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.
Standard
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 hosting 
 of lavish 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

Fishing a calm sea

We look into the water, 
the absence of wind and swell 
has flattened its surface, so the low 
setting sun cannot bounce light 
into our eyes, there's a rare dullness 
that we can see ourselves in
and to a few arm-lengths below. 
Our faces peak over the boat's rim 
like two cherubs looking into a well. 

Our bait, whole piper, wallow 
in the visible zone, swinging 
a lazy rhythm between two 
bobbing heads. Such tranquil sorrow 
where no tears are shed 
at the looming blackness of it all. 
Our view is narrowed, 
we don't see the cliffs flipped over, 
ascending from green to orange clay, 
to rocks above
                 —a snapper torpedoes 
into the bait, a rod slams 
downwards, the line whizzes, 
the mirror smashed. We’re ejected 
from the sea and plonked 
back in our small boat, father and son, 
winding in the world we know. 
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Poetry

Johnathan by the water

It’s Johnathan by the water
Flopping his hair like a seagull’s shiver.

His eyes are honest, so honest
He’ll tell you how it is
Hit you between the yellow and the blue.

He’s got you leaning into the wall
Waiting for you to fall.

He’ll smile and lead you on
His eyes are honest, so honest.

He’s Johnathan by the water
Flopping his hair like a seagull’s shiver.

He’ll hang you in the elevator
You won’t reach for the button
Because it’s right
Because it’s right.

He’ll tell you not to cry
It’s America and it’s built to last.

He’s Johnathan by the water
Flopping his hair like seagull’s shiver.

Standard
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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Art, Poetry

I wish

I wish I was in Greenwich Village
reading Macbeth, legs crossed, a glass of wine at my ear.

Or in the Sistine Chapel
seeing Adam raise his dandy arm to bearded God.

Or in front of Socrates proclaiming
the revolution of reason, reaching for his cup.

Or in a Parisian café drinking absinthe
with poets, painters and philosopher junkies
in wrinkled collar shirts.

Or eating fruit with Manet and his companions by a lake.

Or crossing a bridge over the Sumida River in the rain.

Or shopping at Macy’s and seeing Adrian Piper
with WET PAINT on her top.

Or driving a bulldozer for the first time
through the Nevada Desert.

Or side-by-side with children flying their kites
through a hole in the prison wall.

Standard
Poetry

As artists do

it’s the blankness
that

still appears
even

after you’ve filled

all the canvas

which becomes
again

a question
of what to do

which brush to use?

which colour to mix?

how again to fill
the canvas

to link
these next strokes

with the ones
before

to make the composition
work

painting over
and over

the blankness.

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Poetry

Kupe

Moana! It’s me…
I’ve run from Hine-nui-te-pō
to hear the waves break in the twilight morning
and see once more the waka pulled up high
on the beach, their tauihu standing
like warriors, proud amongst the gulls
and scuttling crabs.

I dig in the sand,
two lengths from the great pohutukawa,
until my lonely hands touch what we buried:
the waka huia I carved
with our bodies entwined on every side,
mouths open, tongues hungry.

The edges of the box
have softened over time, but the embers
we placed inside still glow, which we can use
to light again a fire in the dunes
that will burn like the one Ranginui
and Papatūānuku lit in the beginning.

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