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Griffith Review Reading in the Wetlands

The Amber Fresh Chronicles

Griffith Review Reading in the Wetlands

Andrew Ryan

i was on the front porch just now. just talking to my friend about the universe, like, whether it’s all illusion (we don’t believe so) or whether all the delicate things we feel are very, very important (we think so.) like whether if you throw a glass over your shoulder, and it shatters on the other people, it matters (it does), or whether it’s all illusion, see?

there’s something nice about being alone. about having ten days to meditate, on an empty stomach, without speaking. that’s ok, but even more ok is looking out across trees and birds and letting the deep speak to you, and speaking what you hear out into the ears of your friend.

i went to a night of readings. i was sad because a rock had hit my niece and because one of the indigenous ladies at the soup kitchen got angry at me for not speaking to her first. she felt it as a pain, i didn’t mean it that way. my niece felt the rock as a pain, and all my family felt it too. so i was sad, but then went to a room full of people who talked about western australia. about saving the wetlands here. about all the indigenous football players and how them playing football changes everything – like, everything. and about music here and how it gets to flourish in the desert, the cultural desert.

it was good to be back there, in one of those rooms where people just stand up at a microphone one by one and read you things from their heart. and you enter in through their words, into their heart and into the spirit of the world. a room full of people with the right kind of intelligence, like, maybe they even went to university, devoting their life to keeping life alive. devoting their life to keeping trains on a railway because it’s better for people to be all there together in the carriage, travelling in one large ship that fells less tress and means everyone is with one another, even if they’re on their ipods, or better if they’re looking at books, or better if they’re looking into one another’s eyes and saying “oh, you’re so the same as me” and “oh, you’re quite different to me and i wonder how you understand water – are you scared? and why? do you swim far far out into the ocean? and why? do you walk on the water, and why?

so i was at the reading. my friend read little parts of an essay about music here in WA. some fans came over and wanted to meet him. and some lovely middle-aged women came over and wanted to meet him, just because he was younger than the other readers. many routes to a loving gaze.

my friend nandi read about the wetlands. i tried to tell her i’ve been thinking about her and sending good thoughts, but that seemed very pale. i said “sorry i haven’t been involved” and she said “maybe you can write a song about it”, and i told her “yes, i will”. and a little bit later i remembered my friend mei has already written a song about those wetlands. the place the land and water meet together, falling through the cracks, as nandi said. how many songs can be written about wetlands? well, these places hold up all the species that float and swim around, and walk and jump around, and fly and shimmer in the sky. all of them eventually need these places that filter everything through, so, i can write a song about it too. so could you.

i’ll call it, “mud pack for a magpie”. i’ll call it “splashing with a cockatoo”. i’ll call it “a shrimp, out of the barbie and happy”. i’ll call it “you let me breathe, so i wrote you a song.”

hmm. on the porch my friend said “we all come from the dust, and go to the dust”, and that’s kind of true, but we’re from liquid too. all from the wetlands. write me a song about the wetlands, and i’ll write one back to you.