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Showing posts from November, 2017

53 DAYS

Brisbane killed Georges Perec, Brisbane, St Lucia and Joh Bjelke-Petersen killed OUILIPO’s star. Perec, who looked very much like a marsupial touched down at Eagle Farm in late August 1981 to be writer-in-residence in the French Department at the University of Queensland for 53 days. Stendhal took 53 days to dictate The Charterhouseof Parma in 1839 and Georges Perec decided he was going to also write a novel in 53 days, precociously called 53 Days, a detective novel like a Chinese puzzle but he never finished it because Australia killed him. “C’est l’Australie qui m’a foutu mal!” he said shortly before he died in Paris. Some say it was the cigarettes, but I know it was Queensland that gave him cancer.
C’est l’Australie qui m’a foutu mal!

HOMEGOING

Timaru is Portmeirion where Patrick McGoohan is forever pursued by malignant balloons. My birth city, quaint and Edwardian capital of propinquity, shelter of cabbage trees, where old wives sit where their mothers and mothers’ mothers sat twitching curtains, judging and tut-tutting.
There Caroline Bay is a perfect papaya slice of white porcelain. There Richard Pearce in his heart flew and harbour of champion boxers, quasi-divine racehorses, master poets and heroic painters.
Riviera of the South - but then everything is something else of somewhere with that coordinate  - lingering in its hermetic Shangri-la of an afternoon; unchanging, immutable.
I like to go to the low walls of the bay and read the names: Trescault, Crèvecœur, Puiseaux, Paschendale, Miraumont, Rossignol.
That’s its own poetry.


An earlier version was published in Landfall Spring 2009

I TELL YOU I LOVE YOU EVERY DAY

I tell you I love you every day, every day
I have to find a new way of telling you 
I love you without telling you I love you
so to save the bubble that every day
keeps me together, suspended, every day
afraid that it will fail, afraid that you’ll
stop deceiving yourself about me, you
who offer only your friendship every day
and generously, you beat in my chest, you
balm, you that dulcify my every day
with something I can pretend that you
intend as something else not everyday
pushing me on even as I fear your
limit: I think about that every day.

PLANTAIN

Of old rope toughness
and splayed,            ribbed panniers
and hairy sceptre,          bringing
pastures in its wake.
          Well-favoured herb
Costard calls for you                    for his barked shin.
You get around.

WAITING FOR GÖDEL

Perhaps beyond the fields we know
someone has a mirror, just
over the fence that circles everything.
It makes it difficult to shave,
not having a mirror, not that we’re exactly short of things to look at here, and were I
to chase my shadow along the length
of this great, long, seamless fence
I would come to the beginning again,
but I wouldn’t be still standing there
which isn’t any help in shaving.
Poised for a close shave between
immanence
and transcendence,
I, axiom, contain a multitude
of unknowables and undecidables
which maybe ok but that’s why
I need you, because
it’s the closest I get to knowing
my unprovable
self, the nearest
thing to validation.

OLDER

I flinch wandering past the serious glass
as into middle age, death’s anteroom, I walk,
as though to an exam unstudied for; no laugh
for the relentless tick-tock of the clock.
Older than you, please listen, I was young
and idealistic too, once, believe me if you dare,
but entropy creeps onward, never resting long,
dictated by Thermodynamics’ Second Law,
and having gone before you, I’ll say this -
Love is here, and hope still, nostalgia too,
be wary where you spread your emphasis:
under the setting sun lies nothing new.
Observe and notice that the swarm of clowns
are plumper as they pull the big top down.

VANESSA

My cousin was named Vanessa, a flower
deducted from the family tree as a child,
riding her bike down their rural driveway as she did
when she heard what she thought was her parents’ car.

The truck didn’t stop.
The name was coined by Jonathan Swift, rearranging the initial syllables of his lover’s name for secrecy in a poem: Esther Vanhomrigh - somehow her grandmother, my favourite aunt, mother’s sister, inconsolable,
read somewhere how Swift’s friend, the naturalist Fabricius
applied it to a genus of butterfly that includes the red admiral and other painted ladies.
My aunt became obsessed with butterflies, propagating
swan plants for monarchs (such was the craze at the time) wooden butterflies on the side of the house, butterfly jewellery, butterfly prints on her dresses.
In her mind I imagine Vanessa as a
kind of Psyche, a soul with butterfly wings, symbol of rebirth, perfect in the glassine envelope with a faint
nimbus dusting of wing scales.

SONG BEFORE BEDTIME

Evolution built itself a crude
imaginative faculty, like the nightingale’s
song or the peacock’s tail, all
sexual signalling before it was refined
by the tribe, with blunt tools
into language, thence culture, and finally
art – the long road’s apoapsis,
to here, the far end of the ellipse.
Which is nice, even as the waters
rise to meet Western Civ as it declines.
The alien messiahs failed to greet us
as promised; watch some cartoons –
they’re a purist existentialism
from the zombie state of living dread
if you need a distraction,
or pop a pill’s oblivion instead,
because if there is some Platonic
superlunary capital ‘T’ Truth,
it’s probably, vide Rorty, irrelevant
if you enjoy the scenic route.

NEAR MERCER

It was that stretch of State Highway One near
Mercer where it ducks in conspirationally to share some gossip with the Waikato River
when there was a rifle-crack of something
hitting the windscreen, and startled, you stopped
the car and picked up the young, stunned kingfisher, a kōtare, gem-winged, more daring than deft, coruscating and breathing still, wrapped in your scarf.
You were so upset, intent on taking it home to nurse back to health; by the time we got to Meremere it had recovered and we released it,
a flash of damask jade fire for a moment, and off!
Over the smooth, silk bolt of Old Man Waikato,
lost in the sun’s stare; these fingers that touched
the flow of death ever passing until it doesn’t.

AT THE MOVIES

I find bright phone screens hugely distracting in a dark cinema. I didn't pay money to be distracted by their phones, So into this sacred, communal modern-day Ephesus am I,
like a lemon heavy and one with its own tartness.
What is to become of me, drowning in this close darkness?
That piercing little window of hand-cupped light
preventing transcendence and oneness with the giant
gods and goddesses on screen, preventing me
from casting off the twist of painful self-awareness
for a petty hour or so, that the screen become radioactive
with love; would that those her gathered as one
in the love of the many, and tear them limb from limb

as a sacrifice to the escapist lie of a dead world hidden
behind retinal screens of ice and shadows.

SPRING THOUGHTS

The rain is pissing down… I’m sure it’s personal.
My lungs are tired and my meat-self aches.
The New Zealand Spring is actually three seasons:
First Spring, in which golden trumpets of kōwhai
in vain try to assert precedence of protocol
over bluebell and daffo-down-dilly;
and Second Spring of green livery heralding Summer.
In between is Shit, the season we don’t speak of;
season of mud and drizzling diluvial misery
that lingers like the smell of fish and chips inside.

THE RED BRICK ROAD

Where does the Red Brick Road go to?
The one in the Munchkin village in the 1939
movie that swirls
in sinister sympathy with its better known
yellow sister – where does it go?

Back to the small town Kansas of the mind?
Had Dorothy followed that
would she have been as friendless as the beautiful boys
strung up on wire fences
and bleeding in alleyways? Streets of hisses and accusatory stares?

FUCKING IN AUSTRIA

The village of Fucking in Upper Austria (municipality of Tarsdorf, Innviertel region) Picturesque Fucking (pronounced Fooking) a stone’s throw from Salzburg (I suspect Mozart liked Fucking), close by the border with Germany (Germans are fond of Fucking in Austria, God knows that Austria’s foremost) Chaplin impersonator fucked them) has just over a hundred people, a mere thirty-two houses and some problems (tourists keep stealing the signs) with its PR (if a terrorist bombed Fucking, how would the Anglophone media cope? Newspapers blushing red black and white might be forced to resort to EXPLOSION  IN F******G (but most likely they’d just say “IN AUSTRIA” because no-one knows where Fucking is anyway. Imagine Fox and the Telegraph frothing at the mouth while blaming refugees for “the unconscionable attack on F*****g” while the Guardian lectures everyone over chai lattes for being bigots and not issuing trigger warnings whenever someone says “Fucking” (later it will turn out it was actually France who did …

WHEREOF WE CANNOT SPEAK

The Mainland cannot quite bring itself to call them the “New Zealand Wars”. Battening rich off the sheep’s back and a yellow river of gold, we were the still centre of our world and that was a Pig Island matter, a kind of strange away rugby match we resented our money being spent on. The canny Scot preferred to marry than war, clan to tribe, hybridisation, and many tussock-haired, Tekapo-eyed Kāi Tahu later, the redoubt faces inward rather than north, turning back on browner-than-thou insults against their whakapapa. We’d heard of Völkner crucified, we knew Titokowaru's warriors lay in paupers’ graves in Dunedin (Pakakohe, Ngāti Ruanui, their shackles rusting ankle-deep in sea water in the barred caves of Anderson’s Bay) Tohu and Te Whiti dragged around Christchurch to be impressed into submission, marvelling at so many kākahu-worth of birds in the Museum, the Victorian microcosm spread out far below the Cathedral’s lookout (two brown Christs tempted on high by a pale Adversary). The Wairau Affray mentio…

THE PASSIONATE ASTRONOMER TO HIS LOVE

THE PASSIONATE ASTRONOMER TO HIS LOVE
Come live with me and be my love,  and we’ll nocturnal pleasures prove,  beneath the pageant of the sky and scattered asterisms lie
counting cold, galactic gems  refracted through the ticking lens.  Like vampires let us sleep away the harsh distraction of the day 
in towers on rocky heights, far poised above, beyond, the city’s noise. I give you jasmine flowers of stars, the ruby that is warlike Mars; 
from kingly Jupiter, your hands receive that planet’s golden bands,  the nebulae your bridal gown, the Milky Way your wedding crown. 
Draw closer, I can’t bear you far though seeming close, as is the star  drawn close within my telescope,  though stars can neither love nor hope. 
On nights that close in overcast  we have those pleasures saved for last:  If these delights thy mind may move,  Then live with me, and be my love.


THE NYMPH’S REPLY TO THE ASTRONOMER
The stars are cold and far away, and liked you not them best that way, these pretty pleasures might me move to live wit…

THE BEEKEEPER’S VISION

Out of the amber glow we’ll see the hive of New Jerusalem rise out of jewel-walled cathedral Athos cell on cell of Byzantine gold into that final inward-looking room, the hortus conclusis, the queen-cell of God skirring and droning like an organ loft: an angelic choir of cybernetic sanity.
Dressed for spacewalking in the low Stonehenge city of hives: outdoor installations, art, architecture, mullions of rātā and mānuka, sole wild sweetness of Egypt and Assyria, bees batten here as they did at Hymettus and Hyblea, Herod’s dead queen floating in the gold aspic of hydromel, inspirational mead of the Celt and Viking.
Molten gold, a labyrinth of monkish cells, shattered wax death-mask of Virgil. and the shining wax of his writing tablet. Wax of Shakespeare’s candle – wild honeycomb of bees.
The poet with the faceted jewel-eyes of the bee that sees all, industrious, and when she stings it’s fatal – she leaves her broken gut behind. Bees drink at the flowers of other people’s gardens, supping up sexual nectar, hoardi…

ΣΚΙΡΩΝ

The Nor’wester announces its presence with that itch in the dank domed skull-cave, the crawling sinuses, the prickling of your nape as the wind ruffles the tawny pelt of the flat, bringing the minor devils, translating nerve and sinew into steel strings that it strums discordantly. This is hardly strange to the Cities of the Plain (reminding them that they are on the razor edge of the universe) to see the light turn yellow and bruised for the berserker herald of amok ions lashing flowerbeds into submission. Cloud bunches into a bridge of bone and mashed potato, to bring down the Four Horseman. Götterdämmerung, Ragnarøkr, Ἀποκάλυψις and mundane things look slightly askew. King of migraine, listlessness and Heraclitean flux. And suddenly the atmospheric engine flips, Bringing in cold, wet Notos from the south. The uncanny switches off as it has
a billion times before, but still seems unexpected.

LAST TRAIN TO GADARA

Magical primordial scenes of forgotten rituals and sacred animals, by darkness daubed in caves, carved in stone ideas too slow and long for meat brains; a memory like the tiny, delicate flower of a Siberian campion buried and forgotten by a ground squirrel frozen in permafrost and resurrected as a vegetable Lazarus in a laboratory 32,000 years later: subtle decadence like walking on evening grass in stockinged feet. Why do I feel like the whole improbable complexity of my existence is little more than a small child practicing scales on a rented piano in the suburbs, over and over: something that is past and now never will occur? Neurosis is the plastic head cone for humans that prevents us licking our distending wounds. Eventually they bricked up the well-mouth tight that was so deep and dark and still: the wise know when their thirst is quenched, the fool never grasps they’re full and drowns beneath that black diamond of a mirror
ever denied the direct light of day.

GINKO

Got to love the Ginko, not just its Autumn gold. It survives anything that the city can throw at it, and in revenge, drops its fruit.                                                         How to describe it: sulphurous boiled egg flatus from the devil’s anus that floated over a field of fermenting red cabbages, streets paved with dog shit and vomit, and a whole gymnasium of sweaty clothes.                                                        Living fossil Ginko unchanged for 200 Million years – that fantastically putrid stench used to attract herbivorous dinosaurs to eat the fruit and spread the seeds.                                                                     It’s wasted on the idiot-savant bald apes that inherited Earth after the meteor hit Chicxulub.                                                          City planners tried to get around the problem with botanical misogyny, planting only male Ginko trees, but Ginko finds a way and changed sex when they weren’t looking.                 …

SERPOPARDS

Twin lionesses with snaking necks entwined, statant dexter, in cryptid caduceus, ancient questing beast out of the dimmest shadow of Egypt and Mesopotamia: two halves of a riddle.
Cosmetics were mixed in the depression where their necks loop over each other in figure-eight knot to make a depression on an ancient palette. They guard official seals.
One represents the dark chaos beyond the walls of benevolent king-craft, Pharaoh and Gilgamesh; the other is the chthonic life force erupting up through barren earth in ever-renewing Spring.
Sekhmet-Apophis, Uridimmu-Bašmu, blended Leo-Draco in perfect balance: the proto-Aeon, the pretzel of an ouroboros of harmonious
cosmic equilibrium and eternal renewal.