Sunday, July 02, 2006

Ben Kemp


The sound of a piano is ringing through this ocean,
4 simple notes along side,
They are tied together by the fisherman’s knot,
With the ends neatly clipped,

The tide is low, shallow in this sink,
The shoulder of the coast is no longer submerged,
My belly rested on the seabed,
I have not the strength to ask, but I am listening…

The piece of music is biological,
An algorithm with an end,
4 primary colours on a palette that is the arm of the painter,
I am your brush…

The bed upon which my belly rests is warm,
Finer than feathers…
A casket around my body, but no dark hole…

Gentle hands & a rocking chair,
        &From their palms the same 4 notes,
        But not a piano…
        A gut string guitar…
        Handed down through 4 generations,
“Infant, girl, woman & grandmother”

The branches of my whakapapa are being clipped,
With secateurs,
& Musical instruments, unfretted,
My carcass is made up of leaves that fall in spring

How far have I travelled?
The miles have collapsed, but the seawater is made up of tuku tuku panels,
Navigating our way through the whare,
I am inside…

She is wailing, weaving freshly picked flax between the 4 notes,
My ears tell me she is beautiful…
For there is no seam in her voice…
I drink…         But my vessel is almost dry,

We are one tree, one body…
Fed by the same root & connected by the same fisherman’s knot,
I am my brothers & sisters & they are me…

My skin is growing cold, dry,
Spilling a glass of clear oil that is swallowed up by the sand,
        The oil is the mystery of consciousness,
        An undefined quantity that now runs through their fingers,
I did not ask, but I am grateful for their help…

I have never seen without the lens of seawater,
The undulation of the ocean is like a pulse,
I have fallen…         but the music has not died for the instrument is now a bamboo flute,
               & a child…

My mother is near me, but she is dead now,
dissolving into the tuku tuku panels,

They are crying for what has been spilt,
& they will cry for me too…

Gentle hands, & the rocking chair, carved from the finest tree,
Crafted by the most gifted of makers…

I did not ask…         & you came…

I can see into…

1.        The song of a bird,
           rested in branches,
           laden with blossoms & his cleans words,

2.        The closet with broken doors,
           an oak groan,
           from the old man within the wood,

3.        the clouds,
           passing overheard on their way
           to what I imagine,

4.        Your thoughts,
           guiding your hand through
           the prickly bush to the clay,

5.        The grimace,
           rubbing rusted nails between the
           palms of my hands…

6.        love,
           the silence inside the apple,
           still swelling on the tree,

7.        the guitar,
           sitting in the corner,
           a landscape waiting to get out,

8.        tears,
           the tributaries leading to the sea,
           godliness & a newborn baby,

9.        gaps between concrete constructs,
           brothers on either side,
           embalmed in caskets of man-made stone,

10.      the crossing,
           onward into the sun,
           birds on my back,

           & all this space…            that listens to me.

I need not build a bridge,

High over tree tops, heads & eyes looking upward,
The wind swift through the branches,
Cascading molecules, impatient & bitter,

I need not dig this tunnel,

Connecting light to light,
Through solid darkness with knuckles like dead men,
           So sweet is death I hope,
           The earth is my saviour, my mama I know,
The shovel, your angry words I now realise are mine,

I need not light the match,

All the iridescence I need is amongst the pines, the hills,
the tongues of those that wag like dogs tails,
           the words that tender my…     soul, the heels beneath my ankles,
           the love that ‘cotton wools’ our sleep together,

I need not hammer nails,

Because the walls were fashioned by lovers, saints, grandfather,
Maori’s, rugby players, golfers, painters, fishermen, piano player & a missionary,
           The hammer is not mine,
           & nails are foreign to me, rusting in seawater,
           in the presence of love,

I need not carry river stones from the river,

For there they belong,
Sleek blades of grass in my hand,
taken from the rivers edge, over hung banks & eels beneath,
River stones, river stone, a grey heart in a cradle of green,

I need not squint toward clouds,
If I lay down,
the peripheries may join,
the influx of white,
swallowed up by the waterfall, feet in the warmer fringes,

I need not stare, the palms of my hands,

The grained flesh from my ancestors,
my rounded shoulders & the way my voice inflects,
the tail at the end of my thoughts,

I need…
I need…
I need…

I need a temple to dwell,
One monk,
A bird that sings,
A blanket of many colours,     & a wider conscience of pure air.

Ben Kemp is a published poet. He was invited to read at New Zealand
Poetry Day as one of two emerging poets.

He first went to Japan as a 23 year old, having completed a degree in
Marketing and Computer Science at Otago University. Living for two and
a half years in Tokyo, Ben spent much time absorbing traditional art
and culture, and discovering his passion for kabuki theatre and
Japanese literature. On return to the North Island, Ben discovered a
special mentor-student relationship with Rowley Habib, one of New
Zealand’s pre-eminent Maori writers, all the while maintaining his
connections with Japan. It was at this point that Ben’s creative work
anchored itself. Responding to a magnetic pull back to Japan, Ben
returned to Tokyo in 2002.

With no music contacts in Japan, Ben played on the street in Shimo
Kitazawa, one of the more Bohemian areas of Tokyo well known for its
vibrant music scene. He soon met up with talented musician Koyu Suzuki
and the duo began performing around Tokyo. In just over one year, Ben
and Koyu have played at some of Tokyo’s most prestigious live venues,
including The Cerulean Tower’s JZ Brat and Kichijioji’s Mandala2.

Ben Kemp's debut album A River’s Mouth was released in March 2005, and
was launched in New Zealand with a two-week tour. He backed this up in
February 2006 with the creation of Papatu Road, an album that
beautifully represents Ben’s concept of creating a unique Polyn-Asian
sound. The result is a breathtaking blend of tunes that will soothe and
haunt you, thanks to Ben’s ethereal voice and poetic lyrics.

Ben Kemp and his band have just returned from a National tour of New
Zealand, during which Papatu Road received critical acclaim from New
Zealand National Radio, Radio Australia, Radio Pacific and NZ Musician

Christopher Kelen Ben Kemp Christopher Barnes Kenji Siratori


Tasha Klein said...

these poems are beautiful. so glad i took the time to stop by.

mpworkman said...

These poems are mathematically graceful and gently cathartic. I love them.