Living at a Bad Address (2004)



A Christmas Book


Leicester Kyle

Here are a few of my favourite poems from 2004. I don't think any of them have been published; they're not the sort of poems that suit literary journals and are, most of them, written from out of my own experiences and for my own purposes. I hope you enjoy them.



This is a passage from a sermon by Meister Eckhardt, who preached it somewhere around 1320. It is so imaginative, accurate, and so nearly impudent that it captivates me, and I arranged (and slightly edited) it into this poem.


On the Epistle According To the
Dominican Mass

(Deus pacis dilectionis erit vobiscum)

who desire
to reserve accommodation at inns

are accustomed
to send messengers on ahead
to make the reservations

These greet the innkeepers
extol their masters
and give assurance

so that their masters
may be honourably

This is to be seen
in the Advent
of the Word:

The Angel
came to Mary
and said:

thou that art full of grace,
the lord be with thee

and so received
the best accommodation
in the world.



Calliope is the goddess (or 'muse') of epic poetry , and it might seem a coincidence that this house I bought turned out to be in a street named after her. It's no coincidence that I like being in it.


My Fateful House

They sold it as in Gallipoli St
but it’s Calliope
which they couldn’t say
nor spell

so I’m a poet now
and not a veteran

My life’s gone out of knowing

I thought I knew the necessary
and was to age
as is the custom
out of sight

but now I have to write
and look to see

for I know
but a scrap
a page or two
from the book

and have seen no more
than the kitchen yard
where roses bloom
at the gate



Millerton became a bad address when the mine closed down in the 1960s; many of the houses were removed. Those left, including the pubs and the school, became inhabited by hippies. It is much quieter now. About thirty houses remain, hidden in the gathering bush, and there's a population of about forty people.


The Town

This town has infirmities

She’s old
and she’s poor

She hasn’t the will for treatment
nor the wealth

She doesn’t know what’s wrong with her
she doesn’t like the pain
so she palliates
and hides in the bush

Her past is not a proud one
and she’s never been a looker
but she’s lived
and still lives
at one hundred and ten
gazing out dreamily over the sea

Her past she’s hidden in the trees
in case there’s something to hide

It’s a tale of small heroics
and she’s unconfident

If you find her
you might not like what you see
for age is only noticed
when it’s painted.



I'm anticipating, as I'm not seventy yet, but this little poem is making the point that growing older is not necessarily disappointing or unpleasant.


At Seventy

They didn’t say
it would be like this —
that winter would be beautiful.
They spoke a lot of labour,
and the cold,
of the loneliness
of the old.

They didn’t remember the company,
and the clarity
of the light;

the days are long,
but the sun still rises,
and there’s fuel
for the fire at night.



My dog Red, a Millerton mongrel, has been my close companion of the last four years. He knows me so well that we tell each other a great deal with not a word said.



Words of one
as children use
on wet days

words of two
by adolescents
for anger

words of three
by adults
to cogitate

or longer still
in rhetoric

or dense
in philosophy

but wordless
by my dog
whose speaking eyes
and touching tongue tell all
in conversation



During this last August the weather gave us a tough time; for most of the month we lived defensively, battered and close to zero. Then, on the morning of the last Sunday, we woke to a light fall of snow. Everything changed.


Snow After Rain

The storms are a weight

they press from the side
and crush from above
with hail and gale

like enemy
to shatter and remove

they spring
by surprise
at night

they mount
one storm on another

and crescendo
at 2.0
to awake

the lightning threatens instruments
the torrents take the road
there's no sleep
nor peace

until today
when there was snow
then sun upon the snow

clear skies and a drying world

and still
at the last
as if this is the end of it



Every now and then a word is dragged out of the word bank (where it's been in storage for a time) and put to a more public use. Earlier this year, in the course of Solid Energy's application for a resource consent, this word PROMENA was pushed into my notice. I was interested enough to turn to the dictionary and, from it, to assemble this.



before -, in front of -

mena, menae —
small sea fish
small things before

the lesser
at the front
for courtesy

‘without whose help’
‘special thanks’
‘I particularly’

Notes etc.

to clear
the way
of prey

for the big fish

1 sing. pres. imp. act:
(you) GO!
in Latin



Using e-mail has made me look more closely at the nature of correspondence. E-mail leaves out a lot of the more subtle aspects of communication, particularly nuances, while letters can convey too much. From out of these thoughts this diversion emerged.


Letters From Home

1.Jim drove through the video shop — in one window, out the other. You have to take a stand, he says. We expect he’ll go to counselling.
2.They put Is on to lithium, and her hair’s falling out. She says she had too much of it but it’s getting into everything. We think it’s psychiatric but the doctor says keep out of the sun.
3.Cess woke up in the blackberry again. This time he’s got a bruise on the knee and doesn’t know where it’s come from.
4.It’s rained a lot and flooded the sceptic tank. Nev’s tried to pump it out but it gets blocked. Gloria says it’ll dry up soon but that’s only hope.
5.The money’s holding out alright. Cess is on the benefit now and that covers the food. Roxy makes a bit from her panel-beating, and Uncle Sim’s board’s a help. We’re not paying the rates.
6.You can have some if you want it, and we go without.
7.We think of you, but not too much in case we worry. Isn’t home good enough? It’s time you got stuck in and got your teeth into something. Other people do.
8.Jennifer pushed Mario down the stairs round the back. He lay there all night and wouldn’t go to the doctor. Netty had to clean up the blood.
9.Joe’s skin has mostly gone; we think it was viburnum.


10.When are you going to go up north? Town’s alright, but you don’t do much. Aunty May keeps ringing up asking. It’s family. We ought to be able to say.
11.Grandad’s eating funny things, grey mushrooms nettles and stuff. He says they’re good for you, but no-one can tell the difference.
12.Helen came round the other day and told us what to do. Bart said ‘Yes, Prime Minister’.
13.The dog bit a market survey person at the door. She wanted to know what we watched. Julian said ‘The Weather’, but she didn’t have a chance to ask which one.
14.Grandad says you’re not making use of your time. You’ve got to come back, get a job, and raise enough to pay it.
15.There’s no use denying.
16.That’s the way of things, isn’t it. No matter what they do, it’s always the same.
17.Your cousin Jim’s helping with the wash now he’s lost his job at the bank; he says it’s the least he can do, and we think the same, considering.



At the end of March I attended a reunion at the Ch.Ch. Botanical Gardens. It was a gathering of the apprentices who were there in the 1950s. It was a delightful experience (though for me overshadowed by Anna's death) and this poem came from my attempts to find a collective name for the group.


A Collective Term For A
Natural Life

Nothing matters
nothing else at all
but the past
so we meet
after fifty years of toil soil
and chlorophyll
to reminisce

gardeners all ––
Judy Peter Robert
Barry Graeme Ross Alison
Lynley Doreen Donald Chris
Lorelei and me
In a group
with drinks
and finger food
by occupation
and experience
a Gathering of Gardeners?
(there are Packs of seeds
and Beds of bulbs)
a Bouquet, perhaps?
---too floral
a Graft?
a Huddle of Horticulturists?

Something oblique that packs a punch
and carries meaning with it —

a Mulch?



Earlier in the year Solid Energy wanted a publicity photo of me with its C.E.O. Don Elder, and I was asked to meet him after a staff meeting. A delay meant that I had to wait outside with his miners and mine-workers, many of whom regard me as a radical greeney trouble-maker.


Waiting For The C.E.O.

He’s been delayed —
there’s trouble down south;
at Spring Creek there are questions,
so we wait,
I in my truck,
the miners at the car park over the road
where they lounge in their overalls
against the bonnets of their utes,
trying to make point to this pointless time,
talking small to pass it.

They’re here for his presentation:
‘Earning Our Right to Mine’.

‘Mining is a temporary use of the land,
but a permanent use of non-renewable resources’
they’re to be told,
before they excavate.

I’m here to be photographed with him,
I, who have written to the paper,
the government,
protested in the streets,
who have threatened their jobs,
they say;
I’m to be photographed with their boss.

We’re both uneasy,
I at their resentment,
they at my threat,
but in this we are one:
there’s the road between us
and we long to move on,
each to our work:
theirs at the mine,
mine at the inexpressible.



This incident happened on my way back from Anna's funeral, early in March. I was at Wellington, filing onto the plane to Nelson, and I stepped aside to check on her cat, whom I was bringing home with me. At that moment the incident seemed quite normal, and it wasn't until I was seated in the plane that I realised it.


Changing Planes

We wait in the annex
for the small plane to leave

the flight will be short

I read
for distraction
from the grief of the day
until the call comes to board

we walk in single file
curving round the tail wing
and then the baggage cart

Mine is there
and the cat
hers which I'm taking home

I stop to give it comfort

The intercom in the cabin speaks
of airport trivia
in a tinny voice

and then her voice
her restless soul in a living voice
two words of thanks
from my care
resonant from death
through this instrument of advice

She comes to mind —
her long cool self
her grace and wit
her savage end


and as I board
I doubt the flight —
what from
where to in purpose?
can such an end
be ended?

She's taken lead
she whom I made
confined me in alien space
fixed by my love
cowed by her violence

The world is overwhelmed
axis and angle turned about

I'm her father no more
but her survivor



During the winter Carol and I were invited to a dinner in Westport, presented to farewell the senior DoC officer, who was leaving Buller. At its end, when thanks were given, the hunters were thanked for supplying the meat; this struck me as something I would not hear anywhere else.


At A DoC Dinner

thanks to the Hunters

You took the trouble
to stalk for a day
in the Blackburn
(where Sticherus carpets
the forest floor)
for the pork
for the roast

Three days
you spent
three days in the rain
on the Thousand Acre Plateau
(where the Gentians bloom
at this time of the year)
for the goat
for the kebabs

And the day
you went
in time for the dawn
on Mt. William
hopping the rocks
(and the Chionochloa
that grows there)
for the hare
for the casserole

Two days
you tramped
two days in the frost
up the Four Mile
(where the Winter Rata’s red now)
for the deer
for the pie


Your labour’s long
your skills are great

For these
and your provisions
we thank you

It is your giving
and our receiving



After yet another guest fell off my lavatory steps, I decided it was time to obtain an indoor flush toilet. If this was to be done without indebtedness, I had to sell something, so I decided to sell a painting. It was sold for $25,000, which also greatly lessened my mortgage.


Selling Doris

Once mid-day's past
it's late afternoon,
in Christchurch
on a day like this,
of cold and mist.

I'm sad.
I'm selling Doris,
mine since '72,

one more parting
in a year of loss,
and the gallery's keen:

Doris Lusk (1916-1990)
Golden Hill, near Kurow
oil on Hardboard
600 x 825 mm
signed and dated lower right
inscribed verso — top right:
Doris Lusk, Feb-March 1972
(Black Marker: Artist's Hand)

I'm selling for gain,
to pay the mortgage
and for an indoor loo,

but required,

I get comfort in my wilderness,
someone else gets art.

I'm sorry,
I love you,
and you'll understand —

you grew old.



A poem I was reading — by the American poet Louis Zukofsky — so took my imagination that this play grew out of it. What it means doesn't much matter; it's written for the sound of the words.


Head Death Cycled Along

one of those times
nothing after it
can be

it never is
though this is different
like if Beethoven had —

been whistling Mozart when —

this is crux
with life-change in it
on a cycle

death and romance
was was whistling when

along came terror



The glow-worms on the cliffs by my creek provoke comparison with the night sky; viewing them one night caused this run-away sequence of thoughts.


And Like The Stars

They’re out

It’s a good season

There’s more this year
and they’re fat

You can tell by their light —
it’s warm

not like the glow-worms
in the creek below
which are neon in their firmament

You wonder where they breed —
in this galaxy
or somewhere prepared
out of space

Imagine it —
a nursery
for meteors moons and asteroids
a preparatory place
for planets
a park perhaps
for stars
and a sweet broad champagne
for copulating comets

Think of it



This is about a misadventure that put me into the local paper. It happened on a bright afternoon. I was bored, so I decided to cross the creek and fell a few of my poplar trees for firewood. A three hour power cut was the result.


He went there yawning

It was a sunny day
but empty

I am a man
he thought
I do big things

So he took his saw
and went across the river
to the trees

to fell a tree

for firing
for the winter

He had wedges and ropes
and the axe as well
but the tree fell in the wind

It rolled as it fell
from top to top
and pivoted
to the wires

with smoke
and a hoot —
the predatory breath
of death

He was ashamed

He wanted to hide
then thought to himself —

It’s a foolish mistake
but a big one

Someone came running

© L. Kyle 2004

Further copies of this booklet may be obtained from: L. Kyle
P.O. Box 367
Westport, Buller.

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