Thursday, September 29, 2011

On the death of her body – James K. Baxter

On the death of her body – James K. Baxter

It is a thought breaking the granite heart
Time has given me, that one treasure,
Your limbs, those passion-vines, that bamboo body

Should age and slacken, rot
Some day in a ghastly clay-stopped hole.
They led me to the mountains beyond pleasure

Where each is not gross body or blank soul
But a strong harp the wind of genesis
Makes music in, such resonant music

That I was Adam, loosened by your kiss
Form time’s hard bond, and you,
My love, in the world’s first summer stood

Plucking the flowers of the abyss.

O'Sullivan, V. (Ed.). (1979). An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry. Wellington: Oxford University Press.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Intimacy - Raymond Ward

Intimacy - Raymond Ward

The house is nailed up and boarded in
by a tall fence of ain;
drab windows laces with team
and in the corners of the ceiling
twilight of a stormy afternoon.
No calls anticipated.
Gone from the mantelpiece the clock:
for once time will not tell,
safely bound in the bottom drawer
and gagged with a bed sock.

The Morgue – James K. Baxter

Each morning when I lit the coke furnace
Unwillingly I passed the locked door,
The room where Death lived. Shadowless infection
Looked form the blind panes, and an open secret
Stained even the red flowers in the rock garden
Flesh-fingered under the sanatorium wall.

And each day the patients coming and going
From light jobs, joking below the sombre pines,
Would pass without looking, their faces leaner
As if the wintry neighbourhood of Death
Would strip the shuddering flesh from bone. They shouted,
Threw clods at one another, and passed on.

But when at length, with stiff broom and bucket,
I opened the door wide – well, there was nothing
To fear. Only the bare close concrete wall,
A slab of stone, and a wheeled canvas stretcher.
For Death had shifted house to his true home
And mansion, ruinous, of the human heart.

O'Sullivan, V. (Ed.). (1979). An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry. Wellington: Oxford University Press.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ode to an urban day – Raymond Ward

Ode to an urban day – Raymond Ward

The urban day has got her blue straw hat on
the one with the yellow rose in it
and her grey eyes beneath it
are cool and smiling.
Wherever the streets go
and there are people
her walk is leisurely:

in the early morning she sands in the shade
in the part at noon she will feed the pigeons
in the evening she will wave good-bye to us –

you understand,
she is not working very hard today,
she is there to look pretty.

In her dove-grey dress
she is warm but not uncomfortable
and she is not dusty:
late last night she had a shower
and another this morning;
so her skin is fresh
and her breath sweet.

From time to time she pauses –
before shop windows and pools of ain
to admire her reflection,
then, smiling, strolls on.
She is lovely today
and she knows it:

she will stand at bus stops
and wait. Although the buses pull up
she remains where she is –
she does not mind when people stare
she does not think them indiscreet.

If one tries to take her photograph
she laughs,
for she is always changing
and no camera has a nose.
She does not belong to us.
We belong to her,
no matter what mood she is in.
But we must not ignore her –
to remain is not enough.

Evening is the time, if any, for departure
but today she does not wish to leave us
nor does she wish to see us leave:

she stands there in her faded blue straw hat
looking for the rose – which must have come untied
as if to say, would someone be so kind…?

then she begins to wander
in and out of doorways
from one street to the next…

but we have lost her now
grey as the corner she is huddled into
for the night,

still sweet, her fragrance lingers
in the pool of night rain
where the rose has fallen…

O'Sullivan, V. (Ed.). (1979). An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry. Wellington: Oxford University Press.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Watching Snow – Raymond Ward

Watching Snow – Raymond Ward

You were standing at the window, silently
when the first flakes began to fall
between the houses, to settle in the boughs
of the leafless elm and in the yard below;
and so intently were you watching them
spin through the early winter gloom
to catch in fences, heap on the window sill,
you did not notice when I spoke to you.

So I fell silent, too. But now,
not just because the snow enchanted me:
the way you stood there like a memory
re-awakened so much tenderness
I had thought buried long ago
nostalgic, maternal as the falling snow,
that I was glad when you made no reply.
Nearness enough to watch you standing there,

and as intently as you watched the snow:
it gathered slowly, darkening your hair
and shoulders, till your outline only, drained
like a negative, at last remained,
sharp against the window veiled with steam.
You must have known that I was watching you,
pierced by the memory a snowflake clears,
or why were you also, when you turned, in tears?

O'Sullivan, V. (Ed.). (1979). An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry. Wellington: Oxford University Press.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Holiday Piece - Denis Glover

Holiday Piece - Denis Glover

Now let my thoughts be like the Arrow, wherein was gold,
And purposeful like the Kawarau, but not so cold.

Let them sweep higher than the hawk ill-omened,
Higher than peaks perspective-piled beyond Ben Lomond;
Let them be like at evening an Otago sky
Where detonated clouds in calm confusion lie.

Let them be smooth and sweet as all those morning lakes,
Yet active and leaping, like fish the fisherman takes;
And strong as the dark deep-rooted hills, strong
As twilight ours over Lake Wakatipu are long;

And hardy, like the tenacious mountain tussock,
And spacious, like the Mackenzie plain, not narrow;
And numerous, as tourists in Queenstown;
And cheerfully busy, like the gleaning sparrow.

Lastly, that snowfield, visible from Wanaka,
Compound their patience - suns only brighten,
And no rains darken, a whiteness nothing could whiten.

O'Sullivan, V. (Ed.). (1979). An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry. Wellington: Oxford University Press.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dreams - Richard von Sturmer

Dreams - Richard von Sturmer

As the sun slips below the horizon, a swan closes its eyes
At a Chinese restaurant, a Chinese waiter eats his evening meal with a knife and fork
A woman drops her child on the carpet, and instead of crying it laughs
In the car-wrecker’s yard, fragments of window glass sparkle in the sunlight
A strip of red balloon hangs from the beak of a seagull


After a fight at school, acorns are found on the toilet floor
At the edge of a storm, someone is heard sweeping leaves
In the back garden, rain drips from the eaves of a doll’s house
The sunset glows pink inside the ears of a black dog
In a takeaway bar, a machine for killing flies is switched on


A man holds a bicycle wheel and walks into a cathedral
In the middle of summer, a band-aid has melted on the asphalt
A wooden swan sits in a bakery, its back hollowed out and filled with loaves of bread
A wasp picks up a single grain of rice, disappears, then returns to pick up another grain
The dark clouds are darker through the skylight of a limousine


When its master blows down a cardboard tube, the dog cocks its head to one side
A wire coat-hanger is found lying in the snow, and later on, a slice of white bread
A man sells oranges in front of an empty field that stretches towards the horizon
On the beach at night, as the fire dies down, the sound of the ocean increases


A jogger runs past with "Stop Acid Rain" printed on his tee-shirt
In the crowded men’s room, all three toilet doors change from "occupied" to "vacant" at the same time
At a serious accident, an ambulance arrives before the tow trucks
The letters on a tomato sign are the same red as the tomatoes
When the corn field is harvested, the hedgerows rustle with mice


At the airport, baggage tickets hang from the circular light above the check-in desk
A steel girder casts its shadow across the side of a concrete building
A gust of wind sends the cellophane from a cigarette packet high up into the evening sky
On a late-night bus, an old man smelling of beer manages to complete a crossword puzzle
A cat slips between two candles without singeing its tail


Cleaning under his bed, a writer finds his lost pen covered in dust
In the archeological museum, a series of crystalline pings are heard when the lights are switched on
Two painters in white overalls each stand on a white ladder and paint the same building white
In the Japanese garden, a carp with a human face glides by
On a corrugated iron roof, a seagull opens and closes its beak


A pile of cigarette butts lies at the end of a long pier
In a house by the sea, a man in his night-shirt is changing a light-bulb
In the hair salon, a small girl places two red plastic straws in her hair
An empty cassette box shines like a pool of water on a dark bedspread
The shadow of a cat sits on the shadow of a fence


Outside a tropical hotel, a hotel worker is struck by a large leaf
A young mother drives around the block until her babies are fast asleep
A chandelier of icicles hangs from the underside of a rusted fire-escape
Light shines through a blowfly as it settles on a television screen
Lotuses are opening beneath high-tension wires


An ice-cream van breaks down right beside a waterfall
A dog barks, and snow falls from a tree

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hinemoa’s daughter - Apirana Taylor

Hinemoa’s daughter - Apirana Taylor

her hair is so long
you could plait it all the way to the moon
and weave it with a sprinkling of stars

she writes poetry
as only the muse can write

when she smiles
she melts the heart of God

‘I’m from Te Arawa she says’

she shows me her litany of scars
they climb like ladders
up the insides of her wrists

deep savage cuts to the bone
speak of her youth and the countless times
she sent herself along the path of the spirits
and sought the solace of Hine nui te po

like her tipuna Hinemoa
she swam the lake
but her lake was of fire and death
broken bottles drunken fights
smashed families shattered and scattered whanau

and she made it
she crossed the troubled water
and found her tane who loves her
more deeply than the heart can tell

in the city of the lost
they raise many fine young children
with aroha

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

By Ships We Live - Bill Sewell

By Ships We Live - Bill Sewell

It was a tingling in the balls that told them,
like edging too close to a rock face:

a twist of the tide, the slop of the swell,
the mercenary attentions of seabirds.

Out of the blue they broke,
the sails, the expectations, the names.

Takitimu, Heemskerck, Endeavour:
how they transported their history

as a deadening freight, as baggage,
barnacles clinging like grievances to the keel.

Then the commerce would begin:
footprints for sand; words for silence.

There, not just as the unusual event,
the sudden flaw on the curve,

but by the month, by the day,
feeling their way along the chart

for that orifice in the cliffs
and making their run through the heads:

Orpheus, Tararua, Penguin,
all finding out just how intolerant

of carelessness this coast can be,
once you sail out of line.

Yet the masts still thickened ashore,
the funnels exhaled bad faith

(according to the terms of the bargain).
While men went below as into a mine

to dig out the lampblack
that darkened their days and their lungs

and the names of the ships that carried it:
Korowai, Myrtlebank, Asunçion de Larrinaga.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Poem for God - L. E. Scott

A Poem for God - L. E. Scott

I've lain with the preacher-man's wife
I've lost my innocence
She sings in the United Methodist Church
My grandmother once said from the Good Book:
The sins of the father will visit the son
There ain't no God if this is true

A letter from a long-lost friend came
Telling me and asking me did I remember
Patricia Strongman? - She's dead
Her mouth is full of dirt
Her face is dissipating
My childhood was yesterday
My grandmother still reads from the Good Book
And in the graveyard
So many of my friends no longer speak to me
As cold, as cold, as a winter's windowpane

Standing by the door singing a spiritual
Is a one-eyed blind man
Talking about all God's children
But he doesn't say what
Perhaps he could say:
In my father's house
there are many mansions
if it were not so
I would have told you

I am going away
to prepare a place for you
that where I am
there ye may be also
In my father's house

Standing by the door singing a spiritual
Is a one-eyed blind man
Talking about all God's children
But he doesn't say what

Day before, when I was nothing but a snotty-nosed child
Your Mama used to whop me for doing wrong
Gave me a note to take home and
My Mama whopped me again
The preacher-man has died in my life
And I'm still being whopped
I've been a Baptist all my life
Did Mary feel good when she conceived?
In other words, an orgasm
Did Jesus Christ ever shit when he walked
The earth?
In the winter time if you don't mind the cold
You can walk on water
A miracle is nothing more than a season in your life

In front of the church, near the pulpit
The fat women sit
Swaying and sweating
Bright red nail polish
Who wants to be born again

Monday, September 19, 2011

Carnival of Chocolate - Jenny Powell-Chalmers

Carnival of Chocolate - Jenny Powell-Chalmers

Roll up roll up
to the city of dreams
the city of gold
that will hold your heart
in the hills,

Roll up to the city of chocolate,
the Cumberland Castle of Cadbury
heavenly home of Flakes and Freddos
Picnics and Peppys, Chocolate Fish,
every bar you could possibly wish.

Roll down your Giant Jaffas
from the tip of the top
of the steepest street, paint
the face of a modern madonna
whose mouth is munching
her melting Crunchie, sample
the wares of a chocolate fair,
at the city cafes demand for yourself
the Cadbury Carnival dish of the day.

Roll out roll out the raspberry carpet
to Cadbury World and open the doors
with a fanfare, a flourish of fabulous
flair and let your mind feel free to fly

travel in time to the Aztec
King who drinks cup after cup
of some bitter stuff; an early
hot chocolate, he can’t get enough

sip on the 1700’s brew, a balm
for the mouth, a cleanser of sins,
a substitute for the evils of gin

flip into Yowie fantasy to guard
our mountains, rivers and sea,
where time is a cosmic infinity
a Cadbury chocolate mystery

follow a path of perfect Pinkys
around the planet and when
you want more, gaze into space
at the Assorted Milk Trays, gasp
at the dazzling chocolate display

nibble a Nougat, a Coffee Cream,
a Turkish Delight throughout
the night for the promise of passion
the lustre of love, the drift
of a Dairy Milk decadent dream

Roll up roll up
to the chocolate city,
Roll up roll up
to the Cadbury World.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Otesánek - Olivia Macassey

Otesánek - Olivia Macassey

"Oh dear, how frightened I have been," said Little Red Riding Hood, when she was rescued, "it is so dark inside the wolf." (source: JLC and WC Grimm)

I'm worrying about the monsters under the house.
I'm trying to untie that beautiful knot we had all agreed upon
the one that is a serpent, swallowing its tail.

The quickest way to a man's heart
is through his stomach, and as for love,
can it be this – the thousands of papercuts made against the sky
by the short needled pine? I went all the way to the end of the beach
asking myself that famous question.
But we were haemorhaging that year, epistemohaemophilia, nothing was that clear, except the sky
and even that wasn’t watching, well not at first..
He opened his mouth and this gave me the opportunity to slip inside
and start to unravel things.

Oh Otesánek. I would have fed you with everyone I knew
(and they half knew it)
simple and cruel, as in harsh weather, a good mistress,
accidental death under the machinery of a factory

What will happen to you if you don’t eat your vegetables?
What will happen if you eat too much of the pie
eat seven little kids; or seven small gods, and a rock, drink
all the water in the world, and turn to me?

Is kissing really the reassurance that we don’t have to bite,
the accomplished, formulaic, and quick tongued demonstration
of the boundaries we're willing to keep;
the edges you admit you can see
between me
and the skin of your teeth?

the endless thereness of here has ended
the figures at the other end of the beach turn back
and begin to retrace their
half washed out footprints
already a little surprised to see
where one had scuffed or the other one leaped

Oh Otesánek, I would feed you to everyone I know, and they know it now
It gets so dark inside the wolf.
Not simple, or cruel. But I didn’t understand
I don’t understand
I won't understand.

We go – down – the garden path
six foot then one foot, then
one, foot, in front of, the other,
we go into the back of the house
one kiss then two kisses;
one, kiss, in stead of, the other,

and staggering. down the last lot of steps
into the cellar
we know it all now
follow the blind, look through the gaps
lift up the latch
and swallow them whole

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Skins - Rob Jackaman

Skins - Rob Jackaman
(part 7 of the sequence ‘Rockyhorrorton’)

It was the weekend Elton John was in town,
and we went (for old times’ sake) down to the
Wallies a GoGo where they were re-doing
the sixties (yet again). Afterwards you said
you had a headache (didn’t we all, darling)
and were going home. So I sat on my step
and watched the bonfire next door: it was only
some time later I wondered why there was
a bonfire next door, and how come it seemed
so close. But of course, as Robert Frost nearly
said, "Something there is that doesn’t love a
fence" ¾ and the local lads (clearly aesthetes
in spite of a lack of hair) had taken him
at his word and done their bit to break down
the barriers between neighbours. Certainly
that old creosoted wood made a fair
blaze ¾ too much for some, who dialled 1-1-1.
Now the Fire Brigade I could cope with, but when
the Riot Squad arrived I began to fear
for my petunias. The suburb was ringing
to the music of broken bottles on plexiglass
shields: this is unusual, I thought, as I settled
down behind a protective coating of sherry.
I guessed the next day would be messy, but hell
next day was still more than a bottle

Friday, September 16, 2011

War – Childhood - Riemeke Ensing

War – Childhood - Riemeke Ensing

Images sear themselves
into the retina of the heart.
All those memories –
stones weighted to fell.
Even the rhododendron
a splash of blood in the garden,
or parachute silk fallen from sky
on a clear day
at the start of life
and the shot forever echoing
in poems. A thousand fragments
glistening as stars flashing signs.
Fathers, mothers, all the families
up there sharing the promise of stories,
the nostalgia of song, the friction of clouds
rushing to meet where blues speak.
From the landscape of the face
I lick salt.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gallipoli Peninsula - Alistair Te Ariki Campbell

Gallipoli Peninsula - Alistair Te Ariki Campbell

It was magical when flowers
appeared on the upper reaches –
not that we saw much of the upper reaches.
But when we did,
we were reminded of home
when spring clothed the hills with flowers.
The dead lying among them
seemed to be asleep.
I can never forget the early mornings,
before the killings started up,
when the sea was like a mirror
under little wisps of cloud
breathing on its surface, so dazzling
it hurt the eye.
and the ships, so many of them,
they darkened the sea.
But the evenings too were magical,
with such hues in the sky
over Macedonia,
so many colours, gold bars,
green, red, and yellow.
We noticed these things,
when the firing stopped and we had respite.
It was good to feel,
during such moments,
that we were human beings once more,
delighting in little things,
in just being human.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Flax - Julia Allen

Flax - Julia Allen


flickering red at the edges

and as for Dionysus
(in articulo mortis)
at the point of death

a veil falls
over the eyes
light flickers
over the eyelids

and as for that statue
that you pray to
that inarticulate Mater
you pray to, say

cracks at the water
and lashes
at the water’s edge

Monday, September 12, 2011

Friends far away die - Janet Frame

Friends far away die …

Friends far away die
Friends measured always in blocks of distance
Cement of love between
Porous to tears and ocean spray
How vast the Pacific!
How heavy the unmiracled distance to walk upon,
A slowly sinking dream, a memory undersea.
Untouched now, Sue, by storm
Easy to reach
An angel-moment away,
Hostess of memories in your long green gown, your
small blue
Slippers lying on the white sofa
In the room I once knew — the tall plants behind
you — I remember I watered them and found some
were fake
And I shrugged, thinking it’s part of life

To feed the falseness, the artificial, but no,
you fed only truth
You cut down every growing pretence with one cool
We were at home with you.
We knew, as people say, where we stood.
Your beloved John of the real skin and uncopied
eyes was anxious for you
In true anxiety.

Well, you will visit me in moments.
You will be perplexed yet wise, as usual.
Perhaps we will drink won ton soup
I promise you. No food will hurt you now.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Letter from the Mountains - James K. Baxter

Letter from the Mountains - James K. Baxter

There was a message. I have forgotten it.
There was a journey to make. It did not come to anything.
But these nights, my friend, under the iron roof
Of this old rabbiters' hut where the traps
Are still hanging up on nails,
Lying in a dry bunk, I feel strangely at ease.
The true dreams, those longed-for strangers,
Begin to come to me through the gates of horn.

I will not explain them. But the city, all that other life
In which we crept sadly like animals
Through thickets of dark thorns, haunted by the moisture of women,
And the rock of barren friendship, has now another shape.
Yes, I thank you. I saw you rise like a Triton,
A great reddish gourd of flesh,
From the sofa at that last party, while your mistress smiled
That perfect smile, and shout as if drowning—
'You are always—'
Despair is the only gift;
When it is shared, it becomes a different thing; like rock, like water;
And so you also can share this emptiness with me.

Tears from faces of stone. They are our own tears.
Even if I had forgotten them
The mountain that has taken my being to itself
Would still hang over this hut, with the dead and the living
Twined in its crevasses. My door has forgotten how to shut.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tomcat - James K. Baxter

Tomcat - James K. Baxter

This tomcat cuts across
zones of the respectable
through fences, walls, following
other routes, his own. I see
the sad whiskered skull-mouth fall
wide, complainingly, asking

to be picked up and fed, when
I thump up the steps through bush
at 4tm. He has no
dignity, thank God! Has grown
older, scruffier, the ash-
black coat sporting one or two

flowers like round stars, badges
of bouts and fights. The snake head
is seamed on top with rough scars:
old Samurai! He lodges
in cellars, and the tight furred
scrotum drives him into wars

As if mad, yet tumbling on
the rug looks female, Turkish-
Trousered. His bagpipe shriek at
Sluggish dawn dragged me out in
Pyjamas to comb the bush
(he being under the vet

for septic bites). The old fool
stood, body hard as a board,
heart thudding, hair on end, at
the house corner, terrible,
yelling at something. They said
'Get him doctored.' I think not.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Poem in the Matukituki Valley - James K. Baxter

Poem in the Matukituki Valley - James K. Baxter

Some few yards from the hut the standing beeches
Let fall their dead limbs, overgrown
With feathered moss and filigree of bracken.
The rotted wood splits clean and hard
Close-grained to the driven axe; with sound of water
Sibilant falling and high nested birds.

In winter blind with snow; but in full summer
The forest blanket sheds its cloudy pollen
And cloaks a range in undevouring fire.
Remote the land's heart; though the wild scrub cattle
Acclimatized, may learn
Shreds of her purpose, or the taloned kea.

For those who come as I do, half-aware,
Wading the swollen
Matukituki waist-high in snow water,
And stumbling where the mountains throw their dice
Of boulders huge as houses, or the smoking
Cataract flings its arrows on our path -

For us the land is matrix and destroyer,
Resentful, darkly known
By sunset omens, low words heard in branches;
Or where the red deer lift their innocent heads
Snuffing the wind for danger,
And from our footfall's menace bound in terror.

Three emblems of the heart I carry folded
As charms against flood water, sliding shale:
Pale gentian, lily, and bush orchid.
The peaks too have names to suit their whiteness,
Stargazer and Moonraker,
A sailor's language and a mountaineer's.

And those who sleep in close bags fitfully
Besieged by wind in a snowline bivouac -
The carrion parrot with red underwing
Clangs on the roof by night, and daybreak brings
Raincloud on purple ranges, light reflected
Stainless from crumbling glacier, dazzling snow,

Do they not, clay in that unearthly furnace,
Endure the hermit's peace
And mindless ecstasy? Blue-lipped crevasse
And smooth rock chimney straddling - a communion
With what eludes our net - Leviathan
Stirring to ocean birth our inland waters?

Sky's purity; the altar cloth of snow
On deathly summits laid; or avalanche
That shakes the rough moraine with giant laughter;
Snowplume and whirlwind - what are these
But His flawed mirror who gave the mountain strength
And dwells in holy calm, undying freshness?

Therefore we turn, hiding our souls' dullness
From that too blinding glass: turn to the gentle
Dark of our human daydream, child and wife,
Patience of stone and soil, the lawful city
Where man may live, and no wild trespass
Of what's eternal shake his grave of time.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dreams, Yellow Lions – Alistair Campbell

Dreams, Yellow Lions – Alistair Campbell

When I was young
I used to dream of girls
and mountains.

Now it is water I dream of,
placid among trees, or lifting
casually on a shore.

Where yellow lions come out
in the early morning
and stare out to sea.

O'Sullivan, V. (Ed.). (1979). An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry. Wellington: Oxford University Press.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The gunfighter – Alistair Campbell

The gunfighter – Alistair Campbell

You will see him any day in Te Kuiti
or Cannons Creek,
immaculate in black
and triggered like a panther on the prowl.

Conscious of all eyes,
but indifferent to all except the heroine
watching from behind lace curtains,
doom walks the main street of a small town.

Is it fear or admiration that widens
those lovely eyes?
He knows her eyes are on him,
but gives no sign he knows –
he has a job to do.

The sun has reached high noon.
The shadows stand with flattened palms
against the walls of buildings,
or shrink back into doorways.
The heroine lets fall the curtain.
She has fallen –
drilled clean through the heart with love.

Now he stands alone
in the pool of his own shadow,
his wrists flexible as a dancing girl’s,
his palms hovering like butterflies
over the blazing butts of his six-guns.

The streets are cleared,
the township holds its breath –
for the gunfighter, the terrible gunfighter
is in town.

O'Sullivan, V. (Ed.). (1979). An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry. Wellington: Oxford University Press.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Purple chaos – Alistair Campbell

Purple chaos – Alistair Campbell

‘Chaos is purple,’ you said.
‘A painter’s phrase,’ I said,
‘Chaos is a colourless force
tossing up stars, flowers
and children,
and has no beginning
and no end.’
But lying in bed,
washed up,
I know you are right.
You were talking of something else –
You were talking of death.
Purple chaos has surged through me,
leaving me stranded –
a husk,
an empty shell
on a long whit swerving beach.

Something has died,
something precious has died.
It may have been a flower,
a star,
it may have been a child –
but whatever it was, my love,
it seems to have died.

O'Sullivan, V. (Ed.). (1979). An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry. Wellington: Oxford University Press.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Gathering Mushrooms – Alistair Campbell

Gathering Mushrooms – Alistair Campbell

Dried thistles hide his face.
Look closely –
that's your enemy.
Ants carry away his flesh,
but still he grins.
You know him by his thumbs,
round and white,
breaking the earth like mushrooms,
coated with fine sand.

A bony finger flicks a bird
into your face,
daises snap at your heels,
flare in the ground
that you believed was solid –
and a dark wind rides
the whinnying tussock up the hillside.

Gather your mushrooms then,
and, if you dare,
ignore the thin cries of the dammed
issuing through the gills.

Sick of running away,
you drop in the soaking grass.
Through tears
you watch a snail climbing a straw
that creaks and bends
under its weight,
and note how tenderly it lifts
upon its shoulder
the fallen weight of the sky.

O'Sullivan, V. (Ed.). (1979). An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry. Wellington: Oxford University Press.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Why don’t you talk to me? – Alistair Campbell

Why don’t you talk to me? – Alistair Campbell

Why do I post my love letters
in a hollow log?
Why put my lips to a knothole in a tree
and whisper your name?

The spiders spread their nets
and catch the sun,
and by my foot in the dry grass
ants rebuild a broken city.
Butterflies pair in the wind,
and the yellow bee,
his holsters packed with bread,
rides the blue air like a drunken cowboy.

More and more I find myself
talking to the sea.
I am alone with my footsteps.
I watch the tide recede,
and I am left with miles of shining sand.

Why don’t you talk to me?

O'Sullivan, V. (Ed.). (1979). An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry. Wellington: Oxford University Press.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Blue Rain – Alistair Campbell

Blue Rain – Alistair Campbell

Blue rain from a clear sky.
Our world a cube of sunlight –
but to the south
the violet admonition
of thunder.

Innocent as flowers,
your eyes with their thick lashes
open in green surprise.

What have we to fear?
Frost and a sharp wind
reproach us,
and a tall sky pelts the roof
with blue flowers.

You and I in bed, my love,
heads leaning together,
merry as thieves
eating stolen honey –
what have we to fear
but a borrowed world
collapsing all about us
in blue ruins?

O'Sullivan, V. (Ed.). (1979). An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry. Wellington: Oxford University Press.

Friday, September 2, 2011

At a fishing settlement – Alistair Campbell

At a fishing settlement – Alistair Campbell

October, and a rain-blurred face,
And all the anguish of that bitter place.
It was a bare sea-battered town,
With its one street leading down
On to a shingly beach. Sea winds
Had long picked the dark hills clean
Of everything but tussock and stones
And pines that dropped small brittle cones
On to a soured soil. And old houses flanking
The street hung poised like driftwood planking
Blown together and could not outlast
The next window-shuddering blast
From the storm-whitened sea.
It was bitterly cold; I could see
Where muffled against gusty spray
She walked the clinking shingle; a straw
Dog whimpered and pushed a small
Wet nose into my hand – that is all.
Yet I am haunted by that face,
That dog, and that bare bitter place.

O'Sullivan, V. (Ed.). (1979). An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry. Wellington: Oxford University Press.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Laid-out body – Alistair Campbell

The Laid-out body – Alistair Campbell

Now grace, strength and pride
Have flown like the hawk;
The mind like the spring tide,

Beautiful and calm; the talk;
The brilliance of eye and hand;
The feet that no longer walk.

All is new, and all strange –
Terrible as a dusty gorge
Where a great river sang.

Daisy Pinks – Alistair Campbell

O catch Miss Daisy Pinks
Undressing behind her hair;
She slides open like a drawer
Oiled miraculously by a stare.

O the long cool limbs,
The ecstatic shot of hair,
And untroubled eyes
With their thousand mile stare.

Her eyes are round as marigolds,
Her navel drips with honey,
Her pulse is even, and her laugh
Crackles like paper money.

O'Sullivan, V. (Ed.). (1979). An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry. Wellington: Oxford University Press.