Joan Fleming writes and lives in Golden Bay. Her poems have appeared in Best New Zealand Poems 08, Sport, Turbine, Snorkel, JAAM, The Lumiere Reader, Hue & Cry, Moving Worlds and Takahe.
Small enough not to hold everything
FADE FROM BLACK
EXT. MILNTHORPE WARF - EARLY MORNING.
A man sits at a child-sized desk. He’s wearing a strange hat. We hear bird call, and the quiet sound of waves.
On the desk sits a typewriter, robins-egg-blue. A five-foot-long screed of white paper flaps in the wind.
The man sits quietly, for what seems like a long time. Then he bends to the typewriter and begins to write.
STOP-MOTION: Six perfectly white cups, filled with black coffee, appear one after the other on the edge of the wharf. They steam in the morning air. A voice-over narrative begins.
A line of men, all named Robert, walk into a café and order coffee after coffee. They turn to each other and turn to each other. More Roberts walk in, more Roberts line up. The ceramic runs out and the Roberts are given cups made of paper, glass, unwritten books, exclamation marks, empty chip packets…
EXT: The main street of Collingwood. The five-foot-long screed of white paper flaps down the middle of the empty road.
…The Roberts steam out the door of the cafe, only to find every street is named after them. ‘Should we go up Robert Street?’ says one. ‘Man, Robert Road’s where we want to be going,’ says another. ‘Aren’t we already there?’ says another, and another, and another. Some people might call this lost, or some people might call this crazy. Others might call it home….
CUT TO: Milnthorpe wharf. The man stops typing and sits up. STOP-MOTION: One of the cups of coffee appears in his hand. He looks at it and takes a sip.
CUT TO: A farrago of shots in quick succession: a girl’s hands knitting in fast-forward; a bunch of people in loopy colourful clothes running around a grassy lawn, weaving circles around each other and pulling each other down and pulling each other back up again; a woman sitting bold upright reading a large red book in the middle of the beach; the pages turning and turning…
We’re weaving, we’re joining, we’re taking, we’re giving. All the six thousand dropped stitches in the world belong to us. All the favourite shirts in the world gone threadbare at the collar tell some kind of story….
EXT: Collingwood. The man in the strange hat steals through the empty streets. He stoops to pick up a red leaf. He ducks behind a post when a man in a suit walks by. He finds a new hat in a doorway, and exchanges it for the one he’s been wearing
A woman steals along behind the buildings, peering at the man through binoculars.
We’re magpies, we’re the crown’s unpaid investigators, we’re alive, we’re struggling to stay alive, we’re bountied and drowning. We carry with us glasses to see, to see better, to block the sun, to make the world very far away or closer than we can bear it. We write screeds of nothing, and then some golden glisten of a line tug-tugs at our fingertips, calloused from so much writing and so much waiting but about as far from numb as an elephant snail’s wet lip. We watch one another, ourselves, ourselves in the other. We carry in our pockets the sharpest of pencils. We keep peeling back and peeling back. It hurts. We stride down street-sides vigilant for the folks with the loneliest eyes. Then we find them in the mirror…
EXT: Collingwood. The man and the woman meet on the street. They stop abruptly, locking eyes.
STOP-MOTION SEQUENCE: They are transported back to the wharf. They hold out their hands to each other as different objects appear there for the offering: a ball of wool, an egg, a handful of red leaves…
CUT TO: 360-degree shot of the man and the woman back-to-back on the wharf with typewriters, tapping away furiously…
We’re the children making halos out of empty chip packets. We’ll be waiting. In the space between the ‘g’ that ends the word ‘amazing’, and the exclamation mark we all know is a small girl so ecstatic she’s standing on her head….
EXT: A windy beach. The woman stands at the very top of a rock, shouting into the wind. We don’t hear the words she’s shouting.
There’s no place small enough not to hold everything inside. Here are our arms, here are our backs. Here are the leaden chests we pour the light in. Here is the idea: we’re leaning against the black upright dash of a gasp or the full-stop-punch that says, share this….
The best things in life are.
EXT: Milnthorpe estuary. The man wades into the water and disappears, leaving only his hat behind. The desk and typewriter stand alone on the wharf.
FADE TO BLACK.
Skinny boys are growing men’s shoulders. Blue-eyed with busted faces. Hawking meltwater, from
the bottom of the road.
He’s strong, he’s strong, pounding down the world through the mustard of a sleepy junk food
morning. Then the tic, the one he always gets, jumping in the temple like a flap of mind coming
Hands like mine made aeroplanes from scratch. I don’t understand that. Worlds are yoking worlds, worlds mysteriously lightening, all over the sky.