Ern Malley III: Fitzgerald (A visitation)

By | 1 December 2010

Prologue: Jay Gatz works a double on the ‘Belle’

The wedding guests had boarded late,
so entrees were not served til eight.
In silence, Jay Gatz cursed the bride
then turned back to the pan, the plate.

Standing in a glaze of foam,
it was surrender made him roam.
In full voice Jay Gatz blessed the bride
and named this place, this lot, his home.
 
1. Jordan Baker plays Wallacia

The coach ride reminded her that she was older;
as she stepped down into the Wallacia Hotel foyer
she felt a supreme distance thrown back at her
from the trees. The hotel was ridiculous
in its Tudor hosiery, but the course seemed green
enough, and she checked in.

The afternoon was filled with movement
and sound; her own bags perfectly still
in her room, the glazed tiles of the mock angles
burned with white fire. The park invited her
to join a nameless crowd for a swim.
She joined in.

On her return, the bar was all abuzz with men
who scorched the air with marsupial flair
and a new coarseness. A throng had gathered
round two fighting dogs, and someone told her
the hotelier was there, betting on the bleeding-out
like everybody else. She threw in

her wager with the boys, and stood under a fading
melaleuca sipping at a champagne flute alive
with dust. The bet seemed electric in its spread,
as each hard face fixed on the fight, as autumn
light ran over fields, and evening came with yelps
and bestial screams. She gave in

to the quick fulfillment of a dream, when
everything about her suddenly turned green,
as if she stood upon the water’s edge, straddling
the light that captured more than half the men.
She stood in a ring of man, green as the river
which ran away beyond the hill. She swam in

a waterhole as round as mythical desire, deep
as unplumbed depths, and her toes tingled
in the colder vein. Her rest would have to wait.
The night, starved of known constellations,
drew her into early morning admissions
concerning the circles she moved in,

and she gave the phalanx of men their fill
of explanations tinged with consolation.
They would have to go home without her,
to bungalows on floodplain sand and rocks
from dry ravines that boiled in moving crusts.
Alone they’d have to fill it in –

the second half of a single sentence: marriage
of a world that made its myths to one
whose moment as a whole had passed. The hotel
was a fitting cake, she thought, as stumbling through
the heavy doors, she found the fireplace of brick,
and turned as one who drinks a lot towards
the ostentatious stairs. In

her room she found the rest that had avoided her
in other lands, and after rolling darknesses
unveiled herself to images of men who’d paid
for her to visit at their course to play at golf
with rotund friends who’d bottled wine
they’d made themselves in

cellars cut of ancient stone – vintages they’d named
after their wives. In this brilliant vivid dream
she stood upon a fairway thick with dew
and cried to see the eucalypts thinned in portraiture,
as if she’d sat for an expat painter-friend,
and all he’d seen fit to paint were trees in

clear distress. She wiped the tears and took her stance
in slacks as rigid as the shaft and looked along
the golden fairway towards a haze she couldn’t pass.
The green halo she’d felt before had run away
and gone aground. She stretched her arms towards the light
in gracious imitation.
 
2. Tom Buchanan runs for Mayor

Council Chambers are the only rounded buildings in the district and
it’s never sat well with Buchanan. Half-baked red brick modernist blot.
He would have rebuilt ‘Regentville’, and what’s more, when he gets in,
he’ll bulldoze the damn lot. So the middle of his city won’t resemble
anything, and if that soft style should spread into new blocks,
he’ll wave a hard mayoral hand and reject all new building plans.

“Straight angles suit this place,” he’ll shrug to his supporters,
“and it’s not that we don’t understand, its been that way since year
dot, that you cannot change. Perhaps because the mountains loom
like waves above our streets, our children simply grow up loving lines.
Curves are not conducive to good policy, and ‘progressive’ will not
yield strong service delivery.” STARTING WITH SERVICE,

that’s his current hail. His campaign manager’s been servicing
the mail. Local Government elections should never be real
competitions. The plan was hatched on the candidate’s back patio
but this is the first time he’s heard of it. “What phoney pamphlets?”
The city will go to the polls, and above the line the hands will quake.
As they count, Buchanan will water-ski with mountains in his wake.
 
3. Daisy hits the sales

Bins arranged in clustered cells
picked at by credit card trash.

Corpuscles of retail light,
congregations of minute dreams.

She knows better than the crowd
who come for hind and off-cut.

Marked-down is exactly that –
a compromise, a come-down
off the rack.
 
4. Carraway in Castlereagh

Invited out to fish the shallows,
he stands and warms himself by fire
and plays self-consciously with line
that shakes away from hand and eye.

The river slowly starts to crackle
peeling back the gauze to show
with rise of morning sun, the mist,
the bank, the stone’s warm shadow.

The spot is confrontational –
fast water threatens grip and balance,
but Carraway is pleased to see the holes
below the fallen logs. Insouciance

carries him across the river’s sand,
and a child’s love of the river moves
his hand. His rod is brand new,
sparkling and light. He casts to prove

that any fly cast anywhere is just the same –
it is the surface and the rings around the point,
where line falls below the face of what’s perceived,
that holds the glimmer of a black-green joint,

a doorway linking the valley’s quiet verdancy
to a black and colder world beneath the skin,
where a fishes’ will is a spectral double running on
ahead of slowly swimming earthen kin.
 
5. George Wilson Automotive

Myrtle will be at the club again.
No reason not to stay for a few,
see in the weekend with the crew
and watch the sun sink into fen.

I hear the laughter from my chair,
something about a miracle product –
“it doesn’t work, its utter bollocks!” –
A ring of men with words to spare

for everything, but only at this time,
when the valley’s green air stirs and zings,
and the hazel-light makes a fool something
else, something dressed in iodine.

And in this mood I close the ledger,
move toward the garage door,
imagining the valley’s Friday splendour,
opened up, speaking a river.

But it’s amber light that burns the page of sky,
so the figure in my head begins to fail –
ash rains down in exploded scales
and losing life in air, comes to lie

on the baking asphalt and on grass,
catching in the wipers of gleaming cars –
mountain flakes that might as well be stars
trembling in a universe already cast

and set. Friday will become Sunday night
and Myrtle will soften in the blue morning.
Mounds of ash will leave just as they came
and a blackened world will spring, as we might
expect, into new and renewing forms.
 
6. Gatsby

He has already possessed her,
and they are both now waiting to fade.

He won her in the end, by swimming
across the face of the river – she fell

into his wringing arms, whimpering
about surrender in the green world.

She told him that he’d won, but the race
had changed him – the water was in his ear

and the coursing had made of him a reed.
Now his hair blooms blue-green, his eyes

are black stones. He waits in a groove
and he walks through the ground.

He has quenched, and is the quencher
of the flame in outstretched arms.

A shapeless flood narrows at the bend
becoming a new river. United man

and woman look together downstream
and fix a coupled gaze on the bright bank.

A shard of emerald glass catches the sun –
the light is out, and a new light is lit.

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