contretemps ensemble


Imagine meeting you here, it’s been forever,
and never in this reality.
Do you still have that sinusoidal staircase,
with beds beneath the maxima?

Let’s dispense with arbitrary greetings,
the usual meteorology and meander.
I’m marketing linoleum, perhaps you might
be interested in purchasing a tessellation?

And yet you’re glowing, sunlit gold,
photoshopped and pasted by the seaside

for our chance encounter.

Diversionary flattery. You're hiding secrets, I expect.

To speak the unrelenting, unforgiving truth
is tiresome, it makes the currawongs
that strut upon the tiles wilt,
long after they have died
and sprouted dandelions.

Generic evasion, a viable strategy.
Is your goldfish still a fish?
Mine left me just last week
without so much as a wave of her tail.

I have no secrets, nor any fish,
and that is all that I am hiding.
Still I wonder, you and I—
does our meeting serve a purpose?

We’re actors in supporting roles.
Our task is to reveal a less-than-likely world,
its salient anomalies.

Surely not, I save all my acting for reality.

Look around you, Instabel:
the rows of empty seats,
the plastic shower curtain painted with the sea
and tropic palms,
swaying to Arthur Lyman's greatest hits on vinyl.

I’m relieved to know we have a raison d’être,
and slightly disappointed that your glow
is just a spotlight. But we’ve set no scene at all.
We might have mentioned the travelers through time,
earthships, and the superluminal cruisers
that dance between the stars.

Shall we go for coffee?
They're open in the foyer.


In a Chrysler dream and wonder,
I found a sleek winged auto in my driveway.
I cleaned my teeth and drove along
the Grand Canonical Parade,
where I stopped for a couple of hitchhikers.

Wherever it is you’re going, I’d be pleased to take you.

Drive, just drive, and don't look back.

But I dared a glance in the rear view mirror.
Beneath their Hawaiian tops and stove pipe pants,
they were coral-encrusted skeletons.


How passé, how disappointing—
long lost
mariners, on stage with an unappreciative audience.
You don’t have anything I could throw, do you?
A shellfish, or possibly a sea urchin.

perhaps to continue 


artwork contretemps ensemble detail above

28 thoughts on “contretemps ensemble

  1. This was a a dense one.

    “Sinusoidal staircase” was a nice image. Had to check the dictionary for ‘sinusoidal’, but the image is solid when you know the sine curve.

    “Instabel” is a pertinent appellation. Lot of that about. Need a male version though: Instagraham? That works. Instagraham glozed in Hefe filter on a beach in the Northeast of England, Hull maybe. Haha.

    the plastic shower curtain painted with the sea
    and tropic palms,

    contributes to the somewhat, trompe l’oeil of the Instagram theme. Instagram is a funny thing.

    • Thank you, Daniel. I’m on that cursed staircase all the time. I would love to sleep beneath it. Ha ha, Instagraham works for me, and I’m sure he would agree that filters are better than the truth.

      This piece kind of “flowed” out, a bit out of my control. I’m hoping it will iron itself out before next week.

    • i am still waiting for the materials so i can start to build my staircase.

      Instagraham is certainly a fop, bet he has a quiff, which is a wig.

      The first stage is always just letting the floodgates go then picking through the debris for survivors & anything vestige of sense. Sometimes it’s like that, other times everything just makes sense & appears that way. It’s a funny thing this business of the mind.

    • Hard to know. Sometimes I wake up to find the feline aliens from Io have not invaded, there is coffee in the cupboard and milk in the fridge, and there are no news reports of mass atrocities during the night. My eyes cannot open any wider, and there is no more room for question marks and exclamation points around my head, I have reached the limit of surprise. This is one possible explanation. 🐒

    • I’ll have mine with ice please Frank. They all want to escape and have their moment in the sun or on the screen, or with sunscreen. Maybe they will talk amongst themselves and work out what on earth is going on.😄

  2. “Let’s dispense with arbitrary greetings” lol.

    I’m about to go in to vote for our state election. For some reason, I particularly enjoyed reading this first 😀

  3. Where do I begin? Steve, your art is so transforming! I wanted to jump into it so I could enjoy it in three dimensions. I as well, read with a dictionary opened ahahah. You give birth to words, wonderful. I had not noticed it was a conversation of two till halfway, my ageing eyes you know. This would make a great stage play. I wanted to hear more.
    It read like a smooth flat rock skipping across the surface of a river.
    Thank you, for sharing your imagination 🙂

    • Thank you, Tamaya, and my pleasure. Now I’m imagining an abstract 3D world, that would be interesting…

      I think my background sometimes leads me astray, and I forget that other people aren’t necessarily nerds. 🤓

      You’re right about the conversation, my eyesight is also poor even with glasses. I didn’t intend it to be as long as it was, and it probably could have continued. Originally it was a very brief introduction but it took over. This style is new for me, and I’m working on the layout and trying to improve it.

      PS: I love your image of the rock skipping. 😃

  4. The marketing introduction made me laugh. The vivid imagery that follows leaves me fascinated , perplexed and delighted too. Is the art work yours? Such beautiful swirls of colour.

    • The marketing is a little bit unfair because people don’t actually do that when they meet, or if they do, it’s more subtle. 😃 Hopefully the story will sort itself out. But it’s pretty unlikely.

      The artwork is mine and Florence’s. Florence is my computer, and I’m working on an application called VEE, the visual evolution engine, which generates the artwork.

      Thank you, Margaret.

  5. Great to read there are alternative realities in which people can meet . What a mind expanding concept to explore. Thanks Steve. P.S. It’s snowing here again!

    • I suppose that the “reality” we live in we kind of construct ourselves anyway. I remember working in an office in Brazil, and one afternoon it rained so heavily that the surroundings were flooded. You could look out a window and see yourself on a ship in a storm.

      My pleasure, Margaret. Lucky you, 40C here yesterday.

    • Well, that’s the character. I do know the most important thing about keeping secrets, and that is to never reveal that there is a secret. 😄Thanks. 😃

  6. Very poignant. “I save all my acting for reality.” “Drive, just drive and don’t look back.” You speak truth in beautiful images. Thank you, Steve.

  7. It’s a good day when you learn something; when you learn multiple things even better: – Arthur Lyman; there’s a bit of Prospero and the Tempest with the hitchhikers – and the Valiant with the pushbutton transmission – gold. Bravo.

    • Thanks, Peter. I’m still an Arthur Lyman fan, Ganggajang, This Is Australia, copied one of his pieces (my opinion). The hitchhikers–possibly some traumatic event I’ve repressed 😄, and I do think that particular Valiant was amazing, emblematic of an era.

  8. Next time I meet someone new, I’m going to say, “I wonder, you and I—does our meeting serve a purpose?” That’s so much better than the generic “nice to meet you” that one hears all the time.
    Maybe those who claim to be terrible actors save all their acting for reality. 😉

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