Panic Poems (2003)

Panic Poems (2003)


A Christmas Book


Panic Poems

Most of my neighbours have come here for freedom and peace. No human community, however, can fully permit either of these qualities, and limits access to them. Even here, in such a remote community as this, we have to adjust to the proximity of other peoples' dogs, machinery , use of water, fire, noise, and all this amidst our own struggles for survival against the eccentricities of an infringing wilderness.

These poems arose from my own adjustments to life in a very small isolated community, in which I've now lived for six years. In spite of these trials recorded here, I wouldn't leave it for anything.

Leicester Kyle,



There’s no use explaining

As Yeats said:
To have too many reasons
is to be not quite well-born
And there’s the sharper point —
that to explain myself
is to bore

I’ll live on amiably
me and my dog

shall mow the lawns
as proof of life
paint the house
for responsibility
grow a bit of pot
to be one of the boys

get some mail
have a visitor or two
for the connection

lest it be thought
that my existence
is not as others are

my generation

You must have antecedents and connections, be traceable, else they’ll think you’re out of Auckland, which is almost as unpleasant as the old belief that life bred spontaneously from dung-heaps. Aucklanders know neither fire nor weather, and are useless for anything but driving on motorways and making a certain type of money.



That I am not too well
must be pretended
and be seen

To be fit at my age
is to boast

My liver must be spongiform
memory lost in the shorter term
there must be aches and pains
from nights spent drunk in
in the blackberry

Halt and weary I must be
as I answer the knock
at the door

lest I condemn my neighbours

It must be clear
to all who call
that I who live here
am of the earth
we live in

When you are an older-type person you must appear to show your age, else those who are younger, and who for reason of self-indulgence are not so fit, will take your exuberance as a staged and personal reflection upon them.

I, to avoid such suspicion, frequently and tactfully insinuate both the shortness of my days and of my breath, and hint at maladies more threatening than my neighbours’.



At the end of every day
I kneel beside my bed
and pray

Not for any thing
not grace nor gift

but that there be no
empty space
and eternity be peopled

who need not be addressed
and are anonymous

who have no need of me

but are there
at that last lonely choice

that there be company
and for me

There is an ironic reasonableness in the concept of angels. Somewhere, in the whole vastness of space, and in the infinite complexity of space-time continua, the is a community of beings who will accept me.

They needn’t love me like me nor know me, but at least they will let me join, with no suspicion that I be from Auckland.



The sore rewards of insight

In which I waver
as if there is a need for pain
a pleasure in it

That they won’t ring

Though I am my own man
and adult
on my own feet and no

I tell myself again and again —
it’s my life
I’ve made it
and they are adult too
in theirs

But I’m drawn
by the sweet scent of victimhood
Need of return
for those nurturing years

The thought that one might have lived in vain is a hard one; that the children don’t need you, that your friends are more inclined to forget you, and that you’ve only your feet to stand on, is unwelcome.

It’s no use complaining — WINZ might hear of it and give you a job, even if you’re on Super.



A ditch on one side
a bog on the other —
It’s a narrow path that takes me
through a dark place

I’ve spent too much on food
and don’t know what to do

From fear of running out
and in case of guests

There’s nowhere to store
some’s in the garage
and I can’t eat more
chocolate has limits
and spirits

though they tempt with comfort
when the telephone doesn’t ring for days
and no-one comes to the door

I must eat plain
I say to myself

I must live that too
me and my dog

If you choose to live on the top of a hill, only those who can climb will call,

except for the meter-reader, one or two who are lost, a curious friend, and those who want a loan of your trailer .

You need to look after yourself: buy another fridge for comfort food and put it in the garage. Equip the home with nicely-judged prosthetic devices like SKY, a cookery book, and effective cleaning devices.



it must not be
that I take a woman

I will be heroic
live and die lonely
and not be two again

I want to be my own
though the physical is lovely
and its want tedious

With women I am kind
in a conquering way
to signal the familiar

lest I be despised by my neighbours
suspected of that fearful flaw
that puts a man

To have the neighbours’ trust you must have a partner of the opposite sex, or - at the very least - give an impression that you could have one if you tried. A fact-based bias against the opposite sex will work only for a time.

If you haven’t, no-one will come; there’ll be nothing to talk about and they’ll misunderstand you when there’s trouble.

Even at the surgery, dentist and doctor will be indefinite, and if you push too far your name will vanish from significant data-bases.

This you might think advantageous but, once again, will cause trouble when there’s trouble.



Tapping out in galactic code

I’m prisoner at 404
being fattened for food
by a dog named Dirk

though in truth
like poetry
I’m counterfeit

and make things that are not
as though they are

Imagination has greater claim to my commitment than has fact, as poetry holds more life than science.

My invented world is warm, its language harmonious with songs that must be sung.

The truth is cold and makes me ill.

The dog’s name is Red.



it’s not said free —
Judges are the fruit of sterling silver

which has no sense
but lingers from a sleepy state
which took me while I wondered
what to do

to tell them I’d be over the hill
or not

If I do I’m ‘at it again’

If I don’t
I’m out of touch
in accident

A dilemma
for an isolated state
solved as well in sleep
by revelation dream by automatic writing
as by thought

It’s no use being public, for everyone else here is where I was at 40, and mine is an end-life crisis.

I’ve moved on out of all that and don’t want to go round again; I’m impatient, and want to be alone to think.

But if I’m too private, where is help when I need it? No-one will know my need.

If I drive off the road, who will see the marks?

There’s no help in logic.



But I would like to stop —
to lock the door
cut the phone
slash the net
and not go down for the mail

to be at peace in my bed
alone in my house
for a while

with a choice to not know
what anyone else in the world
is doing

It would be a cleansing rite

There’s too much happening
a crowded house
too many

It’s the last days it’s like
the Apocalypse

There must be revelation too.

Apocalypses don’t stand alone; they require divination, so there’s cause for holocaust and purpose to judgement,

So when all this fuss is done something better will be left, which is what I’m waiting for, why I pay the rates and keep the house in order.



Their loss
is as great
from drugs
as mine
from age

I’m twice theirs

With them
senescence is promiscuous

Decay creeps upon them
as moss on a rock
on mind and body
house and car

But they’re still of this world
and look at my survival
as a plot

don’t think it is

Though I’ve planned it for years, unknowing.

I’ve left it late to implement because of conditions, and hover at the boundary now, uncertain where to put my aged feet — one on this, the other on the next?

The boundary’s opaque and there’s fog, like in a forensic.



The cake tastes of shampoo
and I have to eat it all
but that doesn’t matter
it’s not nourishing

Keep things in their categories
and all is clear

It makes for wisdom

to interpret the inscrutable
as it must be faced

She’s not coming over after all —
troubles have stopped her

my bed is forlorn
its rituals aborted

What do I do with my masculine intent?

Go outside and polish up the truck
clean the spouting
repile the shed

delay is just for a month or two
then her peace returns

Walk around with the chain-saw and big boots
Put each step deliberately down upon the earth hard, to say It’s mine and I’ll rule it as a man should,
as I would if she were here
which is probably why she’s not.

It must be hard for the earth to be ruled levelled ploughed and fertilised. Better for the doer than to be done by.



after three-and-a-half metres of rain
the sun
in a glass sky
and the bush crackling

The creek’s at a murmur

What do you think of that —
will it rain again?

It stayed cold forever
will it be hot for as long?

It’s these vagaries —
everything veers extreme
and nothing’s at the mean

Whatever is
seems insupportable
and always to be

But why?

No-one’s trained for this

It’s prophecy —

You take what is and say it will go on forever;

If what you say is bad, everyone will agree, because misfortune seems to be the natural order, and we all think the pessimist is wise.

We forget good chance, and the average between.

Science makes a packet out of this, and politicians power.



I talk to myself a lot
and to the dog
(it’s refreshing to speak to the wise)
but when the sun shines
the people come out

I walk about
and speak to a few
until the next rain

At 4.0
I should go to Happy Hour
at the pub below
but I’m disinclined

It’s encouraging to reminisce
with others of my age
but it worries me

I talk too much
and fuss
my head aches
and I want to escape

and besides —
speech makes entanglements
which I may not want
to untie

It’s best to stay home
with myself as company
and the dog
who by nature retires

The guilt that comes from doing what you want is about the same as the guilt you get from not doing what you want.

This makes God a necessity.

The alternative is a maintained mood of suspended somnolence — you smile and nod and doze with your eyes.You say nothing,until whatever is goes away.



They come to this disordered world
today late
when the sun sinks in a silvered haze
and the birds sing

They will be excited
at the space
and will sleep

Then in the morning
go for a walk to the end of the track
come back tired
and say they’ve been lost

I will give them a drink
cook a meal

They won’t talk much
they’re still lost
they don’t know where

It’s an incomprehensible space
that hasn’t been explored

The tracks go into shadows

There are marks on them

The only space we know is our own.

When we come to someone else’s we go in armed – with sunglasses lotions insecticides hat stick preconceptions walkman insulating interests for life support, to protect us from the alien air,

and microbes.

To go further out we take a ship.



Soon I will be slow
in my slippers
in the sun
and the grass will grow long

trees will crowd
the spouting block
and spiders web the window

I will sleep in the afternoon
and use more electricity

It will be too much
to chop wood
and make repairs
to paint and stop leaks
to dress in the morning
change the sheets
and wash them

there will be few who know me

Should I fall
who will find me?

This is the way of it
and I’m content

you can live youth at ease

To age takes strength

Some say this is sad; I don’t think it is.

Promise makes youth happier, knowledge makes age fuller. You know how to do things, the way of it, how to get peace, and how to make use of a sleepless night. There are other strengths.



Six steps down
and three floors up
it goes

erratic and uneasy
until the end
when you lie

Work is done
the kids grown
the house paid off

There’s no further use for you —
you’re costing too much
and make worry

It’s time —
of course
the Director has a job for you
one no-body’s thought of

like saving The Planet
(he doesn’t say which)

No such luck
you’re done
you’re off
and you’ve left your spleen
(the body part you valued)
to posterity

You have to leave something for the children; they’ve inherited your will already. Attitudes aren’t welcome, so leave some words, guidance ones, a story or two, a pithy epithet, or something they can quarrel with and thereby keep the peace. You can rule by division, even from the grave.



Ho you
who are accomplished —

As the Preacher says:
have care for us
who are at whim

who at the crossroads
might as well return

We’ve no idea
of where to go

of stop or go
front or back

One idea’s as good as any other
no time nor deed more valued
than another

not life
nor death

Strength has uses
consciousness none

and we are the majority

Have mercy

On people like us, who live at a bad address,
that the district council would like to suppress,
who’s people often forget the law,
who haven’t much money and don’t want to have much,
who, if we had influence, wouldn’t know what to do with it,
who are too pushed to know what an accomplishment is,

and are too tired to understand.



It’s this that made me kick the dog:

Neville had a leak at his header tank
so no water was crossing the creek

Debbie and the girls and me dried out
and Jimmie and Eva
Pete and Mike and Dinah
Henry too

Someone muscled in on things
and didn’t do it well

The IRD sent another demand

It rained when I sprayed the moss

Al wanted more for the fridge
than he paid at the first

It was all these things put together

when we played
at the end of the day
he nipped me

But it’s me that should have been
kicked in the butt
and shut in the shed
to shiver

The shed’s a place to shiver in. You can close your mind and centre on the labour of repentance, the dusk and dirty windows, spider-webs, old tools, rubbish round the edges and memorabilia, half attempts at things, forgotten causes, samples of bad workmanship.

It’s like a mind.



The rest of the world is a dangerous place
and you don’t know where
it’ll hit from

I stay put
for safety

people say things
that don’t matter
so why do they say them

That’s what hurts —
the motives
not the words

What have I said
what have I done
to provoke

Memories and imagined scenes
crowd and jostle
in my mind
for reasons causes facts
to justify

They make me fret
and be outcast
until time
or a happy chance
brings confidence again

Gardening’s the worst, amongst the strawberries, pulling out euphorbia and twitch; it lets memories in, of things said and done by me or by others to me, embarrassments I want to forget, that no-one with sense would think of. I want to hide until I feel shameless.

I must accept that fear and chance and sentiment may sometimes be too much for me.



I catch her
if I can
between games

A note at the door says
‘Back Tomorrow’
but you can’t tell which tomorrow

Another says
‘Back In Ten Minutes’
and leaves the same doubt

Hours are
Tuesday to Friday

Which gives flexibility
if you add away-time
and tournaments

So I drive to town at 8.0
and wait at the salon door
in case

My hair has grown like bracken

She comes at 8.45
and I take the chair

Been keeping well, I ask
Oh yes, she says, and busy
It keeps me out of mischief

That’s a loss, I say
as a man should
to hint at himself
How’s bowls

It was a shame, she says
I disgraced myself
I’m better off at work



It’s in the public places
and the parks
The Protected Natural Areas
and the reserves
In the gorges
wherever you go
among the rocks
for a scramble
It’s tended and pampered
and hid from the helicopter

And from predatory greed
that scuttles on the pakihi
to cut and plunder

in the dark

I’m afraid in the dark

Even my friend might
do this in the dark

The thought destroys
takes sleep robs rest

I can hold no trust
in anyone
I live lonely
and in dread
that he might so desire

Pot and paranoia go together.

The peace you have from smoking it is denied by worry about it.



And other vaguer presences
like the time it snowed
when I wanted it to snow

But mostly it doesn’t

I get up in the morning
and it’s dull

It’s cold, I light the fire
and it clears

Or it’s fine, so I paint the house
but it rains

Life should prefigure itself
in shadows, hints
rhetorical gestures that
we recognise

a message in the sunset
sequences we know

It would save a lot of money
make it surer with the wash
but mostly
it would set my mind at rest

I wouldn’t need to worry much
and stuff like that

If life could be like the compliance officers of our Regional Council, who ring up offenders before they visit them — just a message a token a hint — something to say ‘we’re going to happen’, and if it could be written into the constitution, so to speak, to take out surprise and put in prediction; it would save on health, the police, and capitalism generally.



It’s Monday
I know
from the radio

Last week
I did the wash on the wrong day
I thought it was Saturday

Once you’ve lost track
the calendar’s not definitive

If you didn’t know yesterday
you can’t tell today
and have to turn to the media
for the formality

It matters most
to the rest of the world
and not much here

We don’t much care
except for appointments
and programmes on TV

Though it would be a help
if the seven days
had signatures

colours perhaps
or songs
or each to one own sin —

venal, of course
not deadly

That’s the trouble with time, it doesn’t define itself to be easily read; we have to do that, make special days like Christmas, mark the seasons, make history, and be self-conscious about night and day, or else we would be like the animals who don’t know death.



Welcome from the World

Sunny days and midnight rain

Green things go wild
and reach up writhing

But I am not green
and am sick in my soul
with longing for life
whose movement is not to death
where these green beings
can grow in splendour
in themselves unchanged

and flowers

where age is to strength
and does not mean decay

where rest is no loss

Age would be a pleasant thing if it didn’t weaken.

To grow from middle age into strength and experience would be a just return for the effort put into getting so far, and would encourage more people.

Life needs to give more to show for it, besides children and stuff.



My eyes are slow
I can’t tell
on the open road
who’s driving
A wave to a stranger
is a wasted thing
yet I don’t like to give offence
and worry
when I get home
how to do it acceptably

Do I keep my hands
at the top of the wheel
a firm grip
and a muscular wrist

Do I lift one finger
from the right
in dignity and discretion?

Extend an arm
fascist and friendly?

A flick of the hand?

A toot of the horn?

Manners change
Requirements are reviewed
by society in its course

I like etiquette
and I like to be right

I dream a lot when I’m driving, and can’t tell who’s passing until it’s too late; then I’m surprised and wave carelessly, instead of in the ordered way of a man in control.



Fog thick as a burning
and I can’t see traffic
on the road

There is no wind

There’s the sound
of fine rain sifting

and of the trucks
as they labour up the hill
unseen in this dark
which must be perpetual

They go to no visible goal
are only noise

All I hear
all through the day
is the same again

And there’s a dog barking on and on; its lonely need’s the same as the
trucks —

someone’s got to drive.



Alien as my name in the bush
or a word from a dog
it rings against
the sound of the land

There’s water, wind
small animals
and a rushing from the moor
like the sea

And this
that a garden bird
has learnt

which brings me running

in case
it’s family
and editor impressed
a friend about to visit
or edifying news

it’s killed in a storm
and I forget
for weeks
until someone hints
at my isolation

Then I remember
and it’s fixed

Again I’m part
of the world of news
of alien images grafted on
and countdown time



Today I’m stooped
from cutting gorse
and must hold myself

The legs work but there’s heaviness
in the head
and my eyes fall shut
when I forget them

If I sit
it is senseless to stand

If I stand
there’s nowhere to go

The day falls flat
no pattern
no things to be done
no need

There’s no part for me
I’m shut out
lest I infect
and spread
the malaise

How to exist with no need, nothing that needs to be done in this world in which I have no speciality; there’s nowhere only I can be.

There’s the dog; no matter how far off I might be I would come back for the dog.



Tonight the sea
is an apricot shade
and flat

The sun’s a blot
the horizon out of sight

You can’t tell
in the sky
where anything is

There are reasons for this
that are these:

1. Bushfires on the other side
2. Old still damp air
3. A time of small tides

But these are just the factors
are not the fact

The sky’s decayed in its own dust
The clouds are mould
the sun corrupt

Some might rhapsodise at sunset’s effect, as they might say an open-cast mine’s a grand thing; but I say that’s destruction, and this light in the sky is the effect of old weather.

It’s best to keep to the fact when you can find one, in case the end-time finds you ill-prepared.



It’s the Day of Rest
and we sleep in
each quiet as a baby after breakfast

Even the birds
are somewhere else
and motorbikes are mute

But rest from what?

We did little last week
and have no plans
for the week ahead

We don’t make plans
if the present’s right

and we don’t do
in case we do wrong

We let each day
look after itself
and the chores too

We don’t do mornings
very much either

But on Sundays especially
we doze on

because it’s good
to keep in step
with the world

Which is over the cliff by the sea at the end of the road, and is not much wanted by us much of the time, except for entertainment and necessities, but we didn’t come here for necessities, and can do without a lot of the time, until we get nostalgic, and think it would be nice to have the rubbish collected.



All things being equal
on a morning like this
I should go to see Rick
about the moths that eat the broccoli

and go on to see John
about how he’s placed his tank
(I’ll have to do the same myself
sooner or later)

or call on Nev
about the rust in my truck

Then there’s Dinah and her house
(she’s away)

Jim and Eva
(they’re not well)

Debbie and the leaking pipe

and the blasted mid-town water supply

But they’re not
and I don’t care if it is

Today I’m myself
with book pen and paper
water and tree
the dog in the sun
and not a word said
to anyone

You have to ask yourself: if you stand on your own feet, will they carry you? Because of the prevalence of showers, most people have bad feet. They don’t see them in the shower because they’re standing on them, and toes go wild without their knowing.



From my bed
I look over the sea
yet my eyes are shut
when I’m in bed
There are moonlit nights
and fishing lights
and storms at night
but through all these
my senses are asleep
Water lulls them
and the softness
and the dog at my feet

I dream
and puzzle when I wake
as to what the dreams mean

But if an arrangement
could be made
with my body and my mind —

then I might see
when I sleep
the sea

have rest in the night
and peace in the day

The bed is like television —
it leaves me with the feeling that I don’t get enough out of it. Like life itself it’s always there, but is not used well enough. I don’t remember what I did when I was in it asleep. Warmth, comfort, security, and the other good things of dreaming sleep, aren’t sufficiently savoured.



In this weather
we mope a lot

Sun warms
and lessens pain

but cloud conceals—
there’s only the ache of it
under the rain

This is what it feels like
the past
(not what it was):
a cell
of stinging snakes
an underground
of wasps
a long inimical cul-de-sac
Weathers change
cloud dissolves
and the sun comes out

then this is what it is:
a morning at the end of the year

dawn upon the best of times

the marvellous of each season
in one day

Out of town, as Dylan Thomas said, there’s too much weather; it drives us in or lets us out. Its barometric episodes are ours, its fogs and katabatic frets set our days.



By the end of the week
they’re grey —
flannels dish-cloth towels
the pillow’s smudged

They’ve been used as they ought
but carelessly
on convenient terms

and will have to be soaked
on Friday night
before they’re washed
with the sheets the socks the shirt
handkerchiefs and underwear
a pair of jeans

The dog’s things will have to be aired
and my bed

as part of my insistence
that my house
and my person
is respected

and by respect preserved

Grey is an unnatural colour —
it looks like something’s wearing out

A good wash puts things right — windows, sheets, shirts, towels, the kitchen floor, even one’s face.

It’s good to start and end with.

It’s a quick return for labour, and in this capitalist world is sure to make one well valued.



A fine mild calm day

High cloud at first and last

You left at half past eight
with the Powelliphanta for Kath

At 9.0 I went to the Birchfield swamp
to botanise with Red

we found a clematis
a jointed rush
an orchid and a water-weed
sphagnum mounds
some typha
and we lunched on the floating turf
in the sun

Home at 3.0

I washed the mud off Red and the truck

cleaned the fire
and set it

a cold tea

2 rings

read the paper and watched TV

and now I want to go to bed
to close my eyes
and rest my mind

I miss your comfortable self
and in my own unease
grow tired of tiredness

Published by Heteropholis Press.

Further copies of this publication may be obtained from P.O. Box 367, Westport, Buller, New Zealand.

ISBN 0-476-00084-X

© Leicester Kyle, 2003

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