Schlafwagen und Wunderkammer* (Richard James Allen)

Verity La Heightened Talk

(*German for ‘sleeper’ or ‘sleeping car’ and ‘cabinet of curiosities’ or ‘wonder room’)

you are on the night train to Vienna
and you have already arrived in Berlin
you are about to walk home in Sydney
and you must dash back out to see
the play that is now more popular
than Hamlet in London

you are cold in your high sleeper bed
that you collapsed into
when the night heat came on
suddenly in a rush
without getting under the covers
that are now cold
that you collapsed into
you are wrapped in an old overcoat
you don’t remember owning
dreaming of trying to stay warm
in a high-raked hall of a tall-walled university
listening to a lecture on the mechanics of flashback
and your mind keeps wandering to a back shed
somewhere beyond the Wall in East Germany
full of homemade contraptions that were far too unreconstructed
ever to be sent to a Dickensian-looking patent office
piled high with yellowing documents
that curl like nineteenth century moustaches

you are in the long tail of a tall tale
a cat coiled up in itself asleep
the way those big ropes
that secure ships to their ports
are coiled into perfect circles
by nameless foreign seamen
the forever migrant workers
circling the globe
only one of whom
ever gets off the boat
to become Joseph Conrad

you are being asked by your roommate
your bunkmate your companion
what do you call someone
travelling with you on a night train
in one of the lower bunks
a person who for reasons unknown
shall remain nameless
to set an alarm so that she yes she
that much you can know
can wake up before the guard
who has no English comes with the croissants

you are sure you are reassuring her you have           
                 and it may be that you have                           
                                but you don’t remember in which country                                        
                                                 or time zone you would have have-have-have done so                                                                                                                    though you like the idea                                                                  
                                                                                  that this act of thoughtfulness
                                                                                                    may have occurred                                                                  
                                                                                   and you being the enactor                                                     
                                                                   if not the instigator of it                                                                           

you are thinking that you may have to be the alarm clock yourself
though your clock hands are wrapped inside your imaginary overcoat
and not a lot about the rest of you resembles a device
for the capture and distribution of time

you are of the opinion that when you fell into this  sleep  in  a  cocoon  of  vibration  you were  sure  or at  least fairly certain that  it  would be a normal sleep that  is  to say just like any other sleep but on the contrary  it  feels  as  if you have been having the whole history  of  consciousness downloaded into the data banks  of  your  body  which for an unspecified period  of  time have replaced your usual cells but this  is  most odd as you are  not  sure  if  you believe  any more that consciousness  has  a  history  though  you might  go  so far  as  to  offer  that it gets woven in to history finally realising that it was only ever  a  visitor  to  the aforesaid state  of  you are not sure what really playing hide and seek  in  the winding corridors and hallways of time and personality a game  it  got caught up in but now understands it can step away from any time it wishes to exit
                                           time that is to say whenever it no longer wishes to be part of                                        
                                                            the here and the now                                                     
                                                                              and the then and the to come    

                                                                                    Knock, knock, knock!

so the question the guard asks you
in English by the way
is not would you care for some breakfast
but are you ready to be awoken from this dream of timelessness
or would you prefer to remain in a room of marvels
a disembodied spectacular down the rabbit hole of the fantasia elevator              
               taking up semipermanent residence in the cross-eyed manifesto                           
                              of time masterpieces of continuous previousness          
            a conspiracy of angels flocking in all directions at the holy speed of intuition   
                                                  as you learn to live in the fantastic space

 


smaller-cropped-Richard-James-Allen-portrait-by-Saba-Vasefi-Copyright-©-2016-The-Physical-TV-CompanyRichard James Allen’s ten books of poetry, fiction and performance texts include Fixing the Broken Nightingale (Flying Island Books), The Kamikaze Mind (Brandl & Schlesinger) and Thursday’s Fictions (Five Islands Press), shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry.  He won the Chancellor’s Award for most outstanding PhD thesis at UTS.  Widely published in anthologies, journals and online for over thirty years, Allen has been the recipient of numerous awards, nominations, grants, as well as opportunities for presentations, screenings and broadcasts, in a unique international career as an acclaimed writer, director, choreographer and performer. Find more at Physical TV & at Australian Poetry Library