Saturday, 26 April 2014

100. COLLECTED POEMS (Illustrated)

This collection of my poems was put together in November 2012 as a Christmas gift for a few family and friends. It was published and printed at my expense by Microfilm Digital Print in Christchurch with a small print run of forty copies.

Most of these poems have already appeared in my blog. The two major sets are The Joys and Tears of Love and Passion (contained in blogs 22, 40 and 51) and Adrift on Poetry (blog 53). A few more recent poems are included at the end of the Adrift on Poetry section.

The poems in The Joys and Tears of Love and Passion span many years and have been organised thematically rather than chronologically. The three themes are:

1. Love and Passion
2. Separation and Loss
3. Reconciliation and Renewal

In the Tarot cards the devil represents blind impulsiveness and passion and obsession, especially sexual.

Finders Keepers
The Shortest Day
Café Talk
Butterfly Dawn
How could I not
Dream Time
I thought I knew my heart well
I had sadly thought
I like to think
Dream Days
East Cape
Sunday Morning
Early Morning
Pop Lyric
When Taupo is No More


You left your watch
I woke to find it
On my bedside table
You were here
It was not a dream

I try it for size
It fits perfectly
As you do
I wear it now
Keepsake of our first love


I carry you around in my head
Like a Linus blanket
Warming my heart at every beat
Intoxicated by the imprint of you
Memories of your smell, your touch
The contours of your body, textures of your skin
The softness of your kisses
The beauty of your breast contoured to my hand
And I am impatient to lie with you again
To stroke your face
Run my fingers through your hair
And, most precious of all,
To see your blue eyes sparkle with love.

Your toothbrush lies quietly in my bathroom
A promise of your return.


long lunches replete with talk
carved close to the bone of life
entrance me seduce me
take care too my sweet
the glass is fragile and
we drink a precarious joy


waking in the last dream of spring
I hold the scales and weigh the world
a watchful dawn comes early to rouse me
jealous of my glowing morning dreams

for the world weighs light and airy
full of a strong-winged butterfly
breathing mountain freedoms
delicate hands carry a shrine to me
a dark flame and a slow burning fire
an open shrine
delightful to adoring eyes

my dream vision is steady
not acquisitive not afraid
what bridge the present passes to the future I know not
and for now I care not
but thank my butterfly dawn dream
for promises of summer sun

How could I not

How could I not appreciate
such a precious gift
as the one that comes wrapped
in those fearful treasured words
‘I love you’.

To occupy a quiet corner of your heart
makes me tall and proud
(so glad, so glad, so glad)
full of an awkward unexpressed joy
a tearful happiness

In spite of all my protestations
my remonstrations with myself
you touch my heart
give me the courage
to acknowledge the truth of what I feel
the love I have for you                            
Tenderness, affection, fondness
friendship, caring ….
a myriad of words
to block out the three that tell
and cling to a controllable sanity

In the circumstances
‘I love you’ is insane
but there it is
still crazy after all these years
mad mad me
I love you.


I had thought
with little originality
That the best times of my life
Were dream times
Illusions that would shatter
In the bleak light of day

But you my love
Are more real than real to me
With you dream time is now
Away from you a hollowed fraud
The disengaged round of daily trivia
To be sleep-walked through
Mask over mask
Until I come alive again
In our reality

For the magic moments with you
Are so vibrant
So strongly lit in my senses
That I despair to
Create as good in my imagination
Now my life is rich
And my dreams but poor shadows of it.

I thought I knew my heart well

I thought I knew my heart well
In all its little foolishnesses
but what a surprise it had in store
in loving you
for you could not come to me
at a worse time
vulnerable and confused as we both are

even in uncertainty
there is tranquillity and joy
a haven for night sea swimmers
as the sun of our love lies on me
shadows and doubts fall away
and the treacherous beauties of life
engulf me again                                       
a bittersweet intoxication
precious hours, days, a whole weekend
snatched from the incoming tide of consequence
bearing a kaleidoscope of impressions
a cornucopia of delights
toast and ginger marmalade
breakfast in bed (and lunch too!)
One Tree Hill walking
aspidistra silver service salads
talking forever talking
fresh laughter and applause
for Sweet Charity’s rhythm of life
locked fingers, caressing hands
glances across the coffee cups
desires promised in the eyes
forward pressures of the thighs
the soft entry with all the tenderness
and passion at my command
seeking to touch you deeply
in body mind and soul
to exorcise our mutual ghosts
tender even in hardness
compassionate in despair
this lush love of summer soothes me
the light grows quiet
the heart sets down roots
nourished in unexpected calm
happiness flows unconstrained
we sleep peacefully together
and I dream
of brown eyes
a black hat
and red shoes.


orange blue golden bright
this bird of paradise
grows proud and tall
striving to fly the heavens

a flower of many moods
many satisfactions
the imagination and flair
of its delicate graceful petals
are cusped in a strong head
that fights and teases the wind
its firm-fleshed stem
is earthed in bushy profusion
to tough roots of reality

I delight to look on it
to touch it
see it thrive
the variegated wholeness
petals head stem bush roots
satisfies me greatly
nourishes me greatly

my sweet
are the bird of paradise in my life
and I love you.

I had sadly thought

I had sadly thought
some sharpness missing
from the edge of my appetites
dulled it seemed
by life’s past pains
but with you my love
senses return newly honed
taste touch sight sound
surprise me in their freshness
and Kupe’s crossing place
ferries back my nascent spirit
- sitting on the wharfside
as an egalitarian kiwi joker
rescues an embarrassed Mercedes Benz
- lying in the grass above Opito Bay
gently stroking your browning breasts
watching a lazy gannet feeding
- wading in Egan Park’s idyllic mountain stream
a dusky maiden in the fern-clad pool
fulfilling South Pacific fantasies
of Fletcher Christian and his Isabella
paradise lost and paradise regained
and a world given up for love
- rich memories stored camel like
for sustenance on a desert trip
of lolling and loving and nighttime frolics
of Skaya and Coffee shop and eccentric service
“What was it you were after now?”
the luscious laziness of a couched pizza
washed by a McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon
and me the chatterbox for a change
childhood reminiscences of school and family
of Whenuakite holidays in now tumbledown shacks
and putt’n’stuff and boggling
and surf and body oil
and bed and showers
you give me passion again
greedy for life
greedy for love
greedy for you

I like to think

I like to think I love the you you are
Rather than some romantic image of the mind
And so I try to catch your world
To comprehend its choreography.

Steps I see
some patterned, some broken
As you strive to dance your own dance
And shuck off psychic servitudes.

I see past loves’ pas de deux
A major marriage theme
The intimacies and joys of motherhood
The countervailing tugs of love and discipline
As Josie chomps crackers in the lounge
“I love you, Mummy, I love you”
The personal touches for your Belmont home
And new spaces for you to grow within.

I see the devil and the three of swords[i]
The detached obeisance to sensuality
As you seek more confidence
A secure expressiveness in your own body
Yet fearing wantonness, faithlessness,
And I sense the need for reassurance
Knowing how hard it is to match
The magic dances of the mind
On the studio’s unforgiving boards.

Yes, I love the you you are
But more than that
I love too a special you
The you you are with me.

I love the gleeful naked child of Egan’s emerald pool
The sure-footed skimpy-skirted softball slugger
The pink-bereted red-blooded lunchtime chatterer
I love your New Orient dinner-dance sophisticated elegance
And the sweaty foot-sore King Creole rock-and-roll raver
I love bedridden Sunday sermons and hymns of praise
The bespectacled intellectual lady with her strings of As
I love the talking the sharing the closeness the cuddles
I love the hours and hours of loving loving ways
And I love the you that knucklebones upon the floor.

I share your joys
I sense your fears
Knowing what it is to be alone
Encouraged by your love
I come back from there
While you venture out
To look and to return.


Doyle's Seafood Restaurant, Watson's Bay, Sydney (contemporary photo)

Were there days that week
Was there darkness and daylight
Did Monday end and Tuesday begin?
No – a week of sunshine
A cascade of happiness
Unfettered by sleep or time.

A week of Chez Marius’ garlic prawns
Of strawberries and kippers for breakfast
Watched by Big Bird and 8 a.m. Sesame Street
Duckling on the trolley for dinner
And a succulent full-blooded sweet-kissing Jean Patou for dessert.

From Martin’s Place jazz
Sunglassed, sunhatted, sunhearted,
We bus to Doyle’s beachfront splendours,
Squid, crab, mussels, Seaview Moselle
And swim, shark protected, in Watson’s Bay.

Fried oysters at Attilio’s deserted Bistro Cellar
The hysterical Mr. Bo Jangles
The fears, forebodings and joys
Of our Tarot tangles*
And a Santa Comba Rose.

Boutique browsers of Double Bay
(Fifteen dollars for a pair of pants?)
Voyeurs of Kings Cross porn
Apartment viewing, harbour cruising,
Washed by Manly’s surf and the clattering hail of a Sydney storm.

Walt Whitman singing the body electric**
A strange bedfellow with Rod McKuen
Iolanthe’s gumboot fairies***
Wonderwoman’s rubber boobs****
And the sweet bitterness of Mr Harry’s forbidden apple.

But above all
Our chattering and silent delight of each other
The ever-changing kaleidoscope of roses
The magic, ecstasy, calm and joy of our love
Lying beneath Hyde Park’s trees, singing songs
Kissing by the sparkle of the fountains
Dancers of the glittering musical arcades
Late night dreamers of the streets
Dawdling home
While the taxis scurry by
With other bedbound lovers.

[*There are a number of references to Tarot cards in the poems. The Sydney reading referred to here warned of the failure of plans. **The reference is to Walt Whitman's poem I Sing the Body Electric. ***Iolanthe at the Sydney Opera House. **** Comedian Reg Livermore's one-man show Wonderwoman.]


Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve, Tutukaka Coast

Love the immense peace of the place
Love the pohutukawa on the cliff
Love the tuis sucking nectar from the flowering flax
Love our Whale Bay walk and seashore frolics.

Love your windswept hair
Love your tangled line
Love your scaly fingers
Love swimming for lost sinkers
Love your fishing, rain or shine.

Love your sickly Poor Knights
(Well, not all the time!)
Love your pink snapper
Love your rock cod and hapuka
Love eating them, washed with wine.

Love your eight ball strike
Love your golden jacket
Love your spa pool bubbles
Love your showered perfume
Love the gannets evening plummet.

Love you clambering up and down my rocks
Love pitching and rolling on your five foot swell
Love tossing head-over-heels in Langs Beach surf
Love the oiled caress of your sunscreen hands.

From your Mangawhai Head
Through your Woolley Bay
Down to your Bream Tail
I love you
So let’s Tutukaka some more.


On a Tuesday evening
With a hundred seats to fill?
No way, I said
Don’t be absurd
This is The Heads, Whakatane
Not the Savoy Grill.

Dinnerless we drive over the hill
To Ohope Beach in search of a meal
But the Sea-Shell has no fish
Sold out, too late
After all, sir, it’s after eight
Welcome to the Bay of Plenty.

But there are other feasts in store
The pounding surf of Waiotahe
White Island’s sulphurous steams
A rain-trek down to Horseshoe Bay
As Hikurangi hides in mist and cloud
There’s the tapu tree at Te Araroa
Picnics beneath the pohutukawas
There’s “Trev and Trev, Builders”
The driftwood of Tolaga Bay
The hot passions and cool streams
Of Waioeka Gorge
And the tranquillity of a lemon sunset
Lighting the wrinkles on Young Nick’s Head
Welcome to Poverty Bay and its whispering sands.


Awaking early
I stretch out my hand
and find
only the smooth sheet
where the familiar comfort
of your thigh should be
and remember
you are out of town

Sunday morning’s
not the same somehow
the birds are hushed
the sky is grey
the toast’s not burnt
you’re away
only in memory
does the earth rotate

But next weekend?
You just wait!


I am your cock and dawn
you gorgeous sleepy woman
I shall crow you awake
with my poems and my love
and my songs
will wipe the sleep from your eyes

I will lie with you
among the bracken
the pine needles the pohutukawas
on the seashores the cliff tops
the fragrances of love
will rouse your soul daily
and we will dance on rainbows



Give me
Saffron from Ireland
The pearls from the swine
Give me
The pits from the cherries
The dregs from the wine
And I’ll still
Give you love.

Give me
A dollar worth a dime
Give me
A circus of booze
A streetcar of crime
And I’ll still
Give you love.

Give me
Candles to burn
A place at the shrine
Give me
Puppets to laugh at
The goat divine
And I’ll still
Give you love.

Give me
A cowboy for king*
The neutron bomb
Give me
Courage to sing
A deadly song
And I’ll still
Give you love.

Give me
The windy colic
A pailful of pills
Give me
Blood-shot eyes
The dope that kills
And I’ll still
Give you love.

Give me
Light in the morning
A view from the hill
Give me
Space to breath in
To love you still
And I’ll love you still
I’ll love you still

[*Reference is to Ronald Reagan, US President 1981-1989]


Lying by dark Taupo
Below the peace and tranquillity
Of a full-mooned sky
The lake lapping
Gently gently
On the pumice shore
With persistent gentleness
There may be no forever
But will not my eternity
Be time enough for you?

So be it
Say I
And when Taupo and Tauhara
Are no more
Let my love die.

The three of swords represents the active destruction of an affectionate relationship plus the self-justification of the suffering that separation imposes on others.

East-West Romance
when we meet again
such little things kill love
The Thread
A Golden Sadness
Oyster Song
In Anticipation of Redundant Love
Guy Fawkes’ Night
The Scorpion
Lunar Modules
Face to Face
When the Shadow Calls
so we drank
Cold Feet
Must I die so
a rotten trick


Now my body that gave so gladly
is silent.
The hum of the fan
the wind through the hallways of Hale Manoa
distant shouts of Rainbow supporters
Rhapsody in Blue practised on a far-off piano
accompany my solitude.
Passion is distanced, emotion dulled.
I fear to call you
lest the cruel nearness of your nextdoor voice
belying oceans of distance
a hemispheric separateness
whispering unconsummatable intimacies
remind me of past pleasures
of friends’ café laughter
and long despairing tearful farewells.
Now these fingers
that ran so freely through your hair
caressed your face
lovingly traced your eyebrows, nose, lips
stroked your shoulders, hands, breasts, thighs
(ah, those thighs)
these baby-oiled fingers
proud and patient parents to your first orgasms
lie quietly on the desk top
and listlessly push a pen.
Now these eyes
that lit at the sight of you
find no such excitement
in the myriad sparkling
of Honolulu’s night-time panorama
and gaze dully at Diamond Head
hiding behind sunglass shades
dreaming of a diamond with a deeper cut.
Now my redundant lips engorge no more
and my cunnilingual cunt-contented tongue
licks but ice cream
and postage stamps for Uncle Sam.

when we meet again

when we meet again
let it not be as strangers
facing prohibitions
on the intimacies of friendship
fearing to scratch emotional surfaces
lest old scars are revealed
let not every act
be fraught and betrayed
by hidden agendas
and unspoken meanings
nor spontaneity be lost -
the touch the warm hug
the gentle caress -
inhibited by memories
and resonances of the past
friendship, love, intimacy
these are creative acts
that need confidence
in the natural rightness
of the brush strokes


I found you my love
Across a crowded life.
Yes, such a crowded life.
See you at coffee.
Call you for lunch.

I prised a corner my love
In your crowded life.
A small corner.
Prescribed boundaries.
Two children.
A job.
Six exams.
And another.
Pick up the kids.

I found you my sweet
Across the flickers and flares of earlier loves.
Within a limited contract
I would not sign.
Anticipated daily,
On a precipice
Children’s falls.
Husband’s anger.
Lover’s calls.
Precarious joys.

I found you my love
All I ever wanted
In a woman.
Woman of my dreams.

I cherished you my love
Your pink beret.
Red shoes.
Just called to say.
Here I am.
So glad.
So glad.

I prized you my love.
Nurtured my corner.
A grain of sand
Bedded in your heart.
Would not be dislodged.
And will not,
From that crowded life.
A growing love.
Bursting open.
Don’t stop.
To reveal.
Don’t stop.
Don’t stop.
Love’s priceless pearl.

Stop, my darling,
For a quiet moment.
Stop now.
I found you once
Across a crowded life.
And will again.
Call you for lunch.

*Original idea from the poem ‘The Crowded Life’ by Lois Wyse.

such little things kill love

such little things kill love
it was as though you
went out of my life in
the middle of a sentence
a pause
a misplaced glance
a coolness
a sudden shift of pace
an angle of the shoulder
modulating indifference


lying in your arms
the wild dogs in the cellar
turn to birds
sparkling with laughter
and when we withdraw
the silkiest of threads
woven in love
links us together
now my life
my love
hang by such a thread
full of swimming riddles
harbouring sportive monsters
lying still
in the bottom of my sea.


can so much
hinge on so little
did you not entertain me to dinner
bread enough and wine enough
and corkscrew riddles to be cracked
did I feed you speeches alone
and long silences searching wisdom

the world was mended then
just for a fleeting moment
touching me inwardly with caressing hands
my soul stretched out for trampling
drinking a drop of happiness
stung in the heart
yet eager for war and festivals
still still
she has still my strange soul
earthed with the softest of threads
tired of long voyages and uncertain seas
having tasted too much that is good
resting in a still cove
in a golden sadness.


have you stuffed your ears with rabbit’s fur
lest you hear words that waken you
is my hand a fool’s hand
bruising itself on stony boundaries
am I scribbling graffiti on tables and walls
in an indecipherable moonman’s script
is my foot a cloven foot
that you so fear each step it takes

much that is inside is like an oyster
floating slippery and hard to grasp
yet oysters harbour growing pearls
though the shells may pinch your fingers
if you pry and pluck before they’re ripe
of all the treasures it is our own
that we dig at last from the sheeny husk

so I will still sing my song
from the peace of my still house
and must sing it for my own ears
until my throat is made mellow
my hands talk and my feet dance
and I can awaken your heart
from its shrewd protective blindness
to fly with mine again.


Come on now crab
Stand tall and proud
You climbed a giddy height
From the safety of your shoreline pools
Walked the edge of the precipice
Once again
Bravely and with courage
Gave it your all
All on the line
Head, heart, guts and groin
But now
The time for retreat is near
No need for idle heroics
No breathless plunge
From cliff top to rocks below
In consumptive self-pity
Your shell is not that hard
And blood and guts enough have been spilt
Now is the time
To find a safe way down
To take care of yourself
Survival modes in lunar modules
And no recriminations
You are shoreline crab
Not mountaintop
And shorelines are fine places
To fossick in the sun
So let go gently crab
Lest your claws tear what you most love
Pluck up your heartroots tenderly
Protect them with your shell
For one day
You will need them again.


In the storms of the night
When past shadows call
And the black moon
Lies heavily on my soul
Lightning bolts blood my eyes
Illuminating the lashing rain
That sweeps the landscape of my troubled mind.

Then I fear
Illusion’s fragile dam will burst
The floodgates must open
Freeing the army of wicked dwarfs
Marshaling on my tongue
To rampage
Beyond the conversations we dared not have.
And you should fear it too
Letting loose the demons
My devil and my three of swords
Lest in the howling pains of rage
The crab turns scorpion
And stings and stings and stings us both
To cold oblivion.


walled in flames
his passion for life shrivelling in the heat of treachery and betrayal
the proud-backed scorpion
heavenly conqueror of the vain Orion
smoke-gutted, heart-burned, hollowed-out by pain
with no avenues of retreat
except to self-destruction
in one last despairing act
a final choice, a leap for freedom
plunges his poisonous tail into his poisoned heart
knowing knowing knowing
like Phoenix keening on the funeral pyre
he must kill himself to preserve himself


wiped your email
with a click of the mouse
would it were so easy
to trash you from my heart


When you remember me
(As I trust you will, as I know you will)
I hope it will be
Forgiving of my frailties
Physical, mental, sexual
I hope there will be some joy there
In the memories of what we were
What we had of love, romance, passion, friendship
As I too remember all the good things
To blot out the sad bad ending of it all
To stay the tears
The fears of life without you

You were so much to me
And are
Perhaps too much for both our goods
Yet for myself
I would not have wished it other
Than it was
(“Lov’d not wisely but too well”)
So total an immersion
Like a baptism of life, of love
A rebirth in the fresh deep pool of passion
That stripped off pretence and reserve
And revealed to myself
Below the surface of myself
Another self I’m proud to call my own
(greedy for life, greedy for love)
That will forever bind me
In fond and bitter memories
Of a happiness unlike any other I have known
Or will know
Yet would wish to know again.


then there was silence
my silence
and a large black hole
where my heart had been
melodramatic and fanciful
full of unanswered accusations
memories of her assassin’s eyes
and the overriding wish
to be done with her
without forgiveness
finally and forever.


now the lovelocks are broken
angry spiders are loose
and we taste the bitterness
that lies in wait
for even the best of loves
let us not
allow poisonous worms
to eat out our hearts
nor throw pearls of great price
on the rubbish pile of pain
let us not
treat what we most valued
carelessly as nothing
let us not
be chained by past memories
paralysed by future fears
and let us not
load simple joyful acts
acts of tenderness
acts of friendship
acts of love
with all our souls’ burdens
all our souls’ secrets.


vengeful cats
set among emotional pigeons
scatter them
old debris clears away
and I nearly go too
in the Mogal man’s bin
dreams shatter
yours then mine
mourned in lonely nights
tear-stained fragments
fuse fragile bonds
uncertain friendship
and sometimes
intimate pieces
for love’s jigsaw
and now
back to basic shapes
eat well
sleep well
fresh air
hanging in there
one day at a time
survival modes
in lunar modules


Face to face
With the anaesthetising society
Why fear to shout and scream
When there is joy or grief within
Who does it protect
This anaesthetic
Me or you
Us or them?

Curse tranquillity
There’s time enough for that
Celebrate awareness
Where my joy is my joy
And my pain is my pain
Rather than the prevailing dullness
Of everyday routine
Of paths with no heart
Of tasks to be done
Lonely clamberings to achievement’s pinnacled despair
Night sea swimmings to the sirens of success.

And the sunshine
Is there more
Worth having
Than this


When the shadow calls
Remember the magic moments
The whispering sands
The abortive hot pool frolics
The joyful abandon of Bastion Point
On a moonlit summer night.

Remember the quiet calm
Of a Maraetai picnic
The peace together
Beneath Long Bay’s rocking firs
The dark threat of thunder
Beyond Pakatoa’s rainbow sunset
Our warm embrace
Above Te Kotuku’s surging wash.
Remember a tender rib-eye fillet
Bathed in candlelight
And Chateauneuf-du-Pape
And the lover’s knot
In the two of cups.
And remind yourself in your remembering
That the shadow will pass
And once again
We will dance through the dawn.

so we drank

so we drank
the last bottle of claret
to celebrate
a last bottle of claret.


Dead, visibly dying
On the void of time
But keep the toes warm
So that death cannot enter there
From the bottom of the bed
And drain me out
Through cold feet.

Must I die so

Must I die so
All washed up
            Move my arm, move my leg
Beached on the bed
Stranded by my body
            Move my leg, move my leg
God why can’t I die
Please let me die
Before I crap myself again
 Move my leg, move my arm
            Move my arm, move my hand
            Move my hand, hold my head
I don’t want to die
Hold me tight
            Hold my head, hold my head.

a rotten trick

a rotten trick
to die
just then
just when
we had
our act
had learnt
how to live
what to value
what to discard
had found
some time
to spend
as one
after all those years
of struggle
and effort
where are you
now that love’s fruits
ripe at last
are lap-ready fallers
I dropped my rose
on your coffin
and cursed you
for dying
so soon
just then
just when.


I planted two trees
Titoki for you
English oak for me
Hoping to see
As the years fell by
Their canopies merge
And intertwine
To give the two of us
Some autumn shade
The exotic flourished
In Sugar Mountain’s air
But the titoki
Struggled for a year or two
And died

So I pulled it out
And planted another
Which I nurture
As I did the last
It thrives now
In memory of you
And of what
Were to me.


Fragments of lyrics and melodies
A collection of frogs
Packed in a cardboard box
A ribboned cluster of cards
Much-read letters
Newspaper cuttings
Pale transparencies
Held to the light
To catch a misty image
And revive fond memories
As though a spirit so free
Could be caught that way
Confined to the photo album
The attic treasury
Catalogued and classified
Like a mounted butterfly
In a glass case

Rather am I reminded of you
In the curves of the land
The sequoias’ gentle sway
The flickering city lights
And the sunset colours
I see you in the rainbow
Hear you in the wind
Smell you in the flowers
And hold your heart alive
In the Sugar Mountain air.


Nietzsche, Teacher of the Eternal Recurrence
Waiting for Myself
Laughing Lions Must Come!
Little Fingers
Fresh Songs
In Avoidance of Married Women
Images and Moods
That Word Love
Dreaming Again
Fingers Touch
Why do I love you


everything dies and blossoms again
everything breaks and is joined anew
everything parts and greets afresh
in every now being begins

so for now
I am the guardian of memories
the night watchman of love
keeping faith with the past
fuelling the fire
to brave the winter’s chill
nourished on ambrosia
and the angelic grimaces of life
past memories before me
enriching not shackling
I wait on myself
and on the return of spring
fruit that is not picked
turns rotten and brown
falls away
breathing the odour of dusty eternities
but the tree will blossom again
to laugh in the summer sun


I am but the man I am
sometime weary
sometime sad
sometime crooked and misshapen
wicked dwarfs crouching on my tongue
wanting consideration
swallowed up by solitude
but I am that man too
forged in the smithy of life
hammered right and straight
perpendicular in body and soul
broken from the cast of solitude
needing no consideration
ready for the roll of the drums
a warrior fit for the war
biting a brave lip
unshouldering past burdens
done with cries of distress
abandoning inexorable silences
facing forceful questions
I am free to give
my little finger
my whole hand
my heart too
to a welcome guest
fired by tenderness
the strong will of love
makes dim eyes bright
and spirits sportive
the laughing lions are loose
and I can be
the man I am


trying the temperature of the water
with little fingers
does not commit
to a Cook Strait swim
but it may encourage
a refreshing and joyful plunge
in a still sunlit cove


brushing off dust and debris
and the spiders of despair
breaking through twilight shadows
and storms of negation
I stand naked before the sun
curing my soul with fresh songs
crowded and pressed by happiness
drinking strong wines of wisdom
back on the path that has heart
singing till the seas are silenced
whether you listen or not I will sing
it is such a beautiful folly


From here on in
No more apologies
For what we were
Or might have been
Let recriminations
Lie there
But at rest.
The past is past


we are not islands you or I
we do not come like Last Tango*
without histories, the resonances of relationships
without obligations, responsibilities
self-images and self-respects
the internalised expectations of others
no matter how hard we may wish
how hard we try
we are our pasts and our futures too

if it were just you and I
in an island bubble
we would be free, adrift,
happy perhaps for a while
discovering ourselves alone

but our contract is limited
by time, by place, by circumstance
how can we be free when so constrained
when spontaneity is touched by dread and fear
and secrecy feeds on guilt and guilt on secrecy
I have little stomach for such ‘affairs’
and fear their consequences
“How do we live tomorrow?”
must colour how we live today

frightened by passion
fearful of the sterility of the passionless
wishing to love
yet fearing to say I love you
I will not let
the abstract desire
be particularised here in you

[*Reference to the movie Last Tango in Paris]

What is it I fear
When I fear to say
I love you?

Trading devalued currency?
My love no better than pulp romance
Of the common crowd,
A grain of sand blown in the wind?
Is it that I fear –
Pulp romantic me?

Or do I deal a commodity
I do not have,
Cannot live,
As strange to me
As bird flight, fish swim;
Looked upon yet unseen

Or rebuff I fear?
Is that why I barter so
Swapping postage stamps
Like for like
A fair exchange
Waiting your opening bid
To manoevre my advantage?

Or can I live the thought
But not the action?
Do I fear
To threaten fantasy
To face the inrushing tide of consequence
Combing my beach clean?

Or is it that I do not love you?

But what I feel I feel I think
Why else so seek you out
Yet fear to speak my mind,
Tittle-tattle in embarrassed silence?
Why else my poem piece –
Or is that too to remain unseen
Unlooked upon
Locked on the ocean floor?

What is it I fear
When I fear to say
I love you?

I see you through the window window
Barriers apart
Beyond reach
So near, so far
My spirit searches out, seeks out,
Conscious of your world.

In the same house, untouching
Repressing the feeling to the page
Trading in trivia, the price of honey,
The yield of cows…

Is the knowledge not sufficient
End in itself,
Why then possess, devour?
Or is freedom only for captives?


I know I feared the word
And with much cause
But there were moments
Just briefly
I did love you
Touched your soul
From the heart of me

I would that I could
Have prolonged those moments
Nurtured the spark
To a full blown flame
But it was not to be
I could not
Or would not
And for that
We are both the poorer


glittering crab
baited by happiness
rests on high mountains
where the views are clear
and a soul is calmer
                        (to be sad
                        yet feel so well
                        is curious
                        secretly I am amazed
                        at such optimism)
the honey in his veins
is bait
cast from the mountaintop
for a growling bear
                        (what does not destroy me
                        makes me stronger
                        poisons brew balsams
  and wounds
  contain powers that heal)
soft-treading lions are loose
conquering their freedom
to be masters
in their own domain
                        (spreading dreams again
                        so vulnerably
                        yet for now
                        it is enough
                        to believe you love me)
it is no sacrifice
better the follies of the mountaintop
than dreamless shadows
in desolate valleys

fingers touch
hands hold
eyes meet
no words speak

for a starving man
the merest crumbs of time
fashion a feast
a banquet of joy
feverishly grasped in fear of returning famine
as if the taste were transient
a springtime bloom presaging no summer sun
did not Camus
in the midst of winter
find within him
a glorious summer
(before blowing out his brains)*
does not summer follow spring
uncluttered by fancy’s fears
does not the bell-flower cherry
after naked blooms die away
put out a leafy shade
to nurture new season’s growth
should not then
the hermit crab**
scavenging scraps of womanfood
subsisting on frugal fare
inside the bubble of love
his cold night warmed
by dragons breathing fire
fearing careless claws
will burst the magic moment
the fragile friendship
cling on tight
to life’s roulette
chance a final turn
on fortune’s wheel
bask in the honey glow
of conscious care
his ice-freed soul
by a Sagittarian sun

fingers touch
hands hold
eyes meet
no words speak

[*I don't know where I picked up that idea; Camus died in a car crash in 1960. **My star sign is Cancer and I was born in the Chinese Year of the Dragon.] 

the caress of your hands
the sweet warmth of your lips
the joy in your eyes
your eager wetness
these are life to me
earth fire air water
elemental passions
that nurture me
feed me
and bring me back to myself
I thank you for them
with a sunny poem
on a soulspring morning


somedays I feel a pain so deep
a drowning despair, a watery sadness
beyond the reach
of alcohol’s morbid mask
of soporific soap operas
the deadening beat of rock
the social chatter of partying friends
work’s partial concentrations
and tennis balls struck in anger
a pain that only
the most elemental sensations
can block out
within the compass of sea and sand
my floating body washed by the waves
dried by the sun
within the compass of our mutual joy
the warm embrace
the sensual touch
the present passion
the orgasmic now
the quiet nakedness as
through your love
life surges back.

Why do I love you
Why do I love you
Let me tell you why
I love you because
You accept me as I am
The mad passions
The tranquil joys
The tearful sadness
Because you give me time
To discover myself again
And make me feel
Free to be me
I hope that I
In my turn
Make you feel
Free to be you



Deep Fish
Cats' Comforts
Waikato Breakfast
Nous Sommes du Soleil
Black Holes
Summer Evening, January 1985
Greece 1998
A Birthday Dragon
“She Fumed… He Froze”
The Tennis Racquet
Sophie's Fan
Adrift, Golden Bay
A Waiting Day
Gestures from the Heart
The Birth of Love


Deep fish
Live deep deep down
And you can only catch them
By chance
Or by knowing where to fish
The point at which
To break the ice
Or cast the line.

It’s cold deep down
And dark too
But safe from predators
And their fishing hooks

Yet just now and then
I am tempted up
To smell the fear

And breathe the air
Where the sunlight is.


Were we those people too
The people of our past
Were those the things we did
The clothes we wore
The jokes we laughed at
The dreams we dreamed

Were we the rush-hour crowd
The business-suited
City-polluted commuters
Standing clear of the doors
Deafened by the shrill whistle
For the departing suburban train.

Did we give up all that
For the quiet life
For a view of the stars at night
For the smell of the sea
The wind in the face
Cats’ comforts. 


The cleansing dawn
Derides despair
Food is optimism
I feel a song of
Cornflakes and peaches
Double egg bacon and tomatoes
Toast and honey
Coffee with cream
And sunlight emerging
From the Waikato mist


As I step into the sun
I feel as fragile as a newborn child
I cross the road with care
Yet beneath the screening trees
Still I know
The quiet despair
The unshed tear.

[The title of a song from one of my favourite albums in the early seventies, Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973) by Rick Wakeman's group Yes]


I’ve seen the barren lands
The lands beyond hope
Searched the black holes within
And found
No colourful kaleidoscope
Only a flat and dreary plain
Of wasted years
Of pointless pain
And the merrygoround again.


In slippers and walk shorts
my brother-in-law
picking his teeth
gazes emptily out the kitchen window
waiting on waiting

the clock ticks toward eight
the parsley sauce hardens
the element set to ‘low’
dinner long since ready
to serve a wayward wife

from the corner of the lounge
Barmaid Bette glows in silent conversation
her Lancashire Christmas revelry
incongruous in this summer heat
the ginger of the four cats
licks languorously at its Jellymeat

momentarily I stand aside
from How to Save Your Life’s little aphorisms
 - Jealousy is all the fun you think they had –
to contemplate a stopped life
and catch
the still frustration of another’s world


Athenians that were gods
sons and daughters of Apollo and Aphrodite
now sullenly
from two thousand years of conquest
to be made taxi drivers and surly desk clerks
reluctant votaries of the great god tourism


At Christmas we rummage through the family photos
Tunnelling back to laugh at images of ourselves in earlier times
(“Mum, how could you make me wear that dress?”)
To retell our pasts
Each with our different memories, stories, perceptions
Of the past as we think it was or would like it to have been
And, as we turn the weathered leaves of old albums,
Watch ourselves grow, age, mature (would it were so!)
We reflect on who we were, who we are, and who we will become.


Did you know that some dragons
Both of the watery and metallic kind
Like to live on glass bubbles
Indeed they thrive on them
Such dragons are the very preciousest
Of all the dragon species
For they have the world below them
At their fingertips

Like all dragons
They can be fiery and ferocious
Their spikes both sharp and brittle
But treated lovingly
These delicate fragile creatures
Are a source of fun and joy
Of passion and romance
Full of intimate mysteries

So here is a birthday dragon
Crafted with all the love and care
Of the glassmaker’s art
Fashioned in fiery flames
It rides serene
On its blue bubble

And here my dragon queen
Is a birthday wish
Crafted with all the love and care
Of the wordsmith’s art
That on our beautiful bubble
Our dragon fires
May warm our hearts
For many birthdays more.

“She Fumed… He Froze”

In the dawning hour they called to me
These children of yours
Spoke to me of the landscapes of love
Of consuming fires and frozen wastes
And I wept with them.

[Overnight in Rotorua after the opening of the Gill Gatfield exhibition Moving Mountains, 13th April 2002]


You were a stranger to my early years, and
As I walked with Mum and Liz to greet the bus
Your return from war-torn Africa long delayed
I presumed you’d be a black man with frizzy hair.*
I carried your tennis racquet proudly home
Although it was almost as big as I
Peered in shy silence at this sickly man
Hot poultices slapped to back and chest
Nursed lovingly in my mother’s bed.**
Was it a tennis racquet moulded us
Confined intimacy to sports and games
Masking a crevasse we could not span?
Yet I’ve carried you close throughout my life
Minted my character through opposition
My image the obverse to your stamp.***
A good man my Dad, saintly in many ways
But stumbling fatherhood his bequest to me
And a battered racquet in a wooden press.

[*I was a month short of three years old when I first saw my father in May 1943. My mother, big sister Elizabeth and I walked down from Mount Stuart, our rented cottage in Glen Devon, to the Yetts o' Muckhart to meet him off the bus from Glasgow. In those childhood days of confident empire we played with golliwogs and collected labels from Robinson’s Marmalade to exchange for badges of that company’s golliwog mascot. Throughout her life my English grandmother spoke scathingly of ‘the blacks’. In my teens, I boldly, if despairingly, tried to correct her. “Not blacks,” I would say, “Negroes, granny, they’re Negroes.” By the sixties, Negro was no longer the politically correct nomenclature and ‘Black is Beautiful’ blossomed. Now Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean hold sway, though rumour has it that black is due for a rerun.]
Yetts o' Muckart Village

[**My father contracted cerebral malaria in the Sudan, a British colony invaded by axis forces, and eventually made his way back to Scotland via South Africa. Weaning him from his quinine dependency precipitated a massive resurgence of malaria with rigors and 105-degree temperatures. Many times a day my mother, a trained nurse, would boil up a grey mess of clay, spread it onto squares of cloth, and rush into the bedroom to slap it on my father’s back and chest before it cooled. I presume it was to draw out the sweating from his fever. After a few weeks Elizabeth and I were packed off to my grandparents in Edinburgh while he recovered.] 
[***The ancient stamp or die used to impress an image on the face of a coin was called a ‘charakter’ and analogies between coin, character and appearance are long-standing: e.g. ‘two-faced’. See Lynch, Deidre, 1998, The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Culture and the Business of Inner Meaning, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.]


What brought us together across the dramas of our lives
Remains random and mysterious
Lost in the mist of past journeyings.
Now, as companions in age,
Though our frailties make us tetchy,
We must cherish each other the more
Set aside tantrums over trivia, childish irritabilities,
That drain our emotions, exhaust our spirits,
For in such displays we hurt only ourselves
And if one is sick we are both the losers.
So cast off the anger and bitterness
They can but consume us both,
Forgo competitive striving against relatives, friends,
Set the children free to manage their own destinies.

As we face together, with equal composure,
Life’s sweet seductions and bitter grimaces

Even the gods will envy our ageless harmony.

[For background to this poem, see blog 14, 3rd December 2011]

ADRIFT, GOLDEN BAY, 20th January 2010

cut adrift, floating free
untethered from time’s untimely schedules and the anchors of duty,
succumb to nature’s tempos,
it’s times and tides, eddies and currents,
it’s vagabond winds and freshening breezes for mind and soul,
bask serene in the moment, the present,
no past, no future
a piece of flotsam washed by the sea of life

store those magic moments, short in time, long in memory,
cherish the hyper-reality of those Golden Bay days
before reberthing your life again

cut adrift, float free

A Waiting Day

It was a waiting day
I sat by the seashore
Keeping watch with a grey heron
Silent sentinel of the black rocks
On the sand a seagull with a limp
Scavenging picnic leftovers
Out at sea Louis Vuitton yachts
Stalled and calm, their listless crews
Waiting for that vagabond wind

It was a waiting day
Sunny and still

I walked barefoot on the beach
Feeling the freedom of the first sands of summer beneath my toes
Paddled along the water’s edge
Socks and cell phone tucked into the shoes hanging round my neck
Waiting for news of you

You came at the twilight
Of a waiting day
Cradled to your mother’s breast
Rocked gently in your father’s arms

Swaddled by family
Joy, love, euphoria and relief
At your safe delivery

And a breathless waiting world
Was released to life and laughter

[Birth of James, 10th October 2002]


there are times
soul-bleeding times
for simple healing
gestures from the heart

the innocence of a child
the smile of a loved one
unexpected gifts of friendship

Sophie's Fan
shyly given to the Honourable Mr John
a home-made Valentine's card
"Just so you know you're appreciated in this life"
a piece of pumice from Lake Taupo's shore
"When Taupo and Tauhara are no more then let my love die"

two rocks

one, wrapped in tissue,
a piece of rose quartz
sprinkled with gold and silver stars
a keepsake for the years
and a message inscribed:
Rose Quartz
gentle and soothing
good for fears
aches and pains
and healing broken hearts
(Failing that, it is a pretty slab of rock to stick on your desk)

the other
New Zealand Alpine schist
brought from the Mackinnon Pass
a track beyond my capability
reminder of what might have been
in old friendships rekindled


There's no trace now of St John the Evangelist Kilburn, not even a google image
No youth club for ping pong and petting games in the dingy crypt
No corner pub with a Sallies' band and kids loitering at the bar door
Just a new housing development and spruced up tube station.

The obliteration of place doesn't erase memories of it
And one in particular shines through the cold night of a 1950s winter
Where, in the murky streetlight of a December night,
Coddled in woolly hats, scarves, gloves, heavy overcoats,
Our choir of carol singers,
Stamping our feet between the songs to warm our toes,
Brings the Christmas message to diffident onlookers.

Within that choir you and I
In the innocence of our scarcely teenage years
Our ice breaths mingling in the still air
Contrive to share a songbook in the candlelight
And, as our heads draw close to read the words we know by heart,
Strands of golden hair caress my face.
I see your shy gentle smile and breathe you in
To jump-start my heart with the first stirrings of love.


[c. 4am, Ward 73, Auckland Hospital, Tuesday 30th October 2012]


I have things to say to you
things that need said
but I have come to distrust words
especially words masquerading in the self-proclaiming cleverness of crafty love poems
full of grand promises and magic visions of forever loving lives.

Paying verbal public tributes to departing colleagues
staff at celebratory functions
brides and bridesmaids
the dear departed of family or friends
these are things I have been reluctant to do
fearful that life and lives be trivialised
by the artifice of grandIiose expressions and oratorical gymnastics.

Life is hard for us now
behind our brave faces for public consumption
we cry together
and we cry apart
and only our love sustains us
love that doesn't need poems
nice to cherish as they may be
but is woven into the fabric of our daily lives.

I see your love in your Dr Gachet eyes
as they swing between pain and laughter
in your creation and care of our new home
in meatloaves, fruitcakes and Sunday morning pancakes
I see it in your tears of frustration and exhaustion
in the selfless caring
and I feel it in touching hands, stroking fingers and hugs of compassion and comfort.

I offer you my non-poem in love and gratitude.

[* Dr Paul Gachet took care of Van Gogh during the final months of Van Gogh's life. Van Gogh wrote of his depiction of Dr Gauchet as 'sad but gentle, yet clear and intelligent.' Critics have highlighted 'the tired, pale features and transparent blue eyes that reflect the compassion and melancholy of the man.' We saw Dr Gachet in the Musee d'Orsay.]

When I am done and gone

1.  I do not care to age like this

I do not care to age like this
Frail and tremulous
But a shadow of the man I was
My body a burden to myself
Myself a burden to my love
As she bravely puts her life on pause
To resurrect when I am gone.

2.  The Lemon Tree

Marooned in lazy-boy corner
Stirring from drifting memories of days gone by
I see you on the deck potting out a lemon tree


Time-travelled to another world
I catch a snapshot of your life
As it will be when I am gone.


Found this doggerel among pieces for creative writing workshop.

            Someone shot the muse today
            And I can’t find a thing to say
            Not a thought inside my head
            That bloody muse has gone quite dead
            On days like this I wonder why
            I should make another try
            To find the words that never age
            And set them down upon the page
            There must be better things to do
            Than get myself in such a stew
            In black and white or pen and ink
            Over my inability to think
            Beyond the boundaries of my bed
            Perhaps I should get up instead.


No comments:

Post a comment