Thinking with things

for Pam Brown

Our time starts now
Here under home skies I’m reflecting on your question
	‘why are there things rather than nothing’
Longing provokes a list
A poetry gift catalogue starred with perishables
Drifts of privet like improvised walks
Apple trees knotting to fractal profusion (is that the same
	as improvisation?) and silvered by lichen that appears
	only in winter when the sulphur-crested cockatoos 
	rifling for bitter fruits have gone
The pines are listing to the north defying weather
Spruce needles are a million candles sprouting from bones
(you’d write ‘old old old’ to describe this material
I can hear them again, those cockatoos
I bet you don’t want to miss them

Botany attracts me
I think it’s because of my compulsion to make lists: bulbs
	planted, birds seen, music played during milk-
	cloudy months after both babies arrived
Who ever is a ‘solitary walker’ these days?
I could list the particulars
The walks you detail are teeming with humanity
Some people visit the places loved by those they admire
to walk where they did
My friend Tom is walking after Sebald this week
I stepped outside the stomach of Westminster to find
the gravestone of Aphra Behn but I don’t know
if she ever walked there
We love things so much that listing each one allows it
	to arrive permanently

‘Peeling shutters’
Either somebody isn’t serious about keeping out light
	or your aesthetic radar is suspicious about objects
	in which we invest sentimentality
I find myself wanting anxiously to invest in something
Still fired up about belief and ‘sequinned things’
I used to walk near St Stephen’s cemetery past graffiti
	warning DO NOT FROLIC
Authority like that is fine by me
I just can’t stand shutting out light selectively
Bombarded by socially mediated data
The scale of resistance seems unfathomable and we
	undertake forgetting

Another currawong
My clock would be mountain-shaped with a bird at every
	hour and feathers for hands

Instead of permanent arrival you write ‘continuous rediscovery’
This is flawless optimism
A philosophy of things and how we encounter them
Adore some, chastise others, collect a few and forget why
they were important to us
Susan Stewart writes that collections overwhelm specifics
Or more accurately, a collection starts to redraw the limits
	of each hoarded item so it becomes charged
	with our stories about its potential
Burning futures, old old pasts
Collections share a kind of resistance: we survived, felt
	purpose, kindled our love and loss among
	featureless days
Then time never runs out
It returns in another morphology
Another group of eyes sweeping the same plain
A different set of lungs

Your words open and close this morning hour
Why ‘things’ rather than ‘nothing’?
Nobody knows
But it is better that way

Kate Fagan

Kate Fagan is a poet, songwriter and musician who lectures in Literary Studies at UWS. Her latest collection First Light (Giramondo 2012) was short-listed for both the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and the Age Book of the Year Award.

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