Cumulus clouds are surprisingly sharp-edged
even seen close up from a plane as its wing
goes plunging into one. And it's sobering
how even a big city seen from the air
at night is an atoll in a black ocean.
Or maybe that's just atavistic worry
about arriving somewhere unfamiliar
after dark. Say it's Melbourne. You're curious
to see how the wretched in-flight video
will map onto ground-level reality
when you walk the vaunted malls and recognize
ingeniously designed public spaces
used by citizens to shoot up and die in.
It's hard to adjust to the length of the days
and the washing machine cycles, but your guide
from Ordinary Life Tours will understand.
When you've seen smog-defying monster elms,
or sumo wrestling in fat suits at the pub,
and the Southern Kite, you can lie down and fail
to get your head around how it all might be
a multiverse made from dancing bits of string.
If you're too polite it just confuses things
I thought as I stepped into the gallery.
I don't know what Drew Barrymore was thinking
as she waited to step out (I should admit
I hadn't recognized her, which is funny
because I usually scan strangers' faces,
a habit that makes me a target of choice
for con-men and all sorts of lonesome-eyed strays).
When John came in, after waiting politely,
he told me, and we turned to watch her walking
away in that grainy angelino light
filtered by seaspray and smog (that's John Culbert),
then we went in to look at the collection:
a father was teaching his son to discern
a genetically transmitted nose profile;
I lingered in front of the photo-portraits
taken in plangent, twilit petrol stations.
But dwelling on gaffes can be self-important,
I thought as I stepped out into the evening's
enormous slow performance, and there under
a burgundy hat was Dina Al-Kassim.