all will be well

rainy day ©papa osmubal

rainy day ©papa osmubal

all will be well

denis murrell

From a darkened, sodden side-street
I watch a plane climb over the distant delta
and point its nose towards Ningbo in the north
as a number eight typhoon envelops it
and dusk descends.

As wind-gusts grab at my umbrella,
buffet fragile windows, rattle shop-fronts
and whine through every crack and crevice,
I stop
to watch this defenseless aircraft
grapple with the whirling clouds
and claw at the thick air.

I imagine concerned passengers,
considering sick-bags
wishing they had chosen another day,
their tensely tightened fingers clutching armrests.
And others—seasoned travelers,
eyelids closed, earplugs inserted,
ignoring the real world,
with canned music.

A sudden passing car and putrid water soaks my jeans.
A soggy cardboard box slaps into my back.
My umbrella inverts itself
and a bony white cat, its tail erect,
erupts from an uncovered manhole.
Rain lashes my face and squirts up my nostrils and
my shoes squelch with every step.

And still, I watch that plane
as it bounces its way through the fury above.
And I notice the coloured lights
dancing on its tail and wing-tips,
giggling in the face of danger,
and I sense that all will be well.


the insect visitor

fly ©papa osmubal

fly ©papa osmubal

the insect visitor

denis murrell

Insect visitors are rare here,
up on the twenty-fifth.
But late one night,
one flew through the window
as I was tutoring a student for her exams.
She squealed and jumped up from her chair with alarm.
Waving her arms and hunching her shoulders,
she hid behind the end of the sofa.

A bee or a beetle?
I didn’t know
and my student didn’t care
as long as it would just go away.
But whatever,
it was a giant of its species;
larger than a half the length of my thumb
and at least as wide.

Too late in the night for a bee.
Too much of a flyer for a beetle.
It droned around the room,
choosing not to rest.
It skimmed by the light,
barely missed the money-box,
sideswiped a rose in the vase on the shelf
and powdered some peeling paint off the wall,
dusting itself with white.

My student huddled in her foxhole
and whimpered as it targeted her.
It changed its mind and
circled my head instead,
nudging my hair,
buzzing just by my left ear,
raising the hairs on my arms.
My student chuckled with nervous relief
as I swung at the visitor with a randomly chosen book,
The Bible According to Spike Milligan’.
I missed, dislodging my glasses.
It swerved deftly rightwards and upwards
and journeyed to the kitchen and back.

I marveled at its agility
the aerodynamics involved
in maneuvering a sizably bulky body
around a confined space
while under attack
and then swung at it again with a larger book,
‘Satisfaction—The Rolling Stones in Pictures’,
and this time connected.

The force sent it veering sideways.
It hit another slice of peeling paint
and fell directly downwards
near the fridge.
My student emerged from her foxhole
with a sigh, feeling relatively safe
until she heard the visitor
buzzing in distress
from the inside of a wicker basket
filled with crumpled pages
of the ‘South China Morning Post’.

I was all for fishing it out with a thick wad of tissue
and releasing it out of the window into the night
from whence it had come.
My timid student would have none of that.
‘Leave it where it is or I’m leaving!’ she screamed.
So we left it deep within the recesses of the crumpled newspaper
and resumed our study of the ‘Beowulf’ saga,
aware of, but ignoring, its struggles and its desire for freedom
as it droned angrily,
scratching its legs and vibrating its wings noisily against the paper.

Two mornings later, I remembered our visitor.
I found it on its back
deep within two creases in the paper,
nearing the finale of its death throes,
its legs twitching aimlessly.
A massive grey-green wasp,
glistening even in death.
Two compound eyes glinting at one end
through a fine dusting of powdered paint;
a vicious black stinger at the other,
an insect-equivalent of an Amazonian poisoned dart.

I sat it prominently on my table.
where I could appreciate
its subtle, primitive beauty.

My students did not appreciate it as I did.
They were appalled
and begged me to get rid of it.
The Cantonese don’t like insects
unless they taste good when stir fried
or have known medicinal value.
It ended up in a plastic bag with
some empty milk cartons,
egg-shells, soggy tea-leaves
and a shampoo bottle,
wrapped in the pages of the ‘Post’
and was removed some days later
to the Coloane incinerator.

the experience of holding a jar

chinese vase ©papa osmubal

chinese vase ©papa osmubal

the experience of holding a jar
denis murrell

I’ve held one of these jars before.
They always feel pleasantly comfortable
nestled in the palm of my hand.
I can’t explain why.
Perhaps it’s the perfection of the shape;
the straight sides,
no lumps and bumps.
It could just be
that I appreciate the compactness.
I mean,
it’s only 3 centimeters high
and its diameter can’t be more than 2.5 centimeters.
There aren’t many jars more compact than that.
This is a paint jar.
It contains paint used by model-makers
to add the finishing touches
to their little planes, boats and cars
after they’ve spent extraordinary amounts of time
gluing them together.
The gold plastic screw-cap has the Japanese maker’s name.
There it is, expertly embossed on the top.
Tamiya Plastic Model Co.
The side of the top has a milled edge
to make it easier to unscrew. Touching that milled surface
is quite a contrast for the fingertips
after the experience of the polished lustre of the glass.
Of course, there’s a label.
It displays the company logo;
two white stars, one in a bright red square,
the other on a cobalt blue square.
It reminds me of a flag.
Is it the Panamanian?
Or the Liberian?
The label tells me, in large enough letters,
that this jar contains gold leaf paint.
There are also instructions for use in French,
and Chinese,
as well as Japanese,
printed in such a minutely-sized font
that they can be read only with the aid of a magnifying glass.
Well, that’s to be expected, isn’t it,
when a company tries
to fit instructions in five languages
on such a tiny label.
There’s no sign of a smell
until you remove the screw cap.
Then your nose is immediately assailed
with a highly pungent, but sweetish, odour.
It irritates the sinuses
and you can tell that the vapour must be toxic
and probably inflammable too,
but, for me,
this is not an unpleasant experience.
I have to admit that I enjoy that initial burst of solvent-like fumes
as they assault and excite my nasal cavities.
Inside the jar, there’s a glossy, transparent, honey-gold liquid
and below that,
a lump of metallic gold paste.
These two quite different substances
need to be mixed to the right consistency
to be applied to models,
but I use the paint in quite a different way;
I drain off the amber liquid and mix it with water.
I then use the resulting solution in many of my paintings.
For me, there isn’t any colour
that comes as close
to emulating the agreeably warm glow
of Bath’s eighteenth century buildings
on a sunny, late-summer afternoon
or the incredible radiance
of a vast paddock of dry, yellowed wheat-stubble
during an Australian January as evening closes in.

denis murrell


Denis Murrell was born at Ferntree Gully, Australia, on 2 March, 1947. He lived in Papua New Guinea for 14 years  and has resided in Macau since February, 1989. He is a teacher of English, an art teaching consultant at Estrela do Mar Catholic College and an occasional writer of short stories and poetry.