One Hundred and Five Candles

for Mary Fitzgerald Unthank nee Hurley
8 November 1905 - 16 September 2010

They say the first one is invis­i­ble,
 you only feel its heat. It’s shin­ing
 some­where out in space — or is it
 the womb — where love is a can­dle
 in the dark, cre­ated by a spark of
 some­thing felt though never seen.
 The next one, then, is num­ber two
 but we’ll call it one so that you can
 light it again, a red can­dle per­haps
 or a candy-twist pink. By this time

 you grasp & grab at con­scious­ness,
 at these appari­tions that re-appear,
 reg­u­larly, and each time in greater
 num­bers: three, four, five candles. 
 The sym­me­try of six demands your
 grudg­ing respect, which is fur­ther
 whet by num­ber seven, or heaven.
 Nine revolv­ing bod­ies in a child’s
 plan­e­tar­ium, then the ten’s maudlin
 return to its begin­ning: a one & a
 zero, together, on the same cake.
 Com­pared to this, eleven’s a breeze.
 By now, you’ve grasped the basic
 terms of the deal: some­one lights
 the can­dles, then you just sit back,
 pre­tend­ing to count stars. Twelve
 can­dles brings you a dozen roses
 which you’re too young to blow out.
 From thir­teen onwards it’s all a blur.
 The teenage can­dles, a sound­track
 fea­tur­ing a style of music no one
 over the age of eigh­teen even hears.
 Nineteen’s similar to the invis­i­ble
 one we touched on at the start, only
 warmer, and full of beer. Twenty
 brings us back to ten, which is to say
 the decade, ready-made. By this stage
 you view the whole can­dle thing with
 unaf­fected dis­dain, although you still
 pro­tect your own like a bird its brood
 every time what you know will come
 comes around. To move on to candles 
 in their thir­ties is to doc­u­ment a series
 of increas­ingly intel­li­gent — no, bril­liant
 cru­sades against the light­ing of those
 can­dles which are yet to come. When
 you think of light­ing forty can­dles, by
 your­self, in a dark room alone, a weird
 kind of uneasi­ness comes over you.
 Thence­forth, every year for at least a
 decade, you light those can­dles with
 the minia­ture flame thrower some­one
 once gave you as a present. For the
 bar­be­cue, you remem­ber. The can­dles,
 dipped in kerosene, sing in delight as
 you make your big light-sabre sweep.
 From sixty onwards you expe­ri­ence
 what it’s like to be caught inside some
 cheer­ful wax­work mon­tage, sixty two
 and three, espe­cially, arous­ing your
 long-forgotten enthu­si­asm for years
 spent set­ting stuff on fire. Seventies?
 Don’t speak of the sev­en­ties can­dles, you
 don’t want to hear. The late sev­en­ties,
 though — there’s a film, right there, in
 sev­enty eight or sev­enty nine candles. 
 The golden glow of eighty can­dles, set
 on fire, burn­ing right through the night.
 The triple zero birth­day cake, a dou­ble
 one next to another big zero. You alone
 get it: the invis­i­ble can­dle, stage left,
 wear­ing a hat that’s com­pletely green. 
 The six­ties mon­tage reap­pears right at
 the end of the eighty-ninth, spoil­ing an
 oth­er­wise flaw­less run of candle-lighting
 cer­e­monies that some­one should have
 filmed, had the means to do so existed
 at the time. Ninety and ninety one, to
 their credit, pro­ceed with­out a hitch. 
 Then you hit ninety two & you notice
 that some­one else lights the ghastly
 things now, and you don’t even mind,
 par­tic­u­larly. You review the wis­dom of
 this while sit­ting com­fort­ably on ninety
 seven, & the ninety eighth doesn’t hurt
 a bit. You occupy your ninety ninth like
 a remote eagle its eyrie, watching over 
 the abstract world two miles below you.
 When you hit the big igni­tion switch that 
 will set in motion a slow-combustion of
 one hundred mile-high candles you’re
 already in heaven. The immen­sity of that 
 agri­cul­tural slog over mid-on seems so
 easy that you’re light­ing the next one as 
 we speak, dis­patching the following three 
 with ease, spank­ing a radi­ant thrill of love
 into each of those one hun­dred & four
 can­dles, etch­ing their flames into space
 & then set­tling again on your still-warm
 eyrie, to sur­vey an earth par­secs below.
 The can­dles, clearly, will not be denied
 their even­tual vic­tory for much longer.
 You, for your part, feel no fear. Softly,
 all in one moment, you realise some­one
 has blown the hun­dred & fifth one out.

16 September 2010

(revised 11 February 2011


won't you sing it for meh 
	the way you sang for the prince of wales 
the duke of york the albion family 
	& every other pub in melbourne 

tell meh when was that first drink 
	& when was your last one francis 
was it on the day you died &
	when did you die anyway did you

francis what happened did you drown 
	or were you pushed from this life
unwilling uncaring or uncertain
	what did the moon look like francis

are you buried in a unmarked grave 
	or do you lie still in the dark which
one is it francis will you sing it for meh 

	won't you sing it for meh francis - 



(Anagram) Nation

Daydream Native No
Daydream Native On
Daydream Naive Ton

Daydream Naive Not
Daydream Novena It
Daydream Novena Ti

Daydream Novae Nit
Daydream Novae Tin
Daydream Neat Vino

Daydream Ante Vino
Daydream Nave Into
Daydream Vane Into

Daydream Ovate Inn
Daydream Anion Vet
Daydream Anti Oven

Daydream Vain Note
Daydream Vain Tone
Daydream Vita Neon

Daydream Vita None
Daydream Via Tonne
Daydream Nova Nite

Stolen Landscape With Horse

in the landscape was a horse & it was stolen
   yes said the crow it’s true for i was there

i saw no crows & it was in broad daylight
   then it was a silent film i was watching

unless of course a nightmare is a dream too
   we saw blood & the smoke of several guns

the opposition crew also carried weapons
   of course there were no official casualties

all of which is totally impossible but nice
   i do think they have a point don’t you?

as she trotted along that dusty track in fog
   so was it fog or dust it really can’t be both

as the boat came up the river to collect us
   I thought it looked more like a small creek

yes so did i or maybe a smallish rivulet …
   we have no idea what you’re talking about

well it’s obvious that we’re talking about –
   it’s not really so straightforward as that …

but it’s true that you stole something there
   i saw the crow but it was already dead

i could hear a banjo playing somewhere
   – not that i know anything about music