Monday’s beginnings

Small dogs to the  dog salon to be washed and trimmed, paw nails  cut, grooming them up  for summer. They came  back reeking of violet cologne, very cheerful and fatter than I expected.. The Great Dane  didn’t recognise them for a minute and was thrilled to have new dogs in the house. Everyone is now on diet, no extra biscuits.


Stood on a  woven-reed chair in the drive to pick loquats and was nearly stung by a wasp. The greedy blackbirds and  small mossies or sparrows have  eaten most of teh ripe fruit already.


About to plant out punnets of  coriander seedlings, mustard leaf for salads, a new fleshy strong mint,  some  baby tomato plants.


Reading Lorine Niedecker, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens. Mind exploding in the  small hours.


The housemate had back pain and  went for a noisy MRI scan. Hoping the news is not bad.

Oneiric moments. I dream every night and wake to shivery premonitions.  Perhaps my new granola will help. A hefty nut-laden granola is very grounding.


Greening up

Viridian bristle as trees green up for  spring. Letting dogs out  in the small hours, into a garden misty with moonlight and raucous with tree frogs.

Eating home-cured green olives while watching  baby housemartins learn to fly from the low  stoep wall, gyrating their  wings and shrieking with joy and  terror.


The Great Dane has dandruff.


Reading poetry in the spring and crooning Whitman’s Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking to myself in the bath, along with a soapy rendition of  Ezra Pound’s Cantico del Sole. Soaping myself with a supposedly ‘organic’ Grapefruit and Brazilian Orange body wash. So that I  can rejuvenate the epidermis while  smelling like a chemical fruit peel.

The great Abstract Expressionist  Jackson Pollack wrote: “When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It’s only after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own.”


That is  what  painting or writing a poem is all about in this  brief lush greeny-blue spring. Cleaning brushes, mixing colours,  scrubbing my palette, priming the canvas. And then doing what I don’t  know I’m doing, splashing on colour and finding lines and  white spaces and  different colours, painting not thinking or knowing..


John Yau riffing on Pollock and  painting like writing like becoming.


830 Fireplace Road

(Variations on a sentence by Jackson Pollack)

“When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing”
When aware of what I am in my painting, I’m not aware
When I am my painting, I’m not aware of what I am
When what, what when, what of, when in, I’m not painting my I
When painting, I am in what I’m doing, not doing what I am
When doing what I am, I’m not in my painting
When I am of my painting, I’m not aware of when, of what
Of what I’m doing, I am not aware, I’m painting
Of what, when, my, I, painting, in painting
When of, of what, in when, in what painting
Not aware, not in, not of, not doing, I’m in my I
In my am, not am in my, not of when I am, of what
Painting “what” when I am, of when I am, doing, painting.
When painting, I’m not doing. I am in my doing. I am painting.



Sparks and shreds

Open the back door and a cloud of jasmine perfume swaddles you, overpowers you  and carries you off to a scented prison. There is so much jasmine in the back garden this year. Scrambling through  wild ginger, through plectranthus bushes, up brick walls and into  small trees. Shedding whiteness and  fragrance on balmy nights.


The reason why I write entries in the mornings is because I am not tired and my mind is fresh. But all day I have been working at close-reading  fiction and  drafting fiction and  thinking about fiction and suddenly I have journaling time but now I am  so tired I am just jotting down  scraps of thought.


Workers in the loft dragging cables, bricks, buckets of paint and rebuilding a chimney out through slate roof tiles. The noise something I  try  not to push away but to  stay with in a  meditative way. I fail. I  take a deep breath and  soon enough they  loft falls silent. Until tomorrow.


Seated at the kitchen table folding and spooning and wrapping dolmades. A Lebanese filling I have used for years with rice, chopped onions, pine nuts, mint, dill and lemon juice, wrapped in fresh blanched  vine leaves. My spring rituals  to do with slow food, slowing down, paying attention. Like slow-reading poems I love.


Walking through solitude, syntax, history and fiction. Stories making and unmaking themselves.  The small brown African nightingale, the Piet-my-vrou calling from a thicket of plumbago.  The learner driver going up and down the  quiet road in an old Vauxhall, flickers on and off, braking too hard, creeping along. We all have to start somewhere. The thing is to start and keep going. Sparks  flying up the chimney, black and gold scraps of littleness, the blaze eating dust. Life, itself.


“I’ve given up on my brain.
I’ve torn the cloth to shreds
and thrown it away.

If you’re not completely naked,
wrap your beautiful robe of words
around you,

and sleep.”
– Rumi



First day of spring

My birthday month, first day of spring. Had a  fantastic weekend with friends on the Overberg coast, watching  whales bobbling black-backed and barnacled in the green tides of the  bay, dolphins in the surf. Contoured hills green and blue with new wheat, eye-popping with canola’s canary yellow. A falcon on the winding lane ahead of us tugging at bloodied roadkill, new-born lambs already grubby with mud and leaping around in wild flowers. I  live in the most extraordinary place.


And friends, the kindness and hospitality, the small unspoken connections and tenderness. The laughter, the quick tears not held back, the  listening and appreciation of one another. We are here so briefly on this green and growing earth, we have so few chances to  help one another  or show love to one another. And  the withheld embrace or kind word is all I shall really regret when I come to die.

At times like this I sometimes think of Thomas Merton’s description of an epiphany in Conjections of a Guilty Bystander, when he  talks about standing on a street corner in Louisville and writes: ‘There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.


Overberg 2014-08-31