Monday, July 21, 2008

the coloured boys

Last night I was reading the prose section in the heart of Gwen Harwood's final book, The Present Tense (1995). It is comprised of what I assume are childhood memoirs, presented as four short stories. The last story has an image that comes of a mishearing. A young woman tells of finding a glass buoy on the beach, and the child thinks it is a glass boy, green in her imagination.
"The glass boy, were his arms jointed to his sides, or did they move like a doll's? Was he a baby boy or a grown up boy? Could you stand him up like an ornament? Was he hollow or glass all through?'
The young woman writes the word down for her, buoy.
'It's something that keeps you afloat in the water. Or tells you there are dangers, like rocks underneath.'
Later as she goes to sleep, in the shadow of modernity (she has just listened to the wireless through a headphone with her friend Alice, her father tells us the wireless will change the world), she mourns the green glass boy 'born of a mistake in my head, floating on the waves in his net cradle.'

This morning Una relayed her dream for the first time. She dreamed of a blue boy, a bad blue-eyed boy. 'And he was on the floor and I sawed it. In bed. And that blue boy have a blue t-shirt and blue legs too and long blue hair and it was really really scary.' He didn't do anything. He just looked at her. When she came home this morning from dropping Frederique at kinder, she checked her room to make sure he wasn't still there.

How real these things are, glass boys and dream boys, lodged in the worlds between language and thought in the realm of the imaginary, on the edge of dreaming.


  1. beautiful! in (i think) a paul jennings story (could be wrong about the author, i read this a very long time ago), there's a mishearing of 'heirloom', as 'air-loom', quite a beautiful image - what would an air loom weave...