Maria Callas Accompanied In The Antipodes

He discovers near-continents for a living, diverting attention from previously existing land masses, as is about to happen to Australia, detailed in his latest book of poetry, We’re Not Upside Down Anymore. His MFA is a tractor overturned in a cornfield. Somewhere. Of him, Maria Callas once said ‘Tuesdays are better than most’.

He seldom glances askew, preferring the direct glare of grim outcome. Ephemeral since birth, he disperses like chickens in a tornado, responds to droll humor with a laugh described as ‘ultraphonic echolocation’, though it’s unclear by whom. Not Maria Callas; she only ever had the one thing to say about him. The shape of a cello, its curvatures and where one puts one’s knees, the sound, from the back, like a naked woman seated on satin, her heart far away, the neck strung taut, are all a bit obvious, he finds. If monkeys had wings …

Having found the Pacific Islands unconnected to one another, he plunges forth, fixing toilets amid the intricacies of flotation devices, the Mae West bobbing post-flush, the swirl ass-backwards down here, down under and over the spectral arc, Roy G Biv with ridiculously open vowels; then, of course, the orange, smoky flares fusing in the morning sun. Where is hope? There are kangaroos on the horizon, stuck in something gluey and of consequence, like poppies.

He has no MFA. His cello is a tractor, the cornfield fallen to the languid movement of yellow brick across sere earth. He conceptualizes the concrete into abstract imagery: ‘Honest horses of color’, for instance, ‘stuffed with knowledgeable love-straw’. There was something he was meaning to say. ‘Courage’, he forgot to say ‘Courage’. Montana looks no different upside down, where water rises. He clicks his ruby heels while dueling with Maria through variations on properly fingered harmonics. Wallabees sob at the billabong, and rust.

Tuesdays aren’t what they used to be for him, not since Maria and her tragedy of cello, the shoreline of Australia slipping, sand-like, ‘just one hour, my pretty’, as if an hour could stave the epoch. He pulls his jacket against the pelt of apples flung from trees, which he means just as it is, ‘from trees’, and the arboreal sky darkens with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for inundation. Brine shrimp meting out justice, pelicans of truth in the outback. This isn’t what it once was, nuthin’ ever is, but it’s where they let you in, where things hop in the antipodal mirror, and, well, there’s no place like it.

by Malvern Westcott

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