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Monday, 6 March 2017

The universe found me this...

The World as Clockface is an impressive Australian
historical fantasy, but so far it has remained ignored.
Maybe that’s because Van Rijswijk’s style owes more to
Garcia Marquez and Borges than to English-speaking
writers. Maybe it’s because her story is ethereal, quirky
and complex. Maybe it’s because Philomena van Rijswijk
doesn’t realise she has to press the flesh at conventions
to become well known. If you find this handsome
Penguin Australia paperback in secondhand stores, buy

Favourite novels read for the first time in 2005
1 Life by Gwyneth Jones
(2004; Aqueduct Press; 370 pp.)
2 The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
(2004; Jonathan Cape; 301 pp.)...
3 Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy
(1901; Penguin; 568 pp.)
4 Winter on the Plain of Ghosts: A Novel of Mohenjo-
Daro by Eileen Kernaghan
(2004; Flying Monkey; 254 pp.)
5 The World as a Clockface
by Philomena van Rijswijk
(2001; Penguin; 406 pp.)
6 Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
(2005; Faber & Faber; 263 pp.)
7 Flicker by Theodore Roszak
(1991; No Exit; 688 pp.)
8 Replay by Ken Grimwood
(1986; Grafton; 366 pp.)
9 The Limits of Enchantment by Graham Joyce
(2005; Gollancz; 250 pp.)
10 Longleg by Glenda Adams
(1990; Angus & Robertson; 339 pp.)

Friday, 6 January 2017

Rest here, Heart

This poem is my Tennyson at daybreak and my St. John of the Cross at nightfall...(- Gerardt Gedartus )

Rest here, Heart, in these cupped hands
that make a cradle filled with air-
only air- sweet and gentle.
O! rest here, my Heart!
Gather yourself up and sleep here,
in the bowl made by these
careful hands-
your sister and your brother,
both worn and wise.
Rest here! O, Heart! sleep a little while-
sleep just a while-
for a month or a day,
while the turmoil carries on
without you.
Feel the warmth and the safety,
where you sleep, cradled,
swaddled in safe dreams,
wrapped in chaste murmurings,
cushioned in a perfect bower of solitude.
O! sleep away the bruises, dear Heart!
let the tears slide away in your sleep;
let love's yearnings gently pulse
like a muffled clock in the night-
a quiet beat, a kind rhythm
draining away passion's purple wounds
and stains.
O! Heart, rest here,
in these two careful hands-
your brother and your sister,
both worn and wise.

(A photo taken on Refugee Day when I worked in a nursing home at Kingston, Tasmania.  Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of the Ethiopian boy who came to help us celebrate.  The other hands are mine.  We painted everybody's nails rainbow-coloured. - Philomena van Rijswijk)


Saturday, 31 December 2016

Tiny Buddha

Acrylics on canvas, P van Rijswijk
Today I let the music in, and remembered
how it softens the cicada-husk of you,
the way sleep does;
how it quiets the circling animal within
the way rutting does;
how music makes the borders around things clear
as though, suddenly, the clumsy hand that colours your life in
learns to stay inside the lines.
Music nectars your half-lit bedroom
until it seems full of an amber chicle.
I recall the first mad months after he left-
my baby daughter would ever so carefully
make up my bed, while I lathered and slathered in lavender.
She would plump hand-stitched pillows and arrange
a sprig of wild fuchsia or a wattle switch, fuzzed with wool,
and when she had put me dumbly to bed,
she would twitch the frog-music on.
My sister had sent it from Rum Jungle,
and to me, it was the tropics,
it was that dry-cleaner steaminess,
and it was those big glycerine drops that slide
off the greasy leaves of rubber trees.
The music was the sound of the little myopic frogs,
like tender jade buddhas, whistling in the dark;
it was the heady come-hither stink of mosquito coils,
and the white fluff left behind in your bed by geckos
that curled up like sardine-can lids from the timber ribs
of a donga built like an umbrella.
Every night, I fell asleep to the mystic drugging of the frogs,
until my daughters could stand the zombie droning no longer.
In that soporific sound, there were the leafy depths of the big wet-
a cyclone-sodden benignity;
the spiraling of a bamboo flute touched with spit;
the dark echoings of a thousand amphibians trapped in the gloom.
Now, released at last from that coma of grief,
I fall asleep to the worry-bead shuffling of the hot-water-heater
and the distant tinkling of tiny temperate frogs,
brown and sober in the sedges.
Now, the night is no longer a subterranean narcolepsy
that fills me with terror.
I no longer wake with dream-tears
on my sleep-branded cheek.
A scrubbed, fresh-painted light washes my room
with godliness.
These days, I sometimes sleep alone
in an empty house
and oh!
how it rings with the lusty singing of dignity.

Suns and Moons

Acrylics on canvas, P van Rijswijk

Friday, 23 December 2016

Proof that a Woman is a Bird

Acrylics on canvas, P van Rijswijk
Evening, my bedroom a boatshed above the bush;
a wasteland of wattles and eucalypts, the grey gums
named by their smells, by their dead-man shreddy skins.
My bedroom, an aerial hiding-place.
Waves of belated aloneness drag up onto the sand,
the rotted footings of my listing room awash
in the clean green amnion of the waves;
the purple sands imploded from underneath;
the shore flushed, oedematous with the incoming tide.
The wind, onshore, buffets the silvered planks
of this solitary shed. Alone, unequivocal, on clean linen,
I discover the surety, the security, of my boatshed.
What valkyrie shrieks those wild and wanton cries? In the air! 
It’s in the air! It’s even in the air- that crystal gleam; the harsh
and unforgiving light; the green of the horizon cold and sour;
the bitter tang; a pallid evening star, downcast.
(Today I passed a woman by the yacht club point
who knelt before a man;  I couldn’t help but stare
as I drew closer and saw her splaying
and carefully dismembering a gull.  He looked on,
horrified. And I drove by.)
In the rough palings, the timbers of this shed, a curdled  stain
with eyes where once the branches forked.
They, alone, watch at night- those wooden Rorschach eyes.
And the slump-backed tides return, and the chundering tides
retreat, sometimes leaving a stinking flathead flapping drearily.
Other times, dropping a sandpapered Venus
at spurred and calloused feet.