Selected Shorter Poems 6 (1999-2004)

Shorter Poems: 6


  1. At The Falls [4/4/00]
  2. Outage [4/4/00]
  3. The City Lies Foursquare [n.d.]
  4. Mr. Gonzales [10/5/00]
  5. Battle of the Bands [10/5/00]
  6. Lyn’s Zinnias [14/8/00]
  7. The Great Buller Coal Plateaux [10/10/00]
  8. Omnia Propter Femina [10/10/00]
  9. Cars Cash and Convertibles [8/11/00]
  10. I am two weathers ... [11/11/00]
  11. The Plateau [11/11/00]
  12. Downpour [30/10/01]
  13. The Lesser Leptopteris [30/10/01]
  14. Trail-Blazer [n.d.]
  15. A Bone at the Bushline [n.d.]
  16. Before the Throne [n.d.]
  17. Summer, Sumner, 1946 [n.d.]
  18. Mr Muir and Mr Emerson [n.d.]
  19. A Work Of Love In Remembering One Dead [31/5/02]
  20. The Impresario’s Muse [31/5/02]
  21. Poa cita [31/5/02]
  22. Endstop [20/12/02]
  23. Posterity [20/12/02]
  24. The Pit-Ponies' Picnic [1/7/03]
  25. Swing-Bridge [1/7/03]
  26. Night Shelter [28/8/03]
  27. (Proust Says) [12/9/03]
  28. I Like It When The Sun Doesn’t Shine [12/9/03]
  29. Happy Valley [31/10/03]
  30. In High Fog [20/1/04]


At The Falls

We would go down
at this time,
when the day was still
and the sunlight slanted through the leaves,

to the rocks,
and would help each other
over the mossy parts.

Once we would have jumped across
and never feared a slip.

We shared confident years
and a common joy.

I hold the memories of both
but dream here alone.

I understand the still air
love the leaves
and comprehend the age,
but I cannot understand
the acts of God.




The night we talked
when the lights went out
was good, I thought,
by firelight flickering
like wit
and lightning
that struck the line
and insulator.

You were drunk
but that didn’t matter much.
You talk best sense
when you’re drunk,
and we dropped our debate
into the impenetrable dark.

At first I couldn’t hear
for the rain on the roof
and the wind at the window,
but soon I picked the line of your argument
for youth,
out of the din,

Its wonder at the world it hasn’t made,
its ruthlessness at us
who hold its space.

You were right, of course,
though I beat you into submission.
I wasn’t much concerned with truth
but with the return of light,
when the storm would stop,
the threat withdraw
so I –once power was restored –
could say goodbye,
and with reason go to bed.



The City Lies Foursquare

It happened
that in those days there was
whatever you wanted:

Wells lit by long blue lights
dogs with eyes as big as saucers
geese that talked and knew botany
some emperors wise and some foolish
talking tools and legs that didn’t know their business
wizard wolves and transmutations
flying beds and magic aprons
inquisitive birds;

Boxes cupboards and purses that held secrets.

Nothing kept its shape.

Days did not necessarily succeed days.

Some trees bled and life, though interesting,
was generally tragic.

In consequence of this variability
people wrote books
with illustrations in them
and put things right

into programmes
that plan

so the world doesn’t crumble
under our eyes.



Mr. Gonzales

There’s nothing of his wardrobe left
but buttons.

He never bought flash,
nothing with gold
or lustres.

Depth and durability
were what he went for,
hints of treasure
modestly concealed
in all his clothes.

I couldn’t keep the trousers
nor the suits,
underwear nor shirts –
they choked me,

but buttons go in tins and bags and drawers
and are so easily recalled.

I like to think I do
and then undo him,
set him free
then tidily restrain.

I kiss each piece of shell and bone –
my love for past proprieties,
relicts of a work well done,
for creased and cleaned and shining years.

May his spirit fly free –
it’s loosed now,
and divested.



Battle of the Bands

Want me to write it down?
Forget it –
I’ve the shakes.

We booked four bands –
you need to be sure –
but not one would be first.

They took an hour to sort it out,
then the first
left gear at home
and drove back through the gorge
to get it.

The second band got up to play
but the drummer tripped
and broke his arm.

We doped him
but he got too out-of-it.

The third band wasn’t all there.

the fourth band wasn’t much good
and once it started wouldn’t stop,

So everyone got drunk and stoned
and smashed the place
and left.



Lyn’s Zinnias

She says the wind sweats crickets
there’s necessity for zinnias

I’m looking for a particular perspective
one that will inform in pure reason
will show the spaces why they’re there
between you and me and other living things
the thoughts and all who go to make them
like memories necessities and the tedium of the street
when no-one talks for fear of change
nor gives advice lest things get worse
why melancholy gives a certain pleasure
and fine weather’s colder after rain
that one cloud’s separate from another
they even on the largest scale never circle the world
(as we who are linked to satellites can tell)
the closest closeness never measures union
nor best intentions ever perfect love
make understanding from objective speech
of science and psychology philosophy the wise
or wisest commentators that I know of on T.V.
for there too in spite of advanced techniques
the perfect aim is never hit gaps not closed
and on it wanders flounders flops a bit
and flummoxes unsure in imperfect fit
aware or half aware of a lack of accomplishment
nothing quite right and nothing quite done
with no-one around to stop it



The Great Buller Coal Plateaux

Half of this is out of time
the other half is looking for affinities

There are sounds
much like water
and a sky always receding
into an accumulation of infinity

The air is stalled
there is no other noise to hold it

Space is enclosed by level lines
and you must hear the landscape
to know the words

the thought that makes the sentence

The question ‘who’? disappears
in this light
from the farthest sources
of a broken dawn

acid soil
famished rock

Here we are to be found –
the mines
on Sunday morning



Omnia Propter Femina
a witty tribute to Doris Day

The shoes are maroon
the feet are fun
They are the same colour
as my feet
The apple in her hand is not
to be eaten
Like the sleeves of her fluffy
mohair cardigan
which hang from
her shoulders &
swing empty
It has a soft sound with a
sharp edge
Like her shoulders in the
pale blue blouse
The skirt is heavy enough
to swish
Her eyes are outlined too
The music is a sort of tartan
in checks

She sings ‘I’m in the pink’
A rectangular song
and meandering



Cars Cash and Convertibles

Driving south into longer days
where people package money and time
with discretion,
we think of their ways.

There is no particular in mind
but the end of it –
those things that happen
when the debt is paid.

We buy and own and spend
lest tomorrow be unequal to its task;
it’s part of our creed.

Time is money,
you can save it, we say,
absurdly –
both decompose;

Yet for the mystic
death is bliss,
they say –
it can make a fine end.



I am two weathers –
at night and by day

as with a mountain
or a shore-line

where the cause of the change
is the sun

mine is the prospect –
at night I go to bed

and have nothing to fear

but the fear itself
of all that I’ve done

in the day



The Plateau

Never is there anyone else
just these plants
and the rocks
and bushes worn to the shape of the rocks
and a heaviness
of generation
as if between the loins of creation
that here it’s made
from silica wind sun and rain

That here it ends
in this white glass dust
that blows in drifts on the sandstone shelf
beaten along by the rain

To smother the plants
that might have lived
if left
to the frost and sun and the rain

A cold crusted surface
time too
that washes rock and leaf and root
with wind sun and rain




There may be silence
a waiting silence
that saps other sounds
and wakes me

The house flinches

A taughtening before a quake
A still intruder muffled at the door

There’s heaviness outside –
all breathing swept up in

But there’s no signal
nothing in advance
of the torrent that crashes
the oppression

Of the weight of it
and the roar
that I must wait out
and cower before

Lest it be winter
that’s come upon me
and the perpetual storm




The Lesser Leptopteris

At first you don’t see –
they’re floating
in the colour of their shade
on thread stems
each frond placed and none replacing,
entire unmarked proportionate.

Note the perfection –
a branch could have fallen
a slip could have taken some away
animals crushed or eaten
frost burnt storm dishevelled,

But nothing can have happened here for years;
no enemy gnaws at their roots
nor sickness stains the green,
they multiply as space provides
there’s room for each
and water, food
--they’ve found their paradise.

Mine dies.
I grieve at it
the loss, the loneliness.

My dreaming feet ache on the moss –
I’ve changed my life for this.




not what you think
don’t turn away

I’ve been down Dominion Road
from Blondies
to the extension of the extension

I bought a car at the Roskill yard
had lunch at Navaho
a drink at the R.S.A.
and bought a book

I’ve done it all
so I smell a bit
and there are smears on my face
of dust

I’ll shower and change
find a fresh shirt
brush my pants

it’s cost a bit
but it’s worth the trip

I’ve made

the shops and super-marts
sky horse takeaway canton thai
pre-loved videon hallal meat

and all the money machines that say no

soon I’ll be clean again

believe it



A Bone at the Bushline

Dusk dulls the granite cliffs
mists across the meadow
and the dog dances in it

The first morepork warns of the night
though the sky’s still light
and the dog bows before it

asking all who witness this
who love the gift
to play

and worship the man
who with him is alone
in all these rocks and flowers

and is made one
with the immensity
through love



Before the Throne

My long-drop has many residents

A fantail has come to hunt them

He wants me out of it
Flies in my face when I call

A cat covets the bird
he sits black-and-white
at the top of the steps
and stares

Though he does not threaten
I see that to claim my rights
of ownership or necessity
will break the food-chain

and cause greater distress
to these lower forms of life
than any I might suffer
by abstention



Summer, Sumner, 1946

There was a season of fire
as there were other seasons
of huts in the sandhills
gangs in the quarry
sledging on the tussock and
but this was a season for fire

Word would go round of
time and place appointed

I would climb to the top of the hedge
and there –
at four and where planned
the first white whiff
of smoke on the hill



Mr Muir and Mr Emerson

I was ever calling on everybody within reach to admire the trees,

But I found no-one half warm enough until Emerson came.

I felt sure that of all men he would best interpret their sayings.

I met him in Yosemite.

He seemed serene as a sequoia, his head in the Empyrean.

Forgetting his age plans duties ties of every sort

I proposed a camping trip in the heart of the mountains.

I said: ‘The mountains are calling;

Let plans and parties and dragging duties go their improper ways.

We’ll go up a canyon singing your own song.

Up there lies a new heaven and a new earth; let us go to the show.’

But the shadows were growing and he leaned on his friends.

They laughed at my promise and held Mr. Emerson to the trails and hotels.

I saw him two days more.

I told him we might go to the sequoias if he would camp in the grove.

I quoted his notes: ‘Come listen what the pine-tree saith’ etc.

And pointed out the noblest trees as kings and high-priests.

He said but little while his smile faded away.

His party said it would never do to lie out in the cold night air.

In vain I urged that there was not a single cough nor sneeze in all the sierra;

I pictured the climate I would make and praised sequoia flame,

Urging them to come and make an Emerson night of it,

But theirs was a Boston commentary.

I concluded to stop with him at the hotel but he hardly spoke all evening.

The poor bit of time was soon spent.

Next morning I urged him again to stay:

‘You are yourself a sequoia’ I said.

‘Stop and get acquainted with your brethren’.

But he was as a child in the hands of his friends.

It was now the afternoon of the day and of his life

And his course was into the sunset.

The party mounted and rode away in wondrous contentment.

Emerson lingered in the rear of the train,

And when he reached the top of the ridge took off his hat and waved me.

I walked in the trees until sundown,

When I built a great fire had all to myself and took heart.

The trees had not gone to Boston nor the birds and he was still with me in spirit.

He sent books and wrote advising me not to stay too long.

I was to come to his house and he would show me to better people.




A Work Of Love In Remembering
One Dead

The pack the staff the hat
and bag of plants
lie in a heap on a higher place,

A cairn perhaps
or temporal memorial,

Due to rot if given time

To tell of one
who couldn’t cross the creek
who coming to it found a flood.

The pack holds scraps
of an interrupted lunch,

The bag holds evidence
of a changed and changing world

by rain –

first slanted through the trees
then in a storm
and now this pakihi overflows.

I am kept from my road

uncertain in this fog and rain
if I’m near home
or if I will be home again.



The Impresario’s Muse

I think of mortality now

The world knows me well
and is tired of my familiar –
the actors want to do something new

My productions fall part
of people place idea and word
they unravel

Illusions no longer deceive
and all those numerous
who sang at my command
excuse themselves

A thread has been pulled
line after line is on the run
you can hear it
– skip skip
from stitch to stitch
and money
down the drain

Soon there’ll be left
only memory of review
mention in an essay
and a line or two in ‘History of –‘

But best
(though least)
is the pleasure for me
of greatness for a night
and the lustre in my life
and the taste.



Poa cita
(for Carol)

Just being here
being you or me is distinction

no need for any other mark
from other species

in dress or behaviour
no eccentricity

no need to excel
nor exquisite sense
no wealth
nor grey profundity

Alive is the specific
being where we ought to be

and growing here




They stopped at the top

There was bush
and in the distance dents
where the sea came in

She said:
you should have listened to me
you are a fool

Now we don’t know where we are

What sort of a holiday is this
we should have gone north
like I said

He got out of the car
and walked into the hills

She waited

Then fear came
an infection into every part
depopulating sense

Time stopped
the wind dropped
a dark bird hung in the air

There was no resolution to anything

At the end of the day
she went to the police

The bird was with her for years




There’s not much to want –

four building sections
a house at the end of a winding road
a garage in the bush
a woodshed
a loo on a rock
and a red truck

My children won’t want to live here
it’s an undesirable inheritance

Let it go
to the misbegotten
conceived by all that pleasured me most –
my self-will, lust, self-love
remorseless intent to tower
and my dishonesty

All these are voracious still
and themselves have spawned

They will take all

They consume me



The Pit-Ponies’ Picnic

Once a year
at Christmas
we took them to the sea,
Little Jimmy, Nugget, Borzoi,
and the others.

We like riding them into the waves,
which are horses themselves,
white horses,
and are their company
for a time.

We do this to remind them
that there’s a world,
that they’re made clean and free in it,
like us.

Then we let them roll in the grass;
we groom them,
for their comfort,
give them an apple,
and take them back to the mine.

change into our work clothes,
back at the mine.




On one side there’s my house
and on the other her’s

The bridge is strongly tied –
on her side into rock
on mine to the macrocarpas
which are anchor enough
though perishable

There’s no use shouting
as the river takes the sound away
so I throw stones
on her roof

and she comes stumbling across
or I to her
whoever is most mobile
least anchored in the house
at the time

across the river
which divides us

We’ve never felt secure on the bridge
and dread the chasm under

It’s our houses
that are sound

Though she’s safe
perfectly safe



Night Shelter

On Monday
they came

chivvied by the cold

finding the house in bed
they took possession

The fires glowed
they warmed themselves
the cold was on the outer now

Then they made a ruckus

They took the lid off the biscuit tin
by prising
with their sniffing noses

They tipped it
and ate the vanilla wines

and half an apple

and the flower off the bromeliad

and the cloth the whiskey stood on

then nested in the serviettes
with scraps of biscuit
bits of fruit
and shreds of liquored linen

They toppled a vase
and shat on the floor

then slept
as any squatter might
to dream of a warm well-fed squalor
for ever



(Proust Says)

that men who are good home-makers
are gay at heart

which disturbs me in my proudest
and for a moment
I feel odd

that I have some pictures
that I paint the skirting
and go in for mats
old books
bohemian bowls
and musicals –
these erode the sediments of my sex

I stand from my props
and lose confidence
my chain-saw turns ambiguous
my landrover coy
jeans and jacket cover-up
my beard goes camouflage

I’ll play safe
and rough it for a bit
wear boots
and fell a few trees
I’ll go to a meeting and assert myself
chat up a woman or two
shoot a beast
and hang it in the back porch
to bleed

not that it matters
not really, I know
but a bloke can’t be too careful
on this block



I Like It When The Sun Doesn’t Shine

To love a place unworthy of love
in July

When it rains and the lightning strikes
in fog

in cold and wet the mud is cold wood wet

This is the road that curls between the houses
to the moors that brown the water
These are the people that smoke themselves to sleep
They only talk when the sun comes out they walk

This is the bush that grows around the houses
Where once was rock there’s rubbish of a century
composting plastics bits of glass car and clothing scraps almost organic

Here is the fire in this dead calm it smokes

Here’s the car it must be towed it’s saturated

The tap that dribbles now it’s full of grit the filter’s fucked

The house my house with grey mould in the cupboard
the blanket’s blotched
the window gone last storm
you can’t cross the creek
there’s rock on the road
Then the sun comes out
- it glows it grows it steams it dries –

[turn it off!
there’s a switch somewhere –
some little icon
to be touched by a mouse]




Happy Valley
A Lament for a landscape about
to be mined

“The connectivity of the area will be disrupted by the presence of the mine, but will be restored across the two pits as the area revegetates. Overall the present vegetation has a high degree of naturalness. Those areas that are to be mined and rehabilitated will lose their naturalness for a long period of time.”

We stand on the divide.
Two catchments –
one to the north,
the other to the south.

The red marker is the edge of the road.
Here is where the pit will be.
A third of the valley will remain,
and the tussock.

The pond won’t be filled
but the larger, over the rise,
will make way for the road.

“The Happy Valley landscape character area is in a natural and unmodified state. It is well-defined visually, and appears as a distinctive sub-unit within the wider plateau landscape. It has a high natural character, amenity and intrinsic values.”

They have an eye for a suitable place.
Once they would have built an abbey here,
now they dig a pit for coal.
They did it to valleys in Wales
and in Yorkshire where
they fouled the waters of the River Aire
at Castleford.

But that was in the old world.
This has just begun;
it’s too innocent for spoiling.
There’s nothing here that knows it can happen.
Rock and river
leaves and sun
have work to do
and only know to do it.
There are the birds –
they have no song for apocalypse.
Ask any questions of them
and silence is their silencing reply.

“The ability to replace soils and restore a topographic profile similar to what is present now, will aid in re-establishing the naturalness of this area.”

An older world would read the signs,
and reply with adventitious weeds
drought disrupted drainage dust
slips smells faults and
protected archeological sites,
but here?
It’s remote,
no sounds of pain will carry
to call help.

Perhaps it has a tutelary soul.
The glades of Greece had nymphs,
yet they’re now desert;
English woods had fairies,
and they’re gone;
Ireland too –
there’s only remnant left.
Is there something here that’s real
for defence?

Ask it,
ask this place
this suitable place,
ask the species –
the 23 birds
3 lizards
snails and invertebrates
1 bat
all the insects
rats opossums hares
the 80 dicot trees and shrubs
72 dicot herbs
29 sedges and rushes
10 grasses
8 orchids
10 other monocots
the 23 ferns
14 mosses
13 lichens
and 28 liverworts

“Even 50% remaining is well above the threshold considered desirable for the conservation of biodiversity within an ecological district”.

Ask today,
while the sun shines;
be quiet,
and you will hear in silence:

the weta and the gecko,
all the birds, the leaves,
the sky-blue orchid by the creek
‘We go with you to destruction,
but the seed of life remains.
You demand coherence,
Time is our defence.’




In High Fog

This world swirls
in high fog
pressing close
not lifting

another world is there
silent, swirling
in the fog

it makes the wind
outside the house

the day
to end
in high fog
as it lifts
dark below
and foaming

the other world is there


Found in Filebox 2

© Leicester Kyle Literary Estate, 2012

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