“Clothes-tag Life Lessons”

I picked a random tag for jeans

and used it as a bookmark.

It was only days later,

the story almost over,

that I noticed what it said:

 

DELICATE YARN

Due to the delicate nature

of this yarn we ask

that you treat and handle

this item with care.

 

I started laughing in the bus.

Life is so delicious

when you look a little closer

and notice all the fine print

in the chaos caused by choice.

 

The tag fits much more

than jeans and books though,

for we are the sum of stories

we tell about ourselves,

presenting the illusion of plot.

 

It’s why I love to read;

words can bring us

to the delicacies of others

and there is no greater gift

than such a door unto the soul.

 

Except, perhaps, a pair of jeans –

it all depends on taste.

“Rainy Days”

There’s a certain slant of light

that breaks the wistful

gloom of Wellington

on a windy Autumn day

and illuminates a book

on love and beauty,

casting playful shadows

over the lined pages as

trees dance to the

gusts of words blown

over whole continents

by the miracle of writing,

reaching from her

to me to you

in the time it takes

for another cloud to climb

the mountains to my left

and obscure the sun again:

constant blue skies would

also bore us to tears.

“For Joan”

My grandma returned

to tell me one last story

about how she met

the man she loved,

how it depended on

the weather, her dress,

how she looked at him

and he at her.

 

It was a story of

love and contingency,

the thousand factors

which added up

to this unlikely life:

but for her dress and

the clouds overhead,

I would not exist.

 

She sat right there,

just beside me,

like she used to

when I was a child.

I remember every detail,

but have no idea

what it all meant –

it was just a good story.

 

Maybe we do not need

to moralise or seek

the meaning of it all,

maybe life is best lived

listening to good stories;

stories about the weather

and what she wore

and how they fell in love.

“Coppélia”

There is a story told

by a twirling ballerina

pirouetting to the music

of a forgotten age with

not a single word.

 

A whole world painted

by graceful movement,

emotion in motion as

she spins over and over,

her skirt stretching out

 

over my imagination

as she leaps and is lifted

to fly beyond the scripted

characters scribbled by

my stilted pen strokes.

 

Words do not match

the flow of her hand,

the pain in her face,

the hint of joy whispered

by her high-flying dress.

 

But look closer and

you will see the toll

telling her story takes;

the bowed legs and

carefully bound feet.

 

We must both squeeze

a whole life through

a single spinning point

and it wears us down,

this search for beauty.

 

Hers is a story told by

the sculpted body and you

can see the marks it leaves,

mine is told by the mind;

it is my sanity it cleaves.

 

But the woods are

lovely, dark and deep,

the dance is mesmerising

and though I weep,

the ballerina leaps on:

 

for there is yet beauty

and we must keep on,

my ballerina and I, to find it

lose it and find it again

before we sleep.

“Duna Library”

In dreams I return to

where my writing grew:

a dilapidated library and

a disorderly circle of chairs

filled by people completely

different to me.

 

I dream of the cadences

of a language I do not know,

with clicks and rhymes

that carried my mind

to a picture of a land

unknown by privilege.

 

I dream of kindness

and community beyond

the borders of a township

on a hill as the sun set,

catching a wave of cloud

with a thousand colours.

 

Because of that old library

with hardly any books and

only a small circle of poets,

instead of the black and

white of ages past,

I dream in sunset colours.

“On Journeys”

I’ve spent days travelling to

beautiful places, holy mountains,

looking for sacred thoughts

to cleanse my poetry

like the crystal spring

gurgling rapidly over river rocks

left strewn by the ages.

I have found nothing.

 

Nothing to convince you

to read my words,

to convince critics that

this is actually poetry,

to convince myself that

I might one day make it

in a web which has already

caught too much truth.

 

But it only takes a moment

of quiet reflection to realise

that everyone from Plutarch

to Seneca to Milton to Thoreau

to the cheap modern gurus of

actualisation and mindfulness

knows that it is really the

journey inwards which counts.

 

For it is there where we

find the magic to change

our world with words.

I am happy with a little

node of this chaotic net,

finding it to be a road leading

me nowhere in particular,

everywhere at once.

“What is Good Poetry?”

Is it using words which rhyme,

or equally-footed lines?

Is it subscribing to form

or breaking from the norm?

Is it grand and noble thought

from experience dearly bought?

Is it the clever use of iambs

so people know we once were?

 

Or is it the curling wave,

the butterfly’s wing,

the stolen kiss and

the faces we miss?

A frosty morning passed

mending a neighbour’s wall

or travelling the unworn path,

hoping, praying not to fall?

 

I do not know,

but this morning I woke

in a town which the sun

rises on first in the world,

watching the clouds part

as the Eastern sky lit up.

What does poetry say other than

‘I am here. I am awake to it all’?

“Rotorua Dreaming”

I met two Englishmen

travelling the world with

stories of carnivals and camping

unrivalled by my wildest imagination

and I fell for a German girl

who kissed like nothing I’ve known.

I befriended a Dane who decided

to travel the planet indefinitely,

a marine biologist turned scuba instructor

and an Oxford graduate who had

never heard that song about his comma.

 

I drank with a Canadian who

walked to the shops in flip-flops

when it was minus forty out,

apologising when I spilt my drink,

and another German who kept

buying me beer – my pleas getting

lost in translation and golden bubbles.

All in a volcanic town exploding

with stories and sulphur,

oratory and olfactory sensation

bursting forth from boiling geysers.

 

There is a whole world out there,

people and places never thought of,

conversations never considered,

kisses uncaptured by fantasy.

Words can barely explore an

experience so infused with colour

that it matches the steaming

orange-green-yellow-blue-red

mineral pools of Wai-O-Tapu,

drawn from deep in the Earth,

from dreams deep in my soul.

“Magic”

“The syntactical nature of reality, the real secret of magic, is that the world is made of words. And if you know the words the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish” — Terence McKenna

 

In the fantasy books of childhood

magic was all about the names

of things, people, elements.

When I stopped believing,

Alexander Supertramp still

spoke to me, calling each

by its true name,

dying in his search

due to mistaken identity.

 

Few are brave enough

to go into the wild

of their own construction.

We must all perish

in those uncharted

places of soul,

but some find their magic bus

left tidy by fellow travellers.

 

This is the goal of life;

to come to a reckoning

with what is,

live in that moment

and extend it to

find eternity in an hour;

just enough time to write

the words of the world

as we find them:

 

“Happiness only real when shared” — Christopher McCandless

 

The real magic is that

words are the spells which

we use to share our world,

momentary bridges to more than me.

The world is not really made of words,

but find the right ones and

you can share your version.

That is a magic worth knowing.

“Tell and Show”

“Know it and go on out the yard. Go on.”

— Beloved by Toni Morrison

 

Life slips away

in headaches and worries

which clutter what is write.

A sad song sings

of lovers lost,

friendships foregone

in the Friday night lights

of heady existence.

 

Sometimes it seems so long,

those years stretching to

lives unlived,

characters waiting in

the backstage of my dreams;

some happy, some sad,

some good, some evil.

As ever, the show goes on.