To my son who won’t speak to me

You don’t imagine your own death,

soil feeding its slow


sun like a cold kiss; I want you to know


this in the windowless room

of your twenties

admitting only friends, effervescent fizz of


cause and inconsequence:

my bones will be marrowless, fingers,

stalks of grasses, not tomorrow,

but soon enough,


no longer to remind you

with the mute clap of

thunder made in words

unread, but


gone, my ache is yours like a faulty, threaded

gene I gave you not wanting, but

gave anyway,

without your or my say.





Sometimes, I walk rooms of that

house in half-light. In

museums the mind makes


nothing moves behind glass;

installations sleep, frozen actors

playing nothing to startle


anyone. Tiny boy dreaming, a wee

wooden cot, couple watching

TV; sparse furnishings speak of


souls gone cold; if I try hard

moments flare – my muscles taut,

still thirty, making wooden runes

from scavenged kauri or


Sam amid the orange tree

Einstein hair, pukunui in a pale

blue t-shirt,


promise of a smile

– but Maungawhau is best left



why summon its dead fire?




Le matin

D’être toujours vivant, ça vaut

quelque chose. Ce matin il y a toujours la lune

qui se cache derrière les appartments

penchés sur le parc où je me


ballade. Partout un tapis de feuilles d’hiver

rouille et or.  Tout ce que je vois est vivant –

ça sent, ça sonne, ça brille. Le chien

cherche sa balle le nez dans


l’herbe et moi, je m’arrête pour l’instant

pendant qu’ils m’arrivent ces mots

de n’importe où dans cette langue

étrangère. Je suis vivant comme il faut –


le coeur au tambour, le cerveau en course

sur ces routes, le corps servile. Je vais rester

un moment reprendre mon souffle

sous ce ciel meurtri.


La Banlieu

(I’ve not done this before. This is a reworking of an earlier post. Why not?)


La Banlieu

After a game of pool in a Mantes
café pas loin de l’église, you raised
your collar against the cold and asked
if I could lend you money. I always admired

your lean toughness, you in your Santiagos,
your Arab’s eyes, quick, dark and sensitive. I
gave you deux cents balles and saw your mouth
quiver at the corners as you held my hand

in both of yours. Boualem, this was the last
time I ever saw you and then that call
from your brother when I was in Frankfurt,
the image of you pendu

hanging in the silence and coldness
the walls could not hold back. What
of Marie and le petit Arthur gosse d’un epoch
that grew too heavy and tilted

like a ship the water deserted? I hope that he
makes his thé à menthe procedurally, your boy,
and envisages the father he hardly met
as a man who stood straight in crowds, the wire

in his veins tightly bound, a walker of the streets
whose heart was never hard. One night dans
la banlieue nord-est at a party I watched you stand
so comfortably entre les jeunes loubards out of

Renaud like someone who had known
the life of les HLM but escaped it. What’s a
life worth, how much does it cost to preserve so that
a boy might know his dad and ask, ‘T’étais là

when the riots broke that time at
Val-de-Fôret? I met you, Arthur, little one grown big
whose daddy never really emerged solid
from the shadows your eyes perceived back then.
He was a good man, your dad, bird of the broken

streets and the greying light, no money
in his pockets to settle or take flight.


Of those I think I have seen for the last time

you are who camps in my mind unmoving; the

lazy smoke of your fire heavy on the still morning

spreads unsure if it might settle or lift. The last

time, we were on a train and Marseille was an

idea in the distance. You said there are streets

in the old town no one should wander down and

sat back in your seat returning to a thought derailed,

righting it said, it’s an absence of distance comme

la pornographie. But I cannot recall what it was we

were discussing. Your philosophy was a road I looked

down, familiar but stretching too far; turning, I saw

you from above so close, your eyes behind your glasses

like two turtles unsure if they might venture forth or

withdraw. And now rumours reach me from the distance

time has carved like a fissure between us of you bent

by the weight of your knowing, worries conundrumming

like the slow drip of water until they wear paths that

no one should travel; lost you blink in the sunlight

shielding your eyes from what you imagine is there. Is it

an absence of distance between the observer and the

observed, a moment caught unaware, naked in the crisp

morning and so startled, cannot move on?