Self destruct

by Michelle

I love the middle of the week, when I’m not wearing my stethoscope and can indulge my writer’s intensity with reading and insomnia. My sense of humour has returned; the renovations starting again with cement renderers mixing expensive glue and coloured sand. I thought they said a ‘5.30’ am start so though I’d been writing most of the night and listening to favourite grooves, I’m awake, ready.

They turn up at 7 am with their trowels and flat blades and already there is an issue about whether I want oxide or macrender. I become self-deprecating, kind of taking the piss out of the whole situation which throws them a little. I say I know sweet nothing about the process; that all I want is the smooth façade not the bagged, grainy finish.

Ok, so there’s a misunderstanding. We talk about the quote, and I get to thinking that this was the most expensive quote I’d had so how come it’s still so agonising? Here we go again, I just want to get my daughter ready for school and spend a few hours on the journal I edit when the three of us are talking colours: Peter, whose wife has recently given birth to a baby boy, suggests Self-destruct. I’m leaning towards the massage butter of Blind Date: and we all start laughing and that’s how the next two days pretty much goes when all that’s at stake is seven square metres of brick and blue board.

Sometimes it’s nice to have that masculine industry of labour in the home, releasing me from my self-indulgence. I’ve written two poems, an interview for Peril which took me back to the counter nouvelle poétiques of négritude and that late Parnassian, Mallarmé and oh, I have just heard some excellent news that Australian Poetry has turned Asian: fellow poet, Eileen Chong, has been shortlisted in the Prime Minister’s Awards.

Here’s a quick tribute to Chong’s collection, Burning Rice:

Eileen Chong’s facility for narrative skill, her use of the culinary and the everyday rhythms of domesticity draw lines of connection between Singapore, China, and Australia. Chong’s sense of community is voiced by her preference for the first person present tense plural as family and friends are drawn into relation with alluring simplicity and as memory is made resonant. Impressions of Singaporean Chinese propriety, ritual and respect are neatly folded into diplomatic exchanges with the poet’s Sydney life, “Lunch” with Andy Kissane or a “Winter Meeting” with Kim Cheng Boey, an apparent influence on Chong’s own narratives of kinship. Interwoven intricately in this social network is the woman herself, a foreigner, recording with subtle traces of anxiety, her female body on new soil.

The render stays wet for several hours but is becoming the perfect colour: creamy with some red and earthy brown like the brawn and sweat of bodies I let myself laugh with, without touching.

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