The epiphanies of our lives
July 09, 2012
Baby, I Don’t Care
The title is Robert Mitchum's famous line from the 1947 film noir, Out of the Past,
directed by Jacques Tourneur, and also starring Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas.
never thought I’d say it couldn't sound like Mitchum
tolling every syllable like his death knell
before he kisses Jane Greer on the beach at Acapulco
Are you sure? she asks adding extra bait to the hook
Baby I don’t care he says and as soon as he kisses her
all the traffic lights on his road to hell turn green
who can blame him? remember her entrance
strolling at sunset into La Mar Azul (hot chilli cold tequila)
the flies stop buzzing a guitar starts to throb
the kind of girl a guy would die for 'die from' more likely
three corpses from four bullets is handy shooting
takes two for Kirk Douglas a durable performer even then
you’d turn a few heads in La Mar Azul flesh aglow
from stolen Aztec sun but we're in a real-life drama
and you're the girl with the dead-end part the stiff
in a tragedy by Stupidity the Three Stooges hamming
as your doctors but you fluff your exit lines
mess-up your death scene three times over
so when I kiss you (it won't be in Acapulco) I’m stalled at a detour
on the road to hell facing red grateful I'm going nowhere
while Mitchum charges flat-chat to the inferno
you're asleep now no empty bed yet damns my breaking day
and for the rest when I hear them trilling
about property prices blathering about positive thinking
getting lubricious over big cars and bigger careers spending
their waking hours with the All Ordinaries then believe me
Baby (if you'll wear the diminutive) I don’t care
Look At My Eyes
Look at my eyes.
I'm dead behind these eyes.
Archie Rice, eponymous character in John Osborne's play, The Entertainer, (1957).
I know how Archie feels
after the fire's gone out
easy to grab at pain killers
a few swigs of self-deceit
no trouble doing drugs
helpful doctors will oblige
or try DIY
no one will notice
you'll still be moving and nodding
not a bother to anyone
after all you're only dead inside
somebody taught me
pain is more lively than torpor
but there's a price
you'll be a bloody nuisance
a pest in a popularity quest
now look at my eyes
see anything burning
or is there a blaze
the flames dancing in the ruins
Save two, my classmates in Poetry are young enough to be my children. My trade,
'economist', seems a subset of 'leper' to them.
I want you to list the epiphanies in your lives, says the lecturer. We'll build poems
around them. Then he smashes my sole advantage and tells them what an epiphany is.
I ponder, but cannot manage to think of one.
Does he really believe people have several?
My extra years are like binoculars peered through from the wrong end,
shrinking past significance to present inconsequence.
Meanwhile Youth is attacking notebooks, scribbling with furious intent.
I'm becoming desperate. I'm starting to sweat.
Maybe I don't view life the right way, certainly not the way my classmates do.
Then at last I recall a distant day. To be precise, a distant night.
Divorced. Three children. Closing 40. Senior lecturer in economics.
Mortgaged to infinity. New woman ten years younger. In the dead hours
between two indistinguishable days I dreamt of myself when old: grim
rented room, plain-label tomato soup simmering on a single gas ring,
a cockroach named Harold my dearest companion, The Financial Review
dangling from a loop of string ready for base duties in a communal toilet.
My dream didn't seem worthy of Doctor Freud's attention, but I figured
less explication and more application of the dismal science might make
my dismal prospects a little less dire.
It's hardly an inspiring epiphany. It's not going to satisfy youthful
optimists captivated by predictions, plans, revelations - all bearing fruit
in the future - rather like investments, if you think about it.
I won't divulge my modest insight here. Typical bloody economist, they'll say,
immolating in flames of righteousness. Concrete capitalist. Neo-liberal stooge.
He even dreams about economics!
So I tell the class I saw my circumstances as if for the first time after reading
Auden's injunction to aspiring poets: First secure an income, the master
is alleged to have said.
Who's Auden? mutters someone. Probably his accountant, sniggers another.
Giggles ripple around the classroom.
Shit! says the lecturer.
He's a man around 40, a published poet with a PhD, divorced, with a new
and younger partner, young kids, a mortgaged man - and he knows a lot.
Suddenly, as if for the first time, I realise I like him.
B N Oakman’s poetry has been published in literary journals, magazines and newspapers in Australia, the UK and the USA. His collection titled In Defence of Hawaiian Shirts, was published by Interactive Press in 2010. He lives in Central Victoria and has taught economics at universities in Australia and England.
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10 Jul 2012
"Soon we will have to smooth him out to see who it is"
And there's nothing like building poems around the epiphanies in your life!
10 Jul 2012
Delightful. I'm off to the Book Store to find more. Thank you.
12 Jul 2012
Melancholy is a delicate art form, too easily seduced by the lure of self pity, though -as in this case - it may be restored by the cold shower of self mockery...Very good job!
20 Jul 2012
Thank you for this. Shall send a copy to my (published) singer/songwriter son. He's only 22 but quite unlike your fellow Poetry students. Not only does he know who Auden is, he also writes about such personal experiences with humour, insight, and the true poet's acceptance of human frailty; another outsider constantly observing and admonishing with a loving mind.