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Karl Marx’s Kitchen

3 May

If the development of food is understood teleologically, the first stage would involve an incongruously large amount of time mashing, pounding and preparing ingredients. It would require perhaps half the day, and it would usually be performed by women. It is a laborious process; indeed, to paraphrase Hobbes, a nasty and (rather less than) short struggle.

The next stage sees modernity enter the stage, promising blueberry pies that can be prepared in a matter of minutes. A world of “no mess, no fuss” recipes and tinned and frozen foods are ushered into people’s newly purchased refrigerators. Despite enjoying great popularity among a time-poor population of consumers happy to exchange pestles and open fires for plastic-packet-opening scissors and microwaves, this sort of new-found freedom – the liberty to spend time on other things – tends to come at a price to one’s health. The consumer population gradually becomes aware that their conveniently packaged food is rife with large amounts of preservatives and artificial flavours.

A reaction against convenience and fast-food takes place. The third stage sees an increased demand for food that is both “modern” (i.e. relatively quick and easy to prepare and consume) and healthy (that is, free of artificial additives). In this stage, food and drinks are regulated in their production so as to accommodate the best aspects of both the preceding two stages. They are healthy, readily available, and do not require too much time on the part of the consumer.

It seems fair to conclude that, had Marx been a food critic instead of a social one, he would probably have been able to return to the world of capitalism far more happy with the outcome of society’s gradual change than otherwise.

Salut!

Thoughts on Marx and Marshall Berman’s “All That Is Solid Melts Into Air”

27 Mar

“I leave aside the question of whether, by continually refining humanity in proportion to the new enjoyments it offers, indefinite progress might not be its most cruel and ingenious torture; whether, proceeding as it does by a negation of itself, it would not turn out to be a perpetually renewed form of suicide, and whether, shut up in the fiery circle of divine logic, it would not be like the scorpion that stings itself with its own tail-progress, that eternal desideratum that is its own eternal despair!”
–Charles Baudelaire, quoted in Berman, p. 142.

Everything that happens will happen today
And nothing has changed, but nothing’s the same
And every tomorrow could be yesterday
And everything that happens will happen today
–David Byrne and Brian Eno, Everthing That Happens Will Happen Today, 2008

One of the earliest statements of purpose in Marshall Berman’s All That Is Solid Melts Into Air reads thus: “The trouble was that pop modernism [post-modernism] never developed a critical perspective which might have clarified the point where openness to the modern world has got to stop, and the point where the modern artist needs to see and to say that some of the powers of this world have got to go.” I agree, but is this not something different to Berman’s avowed aim of recovering new ideals in modernity’s energies? (See p. 36: “To appropriate the modernities of yesterday can be at once a critique of the modernities of today and an act of faith in the modernities-and in the modern men and women-of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.”) Is this sentiment not closer to the “Plato and Church Fathers” mentioned in p. 98 who “yearned for a still point at which all strife and all striving will reach an end”?

Later, Berman remarks that “The argument of this book is that, in fact, the modernisms of the past can give us back a sense of our own modern roots, roots that go back two hundred years. They can help us connect our lives with the lives of millions of people who are living through the trauma of modernization thousands of miles away, in societies radically different from our own-and with millions of people who lived through it a century or more ago” (p. 35). I did wonder here whether Berman had in mind here people in Europe or the societies they were colonising. The book does tend, when it gestures toward examples of societies outside Euro-America, to paint broad, Time magazine type pictures. Indeed, it is perhaps this humanism that allows Berman to engage in two somewhat contradictory movements: on the one hand, he claims that to reconnect with the spirit of modernity would help us see “the social and political forces that propel us into explosive conflicts with other people and other peoples, even as we develop a deeper sensitivity and empathy toward our ordained enemies and come to realize, sometimes too late, that they are not so different from us after all” (ibid.). Indeed, when he describes the desire for “[a] fusion of Marx with modernism should melt the too-solid body of Marxism-or at least warm it up and thaw it out-and, at the same time, give modernist art and thought a new solidity and invest its creations with an unsuspected resonance and depth. It would reveal modernism as the realism realism of our time” (p. 122), he seems almost to be describing the break between structuralism and historical-materialism in the humanities (I concur that there should be more synthesis of the two). But is this not what those whom Berman criticises as “private material and spiritual interest groups” were interested in doing (“The eclipse of the problem of modernity in the 1970s has meant the destruction of a vital form of public space. It has hastened the disintegration of our world into an aggregation of private material and spiritual interest groups, living in windowless monads, far more isolated than we need to be” (p. 34)? Presumably the only thing separating them from Berman is Berman’s ability, reminiscent of Marx (though I have more sympathy with the gesture in Marx’s case), to pronounce upon a global conjuncture as though he himself were not also part of it (not in the sense of not being concerned or not taking it personally, but in the sense of writing from a kind of Archimedean point apart, something that Bruce Robbins has criticised Noam Chomsky for doing, albeit in a slightly different political mode (see the chapter “Noam Chomsky’s Golden Rule” in Perpetual War: Cosmopolitanism from the Viewpoint of Violence Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 2012, pp. 47-66). To extend and digress on this for a moment, I have to say I particularly like the way Slavoj Žižek for example elucidates the value of German idealist ontology by shifting its emphasis: “The point is not that there is no reality outside our mind, the point is rather that there is no mind outside reality” (S. and G. Daly, Conversations with Žižek (Cambridge and Malden: Polity, 2004), p. 97). I also like Sean Sheehan’s gloss on the above remark:

“It is because we are part of reality that we can never be in a neutral position to observe it objectively; like the embedded journalists in the Iraq war, our position is part of what is observed and if this distorting presence is removed then so too is the object of observation. This is quite different from fashionable postmodernist thought which celebrates the plurality of different subject positions and the play of difference while taking for granted the existence of an underlying, homogenous world. Žižek’s ontology entails a universe that is necessarily fissured and inconsistent, not fully realised, although not because our knowledge is mind-based, which it is, but because this is the way the world is” (Žižek: A Guide for the Perplexed (London and NY: Continuum, 2012), pp. 48-9).

If I read this correctly, it seems to me like the kind of negotiated position that could satisfy both historical-materialists and structuralists to some degree; at the very least, it would have been more helpful than some of the rhetoric of pitched battle thrown over the course of the post-sixties culture wars.

When he comes to talk about Marx, Berman’s analysis is, as elsewhere in the book, especially engaging and considered. From the outset he gestures to something I came to reflect upon when writing about Taiwanese modernity in literature. Taiwan’s modernity was shaped primarily by the encounters with Han China, first as colonisers around the sixteenth century, then in the form of the Kuomintang government after Japanese colonisation. Colonisation by Japan was the other primary force in shaping Taiwan’s sense of modernity. But in writing about literature, I also had to question the notion of “modernism” as distinct from “modernity”. As Berman writes,

“It is worth noting that this sense of wholeness goes against the grain of contemporary thought. Current thinking about modernity is broken into two different compartments, hermetically sealed off from one another: ‘modernization’ in economics and politics, ‘modernism’ in art, culture and sensibility” (p. 88).

Berman’s avowed goal is to try and complicate this distinction, and over the course of the rest of the chapter (“All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: Marx, Modernism and Modernization”) he attempts to show how Marx, particularly in his depiction of Communism in The Communist Manifesto, was a kind of modernist author as much as he was a theorist of modernity.

At one point Berman quotes the climactic closing moments of the Manifesto (“In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonism, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”). I have often reflected upon the way the flawed idealism of this statements seems to rest upon its thoroughgoing humanism. There is the belief here that people can move the earth, (perhaps from an Archimedean point), but no scepticism as to whether the earth cares for what people do upon it. Hence green movement rhetoric about “protecting” or “saving” the eath places man at the centre, and really means protecting the human species. There is no problem with that of course, but it’s the confusion between treating a humanist mission as though it were something markedly different from the conservative goal of utilising the earth’s resources that gives me pause. The earth has no care for what people make of it, capitalist or radical (not that this is an excuse for simply doing nothing, of course). This is really brough to the fore in the next passage Berman quotes.

“In Volume One of Capital, in the chapter on “Machinery and Modern Industry,” it is essential to communism that it transcend the capitalist division of labor:

“… the partially developed individual, who is merely the bearer of one specialized social function, must be replaced by the fully developed individual, fit for a variety of labors, ready to face any change in production, for whom the different social functions he performs are only so many modes of giving free scope to his own natural and acquired powers.

“This vision of communism is unmistakably modern, first of all in its individualism, but even more in its ideal of development as the form of the good life. Here Marx is closer to some of his bourgeois and liberal enemies than he is to traditional exponents of communism, who, since Plato and the Church Fathers, have sanctified self-sacrifice, distrusted or loathed individuality and yearned for a still point at which all strife and all striving will reach an end.” (pp. 97-98)

I must confess to having little to add to this exegesis, apart from some by-the-way remarks about how the gesture toward Western thinkers who “distrusted or loathed individuality” breaks down the simplistic East/West, “Confucian capitalist” distinction between the group-oriented East and individualistic West (see for example a remark quoted by Laura Dales in her Japanese ethnography, one familiar from Japan to Korea to Singapore (who, under Lee Kuan Yew, have been especially tiresome in repeating it), where the Japanese informant remarks that “Being able to depend and being co-dependent, in one sense this is an aspect of Japanese happiness. But from, say, American or Western independent, individualistic culture, maybe it comes across as [different]”. See “Lifestyles of the Rich and Single: Reading Agency in the ‘Parasite Single’ Issue” in The Agency of Women in Asia ed. Lyn Parker, Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, 2005), p. 137). For one thing, the “Great Chain of Being” which placed things in hierarchical relations (Inanimate Matter-Plants-worm-frog-rat-dog-lion-Animals-Man-Angels-God) was not of historical or evolutionary progression but was “inconsistent with any belief in progress, or, indeed, in any sort of significant change in the universe as a whole. The Chan of Being, in so far as its continuity and completeness were affirmed on the customary grounds, was a perfect example of ab absolutely rigid and static scheme of things” (Arthur O. Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea, Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1936, 242). Lovejoy traced the static nature of this hierarchy from ancient Greek philosophy to the eighteenth-century European philosophers. It was static because, if God was perfect, his ordering of the universe was believed to reflect that: everything was in its right place in a naturally static hierarchy where its role was preordained. This, of course, sounds very similar to common understandings of many feudal social hierarchies in Asian society. Even after the eighteenth century similarities were highly visible between “Eastern” and “Western” philosophy. Not only did the German idealist tradition in which Marx partly wrote always insist upon the inability to think the individual being at all without situating it first in relation to a larger community (particularly in Hegel), but even if we understand this essentialist distinction as primarily having arisen as a number of countries in Asia found themselves, by the advent of the eighties, making achievements in capitalism that rivaled the old Euro-American powers, and seeking to place themselves in relation to a “West” that was struggling through the culture wars that had taken off during the “individualistic” sixties, it would still neglect awareness of the fact that many of these countries had their own rebellious politics in the sixties, such as Japan and Taiwan. Berman seems to write to this kind of rhetorical fiction when he says,

“Now it would be stupid to deny that modernization can proceed along a number of different roads. (Indeed, the whole point of modernization theory is to chart these roads.) There is no reason that every modern city must look and think like New York or Los Angeles or Tokyo. Nevertheless, we need to scrutinize the aims and interests of those who would protect their people from modernism for their own good. If this culture were really exclusively Western, and hence as irrelevant to the Third World as most of its governments say, would these governments need to expend as much energy repressing it as they do? What they are projecting onto aliens, and prohibiting as ‘Western decadence,’ is in fact their own people’s energies and desires and critical spirit. When government spokesmen and propagandists proclaim their various countries to be free of this alien influence, what they really mean is merely that they have managed to keep a political and spiritual lid on their people so far. When the lid comes off, or is blown off, the modernist spirit is one of the first things to come out: it is the return of the repressed.” (pp. 124-5)

I am however a bit more wary of what Berman writes after this, which seems to me to evince something of that “culturalist” desire to find in “other” cultures the “true spirit” of one’s own (think for example of the frequent proclamation among Han Chinese in the mainland that Taiwan has maintained “real” Chinese culture, or even of the desire of the left in the West to find real communism in China during the sixties. As Berman remarks in the afterword to the 2010 edition, “[one] of the weirdest facets of modernity is all the cultural energy that gets poured into a hopeless quest to get out of modernity” (p. 353)):

“It is this spirit, at once lyrical and ironical, corrosive and committed, fantastic and realistic, that has made Latin American literature the most exciting in the world today-though it is also this spirit that forces Latin American writers to write from European or North American exile, on the run from their own censors and political police. It is this spirit that speaks from the dissident wall posters in Peking and Shanghai, proclaiming the rights of free individuality in a country that-so we were told only yesterday by China’s Maoist mandarins and their comrades in the West-isn’t even supposed to have a word for individuality. It is the culture of modernism that inspires the hauntingly intense electronic rock music of the Plastic People of Prague, music that is played in thou- sands of barricaded rooms on bootlegged cassettes even as the musicians languish in prison camps. It is modernist culture that keeps critical thought and free imagination alive in much of the non-Western world today.” (p. 125)

It would only take a quick look at the critiques of the consumption of “magical realism” in the West to inspire some scepticism toward Berman’s gracious humanism here (See for example the chapter “Magic, ‘Realism,’ and the ‘Post-’” in Alfred J. López, Posts and Pasts: A Theory of Postcolonialism NY: SUNY Press, 2001, pp. 205-210).

Marx’s contrast between “the different social fucntions’” and the idea of giving “free scope” to “natural and acquired powers” highlights for me the degree to which concepts of techne or human technologies/apparatus infect (not from without, but within) and cathect our ability to conceive of the free, self-conscious, rational human agent. When Berman writes, “The trouble with capitalism is that, here as elsewhere, it destroys the human possiblities it creates” (p. 96) I can only agree, with the qualification that this desctructive quality inheres generally in the technologies that humanity creates in order to extend its faculties of reasoning and questioning, and does not stand apart from it (that is, there is no such things as a technology without “destructive” potential). Marx for his part writes as though this imbrication had yet to be realised, and that a proletarian revolution were necessary to bring it about; in fact it had already happened without it. Berman notes that “Once again we find Marx more responsive to what is going on in bourgeois society than are the members and supporters of the bourgeoisie themselves. He sees in the dynamics of capitalist development-both the development of each individual and of society as a whole-a new image of the good life: not a life of definitive perfection, not the embodiment of prescribed static essences, but a process of continual, restless, open-ended, unbounded growth. Thus he hopes to heal the wounds of modernity through a fuller and deeper modernity” (p. 98). I agree, but do feel that we can only regulate this paradoxical imbiration of mechansisms for realising humanity’s potential with the potentials for circumscribing humanity and imprisoning it, because neither aspect is separable from the other. How close this is to the Foucauldian position Berman criticises at the book’s outset (“Do we act politically, overthrow tyrannies, make revolutions, create constitutions to establish and protect human rights? Mere ‘juridical regression’ from the feudal ages, because constitutions and bills of rights are merely ‘the forms that [make] an essentially normalizing power acceptable.’…Any criticism rings hollow, because the critic himself or herself is ‘in the panoptic machine, invested by its effects of power, which we bring to ourselves, since we are part of its mechanism’” p. 34), I am not sure. Yet I do feel that we cannot overturn and totally “fix” or “heal” this imbrication, because its resources are what allow us to critically regulate it in the first place. How close this may be to saying that “the critic…of its mechanism” (p. 34), I am not sure. It does potentially suffer the problem of lacking a larger goal, as Arendt said of Marxism’s emphasis on individualism in community (the free development of each as the condition for the free development of all) when she wrote that its obsession with development might become “the futuility of a life which does not fix or realise itself in any permanent subject that endures after its labour is past” (Arendt, The Human Condition, Chicago: Chicago Univ. Press, 1958, quoted in Berman, p. 128). The regulative idea does however make me, as it has so many others, sceptical of Marx’s vision of “free development for each and all.” Marx wrote little after all of what Communism would actually look like, although he did gesture toward a world where people’s labour would be unaliented and they would have time to read and relax after they had finished work. As Berman points out, it is easier to envisage Communist movements and revoltions than it is societies, because “[i]f all new relationships become obsolete before they can ossify, how can solidarity, fraternity and mutual aid be kept alive? A communist government might try to dam the flood by imposing radical restrictions, not merely on economic activity and enterprise (every socialist government has done this, along with every capitalist welfare state), but on personal, cultural and political expression” (p. 104). Slavoj Žižek for his part has remarked in the documentary Žižek! about “the strangeness of today’s situation. Thirty, forty years ago, we were still debating about what the future will be: communist, fascist, capitalist, whatever. Today, nobody even debates these issues. We all silently accept global capitalism is here to stay. On the other hand, we are obsessed with cosmic catastrophes: the whole life on earth disintegrating, because of some virus, because of an asteroid hitting the earth, and so on. So the paradox is, that it’s much easier to imagine the end of all life on earth than a much more modest radical change in capitalism” (Žižek!, , Dir: Astra Taylor, 2005).

Dennis Haskell, Part III

4 Nov

One last poem from Haskell for today, probably my favourite of his.

 

“Temperatures”

My brother and his wife had debated

whether to let their young daughter come

but she’d insisted, driven by a strained,

wanting-to-be-adult curiosity.

Stepping through the solid, salubrious,

clean brick entrance,

the light guardedly unglaring,

time seemed shut into itself,

the air had a lingering, sugared warmth.

 

When they wheeled my father in

I held my mother on my arm

like a reluctant suitor.

He was in a white box,

laced up to his chin

with a frilly, idiotic daintiness. Suddenly

she leant her frail weight

upon me, her knees bent

and bent, and bent,

sinking

towards the face

that had once been my father,

and remained fixed so long

I thought she would never rise,

her lips stuck to its coloured cheek.

‘He’s so cold’: the words entered

the air from a voice

achingly unlike her own,

‘so cold’. And I, the eldest son,

the reliable one, was lost

 

in that moment, forever.

Sincere words were as pathetic as silence.

The truth of him had left us

and entered the shyness of death.

 

My niece stood there

with a wild-eyed innocence

being cast aside. I finally raised

my mother with a shuddering arm

from this cruel imitation of her husband

innocent of us

in his Antarctic box.

 

Now just to recall those words

before his ultimate reticence

is to dig down in myself

scooping up the granules of dirt

where he lies in me

so deep, so cold.

 

Dennis Haskell, Part II

4 Nov

“After Fifty Years” and “Chance: A Conversation” are both remarkable for the incisiveness and the threat with which their conclusions are arrived at.

“After Fifty Years”

I counted off the tattoos

on all their numbered arms.

I stacked them up

like racks of brot.

I gave them bliss

through my almost silent

silencing song.

Those ink-stamped queues

of bones and shaven heads

in their own way

thanked me for it.

It was not like you think.

Mostly little fuss. Mostly quiet.

There was not much point

in protest. Methods

prove the existence of perfection.

They queued up for

their ration, their share.

I never discriminated

between them. I insist

that I treated them

all equally. At times

I almost thought

I could turn myself

on and off at will.

 

If I were human

I would have been capable

of anything.

 

Possibly my favourite poem of his (along with “Temperatures”) is this one, “Chance: A Conversation”. The final words remind me of the “first player” as King in Hamlet:

 

But, orderly to end where I begun,

Our wills and fates do so contrary run

That our devices still are overthrown.

Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.

(III.2, 220-224)

 

Here’s the Haskell poem:

“Chance: A Conversation”

Chance, I know that my chances

of having a conversation with you

are slight, at the very best, I

know it’s no use taking exception

to your presence, but what on earth

are you doing in this life? Your place

seems so arbitrary; and

if we could sit down together

I know the talk would be hopelessly

haphazard, since you know no bounds

and anything could leap to anything else:

love could lead swiftly to gardens to garbage,

a line of poetry might read

‘kohl adrift more she role ti dah’.

There are those sure your heart belongs to dada

but you know its heart belongs to you.

So around the world we’d go on a

marvellous, maddening, richly frustrating excursion

in which go is only occasionally distinguishable from woe.

Some think you are not the ultimate

in godliness, which you find a glorious joke;

you who know no meaning know meaning best.

Only when we get to death, a subject

in which you have a role, we part company.

You say, ‘In the end that’s the topic

which is for you, but is not for me’.

Dennis Haskell

31 Oct

I first met Dennis Haskell in a creative writing class at the University of West Australia, where he was very kind to some fiction I submitted. Many of his more popular poems embody an aesthetic that begins, as his own poem “For Thomas Hardy” begins,

Start with simple things

Grass, the earth, the roots of grass

Perhaps meaning is found

Only in the minute perception

Of old and familiar objects.

What more do you have?

If you wish to discover

The Gods you must look

To things, not into

Your own mind.

And be specific: kikuyu, the dark soil.

Our discordinate minds

Shake at the roots:

Larkin, to construct a religion,

would choose nothing more solid than water.

Because this can be counted on

To move, and to capture

Every angle contained in colour.

(“For Thomas Hardy”)

You can delineate in a poem like this something of what Geoff Page might have had in mind, writing in the Weekend Australian, “Haskell’s temperament is essentially sceptical but it is also a spiritual one: he is someone who finds the numinous in the small things of everyday life rather than on the road to Tarsus”. Haskell himself would probably concur: the prefatory quotations to his collection All the Time in the World include Simone Weil’s remark, “Only spiritual things are of value, but only physical things have a verifiable existence.” Another quotation, from Derek Walcott, is equally telling: “…the fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world, in spite of History.”

I’ve chosen to present what I think are two of his best poems here. In both we see how he is capable of negotiating expertly between the mundane and the pantheistic (that invocation of “If you wish to discover/The Gods you must look/To things, not into/Your own mind.”)

“Denials of Choice” and “At Greenwood, a Mediation” are vaguely mystical in tone and reminiscent of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Dante’s La Divina Commedia respectively; the first for its oscillation between the sexual and the inanimate, and the second for shifting from the suburban prowling cat to the thought of “lupin dressed hills” and back again in a way that recalls, at least for me personally, the she-wolf, lion and leopard Dante encounters early on in the Commedia. Interestingly enough, the second was included by John Kinsella in an anthology of Australian poetry that he edited while, I believe, compiling around roughly the same time his own cycle of poems based on the Commedia.

“Denials of Choice”

When we parted, irrevocably, a part of me

stood up and just walked away

towards your smile, simply, your whole face shining,

all sounds eerily cancelled,

as I slid down the unnerving rial

out of shadow, to the track and pattern of sunlight;

and it goes on living somewhere away from me,

this self that is not me, that lies down

beside you, on crisp autumn days

when wind twists the green leaves silver.

I see its surveying hand fly just above

the earth-warming landscape of your thighs

and land gently on the stubbly crop

of hair above your cunt.

Apart, I want to break these thin-boned wishes

and rigid gestures, mere fingersticks of flesh,

have the muscles, and the embers f my blood,

remember our first touching, even the finest

tentative hand hold as we stepped

across the twig and pebble strewn path

that led into what I thought

was determined to be our lives.

I have lost myself. I have grown unshakable

in the syllables of dark sunlight, you smiling,

while the day brightens with shadowy cries

and a scatter of shapes on the path,

at my stick fingers, my silvering hands,

this upright, almost-stone entanglement of bones.

The Dante connection in the next poem, “At Greenwood, a Meditation” is, I suspect, purely personal. It is in the trust sense of the word superficial. It’s probably no more than a personal tendency to connect every appearance of felines in poetry with the appearance of three of them in the Inferno:

I paused to let my weary limbs recover,

and then began to climb the lone hillside,

my fixed foot always lower than the other.

But I had hardly started when I spied

a leopard in my pathway, lithe and fleet,

all covered with a sleek and spotted hide.

And as I faced it, it would not retreat,

but paced before me and so blocked my way

that more than once I had to turn my feet

to retrace my steps. It was the break of day,

the sun was mounting in the morning sky

with the same stars as when that whole array

of lovely things was first given movement by

divine love. The sweet season of the year

and the hour made me think that I might try

to evade that bright-skinned beast as it came near,

but then I felt my good hopes quickly fade

and in an instant I was numbed with fear

to see a lion in my path that made

straight for me, head held high and ravenous,

and seemed to make the very air afraid.

And a she-wolf too, that in its leanness was

laden with every craving. Those who seek

fulfillment there only find wretchedness.

(Inferno trans. Michael Palma, Canto I, 28-51)

Here is Haskell’s poem:

“At Greenwood, a Meditation”

In a humdrum household

occasional cats jackknife over fences,

slink across the path, wide

eyes on guard, whiskers atwitch.

For these dark creatures

my mind wanders

over the other neighbourhood

they sidle silently from

and what water or milk

they hope to lap from

in my head.

Now the hunched and

ricketty figures of houses

slip to one side, in trees

sharply cut blood coloured sap

flows up from each root,

salt scatters from the shaker

over tablecloths lit with stars,

dark, stiff outlines of hills

brood, mysterious, that will

in time become again

suburban, lupin dressed hills…

I never can call to them

nor fix how they come

but when I see a mouth

lick up the dabs of sunlight

celebrate / what has then begun,

the twitch of whiskers,

the startling tongue.

 

Dennis Haskell, November 2012, Nedlands W.A.