The String Puppet

The rings on his fingers were golden chunks set with onyx

His hair draped like a thin black veil around his head

Hardly hanging on at the crown.

He stood like a string puppet on the stage

Limbs all angles, motioning to the audience

Come closer please, and hold your breath

The first three rows stand and swarm

Their seats and minds forgotten

As the puppet starts to sing.

With the beat of the drum the crowd moves and sways

Directed by the puppet, mastered by the strings

A murmur, a muttering lyrical cry

And the vibrating clash of the church chime

The staggering puppet man points

With a crumpled floating arm

And goads the congregation

Who tremble and shake like mad things.

When is it over? It is never over.

The higgs boson does not bend for time

And the power of the puppet never dies.

The transmogrified antipodean poet will return

Or so the papers say.

The sky never falls, but is pushed away.

Filth

Foul smelling filth is everywhere

Invulnerable to wiping and scrubbing

washing, mopping, and sweeping

It collects like sand in shoes,

Or lint in an old pocket

The record of living

I can’t get it off me

I can’t breathe the clean air

I was promised

Don’t start!

It’s on you too

Covering you head to foot

A fine film coats the world

And all is tarnished, uncleanable

Even the fresh born Babe

This is mortality I’m sure

It’s the only explanation

With only one cure.

Can the filth survive a great fall?

Or graceful, blissful drowning?

Or a stomach full of pills?

Well then it wins

Stakes victory in the corpse

And brings on the flies.

Until the final toll is taken

And the doctor signs the file

Filth is kept in check.

An ugly opponent true

And try not to sniff

The smell of decay, exterior, impersonal

It hasn’t got you yet.

The Tree

The tree bark cracked and gnarled

Grazing the skin, leaving a fine wet powder

On every limb.

A dead branch breaks

And hands scramble to catch

A pimply knot, just in time

For the fall is far

Only broken by hard things.

Higher and higher

The arms of the tree grow thin

Like fingers

Waving flat hands in the breeze.

The dog sniffs and howls

He’s grown bored exploring the scrub

And he looks in vain at the tree.

The happy freedom to die

By unfurling the griping hands 

On the base of a branch.

As the leaves salute the sky

And the living wood dances

To the wind’s own rhythm

It is peaceful up here

In the swaying shoulders of the tree

Atop the ribcage ladder of the earth.

See the houses with their crude compactness

Hemming in the residents

Hiding them from the sky.

They are so small from here

And unmoving

They can’t get us now.

Seatoun

The wild waves slap the rocks like drunk husbands
Then roll back to gather strength.

The sky mirrors the dirty steel of the water
And peers down like a superior sibling.

Dividing it all is the wind
Punching, and pushing, and sweeping the coast.

It’s full of cold, refulgent with memory
It was here before all else,

Before the land

Before the sea

The wind was always whistling.

It told the Māori they were home
And scored their sad eviction.

It fights the airplanes as they land
And the ferries as they sail.

It is the wind that makes this place itself
Its soul, immortal breath.

And if if it left my God what then
Tis a thing of death.

As waters bounce and tumble
And clouds twist and roam,

The wind rolls on as it always has
So strong, so loud; alone.

The Whistle of the Wind

So harsh is the whistle of the wind

As the earth buckles and the towers of glass and steel tremble with fright.

A pedestrian coughs revoltingly as her peers dodge barely noticed buses.

There is no logic here, no coherence to the time so it passes rudely.

Night hours race and leave sheets barely ruffled

While the tyres wear out and the horns blare on.

A meek fellow sits in a right little jam pondering excuses he’ll never use.

He’ll just drive to work and take the lash without a word.

You’d barely notice the bags under his eyes getting larger and darker

And his skin showing the atrophied flesh beneath it.

He’s a pending one-line obituary and has the sense to know it.

Piles of students stack classrooms that stack schools that stack a central balance sheet.

The sheet says all is lost.

The youth, the future, the hope that mollifies the patient while the doctors do their rounds.

Morbid learning is the chorus while the players boil in their youth.

Glacial teachers yearn to be close, to thaw, but just end up freezing their captive young.

So the present turns to stone and the future evaporates to air,

Some escape, some make it we are told with an earnestness deserving murder.

The higher ledges yield the more entertaining falls, do not deny us!

This is the universal poison, the hemlock drunk before we had a say

We all fall, and let us mock the air as it races past

The final earth approaching.

The meek man’s fire is embers only

Unfueled it licks its last.

Can the fire ignite again before the freezing starts?

If not then fine, it is expected

The ledge beckons, the crowd is bated

The rush of air as the frozen thing tumbles

And shatters on the ground

So harsh is the whistle of the wind.

Take Ice?

Where is the ice? He asked.

His drink was too warm and strong

So I found him some shards of ice.

But the diminished strength of his drink

Was undone by the three more he gulped down.

Swaying he stood and declared his love for a shadow

And returned to the hotel to have an infarction just before dawn.

Is an addict less an addict if they mix down their poison?

When over time the corpse begins to smell and ossify

And be buried deep or burnt to spare the living

Does it really matter if they took ice?

Don’t care, don’t want to know

The answer makes me sad

Because I know.

Why so mean?

I was reminded last week about a theme I wrote briefly about last year but neglected to publish the post. Here it is at last:

The Rugby World Cup win by the All Blacks was fantastic. A cinematic conclusion to the test careers of some superb players — and a dominant win where the 2011 final was on knife edge.

But one week on there was a meanness within the glee. Prince Charles remarked to the crowd outside parliament before the last victory parade that he wasn’t sure what to say to the Aussies when he went there the following week. There was a roar of approval. Applause at the Australians being beaten. Laughter that the notorious skites tasted bitterness while we kiwis guzzle glory.

Perhaps I am being oversensitive. Victories should be celebrated. Glory makes the wine better, the food more appetising, and the strangers on the street suddenly feel like old friends. There’s a common thing to unite us, and that thing is positive. However, like minded people tend to get more extreme when stuck together, and when social media is added to the brew I think the effect is compounded.

A friend who recently moved back to NZ after many years living in Australia, was struck by the change in attitude. It is a change for the worst, the low growl becoming a snarl. This is not something to be proud of, and is an antithesis to the character of this nation.

What are New Zealanders? Are they dead pan and honest? A nation of innocent Brett Mackenzie’s? No, that is just how the kiwi brand gets picked up by overseas leviathans. But what happens to this country when people overseas encounter kiwis that not only break those expectations, but replace them with the image of a hateful little country — full of spite, anger, and crippling unimportance.

A morsel for the brain perhaps, something to ruminate on while waiting for a kidney stone to pass. My point (if I have one at all) is that meanness is a sad form of social glue, and if that is what is keeping the citizens of this country together then leave me out of it.

 

 

Seeking Sylvia

On a Sunday last month I was possessed by an odd compulsion that I should read Sylvia Plath. The source of this notion can be traced to an idle morbid state of mind. Not a specific train of thought, just a collection of impulses. The result was that I went to Unity Books in the afternoon and bought a copy of Plath’s pothsumous poetry collection called Ariel, and her only novel The Bell Jar.

I finished the latter before bedtime. It was written in the fall of 1962 during Plath’s remarkable burst of creativity which is comparable to Keats great year a century before, or even Van Gogh’s artistic outpouring of 1889-90. Like Van Gogh, Sylvia’s creative pinnacle was swiftly followed by her death. In the early hours of February 11, 1963, not even a month after The Bell Jar was published (under a pseudonym) Sylvia Plath committed suicide by gassing herself in the oven of the kitchen in her London apartment.

Many things led to that and snowballed until Path was unable to cope. She had a history of depression and serious suicide attempts in the past. Her marriage had recently broken down, and she was raising two small children on her own during the coldest winter in London for at least sixty years. Also, her novel had not been received well in her native America. That must have been quite a blow to her. The result was her suicide. She was thirty years old.

That is what is remembered of her now; she is a tragic figure, a shadow of Virginia Woolf or something. A line in pop culture to be remembered at a pub quiz night. But read her and she steps out of those shadows. Watch her walk along side you, her prose so much more accessible than her poetry that she has been acclaimed for. I have read enough Virginia Woolf to know that no matter how much I read and gain knowledge, she will always be several steps ahead, and it will be all I can do to simply catch up. Sylvia Plath is the writer that hold your hand.

I realise this is sentimental, and one’s reaction to literature depends greatly on one’s particular experiences. If I may say so I think Plath is more relevant now than ever when the very illness that choked the life from her preys upon many millions today. Look her up if you are so inclined, and let me know what you think.

 

 

 

 

Across the Ocean

I have made a strong statement with my last post, saying that I am not interested in politics. That stands for New Zealand. It’s too close here, too parochial, too immediate.

Right now there’s a flag referendum that a large segment of the country has condemned. They say it’s not a relevant issue. They say it’s disrespectful to history. There’s more important things to focus on. I yawn at my sneering countrymen (not being gender specific with that word). How unimaginative they are; how uninspired.

The fern flag is designed by committee, so of course it’s a camel. But it’s a better camel than the one with the union jack, so we should change. But I have been brought low by the politics here at home and I think it isn’t just me, part of the demographic opposing this flag change is taking the position because of that very feeling. They feel disenfranchised by the whole thing, and are critical of the government. In this way the flag debate does not inspire the intellects of these people.

So here is the problem with the would-be contrarians, they resist what they see as a collective jumping on the change band-wagon by jumping on the anti-change bandwagon. They aren’t contrarian, they are what Harold Rosenberg called the “herd of independent minds.”

I can’t stay tapped into this. So what political interest I still have I direct across the ocean to the USA, which is having the strangest election year since the American people voted for Al Gore and got President Bush. It’s easier on the spirit to watch from afar. So safe and secure. Cowardly? Well maybe, I would say more lazy. And every so often there is a moment where someone breaks through the firmament of crap to say something exquisite. I leave you with the latest spark of inspiration:

 

 

The podcast beacon is lit

 

So I am in the mood for change. I haven’t been updating my blog as regularly because I have not had anything to say. That is a disheartening position to be in, especially when words are your only pathway into the world. It is how many people connect, and I have worked hard these last few years to refine my skills at expressing and analysing through the written word.

Recently I have put up more poetry than prose. I hope that hasn’t alienated some of my viewers, but that is just the nature of poetry. I am not trying to be deep for affect, that is just what I have been interested in writing. The impulse that is driving me drives many others, and some to much loftier heights. It is the driving force of creativity. That thing that manifests anywhere in any form, and is the x-factor of intelligence.

I am a creative person, but there are many people whose creativity is different, more inspiring, and altogether more powerful. The musicians, the artists, the writers, the poets; they that are sometimes called bohemian. I want to talk to them.

If you haven’t listened to the clip above please do. It is a call for the creative people of this fine country (New Zealand) to get in touch, or for those that know creative people who wouldn’t object to having a long form conversation/discussion with me that I can record for my new podcast, get in touch.

This is a project that will be challenging and rewarding even if it fails, but it will not fail for lack of effort. Well, I’ve put it out now, let’s see if this can fly.