Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Issue 9

Special New Zealand Issue

"Pacific Fish"
Copyright © 2002 by Pauline Johns of Pablos Art Studio

Peter Olds
Meg Campbell
Kirin Cerise
Simon Lewis
Graham Bishop
Mahinarangi Tocker

We would like to thank the following for making this special issue possible: Graham Bishop, Lyndsay Brock and Kirin Cerise, Meg Campbell, Janet Charman, Andrew Ferguson, Paula Harris of Street Women's Press, Pauline Johns and Fiona Elwood of Pablos Art Studio, Julie Leibrich, Simon Lewis, Peter Olds, Mark Pirie, Trevor Reeves, Mahinarangi Tocker; and, Julie T. Chan for editorial assistance.

Peter Olds

The Party
       (with broken guitar)

At first you don't notice it among
the furnishings & potplants half hidden
in a darker part of the room
the broken guitar
its neck bent
strings curled round its head
almost shameful in an otherwise cheerful room

people drinking beer
watching TV
taking little notice of arrivals and departures
clinking glasses on teeth for sound effect
& in the hallway a small stereo tapping quietly
    by a bedroom door
no one paying attention to the broken guitar

At first you don't notice the urge to smash glass
the floor crowded with spinning bottles
the coffee-table slippery with wet light
the walls sucked in like toothless mouths

flopped in a beanchair
the lights switched off
a candlestub spluttering for effect
it suddenly hits you like something you can't
    find words for
& you reach for the guitar & start strumming
& singing
like mad

A Poetry Reading at Kaka Point


We went for a walk
on the dark beach

ship's lights like crab's fires
far off
under low cloud

embers as big as ships


In the waxlit cafe
a poetry reading is taking place

a local bard is spouting
salt water

flying fish poems
wind poems
mellow explanations between humming poems

(a thin woman presses her
oyster eyes
to a fisherman's lips)

plates of asparagus
as big as flaxblades


We went for a walk
on the dark beach
& looked back at the watery window
of the cafe

a seal moved like a window dresser
arranging feathers
for visiting penguins

the roar of the sea drowned
all words but those of the sea


Peeing is not allowed
near water

I found a spot in shingle
behind the surf club & let go

a car's headlights
caught a drunk body
turning over in wet sand

no one to talk to
no one to talk to


We walked back to the cafe & helped ourselves
to asparagus rolls
the poetry reading had ended

people were smoking & drifting about
a penguin was running its feathers
through the window dresser's hair

two people were dancing to a 60s tune
without bumping
their bodies like bottles
their tongues like corks

the host was pouring wine like water
laughing & wheezing
words dripping through the ceiling


We drive home in silence
wrapped in feathery embers
away from the gathering water

headlights on flaxblades
as big as asparagus rolls

Lunch outside the Therapy Room

It's hard to think properly
when people are talking loudly
outside the therapy room
& cars are revving up & down
the street, their drivers
(I imagine) passionately
looking for something (or someone?) --
or maybe they're envious of the lunchers
on the hospital lawn cramming whole
meat sandwiches down
their gullets & guzzling coke
in the midday sun
browning their arms & legs & looking
smart in white shirts & ties
wiggling toes on sockless feet...
     It's hard to think clearly
when thinking of money
& what I would do or
not do if I ever got
my paws on enough of it. Maybe
I envy those grim folk with
their perfect hairdos & controlled
lives bouncing up & down
the tree-lined street
in their shiny new
unattached motorcars,
never having to tell their secrets
to anyone
never having to get out of their cars
to clean their windshields,
gloveboxes full of dark glasses & money.


a circus comes to town
on the back of a train
of hot ash & red paint,
& soon the big paddock

is full of poles greasy
pigs & generators
shouting caged men
running up & down ropes

nimbly tugging at canvas flaps
the smell of fresh grass
trampled ground sweet smelly
dung mixed with hay steaming

out of a body looking
like something
someone would eat,
buckets of water

& a chain around a leg
attached to a thick steel peg
belted into the ground
with hand clapping

& thunder clapping
& pink faces looking up
into a meshed sun
following a bale of hay

into a large mouth
hanging on the end
of a lump of thick rope --
& now

the head takes a bow,
after ten buckets of water &
two bales of hay (relying
on memory & improvisation)

& with a pointed stick
up its arse the elephant
is down on one knee &
then the other

there's a gasp, will he roll
over in the sawdust &
crush the woman in the pink

will he stand on one leg &
go round like sycamore seed?
will he spray water over

his hairy back & into
the dark bank of faces
just for a laugh?
the pinhole eyes

look frantic
(almost mad)
someone wants something fast
over there,

the body lumbers in the direction
of the pointed stick
mounts a small star painted
box till all its feet

cover the skimpy top
& its arse pokes out
like a giant fig
& the skin wrinkles till it can't

wrinkle anymore, like a
pile of ash in a harsh light
or a long red train
on a hot night

Peter Olds was born in 1944 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Had a play Loose Boards & Seagulls produced by Patric Carey at the Globe Theatre, Dunedin, 1967; was a patient at Cherry Farm Mental Hospital, 1968-9; followed James K Baxter to Jerusalem, 1970; read The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Basho, and took up meditation. His publications include Beethoven's Guitar (Caveman Press, 1980), After Looking for Broadway (One Eyed Press, 1985), and Music Therapy (Earl of Seacliff, 2001). He was Robert Burns Fellow at Otago University, 1978. Currently working on Selected Poems (1972-1986). He lives in Dunedin.

Peter Olds Meg Campbell Kirin Cerise Simon Lewis Graham Bishop Mahinarangi Tocker

Meg Campbell

Dear Couch Potato

Two thousand years sitting

at the right hand of God!

and before that, who knows

how long? From before

the Earth was formed you were

there at His right hand!

What about sending her back?

She was once the most real

most brutal of critics. She loved

with a tribal love, and doubted

with a collective dislike.

I was too quirky by far,

for her taste. But, as a curiosity,

I was an important friend.

Now I pour love and horror

at your boney feet and pinch

your gown between my roughened

fingers. Your blue eyes narrow.

Execution, courtesy of Television

Never mind. The murderer

must pay for his crimes.

Now is the hour, the moment

of execution, and final helplessness.

We search his face for panic.

How could he be so calm

Is he sedated? Can he feel

no apprehension? The button

is pushed. A gleam

of intelligence departs on queue.

Heat, steam and water

leave his body. Relatives

of his victim notice, satisfied,

that he has wet his pants.

A rigid shape is weeping

(watch his face, his hands)

weeping to let go -- to be

transported beyond dread.

It's disgusting. ... we

are all murderers.

The Goose Girl

Anything that distracts us

flicking the eye away from the central image --

a hair across a leaf,

a golden apple dropped

a rolling to a stop --
it is here I have

learnt to turn sorrow to advantage. Imbalance

or madness I've learned to love

as preparation for chaos.

A neat world can trap you
in the need for order.

Meg Campbell: I published my first book of poems in 1980 when I was 43, after many admissions to psychiatric care in a big mental hospital. Perhaps I received my most valuable education there. For the past 23 years I have lived happily in the everyday world, being now properly diagnosed and taking the correct medication.

Peter Olds Meg Campbell Kirin Cerise Simon Lewis Graham Bishop Mahinarangi Tocker

Kirin Cerise

genius II

let loose the
sound of

watch his face
as he curls it
up into
a smile

watch his ruffled
watch him ride
his bike around
the house
watch him
explain in intricate
detail the
possibility of the
probable curve that the
pot lid
will take
when he
wings it across
the yard

chasing his
like a bird
after the


a ripple of bird
from the wallpaper
in this room...

your arm
relaxing behind me
the trunk of a tree
I hug with such

what I have found

a jewel
a bright stone
a hand forever
entwining with mine.

Kirin Cerise died in October 2000 at the age of 32. She suffered from bi-polar disorder. She held degrees in literature and design, and spoke 5 languages. Her passion for poetry and art had led to a desire for involvement in the field of art therapy. Her greatest ambition though was for the simplest things. She just wanted someone to love, a home, and time to write and paint. Most of all, she wanted to be well.

Peter Olds Meg Campbell Kirin Cerise Simon Lewis Graham Bishop Mahinarangi Tocker

Simon Lewis

Our Emotions

things haven't been so great since then.
I was literally at your feet,
from each end of the bed
we regarded each other.

After intimacy, what privacy,
we can last this long.

Rolf Harris Was Here

Australia is a country. Australia is a country
of waterholes and visions. The Kiwi bludges
a cigarette off two aboriginal men

in the winter night train. Which way is it
travelling? Australia's different enough.

In a paddock, a horse snorts and stops.

The Kiwi can see a city across the harbour.
This is a land, after all, of spaces,

filling him in. He flies from the Powerhouse
along the city streets, Pitt, George, stands
to gaze up at the clouds dancing.
The heat here on the turf.
The Kiwi sleeps beside a wall, beside
a suburb as wealthy as Heaven.

But he doesn't stop there, he glides
along a street of gas stations.
He sleeps, dreams, under a power pole.
The George River runs past the artillery range,
a helicopter or two buzzes the old farmhouse.
It is either fire or water, here.
The man in the desert dreams
of the man in Antarctica.

A Little Play

It was all intent
as if a cat stalking a bird.
The poem would fly away--surely not.
The poem wanted to get caught
that time.

for Patsy Nevill

Simon Lewis is 49 and has been publishing since 1976. Once upon a time a Statistics NZ clerk, he lives in a Mental Health halfway house in Auckland, New Zealand.

Peter Olds Meg Campbell Kirin Cerise Simon Lewis Graham Bishop Mahinarangi Tocker

Graham Bishop

The Last Moa (Dinornis nomoris)
Dedicated to Dr Bruce Spittle, the last of the Moahunters

The first time that we met the bird
we were camping by a secret lake
when at midnight came the most dreadful cry
I ever heard
In the morning tracks there were in the sand
We took our photos but stilled our tongues
lest they thought us mad
and it's nice to have some mysteries left in life

At Arcadia, in the shadow of Red Mountain
we heard the fearsome cry once more
to find next day that our beer was gone
and the primus fuel was drunk
as happened in the Dredgeburn
the year before

We saw the bird next morning
standing underneath a waterfall
Big feet, brown hairy legs, plumage blue top and lower
and grey on top, with whiskers around it's beak
more like an aging kiwi than a moa
It carried a young one upside down
as a backward possum might,
but certainly looked sharp enough to read and write
We put it in my backpack
but its feet and neck stuck out and it soon escaped
to be decapitated by the chopper coming in to land

In its death throes the giant bird let forth an egg
which shattered into a thousand pieces
We laid it reverently to rest alongside its mighty mother,
in a swamp near a pyramid-shaped hill
where one day a fossicker will dig
and in time the bird will stand, tallest in the land
proudly under the summer sky
in the City of the Plains

Stand tall,
Apteryx spittlei
Dinornis nomoris

Role Play

We were wondering
who enjoyed it most
the sly taste of slipping together
and could we swap sides to share the other role
I wouldn't swap it for anything
you said

But now you have exchanged it for nothing

[On receipt of yet another "I am sorry" letter]

The Editor Regrets

Thankyou for submitting your poem
Unfortunately I cannot use it at this time
or any other time
so douse that glimmer of hope
It is unclear how I acquired
my right of divine decision
It is safer to be standfast than new
and push rising bubbles back into the murky depths
Excuse me
I find pulling the wings off flies
sharpens my judgment

Graham Bishop was a leading mountaineer and geologist. He has now retired and divides his time between walking, writing and wondering. His fourth book, Poles Apart is an autobiographical assemblage of poetry and prose. He is currently working on a biography of Alexander Mckay (1841-1917), another geologist who wrote poetry.

Peter Olds Meg Campbell Kirin Cerise Simon Lewis Graham Bishop Mahinarangi Tocker

Mahinarangi Tocker

Supper with Irena

'do you want another?
'cos I don't want to go yet
I think there's a coat in the car
if you're cold.'

it's cool summer
in ponsonby cafes
we are tabled on stones
where walk the couples

men with men
in talks that look tight
and walk that smoothes
the footpath

early january
late night
wine and coffee
to whet the tummy grumble
cake and cream
to guilt the thought fumble

i like you
i love you
she shares with me
her smile
and for a second
there is no one here
but us

Dedicated to Richard T

February 3rd
Tamaki Makaurau

take my eyes patterned
against your blue
i watch you dance the strings
so, dance the strings like you do
break a heart
but take it
to a new sound
kind man of Celtic breath
the soul
is rested

Saturday evening
Auckland autumn calling

play another & sing one more
we're listening
laugh some more & talk us
into believing

you take those parts
that have ached me cold
where ice sticks
and sing them into summer

a friend for a day
a memory for a lifetime

A Poem For You

i'm sitting here in this loud bird
this bird with no song
this bird-like waka
in this
this rumble of strangers
going to a sameness
where only our hearts are different
until i am landed
and i see more changes
and walk a different fear
and see a different colour
and breathe a different voice

my tears fall further
than she who watches amused
i know she wants to ask
but i won't tell
i cannot

i have nothing to say
even to myself
what is there left between right and wrong
fear and desire
when everything untouched screams to be held

i walk beneath a sun
but i am burnt in a darkness
i have not planned to understand
nor should i

and so i never shall

i will miss you without yelling
i will miss you without talking
i will miss you without you even knowing

*waka - a traditional Maori canoe

Mahinarangi Tocker is an acclaimed singer-songwriter. She was the first Maori woman invited to perform at the Vancouver Folk Festival, and has worked with international artists such as Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Clannad, Tracy Chapman, Shawn Colvin, and Richard Thompson. Her first book of poetry, Lyrics without melody, published by Street Women's Press was released in March 2001. She is one of the several artists who took part in the destigmatisation of mental illness in a television ad campaign in New Zealand called Like Minds, Like Mine.She is completing a collection of short stories.

Peter Olds Meg Campbell Kirin Cerise Simon Lewis Graham Bishop Mahinarangi Tocker