Why am I doing this? Diversion from a serious writer’s block… Yes, well.
`…so there ain’t nothing more to write about, and I am rotten glad of it, because if I’d a-knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn’t a –tackled it and ain’t a going to no more…`
(Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain)
The following is a potpourri of vignettes. I have only my head – as with every other’s – so limited – a perspective of only one. Spelling it all out is, I am sure, death to the imagination. I’d rather just offer up things that have sparked me off, and mainly leave you to your own sparking…)J
THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE(author unknown but a thing of wonder)
Let’s face it – English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England, nor French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies, while sweetbreads – which aren’t sweet – are meat.
We take English for granted. But if we explore its pardoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea, nor is it a pig. And why is it that writers write, but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t grocer, and hammers don’t ham? If a fly didn’t, would it walk?
If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth? One goose, two geese – so why not one moose, two meese?
Doesn’t it seem odd that you can make amends but not one amend? That you comb through the annals of history but not a single annal? If you have a lunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it? If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? If you wrote a letter, perhaps you bote your tongue?
Should all English speakers be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane? In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? Park on driveways and drive on parkways?
How is it that a slim chance and a fat chance can mean one and the same thing whilst a wise man and a wise guy are opposite? How can overlook and oversee be opposites, while quite a lot and quite a few are alike? How can weather be hot as hell one day and cold as hell the next? And where are all those people who are spring chickens or who would actually hurt a fly?
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm goes off by going on!
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (which of course isn’t a race at all). This is why when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
And why when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it!
[Whoever the author is, my hat is off to him/her.J ]
Anyone familiar with this?
Flub = botch, bungle, which leads into Flubdub = bombastic or inept language
Hard to it use effectively though, don't you think? Imagine if you will, in coldest, dryest, very tired, mode:
`Oh what a flubdubber you are` Doesn't work, does it? But here’s one that does:
To manipulate or adjust, to tweak. Derived from FROBNITZ. Usually abbreviated to FROB. Thus one has the saying "to frob a frob". See TWEAK and TWIDDLE. Usage: FROB, TWIDDLE, and TWEAK sometimes connote points along a continuum. FROB connotes aimless manipulation; TWIDDLE connotes gross manipulation, often a coarse search for a proper setting; TWEAK connotes fine-tuning. If someone is turning a knob on an oscilloscope, then if he's carefully adjusting it he is probably tweaking it; if he is just turning it but looking at the screen he is probably twiddling it; but if he's just doing it because turning a knob is fun, he's frobbing it.
Here’s what I like best about it. It dawned on me that - FROB connotes aimless manipulation; but if she's just doing it because turning a knob is fun, he's frobbing it…
I put all this to the delicious webmaster. His response, inter alia, (J ) was `... I LIKE it (but, still, I'm gonna look it up cuz you may be pullin' da ol' Boinky leg)!
I’ll leave it to the rest of the world to decide whether I was or wasn’t…J
Now the following was a very exciting find for me I hope you realize - I was so chuffed -
floccinaucinihilipilification [Jena demonstrates the definitive pronunciation]
So super, is it not? And it means `the act or habit of estimating as worthless. Spellcheck thinks there is no such word. Spellcheck can take a hike - as can one so rude friend of mine who think it a sad commentary on my life that I `have nothing better to do` than read the dictionary.J J J
Bull, say I! For what more could one ask? I found this thing of wonder in the Concise Oxford and it points out:
flocci, nauci, nihili, pili
Bloody WONDERFUL! Don't you think? Floccinaucinihilipilification!
Are you convinced? Whatever it is, whatever it isn’t, language is not boring. And whilst this extract of musings on my part tends to concentrate on English variations on the theme, just consider for a moment that the international possibilities open to you are endless– the scope for having yourself a ball is infinite. Unfortunately it can be fraught too.
THE ITALIAN WHO WENT TO MALTA
(Must be read with an Italian accent)
One day ima gonna Malta to bigga hotel. Ina Morning I go down to eat breakfast. I tella waitress I wanna two pissis toast. She brings me only one piss. I tella her I want two piss. She say go to the toilet. I say you no understand . I wanna to piss onna my plate. She say you better not piss onna plate, you sonna ma bitch. I don't even know the lady and she call me sonna ma bitch.
Later I go to eat at the bigga restaurant. The waitress brings me a spoon and knife but no fock. I tella her I wanna fock. She tell me everyone wanna fock. I tell her you no understand. I wanna fock on the table. She say you better not fock on the table, you sonna ma bitch. I don't even know the lady and she call me sonna ma bitch.
So I go back to my room inna hotel and there is no shits onna my bed. Call the manager and tella him I wanna shit. He tell me to go to toilet. I say you no understand. I wanna shit on my bed. He say you better not shit onna bed, you sonna ma bitch. I don't even know the man and he call me sonna ma bitch. I go to the checkout and the man at the desk say: "Peace on you". I say piss on you too, you sonna ma bitch, I gonna back to Italy
Oh dear. Fraught indeed…J You’d rather have a ball? Well, consider if you will, what you can do with a Chinese name! Go on – have a go. Have fun!
Ar U Wun Tu = A gay liberation greeting
Chin Tu Fat = You need a face lift
Hu Flung Da Kum? = You really expect me to translate this?
(I’m indebted to Tom Scott who sent me these)
The pen is powerful indeed (although whether it’s mightier than the sword is a moot point). Yet on cyberspace it can be fraught with problems because it makes no allowances for the all important body language. Thus cyberusers quickly dreamed up the use of emoticons in an effort to substitute for that body language. They’re admittedly inadequate, cyberspace communication is fraught with misinterpretations, but they’re an attempt which you ignore at your peril.
Smile emoticons, frown emoticons, sceptical emoticons… But what are these?
( . ) ( . )
(Aha! Boobs… bigger boobs… boobs with pierced nipples. Lord! Is there a woman alive who’d actually—?) …very small boobs… no boobs. And the piece de resistance…
(/)(/) Feminist Boobs! (I love it!)J
These are necessary to effective cyber communication? Don’t ask, Jena. Don’t ask… Perhaps they actually are.
According to Dave Barry,
`Males have a lot of trouble not looking at breasts. What is worse, males cannot look at breasts and think at the same time. In fact, scientists now believe that the primary biological function of breasts is to make males stupid. This was proved in a famous 1978 laboratory experiment wherein a team of leading male psychological researchers at Yale deliberately looked at photographs of breasts every day for two years, at the end of which they concluded that they had failed to take any notes.
"We forgot," they said. "We'll have to do it over."
Aha. So now we have a reason for those boob emoticons. You want a man to take any notice of your emails/posts, stick in those emoticons.J
CLICK ME for an amusing wav.
If there’s any man reading this who is addicted to the topic, he’s referred to the Ferri site listed in my favourite urls. He’s devoted pages to breasts! Fun they are too. (The pages)J
But I prefer words - I’m thinking here mainly of puns. How I love puns. Charles Lamb, in a letter to Coleridge, said of the pun `it fills the mind; it is as perfect as a sonnet; better`.
Well, thinking of the Bard’s sonnets, I’m not quite sure I’d go that far, but certainly, yes, they’re a delight.
One of my favourites is that of the American fruit-grower who told the English visitor that `we eat what we can and what we can’t we can.` Delicious, no?J
Some of the best are inadvertent, like the Mills & Boon author who, totally unknowingly, had of her heroine: `Her eyes flew upon, and she saw his fly open too.`
One liner puns are fun, yes, but as the punchline of stories – love them:
One day a planet out Antares way is discovered, and its sole inhabitant is an enormous humanoid, three miles high and made of granite. At first it is mistaken for an immense statue left by some vanished race of giants, for it squats motionless on a yellow plain, exhibiting no outward sign of life. It has legs, but it never rises to walk on them. It has a mouth, but never eats or speaks. It has what appears to be a perfectly functional brain, the size of a condominium, but the organ lies dormant, electrochemical activity at a standstill. Yet it lives. This puzzles the hell out of the scientists, who try everything they can think of to get some sign of life from the behemoth—but in vain. It just squats, motionless and seemingly thoughtless, until one day a xenobiologist, frustrated beyond endurance, screams, "How could evolution give legs, mouth and brain to a creature that doesn't use them?"
It happens that he's the first one to ask a direct question in the thing's presence. It rises with a thunderous rumble to its full height, scattering the clouds, thinks for a second, booms, "IT COULDN'T, " and squats down again.
"My god," exclaims the xenobiologist, "of course! It only stands to reason!
Here’s absolutely the best I’ve so far come across:
Old Pete Viper
Old Pete Viper was a good ol' boy. And how he loved that country music! When he heard fiddles wailing, he couldn't hardly keep from tappin' his shoes, hummin' and slappin' his thigh. And if'n the ladies were around, he just plain HAD to ask one of 'em to dance. If there weren't no female womens around, a BROOM would do. Fortunately, a broom didn't have no rights in Twinkieville, no matter WHAT he done to it. Probably thanks to home schoolin'. Folks, that's a story for ANOTHER time.
Trouble was, when Pete had a snort too many, his enthusiasm CLEAN ran away with him. When them fiddles wailed, he wanted to be in the middle of a whole ROOM of high-steppers. An' he wanted ALL of 'em to be as sauced up as he was! After all, ain't all the Lord's children got RHYTHM? That's what he was thinkin', leastways when he was experiencing his semi-weekly thought. An' his semi-weekly thoughts DEFnitly warn't on poppalation CONtrol. Pete couldn't spell poppalation no ways, though he prob'ly knew one when he saw it.
Well, ol' Pete had imbibed his usual few too many, and was walking 'crost the parkin' lot of Auntie Belinda's Bootie Basher Club, when the sweet tones of cat gut an' horsehair came A-WAFTIN' from the side door, wrapped in a not-inconsidabble amount of CIGARETTE smoke an' crowd chitter-chatter. Had it been Friday night, this tale might not of been told. But WAS it Friday?
NOPE, 'twas just of a Thursday! In other words, 'twarn't payday yet an' ol' Pete had to keep a sharp GRIP on the buckskin fringe of his weather-beaten libido. Friday night "raslin' was one thing, but durin' the week, the town Sheriff and head biddy in these parts, Miss Manners, was a mite less tolerant of them what celebrated in an overly "fragrant" manner. 'Course, you had to understand the history of Miss Manners' upper plate to catch her meanin' COMPLETELY, but that's a whole 'nother story which goes back a ways, to when the dental floss plant whose scars she bore first come to town. That whole incident wuz COMMEMORATED with a bronze dental plaque. Anyways, I think you get my drift.
Well, Petey V. was weavin' down a row packed jus' SOLID with Ford 150's of ever' style, color and random indentation. As he got closer to Auntie Belinda's, the music got more intense, an' our ol' boy's pulse rate got to thumpin' faster than a rabbit's foot in a' EARTHQUAKE. I would'a said faster than a conga drum in a blender, but most folks from Twinkieville, Texas don't much cotton to MIXED METAPHORS. They got LIMITED tolerance, ya know? 'Course, some of 'em coulda related to a Gatlin' Gun with a stammer, bein' fond'a poetry from the War 'Tween the States an' such. They DEFnitly would'na related to a cha-cha in a skillet, nor a tap-dancer on a trampoline. 'Course, you don't have time to hear why, so I'll jus' move along........
Thinkin' or not thinkin' Pete was ticked. He didn't have the six bits' price of admission to Auntie Belinda's. That's when he DONE it! Leaned right into Fowler McCutcheon's yella 1959 Ford pickup an' saw the screwdriver jammed in the hole where the key used'ta go. Howsomever, carried forward on the wings of that sweet, frenzied, purply-passionate music, ol' Viper HOPPED in, CRANKED the Stanley screwdriver custom ignition, POPPED the clutch, an' SWERVED around to face the front of Auntie B's Bootie emporium.
You an' me, we'd of paid mind to the squeal. Petey, he already paid out all the mind HE had and wuz bankrupt. He jus' thought it wuz Fowler's tires. Trouble wuz, them tires wuz PAST bein' bald as a baby's BEEhind. They wuz real patriotic tires, showin' some of that native Texas cotton. Fowler didn't run no steel belted radicals. Hell, they woulda cost more than the truck AND his shack! Nope, them tires wuz as silent as a mouse fart under a quilt.
But that wuz more than you could'a said for the Thompson triplets an'their lady-gals, who wuz reposin' in the back of the truck in a downright serpentine sorta manner. HEAVY breathin', snorts, giggles, an' a not un-rhythmical an' metallic BACKBEAT from a UNKNOWN source, all stopped jus' dead as a doornail. To be replaced by SQUEALS! SHRIEKS! I'm tellin' ya, it wuz flat out TISHIOUS! That's as opposed to SYRUP-tishious, of course,which the Thompson triplets an' their lady-gals no longer wuz, no matter what the day of the week.
Them Thompson triplets wuz plumb danced out. 'Course, that don't rule out no otherwise strong feelin's for them female gals, but strong warn't 'zactly what the Thompsons wuz feelin about then. Prob'ly more like horny, scared an' nauseated, what from drinkin' some of the local lightnin' from Mason jars, $1.00 a quart from the truck parked behind the VFW and "Thank you for supportin' local bidness."
Petey, he weren't exactly MEDITATIN' on all of this. Nope, Mrs. Viper's boy was all action. His drivin' leg tensed, that ol' flathead six quivered and roared, an' McCutcheon's truck flat peeled cotton 'crost the lot. 'Course, exceptin' Pete's unwilling passengers, everyone thought the squeal wuz VE-HICULAR in nature. Them fuzzy rear tires HUMMED like hypertensive prairie dogs, but no one KNEW. Fletcher's truck shot FORWARD bearing its cargo of frustrated Thompsons an' tipsy terpsichoreans, Petey bein' frontmost thereof, all a-headin' for the doorway, not a six bits to be found on any of 'em or even all of 'em together.
FIRST, a terrible crash, and then silence. You coulda' heard a earthworm cough, had any been in attendance. I don't believe none wuz, however.
An' that's the day when Peter Viper wrecked a truck of pickled steppers…
But when it comes to the use of puns, as with anything literary, no-one can surpass the Bard. One of my favourites is from Comedy of Errors… Dromio of Syracuse tells his master Antipholus about the globular woman who claims him:
`I have but lean luck in the match, and yet she is a wondrous fat marriage`.
When asked her name,
`Nell, sir – but her name and three-quarters, that is an ell and three quarters, will not measure her from hip to hip…`He continues `She is spherical, like a globe; I could find out countries in her!`
Antipholus asks,`In what part of her body stands Ireland?`
`Marry,sir, in her buttocks!`(Jenanote: and the best is yet to come – )
`I found it out by the bogs.`(Think about it…J )
And, if you’ve any leanings to acquiring the gentle art of double entendres, please, don’t ever go past Venus and Adonis:
`I’ll be a park, and thou shalt be my deer;
Feed where thou wilt, on mountain or in dale:
Graze on my lips, and if those hills be dry,
Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie.
Within this limit is relief enough,
Sweet bottom-grass, and high delightful plain,
Round rising hillocks, brakes obscure and rough,
To shelter thee from tempest and from rain;
Then be my deer, since I am such a park;
No dog shall rouse thee, tho’ a thousand bark.`
Doubles entendres… I do like such - oh how I relish them. But unfortunately, it’s not unknown that, like the Mills and Boon author, I come up with them inadvertently sometimes, which has been known to lead to situations sublime. (Or ridiculous?) wry grin
`Graze on my lips, and if those hills be dry, Stray lower…`
Aha, Jena’s favourite topic. (You knew we wouldn’t be off it for long did you not?)J J J
Marvellous bakery in Braddon. (An inner city suburb of Cranberry.) It’s simply – Well, happiness is... (You see, words can fail one!)J J It combines as a charcuterie as well – wonderful pates, terrines etc. I love it.
Went in one Saturday morning, wanting in particular some focaccio. Problem. Couldn’t – not for the life of me – remember what it was called. My turn to be served, I’d been looking at the counter – none of what I wanted was on display so that I could simply point. Aha! Revelation. I had it! It had been on the tip of my tongue all this time – now I had it.
Beamed in relief at the man behind the counter.
`May I have some fellatio please?`
Oh on the uptake quick he was. No hesitation: `Certainly, madam. My pleasure.` His smile was brilliant. `If you’d just like to wait until I’ve served the other customers…`J J J
The weirdest thing about it was that still I didn’t twig. How rude! I’d been in the queue – twas my turn. Why should I have to wait for the other customers? They all had the hugest smiles on their faces. I had no idea why. But something was obviously up…J
As he handed me the bread, he said, so meaningfully, `Enjoy your foccacio, madam.`
One of the men in the queue laughed out loud! But still the light didn’t dawn. I’d just got through the shop door when it finally did. I collapsed in a heap against the wall for a moment and it was one shattered, definitely soggy Jena who, cheeks flaming, limped to her car.
Whilst on the topic, what do you make of this, surely it can be considered related? This, would you believe, featured in a gossipy column in the Sydney Morning Herald – one of Australia’s premier newspapers – not, never, a tabloid.
`Cunnilingus: Tis like tending sheep.
Tis dark and lonely work…
But someone’s got to do it.`
But in Australia? Arch conservative, I do promise you. Tis a matriachal society this Australian one.
For more on this topic, ye not of faint heart and mindful ever of Lord Russell’s admonition mayclick here for `Sex, The Bush and the Australian Male…` Do note beforehand though that it is absolutely x-rated. No complaints will be respected. You click at your own behest, not mine.
Back to language… There’s a marvellous book, written by the Australian writer, John Marsden, `Everything I Know About Writing` in which he has a delicious chapter focusing on teenager vernacula. His primary purpose is to argue that language is an evolving thing and one has the feeling that he in fact enjoyed his years teaching English to teenagers. He used to haunt the playgrounds during lunchtime, soaking up their language, making notes.
Hundreds of the examples of language I’ve collected over the years come from schools. Here’s one from a bus-load of Year 12 boys I was driving to a tennis-match. The conversation went like this:
Jeff: `Are you still with Sarah?`
Matt:`On no,mate, I crashed and burned so badly Saturday night.`
Crashed and burned! A perfect description of what happens when you wreck a relationship! A few weeks later the expression had been abbreviated to `c and b`.
`Oh, c and b, mate, c and b.`
Poetic and succinct.
There was a craze a while ago for giving names to people who were thought to be unpopular.
Scott: `S’cot no friends`.
Wes: `Wes all your friends?`
Neville: `S’cot no friends and neville will`
A favourite word in a boarding school where I taught was `maggot`. A social maggot was someone who gossiped all day and never did much else. So conversations like this were common:
`Have you seen Tom?`
`Oh, he’s such a social maggot.`
After a while the students started using it as a verb, for example, `I’m going maggoting for a while.
As I was going into the staff room for morning tea, a student called out `Happy maggoting, sir!`
I heard one girl say, rather poignantly, `My parents only sent me to boarding school so they could go maggoting in Melbourne.`
There has been one occasion when all my forty dictionaries failed me.
Here’s a letter from the Dolly Pen-Pals page:
`Chow down spacos! Drop your macka lot at our wooden box if you wanna cool it and show what a ripping sagnoli your troppo self is. We are two funky doodettes who crack up at the zapagorny attitude of quaversial life. So write marbot! ACT.`
Delicious is it not?
For anyone seriously interested in writing, he has the most marvellous section on banality – which is indeed the stuff of light popular fiction. As Marsden says, banality has readily identifiable patterns and
`once you’ve mastered those patterns you can churn out airport novels at a rate of a quarter of a million words a year – as quite a few people do. You don’t have to think when you write like this – the computer in your head does the work for you . You can have the television on or be listening to your Walkman as you write. It’s not very satisfying though. For one thing it’s not an expression of your personality. It doesn’t have your individual stamp on it – and the best writing always has that.`
Banal writing is a learned skill – the problem with it is unlearning it. I had to master it in order to come up with a product that would conform to the romance genre requirements. The problem is absolutely unlearning it – I find it sneaking in all the time when I’m writing other things where it’s absolutely the last thing I want.
You’re not sure what constitutes banal writing?
Here’s an example given by Marsden:
`You are my special angel, sent from up above,
My fate smiled down on me and sent an angel to love,
You are my special angel right from paradise,
I know that you’re an angel, heaven is in your eyes.`
Yes it has one’s teeth gritting – and it probably won’t (my conjecture) make you any money.
Here’s the more sophisticated version – from Wilbur Smith.
`Then abruptly her pulse checked and then raced away again. In her ears the music took on a sweeter, more cheerful note, the oppressive crowds and the noise seemed to recede, her dark mood evaporated miraculously, and she was borne up on a wave of excitemeet and wild anticipation.
There he was, standing in the doorway. He was so tall that he towered half a head above those around him.`
Write that and you can make a fortune – so long as you can churn it out repeatedly.
Do bear in mind that Wilbur Smith has been the world’s biggest-selling English language author for a quarter of a century.
What distinguishes banal and non-banal? Probably the most significant features are the adjectives and metaphors. The one, banal, is easy – simplistic – you put down the first sensual image that comes into your head – cliched, everyday. Adequate. Never more than adequate though.
Non-banality is not usually or of necessity the product of genius – more often tis simply hard work.
Here’s Marden’s description of the process:
`Suppose you’re writing about honey, and you want an adjective to go with that noun. The computer obligingly flashes a word in your mind: `sweet`. That’s the end of the operation for the bad writer – he or she uses `sweet` with no further thought.
The good writer, though, disappointed with that, presses the reject button. Immediately the computer produces another word (it’s a very efficient computer): `golden`. Again, the good writer, searchign for something less banal, rejects it. So it goes on: `sticky`, fresh`, `delicious`. Eventually you come to a barrier. It seems like the end…
For the good writer, though, this is not an end, it’s a beginning. It’s only now that the real writing can take place. The good writer reaches through the barrier, into the vast open space where anything can happen. New adjectives can be generated; at last some original thought and language usage is occurring.
Molten honey perhaps. Runny honey. Trickling honey. Creeping, slithering, sliding honey...
I love Marsen’s choice of an innovative writer at work:
From `One Summer` by Steve Turner
I wish, however, that I
To the Ignited States
Of neon where I’d
Crash land perfectly
In the deserted
Airport of your heart.
One of my favourite pieces of non-banal writing...
"How I Met My Wife"
It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate.
I was furling my weildy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and she moved in a gainly way.
I wanted desperately to meet her, but I knew I'd have to make bones about it, since I was travelling cognito. Beknowst to me, the hostess, whom I could see both hide and hair of, was very proper, so it would be skin off my nose if anything bad happened. And even though I had only swerving loyalty to her, my manners couldn't be peccable. Only toward and heard-of behavior would do.
Fortunately, the embarrassment that my maculate appearance might cause was evitable. There were two ways about it, but the chances that someone as flappable as I would be ept enough to become persona grata or a sung hero were slim. I was, after all, something to sneeze at, someone you could easily hold a candle to, someone who usually aroused bridled passion.
So I decided not to risk it. But then, all at once, for some apparent reason, she looked in my direction and smiled in a way that I could make head or tails of.
I was plussed. It was concerting to see that she was communicado, and it nerved me that she was interested in a pareil like me, sight seen. Normally, I had a domitable spirit, but, being corrigible, I felt capacitated---as if this were something I was great shakes at---and forgot that I had succeeded in situations like this only a told number of times. So, after a terminable delay, I acted with mitigated gall and made my way through the ruly crowd with strong givings.
Nevertheless, since this was all new hat to me and I had not time to prepare a promptu speech, I was petuous. Wanting to make only called-for remarks, I started talking about the hors d'oeuvres, trying to abuse her of the notion that I was sipid, and perhaps even bunk a few myths about myselfs.
She responded well, and I was mayed that she considered me a savoury character who was up to some good. She told me who she was. "What a perfect nomer," I said, advertently. The conversation became more and more choate, and we spoke at length to much avail. But I was defatigable, so I had to leave at a godly hour. I asked if she wanted to come with me. To my delight, she was committal. We left the party together and have been together ever since. I have given her my love, and she has requited it.
Tis perhaps what I most love about the poets –electric imagery that catapults one out of one’s workaday mundanity – seeing the world with new eyes.
Shakespeare: `like to the lark at break of day arising from sullen earth`
Brooke: the hollow sea’s dead face
Does it interest anyone else that I can’t – not for the life of me – envisage a hollow sea? Can spend wonderful hours trying to dream it though. ;-)
But in the end I love more the ones I can envisage – vibrate to: sullen earth…
Roethke: She cast herself down into such a pure depth even a father could not find her…
A D Hope – surely Australia’s greatest poet – what imagery here. It’s almost too much – one surely couldn’t have absorbed them all in a hundred readings…
The Double Looking Glass
See how she strips her lily for the sun;
The silk shrieks upward from her wading feet;
Down through the pool her wavering echoes run;
Candour with candour, shade and substance meet.
From where a wet meniscus rings the shin
The crisp air shivers up her glowing thighs,
Swells round a noble haunch and whispers in
The dimple of her belly … Surely eyes
Lurk in the laurels, where each leafy nest
Darts its quick bird-glance through the shifting screen.
… Yawn of the oxter, lift of liquid breast
Splinter their white shafts through our envious green
Where thuds the rage of double double hearts.
…. Myfoolish fear refracts a foolish dream.
Here all things have imagined counterparts:
A dragon-fly dim-darting in the stream
Follows and watches with enormous eyes
His blue narcissus glitter in the air,
The flesh reverberates its own surprise
And startles at the act which makes it bare.
Laced with quick air and vibrant to the light,
Now my whole animal breathes and knows its place
In the great web of being, and its right;
The mind learns ease again, the heart finds grace.
I am as all things living. Man alone
Cowers from his world in clothes and cannot guess
How earth and water, branch and beast and stone
Speak to the naked in their nakedness.
…. A silver rising of her arms, that share
Their pure and slender crescent with the pool
Plunder the braided treasure of her hair.
Loosed from their coils uncrowning falls the full
Cascade of tresses whispering down her flanks,
And idly now she wades a step, and stays
To watch the ripples widen to the banks
And lapse in mossy coves and rushy bays.
Look with what bliss of motion now she turns
And seats herself upon a sunny ledge,
Leans back, and drowsing dazzles, basking burns.
Susannah! …. What hiss, what rustle in the sedge;
What fierce susurrus shifts from bush to bush?
…. Susannah! Susannah, Susannah! …. Foolish heart,
It was your own pulse lisping in a bush
So deep, I hear the water-beetle dart.
And trace from bank to bank his skein of light,
So still the sibilance of a breaking bud
Speaks to the sense; the hairy bee in flight
Blooms a brute chord of danger in my blood.
What danger though? The garden wall is high
And bolted and secure the garden door;
The bee, bold ravisher, will pass me by
And does not seek my honey for his store;
The speckled hawk in heaven, wheeling slow
Searches the tufts of grass for other prey;
Safe in their sunny banks the lilies grow,
Secure from rough hands for another day.
Alert and brisk, even the hurrying ant
Courses these breathing ranges unafraid.
The fig-tree, leaning with its leaves aslant,
Touches me with broad hands of harmless shade.
And if the urgent pulses of the sun
Quicken my own with a voluptuous heat,
They warm me only as they warm the stone
Or the thin liquid paddling round my feet.
My garden holds me like its private dream,
A secret pleasure, guarded and apart.
Now as I lean above the pool I seem
The image of my heart in its heart.
In that inverted world a scarlet fish
Drifts through the trees and swims into the sky.
So in the contemplative mind a wish
Drifts through its mirror of eternity.
A mirror for man’s images of love
The nakedness of woman is a pool
In which her own desires mount and move,
Alien, solitary, purposeful
Yet in this close were every leaf an eye,
In those green limbs the sap would mount as slow.
One with their life beneath an open sky
I melt into the trace of time, I flow
Into the languid current of the day.
…. The sunlight sliding on a breathing flank
Fades and returns again in tranquil play;
Her eyelids close; she sleeps upon the bank….
He lives but in my dream. I need repel
No dream for I may end it when I please;
And I may dream myself in love as well
As dream my lover in the summer trees.
Suppose myself desired, suppose desire,
Summon that wild enchantment of the mind,
Kindle my fire at his imagined fire,
Pity his love and call him and be kind.
Now think he comes, and I shall lie as still
As limpid waters that reflect their sun,
And let him lie between my breasts and fill
My loins with thunder till the dream be done.
The kisses of my mouth are his; he lies
And feeds among the lilies; his brown knees
Divide the white embraces of my thighs,
Wake not my love nor stir him till he please,
For now his craft has passed the straits and now
Into my shoreless sea he drives alone.
Islands of spice await his happy prow
And fabulous deeps support and bear him on.
He rides the mounting surge, he feels the wide
Horizion draw him onward mile by mile;
The reeling sky, the dark rejoicing tide
Lead him at last to this mysterious isle.
In ancient woods that murmur with the sea,
He finds once more the garden and the pool.
And there a man who is and is not he
Basks on the sunny margin in the full
Noon of another and a timeless sky….
Still on the subject of non-banality, one of the things that I most treasure about our luverly Webmaster is that head of his – his imagination. He’s a thing of wonder with story threads. When you have time, check out the Coffeehouse website for a story line that’ll show you perhaps more clearly just why I’d say so.
But in the meantime, here’s just one phrase from it to illustrate:
Boink: Little did she know that he had become conscious just in time to hear something about "wonder gel." He lay there with his eyes closed thinking "I wonder what she means. Jello? Gelatin? Lard? K-Y? Custard? Pudding? 90 wt SAE gear oil?" It really didn't matter, Mike was a flexible kinda guy…
Another story thread in which he was quite brilliant is in Odds and Sods under Lots of Brine.Click here but again, at your own risk. Not for the Christian Ladies for Modest on the Net… J
To be continued…