*An old post, prior to the death of Ellis.
The next time I noticed a man, was through his words. The most exquisite words. I think clever people can demonstrate wit quite easily. It’s much harder to demonstrate the wit of Quentin Crisp, the cultured erudition of Robert Dessaix, the virility of Hemingway and the country football knowledge of Crackers Keenan. Harold Bloom would have added him to the Canon, possibly getting rid of Shakespeare, (and Peter Carey) to make room. Nabokov would have wept. Murakami may have dusted something, as I am convinced Murakami is suffering from OCD. Bob Ellis would spill pasta down his shirt and, for once, been embarrassed by it. (Bob is poorly at the moment, so that’s a tasteless gag.) I have never read anything like it. Perfection.
At first, the academic was haughty and enigmatic. Then warm and loving. Later, tired and ill. His mental state was not helped by the film I was directing, ‘How to lose a guy in 10 days – Indie Stylz‘, (McConaughey as portrayed by Robert Forster, and a blowsy barmaid as Kate Hudson). I am embarrassed of very little, but my behaviour through this time is mortifying. I wasn’t sleeping, and the combination of overwhelming lust and sleep deprivation is not becoming. Or conducive to grammatical excellence. My studies suffered, and I referred (in an essay) to reading books as ‘unwrapping a lover’. I could barely function, though happily my only real parenting misstep happened during a visit to the primary school, on a weekend. Sitting on a netball court led to lying down on a netball court. Which led to local kids asking my daughters why their Mum was asleep on the ground. Fortunately for me (and only me) their Mum is a chronic alcoholic, so I wasn’t too remarkable. I needed a cold shower. And 1-43 Temazepams. Like most people over the age of three, I am able to regulate my behaviour in the face of a stern Mr Darcy type. Unless I am tired. By this stage I hadn’t slept for four months. I was careering like a Westie at a dog park, though I had become so irrational that I was both the Westie and the ball. Carmen Miranda, aiming to seduce and delight. Fruit falling everywhere. I was a scrambling mess.
So I killed him.*
It would never have worked. Class distinctions are tiresome, but posh blokes are different. I’d be too busy pulling off his shirt whilst he’d behave sensibly, because that’s what you do on trams. I’m not socially adept enough to have dinner parties. Unless the dinner is on plastic plates on a day called Christmas. So he’d either have to be in the slightly edgy arty normal camp, where the men smoke and the women wear knee high red boots that are sensible, or be a proper normal. I know proper normals and they’re dull as hell. I once went to the worst ever proper normal 40th birthday bash. They’d spent thousands hiring a chef and wait staff, but hired a DJ so inept he didn’t possess No Diggity or Bust a Move. And they all danced to Wonderwall. Come.Fucking.On.
The brief period of knowing someone so singularly brilliant was quite inspiring. Not only did I watch some terribly mawkish films in my confused state, I developed ambition. I learned things. And I started writing. This poem is the usual middle aged longing/self conscious attempt at humour, but I like its inception. At the time of writing, I was studying a poetry unit at university. My friends are all very upstanding citizens; professionals, wives, mothers, community volunteers, home owners and blanchers of vegetables. Except on weekends. When drinking, they have stolen cars, gotten into fights, jumped across bars for hidden cheesecakes and done dastardly things to men. They’re funny as hell. When they can’t, as they put it, get a ‘leave pass’ they sometimes sit at home, writing increasingly drunken messages on Facebook. I was wed to my computer and they asked what I was working on. At the time it was Mina Loy, and the lack of agency offered to women in courtly love. They were typing some great drunken feminist derogation, but one of them wasn’t quite getting it – “So…why are you studying Courtney Love?”
You pulled a golden thread inside me
and you slipped out
without blinking or squinting
You were John Meillon
the pie and sauce.
Marauding friends as dark skinned boxers
raping men with pool cues
aping women with manners
(you watched from the good seats)
The working class are always a turn on
(Just don’t take ‘em out to dinner)
I’ve seen Love with her leg on the amp
her glistening ego
would not have moved you
(rural Catholics lacking urgency)
sex would not assuage me
I would need a limb as memento
use your chest as a catflap
my body was beaten by longing
(and throwing myself at walls)
you were getting stronger
a world of dinner parties and Bob Ellis
hiding behind your Mother
the dazzle of your politics
no match for the Crystal Gayle narrative
you had in your head
English roses and smokers
Tap dancing to delight the audience
while the Producer was selling the stage
Impress! Impress! Impress!
The long and watchful child
could have been mine
I suffered the warmest possession
Night and day
See how fast I am! How furtive we are! The showmanship!
It’s Brecht and (Fanny) Brawne combined!
It’s the A-side! It’s the Singles!
Floor lights are showing up the dust
was avoidance of not being young
(young enough for what I wondered)
Could you not age
because you hadn’t learnt moderation?
‘I’d like an ‘F’ for fuckwit thanks, Baby John’
I didn’t think you ill
(just a bastard)
my words climbed back into my chest
and waited for your storm to pass
Small waists and large tits,
we can flick hair like 80’s Bon Jovi fans
(with Mata Hari complexes)
It’s a comfort with your bodies
that you cerebral types lack
(we might lack the intellect)
We’re all fucking and fighting
(you know none of this is real?)
The fox bends under the chicken wire
you’re angular and plucked
he sneers at you in apology
‘Sorry mate, you’re fucked’
And you can run
run into the arms of women
who can hold it in
who don’t want to cleave your chest apart
whose ribs don’t ache from longing
who know about wine
The critics were unanimous
‘Reverence ruined the show!’
the Waste Land was pillow talk
the big sky packed away
but previews had given you lightness
and even sweet Joe Orton
could not tarnish what I
poor and simple I
knew even before casting was finished,
You would always be the leading man.
*Nah, I never met him. I’m hoping I didn’t actually push him to suicide, and that he married a distinguished professor and had twin boys, following four unsuccessful IVF attempts.