André Gide, once dead, turns Lazarus
a century past, re-pens Les Nourritures Terrestres
whilst drinking cognac on Darlinghurst Road.
He works through spring and into summer
without shifting tables, shadows swallowing
every stroke in heat and traffic
the Sanskrit flow of his hand.
His lips a half-pout wet with drink and think
ing and everywhere the air thinned
of memories, scents, the revenants
competing for noise on this corner, this
small slice of presence
their purgatory: you see
it’s not the filament touch of it — fine threads
connecting a bulbous sheen of cognac
to windshields, sunglasses, the passing siren’s
brightness, another afternoon announcing God
in a clash of brass percussion
and certainly not our bodies
which bloat and thin and eat themselves
even as we watch
not cymbals, but words, that he wants
the light to be permanent, which is
the only game in town. And yes
Mont St-Michel is a mirage on a tide
cracked earthen spires on blue tidal sheen
but then, so is Victoria Street, and Liverpool
all the city’s vibrant squalor. So he sits
at Le Petit Crème, writing light into time
in the ebb and flow of traffic
as the city’s arc of sun
allots the day in cracks of pavement,
the fading lines of his skin.
This was originally written for the MH60 production that was organised to celebrate Martin Harrison’s 60th Birthday, and was then republished in Best Australian Poems 2009.
Berndt Sellheim is the author of Beyond the Frame’s Edge (Fourth Estate, 2013) and Saint Vitus Dance (Fourth Estate, forthcoming). He has taught poetry and philosophy at various major Australian universities, including University of Technology Sydney, where he taught with Martin Harrison, and his poetry and critical work have been published internationally. He recently completed his first collection of poems.