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
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
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
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
behind, that caught
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.
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
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
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.