Monday, April 23, 2012


Years later he still was haunted by his mothers death, he remembered the night she died. May 28, or was it the 29th? Her dead yellow mutilated body twitching slightly vomit spittle collecting the corners of her mouth. his aunt Helen crying. 'ive killed her I sat there said Katherine your fought long enough, give up, it is over.' and like that the sickness left her body. years of pain, cancer growing in her body left. the disease killed itself. some one stopped a clock. he could only stand there.

his sister cried. 'shut up there is no reason to get hysterical' he snapped

fuck you she was my mother too I can cry

someone called the ambulance his Uncle bill took him for a ride, while the ambulance crew took her away outside was a clear endless spring sky ablaze with stars

see over there - Uncle bill pointed just over the two storey house to the left of the huge willow tree just a twig barely higher than a four year old boy once now towering and threatening, taller than the house - Venus and Jupiter in conjunction

the two planets fused into one bright spot of light

and into the car, a huge American car with three wiper speeds bill opened his door and dragged his 20 lb shoe across the floor of the car. bills left leg was noticeably shorter than his right. the result of an industrial accident. bill's leg was crushed between two RR cars.

the two drove - quietly or with short forgotten snippets of conversation they just drove ran some errands something he could not remember.

back home more cars had arrived. he walked into the kitchen his father and godfather, and some other family friends sat at the table drinking whiskey.

passing through the liveing room where the women were he dashed up the stairs tow at a time. at the top of the stairs he entered her room, where she had died where his aunt was changing the bed, straightening the room. the bed was empty, she was gone, already at the funeral home.

the room was still full of medical supplies the oxygen tank - used for her last days, she panicked when the mask was lowered onto her face - covering her nose and mouth - NO she screamed do not suffocate me - NO let me die my way.' liquid nourishment. the pump which filled her thigh with food the medicines call liquid to be injected, mixed with the food as her stomach had been partialy removed the drapes etc. all the care administered by him and his sister.

she was gone, nothing to say to his aunt.

he made his way down stairs he sat at the kitchen table with his dad and godfather bob. bob with the limp who at age 24 went on a week long toot woke up in jail in Rochester arrested for murder. freed when the real criminal was caught he hasn't had a drink since. now he reads kierkergaard japsers Unamuno - remarried in sadness and hated by his children.

bob sat and talked while he had a drink with his father. remember the 63 strike and we sat around all summer and watched the mets that year - god they were awful marvellous marv who could loss the ball in the sun on a grounder it was so hot that summer.

and he did not listen he just sat and stared. the doorbell rang his sister answered the door. it was is gf carol, he had planned to have dinner with her that night. she stood blonde and high school sad by the kitchen table. I heard I am sorry - I cooked us lasagna - he could hear the tears in her voice. 'she was real nice - I really liked her me and marylou ate some of the lasagna but we saved some for you and some Boston cream pie. my mom sends her condolences and her love'

thanks sorry I am no fun tonight

it is ok I understand I will go call me up tomorrow

he kissed her - I will

bye im sorry

so am I

he sat down again to eat the dinner carol had cooked for them carol was his high school love. she got sick on prom night - and they lost their virginity together on a cool fall afternoon behind the school after a Saturday afternoon of football and schnapps - the first woman he confessed to love.

he picked and played with his food alternating bite of pie with bites of pasta - eat your food like a normal person his father commanded

let him eat like he wants, who is he hurting bob said

he looked at his dad drunk again like always tall and lean his hair combed straight back pulling his lean face taunt his skin seemed to tight for his body his cheeks were hollow and his eye runny he could tell his dad had been crying drinking himself deeper into abyss of pain that was his life, his self his dad was pale the whitest white person in town which set off his dark rugged Irish workingman looks. black Irish and proud of it fierce blue eyes under the shock of black brows

he looked at the tattoos on his arm, a paratrooper descending his chute unopened his hand locked in prayer.

soon the house filled with people and he retreated to his room right next to hers where he had lived listening to her cries her moans the sounds of a slow death echoing his room.

the next three days came the wake and flowers and masses and cousins from Michigan NY Ohio Pennsylvania all across the industrial NE.

uncle Jacky who warned against disturbing good scotch with water or even ice

Wanda and frank with their huge tragic polish twelve children family

and Helen and rose and Josephine and Sophia and Stanley and all of the great bringing together of the family.

he stood unsmiling uncrying in the receiving line across 2 days and heard all the apologies and all the I-knew-your-mom-whens.

till bill and tom and Kevin and jimmy came by. then he cried great tears fell his face contorted he and his friends slipped away to have a smoke.

im sorry I cried so, it was just so nice of you to come by you did not have to he said

yeah we are just good guys said tom his racing buddy bragging buddy comparing fuck notes buddy soon to leave maybe to never to be seen by him again.

thanks again he said drawing back on a Marlboro to hid the Mary Jane scent - yeah man I did mean to carry on so it is just - that you were the first people I knew who came by

how are you doing Billy asked you need anything -

they were next door neighbours his best friend since third grade and they had lots between them talking about everything baseball all they wanted to do, all the beer they would drink all the first they would fuck as the grew up together.

and now everything had changed.

So polymathemagical Rachel/Paige; a friend of mine (an acquaintance, person I know, a colleague, a comrade, just a random person I occasionally run into?) organised a Cringefest at the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart. This was meant to include readings from old teenage diaries.

So being as vain as the next poet, I thought I would go along. Plus I thought it was a very cool idea, and I am always open to new ways to do art. Sadly due to work and family commitments I could not get to the reading until late.

If the idea was to find cringe worthy diary entires, I feel this as good as any. It is something I wrote at a very young age. I did not really make diaries in the sense of a day to day discussion of what has happened and my feelings. I wrote at that time something that may be better called journals. And this was one of only a few things I wrote about the death of my mother. I was only 17 when she died, and this event hit me pretty hard. The reading of this long ago diary entry is doubly cringe worthy because of the 'heavy' subject matter, and of course the less than deft way I handled the material. But I was only 18 or so, and back then I was much more green than I was cabbage looking.

I typed it up as the original book is a bit fragile, and the weather in Tasmania is always a lottery. Tidied up the spelling mistakes, but not so much the grammar errors. I did not add or subtract anything from the initial rush of crappiness. So thanks for indulging me and my addition to the cringe fest.

The art works are from the diary. Things were different in 1978.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Living in the Regions.

What is a boy,
A noise
Covered with dirt.

Strange animal noises and cries
Come from out the darkness.

In the morning
The strong sun
Makes clear
The trails
Belly crawling

Holding hands
Chatting mindless
My son
Goes around the back
Of the house
To check the level
Of the water tank.

I strike the tank
And he listens
For the echos.

Seems low, I say.
I guess you do not
Have to have
A bath today.

This fills him with
Little boy dirt joy.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Eleou kai Fobou

Misotheoi: Agememnon by Aeschylus line 1069ff

I have compassion for her, I am not angry.
Come suffering one, off this desolate carriage retire
And to the new yoke submit yourself.

Ot ot ot otoy popoy da!
Opollon Opollon!

Why all this breaking into lament about Loxias?
For he is not pleased with lamentations.

Woe Woe Woe Woe Shame and Sorrow Earth!
Apollo Apollo!

Again these words of ill omen
To the god she calls.
The one not present in weeping

O Apollon, Apollon
Guardian of the ways.
You scour me. And utterly
You destroy me this second time.

She shall chant visions as fitting her distress.
For divine passion ever flows her enslaved soul.

O Apollon, Apollon
Guardian of the ways, you destroy me.
Ah! where have you brought me? Under what roof?

The house of Atreus, if you cannot perceive,
I tell you: and you can not say I lie.

A God-hating house
Many are aware evil beheading of kin.
A charnel house, a bowl for catching the blood
Of slaughtered children.

Fitting keen dog sensing female guest.
She seeks and so discovers murder.

Bearing witness to this I come to know:
Lament butchered new-born
Roasted flesh Father served eaten.

Rumours your prophetic learning
Reach us. A prophet we do not desire.

Oh! Sorrow! What does she intend?
Some young great pain,
Great evil she intends.
Intolerable beloved, implacable, boldness.
Far off help stands aloof.

Of these oracles, ignorant I am;
Others I come to know:
All of the city sings out.

Alas! Wretched, this she will fulfil,
Her bed-partner husband
Bath making bright - How I see the end
Speed - for this it will be:
She holds out her hand - her hand stretching out.

Not yet is brought together: no more than riddles
A film covers the eye,
Obscure decrees of God.
I am at a loss.

Woe! Sorrow! What is this appearance?
The net of the grave?
By the net of the bed-partner sharing guilt,
Stained they are with blood.
Standing and instantiate kin cry out!
Fit only for stoning.

How now cries Strife - this building up urged,
Set upright? Not for me a clean reckoning.
Upon my heart blood runs sallow
Still. In equal time fallen,
And arrived together in life
Plunging the glow sunset:
Swift and reckless
Sin becomes.

Ah! Ah! Look! See there!
Keep away the bull the mate:
In woven robes
Black-horned seizing cunning work
She strikes in the cauldron.
Slaying by treachery.
This act, you I show.

I can not boast to understand
The highest from god spoken sign.
Being evil compare this.
Pure airs of pure voiced
Pour Gods from heaven
How much I misunderstand?
Of and through the evil
Wordy arts singing prophetic
Fear they learn and carry.
Oh! Oh! Oh me! Suffering Ill-fated fortune:
I cry out, cry aloud my suffering.
Why this place wretched
Have you me carried?
Am I to with him die? For what end?

She is, her mind distracted
Possessed of a God.
With him you cry aloud.
A song - no song,
And a nimble insatiate cry, alas!
Humming tawny suffering spirits
Calling out Itun, Itun.
Moans abounding on all sides
Drear nightingale sorrow.

Sorrow! Sorrow!
My clear fate as the songstress
Thrown about her the feathered form
The Gods sweet span of life
A weeping without:
My end, a cleaving two-edged spear.

From whence this rushing
Gushing god bearing
Inspiration you have?
Vain human misery.
Whence the frightful
Unutterable cries
You chant?
High-pitched custom.
What is the boundary
Horizon of this marvellous
Road ill-omened.


If Aristotle was right and tragedy is imitative language to provoke Pity and Fear then there are few better examples of this than the prophecy scene of Kassandra in Agamemnon. If the Philosopher was wrong than all we have are whirling words, and the scene is stunning none the less.

For reasons that we need not discuss I had only a week to translate this scene. As my skills are the skills of tyro, in that week, which really turned out to be only two days, I was not able to translate the entire scene. So this excerpt starts with the Choros asking Kassandra to leave her chariot, and ends with her first vision of her own death.

There are some interesting points in this piece. There is the pun made from the name of the god Apollo and the folk etymology that the god's name is derived from the verb Apollumi, which means to kill, or to destroy utterly. Apollo is called by his epithet Loxias, which may mean obscure, from the word Loxos, literally crosswise, and extended metaphorically to mean ambiguous. Obviously from the God's role as a oracle, one that give ambiguous answers. There is also some puns around the name Klutaemnestra , which is used to mean she is renowned for her intentions, for her plans.

The house of Atreus was a cursed house, a house of slaughter and rust. The family was founded by Tantalus, who for some obscure reason decided to test the knowledge of the gods by killing and cooking up his son Pelops. All the gods rejected the offering,. Demeter, as she was distraught at the abduction of her daughter ate the shoulder of the poor child. The gods damned Tantalus to suffer in Tartarus, while the son was resurrected with his shoulder replaced with an ivory prosthesis. He later killed his father in law by sabotaging his chariot.

Pelops and Hippodamia had two sons: Atreus and Thyestes. Thyestes had an affair with Aerope, the wife of his brother. In revenge Atreus cooked up the sons of the adulterer and served them to Thyestes. Exiled in shame Thyestes consulted, and was told by an oracle to father a child with his daughter, and the resulting son would kill Atreus. Aegisthus, the son, did kill Pelops. Pelops had two sons himself, Agamemnon and Menalaus. Agamemnon later sacrificed his daughter Iphegenia to allow the Greek fleet to sail to Troy. This understandably annoyed his wife Klutaemnestra , who in revenge killed Agamemnon on his return from Troy. This being the subject of the Aeschylus play which is the source of this scene. Later Orestes kills his mother and is harried by the Furies. In the end there is a trial overseen by Athena, in which he is acquitted.

A horrible series of events, but in metaphorical terms we see the movement from darkness to the light, form blood feud to the rule of laws. The Erinyes (Furies) move from being the avengers to becoming the Eumenides, the kindly ones. So showing the movement to the rule of law. The trilogy would start in the early morning darkness, and end in the bright light of the afternoon , so making clear this movement from darkness of blood feud to the light of the law.

With all this drama and excitement how could I resist? This translation is not the best ever, but it conveys the main points, and as it was written for an afternoon of poetry and jazz at the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart I thought it best to keep it relatively short. Any failings or errors are completely my own. And I used the translation of Browning as a guide, as some passages are obscure though corruptions of the text, and my own weak skills in Ancient Greek.