Diane Fahey lives in the Victorian coastal town of Barwon Heads, the setting of her recent poetry collection, Sea Wall and River Light. Her seven other collections variously engage with Greek myths, fairytales, visual art, nature writing, and autobiographical themes. Diane has published and read her poems internationally, and her poetry has appeared in over 60 anthologies. She has received a number of poetry awards such as the Mattara Poetry Prize, the Wesley Michel Wright Poetry Prize, the John Shaw Neilson Poetry Prize, and was co-winner of the 2007 Judith Wright Poetry Prize, for Sea Wall and River Light. She has been awarded writer’s fellowships and grants from Arts SA and Arts Victoria (most recently, a grant for 2008 to write on birds), and from the Australia Council, from which she also received support for writer’s residencies in Venice, at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland, and at the University of Adelaide. Other residencies have been at Hawthornden International Writers’ Centre, Scotland, and at Varuna, The Writers’ House, in the Blue Mountains. Diane holds the degrees of B.A. and M.A. in Literature, and a PhD in Creative Writing for her study ‘Places and Spaces of the Writing Life’.
An interview with Diane Fahey can be found in Thylazine No. 9: www.thylazine.org
The following dramatic monologues are selections from Fahey’s verse novel
The Mystery of Rosa Moreland, published by Clouds of Magellan, 2008. www.cloudsofmagellan.net (ISBN 978-0-9802983-3-8).
The place where I began was a green dusk
with slanted spears igniting vines, toucans
with black-and-gold beaks, glasswing butterflies;
it was a borderless map over which
my flight scrolled an eccentric signature.
Mulch carpet, and chandeliers of leaves
hanging from hot blue – I played the distances
between them, my scarlet and yellow cries
filled the rainforest’s dripping voice-box.
I was kidnapped, taken to live inside
a closed collective mind – among porcelain
sylphs and swains, stuffed owls, aspidistras.
The eyes of peacock feathers gleamed by altars
of heaped rubies, and died with them: transposed,
like myself, to paraphernalia.
An exiled Amazon queen, I gazed through
gilt bars, the gift of speech my only joy.
I revolved sounds like seeds in my beak, gnawed at
phrases as if they were cuttlefish bones
to be scraped into chalky hollows.
Intoning words fraught with sardonic mirth,
an eerie dread, I breached the unspoken.
Thus I became a pirate of forbidden thoughts –
to be released in Rabelaisian spurts,
raucous chunks or mind-teasing fragments.
And there were days when no words would come,
when I repined – a third-rate music-hall star,
waiting in my wings. But not tonight!
Crowds part as I’m borne across this vast stage –
in a state of thrilled prescience, my cage-cloak
of royal blue drawn back as if a curtain.
Like a retired diva craving the smell
and hush and violence of the theatre,
I dream of new, astonishing flights
above limelit sawdust…
How fitting then
that I’ve been chosen to launch this tale:
instructive, diverting, or wicked? –
you, dear reader, must judge.
Applause: the fluttering of a million wings!
At my feet, coral and ivory blooms unfurled
from gold hearts as waterfalls of velvet
spilt crimsonly down, surged upwards.
Yet there were from the first, days, whole weeks
of fatigue when the pleasure of it left me.
I practised patience, gave all from nothing –
showering those rapt faces with gifts
from beggarhood. My Ariel-spirit
served while dreaming its freedom…
In full flight,
my voice of gold, ebony and lava
filled that darkened space like a great ear;
unseen eyes met each smouldering glance.
Even as a betrayed wife, letter
in hand, pacing the confines of a drawing room,
or a captive Queen, paraded in
the marketplace, I moved like a swan.
Then – arrived at the middle years,
the height of my powers – I must play
strumpet, murderess, bitter scold:
all the sordid trivia of men’s fears, desires.
So that I became a cliff buffeted
by hostile waves, eaten by the sea…
Enough! I have silenced that sea, left that
precipice curving towards emptiness.
Soon I’ll sit between burgundy drapes
in a house on Edinburgh’s quietest,
most hidden street. Calmly, I’ll set the stage
for glimpsing limelit shards of the future.
The cards will confirm what eyes, stance,
rhythm of breath and upturned hands tell me.
But I will take no dictation from the dead,
nor ever invoke them. Let them sleep,
or speak through dreams. My gift is to grasp
what’s just beyond reach – as if gazing from
half-closed eyes at a receding vision…
In the theatre I was adept at
waiting wordless while others declaimed,
ranted – with no hint of stage business
I kept all eyes upon me. So here,
I’ll be in charge of each performance:
Life’s bounty and Fate’s mercy must do the rest…
I’ll know what can be said and not said;
what will stall harm, turn from obsession,
dispel vain hopes. I’ll know. It’s like tasting
a line’s flavour before you say it.
I’ve spent my lifetime working on that.
Not for me the charades of revenants:
women with hypnotic eyes, robed in
lurid drapery – like nothing so much
as animated stone effigies;
nor a dead child, dressed in Sunday best,
grafted back onto parents fixed by grief’s
dissolving stare – an uncanny foetus
anchored near head or womb.
in a derelict house, as I photographed
a stairway leading nowhere, midwinter
noon bloomed from an unseen source, and –
the cloud of dust I’d stirred up, was it? –
a glimmering shroud hung in icy air;
I yearned to walk through those ghostly steps.
Thereafter I sought light-effects
that fused the unearthly with the human –
accidental poltergeists of brilliance:
a cypress avenue, corridored by summer,
to which a blown mist brought metamorphoses;
candlelit rooms of cigarette-fuelled talk;
a forgotten kettle boiling into
sunlight – all yielded chimerical
glimpses, my lens positioned itself;
the shutter guillotined illusion.
I saw, where rock sliced a waterfall,
figures dancing above white tumult;
an avalanche rolled ice into sea-foam
alive with the unborn, the unretrieved.
Stranded by storm, I watched moon-hazed drops
slide down windowed darkness – as if they would
make of absence, a continuous presence;
my gaze plumbed fathomless transparency.
At this moment, I sit staring at light
filtered by my sealed eyelids: jet and gold
mingling, glass shadows wreathed inside
a mandorla, a mural on a great dome
pulsing with my invisible blood.
Where do you go when you cannot return
to the place where you’ve belonged? The marks
he scored across my body – once only,
in that cold onslaught – made the marks
across my soul palpable, gave them
a form; the unsealed skin I bathed and bound
in linen, healed to a scarred memory.
With profligate malice he dealt me
a dead hand, as if all the cards were his.
Now I have gone. He’ll sit at a bare table.
Only the mirror will so intimately
read the burst veins and bulging eyes of his wrath:
his need to disestablish, over and over,
life’s simple truth.
I have plucked my daughter
from his intemperate love. Forever.
Her six-year-old eyelids cover pearl
and lapis lazuli fit to match
the sky-gleam of any river or sea on earth.
In this small room propelled by fire and steam
we’ll reach Edinburgh before dawn.
Journeying west, we will choose new names,
like talismans, for ourselves as fresh light strikes
crag and loch. At Stranraer, a steamship.
Blanched, shaking with fatigue, we’ll step out
onto Ireland. There, more untraceable
journeys between two lives, two centuries –
till we arrive at a place of refuge
and beginning: time’s virtue sifting
through all our days.
My keepsakes I’ve sold
to effect this stylish, disguised leaving.
Together we’ll fashion new memories,
find new keepsakes.
Claire and I lie still:
effigies about to wake.