The Day DJ Died

When I got up that Tuesday morning there were two emails from S. The first, sent at 5 am, had the subject line: Dad is going. The second, two hours later, said: Dad is gone. I called her. Then called a few other people. You have to, even though all you have to tell them is the non-existence, the absence, of the person you are calling about. The loss of connective tissue perhaps, that a phone call might somehow rehabilitate. Afterwards I sat down to write as usual and accomplished my 1000 words or so though I am unable to say if, that day, the game was worth the candle. Or any other day for that matter. I guess I felt like I didn’t know what I was feeling like. Come 2.15 I put on a clean blue shirt and went out to work. I remember joking with Bob, my boss, as if everything was normal. He was telling me that, since it was Tuesday, I had to wash my car that night; I was saying, when have I ever not done what you tell me to? Answer: frequently; hence we both laughed. Well it was a shift from hell. Two skinny fares and there I was again, outside the Tea Gardens Hotel in Bondi Junction with nary a soul in sight. It’s a very long time since I allowed myself to write a poem and I have never before written one on a mobile phone but this came unbidden: soft foot falls on the / clouds above the / cloud : the velvet / horses are returning to / their wingèd stables // great liquid eyes & / plaited manes & / coats of plush infinitude / part the wind as if it were / a memory of wind // riderless they follow / your dreams across a / pleroma of blue towards / the sleep that will awake / beneath another sky I called it Lullaby and dedicated it to M but when it was done wondered if it wasn’t for DJ? Who can say? I finally got a fare, it was a couple of business people going into the city, it took a long time and after I dropped them off it was rush hour and I spent half an hour inching down George Street to the Park Street rank and then ages there too, waiting. It was a young American woman, cheerful and positive, who was going down to the Block in Redfern to look at a work she had produced in her capacity as an art facilitator for the council. That was a slow trip too, nightmarish traffic, a dark cold city, a sense of terminal confusion, and it was while we were making it, while distractedly talking to her, that I realised, slowly, almostly numbly, that I couldn’t do this job any more. We turned from Abercrombie into Caroline, just a couple of streets from where I first lived in Sydney, from where, back in 1981, I first went out to drive a taxi; and there, festooning the long row of upper balconies, were delicate arrangements of fairy lights spelling out words: LUCKY JOY SUGAR RESPECT are four that I remember. The American girl cried out that it was wonderful and it was; enough to bring a tear to the eye. She paid with a card and went and I headed back to the city. It was somewhere down Regent Street that I called Bob and said my friend had died and that I was going home. He shouted down the phone: You still have to pay! The $150 owing for the shift he meant. I hung up on him. Drove around for another ten minutes or so then gave it up as a bad job. On the way back to the base, in Stanmore, I got a hail and took her up to Marrickville. She was hooded, vacant, a migrant and she got out somewhere that she didn’t wish to be because the meter was showing more than she wanted to pay. Back at the base I filled up, shut down the various systems on the car – meter, EFTPOS, kill switch – then went in to pay and return the keys. Walking to my own car I called Bob to apologise for hanging up on him and to reassure him that the car was secure. Then I went home. I felt so strange. So alienated. So alien. Like someone who wasn’t there any more. But I wasn’t dead. I remembered it was the shortest day, the longest night; I lay awake for most of it. Around the time the birds began to sing I heard a voice that said:  o yeah. / & / A FINE RAIN BEGINS T’FALL.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The Day DJ Died

  1. martin, I am deeply moved by your post on DJ.

    love the poem – Can DJ share it with M?

    beautiful, poignant, perfect.

  2. Tony Carr

    Those distant deaths we hear of over the phone can haunt more than the ones se live next to. I’m in a phone box in London. I tell an aunt “She went through a bad patch”, speaking of my father’s mother, a dour farmer’s wife who seemed to find little joy in anything but malice while believing herself a good person who helped others “but I think she’s allright now”.

    “Oh Ant”, she replied “Nana died last night. It was a peaceful death. We didn’t have a number for you.” I was living in a housing association place in Sands End “sharing” with some Kiwi working holiday friends and a Venezuelan film student who made a living as a Charlie Chaplin impersonator despite having shoulder length Shirley Temple style glossy black ringlets. We had no phone. Cesar was a bizarre character often lecturing us on his Buddhist principals as he secretly stole from our concealed stashes of food. His advice would include such homilies as “Tony, Chew tink too much, that why you go ball” and “Kenny, Chew muss not walk around when I chanting, chew get duss on my altar”.

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