When I went to Melbourne to buy books for the shop but it was too hot so ended up drinking chilled white in the suburbs instead.

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It is too hot. I got the books for the shop but it is too hot. We packed the books into the hot, hot car. But the weatherman had minced the carpark with the asphalt and the gum trees and when somebody backed their car into another car, a Mercedes, everybody stood and looked at the incident through the heat with narrowed eyes and hot feet and then turned away to swim through the heat to find their own car and get on home and the owner of the stoved in Mercedes looked at their car through the heat and just got in and drove away with their shoulders raised and ears flat, easier to get through the Melbourne heat that way. Who wants more things to do…
But then I am back in the suburbs of Melbourne, the hot- heated gold dust suburbs alive with weatherboard and coffee and jacaranda and heated evening and I am eating steak and salad and iced cabernet sauvignon and looking at the Melbourne city shape that is welded across the horizon and listening to family gossip that is all true but you didn’t hear this from me…
I did get Wide Sargasso Sea, the Gormenghast trilogy in three penguin volumes and the David Malouf Complete short stories.
It was worth it. What’s heat anyway.

You only need to look with one eye.

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Now I am in Melbourne, in the city centre and in a bookshop myself and there are two notable things. Next to the political histories, two men are arguing over a book and the book is about the history of water, it is called Elixir, A Human History of Water by Brian Fagan. I know because after they had left I went over and looked at the book they had left there. There is trouble because both men are expert water historians and also expert readers and they are interested in everything. They left together, they walked with great energy, their faces, unhappy, showing the strain of maybe having to be interested in everything.

The other thing is in the area for comics in this shop. There are two boys there, about ten years old, they are sitting under the display of comics and reading one each, cross legged. One boy said that he didn’t get it. He didn’t get why they sank everything and how come the two main guys lost all their powers. How come that happened? How come they just didn’t take the rucksack with them the whole time? The other boy said that, no, that didn’t even matter, just keep reading, it’s pretty cool how the map comes back and it all makes sense, it’s pretty cool. What you have to do is only read out of one eye, just shut one eye as well. If you read out of one eye, you will get it and see the main things, you don’t have to see everything, just the main small things that you hardly see, like that door and how it points to something. Then he said: when you get to the end, tell me all the stuff you see because I need to know some more stuff to get the powers back, ok? They agreed. They both looked pretty happy.

 

When I could not eat dinner because of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

In Melbourne I went into the Readings bookshop and it was too full of possibilities to be calm and so I  purchased far too many things. But they did not have The Love Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning in 23 volumes. So I have to continue reading my borrowed copies, borrowed from the Flinders University Library and therefore Not Mine.

We went out to dinner that night, an Italian place next to that bookshop, in Carlton, called Tiamo, and inside it was small and hot and dark and magnificent. But I was thinking over the letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This library book is in my bag and under the table, heavy with red covers and cream pages and unable to be purchased by me. She wanted to go to Pisa and her father would not let her. She was 39 years old.

We ordered platefuls of pasta and rough bread. The waitresses were graceful and furious, carrying impossible armfuls of platters and glasses. One of them was shouting at the chef in a kitchen too small for the number of cooks crowded in there! There is a tray of antipasto not to her liking. The chef is looking out across the tables in astonishment.   The back door stands open, it is a hot night. I can see another chef out there, leaning against a wall, smoking in the hot twilight. He is asked to hurry it up and he turns his back, leaning on that hot brick wall, impassive.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning spends years in one room, unable to defy her parent, her father.  She wanted so much to go to Pisa, Italy, has never been anywhere. Sometimes she walks around the nearby park. But her writing, her poetry was about the whole world. Her letters to her lover were a whole world. His and her letters are vast. Her lover was Robert Browning.

There is a couple huddled together over a candle behind us. She is saying: but you never said anything. You never said anything.

The waitresses cross back and forth through the roar, they weave in and out and they never bump into a single thing, still people are crowding in, the owner is shouting and welcoming everybody from the bar. He is wearing a black apron which is covered in flour.

Behind us the young woman is crying, drooping over the fabulous risotto, as a couple they reassure a hovering waitress that everything is good.

The Barrett Browning correspondence was rich and fabulous and teeming with pain and with life.

She writes: …and where is the answer to anything except too deep down in the heart for even the pearl divers…?

There are four young men at a back table, they have rucksacks underneath and newspapers spilling out and onto the floor and they are simply bellowing their orders across the serving counter. But this is not the way to order and they get no food that way. But they don’t care; they just keep drinking the good red wine.

Right next to us, the furious waitress captures the owner and says: it’s out in the street, I told you, it’s out in the street, you can’t do it any other way. But he has seen someone enter that he knows. He lifts both hands in the air and leans back. He delivers  a superb greeting in Italian. The waitress is left with three full plates and no answer. She says: For Fuck’s Sake!

Still people are coming in. The walls are roaring and now we have our enormous food and it is good. Everything is too deep for even a pearl diver.

Then we can leave, push hard to get out into the end of the summer evening and then we are out in it and there is a cellist playing in a doorway across the road and someone is calling out Swan Lake, Swan Lake.