Friday, March 20, 2015

The Living Dead

Honouring our poetic ancestors

Here Comes the FLOOD
By Daevid Allen (1938-2015)

Great Gorganzolas!
Hold everything!
The world just stopped!
I have just experienced a day of inundation unequalled in my experience here.
It rained for three days & three nights with such intensity that the river opposite my house suddenly rose up, swallowed my garden & then rapidly climbed the wall of my two story house, swamping my garage & car below.
On the third day I awoke from a third dark & stormy night with an uneasy gut feeling.
Such was the current of water rushing down from the hills that the field at the back of my house became a raging river that carried away everything around my house that was not securely moored....
Simultaneously the ocean just through the trees raged & breached the sand dunes adding extra currents to the chaos.
I was isolated safely above the water but for how long? The waters had entered the bottom of my house & were rising up the inside stairs
Stranded with no electricity I watched amazed as fish leapt out of the water beneath my balcony & birds took refuge beside me out of the pelting rain.
Cars floated about on the road like boats & thunder & lightening pounded my ears with magnificent doomsday surroundsound.
I delved about in my powerless house & found a tiny portable radio & a couple of dubious batteries which let me tune in to local bayFM radio. I was listening for only a couple of minutes to a cheery voiced female talking about nearby Lismore being evacuated when they suddenly went off the air presumably due to power failures in Byron Bay.
Was this the end of the world as I know it?
The other weird thing was that there were no signs of life from houses nearby.
Had they all been evacuated in the night?
By now it was midday & the rain on the roof was deafening. My laptop? No luck, battery too old...I was starting to pine for a human sighting....the phone?? YES!
I rang Gilly to find that her situation was even worse. The water was only two steps below her front door & was also pouring through the roof in the middle of the house.
Her car was submerged up to the windows & she was generally more worried than fact I felt much better to be the reassuring one.
I returned to the balcony to see a yellow inflatable rescue boat rushing up the river.
Many of the single story houses must certainly have been washed through & their inhabitants would be in shock.
Then more & more boats appeared. Also kayaks, canoes, surfskis & surfboards to the rescue.
Helicopters fussed noisily overhead.
Most of my near neighbours remained above the water line & those in danger had been safely extracted & taken up to the community centre.
Suddenly the rain stopped & it was party time. What else better to do?
A cheerful call from Gilli told me she was safely back at work in the studio at the dry end of her house. Then Ynys rang from Turiya's place high up in the mountains intrigued by my predicament & unhappy not to be sharing it.
As the sun set I opened a bottle of wine, lit every candle I could find & played my new acoustic guitar all night!
After my first really peaceful sleep for days, I awoke this morning to find most of it had drained away.
My car, though the water had risen just over the interior seats, miraculously still worked!
The garage was a chaos of sodden reel to reel tapes, wet clothes & ruined electrical stuff.
Then the state premier landed in a helicopter on the new brighton oval & did a couple of prime time tv news spots outside the all but obliterated New Brighton store declaring us a national disaster & promising us all new bedding, washing machines & more plastic stuff. Ahh politics!!
I wandered my neighbourhood finding mud & debris strewn everywhere with low lying houses in total confusion but also that generous atmosphere of jokey acceptance & togetherness that comes from surviving the vicissitudes of nature as a community.

daevid alien. new brighton.
friday 1 june 05

I received this piece by email shortly after it was written (about what was indeed a memorable, though thankfully brief, local flood). I think it's wonderful writing, but it's not a poem. Later Daevid turned it into a poem, which I heard him recite at a spoken word event. It was even livelier and funnier that way. However I don't have a copy of that version.

But here is a poem. (Scroll down a little way.) You can listen to some music too, and explore the site for many treasures.

Daevid Allen, musician and poet, died a week ago, on March 13, of cancer, aged 77. He died at home, surrounded by his four sons.

His life was fully lived. The Wikipedia entry, at the link on his name, above, gives you details of his fascinating career. Obituaries are being published all over the world. I like this one in particular.

Talented, innovative and visionary, he was also known for his humour and good nature. Much loved by many, he'll be greatly missed.

He was a founder of the legendary band GONG (which describes itself as a prog-psych-space-jazz fusion group); in his youth was a friend of Robert Graves; and was still travelling the world to perform as recently as 2013. His last poetry performance was in February this year in his local community at Byron Bay, Australia, where he quoted from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran:

"For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? 
And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered? 
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. 
And when you have reached the mountaintop, then you shall begin to climb. 
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance."

On the GONG website, he recently sent a message in similar vein:

daevid allen - a message for you 
[posted Thr 5 Feb]
Hello you Kookaburras,

OK so I have had my PET-CAT scans (which is essentially a full body viewing gallery for cancer specialists) and so it is now confirmed that the invading cancer has returned to successfully establish dominant residency in my neck. The original surgery took much of it out, but the cancer has now recreated itself with renewed vigor while also spreading to my lung.
The cancer is now so well established that I have now been given approximately six months to live.
So My view has Changed:
I am not interested in endless surgical operations and in fact it has come as a relief to know that the end is in sight.
I am a great believer in "The Will of the Way Things Are" and I also believe that the time has come to stop resisting and denying and to surrender to the way it is.
I can only hope that during this journey, I have somehow contributed to the happiness in the lives of a few other fellow humans.
I believe I have done my best to heal, dear friends and that you have been enormously helpful in supporting me through this time
So Thank you SO much for being there with me, for the Ocean of Love
and Now, importantly, Thankyou for starting the process of letting go of me, of mourning then transforming and celebrating this death coming up - this is how you can contribute, this would be a great gift from those emotionally and spiritually involved with me. 
I love you and will be with you always - Daevid xxx 

Though he was unafraid and seemingly irreverent in his artistic expression, Daevid was conscious of the sacredness of art. Thom the World Poet, who was a great friend of Daevid's over many years, tells a story of a poetry gig they turned up to somewhere, long ago, to find they were the only people there. Daevid wanted them to recite anyway, which they did. At first Thom expressed the opinion that it would be a waste of time, but Daevid said, 'No. We're sanctifying the space.'


  1. Thank you Rosemary. It heartwarming to "meet" such a lovely person. After reading his essay I felt love at first sight, then sad to learn he had died. He was such a lovely person who lived and died gracefully.

  2. A cleansing tear shower is happening. You sanctified ths space. Again. Thank you.

  3. Oh what a dear and remarkable human being. Thank you for every word of this, Rosemary. Here is a man who knew how to live, how to love, and how to let go when the time was nigh. I love that after the flood, he played music. And how he asked his friends to accept his situation and celebrate his exit from the planet gracefully. Wow. I wish I had known him. I am grateful to hear about him. I echo what Susan said - you have sanctified this space, my friend.

  4. Oh dear.. May his soul rest in peace...

  5. I savored this story, Rosemary. His writing is wonderful really. Poetic prose indeed. It sounds like he knew how to live and knew how to die. And I too liked the story about Daevid & Thom sanctifying the space and holding their poetry reading despite lack of attendance. Why not!!

  6. I am glad to have been able to share some sense of this wonderful man with you all.


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