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50 IV

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50 IV

Basil Eliades is an everyman of art – poet, painter, performer, teacher.

In his second collection from IP, he exerts his creative talents with dazzling scope and audacity in paintings as well as text.

His previous titles with IP are the print and enhanced CD versions of 3rd i.

ISBN 9781925231205 (PB, 136pp);
152mm x 229mm

AUD $26 USD $18 NZD $27 GBP £12 EUR €14
ISBN 9781925231212 (eBook) AUD $13 USD $10 NZD $15 GBP £6 EUR €7

Reviews

Basil Eliades takes us on an astonishing voyage. We don’t know the destination, even when we get there, but the journey is brilliant, visiting places we have never imagined.
– John Marsden

Once again, Eliades has created a multifarious collection of poetry and art that is full of pathos, humour, rich visual imagery, and illumination.

– Magdalena Ball, The Compulsive Reader

I’m sure I would have liked Lucian Freud much less!
– Les Murray

Basil Eliades

Basil Eliades is a strikingly unique individual who embraces every opportunity in life to learn, teach, explore and reflect. His unstoppable creativity manifests in his painting, building of beautiful houses, cooking, writing, experimental dress sense, and gardening.

He works at Candlebark and Alice Miller, teaching chess and martial arts, energy work and fine art, writing and drawing. He loves food, wine, books, music, running, dancing, bikes, and Jane. And daughters Emily and Sarah.

This book joins three previous collections of poetry, The Men’s Deck, and half a century’s worth of scribbles


1. Seed

Aerodynamic sycamores
and european maples
cultivate vain wings
endeavoring for heaven,
instead – send their seeds spinning
in a nascent adolescent descent
to bury their stripling feet
in their siblings’ generations
and dessicate gently in the wet
waiting for success
measured in their decay
and future cousins’ cotyledons
Aerodynamic sycamores
and european maples
tend minute wings
gently assenting / as their children’s dreams
down drop through the husbanding air
and adopt earth

11. I am a danger.

forgive me, Pachyderms.
forgive me, Black Rhino.
forgive me, Orange Roughy, Sea Perch
my indolence has caused you to be relegated
my indolence and my apathy have
shunted you to the sidelines
till you and your entire like
verge on death
i am a danger , step back! step back!
i didn’t know i was a murderer
– bizarre illogic there –
of vast Peoples of Your kin
and my cousins,,

Love Two

It was the tail end of the relationship.

I understood the permanence of words, so I prayed for something to change.

Anything.

Nothing did, so instead I offered up a poem. It was a prayer from my awkward core and held in its tongue-tied form the essence of my being, drawn from the drying artesian well of my gifts.

‘You copied this,’ she said.

Completely confused. ‘No, no, I didn’t. Not at all.’

She reached behind her for one of the two Norton’s anthologies, and flipped it open. There it was, on about three pages. Both my wife and the book now staring at me with blinding, critical lasers. An awful indictment of my limited creativity. I hadn’t written from my heart: I had pastiched from my head. An image from Dickey, the structure from cummings, and a paraphrased line or two from page 343. The book’s cover ripped off as it hit the lino and slid to a theatrical stop.

‘You’re not creative. There’s nothing new or interesting about you. It’s always the same old crap.’

Later, much later, I got the damaged copy.

In the meantime I hurried out to reinvent myself. To see what I could find that would interest her in me. What part of me could I show? I was so naïve. What was there in me worth knowing? I was desperate. A hundred yards down the road before the first set of lights visible through the drizzle, I met a teacher. A monk. Sitting in the gutter. He was in disguise, wearing a suit, but he had bare feet, and the eyes gave it away. They were closed.

He was moulding a pinch pot from grime he had scraped from the ground beside him. I could see bits of wrappers and cigarette butts in the shell of the pot. The pot pirouetted in his beaten hands, his fingers and the muck danced, understanding something about each other that I could not.

‘It’s a beautiful pot,’ I said.

‘Poem,’ he replied.

‘Sorry?’

‘It’s poetry. Not pottery. I am making my world. This is an act of love. These poems make it possible.’

I asked, ‘Has this sort of thing been done before? Is this new?’

He said, ‘Nothing has been done before. Everything is new. Every moment is innocent.’

I asked, ‘Didn’t Thomas Moore say that?’

He said, ‘Every act is virgin.’

I returned to the apartment via the shops and thumped my pristine slab of plastic-wrapped clay on the table. She wasn’t home. In no time at all I pinched an enormous pot. It was muscular and fluid, elegant, the length of my arm. A vase like a twisted tree. It was the best I had ever done. I could feel my heart’s warmth that I had poured into the structure radiate back at me. It bent towards me. I had annealed myself and melded with this earth. I wanted her to see it and love it. To love me through it. I wanted this understanding of my uniqueness, of my love, so much that there was no way that she could.

I didn’t need to ask if she liked it. Her coup de grâce was brief. ‘It’s soulless,’ she said. And walked out again.

I panicked. What if she were right? What if it, and I, had no soul? I looked around. Where was my soul? In the pot? No longer. In my writing? In my prayers? I had met God, years ago. His hand was bigger than summer and more solid than the side of a bull. I had told her about this. I had shared this most important moment of my life with her. In one damming instant she mangled my faith, my experience, and my hope. She said, ‘That’s not faith. You only believe because you’ve had proof.’

Damn.

I needed proof again.

I turned to God once more, but he wasn’t the same. God was inside me now, so I was talking to myself, my Higher self. He was wonderful, but he wasn’t Him. I wanted somebody else to pray to, not myself.

I needed proof of my existence. An Other. A woman. Someone to love, and someone who would love me. I needed an equal and opposite. I closed myself in my room and wrapped a blanket around my shoulders. I walked down stairs and into dark rooms and entered the very base of my understandings. In the libraries of my internal iconography and desire I began to create a new partner. With ink I drew her slowly from the recesses of my mind and fleshed her out. I made a feminine I.

Why not?

She was everything I’d dreamed of. She was brilliant. She was beautiful. She was flawed, and she knew it. She loved me. She allowed me to love her. She recited poetry. She knew whole tracts of Jeannette Winterson, Camus, Beckett and Plath. Spellbound, I lay in her slender embrace and listened to her voice lift from the page and carry me to wholeness.

I had to test her. I had to know. Feeling like a fraud but confident of the test I offered her the poem I had given my ex in our last hours, on our last day, before the Norton’s hit the ground.

She drank it down.

I touched her skin with my fingers, and her skin touched me back. It was sacred. I was scared. Already I was immersed in the experience. Already I was terrified of tomorrow. What if I should wake?

I said, ‘I shouldn’t have given you that poem. It was the one I gave my ex. I wanted to see how you would react to the words and images.’

She said, ‘Everything is virgin. Everything is new.’

I said, ‘Is it new again right now?’

She said, ‘There is no tomorrow. There is no yesterday. There is only right here. Right now.’

I had found what I needed.

Yin and Yang. Internal and external. Spirit and solid.

It was me.

The phone and the doorbell rang at the same moment. I was caught between them. Should I move left or right? Door or phone? Which one takes precedence? Which should I answer?

It was my wife.

She was back.

Twice.

She was standing on the doorstep with her finger on the buzzer and a phone to her ear, furious that the door was locked, although we had always locked the door. She had lost her keys. Apparently this was my fault. She took my keys from the back of the door, and pocketed them.

She scoffed at the idea of my fantasy before she had even entered the lounge, and demanded my loyalty: ‘You’re too scared to be with anyone else. You only stay because you’re too chicken to go.’

Then she saw my Yin.

My wife had always assumed my feminine to be frail and insubstantial, assumed my ‘giving in’ was through weakness. Had she looked more deeply she would have seen the strength of love I felt, and my ability to stand within that. The upper hand is only permitted by the lower – either consciously or not. I rose within myself. ‘This is Yin,’ I said.

‘What the hell are you doing!’ It was not a question. It was an order. ‘You idiot. I don’t care who you sleep with but if you lie to me … then that’s it. You bastard. I don’t think a married man should be sleeping with his girlfriend. She’s not even real. She’s a dream.’

‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘But she’s here.’

We all three slept in the apartment that night. One in the bed and two on the couch. I couldn’t let my wife sleep on the couch. It wasn’t right. She stormed out late in the evening, but returned again much later, when Yin and I had settled on the couch and closed our eyes.

In the morning I heard noises from the bedroom. Those noises. I listened at the door and heard the sounds of someone who wants to be seen to be having fun. Or heard. It sounded like she had a man in there. I swept Yin into my arms and held her close. She held me, too. She did not hold me back.

They emerged from our room in the afternoon, dishevelled and smiling. Her hair was woven into a scruffy smug. She continued to smile, and they held hands at the table in such a way that bruised my eyes and my face. Yin and I tried to comfort one another, but it was a required response, a defence, not an opening or warmth. Dinner was awful. First she then he would attack. Then he then she would withdraw. Open the lines of attack: attack. Defend with complete assurance: withdraw, and close all options. The only times I had been strong with her I had screamed or attacked, neither of which is strength. My strength had always been sufferance. I needed another ally.

That night, accompanied by the distinct soundtrack of betrayal, I wrote a new man. He was warrior, magician, lover, and king. He was intact as a stallion. He refused to hear lies. He was internally strong, and emotionally stable. By night, alone, he was brilliant as a sun. How would he be by day? He told me it would take two years for him to consolidate. For now, he looked good. He looked good.

So there were five of us to breakfast. She started when she saw the new guy, accidentally knocking my unfired vase off the bench into a greenware mess on the kitchen floor. Yin bent to clean it up, but I said ‘No, this is not for you to change’.
The apartment was getting crowded. By morning tea there were six of us as she generated another rival. By dinner there were ten.

I was completely lost in the apartment. Anxiously, I cleared some space on the floor of our room. ‘Come sit with me,’ I pleaded. ‘Let us see what we can create.’

‘That is not what I want right now,’ she replied from the crowded kitchen.

‘I could read to you,’ I offered, moving into position against the sink.

‘You never offer anything new,’ she said.

‘Movie? Meal? Massage? Holiday? … ‘ I ticked off the activities which had brought her pleasure in the past.

‘That is not what I want!’

I turned and walked to the other side of the apartment, leaving her at the table. She looked surprised. Then her friends joined her, smiling malevolently at me for walking away, before murmuring their way into a fence around her. That night I could hear her laughter coming from our room, rising like an award over the burble of an audience: a party was in full swing. In our room. Audible all night over the music and through the cushion over my head, men and women sat around reading poetry to her, stroking her hair, wooing the parts of her that she wouldn’t share with me. I am sure I heard lines from my own poems. It just didn’t matter anymore. I was suffocating in the vacuum. The space was too dense. I swallowed a dozen sleeping pills, and briefly dozed.

By breakfast the next day there must have been thirty people in our apartment. I couldn’t take it. I slipped unnoticed from the press, down the back stairs, and into the blessed rain. I needed help, and I needed it quickly. I looked everywhere for some help, for another guide of some sort.

As I walked along the street I became conscious of a stream of people in the distance, leaving the apartment. I ignored them. Which way should I go now? Left or right? Whichever way was best. Whichever way I had not tried previously: as long as I tried something new. Up, I saw the curve and wish of stars, obfuscated all day for most because they are blinded by the sun. Why wait till night to look at stars? But I couldn’t go that way. Down wasn’t an option, either. I had spent long enough down there. I saw cars, and the shapes they left behind when they moved off, so that cars drove through the previous car’s space. I saw roots perish beneath the concrete mass.

Then I saw her on a poster, smiling as I approached. She looked at me, and in me, and through me, and nonetheless said, ‘Let me know who you are. Show me some of your work.’ I opened my folder and showed her a poem. As I turned it to her I saw that the page was blank. I turned to the next. It was blank too. Panic set in. I turned to the next page, empty of text, but there were marks, tracks, dirt. The words had slipped from the page. I madly turned more pages. They were all blank but for a few on which the words were still sliding. I tried to scoop them back up and hold them in place. They could not be held. They dribbled and slipped through my fingers. The words were less substantial than a broken promise. The teacher smiled, and said gently, ‘You don’t really believe in these stories, do you?’

‘I do,’ I insisted. ‘I do!’

‘That was a question to ask yourself, not answer to me.’

‘But I do!’

‘No. You want to, but as yet you do not. We speak ourselves into being. We become what we believe we are. We become what we believe we are worth. Integrate, don’t splinter. You must believe in these words. Then they will be yours.’

I walked slowly to a bench and sat – what was it I did not believe? I thought I knew me. Admitting I did not wasn’t easy. Then I felt it, I began to feel the knowing. And I smiled. I knew suddenly that I would never return to that apartment, to that arrangement of living, to that compartment of my life. I took some dirt, and a large piece of cardboard from a dumpster, and began to scrawl some words:

Inshalla: I begin with the name of God. She stepped most holy into a space she created for herself. He stepped most holy into his. They invited each into a space, and in they went, willingly.

I looked up. Yin and my consolidating man were walking towards me. They stepped over and again as if from a vacuum into air and onto solidity. She said, ‘This is the time and space and place to be who we want to be.’ He said, ‘Never lose your You.’

And they smiled.

‘Why?’ you might ask, ‘and how? How is this resolution? How is this resolved?’

‘The wind is a malleable truth,’ I respond. ‘We speak tomorrow into being. Our words are our souls’ dreams made manifest. We hope ourselves into now, and now, and now.’

We dream our reality into being.

These words render it possible.


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