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Two men marooned in a cab

  • 01 December 2009

After rain Rain tonight — forgotten accompaniment oiled in its livery, never maxim but languid advice, portent of seasons or dank separation, iridescence of stone after sleeplessness.

Wallpaper At my parents' home, stripping wallpaper in my old bedroom (the fake leopard skin I thought so sophisticated) I sponge countless bloodstains where my grandmother, a later, surprisingly agile guest, lay in bed swatting mosquitoes, earplugged to her midnight Tartuffe.

Traffic Late morning, traffic foul. Two men marooned in a cab, late for a meeting, late for a volley of meetings.                    Not much conversation. Same haircut, suits — even boots, a rustic touch. Each using his own phone, gesturing at the driver's bored head. It's all about margins one snaps over the traffic.            Worried looks. Meeting targets. Living up to expectations, mission statements. The older man is lethal. I can make things hard for you,  much harder than you can for me. Something vaguely hysterical in his voice.             Like death?

The Good Iago Finally, if you please (no protests now, no sophistries), time to let it all slip away, time to absolve old menace as a robe is unpeeled from shoulders of a comeliness and marmoreal effect.

Noiseless and permissive surrender barely noticed in the boudoir with its flagrance of roses and shabby chinoiserie. Belated let it fall, diaphanous and beyond provocation. It has its own cramped life now, its own sorry principle — no longer part of you, the outcast in the moral wardrobe.

Catch yourself — yes, catch yourself (ever the great self-picturer) kneeling at her feet amid the rowdies and magnificoes, beguiled by wafts of normalcy, enslaved to nuance.

Peter Rose is a poet, memoirist and novelist as well as being the editor of the Australian Book Review and the former publisher of Oxford University Press, Melbourne.