Remission

In the kingdom of artificial autumn
where the trees make footfall there is a scar,
the work of heat and clearfelling.
Southern promises in green have slowly over summer
turned deciduous from that hasty surgery.
We had the bushfire months ago.
Scraps of cordon tape dance alongside new bracken.
Charcoal helpfully delineates a black-box amphitheatre
that hosts rehearsals
but not yet the full performance of life.
In the wings, a picnic bench was saved by cutting
many branches and in this red nest
two kids too young to be lovers
sit in the quiet way they have seen adults do.
She has an oxygen tube tucked under her septum.
She smiles with her whole body.
They are rulers of the narrow realm,
a place not of death or of growth.
Behind their backs a red strip runs down the hillside.

scar tissue on the hills of Upper Hutt

Maidstone Park fire, seen from the north

Outing

Here’s a collaborative performance with Darren Inwood, from this year’s Kerouac Effect performance in Wellington. I combined my words with Darren’s electronic wizardry (and a little violin) and this is the result.

words below:

Outing

When the wind erodes my sermons
When the chapped rocks cry for shelter
Bring water sweet and molten
Drumming on plastic
When sky blends with sea in mourning
When my eyes distort from staring
Bring gales to whip up horses
Distant herding billows
When I stand in cooling shallows
When I skim stones in long hollows
Bring flat greywacke for my sockets
Coins for tides turning
When the path has fooled the shepherd
When footfalls tatter hillsides
Bring a green sweet-pea promise
Fresh dresses for the solstice
When the swift scree rough and tumbles
When the tall cliffsides threaten
Bring bushes tough and hardy
To cushion children
When the waiting tins gape empty
When skinks scatter like slick commas
Bring butterflies in warm hands
Swift flecks flitting
When the seashell will not open
When the hand is cold that hungers
Bring soft-bellied schools
Silver and sand-dollars
When the day grows thin and listless
When its orange turns to ashes
Bring driftwood that dances
Circles warm with stories

Limen

Limen

All of my idols worn smooth by the wind

Lack mouths to advise me.

Salt has danced tattoos on my lenses,

On my cheekbones, but it sends

No intelligible codes today.

I am dried out.

I have sat in the mud and shrunk down

Into a crab. I disappeared into my mother

Fingers first, leaving no castings behind me.

Those tunnels hold no secrets now.

Eldritch pipes erode the grey shoreline

At my ear’s entrance. All the whorl’s a stage,

But no libretto will embroider these howls.

The beach has lost the voice

That spoke to me once in my own tones.

A hard passionate pulse

Grows fur at the edges of my eyes.

My fingers are at low tide.

The breath needed for new songs

Mutes my keening limbs,

Pulling inspiration through a cracked straw.

Broken friends, let us croak by the estuary

Of primeval Lethe, gulping down the mud,

Drinking to the last breath.

Together let us paint squeezebox songs

And sing them to old, uncaring gods.

The matriarch

The matriarch

Crows fly out of my mouth,

And starlings, and riots of tuis,

Adding to morning’s clamor.

I am the forest that lives inside the city,

This office tower is my eyrie

And my steel gaze on the steel sea

Is the hawk’s squint piercing

The wrinkled hide of this harbour.

All of the above mine to command

Should I choose it. I am of the flock

And the cloud. The hard sea bore me

In on the gale-struck tide.

Sailors and wise men fear me

When I lower my glasses

Down my beak-hooked nose.

The Town Belt is my dogskin

And your sculptures adorn me,

Metal in my hair and eyes,

Plastic ringed around my neck.

I am your fire at night, I bring shape

In the wallowing dark to you,

Adoptive home, you, womb

Beside the seaside. I reach out

With great grey wings to catch

Your peach-tipped sunrise

And bottle it for the winter.

Onion Lady

Onion Lady 

Each evening we’d negotiate

An electric peace

While pacing green corridors

Following the colour coded stripes

Long as wagging tongues.

At some point a switch would flip

Tipping a nine volt contact

Ionic bonds tasting sweet and sharp

Like lemon chicken sauce

Licked up from the bottom of the plate.

You are better the second time around

Laying out your yellow flanks so tender

Battered, buttery before my blue foothills.

Snap frozen moments sit in the chiller

Ready for my phone raised in prayer.

Its glossy black monolith

Oblongs for kisses that sink

To the bottom of the Leith

Along with discarded shopping trolleys.

Paper picnic plates, wide and white

Cover each of my floating eyes.

Follow my story downstream.

Look up at the river in the sky

Open to past and present alike

An eclectic piece

Played in electric blue.

Open and closed

Open and closed

Close your bag, he says.

Anyone could just reach in while you are sleeping

On the train and take things

While your eyes are closed:

Your phone, your books, your wallet.

When you sit on the train you fall open

Like an abandoned bag.

Your knees are spread and your lap is wide open

Like your mouth when you sleep,

And like your mouth it sings an invisible song.

Your bag breathes in and out with every

Unconscious tiny movement of your stomach.

The bag on your lap lies open to strangers.

You leave yourself open to theft.

You’ve been overseas. Don’t you know better?

I can’t help it, my darling.

My whole world is an open bag.

My morning commute runs along one half

Of the great zip delineating its mouth.

Nature and geology has turned

My house into an opening.

Deep inside it, anyone can reach

With inquisitive hands

And find knowledge or wealth or connections.

I have travelled, yes. If I ever feel homesick

All I have to do is put my bag down,

Expand the opening till it makes an O

And step into that singing shape.

I will let the topography of my bag enfold me,

Mouth open, eyes closed.