toast coetzer – weather balloon

when you release a weather balloon
off the back of the ship
with the small box of the radiosonde
dangling precariously below its
oversized white grape of a shape
on a simple string
which unfurls as you let it go
to become ten metres, or longer
so the radiosonde can feel
the atmosphere around it
in its full, naked glory
it is eleven o’clock, or midnight
somewhere in the world
it might as well be here
where we are in our pajamas
and the balloon is about this size
and filled with helium
and seconds after you’ve let it go
it is sucked up into the wild
black sky, and the noisy, battling sea
seems to urge it on with an out of
control applause from below
and it is gone, so suddenly, so for surely,
and you’re left standing there, disappointed
blinking into the inky cold, with your head hanging
back onto your neck and your mouth open
in your sticky gumboots
and the salty diesel smell in your beard
and it only gets exciting again when
you hunch over a computer screen inside
with the meteorologists to look – like
alchemists – at the boiling pot of
leaping numbers as the weather balloon
and its transmitting radiosonde races through
the layers of emptiness, a thousand metres, two thousand metres
and sends lurches and spurts of data back to
where we’re bobbing in the Atlantic
as it shoots upwards
with squiggles and digits and facts
through what seems like nothing
but is in actual fact the invisible sinews that
keep the clouds tied to the mountains, moss to the trunk
the raindrops to the snakes, fish to pebbles
goats’ hooves to cliff faces, tomato green to finger tips
the sea to the murmuring, cracking movement of the continents
and the spongy, lung-like coral fans to the conversation
filtering plankton and pain and matter of fact
in the queue at the ATM about the weather and tax
and death and babies and the future
and five thousand metres, seven thousand, nine thousand
to where commercial airliners fly in straight lines
through clouds and stars and shavings of moon
which cannot be seen because the shutters are down
and the movies are being shown
and by now the weather balloon has grown in size
due to the air pressure to the size of this room
and the radiosonde is reaching the edge of
its usefulness to our understanding and prediction
of weather systems and unfurling cold fronts
winds and even the sprinkling of godsmall protons
and atomic nuclei which have been travelling towards us
from very far away – from the herb gardens of supernovas –
to confirm what we’ve been suspecting
for a while already: we are born fragile, and dogs are
our eternal friends.

albatrossFor more of Toast’s wonder-filled words, check out the gig happening this Thursday night in Cape Town at Joule City, entitled “Albatross: a journey through spoken and unspoken word”. You can buy tickets on QUICKET or at the door.

According to the blurb for the event on Facebook:

This collaboration combines movement with poetry to create a unique audio – visual performance. For this show, the band will consist of Toast Coetzer, Righard Kapp, Jon Savage and Jane Breetzke (the latter two also collaborators in Toast’s other band, Simply Dead). Darkroom Contemporary will accompany the band with an exploration of the music through movement.

Cape Town artist Katherine Bull will create/ draw during the performance and her artwork will be projected for the audience to see.

The material performed in the Albatross show will take the shape of a 45-minute journey. Toast went on a sea voyage to Tristan da Cunha in 2013 and the show will trace themes he wrote about while on the journey and on the island, which is the most isolated permanently populated island in the world (it’s almost 3 000 km from Cape Town).

Hence the ocean, sea voyages, sea birds (and principally the albatross and its marathon gliding exploits to feeding grounds, and then back to a speck in the ocean where a mate awaits on a nest), oceanography, metereology and geography will become the background for love, long-distance relationships, people’s adversity against the odds and other human frailties to be explored against.

each day

“She arches her body like a cat on a stretch. She nuzzles her cunt into my face like a filly at the gate. She smells of the sea. She smells of rockpools when I was a child. She keeps a starfish in there. I crouch down to taste the salt, to run my fingers around the rim. She opens and shuts like a sea anemone. She’s refilled each day with fresh tides of longing.”

– Jeanette Winterson, ‘Written on the Body’