Tuesday, October 01, 2002

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

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