By Nathan Curnow, with Improvisation by Geoffrey Williams
The Night Reverses is a unique two-man show that remixes poetry into a live music improvisation. Performing a selection of spoken word, Nathan presents Geoffrey with a high-risk challenge in front of a live audience. Upon hearing each piece for the very first time Geoffrey immediately replies, freestyling the poem into a groove via a loop machine and his finely-tuned instinct for soul, funk and blues.
1. Lake Wendouree
We can start at the lake
and keep going round, or launch
from the Olympic Rings, rowing across
that weed-free strip cut fresh by somebody
each morning. We can stop for the swans
and cygnets parade-making wherever they like,
for kids on training wheels learning how
to ride, putting distance between themselves
and their parents. We can savour the view
on a sun-clapping day straight through
to Mt Warrenheip—there are photos of it,
competitions full, and that oil painting hangs
in the gallery. They’d also like me to mention
the Gold Rush, the Uprising, the birth of
the Ballarat Star, the begonias and busts,
as we board the tram, the Arch of Victory
and the Avenue of Honour.
2. Lake Wendouree
But I can only tell you about the boy
down the road, one kilometre from shore,
from the private school boat sheds and
glass-walled mansions with ornamental
bird feeders in their yards. Just one kilometre,
where teen mums push their prams along
the bitumen, and police tape decorates
the streets for months, because cops
come to put it up, not take it down.
There is a boy named Jadyn and a new
volunteer helping with the Reading Program.
She asks, If you could go anywhere in the world,
what’s one place you’d like to go? Jadyn says,
Lake Wendouree, because he’s never been,
because his mum has never owned a car
and he doesn’t know what ‘overseas’ is.
Because he can’t imagine anything bigger,
better or so impossibly far away. He’s never
had the opportunity, just one kilometre
from shore. And they’d like me to mention
the swans and cygnets, the families and
Botanical Gardens, but here’s the view of
the lake in the mind of a boy who’s never
had a chance to see it. Somebody cuts the lake
each day, everything beneath the surface,
for the rowers to row past Mt Warrenheip,
like that oil painting in the gallery.
3. Lake Wendouree
But I can only tell you I don’t know
Jadyn, or whether his mum owns a car.
I made up his name because the story I heard
is a good angle for a commissioned poem.
It’s true, I get to write the script, all
from a position of privilege. It’s true, along
with the swans, the view and the heritage
they’d like me to mention. I can’t decide
what I owe Ballarat, aside from—the lake,
and the lake is round. I park beside it,
framing scenes, hawking them as ‘home’.
To contest it here in three parts, continually
jogging the beat, knowing that the word
Wendouree translates to, go away. I remain
on the edge with best intentions, meaning to
go beyond. And yes, we get sun-clapping days.
We bloody know it can get bloody cold!