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               > Wystan Curnow's Place > Castor Bay > Mt Eden Crater Performance
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Mt Eden Crater Performance

I’m sitting on the grass—have just sat myself down on the grass … on the South rim … this’s the writer’s site: on the grass, back to the road, face to Rangitoto and the whole Hauraki Gulf … Cover—cover … the filling with … pip.pip (electronic) … New York … great crater at my feet … beyond the North rim: cranes, the inner harbour, the North Shore and the islands are sharply outlined dark shapes … 10.25, Saturday morning, June 25, day following the winter solstice, 1973 … and so on … the pudding has? … cover—cover … sky’s a light blue, morning mist mostly dissipated by now leaving behind some low-lying cloud in the … the bowl carefully with—the bowl carefully with … the sun’s warm, it’s a good day … sky’s light blue, grass green, the islands are dark shapes on a silver sea … which we learnt about in our own high-school civics class … steam the pudding for one hour—steam the pudding … two guys only about 10 feet away from me, I mean they’re there suddenly and one of them—it’s Geoff Steven—training a camera on me … and he’s attached to the other by a heavy lead … so that’s a portapack video-machine … he pans … then moves away to the right and along the rim … over bright green grass, the loose red volcanic earth … corkscrew (in a high-pitched scream) … corkscrew (again, high-pitched scream) … it’s a long way down to the bottom of the crater and very steep … my position’s precarious … a thumping roar of trains reaches me from the Eastern part of the city … Pam [Allen] comes over with Ben [Allen] … she in her usual poncho, he in a red combat suit … say: Hi! … how long have you been here? … since 8.30 … had hoped we’d get here earlier … it began at dawn? … what’s the time now … about 10.30 … well, you’ve been here quite a time really … yes, we’re just getting adjusted now … Greer’s [Twiss] back … half a pound of bread … (to Guy [von Sturmer] no one knew exactly when they were due … I’d thought he was going to be in London for the whole year, I thought … it wasn’t trains; a steady, if varying, roar there not noticed before … why does the traffic noise just come from that direction? … wind? Or my Western ear not attuned? … bongos now, I’d say … hearing more and hearing … the ear clearing … there’s a squad car parked over there … a new drum … very slow rhythm … some kinda kettledrum sound from the darkness of the shadow in the bottom of the crater … light rhythm … incredible acoustics these extinct volcanoes have! … the deep silence some legacy of ancient apocalyptic life? … the pudding … a sight-seeing bus briefly drowns the drummings and … what is it? I lose it … an oscillator? … several voices talking across the crater … a metal wobble-board you could call it … its Max Oettli down there, bare to the waist standing among the rocks holding it out now in front of his chest, now high above his head catching the light beyond the shadow … but back to the squad car, then, and the two cops who are … were, they’ve gone … car too … were standing behind the white wooden rail on the edge of the road as it curves down from the summit and away from the rim … well beyond earshot … talking with two I assume participants (but in what?) … passing the time of day? … from dawn to dusk officer … casual inquiry, what is this all about? … and those sight-seers? … the sounds are what I’m noticing … they catch the ear, are notably events in this dramatic, massively inert place … voices, words, pulses, phrases, beats, tones taking wing from here, from there and from there, stopping and starting … meanwhile the eye moves more freely, at leisure … around the sides of this great green pit … source of distant upheaval … tiny figures here and there … alone, in pairs, small huddles … lying, standing … slowly moving … except that looking keeps going part-time as the ear tries to keep up, catch up … there’s not time to observe freely while sounds … ! can’t get a grip of the scale of people, things, here … I’m not listening anymore … ! began with the sky … the sea’s a blinding silver … is a delicious dish—is a delicious dish … which repetition comes now not from the East … rim to rim the phrases, from one rim to another across me but now both voices to my right, in the West … sound of a small plane overhead but the sight-seeing bus now starts its motor rendering inaudible … Devonport, Mt Victoria, North Head … Rangitoto … float … silver behind, in front … the reflection most painful directly ahead of me … miles and mile of reflecting sea changing to an indefinite metallic blue-grey East and West out near the horizon broken by the odd flat black island … 1 see the plane … wing catches the sun as it banks to the West … O Pauline—O Pauline(spoken mechanically however) … laughter—where from?—you’d make a very good Chinese cook … laughter … one and a quarter pounds of … the Northern rim isn’t as high as this but it’s the highest patch of colour before me … its green, lotsa yellow, sings clearly … light blue sky, silver sea, black islands … scalliwags—scalliwags … a bell rings … wooden chimes … that before … except for a more acidic green on the East and West faces of the crater … the shadow opposite hangs enormously down from … I’ve got such fat lips … North rim in a great saggy mass … a dark distended semi-circle reaching down to the scoria-scattered floor … down there among the rocks now … light flutters on bongo drums … I catch sight now of a tiny drumming figure, hunched over … the two voices together … to get well … well … one male now whereas before there were two girls … recipes are woman’s work? … in fact the man’s walking toward me just below the lip … he has on a long white lab coat … is loud and clear now … a white megaphone on his hip … wired to the mike strapped heavily grotesquely to his head … a couple of inches from his lips … as if primitive tribes … I think it’s Jim [Allen] … as if primitive tribes … black beard … can’t be Jim … European beliefs—the European beliefs in primitive magic … in? … in primitive magic … he’s gone past now, still keeping several yards down below the lip … another whistler … way out on the Eastern rim a bottle is being hit in a rhythm answered to the North West by the loud ring of a metal pipe being struck. ..someone runs down the steep slope (!) … he’ll fall and roll to the bottom and graze himself quite badly on the scoria … he stops by the two figures attached to each other by a rope is it? … one in a red coat and black trousers, the other in a boiler suit, face completely covered in some balaclava … further developed the idea uncritically … further developed the idea … in bright yellow … he’s guided, roped to, the figure in the red coat … clambering, stumbling slowly all this time around the inside of this extinct volcano Mount Eden without benefit of video … all three standing there for the moment talking I guess … for Malinovsky … its one of the drum stations—static and mobile, scattered … that was where I heard the kettledrum … it’s no longer in the shadows now … words are louder because they mean; I realise that now since the megaphones are silent now, there’s no audible talk on the mountain now and it seems vastly quieter and yet before I’d often have to strain to hear … the bottle sounds again … the kettledrum, slowly … portapack pair still together, seeing eye camera picking its way slowly down the face to my right … the sightseers depart silently, the bus moving slowly past the white rail down the road that curves down from the summit and away from the rim … no, brakes squeak briefly, twice, before it disappears from sight down the hill … a few moments ago there was a line of them, dark-suited Japanese, on the road behind and to my right all looking North out over the Gulf, all thinking what? … seeing what sights? … a reedy hoot (new sound) … bottles clink briefly … I think of Japanese prints, Rangitoto/Fujiama rising about the mist at breakfast time in Castor Bay … do they notice Rangitoto? … the silver sea … a wind instrument … where from? … plastic bucket drum making a plastic thud thud—thud thud … inverted white plastic bucket over there low down on the West face … the shadow’s changing, not so fat now, straightening up on the Eastern side … the strange tree, an oak I think, growing inside the crater … aside from it there’s only grass and scoria … an anomaly … halfway down, directly opposite, leafless … was before a strange ball of light brown twiggy stuff caught be the sun, suspended, floating, in a black mass of deep shadow … now emerges as a tree with: trunk, branches, casting a show of its own into the bottom of the crater and in my direction … voices again … I’m falling down the slope, an almost vertical drop of several hundred feet, down to the … for about three months—for about three months … in their social—in social or personal lives … it’d be so easy to fall, all the time looking down into this crater doesn’t make one’s position any less precarious … when she was twenty-one … at the time … and she remembers—she remembers … reminds me of watching the water at Niagara Falls, watching the water, tons and tons of water, pouring over and pouring over and pouring over until I had lost my footing and was myself swept over … and she remembers … and … cups of the stock … one of her brothers … one and a half … order to which had been added … full and dried up maggots—full of dried up maggots … and has … has … her answers to questions … suicidal ideas … have you seen Max? … again suddenly someone appears in front of me … people come up upon me unexpectedly which must be a result of all this attention I’m paying … do I know Max? … you know Max … Max Oettli? (of course) … he was down there a while ago but I don’t know where he is now … she picks up her small tambourine … cognitive function … with her … I’ve moved now to the East rim … sit myself down … at one of the fixed drumming stations … a rubbish tin lid hanging by a string from the limb of a tree … remove them from the skittle … the therapeutic—the therapeutic … someone hits the rubbish tin lid … there’re four of us sitting here at the station and just over the rim’s a reader, microphone, megaphone and book … reading recipes in phrases … phrases coming back and getting slowly closer now … against the green grass … the sun noticeably higher now … I’ve moved again, I’m going round the crater anti-clockwise and now I’m sitting on the North rim of the crater looking across to where I sat when I arrived … it’s a long way over there … my back to the sea … a sudden burst from a large wooden rattle down in the crater … two girls … then, a mother and daughter … a big ginger dog panting and shaking at my elbow … getting to be that time of the morning … it’s not a kettledrum of course and I now see the cutdown 40 gallon drum … car horn … red paint and rust … played lightly again … and wood chimes … sounds like a circular saw but scraping the edge of a cymbal with … tranquillising drugs … or magic—or magic … a distant siren … it’s a violin bow(!) that he’s scraping up and down the edge of the cymbal … a drugged state … the tree’s now emerged completely from the shadow of the rim on which I’m sitting … through the twigs I see scoria … the scoria’s the same colour as the twigs—a light reddish brown … the same combinations coming up again and again but moving around, alteration of relationships … the same elements coming up again and again but moving around, different combinations … but the trunk is grey … lichen on the bark … a greenish grey … and tranquillising drugs … all sorts of people now wandering around on the mountain, not in the crater mind you, around the rim … drums … wood chimes, coming from where? … not necessarily … a wind instrument trills and bubbles … that’s nice … bottle clink and plastic bucket drum … there’s something of a breeze now … blowing through the sounds, bending a little the lines that converge on me from there and there and there and now … and now … at any time (a girl’s voice) … of justice … drumming from three stations … this thin orchestra … this vast volcanic bowl … under the tree, on the West rim … and … I can’t hear you … puppy … I can’t hear … sniffs me … between … passes on … cure … the? I can’t hear … Jim says that, he’s on my right, on the West rim … of miraculous intervention … intervention and so I got up and moved around again, for the last time, and sat down next to Jim … bongos under a pine tree here … put my hand in some sheep shit … sitting down: Shit! … playing it not with his hands but with two small sticks … it’s no good, I can’t hear you … it’s funny how there are some blind spots … the microphone is strapped heavily, and grotesquely, to his head … his words come out the megaphone at his hip … the breeze freshening up, bending the sounds … maybe that’s it … the blind spots … Guy wants to get away so I must get back to the summit … Jim tries to get away from the blind spot … grow with confidence … bongos louder and a fancier rhythm … can’t see the sea, just the sky and it’s a deep blue now … behind me the road that curves down from the summit and away from the rim … Ben in his red combat suit is a tiny figure climbing down the far slope … small figures wandering in the crater … red and white pair stumbling around on the South slope now … megaphone hums violently, woodchimes … the chronic neurotic patient … which has really tried … what? … possibiltiies … all important … it must be about midday.

Written 1973, first published 1976.