The Lion Skin – James K. Baxter
The old man with a yellow flower on his coat
Came to my office, climbing the twenty-eight steps,
With a strong smell of death about his person
From the caves of the underworld.
The receptionist was troubled by his breath
Not every morning tea break
Does Baron Saturday visit his parishioners
Walking stiffly, strutting almost,
With a cigar in his teeth – she might have remembered
Lying awake as if nailed by a spear
Two nights ago, with the void of her life
Glassed in a dark window – but suitable enough
She preferred to forget it.
I welcomed him
And poured him a glass of cherry brandy,
Talked with him for half an hour or so,
Having need of his strength, the skin of a dead lion,
In the town whose ladders are made of coffin wood.
The flower on his coat blazed like a dark sun.
O'Sullivan, V. (Ed.). (1979). An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry. Wellington: Oxford University Press.