After the reading ended, Thom took me out to the veranda, where a group of musos improvised enthusiastically late into the night. Thom improvised poetry against this background; a young woman danced. I was so carried away with it all that at one point I actuallly leapt into the circle and improvised four lines — after which, being me, I sat down and wrote them out. I wandered off by myself to do so, and caught myself feeling melancholy. Suddenly I had had enough of being in a city. I shook it off, went back to the musos, and sat and 'drummed' vigorously all night, tapping my fingers on the tops of my legs and pounding my heels on the floor.
Improv at Ruta Maya
with Thom and musicians, April 25 2006
Poetry pours from his pores.
On the veranda at Ruta Maya
he shouts it out with the music.
I can’t hear particular words,
only a wall of sound, the beat
of drums and guitars. I jump
into the circle, jig and yell
my sudden homesick longing
to be away from the city, any
city, even Austin where poetry
dances at night accompanied
by fast, insistent music. Then I sit
next to a drummer I know and
clap my hands and click my heels
all night in a rhythmic trance.
A girl of sinuous grace enters the
pounding ring of sound, performs
intricate visual poems of dance
and flowing gesture. Sometimes
one or another man, drawn in
to the pull of her rhythms, joins
to partner her briefly, then retires.
She alone sustains the weaving forms.
The music too never stops, though
this musician or that may pause
for a moment’s rest. Thom smiles
and shakes his rattles, watching
it all, perceiving macrocosm
(‘She is the poetry’) and microcosm:
a path needed for a wheelchair here,
a drummer there growing tired,
a new young guitarist to welcome.
And every so often he leaps up,
joins the circle, dances with his hands
and shouts his spontaneous poetry.
I write the date of these events,
subtitling the poem, and see
it was Anzac Day at home. Far
from home, I spared no thought
for wars and heroes, old or new.
It was air and forest, light and ocean
I missed … as now I miss the joy
of the strong, never-failing beat,
that family of laughing musos
whose warmth included me,
at Ruta Maya in Austin, Texas,
on a soft, unsettling night
in the middle of Spring.