POEMS

Here I will post a small selection of my poetry, some still in progress …

Note: Difficult to have the poem lie on the page as I would like, due to a WordPress editor that is not nimble enough for a poem’s requirements. Maybe one day they will get it right?

in the sky burns a garden
‘He who loses his language loses his world.’ Iain Chrichton Smith/ Iain Mac a’Ghobhainn
Really the loss began when Motoitoi
married Dallas
and her daughters married
Pākehā. Tūpuna silenced when
my grandfather met his grandmother
for the first time at a railway station.
A small boy, he shied away from her.
Left with the only memory to tell
his own children
about was of how scared
he was of how old and dark
his grandmother, how strange
the black shawl she wore
over her head. The black iron train.
Black smoke. Black shawl.
This then the only memory he was left with
of his Māori side, my grandfather
with his Māori nose and freckled skin
I loved — his hands, his face,
his short, brown roundness,
his shiny acorn-coloured bald head
often topped with a homburg.
(Or was it a fedora?) A grey, felt hat,
the sort of hat he could effortlessly
grab from the peg with one hand
with its ready-made thumb-shaped
hollow on one side, three-finger
shaped dip the other
and tobacco-stained satin lining
smelling of shut-in sweat
and gravel. The kind of hat
favoured by Frank Sinatra
and American gangsters.

~*~

cricket during lockdown

The ragged monotone

of a cricket’s refrain

is childhood’s waist-high grass

and boredom. It is last chances,

eternity, the beige of neglected summer lawns.

Through an open window

I hear its shrill register

competing

with the sporadic wash

of reduced traffic noise

and my granddaughter’s tearful protests

against an afternoon nap.

This cricket’s front-leg click, rub, whirr,

is an irksome useless key

turning a music box

with a loose spring

that cannot be wound any tighter.

I find myself counting on it to be

today’s measure of time. Even when

everything turns, re-turns,

the cricket will keep

on. For now though, it is

my stop watch.

~*~

above the line

Above, a black-backed gull

grifts the high way

only gulls trawl,

a sky- valley current

that streams between

beach and harbour.

I look up, see its chest

feathers ironed white by light,

its black wings

rowing west

towards today’s catch:

fish entrails, road kill,

mud crab. I note

how it hauls its cargo

of intent, watch

until it disappears

behind the tips

of trees, envision

the movement, the trail

it leaves

behind, that caught

rude disturbance

of time’s dead air.

~*~

21st century guy

‘We need to go down George to get

maximum exposure to eateries,’

says 21st century guy wearing shoes without socks.

He’s keen for a bagel or panini or falafel

somewhere al fresco where the weather

sets the tables. By Albany, Gen Y’s out

of my hearing range, as well as my time zone:

that time when I was the keen one, a blooming

Baby Boomer, when two dollars was a purple note

and wages were inside brown envelopes

to be collected on payday – a Wednesday

when it always rained – then opened up

to pay for lunch in a cafe with lace curtains on the windows

and tablecloths on the tables

and Dusky Yo-yos.

~*~

‘so close no matter how far’ – a line from Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’

He bites his fingernails, his teeth

clomping like boots. We have all

been summoned to the Principal’s office,

son and parents, where he’s told

there will be no more warnings and about the nature

of institutions / this school, how once

you’re asked to leave, it will be as if

you never existed.

There will be a confidence course

and counselling on self-esteem

with blobs ‘which blob

best depicts you?’ We are all going to have to learn

to say No. There will be days

when he cannot be found

even though it’s plain to see

he’s there in the kitchen, making a sandwich.

There will be deep voices on the phone. Boys

who sound like men.

~*~

convolvulus

Beside me, the wind is whistling

a fine tune through a gap it has found

in the frame between

a window’s glass and sill

as outside, each flower petal bends

in order

to survive what I imagine

to be their lament

for this present disappearance of warmth,

it is their complaint

against summer’s cold shoulder.

As the southern rata slowly bleeds scarlet

bristles on to concrete,

I choose not to recall betrayals,

instead I attempt a dumb embrace

of a jet’s overhead tumult

as it heads north.

~*~

the road and the rain

Spider webs on our car lead you to wonder aloud

about a new species of spider called Wing Mirror.

Three paddocks over from State Highway One,

I glimpse the forward motion of a silent train

dragging its grubby white necklace of containers.

In the enclosed space of a car, free range thoughts roam

following their own random map.

Journeys within a journey. Leading me

into remembrance of things once heard

on the radio — long lost lexicons: fishing reports,

the daily round up 

of the vegetable market. Chicken Man at lunch-time.

And how we’ve lost the word ‘bowser.’ 

And the word ‘truly’ as an affirmative remark.

Under the tyres of a truck ahead, puffs of rain. 

We pass a gravel pit, a patchworked hayshed,

queueing poplars. A choir of dead trees. 

Redundant tyrannosaurus rex irrigation systems.

When we arrive, a skylark is there to lead us 

to the right end of the beach.

Where my ancestors are buried.

A tiny bird dealing with a tough wind.

‘Heading west but going east,’ you say.

We find the lost graveyard

where tīpuna, say, ‘Leave us be.’ 

Leave. Us. Be. That works.

The sea snowy with breakers.

The skylark still battling.

We travel on, country music

barely discernible

above the sound of the road and the rain.

Kilometres farther into the future,

to your ancestral land,

where a lake smacks its lips on a beach piled high 

with driftwood. Your grandparents used it

for firewood, you say. Hauling loads back home

by horse and dray. Above us — silent, dark, small

— a swift scythes through the last of this long day’s light.