Selected Shorter Poems 4 (1997-1998)

Shorter Poems: 4


  1. Mavis [n.d.]
  2. Day From Under A Lillypilly [n.d.]
  3. Last Night At Poetry Live [1/5/97]
  4. Comfort Stop [5/5/97]
  5. Passing On [5/5/97]
  6. ‘The nothing, not pure nothing, left over …’ [5/5/97]
  7. Ornebius aperta (new-settled from Australia) [21/5/97]
  8. Letter to Lorine (Niedecker) [21/5/97]
  9. Twice Shy [21/5/97]
  10. Villas in Milton Street [6/6/97]
  11. A Letter from Elise [24/6/97]
  12. Mary's Yard [24/6/97]
  13. A Question At The End Of The Line [11/9/97]
  14. The Lady Meets The New Land [11/9/97]
  15. Death [30/9/97]
  16. Precinct [30/9/97]
  17. Epithalamion (for Anna and Richard, 14.6.97) [12/6/97]
  18. By Touch [10/10/97]
  19. To Live In A Cave [31/10/97]
  20. rustling / says Jack ... (Spin 31 (1998): 31) [31/10/97]
  21. An Artichoke In The White Garden At Gledswood [25/11/97]
  22. On hot spring nights ... [27/11/97]
  23. On The Way [27/11/97]
  24. Small Change [27/11/97]
  25. If I Were a Tree [27/11/97]
  26. The Tent [31/12/97]
  27. This ... [31/12/97]
  28. Last Lost [31/12/97]
  29. Her Grand-son’s Son [n.d.]
  30. If I don’t get my words out ... [12/2/98]
  31. At A Time Of Sickness [12/2/98]
  32. Birthday [17/3/98]
  33. The Other Half [17/3/98]
  34. Bivouac [17/3/98]
  35. Independence Day [31/3/98]
  36. Thelymitra pulchella [16/4/98]
  37. Death In A Tower Block [16/4/98]
  38. At Night [16/4/98]
  39. Liturgy (for Miriel) [16/4/98]



I had an aunt
who had an affair
with a visiting Chinese violinist

She died
giving birth

to my cousin
who found herself uneasily placed
in a world
that doesn't want puzzles

so she married

an engineer
from Peru
and lives in Lima

learning to be rich
and speak Spanish

and how to make her children monocultural



Day From Under A Lillypilly

if you can summon the kindness
the sky

Night and day
it blazes
light and a circular horizon
that holds no softness
but heat and stars
in a cruel face featureless
as a fascist intent
on doing the job
with fire
or suffocation



Last Night At Poetry Live

Rene sang like a

Rene sang like a

Rene sang like a trou

a troubador
to break the evening up

a one-legged rastafarian
with crutches and white wings
and danced in front of his
patched-up eyes

Fuck off
Sout yelled
Go home
you invalid

This is his home
they said
you're invalid

The world's my home
Sout said
Asians are the chosen ones
Java's where it's at

I've won
whooped Raewyn out at the road
I've won over all
I'm top

I'm a good man
said Paul
Have some more wine

I'm leaving
said Judy
there's too much testosterone
around here



Comfort Stop

When I ring Telecom
for Faults,
or other Useful Things
I make myself
a mug of tea
with sugar.

Then I find my slowest book –
the one I keep for meditative times.

I butter up some crackers,
plug in the telephone beside the bed,

Take off my boots,
cottonwool my ears,

And take my place in Priority Queue,
stretched and chilled and blessed

Way over any devices
communicators may devise.



Passing On

where he walks
puffs of vapour follow on
like smoke-rings

or little ghosts
molecules of soul
clouds of him

by particle
his procreative energy

and making him accountable
to God



The nothing, not pure nothing, left over is not a matter of
"recencies", but a matter of pasts, maybe pasties

Louis Zukofsy, preface
'An Objectivist Anthology'

I want to use this sentence, to put it into
everybody's head, on walls where the
'Desiderata' used to be, but it mixes up
my mind and makes my eyes ache; all I
can do is to write down whatever comes
to my pen for I am angry and confused
altogether and can't make the sense of
it, though I know it's a joke and clever.
It's very clever to have a not pure no­
thing left over. And it's clever to make a
past a pastie, as, perhaps, a post becomes
a postie, to be on familiar and diminutive
terms with sense; but it might be that Zu
is telling us that beyond the limits of our
understanding there is nothing, and a not
pure nothing at that.



Ornebius aperta
(new-settled from

I step outside
and before I know it
somebody is standing
in front of me talking

of the house they took
away last night and
the cars they had to
move to move

the sleep they
lost and the people who
should have been

or were there
when they shouldn't

the noise of the machinery

and things like that

But I hear crickets
in my sleep
close at hand and real

integuments of nature
from over the ditch

in the hedges
things keep moving

there's no crisis

we can all get along like this
and do nothing

or move in the open
set fire to the world



Letter to Lorine (Niedecker)

There are some words that I don’t know.
Creosote is clear –
I’ve used it,
but gestalte’s not defined in my mind.
Sex is too small a word for the work it does,
(semantic could be used).
Conceptual’s not here nor there.
Fascist’s so good it doesn’t matter what it means,
and chauvinist is weird.
Mango sometimes describes a breast
(though when it does it strains my mind ).
Urbane is a secret hypocrisy,
the reverse of ingenuous, someone said
who’s not as good as a dictionary.
Circumspect’s something you see in the round,
like a splat.

You use small words like hiss and pianoforte,
bird-dung boom and Darwin.
I love you, Lorine.
You wash in the river you live by.


(Sport 19: Lightworks (Spring 1997): 46-48.)


Twice Shy

in the swamp standing
guard of a life
stick still

in case
an angel with a trumpet
flies across
or with a vial
of wrath

and makes
a ripple in the pond
or rustles so
a raupo leaf
is lost

both legs one
in attendance
one in response to
a rustling world
of wrath

in case
a day changes
or seasons switch
at faster step

or time permits
a stop


(Sport 19: Lightworks (Spring 1997): 46-48.)


Villas in Milton Street

There should be music as well
as this high colour
of persimmon, poinsettia,
and yellow hibiscus at gingerbread doors.

Something in the sky,
a sunset, or a dust-storm
or smoke from Australia,
to signal an epiphany like this,

To tell a casual startled eye
that here is some exotica,
an untried exuberance
flung along the falling road.

a bright begonia border,
fresh , as Barry’s Point in spring,

set in our sight,
lined orderly,
baubels on a Christmas bough,
with dark interiors

like soft chocolates.



A Letter from Elise

Ah well,
Such is Life.

At night I did the ironing
and wrote a thank-you letter

Wednesday was shopping
but Mum couldn't come with me

Oh, on Monday our friend Madge
collected Mum in the morning and
took her into A & E to have her plaster off

Thursday was more shopping in Te Atatu
and our pine slabs arrived

On Friday Mum and Madge and I
all went out to tea. W e were late to bed

On Saturday we were up early
and I put the washing in

The Bon Brush man came and
fitted the brush on the unit

I bought some more soap pellets

Brian rang up with the quote
for the curtains at the flat

Then Jocelyn rang up to say
the picture was ready

I was so glad I'd done
the vacuuming on Friday

After lunch and the dishes
I started on the woodshed

then I did the vegies for dinner

Jocelyn rang again

In the morning I have to get up
early for the morning teas at church

Then I'll take some broccoli
over to Jocelyn's Mum

We have lots
I'm thrilled with it

it really was a super weekend

On Tuesday it was work
in the evening

I did the ironing
and finished a letter

Oh! We washed Mum's hair on Monday
she’s blasé about it now

Today I rang the plumber
about some new taps for the bath

And Brian rang again
about the curtains

The quote was pricey
and really knocked us up

Now I'm writing
Mum's made muffins
We're out of chocolate chips

I do hope the weather
lets me stack wood tomorrow

Yes, I did stack wood all day

In the evening I made up
Mum's marmalade mix
and it set – of course!

On Friday we shopped early
bought the meat
a new water filter cartridge filter filler
a new battery for Mum's little torch
and the magazines

Oh and 20 rubbish bags

We ran out of time

On Saturday we got up early
and Mum did her own bed

The chores were done by lunchtime

Tonight I'll do the ironing
but I'm stopping now

More anon

I don't know how I find the time
to get this up to date

On Tuesday I stacked more wood
and banged my leg on a knotty bit

I killed some snails
in the watering can

I also did the ironing
and polished the car with Colortone

Then I washed Mum's hair
and watered the garden

This morning Mum fell and
got stuck in the wardrobe again

Then Madge came round
we had a good yaka

and we killed some more snails

Then we got the beetroot up
and did it in the pressure cooker

I gave some to Pam

We've had huge caterpillars
on our swan plants

It was supposed to rain
but never did

Mum's making muffins

When she's finished
I'll put her in the shower



Mary's Yard

Your yard
a small domain

with paw-paw
and fig

shade of jade
in rain

and the punga
a wind-turned

think big
to savannah
with trees
a track to tramp

or small
to the dawn of an idea
not entered yet



A Question At The End Of The Line

These days

They drag like spilled words
hurtful as idle accusations

Are they numbered
fixed in any way

Or are they being born
at some set source

Is there risk of running out

do they wear

And if so
can they be repaired

Is there machinery for this in nature

Like the renewal of the sea
the building of clouds

Do they breed

It's a trouble

When I get tired
or ill
or age too much

That the world is running down
And not just the world

I don't think I can talk about it



The Lady Meets The New Land

She knits

as alligators bubble
bitterns boom
and egrets balance on elephants’ backs

she knits
she knows

mind serpentine
as ridging on
the intricate cloth
she knits

her wits

she knows
the snarl the yelp the roar

what flies above
what crawls below
the aboriginal shore

she knits and knots as

she sits
on a chair
on the deck
of the boat
up the mud-and-mangrove river

and weaves
jungle leaves and cones and thorns
to patterned forms
of home


(Poetry NZ 17 (1998): 59.)



Look for something in reverse

A red road
that trails into grass

A river
diminishing downstream

A day
that climaxes to quiet

Prepare a lessening trend

And put aside
the calendar of gain

Choose time

new space

And prospect
for a backward land




If there is a place
that God might visit
it is the R.S.A.

where Virtues meet

the Old Ones

in buildings like churches
and other eucharistic places
to eat and drink
on carpets of camomile
red poppies
and flags

here they talk
(hear them)
in words of fifty years disuse
about the salvation of the world
by sacrifice
and military rank

heroes' talk
old stuff
God stuff

She comes
and gets a drink at the bar
to listen

pleased, she says
Look at this new thing I've made
It's Good

(she has a bias
to history)




(for Anna and Richard, 14.6.97)

Today, the world's their wedding
and we assistants at it,
to celebrate their step to household time,

To lay foundations, frames,
and roof support,
paths and passages and porch,
rooms and rudiments and floors.

Sheltered in the frame of love,
walled by tenderness and care,
fed from Anna's garden rows,
by Richard balanced and refined,
we pray this house will gain
in strength of heart and mind.

So established, houses grow
as ours have done,
from one to two to more.
Both Kyle and Jarvis started small
and multiplied by natural lore
from one to two to three or more.

Remember, both, to stop and think:
houses grow and houses shrink.
The company once held is gone,
the passages seem cold and long
and only you are left,
the two of you again.
The house is clear of toys
and clean the shelves –
then look into each other's eyes
and see – yourselves.



By Touch

at a house
in the country

is the sound of running
on the roof

a sky of smoke
so low it smells
of burning

a parliament
of birds
in the tree
at lunch

outside the front door

leaves down

and worry
at the leak in the pantry roof
at puddles on the drive
when the children come from school

and for wood enough

in at the fire



To Live In A Cave

I don't intend to change
my mind
nor any other part
and will go there
though you object
and show
a tear
and say ‘The Silence!
in the dark
– like that’

at least I’ll see the stars

which you've not seen

since we began
to talk of them



says Jack
and tentative

is the wind

that blows

over dead hills
on the Manukau



An Artichoke In The White Garden At Gledswood

Jocelyn did

in front of the promise
she cut

the long green stem three times
she cut
the sharp bits of the bracts on the head
she cut
the head
and removed the choke
she blanched
and seasoned with salt &c
and cooked
bouquet garni with wine over a brisk heat
with nutmeg
with demi-glace sauce
she chopped
she did

under the vine
in the sun
she cut

she blanched



On hot spring nights
we go bathing

and come out again
smelling sulphurous

the others don't like
the smell and shower

but I do and pull
on my clothes with

out drying to catch
the dampness which

I like
it's natural

and springs from the
heart of thermal regions

I never send them
to the cleaners



On The Way

a smell of drizzle
misted by the sun
to steam

and first bread
for Sunday shoppers

on the crumbled wall

flowers in sparse bunches
on the stall
outside the shop
chrysanthemums in pots
and (always) long-stemmed rose

cooking in the cafes
bacon (brown)
and bacon (crisp)
drifts to distances
to other cafes other corners
tea-shops cakes and coffees

but mine
the light of the sun shines through
puff cloud from the sea
the city patched
in moving light below

the red the blue and other parts
seem white

in the light

to me



Small Change

Jane and Sandy
left the town
and took a place out west
to rest

a paddock
with a house
a horse
a granny-flat
for workshop space

a dog
for peace

Sandy went on trucking
Jane did help

at Parent Aid
Auxiliary Wings of various sorts
and Threads

the kids are grown
at work in town

Sandy goes on trucking

usual stops
usual routes

Jane does help

the dog digs ditches on the lawn
the horse gets loose



If I Were a Tree

Again it’s summer

Some blow trumpets
some ring bells
but I would chatter triumph
in the air

and fill my leaves with cicadas
to sing

of sun

to comfort you
and silence you
to drift your thoughts
to me

I would reproduce
all along this bank

and you would sit
in the shade
of my parts

and watch the traffic on the stream –
the fish, as they dance for flies
the boats, with merchandise



The Tent

A single drop of artifice
to mitigate the force
of nature’s wild weather

an angle of desire
in the snow
by the lake

cliffs and mountains
ice high black

that the chaos it defines
is made stolidity

and comforts us
who want solitude
at an altitude
of a permanent posture of defence

against the tramping thoughts
that use these tracks

and keep the shores
of lakes
and boulder-driven creeks

in a rush to reception

some sort of sea
or reservoir

for city use
where rain alone is insufficient
to live by
if it comes with wind

where another source for life
than that above
is stored below



is not good enough

snow lies long
in summer it's too hot at night
teeth hurt
eyes ache
and neighbours keep odd hours

a lot of things could change for the better

like this wind
that blows from a cold sea
too often
and too cold

and you my dear
who must not age
nor be sick anymore

we must shift
to a safer place
out of the common way

between the weather
and the spoken word

where change builds up forever
but goes elsewhere



Last Lost

when all is done
my greatest grief –

the sound of you
is gone

no word
or admonition

or endearment fond

no impress
on the air

nor echo

no shadow
of displacement

mystique spun

today is just today –
you’re not around



Her Grand-Son’s Son


When you found out
who she was
it affected you

I could see

Life’s like that –
these family ramifications
like and unlike

and your love of cooking

but you can’t be held responsible
for the sort of genetic recipe
that’s left you

and a chef

You’ve sprung from another mix

It’s judging in a vacuum now
ex nihilo
lost in a mass of reference
no invoice for advice

Should you bare your soul
to me

or a substitute’s

some artiste’s –
near as good?


Remember though
that life’s a joint agreement

you can’t spend
all your time in the kitchen

you’ve got to come out
like everyone else

and say Hey this is
me I’m the one

who’s always cooked on cue
you can’t take that away

from me, say
as it’s baked so it shall endure

say the secret’s in the butter
melt it say, with thyme

say, with sage


Meet me Mama when I do
and rescue me from
introspective interviews
culinary dodgers who
will want to write me up
research me for a T.V. show

scald me
so I lose a skin

pass pastry-scented messages
of prurient import

Ask your friends
see what they think
they go cooking

you’ll get some good advice like
one swallow doesn’t make a sufficiency

Say –
I want to be a man of words
the Word a man to me

Stuff the receipts



If I don’t get my words out
they hang around
like the local rag
and get in the way

(last year’s leaves
old snow
dust of the past
and letters)



At A Time Of Sickness

they come
most days
at different times

and sit
like aquifers
for refreshment

to wash
parched hours

of the gift they bear



over-running well of words monologue

that would be better sold

in bags
at a spring fair

to ensure against





Every Year
on this day:-

the Apple tree goes green
the Cherry pink
the Persimmon bursts the bud
the Paw-Paw puts an embryo leaf
the Mamaku unfurls
the Daphne:-
it’s You.



The Other Half

In my dream

you are


no other shape
your space


you are

a place

(now you are gone)

for later incarnation

for new




By a small stream
near the spring

the water’s new
the sound is fresh

there’s air
in it

the sound
is sharp

the light so clear
you could die
in it

the floating
the flowers
the moss

are part of
the breath
of it



Independence Day

I can’t get away
from you

That you’ve died
is true

space contained

you’re alive
all over theplace

in the book
in the bed
in the T.V.

in the superette
for milk

in my head

some times -

that you’redead



Thelymitra pulchella


some flowers
that grow round here
don’t show to the sun

they fold in tight
and ( by some inner mechanism)
reproduce themselves

like I might
(who live round here)
in quiet creativity
mature unseen

and leave my seed
like orchid dust to you



Death In A Tower Block


on a wet night
it rains forever

each car wash
a sea on a shore

to explore
when the sun comes up

for you
once more



At Night

I’ve seen

You step from the clock
when the hands point
to the darkest hour.

From the corner of the room
with the drapes
and the draught.

I’ve seen you rise
from the back of the chair
like an antimacassar.

And as nightmare,
from the bed.

Do none of this
when you come for me.

Call at a comfortable hour,

with company.




(for Miriel)

your wrists
to watch
at knife
and fork

the turn
of the bone
so delicate

and your throat
as you take
the morsel

so silent
a sublimation


of labour

to the simple task


Found in Filebox 2

© Leicester Kyle Literary Estate, 2012

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