

29 Jan 2016 21:41

Never wear Brown brogues with jeans and take your shoes off inside the house, it’s time you grew up.

mazeltov Ultracrepidarian

29 Jan 2016 21:46
One of few annoying things about being old is the totally insane sartorial advice people feel free to offer you. Brown brogues with jeans are a perfect blend of unfussed informality and traditional style. I wear this combination all the time. As for taking your shoes off inside the house … what do you think shoes are for?

 

‘Unfussed informality and traditional style’.  Some people like it, some people don’t.  But that seems to describe Tim Lott, or at least his piece of writing.  He has defined himself as a serene and comfortable man on the cusp of old age.  He feels the sum of his life becomes him and he is at peace with that.  He is not afraid of being defined, having long recognised his face in the dressing-room mirror.  He wrote the books he wanted to write, he is happy with his partner, his children, his family and his relatively well-to-do way of life.

‘Sixty, in my mind’  says Lott ‘represents the beginning of the third act of the human drama, what I, as a teacher of fiction, have learned to call “falling action” – after the climax has been reached, the princess has been won or lost, and the quest has succeeded or failed.’

In his mind.  Not far off sixty myself, I look back on a terrifyingly long time-line of chaos, of stuff-ups, despair and of things I still want to do.  Some months after beginning this article, I have embarked on my leave from the job I never really loved.  Next week I will hand in notice of my intention to retire with a month’s notice.  So indeed I am conscious of that move being the beginning of the next act of my life.

But where is the ‘falling action’?  Googling the benefits of early retirement, there are hardly any articles that do not talk about money.  Not even health seems as important.  Everybody warns of the dire need to save enough money for retirement.  But notwithstanding the practical considerations of keeping the bills paid, what is enough to quench the soul-deadening desire for absolute certainty?

So I jump.  And in doing so feel a strange sense of exultation and an enormous hunger for books to read, worlds to explore, things to teach myself and give to others.  I know on a physical dimension that this is the beginning of the end, but my mind seems ascendant like an eagle still rising.  I could die in mid-flight, or fall and die a slow, suffering, broken end.  But that doesn’t matter any more.  It reminds me of a poem I wrote some years back…

Twilight II

Twilight softly deepening

slight drizzle

light swish of cars passing

Summer has been cool

Flat is silent

I am alone, wrestling with the inevitable assignment

John & Veronique with Mum & Dad

Mum unable to shake her cold.

Almost for first time realise how frail she is

And how old I am

And how good times do not last

And I am not immortal

Though my eagle of immortal consciousness still swoops

High in the sky

What Sun does shine on me?

If I could gather all knowledge

together to make a realisation

That there is nothing that I have to do

except where I will go

And all my obsessions fall like dusty ruins,

Fall like the false veil of want

Before my eyes

– Megan Payne

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

Sappho’s Phainetai moi – Poem of Jealousy

Got intrigued by Germaine Greer’s reference to above poem in her scathing criticism of Naomi Wolf’s book ‘Vagina‘.  Greer pointed out that this poem is about love for a distant object, not a free-for-all celebration of the supposedly dual clitoral/vaginal female orgasm that only a select third of the female population supposedly experience.

Actually Greer cleared up decades of angst over the issue for me with her reference to urologist Dr Helen O’Connell, you know feeling so inadequate because I only ever seem to achieve a ‘clitoral orgasm’.  What O’Connell says is: Helen O’Connell: “I think if you’re trying to separate out the two then it’s probably, you know, like barking up the wrong tree – I think they’re clearly one and the same structure.”  Oh the immense comfort!  (thanx Germs!) But that’s another story….

I know next to nix of ancient Greek language, but on researching the poem (just for something to do) found a very interesting web page of poets throughout the ages translating Sappho’s poem from Catullus to Sir Phillip Sidney in the 16th century to Robert Lowell and beyond.  This poem with its theme of unrequited love and the very real personal agony it causes, seems to be an unending source of fascination to poets.  I suppose that’s what you call immortal poetry.  I’ve had a lot of experience with unrequited love so thought I’d try my hand at it, although ending up with three stanzas rather than the usual four:

My take on Sappho’s  Poem of Jealousy

So like a God
To me who
Sits and watches you who
Hears your voice
And laughter

And seeing you
My tongue cracks
Voiceless fire burns live words
The beating heart
Beneath the skin
My eyes opaque
And ears are dead
To listening

And now
Your dark shade
Sits as death in cold sweat upon me
Pale shade of the green grass
I am

So poor that I suffer all.

– Megan Payne, 13/12/12

The Orchid Show – Circa 1970

Umina was a small town slung to the side of a long sandy beach where we would go to visit our two great-aunts, who lived in two different houses.

I remember that late morning it was summer and hot and sticky. The sky was pale blue with a white haze and the streets burned in the blazing sun. My empire-line, short sleeve dress of floral nylon did not help matters much either, causing me to sweat uncomfortably. But Aunty Mary and Aunty Olive took us three young girls off in our best dresses to see the Annual Orchid Show, which was being held in the Umina Town Hall.

The large interior of the Town Hall, with its mellow, polished wooden floors was not much cooler. Each exhibit of orchids were displayed in separate tents so that they could be viewed to best advantage without having to vie for attention with other orchid displays. The owner’s names and sometimes a prize were displayed proudly on each bench the orchids rested on. Despite the slowly whirring ceiling fans it was almost intolerably stuffy, the only thing to drink were cups of hot tea served with biscuits and warm, brackish water from the creaky tap in the kitchen/server at the side.

So I had to take my mind off the suffocating, enervating heat by focusing on what was beautiful. Each orchid display beckoned me into its world and impressed itself deeply into my mind with their almost fleshy contours, their flute like columns with their gaping, often blood-tinged lips springing from a bed of petals and heady but subtle and delicate scents that stole around me and wove a hypnotic spell.

Most of the orchids were what Mum referred to as Cymbidiums with sprays of large, insolent flowers with wide petals and dragon lips to smaller more delicate ones, their long, dark green, spear-like leaves offsetting their beauty. There was a fantastic array of colours. The most striking thing about the orchids was their individuality. No exhibit was the same as another.

There was a spray of pure alabaster white orchids in fresh, glowing health that had won first prize. There were deep pink orchids with striations of deep, magenta red and a magnificent array of ochre yellow orchids.

Some of the orchids were green with their columns and lip speckled with a smattering of red freckles. Another was a handsome chocolate brown and green stripes with lips of red tinged cream.

Then there on a rock crouched an exhilarating cluster of white rock lilies with their slim, scimitar curled petals, emanating their distinctive honey sweet, heavy scent.

There were a flock of tiny native duck orchids with eggplant coloured petals that looked exactly like ducks flying. So odd, that there ever could be flowers like that.

I don’t know how much time had passed, but I had lingered and gazed at each exhibit utterly enthralled.  No other flowering plant has such individuality, magnetic allure and air of mystery as the orchid.  Though some are more extroverted and insolent than others, there are the shy members of the orchid family as well.

In the temperate rainforests of NSW, the small Greenhood orchids flower.  They are hard to sight, being camouflaged by the profusion of ferns and mosses they cohabit with and can usually be found by the side of a muddy track.  Then suddenly you notice whole patches of them in the dappled sunlight under the trees – sentient, translucent little helmets tinged brownish-green each nodding on the top of a slender, six inch stem.

My mother, a keen naturalist, has a special affinity with the Greenhood orchids and has written a poem about them:

Baptistii

Hooded
Intent
Spurred on the moment
Riding into the silence of the spell

-Carlotta Payne

Mother and Child

mother and baby dead
by some cruel and anonymous bomber
Somewhere they still exist
Together
Smiling and happy
In green fields with flowers
But in another time now
Leaving woe and
That sundering silence
Untimely death
That I did not know as a mother
The child I named
would sail to her completion
so far
But what right have I
to expect the name to last?
Those names
Are faceless in eternity
The granite curtain of
whatever happens
may come crashing down
Exactly when
We never know…

– Megan Payne