Laurie Duggan – A conscious citizen

Laurie Duggan

A conscious citizen

Thursday.  Get the car fixed.  Gloat
over new poetry titles I can’t afford.


Friday at the office.  A vista
of West End, a pile of papers
and a document the printer can’t handle.


Saturday, about to rain
but it won’t, and I water
the bougainvillea, our plant
on the balcony (we are
death to plants).
of American books, their smell,
on acid-free paper,
                                     a life
beyond this one where property
is public only below the tidal mark
(I bought Lorine Niedecker’s original
Collected Poems: My Life
By Water
in 1973
                                     the new edition
arriving through clouds, which
as ever, disperse.
sail upriver towards an invisible ceremony,

‘Tongues of mud’
on the European flood plains;
here, army huts on low ground dismantled
for a new suburb
(Adelaide on a grey day
so described by English friends).

Around 10.30 p.m. it starts to rain
mildly, a sound just audible
if you put your ear
to the downpipe.
                                     It gets heavier
the lights of Hamilton
do not dim
                         but the roof
starts to resound
                                     starts, then stops
as I try to read poems
but sleep instead.


Last week, a bad American poet
spoke about forms, her use
of the sonnet.
                              I told her
(mischievously) to read Ted Berrigan
and Bernadette Mayer, of whom
she had never heard.  These
would supply a new filter
for mother dying of cancer.
But I too write about death
or have.
black tea and ‘too many books’,
sunrise through venetians.
The dead?
Whalen, Koch, Brunton
only the most recent,
and now, Larry Rivers.
I open the revised Paterson
for clues
        (the older cover was better:
a painting by Earl Horter
of the Passaic falls,
                                      but don’t think
the river here is usable
as mythic connection.
                                          It wasn’t
for Williams either
the poem written in its spite
(what is the meaning of a route
between the University and the container docks?
not, certainly the ‘life of man’.
Williams wanted to continue
beyond the frame Book 5
jumped out of.
                              And that’s just it.
We all want the poem to escape
from our lives
on the bathroom wall;
news on the radio
                                     or at least
our lives to escape from the poem
(Help! I’m trapped . . .
                                                in a barrel
passing over the Prosaic falls
butcher birds, resonant
all morning
                        the bougainvillea
bursting out.


‘It is a spiritual sin
to mock at your inspiration’
or so HD told Williams,
his ‘hey-ding-ding’ touch
undermining poetry.
                                     So what
did she make of Mina Loy’s
alternating currents
imagism for a walk,
a drink
             and a flutter
on the pokies.

Monday night
                             I settle in
to read about ‘the crisis
in American verse’.


Tuesday.  Rain at last.
                                          From the bus
a want ad for house share
asks for a ‘conscious citizen’
– does it mean a ‘conscientious citizen’
or a ‘citizen of conscience’
a prisoner in your own home?
or in your own poem?
                                        Clouds low
over Mt Coot-tha, an ibis
floating through rain.
a letter from August, a column
from the London Review of Books
on Bruno’s Bar, the Zam Zam:
the new owners have
cleaned the mural up
introduced flowers and air,
anathema to the presiding spirit
who would reveal the martini’s
surface tension with a pen-light.
I could never have become
a regular
                        missing sunlight already,
only one day of its absence . . .


Concentrate!  Read poetry!
The Tulsa Kid.
                              Nearly everywhere now
is less than ‘24 hours from Tulsa’,
yet for Gene Pitney it was close enough
for infidelity to be unforgivable.

Williams said ‘Disgust
is my most moving emotion . . .
I am always, unhappily,
knee deep in blue mud’.

In the damp, Wednesday afternoon
pages of books become waves

those books that turn yellow
just after you leave the bookshop.

return to SHAMPOO 17