A memory

your summer dress I remember:
orange, green, a touch of turquoise

was it?

how it clashed so madly
with the dull buildings

dulled by a sky-full
of grey clouds

pressing inappropriately
around you

and your smile—dashed off
as you ran past in the light rain

bright as the sound
tyres make
on a smooth wet road.


Catalogue of objects

The handmade espresso cup
is satisfying on my lips
and if I wished
I might imagine the touch

of those classical lips
on the woman’s face, painted
on the cup, quickly, just a few lines
with a thinnish brush.

Once, full-frontal, her nose
a straight line to her brow
between eyes which are dabs of black
run into a wash of sea-green.

The other, her face lying down,
looking over the curved hill
of her shoulder, described
with one stroke.



“Poor clay toy creature of Eternity”
– R. A. K. Mason

knowing the way
we didn’t move

knowing how
we didn’t do

knowing less
we pretended more

knowing why
we didn’t try

knowing true
we still lied

knowing what
we didn’t say

knowing when
we didn’t show

knowing where
we searched there.



Fast ride oil economy collapsing. I’ll have to walk
or saddle a donkey (dung and fun) to petition
Washington: careful of stealth.

An archaeologist’s brush, poetry and Plato:
my understanding of humanity. The Hagia Sophia:
lights you can jump to touch.

No person freed from working for someone else
ever complained―or only about the weather
and marauding armies.

Of Leonard Cohen: he slowed it down―no line
more important than the whole: a sexy prophet;
no time for constitutions.

They would make our world a Venus. Too late,
I’m abandoning the rich―their compliments
and donations―I shall eat my bread

with the class of a peasant. Let words live
for awhile. Domes and colonnades
can fall down as they will.


She said, she said

She said she hatched from a chrysalis
aaaaShe said she lost her wings

She said she was once a queen
aaaaShe said she wore a tiger’s hide

She said she could hold her breath for a very long time
aaaaShe said she had never committed a crime

She said she had been close to a comet
aaaaShe said she knew Verlaine

She said she was on the barricades
aaaaShe said she escaped on a horse

She said she never watches TV
aaaaShe said she loves her job

She said she doesn’t look back
aaaaShe said she could live forever

She said she had a contented heart
aaaaAnd we believed her.


A wooden seat

Missionaries congregate
by a wooden seat

orientated to the east,
the radiant sun,

crowned willingly
by everyone, who fall

on this autumn morning
easily into worship.

Mindful perhaps
of a life-giving force,

though more likely
a humble bliss.

No priority given
to metaphysical claims,

only competing interests
on a wooden seat.

Northern Advocate Column

Bananas and the home economy in the time of coronavirus


I want to start off talking about bananas. Specifically, the bananas ripening in a large bunch on the plant next to my garden shed. It’s the second bunch we’ve had, and I’m very proud. I bought one plant from the Tikipunga Markets in Whangārei six years ago for less than $10. A slow return on the initial investment, but with two bunches I’m now showing some profit. And I’m likely to show more as time goes on, as a banana sends out shoots from the base of an established tree, which you can dig up and plant somewhere else. So I’ve got banana trees growing at multiple spots around the section. More bunches of bananas will follow.

All this banana activity involves a little bit of work, planting and harvesting. You could call grating the hard green bananas and making plantain fritters work as well. Or even putting the ripe bananas in a blender to make a smoothie. It’s work, however, that’s not going to show up in New Zealand’s GDP figures when they officially come out. A smoothie purchased and drunk in a cafe before the lockdown will. That’s because money was used to pay for it, so it’s work done that’s part of the measurable monetary economy.

When released, New Zealand’s GDP figures will show a big fall in economic activity due to the struggle to keep coronavirus out. But those GDP figures won’t accurately reflect all that’s been going on during the lockdown. Because GDP doesn’t measure unpaid work. Since so much store is put in the GDP figures (which must always go up), and we’re all caught in the necessity of earning money, we tend to value paid work over unpaid work.

Mike Hosking, in one of his recent columns, said that we can’t have everyone at home doing nothing for much longer. Yes, we need to get back to the workplace and earn some money, but I doubt many of us have been doing nothing, as Hosking claims. For instance, I’ve put in two new vegetable gardens. I’ve finally finished painting the house (hallelujah!). I’ve cooked and I’ve cleaned. I’ve done dishes until they’ve come out my ears (we don’t have a dishwasher and four people at home all day generates a lot of dishes). We’ve made our own bread, tortillas, muffins and pizza bases. I’ve helped the kids with their school work.

And when walking around Hikurangi, I would say my neighbours have been busy too. Sections are looking good. All sorts of odd jobs are being done. My immediate neighbours have three children under the age of 7. Stuck at home with kids that young for four weeks is hard work.

Kiwis haven’t been doing nothing. The national economy, as measured in monetary terms, will have contracted significantly, but home economies have undoubtedly expanded. The word “economy” actually comes from the ancient Greek word, “oikonomos”, which means “household management.” The original economy, you could say, was the home.

Now, I don’t want to deny the financial hardship many are experiencing right now, especially with the cost of housing, but there is work you can do for yourself at home that saves money. Maybe think about how you can expand your home economy. Grow, bake, cook, repair, paint, tend, nourish, fix, preserve, care, build, and teach. Plant bananas, the Northland climate is excellent for them. It might be that if you’re a couple, you can live off one income instead of two if you consciously develop the home economy.

And if you do become unemployed, temporarily or longer-term, don’t listen to anyone who says you’re not doing anything. There’s plenty that you can do that’s valuable to yourself and other people in your life. Household management is an important role.