I’m not the only one who keeps a weather eye out for new works by ‘C.L’, who turns discarded mattresses around Marrickville into ephemeral works of literary art. Here’s my latest sighting. After a brief foray into politics, she (I think the poet is a woman) is back to more existential subject matter. The calligraphy is less precise than usual – perhaps 2020 has taken its toll.
[Added a bit later: I keep thinking I can’t be the only one uploading images of C.L’s work. A moment with DuckDuckGo led me to the Nothing Really Mattress site, which showcases street mattress art from around the world. One of C.L’s distinctive works, perhaps from a happier time – ‘People fell in love on me’ – appears at this link.]
I live very close to Enmore Park, a geometrically laid out green space that’s beautiful at this time of year. Here’s a little walk I took, along one of the diagonals, though a sandstone arch that’s a monument to colonial selfhood to the corner of the colonial-named Edinburgh Road and Victoria Road, and a reminder that colonisation is still alive and well and harsh.
I’ve occasionally blogged about poetic gems that turn up on discarded mattresses around Marrickville (here’s a link). I’m not the only one – here’s a link to a post by someone called Therese Trouserzoff.
I can report a new sighting on the Enmore edge of Marrickville, this one signed like two of my previous specimens: ‘C.L’. The poet has moved from lyric celebration of life and art to political satire:
The poem is referring to New South Wales Liberal Party Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s revelations at the Independent Commission Against Corruption that she had been in ‘a close personal relationship’ with a corrupt politician, and had remained close to him after she sacked him from her cabinet. Here’s a link in case you live somewhere completely different.
You might see it as adding to the chorus of prurient outrage, an innerspring vox-pop rubbing salt into the wounds of Gladys’s humiliation. This is the inner west, where Liberal Party supporters aren’t exactly thick on the ground, so you could read it as endorsing the ALP’s opportunistic calls for Gladys’s immediate resignation. But remember, this two-word poem is published on a discarded mattress, as far from a high horse as you can get. In my reading, it offers a finger-wagging sympathy: not, ‘Poor Gladys, you were deceived by a rotter,’ or, ‘Evil Gladys, you turned a blind eye on corruption,’ but, ‘Naughty Gladys, fancy a serious girl like you getting up to something like that!’
We’ll see how it plays out at ICAC over the next couple of days or more. It may be the end of the Berejiklian premiership. And that may be a just and appropriate outcome. But C.L has captured a moment in the saga, and drawn readers’ attention to something so easily lost in this age of political polarisation: our shared human fallibility.
Does anyone know more about C.L? Is there a gallery of their work somewhere? I’d love to know.
I recently spent a peaceful hour or so in Camperdown Cemetery with the Emerging Artist and the Granddaughter. We played among the buttress roots of the giant fig. We rode a scooter on the rough tracks among one of Sydney’s few surviving patch of pre-colonisation grasses. We sat on the ledge of a tombstone whose inscription had been eroded to illegibility, and ate sandwiches.
I can’t think of another place in my life that is so filled with stories. I don’t mean that it’s filled with memories, though that’s true too. I mean it’s a place that calls to mind stories that are out there in the world, written, performed, become part of culture.
There’s surely more to this place than I know, but here’s a list.
Thomas Mitchell, an early surveyor-general in the colony of New South Wales is buried there. I don’t suppose many people these days have read his Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia, but I have. My lasting impressions from that long-ago reading are of his descriptions of countryside in south-eastern Australia as resembling an English gentleman’s estate (descriptions that Bruce Pascoe draws on in Dark Emu), and of his accounts of brutal violence against Aboriginal people who, as we now know, were responsible for the beauty of that land.
Also buried there is Eliza Donithorne, believed to be a model for Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. I was 12 when I read Great Expectations, having been swept away by David Lean’s 1947 movie. My visits to the cemetery are haunted by a time-blurred image of Martita Hunt (I had to look up the actor’s name) in her wedding dress among the cobwebs waiting for the bridegroom who will never come.
The tree among whose roots we played is the tree from Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins’s brilliant picture book My Place. A series of children, each a decade further back in time, claims that tree as their own until in the last spreads, just before the arrival of the colonisers, the child says (from memory), ‘I belong to this place.’ I remember first reading the book with the not-yet-Emerging Artist on the floor in the children’s section of Gleebooks, both of us thrilled by the way the text communicated so much Australian social history and especially by the splendour of the tree in the final spread.
Then there’s Colleen Z Burke, who seems o have spent a lot of time in the cemetery with her children and grandchildren. It’s a frequent presence in her poems. Here’s a spread from Wildlife in Newtown (1994; my blog post here; right click on the image for a bigger version):
And Fiona Wright, a couple of generations younger than Colleen Burke, has also written beautifully about eating a sandwich while leaning against a tombstone. I wrote about that poem here. Come to think of it, though they are very different poets, both Fiona Wright and Colleen Burke seem to have given similar gifts to readers who live around Newtown, of filling the air with words. I heard recently that the thing that makes humans so successful as a species (so far) isn’t that we’re more intelligent than others, but that we communicate with each other. These poets help us to hear at least a little of what the environment is saying to us.
[Added later: The grave of Eliza Donnithorne and the magnificent fig tree feature strongly I Am Susannah (1987), a book for young people by Australian national treasure Libby Gleeson.]
I imagine that having literary allusions whirling around you isn’t anything special if you live in New York City or London, or in the Lake Country, or St Petersburg, etc. But it’s a pleasure worth noting for me in Marrickville-Enmore-Newtown.
I’ve been walking past this rubbish bin outside the Marrickville Metro for a couple of weeks. It just occurred to me that the attack on this tiny, neat graffiti is an example of literal erasure of First Nations peoples in history. For what it’s worth:
Young man, who tore down Lord Street on your bike
and called my love a deaf old ugly dyke
because her body occupied a space
you wanted to traverse at lycra pace
(though you’d admit it was a narrow path
designed for walkers), you whose noisy wrath
resounded once you’d left her in your wake
until the lights at King Street made you brake,
you know, I’ve nothing much to say to you
except perhaps, Yah sucks bum piss, dog poo
and pubic hair. Our guava tree meanwhile
drops fruit as if it’s going out of style.
The tree won’t read this rhyme, nor I suppose
will you. Your droppings are a lot more on the nose.*
* Though I love the smell of guavas, other people say that to them it’s like a cross between vomit and excrement.
To the driver who didn’t stop OK, you slowed enough to see that
she was staggering but not dead
before you drove off. You’ll agree that
women crossing when the red
is flashing shouldn’t be run over
but then today I guess you drove a
little careless. Neither light
nor traffic bade you not turn right,
and if she’d taken one step further
or been a child for goodness sake
of course you would have hit the brake.
It’s not as if you’ve done a murder.
The bruises where you hit will mend.
Sleep well at night. Go safe, my friend.
A little over a month ago, I noticed a suspicious looking object on the pedestrian island just out the front of our house. It looked like a discarded shoe, but not quite. On closer inspection it revealed itself to be a Will Coles sculpture.
In case you can’t quite read it, the text on the sole of this cement shoe is ‘forgotten’, making it an elegant addition to the scattering of cement objects in our suburbs reminding us of our fragility, and the fragility of our environment.
But ‘forgotten’ wasn’t meant to last. To tell the truth I’d forgotten all about it until a car collected the barriers on the island on the weekend. Only then did I notice that all that remained of the sculpture was a stark shoeprint:
The shoe was gone before the barrier was knocked down.The barrier will be replaced in a week or so. The sculpture is now a prized – and prised – possession of a private art collector.
We have NSW state elections coming up in a little over a month. I live in the newly created electoral seat of Newtown. If I were to decide my vote purely on the basis of advertising campaigns, there’s no competition.
This is from the Greens candidate, Jenny Leong:
And from the Labor candidate, Penny Sharpe:
Notice that the Greens candidate talks about policy in a range of areas, she talks about the nature of the electorate, and when she talks about herself it’s to tell us about her relevant experience. The Labor ad, on the other hand, is all about personality. Penny Sharpe supports same-sex marriage, and presumably can be counted on to be a staunch ALP member: the ALP as a friendship group rather than a machine. She is liked by her parliamentary colleagues and other friends who use empty words of praise, as friends do. As for the crack about her knowing bus timetables: um, would that have survived into a video about a male candidate?
The Liberal Party is fielding a candidate, Rachael Wheldall, but I couldn’t find a video.
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