The parachutists

In this still blue bright out of nowhere
they appear, five, six, nine, just hanging

I notice them peripherally, a flock much 
larger than the usual circle of seabirds

a tenth is still falling, a stone tied to a ribbon
then the shute flowers finally and she brakes.

I hear them distantly woo-hooing each other
legs a-dangle, bodies hung from a string. 

Maybe they’ll bring us news from that upper realm:
‘the air is cold and thin’, ‘clouds wispy like pillows’

or say how we appear in our gardens
unexalted, climbing ladders, walking toddlers 

or, having snatched themselves out of the great mouth
tell us the particular word death said when denied.

Image: Royal Australian Air Force parachuter, c. 1939, c/- State Library of NSW on Flickr.

And for music this morning, here’s an early album by Max Richter, The Blue Notebooks (youtube) – (maybe start with the familiar ‘On the Nature of Daylight) which he described as a meditation on (and against) violence. Featuring Tilda Swinton reading from Franz Kafka and poet Czesław Miłosz‘s Hymn of the Pearl and Unattainable Earth. Originally released in 2003, here we are nearly 20 years on…

Drake tanka

girl in the Honda 
smoking as she shift lanes
she's listening to Drake 
driving like she doesn't care 
she’s thinking YOLO

Image: Dodgem cars, Luna Park, November 1952 _ photographed by Ivan Ives, c/- State Library of NSW on Flickr. Drake, is a Canadian rapper musician, who is currently the most streamed artist of all-time on Spotify, with his songs having been played over 46 billion times, as of April 2022.) He also popularised the saying YOLO (abbr. you only live once). A tanka after Drake Equation by British-Nigerian poet Gboyega Odubanjo

You’ll have to find your own Drake (just ask anyone under 40). Meanwhile here’s US bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding with her 2008 album Esperanza, (Youtube) maybe start with Samba em Preludio (Youtube)

tanka on Cameron Smith’s victory at the British Open, 17 July 2022

every morning
my usual breakfast
cereal, fruit
and eighteen wild swans
lifting over the water

Image: Tho it’s still winter, the bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is blooming here in the suburbs. A piece in tribute to the mullet haircut of Cameron Smith, professional golfer who recently won the British Open. In case you missed it, here’s a patronising piece on Cameron from the Daily Mail – ‘you can take the boy out of Brisbane, but you can’t take Brisbane out of the boy…’

And for all those suffering in the heat, here’s some very cool retro R&B soul from New York band Nuyorican Soul with their self-titled 1997 album Nuyorican Soul (Youtubers).

at the club tanka — July 12

at the club
expanse of 80s carpet
we joke about 
my funeral — 'no poets
they’ll kill the vibe'

at the bistro
shared pud + icecream 
rosettes – how quickly
the glaciers retreat
to a moraine of crumbs 

the roast and two wines
for the woman dining 
alone by the window 
— one for him long gone
remains untouched

Image: Decorative wall, The City Diggers Club, Wollongong. Diggers refers to Australian soldiers. The club still has some commemorative functions along with the poker machines and bistro.

And for music this morning, here’s US composer and vocalist Caroline Shaw with percussion group Sō with their album Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part (Youtube). Maybe start with Lay All Your Love on Me (a halting interpretation of that ABBA song) (Youtube)

3 haircuts tanka — July 10

my retro haircut
watched by a half-draped
from another century 
— her weary smile

my usual haircut 
barber’s clippers buzz
at my neck
reminds me how you...
i stifle my pleasure

my standard haircut
for a few dollars
johnny pushes my hair
about as we chat  
— you don’t do that anymore 

Image: Two of the first female men’s barbers in Sydney, Miss Dolly House and her sister, c.1927 photographed by Sam Hood c/- State Library of NSW on Flickr. Yes, it’s time for my ‘short on the sides and leave a bit of length on top’ once more, so I was musing on haircuts, an oddly intimate necessity. After Jeanne Lupton, Eucalypt, 32, 2022.

And for music today, here’s some bluesy jazz from 1960 Chicago: the John Wright Trio with South Side Soul (Youtube) (maybe start with La Salle St After Dark (Youtube)

a daily tanka — July 8

Roger Federer

is back       his backhand

as if he’d never

is quicker       quiet genius

moves       like a dream      thru the crowd

Image: Country week tennis, White City, Rushcutters Bay, Sydney. 1937. Photographer Sam Hood, c/- State Library of NSW on Flickr. This made perfect sense when I wrote this at 2am.

And for music this morning, here’s First Nations musician and composer Dr G. Yunupingu (commonly known as Gurummul) with the posthumous 2018 album Djarimirri – (Youtube) — The album was completed just weeks before his passing in July 2017 and presents traditional songs and harmonised chants from his traditional Yolngu life with orchestral arrangements. Stirring.

This poem was written on the land of the Wodi Wodi people who are the Aboriginal custodians of the Illawarra — and I pay my respects to Elders past and present.

a daily tanka — July 6

how gently you
wipe that uh-oh of mayo
from my chin — 
now we can continue

Image: My collage of domestic fruits. A tanka after David Terelinck, ‘how gently…’, Eucalypt 22, 2017

And for music this morning I was a little stuck for ideas, and then found myself in our local supermarket – and there was Sunday Morning from The Velvet Underground playing over the speakers. So here they are – Lou, John Cale, Morrison, Tucker and Nico from 1967, produced and cover art by Andy Warhol (Youtube).

‘not a tanka’ tanka — June 28

always a fan of

the Brechtian gesture

again I'm pressed

against the wall between us

— seems insurmountable 

Image: from a 2008 performance of Bertolt Brecht‘s play The Caucasian Chalk Circle, c/- Otterbein University Theatre & Dance from USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

And for music this morning, German composer Max Richter has re-recomposed Vivaldi’s Four Seasons this time using gut strings, period instruments and even vintage synthesisers to create a ‘grittier, more punk rock sound‘ — with Elena Urioste and the Chineke! Orchestra ) (Youtube). You know where to start.

a daily tanka — June 15

the pub is just
as you remember it

tho it’s all changed

             the barman still serves port

             invalide chilled from the fridge

Image: The Hotel Wellington, Sydney 1930s by Sam Hood, c/- State Library of NSW. (Please, no unkind comments about ears). This photo would have been taken during what was known as ‘the six o’clock swill’ which saw public bars across Australia close at 6pm. This practice continued from post-WW1 through to 1954 in NSW and later in some other states and resulted in heavy drinking and some hotels with very long bars. Invalid port (or ‘port invalide‘) as far as I know was port wine marketed as having medicinal properties.

Today’s musical offering is some deep listening by Stockholm sound artist Ellen Arkbro For Organ and Brass (YouTube)(It’s only three tracks but Mountain of Air is a good place to start).

captcha tanka — June 12

before proceeding
past these fuzzy lines
select all zebras
                          careful tho — one zebra 
                          may hide behind another

Image: Paul Maritz (detail), CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

After Kenneth Koch’s poem One train may hide another.

captcha is an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. It can involve asking the user to identify distorted text, listen to audio files or identify tessellated images of zebras crossing or zebra crossings or other randomness.

And for music today, something beautiful from Pakistan-born, Brooklyn-based vocalist Arooj Aftab with her album Vulture Prince. (YouTubers)