A Christmas Book (2000)



I wish I had an e-mail address

For then I would be able to
put off this body of fire
for one electrical

Cool and present to those who know
how to call the current

In the hot peace of night
I sometimes long for
a blue-green message

But I am far
from the centre of power

One day a line will come
trailed across the trees
bringing me words

And I’ll be turned to tide
surfed for communication

I beg you - listen
and not take me lightly

read - and not eclipse me
lest I be turned for ever





Looking West in Winter

At this time of the year
my back is to the sea
as the sun sets.

I’m making dinner,
and look out at hills in a cold light,
and coming night.

The sea reflects its last
at the other side of the house
in a sort of dust,
like filings in a foundry —
blue at first
with rust,
then darkening as the day retreats
to zinc and iron.

There’s no horizon.
The sun is lost
before it goes under;
and very low are clouds
that linger,
with intent.


Sometimes I say to visitors
as they look from the window west —
‘At night with the binoculars
you can see the lights of the Opera House’,
and they say ‘Yeah’
with a rising inflexion.

Enchantment might lend distance
to the view.

If a wind could blow
or a cloud bring those lights,
(no matter how faint
but discernible)
I could fancy a bridge,
and traffic it with commerce,

for we all want the stories,
the names the facts the ideas too,
but it’s a thoughtless sea
from here to there
and has no geography on it,

just reflections of the sun,
and all that passes.


Again there were guests
and I could have missed it,
but I saw the light on their faces
and they were quiet.

It was there to say farewell.
There couldn’t be another
so lovely, though in an American way,
hard-edged with maximum glow
and intense.

The sun was saying ‘So long folks,
I’ve done it every day for years
and a good job too;
this is it.
I’ll leave you to the dark’.

There’s always this sadness in art:
the never-to-be-repeated.


Last night,
just before the night,
the sea was as soft as a feather bed,
gentle as an abundance of truth,
so mixed with the cloud
you couldn’t tell the difference:

there were layers near the bottom
and billows near the top
and a tidal flow all through,

in blue greys of a natural ore
that you sometimes see in sand,
volcanic rocks, river clays,
natural mists and fresh-formed clouds
that are going to bring rain
for days and days and days,

with you embedded
in house, health,
and sociability.


Forget that the sea’s a mirror image,
(though sullen by comparison
and a heavy);
see it for itself in my eyes:

no burning scroll
no morning page of cirrus,
evening squall,

but a civilisation
that now and then makes an attack
by gunship,
all arms spitting fire,
to split the rock,

and then goes quiet,
like you and me,
in whom there is no change,

in love with everything
that goes on forever.





The Social Club Bar

It interferes with dinner
and is on the wrong side of the shed

There isn’t any sun when we meet
it sinks in the west
we look the other way

there’s no tradition
and nowhere to sit

we burnt all the chairs
at the end of one night
for practice

and the hope
( I think )
to end it


There’s not many of us
we’re a small group and chiefly
lived here long and own it

we let things fall out
when we meet

as we do when we match
mood need and the weather of the time
and psychic things that need no sign
but underlie the machinery

of one man’s wish
for another mind of experience

or the easy feel
of watching television
with a mate


Or getting stoned

we don’t smoke tobacco
at the bar
and hardly ever fight

only when there’s an impossible thing
like denial of the being of

Mal and me and Mike and Jenny and Jean
Blue and Red Chris and the Ellery Boys
we’re often happy

we look at motor magazines
lust for machines
long for leathers and sex

then go outside and piss against the wall

there’s nowhere else to go
when our bodies are on the line


Heineken Steinlager Haagen are the best
( there’s Monteiths and Miners Dark
which make you sick
or did when we were young )

that help us find the place to meet
where an image looks a likeness
and words work without being thought

natural and unfailing as
the thick white light outside
the smoke from the chimneys
of the houses on the hill


here’s courage
to confront our usualness
without the need for change
or anything else

to pass through pain
and not know it


It’s not been painted
there’s graffiti all around
smart things with expletives
that were inspired at the time
but now have no wit

they serve to mark the season
and make a sort of calendar
we look at one—
remember when- - - -we say
and call to conversation
an outrage or an accident
with smiles

there’s no need for philosophy
the point of it
is you and me

what we’ve done


It’s all been done before

Sometimes there’s a silence
we try to find a picture
that’s not there
and we don’t have the words
to make the face


we’ve forgot
or there’s a riddle
a look in the eye
fear we can’t speak

that this is all there is
and someone’s been told





The Meteorologist

Each morning
before breakfast
but after the fires and the cat
he measures the weather —
Max T. Min T. Rain
Barometer Sun
Cloud Types Wind
State of the Sea
He puts them in the book
with conviction

To measure one breath of air
to classify a cloud
is to set the course of the day
to defend himself from the stars
and from Jehovah

and to practise for a
greater goal
a quest
a significant search —

that somewhere in the reaches
of our time
there is a measure
that gauges
the qualities of life



Max. T.The new day flaunts in the western sky
17but it won’t rain yet and it’s good drying so I flounce
out of bed
at half past six when the birds are banging in the eaves
and the cat pesters
Min. T.and I put on the washing and clean the house
11with a bit of Bach for the energy
which you need when you’re by yourself and it mightn’t
seem worthwhile
Rain:that there be clean sheets and a clean house and
nilwindows you can see through
I’m house-proud in a selfish way I like it all here for my-
bright fires and true colours floors that don’t crunch
Sun:white towels hanging
8.7a fridge that doesn’t smell a stove that doesn’t smoke
the scent of something fresh in a vase
which mightn’t be good husbandry in economic sense
Bar.or the amount of time per capita for each event
1016an eccentric thing at the end of a road
where one might as well go bush
or be indolent since death can’t be more than thirty
Wind:years away
W.but it makes a home on this bleak moor



Max. T.From elation at the weather the birds begin to sing
11as the rain sweeps down and dawn starts up behind the
masking on the radio those first few bars that every-
body knows
Min. T.of Zarathustra a poor man he was an intimate in his
Take heart I say to myself you can accomplish a lot in
such a location
Rain:you can’t work outside but there’s a lot to be done in
21mmthe house
like mending the bricks in the fire and the doorhandle
I can’t stop myself and keep on
Wind:as if someone might enter and take me away
calmand I wonder why I hurry so and read or stare at the
stand in the porch and think of the rain its life and
Sun.for the fog comes in and you can’t see the sea
nilis there anything here worth the doing I think is it me
or have I come here to moulder house and man or be
taken by an industry
as happens in these days of park post and requisition
Bar:or else they put a road right through
1007a tree that’s been your solace



Max. T.I do not believe in the pyramids on Mars
16but I do believe in the laundromats on Venus
as love needs a lot of laundry as did generosity
Min. T.when I said to the builder that he could sleep here
9who had come from over the hill in a room at the
Fisherman’s Rest
to cut costs he said and travelling time
Rain:and turned up here with his woman (not his wife)
nilso I put down a bed on the living-room floor
which got into everyone’s way but we know
Wind:that at our socio-economic level you have to spend time
Nto save costs
if you give me a hand that will help too he said
to shovel this shingle and sand and the boxing
Sun.which I forgot to put on the quote he said so that will
1016cost more
and the running round too
so I made him do it all himself
Bar:and left him to his own devices
1012which are mostly to do with women and the bank
and not enough with work



Max. T.To come in from the fog the rain the wind from the
to know one match will bring me all my heritage has to
Min. T.for it is true that my life depends upon one contained
that glows like a fact possessed by form
feeds like the soul upon air and devours wood
it is the life of my room of my cat and my hot water
Rain:the circulation of my blood and will to live to love to
find rest in the fire the wood that fuels the flame that
starts it
each storm brings me life in lines of flotsam on the
Wind:rata cedar miro scented matai
Wand the hard yellow pine that burns till dawn on winter
until I rise to open the flue to clean the grate to start
the flame again
Sun:for warmth at breakfast and the need to burn
nilmore of this cargo from the creek and sea
which I labour at in sunny spells
to lift and lug not stumbling saw chop split
Bar:though one push of the switch would bring me an
1003electric heat
and tedium old age and shortened vision



Max. T.There’s no rain today
14there’s cloud but no rain
for the wind’s from the east and blows dry
it flaps at the cat hatch with a yellow light and whistles
Min. the fire
10so I shut the outer door for a draught is a draught warm
or not
which makes the cat uneasy he’s a wild thing but com-
forts me
Rain:and must have escape by window or door awake or
like me when I go for the shopping to town
no longer king nor conqueror
Wind:but subject to those who serve dependent on their will
liable to entrapment needful of a clear route back to the
from the many things that threaten that might make
Sun:me hide
2.8behind the sofa or some middle-class facade
to deceive the merciless who pursue discoloured
in order to expose the lie the self-deceit to increase
truth they say
Bar:but may expose the wound in ignorance mistake scar
1016tissue for disease
and start the healing round once more
yet that is only true in which I find myself at home



Max. T.Down the long green road where rail once ran for coal
8and timber
with the thought of the five past years of terror
against this present happiness of greenery
Min. T.just like old times I think as sunlit sleet floats down like
with Michael racing on ahead and Anna and I up last
to the tunnel where the autumn orchids grow
Rain:then next across the bridge and past the fall across the
tracecreek and into the bush
where there is no track but we know the way through
the grass where the snails die
Wind:and down past the end of the cliff to the rock for lunch
calmwhere I first came and my father fifty years ago
now I’m older than he lived to be
my children half his final age
Sun:but the feather ferns are fine as then and the blackness
5.6of the gorge still amazes
it’s snowing up at the end of the rift and the hills are
turning white
Bar:but here it’s sunny still as we find heart in a joy so long-
though grieve that it has to be
that death and disease have appointed times
like seasons


[not included in the book]

Bar.My lower bowel pretty well gave up the ghost
987while my bladder clamped then went into spasms
so I spent a long time in the late afternoon running up
and down the longdrop steps
Min. T.sitting on the commode leaning against the cinder shed
5.trying to piss from the front and not shit from the back
trying to piss from the front and not shit from the back
distracting the anal inaction with books and magazines
siting myself so I could watch the TV
Rain:while the party down the road thumped itself into the
niloblivion I sought
I thought what a waste of a good day
a lovely day but menace in it
Wind:waiting in the wings to come out for havoc
calmfor me to die a death of clamping agonies
like the man I knew who got too hot and perished from
the inside out
Sun.and that I might die from leaks and ruptures
9.2so I thought I would call the ambulance but didn’t
and got better with a hot drink some chips and a
Latvian film
Max T.that took a lot of time while my stomach moaned
16.about teenagers in Riga



Max. T.It rains as if it is aware
13with authority and purpose of a planned occasion
and it comes from behind a high white cloud
that glows with a holiday light for the weary
Min. T.making distance intimate softening the close-at-hand
10toning down the sea
under a soft east wind and a darkening sky
from the west with the charisma of a great event
Rain:that you want to prepare for to be ready in time
26mmputting out the pot plants bringing in the wash the
wood the coal
doing that last bit of paint and remembering to close
Sun:the car
nil‘in case’ you say to prove you are wise
but really just to be ready
so you can watch behind the window with a beer or a
N.W.or sit by the fire and listen
to the first few drops on the iron that warn like a knock
at the door
Bar.a courtesy it always gives before the visitation
1008when it might cast manners to the wind
and enter where it pleases



Max. T.Every trend has a first step
18and I don’t know what this is
a change in the weather or just a passing cloud
there’s no-one here who knows well enough to tell
Min. T.that this is a new road the last road or a twist in the
terra incognita or just terra it doesn’t matter much it’s
where I am
Rain:and all that’s matter stirs under the same life as I gather
3mmwood before it rains
the hard red wood washed here by last season’s
Wind:since silvered by the rains the salt washed out
Nthat burns all night keeps out the frost the damp and
gives comfort at the dawn
and warmth at breakfast
Sun:I would like to think that this is the rest of my life
6.8which now depends on rata logs for overnight survival
on matai and cedar to remove the cooking smells to
hold the fire
Bar:while I go to town or visit
1000and for bright new flame and cheerful rising dry whitey-
as light as air and salt-seasoned
it will always call the fire down to prove it



Max. T.Sit like a magus on the longdrop steps
16the heralds are here
listen to them speaking of the loveliness of change
new sky and new clouds in it nothing used before and
Min. T.fresh assembled
7in a soft air made last night from dew and foam
it’s spring and the morning reaches forward to its work
an easy vigour in every scent and sound of life after
Rain:winter rigour
2mmit’s stretched itself has woken up is stepping out
to fresh delight at every corner of the track around the
hedge behind the trees
Wind:a patch of sun that wasn’t there last week
nilgreen where there was mud sprung moss and uncoiled
purpose in the punga
spell of progress to a point beyond use
Sun:of a meaning in the activity of the degrees of life
8.6and something more than happiness taken but not re-
at last we can walk by faith
Bar:as well as sight and sound to the banishment of fear
1012at last a lovelier than the loved is found
to be held and not let loose to the world again


say rain
and consequences come —

tongues that naked run
on words of dilution,
grammars of the sun

say blue
and every draught is a change in the wind
every patch a sail
for fair weather

much is made of nothing

This Booklet is privately published for friends and family, for
Christmas 2000, by Leicester Kyle, Millerton, Buller, N.Z.

© Leicester Kyle, 2000

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