Not This Again

When it rains in this heavy way parts of the cuttings along the sides of the roads become saturated, and becoming saturated they crumble and collapse.  Cars slow as they move past the piles of dirt and rock with their tufts off sodden grass on top. And then the drains overfill and create pools on the streets that leave tide marks of leaves and twigs when that water recedes down the drains and through the pipes and out to the sea at Island Bay.  It’s a familiar pattern.  Watching the sparrow shelter under the eaves as the rain sheets down; watching how the rain passes in rolling waves like a net curtain hung from the sky between me and the houses on the hill on the other side of the valley.

The car park at the shopping centre at Lyall Bay is wet.  Hundreds of cars.  Dozens of empty spaces.  My shoes have holes in them.  Chipmunks is full: a party – when the sliding doors open I can see a line of parents standing in a ragged semicircle back from the party table as the little kids clumsily stuff chips and soft drinks in their happy, oval mouths.  There are screams.  Happy ones.  A cacophony rides out the sliding doors on a waft of fuggy, sickly air.  The pet shop is quieter.  The man with a beard who serves me keeps turning away from me when he speaks.  Sounds of birds chirruping from cages. People in puffer jackets and woolly hats wander the aisles, some stopping to look into the sides of the luminous fish tanks in the wall.  I spend $65 on a little tube of poison to put on the back of the cat’s neck.

I am thinking about the death of David Berman.

At night the sound of the rain is what I notice.  Watching the rain during the day can be drab and dispiriting, but listening to the rain is calming.  It is a white noise that takes away all the other noises; a vast and complicated sound that becomes one simple sound.  As the rain slackens, and the down pipes finish their gurgling gasps, the other noises return: the drips from the tips of the leaves; the tyres of cars across the wet tar seal.  I’d rather it went on than stopped and started, but it stops and starts: the rain.

Won’t soul music change
now that our souls have turned strange?

I’m used to thinking how strange the souls of people in the distant past may have been but it’s the other way round: we are the strange ones.  The medieval peasant lived in such a different way, with such a different set of explanations for all things that it seems hard to imagine we really would share a brotherhood or sisterhood of mankind.  Wouldn’t we be alien to each other?  From each other?  Wouldn’t things I believe be partly incomprehensible and partly reprehensible to them?  The recent rise of addictive, ubiquitous information technologies is fashioning something new out of human clay.  Something that seems limited; made out of baubles and buttons and swipes.

Those fish in the tanks at the pet shop.  That rain that finds itself in the sea.  The trucks come and the workers scoop up the earth from the streets with their shovels, street sweeping machines will come and suck up the debris from the gutters.  A star detaches from the night and turns into a plane descending to the airport’s landing strip.  The moon is nowhere to be seen.  And sadness wins out again.

Send in the clouds
Bring down the rain
Shut all the blinds, turn out the lights

I am the trick my mother played on the world


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I wrote a book called Kaitiaki o te Pō

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