The Persistent Finds, Their Dislocating Beauty and Political Suicide of Virginia Woolf’s Solid Objects; An Abstract Variation on Kim’s Game.
In loving memory of Mervyn Wattison, 1929 – 2018
Transience and transposition. Barrack Obama becomes Donald Trump.
My father’s right hand carefully slips another sweet biscuit, like an esoteric token, into his ubiquitous flanno’s crumbed breast pocket. His dementia, compounded by a stroke, and his left hand cogently render all objects to him, including its fingers and thumb, ‘slippery’, and so, made specific by. All things left are slipping. Hillary Clinton’s ‘basket of deplorables’ is impalpable. (The internet meme, and its merchandise, of Cellini’s Perseus with the head of Medusa – Trump as Perseus, Clinton as Medusa – pervasive during the 2016 US election campaign embodies its slanging tone.) My modest and honest father is dematerialising.
By unctuous grip of Virginia Woolf’s manifold dripping green, deepened to a rising incorporeal blue, a heightening and kaleidoscopic early-morning’s unoccupied domestic room where ‘the china of the plate flowed and the steel of the knife were liquid’ (The Waves, 20), some would find humour, others would see profundity, vorticism, contradiction and reform. She solidifies flux to an ambiguous foundation, a shapeless artefact, as conveyance and vernacular, as deftly as Otto Steinert’s surrealist gelatin silver print photograph of 1950, taken from above, Pedestrian’s Foot; its subject’s travelling body blurs to transparency, its polished shoe’s absurd definition (as visceral as the empty pair, like cast skin, held by a subtly proffering mother as she begins to clear the inert, though still vivified space of Woolf’s 1922 experimental novel Jacob’s Room) animates a neat pavement, its curbed tree counterpoint’s lacy and radiating bourgeois grille, like the iris of the viewer’s eye, with a passing footless smudge, adjacent to a tessellated surface. For Woolf, all is impalpable, fluid. Polished curbing solidity, though visually captivating, is to be questioned and has no absolute. Her appetite for the unsound object is without parameter.
Our appetite for gloss, bling, glister, polish – the shiny object – represents a kind of primal thirst. Our deep brain still looks for water. Along with arbiters’ manufactured outrage, a viral, sensorial sense of entitlement, and planned obsolescence, consumer psychology exploits this instinct. A glossy magazine, a faceted high-rise, sequins, a racehorse, an iPhone, a shiny sports car, a polished floor, a diamond, a cubic zirconia, may make us believe that we’ll never be thirsty again. A chimp will lick a Rolex Oyster, a Neolithic flint, Swarovski’s dewy window, a patent stiletto, an expansive wafer-thin HDR flat-screen, shrink-wrap. These, with aquatic microbeaded, fibrous technofossils, will glitter our Anthropocene sediment. Wealth, to a monkey, is reflective and drinkable.
There is tribalism, spurious momentum and Eurocentric historicism in the two indistinct arguing figures emerging, on approach, out of the reflective delusory nil of watery light, softly, bluntly knocking, then crackling static, inhaling shingle (I think of Woolf’s reference to, in a 1925 diary entry, a reviewer in The Times who ‘mumbles and murmurs like a man sucking pebbles’ [A Writer’s Diary, 104]) and sidereal, unstable sand in her short story, ‘Solid Objects’ (A Haunted House, 80), written (significantly, a century ago) in 1918, and first published in The Athenaeum in October 1920. Like both Salvador Dali’s objectified oblivion, construct and collapse in Persistence of Memory (1931) and (after sleeping under the pier on the 1960s diametric Brighton Beach) Pete Townshend’s – ‘the mod’ Jimmy’s – curative love and unbounded mysticism in Quadrophenia (1973), its setting is littoral and mimetic of the susurrant nexus of Matthew Arnold’s poem, ‘Dover Beach’ (The Treasury Of English Poetry, 573), written in 1851. Unlike Woolf’s, Arnold’s beach is seen and heard, at full tide, at night, from a honeymooner’s beachside window. It is ‘moon-blanched’ and speaks, as Sophocles heard it ‘on the Aegean’, slowly and evenly, ‘Listen! You hear the grating roar / Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling, / At their return, up the high strand, / Begin, and cease, and then again begin, / With tremulous cadence slow, and bring / The eternal note of sadness in.’ His plea of ‘Ah, love, let us be true /To one another!’ comes after his uncomfortable, industrial-age humanism has lost its gilt ear, and night vision, for ‘faith’ – ‘once too, at the full, and round earth’s shore / Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.’ He, straining to hear a fundamental faith, hears shingle, settles, asks (his bride), for fidelity.
Woolf begins, ‘The only thing that moved upon the vast semicircle of the beach was one small black spot.’ (Though, I extrinsically place my father, as flux, as an unseen boy, without context, here.) Its ‘four legs’ become two young men, with ‘little round heads’, dressed in the utilitarian garb of conservatism’s caricature and ascendency; the pretentious uniform of Vivienne Westwood’s Anglomania label’s provocateur, ‘the mouths, noses, chins, little moustaches, tweed caps, rough boots, shooting coats, and check stockings … , the smoke of their pipes went up into the air, nothing was so solid, so living, so hard, red, hirsute and virile as these two bodies’ (80).
These two, now vivid, figures fling themselves down beside ‘the six ribs and spine of the black pilchard boat.’ Similarly, in her avant-garde ‘short story’, for want of the forecast term of ‘microtext’, of only two capricious, consciousness-streamed, almost riffing pages consisting of two colour-washed paragraphs, ‘Blue & Green’ (Monday Or Tuesday, 56), written as she began to flex the craft of modernism to test impressionist prose, reasoning, in her 1920 diary, that she needed to ‘grope and experiment’ (43) to find something lyrically new, ‘Blue are the ribs of the wrecked rowing boat’ (57). These are the imprinted colours of her mother’s three rings, which absorbed her as a child, ‘a diamond ring, an emerald ring, and an opal ring’ (Moments Of Being, 81). The lights of the opal ‘fixed’ her eyes as it ‘moved across the page of the lesson book when she taught us’.
(Her mother’s early death would shock and shape her; her anthropomorphic Victorian childhood – her mother’s last affectionate and indicative words to her were, ‘Hold yourself straight, my little Goat’  – at the height of Darwinism with its natural sciences fervour, would be both defined and unhaired by solid objects and patriarchal interior constraint, tempered by regular blistering London walks with her vigorous, increasingly deaf father and a precursory carte blanche of his lofty, dizzying library and her intractable, imaginative outdoor sibling horseplay in Kensington Gardens and their St Ives’ holiday garden and beach with serialized storytelling – Jim Joe and Harry Hoe, a London story and Beccage and Hollywinks , a St Ives creation – and infrequent hyperreal defining bouts of stunning reflection or ‘moments of being’ amid mostly monotonous ‘non-being’.)
Woolf’s parallel, ubiquitous colours, mixed as a shock of viridian, enamel Archibald Knox’s dark Tudric pewter to the same extraordinary intensifying effect.
What is green are the precariously fixed faceted glass pendants of a Victorian lustre on a marble mantelpiece, predicting by ten years, the supple sunlit objects in The Waves’ inchoate and anarchic room, seen through, though not by, a child’s eyes, where colours, with solar progression ‘had overflown their banks’ (181) and ultimately ‘the waves’ will break, or crush, like an object. The amorphous children form with their spoken elemental words in the garden.
‘Blue & Green’ was included in the only thin volume of short stories published during her lifetime, Monday or Tuesday, Hogarth Press, 1921. In a subsequent republishing in 1944, with a forward by its editor, Leonard Woolf (civil servant, author, publisher, pacifist, political theorist), it is omitted due to his judgment that it is ‘only just in the stage beyond that of her first sketch’ (A Haunted House, 8). He felt that she would have revised and rewritten it, perhaps ‘a great many times’. It is to our advantage that she didn’t and that it does appear in reprints. Its groping sketchiness achieves the free-association passing of day to night, interweaves parakeet feathers, green pools; ‘rushes edge them’, a stark lucidity in a marine hybrid – not a seal, not a whale, with ‘blunt nostrils’, ‘hide’, losing ‘dry blue scales’ – and a puissant breathtaking depth as ‘A wave rolls beneath the blue bells’ (57).
All day long the ten fingers of the lustre drop green upon the marble. (56)
In Solid Objects, while Charles, after their flailing political argument has dissolved and their analogous bodies have loosened, begins ‘skimming flat pieces of slate over the water’ (perhaps these have drifted there from the derelict wave of bombsite demolitions; flattened roofs reduced to black shingle), John is absent-mindedly ‘burrowing his fingers down, down, into the sand’; pooling depth distracts him, with a crumbed ambitious working syntax (of a grains-of-global-sand-and-infinite-dust-of-far-flung-stars ratio) and skin to water indigence sucking at his fingertips, while surface suffices and serves Charles. Through these small focusing actions, values and politics divide them. Their names’ descent classifies.
John’s thoughts childishly drift to what to make with the space his hand has made in the welling sand when his fingers meet ‘a full drop of solid matter’, work at it and lift it free. He wipes away its coating of sand and sees an ‘irregular’, green-tinted lump of opaque glass tumbled and smoothed by the sea, so anonymously smooth, edgeless and featureless, it is impossible to guess a domestic, or industrial, origin, or consider its years of abrasion. Artisan / mass producer’s negation lifted from its source. He imagines it variously made into jewellery, ‘or a dull green light upon a finger’. Perhaps it had slipped from a Princess’s finger or come (if an – her mother’s? – emerald) from an Elizabethan oak trunk (a glimmer of sleeping Orlando) lost and eventually unlocked by the waves. He can, by holding it close to his eye, blot out the body of his friend with it. ‘It pleased him; it puzzled him; it was so hard, so concentrated, so definite an object compared with the vague sea and the hazy shore’ (82).
(The pathological Pip Trout in Katherine Mansfield’s At The Bay – one of ten short stories completed between July 1921 and January 1922 and published in The London Mercury, January 1922, vol IV, no 27, and in The Garden Party and Other Stories, Constable, 1922 – extracts just such a miracle, ‘ “It’s a nemeral,” said Pip solemnly.’ [The Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield, 173], ‘big as a star and far more beautiful’  from the saturated – by Pip’s obliging younger brother, Rags – ‘cocoa’ coloured New Zealand’s sand’s ‘Crescent Bay’ or Day’s Bay, Wellington [Katherine Mansfield, A Biography, 47]. This groundless, callous, grandiose boy a natural antecedent for Trump’s nepotic, harried, revolving-door team; the leaking one with all the I’s. On Saturday nights Melissa McCarthy and Alec Baldwin incoherently clarify.)
Impulse, after sandwiches and silence, and Charles’s eventual prosaic intake of breath and half-consciously dismissive, ‘To return to what I was saying – ,’ slips the find into John’s pocket.
Woolf likens it to the obviously familiar act of the emotional, selective child who will choose (prized as though a gently plucked natural pearl, a creamy satiny drop from a nobleman’s ear) one pebble from a path for the ‘nursery mantelpiece’, ‘believing that the heart of the stone leaps with joy when it sees itself chosen from a million like it’ (82).
The recurrent stripping of objectified behavioural reserve, which Woolf employs throughout her work to reveal the underlying shrill ego, is here spoken by the little stone, ‘I, I, I!’ In her polemic, A Room Of One’s Own, the existential monolith of ‘I’, after reading a few chapters of a man’s writing, appears, blocks and obscures ‘the landscape behind it’ – ‘a shadow seemed to lie across the page’. ‘But – here I turned a page or two, looking for something or other – the worst of it is that in the shadow of the letter “I” all is shapeless as mist’ (130). The isolated ‘I’, unseen, self-absorbed and contemplative, fills the room as it scans the illusion-shifting cinematic ceiling in her essay, ‘On Being Ill’ (Selected Essays, 101), it shows itself in relation to a kind of Orlando-esque meditative succession of identities until ‘I’ suppresses them. I doubt its title’s resemblance to her ‘I, I, I’ motif is accidental.
Louis’s aspirational male self in The Waves is reinforced by the repetition of signing his name. ‘I have signed my name,’ said Louis, ‘already twenty times. I, and again I, and again I’ (127).
A poet speaks to a doctor, at a somewhat forced, ‘Present Day’ (1937) disparate family gathering to mark the matriarchal emancipation gained by liquidating the ‘Victorian’ Pargiter (its philological meaning accepted as plasterer from pargit, to plaster over, or whitewash) family home (where, in ‘1880’, she lived among ‘the Morris wall-papers and the cabinets’), in The Years,
My people, he was saying … hunted. Her attention wandered. She had heard it all before. I, I, I – he went on. It was like a vulture’s beak pecking, or a vacuum-cleaner sucking, or a telephone bell ringing. I, I, I. … For what do I care about his, ‘I.I.I’? Or his poetry? Let me shake him off then, she said to herself, feeling like a person whose blood had been sucked, having all the nerve-centres pale. He thought her stupid, she supposed.
‘I’m tired,’ she apologized. ‘I’ve been up all night,’ she explained. ‘I’m a doctor –’
The fire went out in his face when she said ‘I’. That’s done it – now he’ll go, she thought. He can’t be ‘you’ – he must be ‘I’. She smiled. For up he got and off he went. (342–3)
Into this same dystopian room are brought the caretaker’s children as a curiosity. ‘Eleanor glanced at their hands, at their clothes, at the shape of their ears’ (407). They are given cake and told to eat, they do, speak, they do not, and ‘sing for a sixpence’. Their song, like a ‘gift of tongues’, written in navigable phonetic verses by Woolf (reminiscent of her second nervous breakdown at twenty-two, when she heard birds singing in Greek after the death of her father [Flush, viii]), mystifies its rapt listeners.
They sang the second verse more fiercely than the first. The rhythm seemed to rock and the unintelligible words ran themselves together almost to a shriek. The grown up people did not know whether to laugh or cry. Their voices were so harsh; the accent was so hideous. (408)
The finely schooled and carefully wed are at a loss in Woolf’s ‘Present Day’.
By turning these words, hymnic and anthemic in their ferocity, into baffling, almost anthropological objects held in the mouths of children, brought into the room, Woolf brings a condemning neophobic irrelevance into this outgrown ‘home’.
Her, often questioned, political awareness and integrity regarding ‘servants’ is clear, stemming from a childhood experience of witnessing her own servants’ quarters and a confrontation involving her mother, again from ‘A Sketch Of The Past’ in her autobiographical Moments Of Being, ‘The basement was a dark insanitary place for seven maids to live in. “It’s like hell,” one of them burst out to my mother as we sat at lessons in the dining room. My mother at once assumed the frozen dignity of the Victorian matron; and said (perhaps): “Leave this room”; and she (unfortunate girl) vanished behind the red plush curtain which, hooped round a semi-circular wire, and anchored by a great gold knob, hid the door that led from the dining room to the pantry’ (116). It is again apparent in The Years regarding ‘faithful’ Crosby – ‘They always spoke to her in the third person, because she never answered but only grinned’ (145) – ‘in best bonnet and mantle’, following her mistress ‘about the house like a dog all morning’ (205), who in ‘1913’ (in which the family home is ‘put up for rent’), ‘with her wheezy old dog are being put out to grass, after forty years, to a rented room in Richmond’ (xv). She continues to launder for one of the sons, and on telling him about the death of her beloved dog, he lies to get away from her, ‘She stood for a moment, like a frightened little animal, peering round her before she ventured to brave the dangers of the street’ (212).
Elizabeth Barrett’s maid, Wilson, in Flush, is only afforded a forename, Lily, once they have left the patriarchal home of England and settled into life with Robert Browning in Italy, ‘where women could walk alone’ and at first, Wilson, ‘maintained her British balance’. ‘So Mrs Browning every day, as she tossed off her Chianti and broke another orange from the branch, praised Italy and lamented poor, dull, damp, sunless, joyless, expensive, conventional England’ (76).
While Leonard’s political interests were becoming more official, Virginia’s remained, although preferring to be independent of committees (unlike Leonard), pragmatic and directly worked into her writing. She remained sceptical of patriarchal, capitalistic and imperial institutions, as her diary entry of Saturday 27 July (1918) reflects, ‘By rights of importance I should remark that today L. was asked to stand for Parliament. I haven’t yet turned my mind that way. A natural disposition to think Parliament ridiculous routs serious thought. But perhaps it isn’t so ridiculous as speeches make one suppose’ (Selected Diaries, 48).
Although he did run as a Labour (Left) Candidate in the 1922 General Election, and despite the fact that he failed, the Conservatives won and Labour was in Opposition. ‘I do not think I made a very good impression, partly because I did not always succeed in concealing the fact that I was not really very eager to be an MP’ (Leonard Woolf: A Life, 241). His intense edge, though promising, societal aversion and mounting, multiplying commitments hadn’t swayed his Combined English Universities constituency. He would, as political theorist, help lay the foundations for what would eventually become the United Nations. (Characteristically, rated by Trump in April of 2017 as an ‘underperformer’.) Perhaps naïvely inaccurately, after their first meeting in 1903 in Virginia’s brother Thoby’s Trinity rooms (Cambridge) she asked about Leonard’s ‘trembling’, Thoby, who thought Leonard’s unwillingness to accept ‘life’ was ‘sublime’ explained, ‘it was part of his nature – he was so violent, so savage; he so despised the whole human race’ (62).
In Woolf’s short essay, ‘Old Mrs Grey’, and the better-known flânerie-style, ‘Street Haunting: A London Adventure’, the realism of being worked to death, ‘Her body (Mrs Grey’s) was wrapped round the pain as a damp sheet is folded over a wire’ (The Death Of The Moth, 21) and seeing between Holborn and Soho, ‘the humped body of an old woman flung abandoned on the step of a public building with a cloak over her like the hasty covering thrown over a dead horse’ (28), perhaps stems from this 1918 diary entry, ‘We spent yesterday doing jobs in London. I saw a dead horse on the pavement – a literal case of what politicians call dying in harness, and rather pathetic to me – to die in Oxford Street one hot afternoon, and to have been only a van horse; and by the time I had passed back again he was removed’ (49).
At first, John’s pocketed baroque find served as a paperweight on his mantelpiece and ‘naturally’ became a ‘stopping place for the young man’s eyes when they wandered from his book’.
Looked at again and again half consciously by a mind thinking of something else, any object mixes itself so profoundly with the stuff of thought that it loses its actual form and recomposes itself a little differently in an ideal shape which haunts the brain when we least expect it. (82)
(Just as an abstract roadside plastic bag, empty and billowing, can look like a sharp lump of granite.)
He becomes drawn to the windows of ‘curiosity shops’; things remind him of his lump of glass. ‘Anything, so long as it was an object of some kind, more or less round, perhaps with a dying flame deep sunk in its mass, anything – china, glass, amber, rock, marble – even the smooth oval egg of a prehistoric bird would do’ (83).
He begins to scan the ground as he walks, especially for discarded ‘shapeless’ things, ‘in the neighbourhood of waste land where the household refuse is thrown away’. He soon has a small collection of ‘specimens’ inhabiting his mantelpiece by precept. As a young political hopeful ‘on the brink of a brilliant career’ these became useful as organisers for his ‘addresses of constituents, declarations of policy, appeals for subscriptions, invitations to dinner, and so on’.
Leaving ‘his rooms in the Temple’ one day, to catch a train to meet with his constituency, his trajectory is compromised and unravelled by grotesquery, ‘a remarkable object lying half-hidden in one of those little borders of grass which edge the bases of vast legal buildings’. It was just out of the reach of his stick through railings – ‘a piece of china of the most remarkable shape, as nearly resembling a starfish as anything – shaped, or broken accidentally, into five irregular but unmistakable points. The colouring was mainly blue, but green stripes or spots of some kind overlaid the blue, and lines of crimson gave it a richness and lustre of the most attractive kind’ (83).
The colours of majolica? Poole with ziggurats? A Chinese bowl? Derby’s Imari? De Morgan? He returns to his rooms to ‘improvise a wire ring attached to the end of a stick’ and as he brings the vivid extraordinary within his reach, a clock strikes; the meeting is missed, ‘held without him’. Time becomes fragmentary.
(In Jürgen Klauke’s tabular series of silver gelatin photographs, Formalizing Boredom, 1979-80, a suited man – for our purposes, John within ‘his rooms in The Temple’ – attempts to pass his whole body through the formal confines, or frame, of an upturned wooden chair. The high-backed slatted chair, its seat missing, as domestic relic, held above his head produces a bullish, bending, interpretive staggered dance. The struggle to breach its edges and fit through produces horns, from hands and chair legs, and an empirical oblique execution of aesthetic birth; it is his shoulders’ societal uniform, convention and universal scale that prevent his passage.)
The random accident of its ‘star shape’, like a floating, palpable virtual asterisk pulled from an annotated paper, with its undoubted organic rarity overtakes him.
Set at the opposite end of the mantelpiece from the lump of glass that had been dug from the sand, it looked like a creature from another world – freakish and fantastic as a harlequin. It seemed to be pirouetting through space, winking light like a fitful star. The contrast between the china so vivid and alert, and the glass so mute and contemplative, fascinated him, and wondering and amazed he asked himself how the two came to exist in the same world, let alone to stand upon the same narrow strip of marble in the same room. (84)
Instead of arbitrarily finding, while ably pursuing his career, he begins to purposely go to places
which are most prolific of broken china, such as pieces of waste land between railway lines, sites of demolished houses, and commons in the neighbourhood of London. But china is seldom thrown from a great height; it is one of the rarest of human actions. You have to find in conjunction a very high house, and a woman of such reckless impulse and passionate prejudice that she flings her jar or pot straight from the window without thought of who is below. (84)
Perhaps Woolf’s, Friday 7 June, 1918, diary entry reveals the origin of these women ‘of such reckless impulse and passionate prejudice’; their ‘very high house’ and indifference for ‘who is below’.
L. was told the other day that the raids are carried out by women. Women’s bodies were found in the wrecked aeroplanes. They are smaller and lighter, and thus leave more room for bombs. Perhaps it is sentimental, but the thought seems to me to add a particular touch of horror. (44)
(As means of consequential equivalence and historically enmeshed flowing balance, I think of the ensuing reconstructive efforts of the Trümmerfrauen [rubble women] who, from 1945, cleared the levelled cities of Germany and Austria, by hand, brick by brick.)
John’s mantelpiece is soon crowded with his ‘finest specimens’; he becomes less impeded by ‘papers’. His priorities, on Election Day, lead him to a ‘common’ where he ‘under a furze bush had found a very remarkable piece of iron’ – and elation.
It was almost identical with the glass in shape, massy and globular, but so cold and heavy, so black and metallic, that it was evidently alien to the earth and had its origin in one of the dead stars or was the cinder of a moon. It weighed his pocket down; it weighed the mantelpiece down; it radiated cold. And yet the meteorite stood upon the same ledge with the lump of glass and the star-shaped china. (85)
As Charles, who visits to console him, lifts ‘the stones on the mantelpiece a dozen times’, replacing them ‘emphatically’ while lamenting the Government, ‘without once noticing their existence’, he does not recognise the transient incandescence at their edge; their innate transposing slipperiness; the anarchy of John’s bowed chair; or the contemporary patriarchal spy-training specifics of Kim’s Game.
He cannot foresee the historical transience, just pre-Brexit vote, in June of 2016, the chilling and reverberant shock wave of global grief for ‘pro-stay’ refugee advocate, British Labour MP Jo Cox’s daylight, street-attack murder, or the terrorist attack on the institution of Westminster in March of 2017, its inconceivable pedestrian-targeted progression (Woolf is there, walking, 1922, conceiving Mrs Dalloway – why is Clarissa Dalloway walking through Westminster? She is out to buy flowers, herself. Woolf will dissolve Big Ben’s leaden circles.) or that they, the abstract, ideally transposing solid objects, are the accumulated fluidity and impalpable proof of what my father touches and lifts, the slippery glut and crumble of his currency; like broken glass, clouded and disarmed, not yet made mystery or miraculous or imbued, churned and drifting in the sea, just as the earth will gradually glaze landfill iridescent; what he invariably, incandescently knows and brushes the detritus, sand, and sugar from. He dematerialises; his hearing aids slip through his fingers like pebbles, hail, pippies, cherry seeds, and are lost.
He could tell you how he heard the end of World War II on his crystal set in Broken Hill (‘on the Aegean’) before it was universally known; he was an opaque and refracting antipodean sixteen-year-old, a virtual, and geographically parallel, son of a politician, edged by a crumbling, indefinite coast, unwillingly putting his interrupted faith in susurrant air, beneath Patrick White’s thrown fleece of cloud cover; celestial iron, as red sand, creeping into his pockets, into his spinifex hair, a viridian, not khaki, shimmering nil, where future-Trump, in over-sized ties, exists as objectifying, rapid-fire arrogance and malice Tweeting reflection only; an atomic Woolfian shiver, an anarchic oblique. A contrived spousal declaration in off-the-rack (posterior) elitist glyphs flutters like a flag, a dossier, in this haze, antediluvian gun stupefaction flares neutrality, Woolf’s tired little singers are racially foiled in pillory cages, Stormy’s trade polarizes this narcissists’ nil, this zero-tolerance, this zero, this blankness, this empty, and drifts reflective and cancelling. A fisty velociraptic Magic Marker signature towers, ‘I, I, I’, claiming, craning skyward, past constellations, and beyond, like a loaded telescope. Its one enormous eye reaches, magnifies, contracts agenda, reloads, unloads, loaded postures, curbed obliterating handshakes, Kim’s, Rodman’s, Kardashian’s, Putin’s; this Woolfian objective (as an iceberg off Greenland), this Trumpian nil.
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Meredith Wattison, poet and essayist, her 6 books of poetry are Psyche’s Circus (Poetry Australia, 1989), Judith’s Do (Penguin Australia, 1996), Fishwife, The Nihilist Line (Five Islands Press, 2001, 2003), Basket of Sunlight and terra bravura, shortlisted for the 2016 Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize, (Puncher & Wattmann, 2007, 2015). Awarded the 2017 Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize.