Monday, December 3, 2007

A rare day here, a day after a drenching rain so the air has that cleansed shine, the light here is always a wonder, its mix of desert clarity and then skies with cloud scapes of layered reds, purples, and even at times rainless rich grays and then those high summer days, when you are sheltering from cold winds and frozen hail, and the skies here are a mono shattering blue that is merciless in its reflection of heat. A high cloud appears as a brave or lost traveler trying desperately to find its kin. I join so many elderly emigrees who while overwhelmed by all they have left behind, by all the uncertainties of aging bodies and not quite as sharp minds take great delight in focusing on the huge daily changes of live on earth, the sky, the weather, the nature of the wind. Perhaps we have been defeated by the vagaries of smaller life--too high rents, shrinking income and gums, friends too much ocean away--but the sky with its constant messages refuses to loose sight of us.

And my other constant private companions, books. You who have read my other words know how Zola sat with me as the bags of yellow poison known as chemotherapy dripped into aching veins, know how the sounds of Patrick O'Brien's straining clipper ships and revolutionary naturalists and salt of the earth British sea captains reached me way beyond the grinding fatigue of radiation. From my early days in the Bronx to these much later days in West Brunswick, once called the Bronx of Melbourne because it was such a down but not out neighborhood, books, the hard handable caught in amber moments of human heart and mind, pushed me out of dead ends into Joan's possibilities --I hope I have repayed in a very small way those other writers from every culture and every time in every language that endured the loneliness and self doubt of creation and to all my students in Queens College SEEK through the mid 60s until the 90s, it was this highway of teeming visions--both yours to visit and to create--that I tried so hard to lay at your feet.

My authors who sit beside me now--Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel "Half of a Yellow Sun," her novel of the killing time in Nigeria in the 1960s, told through characters that span the worlds of witnesses and victims, history marked on bodies with desire, women's voices not reduced in either their longings or their outrage. Years ago with those same students I have mentioned we read together Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart and then Bessie Head and Echemeta--it is time now for us to see the varied history of the nations of Africa through their own creative visions, another kind of Africa. As Adichie quotes these lines of Achebe: "Today I see it all-/Dry, wire-thin in sun and dust of the dry months-/Headstone on tiny debris of passionate courage." ( from "Mango Seedling" in Christmas in Biafra and Other Poems)

Henning Mankell's "Kennedy's Brain," Mankell is a Swedish born novelist who is most known, I think, for his compelling detective series with Inspector Wallender and the cold often silent world with touches of burning hearts through which his characters enter our line of vision and whose every book of whatever genre I will always seek out--Mankell has for several years run a theater company in Mozambique where he was living last I read of his life. Here through the voice and journey of a Swedish mother whose son has disappeared in Mozambique, Mankell has created a "thriller" as the copy says that is also his expression of fury at the cynical reductions of African lives by those who profit from human suffering in so many ways--like John LeCarre--even worldly men are fed up with the callousness of unleashed profit motive. As he writes on the closing page of his afterward to this novel, "What is written in this book is exclusively the result of my own choices and decisions, of course. Just as the anger is also mine, the anger that was my driving force." How close I feel to this man, how warmed by his anger I am, this writer who moves from harbors encased in fog and ice to a glaring sun much like the one I know here--bringing unflagging interest in how people move through the hardness of unexplainable actions on one hand or how they survive manipulated human coldness on the other.
I must walk now my poor Cello who is suffering from a spider bite. More another day and night.

1 comment:

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