Monday, November 21, 2011

Rose Up

The Tyrant called me
late one night  and
asked me to come
and talk of roses.
Which I did because you
did not turn him down.

We sat down together
and I talked to this man,
who waded through history,
of flowers and soil and rain.
He had the peasant view
that roses are a rich
person's flower so
was eager to prove himself.

A year later he wanted to talk
about water, and how to move it
around his grounds.
There were more security men
at that time because
he was under threat.

Months later he wanted to
talk of grapes but
I think that really he
just wanted to talk to me.
Called me "Dear Doctor" at the greeting
and said that
I was the only one who
told the truth and was not scared.
He did not know that I had to
burn my clothes after every meeting.

Only afterwards did I think
That I could have told him about
roses at the end of grape rows.
That act in an early warning role.
But that would not have helped him
because by then
his head was on a pole.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Square Deal

I have my seat,
where I can see
but not be seen.
I am categorising people
as they arrive for a concert
in the square and I like
how they mix and flow.
Here are some men in their 50's
arms crossed over bellies
ducking and weaving as they
recite best loved stories.
They help a young mother with her pram
who has split off from a group
of teenage girls who look
casually fabulous, if a little uniform.
Three teenage boys walk past
and there is enough
sliding eye contact to
start a forest fire.
A mother and daughter
seem to be using sign language
but then see the father
and the son who come
over from the Hot Rods.
The son smiles cheesily and
talks to the daughter
who turns her back on him
but smilingly.
While the parents shake their heads
in unison.
It is important to
see all this, to realise
that people can still get along.
At this time the sun
and  music have
worked for them.
Because there is not much
that does that these days.
Not much to bind
when the major push in society
is for individuals
at the expense
of us all.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Reign of Debris

My head is full of fragments,
bits of life,
fragments of film,
broken bricks, broken windows.
Which should be striking
ideas off of each other
as they tumble.
But the motion is so fast
that anything resulting,
is smashed at once,
and adds to the clatter.
The hurricane can have an eye,
composed of some act of
cowardice or stupidity.
Which captures the chaos,
so, for a while, the thoughts
whirl around that rotten core,
activating and
that short shameful video.
But when the storm
moves off, that spot, that
spite, remains and
is not scoured clean.
It is ready
to anchor
another whirlwind.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Worry

It is as though,
that you see,
takes a piece away
as it gives back
an experience.
The exchange
would have to be
precise or you
would wear out
very quickly.
But that bay and
that island
tore big chunks off me
which is something
I am just
now realising
as oil threatens them.
The mind picture for
my first good poem
came from there so
I count myself
ahead in the deal.
Although to think of them
choked and dead is
cold lead
in the stomach.
So I have the poem
and the worry
and the love.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

In Perception

The small orange sticker
on the wall of the office
I am visiting
says "Perceptual".
Which gets me thinking
about the time it snowed
and it seemed to make
a theatre of our street.
As if the world was limited
to just this strip of asphalt.
The  intricate
stories and sagas of
the neighbours would become
the play which would fill that space.
I also remembered that dream
where the baby had eyes
full of blood
and it was my fault,
and then it wasn't.
How I felt very differently
about the story when
hearing of the stupid thing
that the father had done.
Because I wasn't him anymore.
But I still took great pains
to tell the other
characters that
"I would never do that"
while silently asking myself
"Would I?"

With thanks to my Mum for advice on the, now missing, last stanza.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Someone took a photo
of him coming back.
Hat held in the hand
of the arm his coat
is folded over, the
suitcase on the ground.
Squinting into the sun
first sign of the smile,
warming his face,
as he saw his mum.
He was back from the war,
though he told me once,
"You can't take it off
like a suit".
If you could, somehow,
arrange to have him in
the same place every year
and take a picture.
Much would not differ
from year to year
but the face would change,
especially in the 1990's
when he just lost interest.
Betrayed by Labour,
and scornful of the rest,
sometimes even hateful.
Until he seemed used up.
Compared to that arrival photo
when he is back, alive
and beginning to realise
that he had made it through
and knew that his country
would not let him down.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Crazy Mummer

Lust, the half remembered Harlequin,
steps up behind you on cat feet,
and whispers:
"That's a bit of all right".
Then saunters off,
leaving you, red eared
at the deliciousness
of the sin.
Monsieur Love is there then,
with convoluted, courtly manners
and elegant fol-de-rols.
He inspects the top of his walking cane
and asks you:
"What did they mean when they said
'Hello' and 'Nice day'?"
Then he goes to read his mail.
Finally there is Mr. Punch
with his slap-stick
and belled hat.
But all he says is "Putcha!".
Not much help in that.
So the play moves on
and you are trapped inside.
Foil to the actors,
unsure of your next line.
While desperately,
playing for time.

Monday, August 15, 2011


When you were there,
it was a time of two
and one.
In a sunny house
up on a hill.
So your mum,
called us Jack and Jill.
Which was simply,
how it was.
The tumbling down
was quick and shocking.

The empty socket
where you fitted
gaping, gutted, gone.
So much space
that I had doubts
about going on.
And in a sense I didn't,
that was some, numb
other who marked the days.
Who still drifts
around the wreck.
Too scared to say
it's unfair
that you're not there.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


There was a moment
when it all made sense.
I could see my life
mapped out, like a farm
from the air.
I felt that the parts
were connected
and it was a body
of work that had
some history and
was enmeshed
in the community, here.
There was a feeling
of the larger whole
and I could see the
pathways radiating out.
Then it was gone and
I was back to the
feeling of unease,
waiting for something
that does not arrive.
Which is just life
the endlessly new
with no chance of review.
The effortless push into time
that starts to drag
once the flow is past us
and we move on.

Monday, July 4, 2011


The digger crouches in the middle
of the crumbling buildings.
With precision and even delicacy it knocks down
and loads rubble that had been a workplace
into a truck, which takes it away
to become golf course
And here am I at the fence
with my oldest friend
watching and commentating as
if it was cricket.
We talk of walls, loads and half
understood things our dads told us.
We criticise the digger driver
who's doing it all wrong.
And then it hits me,
like a freight train,
that this could be memory loss
we are watching and talk about.
The deft, telling blows
in just the right places
that the digger lands
to bring the edifice down.
The record of that place now gone.
A flat apron of concrete,
the only marker for a place
where people made ordinary history.
But the metaphor becomes unglued
because memories are organic
twining and twisting around the truth
gathering in stories and pictures
that are not ours, to the self.
Still it is close enough
to give me a chill as I remember my age.
So we leave and walk off quickly,
while the digger carries on.

Monday, June 20, 2011


My Dad says "In the library,
I had a moment, when
it seemed that I was not there.
But I could see it all.
It was very quiet."
"You're slipping away" I think
but ask "Does it happen often?"
"No" he says "I wonder if I'm slipping
out of life, slowly"
How did he know what I thought?
So I say "It's the heat, or
what you're eating."
He knows I'm covering up,
an eyebrow is raised and he looks
sideways at me and says
"Yeah, it's nothing to worry about."
Which is how it is.
I am still not allowed to worry about him
it is all the other way.
Though I want to help,
he still sees it and me
as slightly ridiculous.
He is still my parent
and I'm his child.
There are some shared laughs
but his age group do not open up.
So this moment has left a mark on him
if he even mentions it to me.
He is half amused  and
thinks about what it means.
So I look at him and say
"You're worried by it?"
"No, it's nothing much. But
I'd rather not just slide away."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Career in Security

Did you see me in there?
The nice guy with the ready smile.
What about my part, my lines?
I said the right things at the right time?

The professional speak
which is almost satire now
random words jammed together,
the emperor's new clothes, for birds of a feather.

It is a double deception,
because I want this job.
But to lay it out so flat?
You'd never get anywhere, like that.

So I overlayed it with
the business of jargon
to stress the company's leading of the edge.
Cutting through the corporate hedge.

It's part of the process,
when joining the club.
Using the right words
to separate you from other herds.

And,  look, no broken bones
The phrases do no damage
I use them, they don't use me
The only loss is honesty.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Homing in

As it gets nearer
you relax.
The landscape
grows to
become your family.
The sigh of homecoming
escapes you and her.
For it is
your mother
who says the welcome
and tells the history now.
It  curls
and unfolds
around this body.
It weaves you
back in, taking
a marked place where
both ends of
the timeline
can be seen.
And the time
when there
will be a gap.
When the land
will enfold you again.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I will remember you
wrapping yourself,
around the shards
of ice
in your heart.
Because they were
solid and something
to hold on to.
From the mess
he had made of
your life.
When he lied and
left you and
left me too.
Because he was
not the person
we had thought
he was.
There was silence
for a time.
After that you rang
and we had coffee
where you said "It's over,
I'm done"
And your smile,
lit me up from inside.

Friday, April 29, 2011

New Air

A blue sky with
strips of thin cloud.
A mother and daughter
walk past discussing something
called a brownie revel.
When you might think
girls of that age would rather be rebels.
A tortoiseshell cat accepts my
greeting, smells my offered hand
and allows some chin scratching.
The footpath starts to slope up here,
so that the park at the end
of the road emerges to view
quite suddenly. Sometimes startlingly,
when rain has flooded it
and ducks find an unexpected lake.
Today is warm and soft and
at the top of the road I pause
to appreciate it.
I have not walked far but
my heart has come a long way
and I can see the horizon now.
I am back in the world
and learning to breathe.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Death of a Pianist

I do not think that his fingers
would let him go quietly.
They would be so used to,
coaxing and cajoling beauty,
from felt and wire and air.
They would have gripped with ferocity,
to hold him here.
There would always be more
to do, there would always
be a concert to come.
But when it could not be denied,
that the piece had been played,
with maybe a gentle air
to lead to new sounds.
New music no one else could hear.
 With the promise of
passion and drama unknown.
He would have to acknowledge
the turning of a page.
He would have to move on
to the next stage.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Altered native

Explanation: When I was growing up in Whanganui, one of the main topics of conservation was about the commune set up by one of New Zealand's most well-known poets James K. Baxter. Recently I read the play "Horseplay"   and was struck by the way NZ society treated the "different" among us. I think we have got better at it and can only report positive reaction to my poems.
The title is a convoluted pun on the word "Alternative".

You had to sing, James K.
With your fine, mad words.
You had to show us, about us,
and make some ask why.

So that we could reply with scorn,
or fear because you were different.
The ideas you had were odd.
"Full of shit and God."

Oh sure, some would listen,
think what's he on about?
Maybe read some more,
but mostly we buttoned down and moved on.

I don't know much about you, hard to like from what I hear.
though I don't think that should matter.
You had to sing so we had to listen,
lifting our ears out of the clatter.


I am done with emotion, she said
or maybe it has done for me.
The heart has a limit for breaking.
Wells of tears have run dry.
I don't want entanglements,
I don't want clutter,
there will still be friends I suppose,
but not many and not close.
I'm just used up and worn down.
It is enough that I loved once
and cannot forget that last time
they went out through the door,
and did not come back.
From the white crosses by the road.
And I will feel no more.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

River Blocks

There was a corner,
where the sun highlighted
the water.
So that it looked like
the surface was woven.
Blocks of stone were
placed there to protect
the riverbanks when boats
were as frequent as buses.
When people exploited
the water for the good
and the bad.
Putting some mark on their history.
A needle in the wax.
Leaving a sort of  record.
And yet here it is now,
the boats sixty years gone.
The sweaty, noisy workers
browning images on paper.
While the river is not
changed and could lose
the blocks tomorrow
without the slightest care.


We sit in the artificial world that is
inside the larger world.
Watching the shadows playing.
They join together making
new shapes with old stories.
Then split to go on,
Now changed.
While other shadows observe
and make their own
narratives about
what they saw.
Which is us, the audience
and actors.
In and out of the action
changing it as we watch.
Aware of tragedies unfolding
and love enfolding.
There is a sense of pacing
of timing, maybe some direction.
A feeling that we,
will learn,

Not Light

A point of light
moving across the sky
soundlessly, smoothly
reminds me of us
on this planet
so endlessly inventive of ways to disagree
to hurt and to kill.
But from somwhere far off we will be that
shining moving dot with no sign of the turmoil
no sense of the tragedy.
And this was what I saw too.
Was the pilot struggling
facing her final minutes?
Her unlived life bleeding away
like the air from the wings.
The slow cold water of destruction in her gut.
Numbing her down to complete honesty,
so that there is nothing left
but goodbye.
As we are saying inside
our point of light.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's Called Love.

You looked at me and in me
and I knew it was love.
Lightning strike love
That changed everything.

Made me seventeen again.
Nervously grinning.
Laughing at nothing, and everything.
While my past was king-hit to the floor

Later, the first searing kiss
burned off my shell.
I laughed and cried and
Loved you.

As you loved me.
The waves blending back
into each other,
strengthening and supporting.

So that now.
We are two lives,
with one dream
and a home in the world.

 This is based on a story someone told me about someone else

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Light and Memory

Light bounces down the years,
with all angles equal.
Memories are made where it hits,
by light on a film in a camera.
Except that we are the camera box
and our brain is the film.

The angles are equal
So the strikes are evenly spaced.
And from parent to child
memories can pass.
With some overlapping.

But it is information that passes
which we colour ourselves.
With lives and experience,
context and meaning.
Projecting a life.

Does the film stick in the gate sometimes
get too much light and heat?
Blister and bubble inside
while on the screen of our life
the sudden change
jolts the watchers.

Or does the light when it hits
carry some memory away
on the reflective bounce.
Taking a bit more each time
until too much is missing.
Not being replaced by incoming light.

Or the film just wears out.
Meat and bone in the end.
Not made for infinitely
bouncing down the years.
Like light, spreading memories.

Robert Johnson and Me

Robert Johnson is not happy.
You just phoned it in he says
Meeting your deadline, he says
a word he does not like.

Look, I say, it was tough,
My wife was sick, I was the one,
people depended on me
to get things done.

Robert Johnson snorts,
Yeah, Sure was tough
You got hanged, you got beat?
people spat at you in the street?

For me, he says, it was rough,
You don't know you're alive, and here I am dead.
Dont give me that
"it was tough" line.

Robert, I say, I know it was hard,
and how bad it was.
But for me in this time
I had to prioritize

He isn't listening, he says
If I had given in, if I had been a quitter
I'd have been killed quicker
It was in me and I had to let it out.

I say, I did what I had to, to get by
I could not allow me to fail.
But Robert Johnson accepts no soothing,
he is on my trail

Wing Road

Wing Road is a knifecut in the earth,
slicing from coast to mountains.
A line to be crossed with,
No guidance given.
As to benefit or cost.

So I’m standing here with thoughts ablaze,
knowing that I have to do something.
While the pull from each end of Wing road,
pins me here, like a beetle.

There are crossroads on Wing road,
and I really should have turned off.
But where the Hell am I going?
No money, no love, only time.

Glowering clouds hide the mountains,
out at sea a force four storm.
Wing road says clearly to me,
“This is it, you are here”.

1912 Ragtime Orchestra.

This was played at the restaurant
where we had our anniversary meal.
We talked back through the years
people, places,events -memories.

You could make a list of it.
This one was kind, this one not,
this place was cold, that one hot.
That cat was strange, this one is worse.

Memories, though are not just a list,
they have sounds, smells, odd details
and feelings, attached.
Like the recording was not just some songs.

You could feel it in the music.
Where sometimes they berated the Devil,
Sometimes loved with all their heart.
Swaggered, when they might have been cowed.

The needle recorded emotions behind words,
Life is not just a recipe, 2 cups this and 1 pinch that.
You can feel the feelings
And accept some comfort.

Auckland Domain

The great man picked up his ice axe and left the hut
So we stood in the rain to watch him go.
Then later a vagrant guy took my hand
Said "Kia ora, bro"
and sniffed my knuckles.
Wouldn't stay to talk though I wanted him to
and the pang of his leaving was sharp.
Why was that?
I thought about my Dad
who fits somewhere between but shares traits with both.
How sharp will that leaving be?
And me, the watcher, the note writer, looking for reasons
fitting the pieces but not seeing the puzzle.
Trying to make something from nothing
with the wrong tools.
But I got a glimpse of an old photo.
A boy and a tram going by.
He's watching, noting remembering
Is that me or my Dad or my son?
We are all stops on the same line.
So we waited for the bus
life flowing past.
While my son slept on my lap.

Monday, January 31, 2011


He says,"I have no job
and people play with my life"
So I ask about power.
Does he feel connected?
"No" he says "there is no
direction for me to go.
And I don't see how
to get there from here.
Wouldn't that need power?"
I sense where this will go,
so I ask what he has learned,
which gets a short sharp
Underlining my problem
because how can I help?
In a pale green room
we talk, or he does.
Different people do the same
in the room next door.
Where, also,
nothing is happening.
He gets up to go and
says he likes our talks.
While in my head I shout
"I can't help you!"
But I smile, shake hands,
see him out and then look around.
At the other hopeful cases.


I am looking for something sacred
because a hill, in front of us,
looks like engraved silver
in the low slanted sunlight.

Fence posts become columns of light
illuminating the steepness
of that climb, and
the height of the summit.

And I wonder if this
is where poetry leads.
If you start to see
everything as a symbol.

Your view, overlayed
on the scenery?
So that everything is a spark
for you to fan into meaning.

Or is poetry more powerful when,
it explores the personal journey to talk about us all?
Trying to be analytical while accepting of all experience.
The poem as cold, solo reportage.

I am happy with no answer,
because I think that there is room,
for both views and poems are
us, in our complexity.

Widespread Damage

The reporter says
there is widespread damage
and someone is shown wailing
beside some rubble.

But they are right
about the spread.
Most of us are damaged
in some way.

And stand by
our smashed lives,
reduced to crying,
numbly in the rain.

Where we are jostled
by walking wounded,
all around.

Asking for help for
pity's sake.
Until you have to sob
"Can't you see I'm damaged too?"


An etched crystal moon
and shadow detailed hills
witness me at the market
parking so badly, there.

That Dad says
"You couldn't park your arse in an armchair"
Which, of course, unravels me, and the world.
Yarn spools out from all around.

The streets become clogged with multi-coloured threads.
Each one named. So that I can see each one
unrolling from me, undone
by a memory's remark.

Two years gone and I still
wonder about what went on.
What he meant and how mean I was.
And will it be the same for me?


I looked up to that smart young man,
who sang the angry songs,
that sliced up,
Thatcher's revolution.

But we grew up
and both went soft
occassionally sparking
in the dark.

Now I read online
that his personal life
is a scrambled, soggy mess
and he is an elder statement.

But the old stuff
pumps the blood as it always did,
and I love that angry, spiky
London kid.

Sneering his defiance
flattening their defences.
Burning down the state
loving with his hate.

A Break

We walk down to the estuary.
Raising clouds of insects
like smoke, with our feet.

We look for clues
in the sky or on the water
as to what has happened to us.

Not just who said what, when
but the death of that bright us,
that used to shine so hard.

Where now we 
are signal towers in the night
with no codebooks.

And the fog
around us is made of
deadening sadness.

As we wonder at
those other two.
compared to the careful, bored, lonely people

We are now.
With only
a desire to be done, in common,

Note: This a work of fiction

Safety Net

A safety net would be a good thing,
for when we walk the highly wired life.
Woven by friends, families, neighbours,
artist, writers and maybe even poets.
It is odd that a quality we aspire to,
is so feared.
The earth is not forgiving when
we slip up, up there.
Yet it is the slip down that does
the damage.
A cricketer  told me
Modern players are too
careless against
head high bowling,
because they have helmets.
And I wonder if a safety net
might make us careless about
But cricket balls are not
like the knives of self-contempt
we lacerate
ourselves with.
A safety net will not blunt those,
It might just slow you as you fall.

Corn Doll Life

This is your life,
this eight-shaped thing.
You thought it would be
a Corn Doll, but it's turned out to be
more like Raggedy Ann.

Stitches are burst or frayed
intricate threads disarrayed,
connect or end flapping loose.
With partial patterns as
priorities have changed.

The charcoal stick of memory
has worked with you, and through you
to make this scruffy whole.
But it needs no remolding.
No tidying.

It is your life which has been lived
and eventually comes to this:
On that day, on that beach
watching your kids play,
you thought "This truth."
"This is enough."


This story has stayed with me.
My foot caught in it,
stray lines stick to the sole.

I think that some of me is in there.
Because of the setting I used,
which has real and unreal places in an amalgam.

We go through those places,
having our lives,
leaving our marks.

While being marked so that
you can leave but something remains,
back there and on you.

Like pruning scars on an apple tree,
where life took its cuts.
While your life moved on.


My suburb with
the egg shell
painted sky.

And cartoon children
with huge eyes.
Speaking Te Reo.
While shadow cats slide
slickly over walls.
Then walk flinching on the lawns.

As low flying aeroplanes
buzz tree-tops
scared of too solid clouds.

Someone has kicked
the chocks from the wheels
and the world lurches drunkenly.

Egg Shell Mountain

I saw the shadow mountain.
On the horizon,
it looked fragile.
An eggshell portrait.
I wondered how this thing
of light and air.
Could stand for the eons,
that it has.
Has it looked like this before?
and what those who saw it,
then, thought it was showing them.
Because I thought it was a hopeful thing.
To say "look, there is still
beauty in this world
beyond your situation"
Maybe it is a mirror to peoples concerns
and they would see the translucency
as impermanence?
Maybe I should just
admire the beauty
like  water for my soul.
Not think that it's there for me,
As I then did.

Clearing out Trees

There had been a storm
and two great trees had been split.
So they were felled and sectioned up
and left beside the path.
Now I walked past straight after getting
that letter no worker wants to get.
But the scene stopped and held me.
Rain  had driven the fellers off
so all was still, tools in place
but no movement.
I saw the sectioned trunk
 recorder of the past, now
a massive square log
So impotent.
Off to one side some domes
of red showed fungi
at their eternal task.
With my own sense of being cut
and left beside the path.
I could not walk past and watched
in the winter rain

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


You see, he said,
I stood on that bend
the river sliding by.
And it's so quiet
and calming
that I feel lighter
in spirit
and in frame.

It feels like it's all new
there, only for me.
But accepts me as me
as it does for everyone.

The reflection
on the water
makes a kind of hall
Where I stand, he said
stopped in wonder
at what is happening.
And this is not like him,
this wondering
is something new.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Second River Trip

I travel by road now
with the river on my left
The pace this time is slower
there is time to absorb each memory.

I find that I need to see the river.
When I can't I fret, until I see
the big, beautiful, brown river and
feel it say: Be calm.

Oh, it is quiet up on the bank
birdsong the sole commentary.
Putting threads into the big story,
recording every day.

Trying to understand the telling,
we put symbols and beliefs on and in that river.
So that it waters souls and fields,
has a presence in hearts and banks.

I know that rivers flood,
it could take me under and
tear me up, unknowingly.
But that is just water.

 I am smitten by the river of my life
and have to go back now and then.
Follow the looping path,
struggle with the idea of the whole.
That is so huge but
is now a part of me.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The River Trip

I went back up the river of my life.
Lightning fast and thunder loud.
My senses overwhelmed by the beauty,
the images  compressed by the speed

There was so much
Memory. Some of it not mine.

I could feel the storylines,
curl around me.
So that I was not only seeing it
but I was in it too.

A new story being made,
of how I went back up.
And felt the passage of time,
the path of the story
and how I was taught the words.

It can't have been like that
the first time I was there.
I would have noticed so many poems,
such thick branched stories. Surely?

They are there now, no doubt.
In and on that river.
Who let me back.
And only asked to fill me up.
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