Monday, 5 February 2018

I See It Clearly

I met a friend at the National Library of Australia  the other day. The National Library is probably my favourite post-1960 building, and the day I was there the abstract stained glass windows by Leonard French were radiant, huge jewelled sections inserted into the building’s walls. I’d never seen them glow quite like that before.

There is also an abstract sculpture over the front door of the Library. When my children were small, I worked at home, transcribing oral history interviews, and Tom Bass, who made the entrance sculpture, was one of the people whose interview I typed up.

In his interview, he mentioned his distress about that piece of work of his. It is made of bronze, I think - certainly some kind of metal whose appearance changes with exposure to outside air over time.  He had designed it with the idea that its effect would derive quite significantly from its weathering, but the people in charge at the Library coated the whole thing in a glossy dark brown varnish, which makes it look heavy and ugly.

Anyway, my friend and I went to the bookshop, after drinking some coffee in the café, and I bought some books (my friend, shockingly, suggested I should note the books’ names down and go home and order them from Amazon - this is the way the world ends).

One of the books I bought was The Best Australian Poems 2017, which I’ve been going through bit by bit ever since.

In all honesty, I was beginning to wonder whether I’d invested in a dud though. Then I came to a poem by someone called David Brooks and suddenly the purchase seemed worthwhile. I so admire the way he creates a vivid scene with such economy. Alhough I am sitting on my verandah on a sunny 28 degree centigrade afternoon, I can see the thin rain, the mist, the cockatoos settling, and almost feel that cold:

The Night Coming by David Brooks

I was thinking it was cold, the heater
struggling against the draught,
and that there was nothing I could say, how
empty my mind was,
but then looked up and saw you
working in the paddock in the thin rain in your              
jacket against the almost-
evening of the trees
with the white dog at heel
and the four sheep grazing about you
and the sounds, through the mist, of the                      
settling in the high branches,
the woodshed in its winter sleep,
the five wild ducks
moving in single file through the grass.

If I came across that poem far from home, it would have me booking an urgent ticket back to Australia, overwhelmed by  homesickness

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