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Name: Raku Pitt

Photos: Raku's photo libraries

so i was away for a while ( 11th Apr, 2007 )
Frozen Time at Ice Hotel ( 13th Jan, 2007 )

so i was away for a while

so i was away for a while
lost track of myself
forgot how to breathe
remembered again,
lost sight of the sun
forgot why i'd come

i saw
the aurora borealis
shimmer and pulse
engulf the entire sky
with a dancing eloquence of light

that was back at the start
after which it was hard
to be very impressed
until the final homeward stretch
when delirious and mesmerised
i watched the punjabi plains slip
fractal and fantastic beneath the plane

< warning: contains Melancholic Themes & Occasional Strong Whimsy
running time approx. 20min., written directed & produced raku pitt 2007
thanks love and well wishes to each and every one of you XX >>

was carrying two postcards today
written but out of date
waiting for clarity and stamps
written on ancient pictures that had survived
perhaps a century in good shape

was running for the trolleybus
shoulderbag jolting in the rain
yet the grey sky
was dry this time
while the green waterbottle
with a lid secretly wriggling undone
was jolting rain down my thigh

two postcards are drying now by the fire
buckled and beaten with bent edges
lacking stamps and clarity
even more than before

_ _ _

my skin sick
and broken
it might
be spider poison
working away
finding ways
to break through
or an allergy
breaking out

strange feeling
to be afflicted so explicitly
with metaphor.
which is to say
i'm taking this city
too seriously

and so this
space between
this most wondrous of organs
takes the blame
cops the flak
for my blatant excess
of sensitivity

taking on
taking in
this breaking up
these sharp stings
the small ruptures
being eaten away in numbness
all coming maybe
from taking on
too much

from looking down and taking in
the off-duty legless gypsy beggar
in the tram
excusing himself through the crowd
on hands and bundled stumps;

looking up and taking in
old quadraplegic
doggedly along the roadside
in his ricketty green trike
with its single high-up pedal
cranked by the right hand
while the
peak hour traffic
beats on by
this country that two grandparents
happily enough i believe
in the end

it was wrecked by war after all

now so very foreign
to me
yet how can i escape
when we've all got our stake
in humanity

how can i accept
the fractured reasoning that leads
to a city of vacant buildings,
while so many doorways
are inhabited by the broken classes

wandering by what consent
do we wander on by
by what bent logic
do we legislate for emtpy dwellings
and sentient doormats?

_ _ _ _ _

thursday morning
i was cheerful
tumbling along in the sun
til suddenly hit
by two swindlers at midday

first off a stolid washerwoman
slyly taking away the self
from the advertised self-service
rapidly exacting a staggering bill
and bullying me away with terse words

so i let the money go
decided to make the most
of the expensive expanse
of freshly freed time
take the opportunity
to read in the mild sun

set up on a bench
with unread poetic emails
bag of treats from the bakery
opened my lungs with a deep breath
re-read col's opening sentences
then suddenly no longer alone
approached by a personable rascally fellow
miming neediness and questioning me
in incorrigible hungarian

tried to fob him off
with a stick of fresh seed-bread
not easily detered
he tried to swap it for the sweets
then pretended to be my friend
shared the bread and begged
to hear the music on my computer
he was twice my size
soft skin and quick fingers
and while i desired to be nice
i might of course have realised
there was only trouble in those needy eyes

but he produced a grubby document
gestured to a phone number
refused i suppose to accept i'd come
to be sitting in such an obscure spot
without an understanding
of his obscure mother-tongue.
i recognised only 'hawlnop'
(also known as 'tomorrow')
and 'no problemo' was clear enough
but as to what he refered to
i was baffled and actually believed
he was offering his assistance
and perhaps a place to sleep,
so i smiled and nodded and
even shook his hand,
trying to go with the flow

but the flow as i realised slowly
wasn't exactly friendly
as he went eventually
through all of my stuff
in a desperate effort to disprove
my absurd assertion of owning no phone

by the time he tried to swipe my wallet
things got a little heated
a suit came by and asked us why
was told some tale and left in a hurry
giving me a dirty look

but still
the focus was broken
just long enough
to attain sole possesion
of all of my stuff
and make a graceless break

_ _ _ _ _

we are still for a long time
the evening still young but it is very dark
a single streetlight but no street
no clues to where we are
many trains pass

i understand few words when any
from the conversations in the carriage
i share a compartment with two young men
they bristle with tension and a jocular humour
i feel isolated and vulnerable
it's now hours from hungarian independence day where
i've tried to escape the air of building violence

already fascist agitators have been very visible
parading for weeks in their cars
with giant flags and police escorts
amusingly clichéd patriotic musak

we have been still for too long
someone has turned on a radio
the sound of crowds and serious commentary
more patriotic music
now the lights have been cut in the train
my companions have been playing cards next to me
they try at first to continue
by the light of a cell-phone display
we all laugh and they give up
i keep writing in the faint light
coming from the lamp outside
edgy because i have no ticket now

after queuing for a long time
i had narrowly managed to get a ticket
but after paying for the last-minute taxi
had to borrow forints off the friendly girls in front
then when we went to the change counter
i was anxious to be away
left them in a rush
got confused and asked around
found my train
seven minutes left
cursed yet again my excessive baggage
unstrapped it all with fumbling fingers
lifted up rucksack, accordion, laptop, trolley
leaped up the steps and found a seat
looked for my ticket
realised one of the girls still had it
two minutes said the conductor
so i ran back with a shimmering hope
yet they'd both vanished and i barely made the train
as the whistle blew and we pulled away
i searched everywhere in vain
shocked by my oversight

the conductor dour but not ruthless
asked for money and i started to search
for enough hungarian currency
he told me to go to second class
the task of shifting so far seemed huge
then when he went i realised
he could possibly have let me off the hook

even before the train was stopped
my head was spinning
scared that the men might try something on
or even steal my valuable things
then imagining them as nationalist troublemakers

the lights are back on now
but still the tinny jingle-jangle of confusion and music
right by me an old man walks up and down
in the corridor by the compartment's open door
the sound of the air conditioning returning now

my head still obsessed by notions of historic trouble
the train stopped by dark politics in the dark night

to muted whoops and jokes
we move

the lights seem harsh after all the darkness
i like the men to play cards again
one has left just now
we are picking up speed as he returns from the toilet

it's not such a great distance to Wien
the lights are on and off
and now we brake to a stop again

the mood is humorous
i wonder if it masks a hysteria

we move again
and electrical faults seem the likeliest answer
but i'm tempted still by conspiratorial fantasies
mad ideas of hijack
thoughts madder again of military coup
borders shut overnight

it was only the other night in Budapest
when Gabi was telling me about ten point plans
pasted up in bus shelters

i'd ridden through the gathering gloom
a city filled with emergency vehicles and sirens
arrived to a strange panic
Gabi's family and neighbors very upset
by an intruder who'd set off three alarms
alerted the local police station
left the house intact but the door ajar

already we'd been inhabiting an empty shell like refugees
a bitter woman having stolen the contents
chandeliers and all
after she lost a court battle challenging the inheritance

unwinding later by the fire with dinner
we discussed the city's mood
the muddy undercurrents tugging
despite the tide of spring euphoria
i persued the issue of trouble to come
Gabi mentioning then
the plans at the bus stands
the exhortations
to bring down the government
the calls for old laws
from between the Wars
no mention of course
of any course for getting to those ends
and so it's suspected
the disaffected are a bit disorganised
but still it seemed wise
to have exited

i had determined to get everything on my bike and depart
first south to visit her friends near Pécs,
where i looked forward to an open home by the forest
spring growth and a hill with a view
then to continue into Croatia
and take back roads all the way to the coast

on a day of warm glorious sun
daffodil optimism opening with the blossoms
it proved a huge effort to load the bike
which is to say it proved a huge load
and the effort too much for the bike:
a flat tyre before i got to the station
led rapidly to a cracked back wheel
and defeated i was left to lament
the hungarian disdain for racks at the front
and the tragic result of my fruitless hunts

my two companions have left the compartment
joining the queues in the corridor
and yes we pull in now at Györ station
where train guards are shifting their feet on the grey platform
one drinking the last from a glass bottle of clear liquid
throwing it in the bin beside him
as the crowd comes flooding past

we pull out and then stop again

the train peaceful now
i decide to leave my stuff and run to the toilet
on returning i can't help looking in the long mirrors
at the scabby sore on my lip
which is far from healed but not oozing fluid any more.
i'm looking pretty spotty still
but there's some good colour returning at last
to the skin inbetween

the border inspector pauses a long time to ponder
i look strong and healthy in the passport photo and
he seems a little doubtful
when eventually he leaves
i wonder if i'll get away without a ticket

but the conductor comes just now
so i fumble mumble and show how
i don't quite have the 28 euros.
he gasps though and grins at the wad of US dollars
i explain it's all i've got and he's all delight
when i accept his suggestion of a simple bribe

$10 quite cheap really
freed by my money's aura of power
funny though how aura
refers to a golden glow
whereas i personally am astounded
by the prosaic dullness of the notes

we are stationary at the border
one last chance
before my revolutionary nightmare
can happily evaporate

mistaking the adjacent train's movement for our own
i get a moment or two of elation
laughing at myself

a third train waits further away now
two kids play games with the curtains
an older girl with black hair and a white shirt
was looking intently in my direction
tries now to sleep in the flourescent glare

the Austrian conductor is pleasant and matter-of-fact
takes my euros and as she continues it becomes clear
that i was not the only ticketless passenger

the old man is wandering the passage again
conversations drift on in accented english and austrian german

finally we are moving again
and austria is a sudden sea of light

pocketknife's lost so can't open the stubborn bottletop
and celebrate with the beer from Mark
–such a profoundly friendly friend
he gave me the bag as i hailed a taxi
bottle of beer and a ploughman's lunch
sweet secret gesture although i remembered then
he'd done the same for Bernie and me
way back at Kiruna trainstation
departing the white arctic night

the old man still paces the corridor
incontinent perhaps

and i wonder weather that arctic departure
was escape or actually banishment
or both i suppose which might point to why
i've been not 40 but 80 days
in strange states of inner wilderness
my balance damaged
lacking other kinds of wildness

i'm not a strong swimmer in truth or metaphor
and the soupy seas of europe
have been a bit like drowning
holding onto boulders and clutching for buoys

but then i've long been a good climber
can always find a line to the sky
and so here i am arriving in Wien
a banished escapee now from Budapest too

i'm continuing today to Venezia
in the streets of Hungary who can say

already yesterday i witnessed this strange parade
awkward horsemen in green white and red
perhaps 40 patriots clipping and clopping
to more of that canned musak
preceeded by police and followed
by two huge orange street cleaners
cleaning the shit i figure
and yet in a way they'd become
a part of the whole parade
soppy-mouthed mascots
of the want for history to be washed

nostalgia takes the strangest forms
flag-rallies in flash cars and those jolting horsemen
and if yesterday was blessed
by blossoms and even a singing granny on the tram
these were flowering though and humming amidst
such a mad epidemic of humbuggery and flaggery

_ _ _ _ _

sleeping with all the momentum of the train
eyes opening to warm light and stillness
a boy a girl sitting close across
stare discreetly and whisper
siblings or teenage lovers
both in dark glasses and blue denim
sideways glance and equivocal hand
yes, yes he does speak english
quite well even
and we are in Bologna already

last off the train
as crowds receed
platform washed with light
the presence of water
bubbling in worn stone
bringing me more even
than sweet relief
a surge of elation

this is a whole deep sleep from Venice
from the long strange night and the cold grey dawn
the vaccuous theatre of illusion
here i'm safe from the point-and-shoot tourists
and i meet true friendliness
find the happy internet where i have
my family speaking into my ears
and friends as nearby as hearing
their vibrant letters read out in my head

the afternoon brings
a swing heart to the piazza
five buskers busting tunes under the blue
a clarinet, double-bass and guitars
stopping the old men passing from market alleys
bicycles laden with fresh food
i sit on the red cobbles in a relaxed crowd of happiness
while a man with a tall face dances gracefully

around us the famous buildings
already filled with
the grace of centuries
keep ageing imperceptibly
while the shadows shift
with the warm sun

and so, and so
this bright little city seduces me
feels like a place i might stay
a place i could live

flirting with a lovely stranger
knowing now where my road goes
seduced by the notion of home
and pulled rapid through mad nations of dreams

_ _ _ _ _

in the cool dawn
pulling tawny waltzes through these sleepy fingers
embracing my lovely red Arrietta
in place of love still far from here
squeezing these marigold bellows
folding feelings into glowing notes
and flowing sneaky hope out to those
closed and surreptitious listeners
to the billboards listless in the mist
the ridiculous big dove missing its eyes
forlorn and flightless on its metal square in the lawn

Pisa Aeroporto 7am
two guards with pistols in their holsters
swagger into the bad café
exuding aftershave and boot-polish
laugh with the staff at the bar
i leave my laptop open on the table
my accordion ambiguous in its case
sitting on the floor next to my chair
cross behind the guards
putting sugars in their coffees at the counter and
stuffing fluffy mock-croissants in their mouths
i waver between the absurd choices
of well-travelled water in plastic bottles
and the lurid pseudo-fruit confections

suddenly frantic italian is erupting behind me
and i turn baffled in time to see
the squarejawed bluecoat squeeze his trigger
and my lovely red Arrietta
shattering dramatically
in her poor battered box
and i of course
i am more than appalled

no appologies are required in times of war

i tape the shonky pieces of board in place
take my holed instrument on the plane
maybe i'll find her an afterlife
as a political art installation

i see islands and alps from far above
the headlines are declaring it to have been
the warmest northern winter on record,
meanwhile the plane is mainly empty
as we tear up the sky
i breathe, deny my tears, think of love
watch the whitecaps form and flee
in the wide wide sea

_ _ _ _ _

Frozen Time at Ice Hotel

after a while
a couple of weeks even
minus one celcius feels warm
in an arctic winter

condensation in the chaotic room
sticking the shavings to the smooth ice
and we are stripped down to thermal undershirts
for the most laborious physical work

after a week of slow powdery snow
cocooned in constant white grey
gentle and stifling,
the unspeakable joyous relief of a horizon!
glorious clarity and coloured luminous skies

there were floods and cancelled trains
whole regions waterlogged further south
during that middle week
humid westerly winds blown off the atlantic
born of warm waters carried north
on the rogue currents of undone seasons

after a week of drifting snow crystals
every black branch and twig is piled high with white
every cable and pylon bulges fat and heavy
a squirrel such a sudden startle of colour

after the joyous arrival
came days of excited bewilderment and stressed confusion
as we waited to see if the weather would allow our rooms to be cast
stayed up late reworking our design
haggling and boggling over the possibilities
the so many questions and the too many answers

on the second night returning finally to rest
in the cosiness of the caravan
utterly drained and exhausted
we discovered that the heating was gone
and while we switched it up higher
and slipped into shivering comas
the van got no warmer
and i woke with sickness

our row of rooms still unbuilt for the next five days so
just planning and thinking and working in the warehouse
cutting heavy blocks into segments for cogs
getting to know the big electric chainsaws
discovering carver's cramp from obsessive chiselling
feeling goofy in the big baggy icehotel-brand arctic-overalls
feeling overwhelmed, tired yet wide-eyed and wired,
sick and yet at times inspired
inspiration not easy though with sinus-head-belly-acheingbones
four months of pent-up melbourne computerwork stress
looking for ways out

having crossed over the fat waist of the world to face opposite stars
flown far to escape the rough edges of despair
finding that i am clothed of course in my own loathing
losing myself still
in the badlands i remember too well

meantimes it's the company pulls me through
picks me up at the mealtimes, the late nights around the fire
and however bad the food in the restaurant
there's the good humour of friendly artists keeping it real

we work frantically on our ice clock
time not on our side somehow
slipping away with alarming rapidity
but the stress slips too with ice chips thick around the feet

sometimes it is just a lack of sleep

i was born to young parents who'd run
to the bushy back-blocks
attempting to reject the whole
suburban mess of humanity

with the best of intentions they neglected to mention
the wrongs they'd run from –
at five i was shocked
in the foreign lands of a shopping centre
by the blind eyes being turned
to the strange old fat man in red pyjamas
luring children to his lap with bad sweets.

yet still for years the bubble of truth and beauty persisted
assiduously maintained
and in spite of the silent histories
tormenting me in my dreams
through the howling echoes of wild dogs,
i slept with a deep naivety of trust
through catastrophies and storms
parties and bright wakeful moons.

as a famously heavy sleeper at twelve
i stared the dogs down in the night
made friends with their sorrow
and still found deep rivers of sleep,
in spite of the sly traumas of high school.

eventually at architecture school
i discovered the halucinations of true sleep deprivation
and since then the sleep has slowly ebbed
banished more and more by caffeine and stress
disturbed sleep patterns and a mind growing ever less settled

but never this before
this tiredness that dogs me day and night
pushes me through and through
through despair and desperate exultant hope
until i'm fighting myself tooth and nail and
losing ground to a premature world-weariness

the nostalgia wells up now and i'm recalling
how every time i'm back at the old bush block
i still slip into the deepest oceans of sleep

but now, now i have come oh-so-far from it
and rest is getting elusive
it evades me in the alien air-conditioned hostels
the dry stale air and constant roaring
the feeling like spending all night on a plane flight;
escapes from me at the cosy arctic caravan
the air too still with a stench of newness,
my sleep fitful as a watchful dog

a month from home
a whole moon beyond
the indefinite dissolution of home,
it is music that lets the tears fall –
back, back then in the melbourne midwinter
on the first night of knowing
that the arctic was truly ahead,
it was jolie holland's sweet singing at the spanish club
as we celebrated
incredulous and awed amid the melancholy red velvet
– far, far now in this arctic darkness
and it's jolie who nurses me through the numb pain
thaws a spring of tears from reluctant ducts
brings my sister's face to make me stay
to stay my feet from finding a snowdrift
where i can drift into the longest sleep of all
out, out in the freezing forest

two days later
days of heavy chainsaw work
amid the frantic scraping and snicing of our shoddy roughcast ceiling
and it is music that makes the stress and sadness fall away

transcending bleakness and weakened health
after a day of working long and hard,
playing clumsy happy tunes for newfound friends and friendly strangers
at jan wilhelm's birthday party in the funny little clubroom
back at the caravan compound

drinking and dancing and drinking more bitter red wine
going to bed with a blurry head
a heart full of laughing and a belly full of grog then
wrenched back out to spend a half hour crippled over a sink
wringing out all the bile and alcohol and blood from a hungry stomach

so the slow start continuing into the second week
the support crew panicky and trying to scare us
and we find our direction but slowly still

we bring a stereo on a makeshift sled
to lift the spirits in the workroom
play music as the snow falls
for a long time we have no end wall and we bring
smiling grins and laughing dances to all who pass

open to the weather
the roaring machines and whirling ice
we are shot at by roving bands of camera-flashing tourists
assisted by amused french engineering students

it was sad to be closed in
and the work got faster and harder

when the weather cleared there were auroras so amazing
as to break even our obsessive concentration
seeding strange tableaux of awed stargazers stopped in their tracks

we go to the sauna party on the last sunday
one last deep breath before the rush to the deadline
rich food and accordion by the open fire
jaw-harps and fooling in the hot-tub under stars
bicycle-stories and sweat in the sauna

as energy and optimism get scarcer
we take it in turns
bernie's commitment the stronger towards the end
and while my body holds out somehow
revelling in newfound strengths
my head wavers as the sleeps receeds
so i defer to her more and more
with days to go it's big-hearted friends and strangers
who help to push us over the line
putting together all the pieces at the last minute
in some kind of miracle

and then we are through the presentations
and having negotiated to stay
for three days more
we work two afternoons
in a beautiful clear space

outside it's finally reached a nostril-searing minus-twenty-something
so we're thankful now for the closed room
and grateful for the chance to be relaxed and unpressured
adding some final elements to balance it all out
and by saturday night we are finally satisfied

partying every night through the last days
through the delirium
and a glorious sunday of stretching and dogsledding
mulled wine and christmas treats
walking on the frozen river
past the old wooden chapel
to julia and mark's cottage on the wooded shore
warm and homely and quirkily delightful
and on to dinner and the last farewells

the fastest pack-up imaginable
thinking we may miss the train
but no, and so suddenly
we're gone again

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