Poetry

The smell of hot bread

Every drop-off then was the smell
of hot bread from the ovens
behind the factory walls, made grey 
in the mind by it always being wet
and dark, head-lights on. 

When I drive past the road today
the smell of fresh baked bread
still breaks out of those same walls, 
now Newberry’s Funeral Home,
where the ovens are hotter and sealed tight. 

For the symmetry, it’s at Newberry’s
I can be dropped-off, on a weekday,
when there’ll be a fight for parks,
everyone oblivious to the smells
and memories of years ago. 
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Poetry

Beneath Hikurangi

Cicadas singing 
in the fire of the sun. 
We used to think 

they lived so briefly 
and it was too easy 
for the mynahs 

to catch them 
in their yellow beaks, 
hold them for a moment, 

still singing; 
no wild struggle or hardly 
a change in pitch.

After we learnt 
they lived for years 
underground, it wasn’t 

so bad. Now, listening 
to the cicadas 
in the crystal space 

of early summer,
the hill, always there, 
cut-silhouette on the horizon,

we’re happy enough 
in our grand mediocrity.
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Poetry

Arriving

We can’t get it right 
      like Newton—we search 
            for patterns to lay it down 

in best durable forms 
      [laughter]: watch the sea 
            deal with rocks, 

feel the sand between 
      your toes. Does it matter 
            that Antares can consume 

663 trillion Earths? 
      Monstrous weight, that can, 
            if you like, be lifted 

by the work of bees: 
      a miracle none foretold.
            Let’s say of art 

that it thinks differently
      about the shape of mushrooms 
            we picked together 

on Saturday—we don’t know 
      anything about them, 
            except two hours of fun 

in paddocks: the biosphere 
      and adventure ours. No one’s 
            going nowhere 

but the infinity of our own 
      creative purpose, arriving 
            at a place unknown.
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Poetry

The gods in my shed

When Apollo says he knows 
whether all the grains of sand in the world 
add up to odd or even, and that he knows too
the measure of the oceans, and the number 
of insects that crawl the earth, 
and the days of cities and empires, 
or how many waves are curling now
about to break, 
or that he sees each butterfly 
flapping its wings 
and knows where every ripple goes, he is saying 
we do not know 
and that we should revere the knowing 
which is forever beyond us, 
meditate on it daily, pour water on the backs of goats 
if we must, to remind ourselves
what we do not know, and never can. 
That is the function of the gods
I still keep on a shelve in my shed.
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Poetry

Olive pressing

Seventeen years, mostly ignored. Finally, 
we learnt to press the olives from our tree into oil, 
a process which widens out 
into a world of infinite connections: 
				the universe of stars 
and dust. Such that I hardly know how to say what we did. 
Perhaps, like Homer, we’ll discover in writing 
something smarter than ourselves. 			        
						       
							First, we blitzed 
the olives in a food processor, which bounced on the bench, 
rattling and shrill-screaming, as it spun the hard stones 
and oily flesh into a khaki mash 
that smelt divine, 
like the dark loamy earth 
		between the thighs of Papatuanuku. 

Each batch 
we scooped into a large pot and heated, until 
this indelicate mixture began sparkling like morning dew
on a pile of dung. 

						You can thank the sun 
for sending water to the mountains, and for it 
								to fall 
back into our laps, 
though it took men like my grandfather wielding the levers 
to build the dams 
with steel cracked from red earth, combined with gravel 
and cement squeezed from soft grey clay; 
the hill at Portland almost gone. 
		     
						 And all this flows 
to the turning of the press 
made from ageless aluminium, everywhere and nowhere 
in the Earth’s crust, journeying now into space…
								and held tight 
in our hands, to wrench the oily liquid from its fibrous body, 
as alumina is wrenched from bauxite 
using the holding power of alpine lakes. 
		                  		  	
					            	Oil rises to the top, 
best left overnight in a jar that you can dip 
a ladle into and funnel through muslin cloth. 
What’s left behind is an acerbic liquid any gardener 
will deploy with pleasure
to cut off those obstreperous weeds in mid-growth. 

In a ceramic jug the oil will stay peppery to taste; 
a wealth stored, to be drizzled 
on the familial bread, 
		  	 and spilling over 
				    	onto the plate bounded 
by its raised rim.

With the last pieces of bread, 
we soaked up the thin pools of golden oil 
and licked our glistening fingers—
like shining Gods we are, for a moment.
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Poetry

Devotions

In the summer centre, the island on a limb,
the sun swelts the volcanic earth mixed 

with sand pushed up out of the sea. Manuka 
thrives, pink and white flowers speckle 

the near horizon. Beneath blackened boughs 
are deep pools of shade we dive into, a relief 

to skin and hot-flushed mind—such abundance, 
such hunger for contrasts given in plenty. 


*


Flashes of silver, consumed by hunting eyes,
somersault above the net, caught on our stage. 

The show, put on by the escapees, drags us 
from all over, as the watery world shrinks; 

the curtain drawn by long-shorted, dripping, 
wielders of the rope. At the wings, they hurl 

their catch of spike-nosed piper onto the beach
in a rolling crescendo of pebbles and fish. 



*


The southern wind edges the waves 
moving across the bay; white lines of static flicker 

and vanish: a jumpy picture of turquoise-blue 
blotted with shadows from dampened clouds above. 

Amidst the froth and crests of roughening seas 
birds in the distance race to a haven 

at the north end of Tokerau Beach, where the sands
curve behind the rocks marked by Maui’s net.


*


The setting sun, like a cut blood-orange, 
bleeds out over the distant hills. The beauty, 

this time, is in the far view and the silhouette. 
In front of the lamp the Manuka are scissored. 

The shape of things distracts from mosquitoes 
at my ankles. We forget that we are prey 

often enough to believe in a moments bliss, 
ale in hand, crunching chips and dip.
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Poetry

What are you protecting Cicero?

 Your oh-so-distaste 
 for Tribunes who incite the popular crowd,  
 what are you protecting Cicero?
 
 Your ballsy support 
 for the latest drone deployment in Thrace, 
 what are you protecting Cicero? 
 
 Your polite way with handlers 
 and a word for the homeless, 
 what are you protecting Cicero? 
 
 Your dream of heroic iambs 
 on the steps of the Capitol,
 what are you protecting Cicero?
 
 Your lavish hosting 
 of dinner parties for the argentarii, 
 what are you protecting Cicero?
 
 Your blood-clean sacrifices 
 in the race for everlasting life,
 what are you protecting Cicero?
 
 Your corpse 
 in a vault with a tag on your toe―too late, 
 what were you protecting Cicero?
 
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Poetry

Our dog is like Frank O’Hara

our dog is like Frank O’Hara
aaaaaaalover of gregarious freedom!
we don’t want to train him—he’s untrainable
half wild, like a Coltrane solo
he takes free rein, takes it where it will go
he barks at everyone he sees        with no malice
he just wants to say hello
and tell everyone        he loves them
he can jump up in the air in crazy yelping pirouettes
he’s a bit of a show-off

he’s too quick footed for the big slow dogs
who can’t pin him down        there’s no easy walk
trotting along beside in regular rhythm
it’s all full tilt, nose down, tail up, pulling forward
choking against the collar—sudden stops
deviations         instant enthusiasms
abandoned for the next delicious scent        tiring
and exhilarating, like keeping up with Peter
when his brain’s exploding
T.S.Eliot mixed with obscenities

he sleeps close to us on the bed
any noise, 2am, 5am, and he’ll leap off
and run around barking in circles       it’s idiotic
and pisses us off
he wants to lick your ears in the morning
loves it when you scratch his head
he hardly eats, but likes to clean your plate
flies annoy him       (he’s mostly content)

he escapes often, being small and agile
always finding a new way to get out
we’re lucky he hasn’t been hit by a car
we would miss him a lot
aaaaaabecause he’s full of the genius of life
our dog
a destroyer of shallow boredom
like Frank O’Hara.

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