On being a question away

[A response to Brad Frederiksen]

I wrote, Brad, something of an answer to your question how cool would it be if you clicked on an image and it flipped to reveal the history behind it?, which I know wasn’t exactly directed at me, or anybody else really, something further about the photos that have hung on the walls of my grandmother’s house and continue to hang there, now, as I write this. One of the photos is a portrait of my grandmother’s grandparents on their wedding day. The man (I don’t know his name) is dressed in a stiff black tuxedo and is seated while his new wife (I don’t know her name) stands in a frilled, long-sleeve dress beside him. They wear serious expressions and gaze at something to the side of the camera’s lens. The man’s tuxedo is a harsh, funereal black dark as his moustache, dark as his hair. Their cheeks are rosy. I have memories of the flowers in the photograph – in his lapel, on the table to his side, incorporated, maybe, into her outfit – being coloured at the tips, but this may be incorrect. Though they are a part of my family and this photo has always been in my life and their history and my connection to their history is just a question away, I have no connection with them. The photo is hand-coloured and the colour has faded so that what is left makes them, or him at least, and I hate to say it, look like a ventriloquist’s dummy. The setting is indoor and staged, made neutral, and so they don’t look like they are even in Australia. Anyway, this isn’t what I was going to write but I’m OK with that because what I was going to write about I decided, for reasons of decency, maybe, or because this isn’t the forum, not to write about anyway.

On a family mythology

[A response to Brad Frederiksen]

What I wanted to say here, and did in fact begin to shape into words, I realised maybe shouldn’t be said – not yet (or, at least, not through this medium) – and so deleted it, thus diminishing the quality of this post. Because of my upbringing (certain specifics of which I was going to write about here but have decided not to) I have a habit of stalling whenever I approach the indecent, as if I have inside me some sort of indecency filter, which comes from what I’m not going to write about and ultimately has the effect of, in real life, getting me in knots, and is probably not an indecency filter or related to decency at all. [What I mean by decency is very specific rules related to, for example, what should be said in certain social situations or in what state of dress one should leave the house – is this even decency or are these just weird, ritualistic, socio-religious-influenced “laws” drummed into you, or, more correctly, me, as a kid?] {And the reason I’m not writing here what I was going to write – and did in fact want to write – is that something I wrote some time ago about what I’m not going to write about here today was mentioned to me by somebody related to what I wrote about then but not today, not in a mean way, and not to chastise me – it was, in retrospect, done really quite decently – but in a way that I interpreted as their way of letting me know that they’d read it, and so I probably wrongly think it would be indecent of me to again tell a story here from that particular grouping of stories.}

But then there is also a strong desire to say it all anyway – because the rules are illogical. Because I can say what I want. Because fuck off. So what happens is that not saying what I want to here itself begins to assume an ironic lean.

I think what I’m trying to say here, and what I will say here, is that I liked, in your post, Brad, that you continued on this theme that may be a subconscious continuation of my response to your post, or may have been a logical extension of that original post, which is, after re-reading it now, quite possible, the theme being the mythologies upheld and championed by families – which I already said, anyway, in the title of this post. And not as some sort of badge of honour, or not necessarily, not at its heart, because most families aren’t mob gangs or members of a dictatorial dynasty, but simply as part of a real or imagined history that is passed down from generation to generation because these are the stories we tell ourselves and each other – sometimes on blogs and sometimes, I suppose, for reasons of decency, not.

On the first day of spring

[A response to Brad Frederiksen]

I have deeply wrinkled palms. Have been told at various points in my life that this is a signifier of being “an old soul”. Don’t believe in souls and so had strong feelings this was bullshit. Then read a short story (can’t remember by who, which kind of diminishes this post – have a feeling it was in translation and by an East Asian author) in which it’s mentioned that a pregnant woman shouldn’t worry lest her stresses be passed on to the baby in her womb, making him squeeze his fists shut, giving him deeply wrinkled palms…

On Brad Frederiksen

Brad Frederiksen is a poet. Much of his work is experimental and opaque; he waits patiently for readers to make the connections in his writing, not unlike putting messages in bottles and casting them into the ocean. Some years ago, on my old site, I posed the question, “What do you do when your favourite writers are dead?” Brad Frederiksen answered. I didn’t realise it at the time of course, but Brad’s friend Paul, also a poet, had recently passed away. I felt guilty for asking. Before that, Brad Frederiksen and I were in an anthology together, Miscellaneous Voices. What year was that, Brad? 2008? 2009? It seems so long ago. His contribution was a poem titled ‘Eucalyptusphere’ and mine was titled ‘Untitled 7’, a piece about wanting madness to strike – I think, I don’t like reading old writing and, anyway, these things hardly matter. Since then, we have been friends, partly, I feel, because of our shared interest in literary matters, and partly because our lives have run in parallel, despite our ages (I am 27, Brad is older) and backgrounds and life stages. For instance, we once lived a suburb away from each other. And now, you see, something else. I hope he doesn’t mind me saying, but his father has cancer and is dying. And (I hope he doesn’t think I’m reducing the situation), nestled next to the heart in my father’s chest, is a cancer that, at the beginning of the year, wasn’t going to get him. That was at the beginning of the year. I hope it still won’t get him. Brad Frederiksen diligently blogs at Maekitso’s Cafe (is it still officially called that, Brad?). Even now I read “maekitso” not as a misspelling of “make it so” but as a Japanese word with secret meanings, and I think of it, the cafe, as a physical place with a black cat that quietly moves between chair legs.

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I write this on the train. Brad, I think, knows about my train writing. As I write, behind me, some kids play, maybe ironically, a hand-slapping game. You know the one – they slap hands to the rhythm of nonsense songs and a count of one, two, three, four, and end by falling about in giggles.