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?





Blue wren

This morning a blue wren stops

its flitting, pulls me into

the black liquid of its eye –

still as the godless sky,

says, breathe.

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?




The Person 

Where does the person go once
the shell is gone that stooping low
held the small hands of children? Where

are the pictures from the palette
filled, lines blurred softly, colour
leaking playfully in the light? There is no

tremor in the earth discernible
as the steady footfall of ones we’ve
loved, nor in the hills echoes of their sounds

still flying. We cannot from the thrust
of flowers the spring reveals
cultivate the scent of what

we’ve lost. It must go
somewhere the person that is not a place
where bricks sit in their mortar

or bells toll the time bereft
in each clanging moment; somewhere
perhaps less substantial than a passing thought

but as present as the gaping sky
that holds us – cold mother –
and weeps. If you move on

like the passing summer shedding
heat, are blown with leaves
in swirling eddies

upwards, I will risk cliffs of the mind
to find you, shed all my senses to know that place
that is not anywhere

nor nothing,
to know the you that resides inside the you
I love. It must be there the person

waiting quietly
while the sea swallows the sun and the blue sky
bruises purple then ceases to be.