Extracts from Letters London to Perth—June/July 1993
... I just can't help loving you obsessively. And
when my feet stick out of bed at night and my window
glows an angry orange-red, the passion surges and
lifts me out of my body like fire... I try to talk to
you when I know I should leave you in peace, I want
to wrap myself around your warmth even when I'm
burning, I want to feel your cold body when you are
unwell and I am also cold. And your taste is
constantly on my tongue. It flavours everything I eat
and drink. It is the intoxicating taste of sobriety
and logic, of unbridled passion and lust. I can leave
you alone if you like, but you can never take these
things from me. And yes, damn it, at the risk of
irritating you, I wish I'd followed my heart and
flown back from Melbourne for that one night. You
see, just a glimpse of you smiling, in whatever
situation, would have filled me to the brink. No
clichés can cope with this. Instead I write poetry,
to which I shall shortly retreat. Only poetry has
taken me safely through the last few days. That wild,
sober boat has had a strong headwind against it to
prevent too much pace, and a firm unseen hand at the
tiller. That has been you. Fact! And that's not
relianceyou don't even have to know that you're
doing it for it to happen ...
It strikes me that scientists have fascinating
lives, if they want. I was very nearly an organic
chemist... Walking past the University of London
science block every day has got to me. I mean, just
take half-a-dozen rooms, windows uncurtained and open
to the street. 1. Clockschronometers and a
coffee machine and piles of detective novels. 2.
Bridgesframes, concrete and metal stress
models, and a Playboy. 3. PlantsCacti
and strange plants from the Scottish Highlands all in
the one room with brochures on travels from Greece.
4. More plantscereals. Dried arrangements and
heaps of rubbishy souvenirs of the Tower Bridge, Big
Ben, etc. 6. Soil Testingglassware (Corning,
Pyrex) and a glass stirring rod in a stale coffee +
Shakespeare + Dante + Horace (in Latin). Wow!
Well, peace be with you: Love as always,
p.s. sorry, the 5th curtain was closed. You can
fax me letters c/o The Imperial Hotel, Woburn Place,
Russell Square, London re The Royal Hotel, Room 1107.
Write in French. L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E via Paris: [Pardon
Madame] J'ai réservé (une) table; je
... I met you in three different ways on three
different dates. Which is the right oneall
three, as I hope? I know it's not just one. I've made
a slip at the back of my workbook in which I keep
your cards. And a couple of photos. Absolute, entire,
total. The wreckage of a few unfinished poems, the
smell of my body thick in the room as I search my
memory for every trace of you. It's like running flat
out for hours and then feeling total satisfaction
when you complete the task you have set yourself. I
resist quoting Catullus (I'm translating him at the
moment, in my own bizarre fashion). Ah, signifier!
"I" altered by plangent or ripe atmosphere?
The "I" must choose and mark with its
signature. Yes, ripe! Rich and ripe, and the
"I" is all in love with the liberty of
union. The petrified landscape stretching and coming
back to life. Old tissue that sand upon which it will
leave the delicate prints of new life. Let us follow.
No, the lightest breeze has left them free of our
curiosity. That I lean across the balustrade... the
ghost or echo of a name that will set itself deep in
my brain to form its own fantastic ecology. The
Colony of Libertatia...
Tonight the traffic is heavy but the wind is
picking up & cleansing the streets. It breathes
life into me. A brisk and brilliant electricity
sparks between my flesh and thought. I tingle with
the possibilities of our sex. To be vigorously
gentle. A sweet suspension of dis-belief. Your flow
& heat & scalloped effluvium all curlicue
& spread & tongued apart as your lips &
language spirals towards a pair of hands that Henry
Moore would have died for ...
... Give me God, but give me a passionate God that
saves with massive sweeps of its hands and destroys
without sly words, wipes everything away with a
guiltless flexing of the will.
... You see, language is the automatic pilot of
free will. Phugoid: "The phugoid theory deals
with the longitudinal stability, and the form and
equations of the flight of an aerodrone". It is
interesting to note that phugé per Greek is of
running away & not flying, of avoidance & not
liberation in an azure sky. Organically grown, these
cherries were strangely bitter until Mission realised
that he was just misinterpreting the taste,
misreading the text of the cherries. For he was
convinced that his flesh was permanently poisoned ...
Love, of course, and more...
Oh, I've found a letter. Voltaire to his
nieceMadame Deniswhich sparks me: (No
"My dear, I have just got back tired, ill,
annihilated. I have not slept for three nights, by my
own fault. Tomorrow, dead or alive, I will stay with
you. I love you, I will love you all my life. You are
the haven of my soul, which is at the mercy of the
tempests. In you is my repose and my only true
happiness. I am afire to see your comedy with a
desire more unbridled than yours to show it to me.
Goodbye, my muse, goodbye. V"
The "comedy" here we'll take as a
universal! But otherwise I'll borrow it for you. Hey,
maybe you can let me know when you've got a couple of
days free over the next few weeks. Please let me see
Well, the first version of this was typeda
pretty uninspired way to use a picture card ... Now,
to this picture. Apart from its obvious implications
re ourselves (with a little role reversal here &
there) this picture is relevant to me in that when I
left Geraldton and came/went to Perth to attend
university, I decorated my room with posters, books,
and a fantastic stereo & heaps & heaps of
papers. This was one of the first I set on my door
along with a picture of Hendrix sort of fucking his
guitar, a couple of small Italian still lifes, and a
few choice quotes I'd dug out of Finnegans Wake.
It was an affirmation I suppose. Strange though that
I lost interest in it and indeed Klimt (and the rest
of his bunch) from shortly after this period until I
met you. Or maybe until I "got straight".
Both, I suppose. Lots of "supposes". No, I
like it because I can feel it now. That's it! But it
makes my heart ache, but the only drowsy numbness I
have is one evolving from listening to the sound of
my own voice ... Actually, "feel it" is
rather a strange expressionthere is a familiar
distance, a sense of co-conspiracy, but also a sense
of "love as decoration" about it. Art for
art's sake ...
I've finished the "Tiger Moth" poem. It
balances out to 60 pages and goes through a variety
of tones and forms. It is, above all else, a love
poem. Now, this is the only poem I insist upon
reading to you in person. It is a hybrid, sitting
stylistically between the two main strands of my
work. In other words, for me it is unique. Other than
a few pieces that sit comfortably on their own and
will appear in journals, this work, in its entirety,
will not be offered for publication until/if we sit
down & read & talk about it.
No drug raving or placing cunning on
A pedestal, these drug professionals
Need toning down a bit. Here, compassion
Is the body dragging itself, nat-
urally: hep shots, blood they drain,
Delicate progress charts. Mid-morning. The sun
Starts a Tiger Moth double-winged & shadowed
By its own path, raw & slow though still
Overstretching confidence, below will be
The mauve-grey ricochet of state and moebius
Freeway side-stepping the river...
"Starry Night"... I see these stars
nightly, though they appear as will-o-the-wisps on my
windowsill and invest the room with anti-worlds.
Sometimes they fire the curtains & lunge forward,
sweating, gasping, waiting for the fire alarm,
waiting to make my exit ... I sometimes like to think
you have sent them but other times I say, "No,
she is closing herself off from me". And I grow
confused and stare dumbly at the stars until their
warm whisperings start to strum against my brain ...
I've just been reading Voltaire's love letters to his
niece and am disappointed with his constant words
about his sickness. But he had only a short while to
live & maybe it was a test of her endurance. When
he died she sold his papers to Catherine of Russia
I've been working "a posteriori" through
our/my love & am still confused. The effect on me
is obvious, & the cause (your brilliance, beauty
& sweetness) undeniable, but it is only part of
the equation. Sometimes love needs a kind of logic to
make it tenable in the world as-it-is. You know, on
the phone today you said: "We might never get
you back!" and I replied "You never
know." Well, I could not endure this distance
for too longeven as a friend it is too far ...
I've been filled to the brink with you and need a
refill! Do you avoid me? Please, let me love you in
some way, any way. Just, at least partially, define
it. Remember the Loire crossed by Joan of Arc in
1429. Together we are Joan [together]Orleans
will be saved from siege by us and the twists of
language and context.
I feel fantastic after speaking to you. No, for
me, time nor distance nor anything, for that matter,
will make you less than my raison d'ètre.
Look, I'm so buzzy I can't even get the spacer to
work properly! Now I can let my thoughts run wild.
I've been trying to suppress them in the last few
days but it's been impossible. When I leave London
I'm going to send you a crate of books sea-mail so in
a couple of months you will know how I've been trying
to distract myself. Plus writing, of course, and
reading our respective star charts, trying to
fabricate some kind of cosmic inevitability out of
Went to Sub-Voicive reading last night and heard
one really awful readingher vocab was limited
to the word "ghosts" and "Elijah"
which she informed the audience was a prophet from
the Old Testament, much to the astonishment of all
gathered. I mean, I'm sure any one of them could have
told her that he was really a guy who lived in Freo
and got busted every couple of months for
cultivation. The other reader, a Dutch
deconstructionist writer, was pretty interesting.
Simon is going to invite him (and myself) to dinner
later next week so we can have a yarn. Looking
forward to it.
Well, I don't mind saying, I think I'm pretty
fucking wonderful re my self-control over hanging
out. Not a sip or a drag or a slip: I've developed a
whole new set of survival mechanisms which I didn't
even know I had. 2 years and then worth considering?
Well, whether you meant it seriously or not, as a
thing-in-itself, it's a pretty (yes, I like that
word) interesting concept. No worries! Well, maybe a
few. But I'll do
Tonight much poetry is going to be written. I just
spoke to Mum, and she said a letter had just come
from Kevin Hart saying he'd just reviewed Full
Fathom Five for the Age and thought it a
super book. Wow, the person you love to distraction
dispels your fears, makes you feel "loved",
and somebody you respect as a critic says great
things about your poetry. Now, there's a lesson in
that somewhere for me I'm sure. But the most
important thing to me with poetry since I met you is
to share it with you. Any success I have, instead of
drawing me away from you, brings me closer to you.
And every success you have in your work makes me feel
closer to you. Hey, and another thing, your words
today spoke a thousand letters. They were
Correspondences in the true Symbolist sense. Some of
my little "methods" to con you into writing
to me seem incredibly fragile now. Like thinking that
if you knew you could write in French (which by all
means do if you want) it might "make it
worthwhile" for you, i.e. double as
"homework". Fool I am! Your letters are
written across my mind nightly ... And whenever I am
thinking of you and my body stirs, I know that you
have touched me with passionate words & gestures.
Guess what, I've got a new project in mind. Do you
know Cathie Travers? Well, I don't, personally, but
I've heard her perform her own work (and lots of
Bach) over the years and think it interesting. I'm
going to send her a copy of Syzygy to see if
she'd been interested in setting it to music. Or, if
not that, maybe I could write a libretto and she
could put music to it.... What do you think?
You know, it's taken me up until now to realise
that I've probably made a fundamental error in the
way I "read" you. I talk about you
protecting me from myself when it is more likely the
other way around, i.e. you trying to protect yourself
from me (or yourself). A case of retaining what you
have and feel comfortable with, rather than
"surrendering" it. Of course, I want
nothing more than you to be "exactly" as
you arethis is the person I'm in love with. I
seek to take nothing from you, & in all my
extremity, have really asked only the pleasure any
voyeur would afford him/herself, i.e. to watch you in
an environment of your own choosing. My
interpretations have been self-centred which is
not really surprising considering both the flush of
emotion that comes with realising you're in love and,
similarly, the extreme conditions of life in general.
I think a statement like "my raison d'ètre"
is probably indicative of thisI mean it, but
not in a possessive, consuming way. Distance makes
for an unfortunate framework for such words. Well, I
can assure you my love for you is unalterable, but I
think the time has come for a little more
"civilised" behaviour on my behalf towards
your emotional and spiritual needs...
Look, as for the airport on Sunday, I don't mind
if you don't come out& I don't expect to
see you any time during my stay if you've got other
things on. This does not mean I would not like
toof course I would. I do love you dearly. But
this is not a double-edged statementI really
mean what I say. And no, I won't continually ring you
or send you flowersyou will receive no such
intrusion from me unless you yourself instigate it.
Something really strange has happened to me in the
last weekpart of my arduously slow growing-up
process, I dare say. Things are becoming
clearerprobably something to do with the length
of time I've been straight as well. But it's more
than thatI've been writing myself towards this
and my dreams/nightmares have set easily
distinguishable/ definable patterns. And I've also
listened closely to your voice when I've rung you,
and it has not been hard to hear between the words.
Though please remember, anytime you have a need for
me I'll comewhatever the circumstances. History
has proved me true to my word when I make such
sweeping statements. You have given me new
lifeno, more than that; you have given me a
life less hindered by the "fear" of
"rejection" or disappointmentsurely
the greatest gift any person can give to another. As
for myself, well, I don't suppose I've given you a
lot, but I don't mind saying I think a few of the
poems I've written for you hit the spot, in some
sense at least.
Love, as always...
From Westminster Bridge: The
bob & badmouth compatriots:
the prima facie distress
of canoes peeled by speedboats
& the vapours, crosses mere apparitions
on top of their spires, St Paul's
calling bells & imperfections
in the rhythms: ah, the tides
of faith! the brick & pewter
almost polished, the edges
taken off & going easy
on the feet of scavengers,
who collect & should be thanked
as a grebe inspects the orbiting body
of an over-inflated balloon,
a sun destroying detritus,
the river's gravity
or a marginal star
sending out its last stream
of wavering light,
hoping for ascendance.