Category Archives: The Water Diviner

Ludovico Einaudi – Waves

I opened up a book of early poems by William Butler Yeats the other day, and I read “The White Birds” while listening to some piano music about the ocean by Ludovico Einaudi. I discovered Einaudi from some of the more enchanted moments in the soundtrack to Russell Crowe’s directorial debut, The Water Diviner. I’ve been wanting to write some poetry about Einaudi’s music ever since.

But this short poem for Yeats and Einaudi quickly became just another poem about ocean plastic. I can’t think of anything but plastic when I picture the beach. Even listening to Ludovico Einaudi’s beautiful album Waves, all I can smell is trash from the dumpsters where the seabirds feed, now that the oceans contain more plastic than fish.

Plunge again in the water, dive deep in the foam –
count the lost inland seabirds who called these waves home.
Tangled in netting from hungers long spent,
the seashore rewrites all – the white birds have left.
The lily-like creatures of reef and abyss
turn empty glass faces toward ours, and we miss
the companionship wild geese and gulls mocked in us,
when we nodded to see them and bribed them to fuss
over all of our comings and goings – they’ve gone
up the rivers to forage from dumpsters that spawn
around cities we once fled to come to the sea.
Their detritus now covers all we can see.

Sorry to be so grim today. But here are some beautiful deep sea creatures to take your mind off the ugliness of it all.

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Ayshe

Quantum of Solace Bond girl and Water Diviner leading lady Olga Kurylenko is now in three movies on my watch list – a drama about peacebuilding work (A Perfect Day), a drama set in the Spanish Civil War (There Be Dragons), and Terry Gilliam’s much-anticipated The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. This short poem, based on the 30th Psalm, is in the voice of her character Ayshe in Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner.

As I would draw from a well, hope drew me up,
just when I had to face my fears, and say “no.”
Rooted in fond memories, hope sustained me.
I wept for hope of better days – faith healed me.
This is what pulled me away from purdah,
a faith in a life that was too full for mourning.
A house should sing back to the garden’s wild birds,
and I have not forgotten those songs, that love.
All of our losses are over in moments,
our lives hurry on, with more pleasure than pain.
In the evening, perhaps you bed down with tears;
and come morning, the sun smiles – all is glad song.
And I, I used to imagine our future,
never missing a beat – no one could stop us.
That hope gave me the stubbornness and the strength
a mountain needs, when I found myself alone.
To this faith in happier days I reach out,
once more gambling on hopes long set aside.
“What would be gained by seeing me walled away,
in thrusting me down to face only the dead?
Can dust acclaim the love I bear my husband,
can this enforced mourning show our son his truth?
I protest, and I reach out in hope of grace.
I pray for our promises for our Orhan.
Out of a dirge, I found a tune to dance to,
laying aside the veil and taking up joy.
Hope fills my heart with constant, restless music –
I will never abstain from giving it voice.

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Filed under Acting, Directing, Music, Poetry, Roll Credits, The Water Diviner

A Thousand and One Arabian Nights

This poem adds little to the charm of the 23rd Psalm, by adapting the words to the story of Joshua Connor’s presence in his son Arthur’s thoughts during their separation, in the war film The Water Diviner, written for and directed by Russell Crowe. (Now’s your chance to vote for Russell Crowe and The Water Diviner in the AACTA Audience Choice Awards!)

If you haven’t seen it: the way the film tells the story of this connection, we meet Joshua completing a hard day’s work and coming home to read his absent sons a bedtime story from A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, to comfort his distraught wife, who hasn’t accepted the news that all three boys were killed – on the same day – in the famous battle of Gallipoli.

This children’s book will reappear more than once as the story of their father’s search for peace unfolds, in an epic adventure that is also a love story, in the sense that all songs, as Russell Crowe often tells us, are actually love songs.

Again, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, this poem comes with a spoiler alert.

Though loss holds me back, your love is my shepherd,
in echoing silences, I shall not want.
In rocky pastures I follow, unerring,
by quiet signs led to the welling waters.
My life hung about me like dust and soot – then,
love led me back by unfamiliar alleys,
into a sanctity I struggled to trust.
When we laid past the trenches, in no-man’s-land,
for myself and my brothers I feared no harm,
for your love abides with us in everything.
Your marvellous welter of magical tales –
it was these memories we called up, in need.
You set out a moveable feast within us,
we smiled, slapped our backs, in the face of our foes.
Your hand on my back restores a spent courage
in me that had flowed out in shame and remorse.
Where can’t your magic carpet pursue me, if
all the days of my life, you are constant, here?
We two can go together, father and son,
for many long days our roads will not yet part.

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Filed under Acting, Directing, Music, Poetry, Roll Credits, The Water Diviner

[Spoilers] – The Water Diviner

This is my first – but not the last – poem about The Water Diviner. Be warned, there are spoilers. Font is a little wonky because I am not an expert at formatting in WordPress…

Tied with Babadook for Best Picture in Australia’s Academy Awards, this film is Russell Crowe’s directorial debut, and folks, if you’re thinking of watching this movie, be warned, it will get under your skin. The Water Diviner swept the awards in the Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards, but hit some resistance in other critics’ corners. For my part, I’m hoping to see more films directed by Russell Crowe coming out of lockdown brainstorming sessions!

This is actually a film I have to think twice about rewatching – it’s a bit triggering – but I often return to it regardless, because there’s medicine in there, too.

The way home leads you out of bounds
  and follows shining waters,
    past seagrass beds, deep underground,
      your fare the coin of fathers.

You learn the language of the lost,
  the courtesies long absence
    imposes on the way we gloss
      this limbo with brave gladness.

If, at the last resort, you found
  an antidote to madness,
    an echo of the subtle sound
      that hooks a father’s gut sense -

would you reclaim someone who fought
  for years to be forgotten?
    could you embrace a young man caught
      at the inferno’s bottom?

could you unbind the bandage round
  the eyes he turned on heaven?
    and wipe away the shame that’s found
      a burrowing place inside him?

And where will you embark, you two,
  if hell is not forever?
    past seagrass beds - or with those who
      make hope their whole endeavor?

Would he know what to do with you,
  or how to finally sever
    ties to what he thought he knew
      when his whole heart said, “never”?

Where will the way home lead you both?
  and has he asked you whether
    love released him of his oath
      forgiving him his valor?

Will he embrace a future bright
  with dangers and long chances,
    and join the unremitting fight
      when grief’s long arm advances?

Can you conduct him through this night,
  back to the wide expanses
    native to the living light 
      - a world where his heart dances?

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Istanbul – a postcard

This poem hails from a happy accident en route to Cotonou, when a missed connection landed me an unplanned overnight in Istanbul. Although there wasn’t time for any proper sightseeing, I got to enjoy a cardamom-spiced cup of authentic Turkish coffee and chat with a traveler from Saudi Arabia for an hour about reasons to come back to Turkey at the next opportunity.

For those of you who haven’t yet seen Russell Crowe’s directorial debut in The Water Diviner, a cup of Turkish coffee plays a very special role in two enchanting scenes that pair Russell with the luminous Olga Kurylenko at a hotel restaurant in Istanbul. So needless to say, I was over the moon to be sipping Turkish coffee in Istanbul myself.

I also picked up a novel at the airport by Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, entitled Snow, about a poet’s perilous journey home, if home is where the heart is. This poem is a response both to the novel and to the brief glimpses I had of modern Istanbul on my stay. Next time I travel by way of Istanbul, I will find a way to spend more time exploring. The quoted phrases are from Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.

If “moonlight can prevent the leaves from stirring,”
forgo this little walk along the lighted
waterfront and be still, just an hour, leave
the newspaper by gaslight at the tea house
with the bachelors and tourists and spies,
and await the muezzin without looking
at your watch. Let the ismuth and its music
crown “the static side of moonlight” on the shore,
new electric minarets notwithstanding,
at a certain remove from underpasses,
overpasses, clover leafs and shopping malls.
What am I saying? Even the ocean’s changed.
Even so, stay an hour for the streetlights.
In the concrete shadow of the wharf, listen
to the pilgrim gestures of the spotlit tides.
Listen for the phrases later architects
of understanding will recount to us, no
newfangled revelation but a coming-
into-being of a people raised on light
and electrostatic everywhere-here-now
expectations of the music of the night.

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