The First Lesson of The Day (poem)

It came by way
of an unkempt
elderly neighbour
in a headband,
who never wears his dentures
but always has a ciggie
hanging off his bottom lip,
displaying to me
the plastic drinking bottle
he had repurposed,
containing a chunk of rotting meat
floating in water.

“A trap for blowflies”, he explained.

The same kind of device apparently
successfully employed by Chairman Mao
to prevent the spread of disease
in Communist China.

Afterwards, I went back inside,
donned the all-too-familiar headset,
and dialed a few numbers
to try to make up some ground
on my fifteen to twenty nine age group quota
in the Ferrymead/Hagley electoral ward.

No surprise that neither of the two
who told me to call back
specifically at this time
picked up.

“Oh well, ho-hum…”
I whispered to myself,
as I carefully removed the headset,
while at the same time
reassuring it,
“Don’t worry, it’s not your fault.
We’ll get them another time.”

I then slowly arose from the chair,
grabbed my backpack,
filling it with the essentials,
such as e-reader,
ragged old paperback anthology
of translated Chinese verse,
i-Pod Classic,
some notebooks,
and my favourite refillable
Uni-ball writing pen.

After the obligatory bathroom stop,
followed by that moment of honesty
before the mirror
as I went about putting my face on,
and consequently fled therefrom,
out into the blinding bright blue
late November void,
I flagged down a dull red bus,
upon which,
after having taken my seat,
a baby girl gazed into my eyes
from over her mother’s shoulder:

“Yes, that’s right…”
she confirmed,
“…I am indeed the perfect incarnation
of immaculate beauty.
But this drool on my chin
which she is now
taking pains to wipe away;
I am baffled
as to how it can be so reviled,
while the sloppy kiss which follows
is seemingly so revered.”

And,
having stumbled from the bus,
unable to provide her
with a helpful explanation,
I found myself sitting,
with pen in hand,
attempting to fathom,
between sips of coffee,
the wormhole through which
once again
I had arrived
at the old familiar crisis
surrounding the final line.

~

Continuing Along with Painting and Chigong

Zhineng Chigong was working well for me, so the following year I learnt the second method, otherwise known as “Body/Mind Form”. It involves a lot more stretching and opening up of the meridian channels than the first method. I was devoting two to three hours of every day to chigong. I was taking steps to change my diet, as I had read a graphic novel called “Epileptic” in which the author writes about his being brought up with a brother who had severe epilepsy, and his parents’ struggle to try to find an alternative treatment for him. Their journey at one point lead them to stay at a Macrobiotic commune, where the author’s brother enjoyed quite a lengthy period without seizures, until the commune had to move off the land, and so was fractured, leaving him and his family having to search for another solution.

I just happened to be looking on a clearance table in a bookstore one day, when I came across “The Macrobiotic Way” by Michio Kushi. I think it was marked down to ten dollars; what a bargain for such a great little book! I had been struggling with my diet, as taking Tegretol had made be somewhat irregular, and a diet based on whole grains just seemed to make perfect sense to me. I had decreased my tegretol dosage a little by now, and was taking 100mg fast release in the morning, and 400mg slow release in the evening (as I have nocturnal epilepsy).

I had taken it upon myself to seek out a part time job, which I knew would be tough, considering the arthritis, the need to wear shades to prevent my eyes both from bright light and from dryness, and the fatigue. I got in touch with a local agency set up to help those with disabilities find jobs, and long story short, I got a permanent part time position with a market research company, which allowed me to work from home. The idea of “cold calling” and the thought of having to deal with disgruntled respondents didn’t bother me, as I saw the opportunity to put into practice some of those Toltec and Chigong principles and techniques I had been learning, in order to stay calm and focused in tense situations.

The extra money I was earning allowed me to fund my own solo exhibition in an underground gallery which had just started up in the central city at the time, called simply “The Room”:

birthlossdeath 2010      crush on worry 2010

feet in a line1 cropped      housefly 2010      love is being

my job 2010      Seizure 2010

mathematical shane 2010      Rimbaud socrates 2010

The show was called “Swallow Or Be Swallowed”, a quote I had taken from Joseph Campbell whose books i was reading at the time which seemed to sum up the attitude one needs on the healing and artistic journey.

Basquiat, Dubuffet, and Cy Twombly were heavily influencing my stylistic and technical approach at the time. I had found in Neo-Expressionism a way to release my anxiety, and to create large paintings (A1 or A2 size) which could communicate in a very graphic way thought feelings and ideas as they arose.

I was still dissatisfied with the lack of consistency of style and theme.

I was hoping to find a way of resolving this issue, and to have another show at The Room in maybe 6 to 8 months. Little did I know, however, what was in store for Christchurch City…