Shadow stands up under the
trees in Victoria Park
whose own filigree shadows lie
across matted russet leaves
on the sodden green turf that
the morning’s tai chi moves
barely mar – I see this from
the Link bus window as we
cross the intersection at
the bottom of the hill where
Kathmandu’s winter sale fails
to persuade me there’s much to
gain from any promise of
warmth other than what I get
when, while rain rattles against
the bedroom window at dawn,
I press my ear to the smooth
skin between Donna’s shoulder-
blades and hear, in the hollow
chamber where she’s making dream
words, a voice that’s not the
same as hers say eerily,
‘Shadow stands up.’ It’s morning.

Please don’t squeeze me until I’m
yours reads the greengrocer’s sign
on his ripe avocados
whose enticing location
in a tilted tray on the
footpath outside his shop says,
we live in a country of
ripe words, which is why the im-
print of memory may be
all that mars the surfaces
where the outlines of trees can
seem to rise up at any
time and become the shadows
of runners circling the park
a green Link bus goes past with
me in it, thinking, ‘How can
I know what memory is
going to offer me unless
I can feel it’s ready to?’

Augmented reality
was what Donna talked about
on the way to lunch in the
food-court on Ponsonby Road
but I forgot all about
it when she next told me that
the mummified body of
an Egyptian princess had
been diagnosed with a heart
condition at forty years
of age despite a presumed
diet of vegetables,
fruit, and fish, pretty much what
we eat most of the time and
believe we’re doing enough
thereby to earn a decent
stretch. Memory, though, what a
shadowy mystery that
is, how it mars the surface
of the present it then stands
up in, augmented, a dead
presence that should have lasted.

My first home, which I shared with
my twin brother David, was
our mother’s womb. This is the
first sentence of the book that’s
got me thinking about what
exactly memory does
and what time it does that in,
for example, when was I
‘I’ when I wrote that sentence,
was I in the time of the
tardy twin hanging back in
the warm, shady womb, or was
I out here in the cold light
of day, too late now to say
wait as Dave’s shadow stands up
and moves into the neither
here nor there we live in while
everything remarkable
in the world packs the foreground’s
augmented reality
that never lasts long enough.

A green Link bus goes past with
Sorry in lights on its fore-
head, windscreen-wipers dashing
tears from its face, the shadows
of empty seats on fogged-up
glass, and I am, too – sorry
I’m sorry that life’s too short
and the memory of it
much shorter. Magnificent
obsession sale now on reads
the shop-front signage the next
unapologetic bus
passes not long afterwards
with my confused face looking
out through the wet, blurry glass,
messed up somehow, unable
to settle for sorrow or
jubilation – but then it’s
over, it’s gone, that moment
when I thought I’d remembered
something that reminded me
you just can’t hope to do that –
remember, I mean, too late,
when it’s too late to do that.

I get up early hoping
I’ll encounter the line drawn
under night time, the red streak
that bisects the shadow of
dawn standing up, horizon
of dark buildings in the east
whose windows begin to flash,
the gassy aquamarine
sky pouring itself into
the gaps between high-rise glass,
laser-streaks of gulls lit by
the afterburn of early
sunrise over there where hope
appears inevitable
and unwise, but worth getting
up early enough for, to
remember why you do this.

Khartoum is what I see first
when I step outside into
the street at the front of our
place, with a tree I’m starting
to remember, its shadow
was thickly matt in summer
but now sparse and transparent –
I look past its filigree
at a yellow battlement
scarified with texts and signs
that seem familiar, though the
swallows piercing a sunset
reddened with dust, the hoarse yells
of women beating carpets
flung across the sills of dark
windows, and the open gate
through which laden camels pass
(a cat perches on top of
bales of merchandise) – these I
don’t remember, yet they stand
up clearly in the morning
light where the green Link bus goes
swiftly past Cartune Auto
Service Centre ph 37
60268, its six
dark windows inscribed with texts,
its open warehouse door through
which a ute laden with tyres
enters the dark citadel
past the cat rolling in sun-
light on the footpath outside.

Going in search of lost time
I discover a river
that resembles the White Nile
because it flows as much past
Gordon in Khartoum, the mad
Mahdi, the painted Nuba,
Michel Leiris and Leni
Riefenstahl, leggy models
streaked with spit-moistened ochre –
flows as much past these fragments
of memories I don’t have
as it does past the stains of
vomit and bluish wine, fish
traps in the rushes where en-
tire Levianthans fester.
These are not my memories
but I have them, what Rimbaud
wrote, filigrees and fragments,
Mémoire, his shadow standing
LOT: TWO TUSKS. ‘I am helpless
and unhappy, I can find
nothing, the first dog in the
street will tell you that. Send me
therefore the prices of the
services from Aphinar
to Suez … Tell me what time
I need to be carried on
board.’ Rimbaud’s final letter
composed in delirium
dictated to his sister
Isabelle, 9 November
1891, he died
the following day, and I
read his premonition on
my way down inscrutable
Rivers … slow deliriums
… archipelagos of stars!

The first day of spring arrives
with the sound of the Link bus
(it’s green) whooshing past the end
of our street, past the early
risers at Cartune Auto
who begin to sing in the
rain as their roller door clangs
open – soon, I pass them as
I cross the parking lot at
the back of the post office
where I tap in secret
code on the keypad, unlock
our box, and lo! A gift for
the first day of spring, two books
sent from the beautiful house
above Swan Bay in Queenscliff,
where Baz and Rosie live in
rooms full of songs. What about
that time we finished lunch at
Collabassa, when Rosie
went back to the kitchen and
brought the women out, and sang
for them, Deep in my heart and
deep in my soul, and then they
sang back with glasses raised, a
song about the utter use-
lessness of men, how they crowed
at dawn but were crestfallen
by the time their lunch was served.

Kingfisher on a branch
above the Cox’s Bay creek
and a menacing heron
stalking the shallows below –
their shadow stands up over
the small fry in the murky
historical tide that flows
back up the channel to where
storm-water drains disgorge junk,
stains of domesticity,
oily rejectamenta
of home-making, the dreamy
rainbows of effluent hope
swirling in the same spring-time
sunshine that casts the shadows
of twiggy trees on the grass
beside the water, as if
we were all dazzled under
the surface of something we
can’t seem to see past but think
we remember what’s up there,
those shadows, waiting for us?