Saturday, January 10, 2009

Edgar Allan Borges

It was some kind of convention but I cannot now recall what it was about. All I remember is the venue, Rotorua, and a group of us around empty wooden tables in a wide open room like a warehouse or a barn. In the shadows, the dark-skinned boys with lustrous eyes, waiting hopefully and expectantly to join our deliberations, were certainly Aboriginal. I wanted to buy a pot of honey and asked therefore where the nearest newsagent was. Lake Road, my friend said, so off I went into the town to look for it. Sometimes when we become lost in dreams we never find our way again but I did at last come to the right street and walked down it past brand new condominiums and office buildings made of steel and glass. The newsagent in the basement of tower there, naturally, did not sell honey but, as I went on across a glittering plaza, a secretive young man walked past me with his eyes fixed reverentially upon a small jar he was holding in both hands before him. A fair way along the road I came upon a cafe. Black and white chequered floor, bare tables, metal chairs, no-one in attendance. On one of the tables, an ornate bank note, of large denomination, in a currency I did not recognise; on another, a pile of small books with soft red covers. It was an honesty system. I paid my money and took away my copy. A strange script, cursive, stained like old blood on brownish paper. There were line drawings too, in black ink, hectic and a bit over done. The stories were by Edgar Allan Poe and two of them—a short one near the front, a long one towards the back—were on Maori subjects. I read them with growing excitement as I walked back up Lake Road. Yes, I heard a woman's voice say, we smuggled them out of America, we don't have copyright clearance, but it seemed important that these stories should be known in the country that inspired them. I was standing in the small porch of a public hall reading when out the door my father came. He looked handsome, relaxed, at ease, glowing with health and vitality. I hugged him. You look wonderful, I said. I feel good, he replied, grinning at me. About the age I am now or maybe a little younger. He and his friend went out into the yard, took off their sports jackets and began setting the bonfire that we would later light. I felt a sudden doubt: Poe? Or Borges? The Dutch owner of the cafe where I bought the book came up. A huge man with a perfectly bald head. Laughing at my brief temptation to steal the currency left upon his table. The Dream of Coleridge, he boomed. You know it? Who is to determine the ownership of dreams? Perhaps, and I know you have already had this thought, we have things precisely the wrong way round. You are not the dreamer but the dream.

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