Newcastle trips always start like this. The grainy feel of early mornings, vision coming through in scraps, like the way the tiny vesicles of an orange somehow bind together to form a fruit. A world laid over with Super 8. Last night Melbourne lay prostrate under a Biblical rain, stories of ancient animals being washed away two by two into stormwater drains and out into the mystery of the bay. Has anyone else ever wondered how every kind of animal on earth lived within walking distance of Noah’s house? But Noah’s not important anymore. If he were alive today he’d be a rogue trader, selling hard at the crest of the wave before the Dow Jones reached landfall to swamp us all. Last night it rained like it was trying to wash our secrets away, cleanse the walls of former lovers’ homes of all the words we spat at them in haste. Last night it rained, and Going Down Swinging storytellers gathered to spin their tales in a quiet room, and the audience crept in, and in, and in, to listen. Then beers, the blur of cold glass and warm talk, the blurred neon of the Bar Open sign that acts as a form of time travel… this could be Brunswick Street in any year since 1970. The more it rains, the less anything is ever washed away.
Then a bare two hours sleep on a compadre’s floor opposite the Station Formerly Known As Spencer Street, before rising for the earliest of early morning buses, aeroplanes awaiting with their winged embrace spread wide. The air nipping round my neck and wrists, but despite the cold and the exhaustion, my smile at the Skybus lady is broad and genuine. I’m going back to Newcastle, back to the beautiful chaos of This is Not Art.
On the bus, the first light begins seeping through the upturned bowl of the sky, that particular deep sweet blue, lit from behind, the atmosphere translucent rather than itself a source of light. Years ago I wrote of this brief hour in a poem, “and now the old idea that the earth was underwater / doesn’t seem so far away at all.” It never does. It takes us back to ancient cities, carved stone gods, epic serpents writhing in the space above, among the stars, beyond the limits of our vision. To the tremendous weight of all creation crushing down upon us, this one small bubble somehow withstanding the attention. And the things that we’ve learned since – of matter and of nebulae and never-ending space – have led us round to almost that original position. You can only consider the immensity of space so much, before the mere fact of your own insignificance will snuff you out itself, a self-fulfilling prophecy with no real strand of consequence. Consequence begets consequence. Nothing will come of nothing, said a king to his daughter. I love you more than salt, she may have said, and so may I have said the same. The rain will wash all salt away, and in the end, the streams and channels will draw every drop of water back to salt again.