Ken Bolton: poem: Dazed

Ken Bolton: poem: Dazed
The History of Nostalgia

The wish being father to the thought and mother
to your eager gestures — or at least the ones
a dulled sensibility remembers belonging to — you
stare off into the distance as hard as you can
as if some long desired form might materialise,
announcing just by its presence an end to change
& replacing this ridiculous static blur with
a perspective that creates a point of view —
something that slowly expands as you grow older,
broadening out like a real view does when you climb
a spur or wedge your way up a chimney: something
in short that doesn’t tell you everything at once,
exhausting all its effects in a coup de théatre
that explodes like a trick golf ball you address
to cane down the fairway. Instead it disappears
in a bright flash & a puff of smoke at your feet
so that you’re left thinking, ‘Can this be it?’
&, sure enough, it is — you’re here, that’s all,
another miserable subject, composed of a few jokes
& catchphrases worn smooth with repetition
but at the same time almost statuesque, like a bust
of yourself in marble or bronze & mounted on
that plinth you used to lounge against, back
when you were still smoking Marlboros & worried
you’d come to resemble your father, not yourself.

 — John Forbes


Dazed

for John Forbes

The wish being
father to the thought

and mother
to your eager gestures

(that is, just as the wish is like that:
you express the wish, and then

 — and as it is expelled
in the form of a sigh, or

huff of resignation

and maybe as the mouth, resigned,
broadens and tightens — you’re an idiot,

nothing ever can be done about anything —

like the most welcome stranger,
who should appear at the door, on cue,

the flyscreen door of your mind, but the thought  —
which both is and speaks these words:

‘Why not do it?’

 — as rejoinder
to the negativity expressed above

so that the weather
of one’s mental life

 — of this one’s —
flickers

from light to dark, constantly,
like time-frame film

which looks moody
experienced as film

but as mental life
is ‘trying’. And thence

a whole series of gestures
is begun, as whole series often are —

remember, here, my
mental ‘life’ — and,

because of ‘the flickering’,

though begun
are cut short entirely). You stare off into the distance

as hard as you can. Is this
genuinely a gesture?

one of opening out
onto new possibilities, of action?

or the will
to take a dive,

a practiced motion
of your dulled sensibility,

converting ‘here we go’
to ‘here we go again’?

as, characteristically, you slump,
falling from the low marble bench —

where you were viewing this vista
 — Ah, this vista! —

neither mournful, nor ritzy,
but expansive and rather calming —

at any rate, where there are avenues
for claiming sudden spiritual nourishment, on the one hand,

or taking a bucolic and
melancholy reading —

of the light,
as it bounces, sharply,

off the city’s buildings,
and the deepened, afternoon green of the parklands.

As if you were Poussin
or Claude Lorraine —

not Raoul Dufy.
Not Balthus at anyrate

 — or late Derain,
that would be very bracing —

or late Vlaminck.
Better, probably,

not to have your
emotional life French —

better to have it Italian,

like say,
all the senators and soldiers

of a late
de Chirico

pissed out of their minds,
on speed,

milling about and carousing,
listening to Roy and HG

with a bit of fairground music
in the background (the

kind of thing
that indicates madness,

or a bad trip,

in the poems
of Steven Kelen),

or the ‘delightful’ music
of Nino Rota.

In fact
from where you sit now,

looking out across the parklands,

is that little guy
planting flags at various intervals

perhaps Daniel Buren?
May be?

But though Adelaide
has embraced
much bad art

it has not, as yet,
embraced Daniel Buren.

And this is the sort of smug,
snide, superior amusement

that signifies
a wish to be

above the problem
and out of it

and which — characteristically —
leaves you
here,

slumped by your chair,
where you have fallen, remember?

looking
at a view,

that wastes your time,

since that is
how you use it,

through the stone pillars
of the balustrade

 — since you refuse to regain your chair —
and glimpse a golfer

or some civic employee, vivid,
and tiny in the distance, place a flag.

‘Get up, ya big Palooka!’
a corner of the brain urges

with your usual sense
of humour

causing another part to be smiling

 — this is a
metaphorical brain:

am I like it, or is it like me?
We smile a lot at any rate —

often at the same time.
Often similarly.

Sometimes I think
I am my brain.

More than I am
my toe.

I look at my toe.
It is me if my brain says so.

(I always know
what it is doing.)

But it provides
stability
for the smiling madcap duo.

If something
would appear
in the park

 — nothing you can imagine —

and make
some difference!

One looks for it
with longing

and no expectation —

one strikes this attitude
as a sign to oneself

of one’s deserving
such an edifying salvation,

an epiphany
in green,

that turned one’s soul
into a Mark Rothko painting

or the soldier — standing,
so mysteriously — in The Tempest by Giorgione.

What is he doing?

But anyway
he is doing it

with confidence,

and the sky and light
ordain that he is right to be there,

would be mad
to move in fact.

Is it going to rain?
I mean here, in Adelaide?

 — It is never going to rain
in The Tempest. —

With a terrific
sob

your life could be over,
and you could be a painting.

Much of a life?

You could meet
other people,
in other paintings —

the cardplayers
in Cezanne’s painting for instance —

one hundred years
waiting to make a move.

What is their cardgame,
did he tell them even?

‘Hi!
What game are you playing?’

‘Qui etes-vous?’
‘I’m a deep, grape-coloured lozenge —

normally on a sea-green ground.’
‘From a Rothko painting?’ (Heavy French accent.)

‘Yes!’
‘I guessed it.’

One merely says,
by kneeling here,

leaning against this seat —
says a little more histrionically than formerly,
when one was sitting —

that one
deserves a rewarding vision,

a sudden, saving
sense of purpose —

that need only be an attitude —
in fact an attitude
would be perfect,

as who can avidly require a life of
Action, mapped out before one,

if one has come
to all this picturesqueness
merely to sit?

If that
is one’s idea of a good time
hell would be a life of action.

No, let others seek purpose
on the squash court.

One swoons
against the fake stone balustrade —

it seems fake,
or is it only this part,
here,

that has been replaced,

after having been
vandalized? —

to state that one is
noble enough… for such reward,
a kind of spiritual certification.
Not in the expectation
of getting it.

The attitude
is its own reward.

The occasions
when all stands still and
things fall into place

would be no fun if they
were commonplace.

 — Life is a blur. —
One can almost feel

one is slowing events,
to bring them
sharply into focus —

like the child-care giver
who stares narrow-eyed

at the playground’s
ongoing Guernica

in the hope his
shrewd face

will stop the perpetrator
among his charges

inflicting torment on
the rest,

despite an inability
to make out, or hear,
what is actually happening,

or to whom. To
stroll out there

is to become part of events
 — inevitably
one will select

the wrong one

or treat the culprit
too harshly

and the wheel of life
will continue to turn

and it is all too catastrophic!
At any rate, look at this mess!

Who can clean this kitchen?
You go up on the roof,

for once in your life,
to fix the roof.

It is beautiful
but saddening —
it all looks different.

The neighbour
who is mowing his lawn

wouldn’t do it if he knew.
He looks silly. The woman
putting the washing out —

silly too.

The surfers you can
see from here don’t look silly.
They float on their boards —

in a sense they are
up on the roof too.

Life does not make sense.

You are standing in the wrong place.
Get down off that roof immediately.

But never forget
what it was like.

Gee —
I am about halfway
through this poem,

that I
paraphrase,

and I don’t know what this means!
Right. I’ve got a handle on it now.

It is not like
a trick golfball,
that explodes when you hit it.

It is like the view!
Or, no, it is not like the view.

The view
is what you wanted.

Life, though,
is not like that —
it passes us by,

while we stare,
fooling ourselves, gaining
some solace, false solace…

[John, this reads like
Tennyson! Is it
The Lotus Eaters you intended?]

You stand there,
your spirit does,
weaving about

(while your body sits,
or leans still
probably,

intrigued by this idea)
like an old trainer,

going    Fsst,
Fsst!     Fsst-fsst!

gloves up,
head down,

shadow-boxing.

‘I coulda been a contender!’
The hopeless Nelson Algren-ness of it —
I can’t bear it!

The look of disappointment
so ingrained
it substitutes for character.

You can die quietly now —

people respect your secret sorrow —
at the bus stop,
at the coffee shop,

the bank, the
supermarket,
thoughtfully reading the paper —

an old codger.

The reason why we like those surfers —
this is a thought —

is that
watching them

we have an ideal image
of deep daydreaming

that seems spiritual
and, in a touching way,
full of wellbeing —

the floatation tank
idea of life — an image

of our own subjectivity
while we stare at them.

And it is
‘touching’

because they are
‘little’ —

far away — and their
aspirations

(which we can’t guess
but can only suppose) —
seem fragile.

(In a sense we feel sorry
for ourselves
 — via an objective correlative.)

‘Pardon me,
monsieur.’

It is
the greenkeeper guy.
He bends over

and looks into
the face of one.

‘Qu’est que vous?’
you say. (Your French
is rotten.

Mine is.)

He says,
‘Monsieur —
you have fallen down?’

‘No,
I’m sitting,’ you say,

though plainly you look
what would pass for
completely out of it,

sitting beside
a stone bench,

one arm stretched,
proprietorially,

lovingly,
over it.

‘Are you Daniel Buren?’

‘No sir. But my
golfball — did it not pass
this way? Did it not
hit you perhaps?’

‘No, mate,
I’m just sitting here
wondering how to
seize the day.’

‘It will be
dark soon,’

says the Buren figure
quietly.

A nice guy.
You rise.

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