I’m a Deceiver (I Couldn’t Leave Her if I Tried)

My Father died November 1979. He was in his early eighties; I was twenty four. That was far far too soon for me. No chance to establish a relationship man to man… That and grief that for a short moment was overwhelming… elemental.
I thought that his passing would be a watershed moment for me. That the shock of it would stop me being such a self-centered prick intent on chasing beautiful women every chance I could. Of course it didn’t, and realizing I wouldn’t change was a source of disappointment and resignation. Hence…

I am a mortician of words.
All in white I prepare.
Side by side
they are carefully laid
sterile and anxious to avoid any
semblance of death.
A practice in deception
a test of belief.

Here are these bodies without grace
shed of imperfection
their burgundy of blood pumped away
Turned it seems to perfect clay
dignity restored
nobility robbed

No mystery or joy found in these pockets
no worn trousers shiny and sagging
veins filled with dye
no life
no life

We buried under Oak
on our shoulders the casket too light…
My father cast in unfamiliar ground
forever disturbed by the trains
that thunder past.

It seems I have learnt
– nothing.
Much has been promised in mourning
guilty faith whispered
and yet I am a deceiver still

There is a gap between the clouds and the plains.

I plan to meet in secret
a girl on the beach.

There is a spreading sickness
which has crept
insidious and insinuating into my bones.
Is this the thing that finally killed you?

I no longer take part.
I am a deceiver still.

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Donelle

The sun is out and strong,
strength in these pale hands
purposeful yet
as I make my way to the summer house

There are seedlings to check
nestled in Spring warmth
greening sun through cracked glass
black and fecund Waikato earth

Buried here are myths of long ago
I crouch and try to mould them back
with magic and clay and water
No power in these incantations
these strange shapes remain lifeless
and I am suddenly too weary
to caress them into resurrection

Perhaps I should pass over
enjoy the slow poison of this content
I have, after all, my present icons
and a vague testament
of you on that Bay of Plenty Beach
staring at the sea,
one hand deep in the pocket of your coat
the other holding back your hair
his dog, circling like some guilty comic

Gathering the remaining seeds
I quietly close the door
and in a moment of idle worship
sprinkle them to the sun
well aware of the dangers
of the forced baptism
and you face down in the water

This must be the double cross
God has asked us to bare.

1977/1981/1997

The End of a Small Career

I taught in Gisborne for a couple of years and this poem is a collection of vignettes over that period of time. Part tragedy …when tragedy is small and personal and devastating; part small town when you continually bump into people; when the deal at the local Supermarket is a big deal; when rituals of fish and chips and home brew on a Friday night provide the comfort one expects from ritual.
The perspective provided by the impossible fear of a young girl of her father… and finally the subtle loneliness of knowing you are leaving before you actually do.

Hair combed carefully
to hide a balding spot
Holding back the tears
while teaching Owen’s reportive technique.
At lunch he had learnt
his wife had left with an old friend.

Not so much an island

Advice on a lover lost
There’s a world of willing girls out there.
Secret telephone calls,
someone’s borrowed their brother’s car.
I will return my beloved
Every young dream comes true.

Never too late for the big laugh

Girls in their curls and boys on the stray
Main street with the action man.
Frustration blossoms on acned faces
waiting for the hackneyed phrases
Department store at closing time
thin hand in hand

Not so much an island

Everything slashed
closing down sale
Ten percent off regular prices
Absolute sell out
once yearly specials
Good fun in Supermarkets

Never too late for the big laugh

Husbands reveal their sins
striking an heavenly bargain.
Purgatory has moved her to another country
some think it bravery
others wait by the phone

Not so much an island

Held face down in folded print
Friday night’s dinner.
Rituals never broken
loyalty to the ‘Red Herring’
deserved in such a battered paradise

Never too late for the big laugh

A large blonde girl
knocks on the door of the upstairs apartment
She would like those inside
to join her for drinks.
Possibly some other time they think

Not so much an island

No peels of laughter here
Forgotten heroes water the lawns
Clint Eastwood
drilled through the heart with love
Rusting in dim garages
the great enforcer is untouched

Never too late for the big laugh

‘There’s a message for you, Laurie,
a young Maori girl left it.’
‘Please come and help me
I’m falling apart,
my old man still visits me
in the middle of the night’

Not so much an island

‘Well you see, Adam, I asked the preacher
to bless the car.
He talked to the salesman for hours
and then told me
he liked the car so much
he bought it himself’

Never too late for the big laugh

Middle aged and balding teachers,
new jerseys safe on Winter chests,
sit and chat about the ways and dangers
of getting their kids to mow their hilly sections.

Not so much an island

From the fridge hangs
the arm of a dead lettuce
Oblong patches of sun catch the crumbs on the table
Through the door an empty bed
that will be slept in again.
All is idle and content on a warm Winter’s afternoon.

Never too late
Never too late
for the big laugh.

October 1981

Flying Home

Where are the women of these men
Whose voices rattle with easy insults,
hands that flutter like ghosts

The women are waiting patiently
will always wait on men
who cough long and quietly
leaving clots of rose-bud clarity
on hospital handkerchiefs…

And I am flying home to you
hoping that marriage
is a cure for my illness

Shall I have another cigarette?
Yes?
No?
It doesn’t matter
This modern cancer creeps on regardless.

Aug 1980

The River Break – Whangamata

The River Break - Whangamata

 

 

 

 

 

And … as some sort of context for ‘Killers on Tour’, this was the top 10 f0r the first week of Jan, 1975:

January 4th 1975

1     2      2      Sha-La-La (Make me Happy) – Al Green
2    3      5      Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds – Elton John
3    1      1      How Long Has This Been Going on – Ace
4    5      8      Boogie on Reggae Woman – Stevie Wonder
5    9     12     Never Can Say Goodbye – Gloria Gaynor
6    7     10     Willie and the Hand Jive – Eric Clapton
7    14   17     Pick up the Pieces – Average White Band*
8   10   14     You Can Make me Dance, Sing or Anything – Rod Stewart and the Faces
9     4      4      Cat’s in the Cradle – Harry Chapin
10  15   20     Please Mr. Postman – Carpenters*

Killers on Tour

This was written in 1975 … as an 18 year old long haired tan and – I don’t mind admitting – lithe surfer dude.  We had piled in to ‘Laxo’s’ old Ford Prefect van, five of us including Laxo; Barnsey, Dave, Pricey and me.  The van had broken down going over the Auckland Harbour Bridge … and we had to get out and push it over the hump.  From there it was relatively clear sailing from Auckland to Whangamata – which if I recall had a few decent beach breaks and a really nice right hander that peeled away from the river mouth.  Mind you … this is going back sometime and I was not the bravest of surfers by any means.

It is a pretty magical place, though and this was around New Year … hot, salty, bare feet on hot sticky tar… sand in your sleeping bag.  That sort of magic.

We weren’t that tight as a group – but there are moments when everything aligns … sometimes those moments are fleeting… minutes.  This was one of those … dusk, a day in the surf… hot pavements and … striding through the town.

Have you ever seen Richard Ashcroft’s clip for ‘Bittersweet Symphony’?

That’s it.

Here’s the poem

Killers on Tour      

                                         
On beaches we wait,
around bonfires we sit
the way young boys do.

Through dusty beach roads
we drive
hoping to quench our thirsts…

Along sidewalks,
past movie theatres we stride
with the confident lope of killers.

We will wait forever
if necessary,
we have waited in towns
like this before,

nothing can touch us here.

April 1975

Gorgeous … lost …

For Shelly                                                                                               
I went to sleep
thinking about tonight
how we both kicked off our shoes
to dance the night away

and how I kissed you then
and you kissed me

The music stopped
and it seemed as though
I had always been your lover.

Sept 77

Julie 

I’m not sure
how I came to be in your bed
on that Saturday night.

Perhaps it was your unsteady hand
or the way
you pulled your red night gown
over your head.

As I made clever promises
you raised your fingers to your lips
then touched your breasts
stopping my
unnecessary pretence of love.

Not fooled by my need for explanation
you, apparently, needed nothing
except to make love
as if
your warmth was a wall

March 1976

Daryl’s Place; Thoughts on Gisborne.

Ok – so for an old bastard I’m pretty new at this … not so much the poetry thing … I’ve been banging on since I was seventeen about almost every aspect of love and the human condition … though I ground to a halt some years ago.  I blame the corporate machine, but that’s for later.

No – I’m new to ‘shipping’.  That is – getting something out there.

Heres’s the second piece.  Gisborne is a coastal town in Poverty Bay in New Zealand.  I had moved there in the early eighties as a teacher and fell in with the most wonderful bunch of degenerates and reprobates you could ever hope to spend time with.  DB, by the way was a pretty ordinary beer back in the day; Dominion Brewery is what it was.  Cut my drinking teeth on that and Lion Red.  Oh Dear.

The reprobates, led by a fellow teacher of Art at the local high school, were a great cure for a lonely boy even if the loneliness, of course, was my own silly fault as will become increasingly self-evident.

Daryl’s Place; Thoughts on Gisborne.

Thoughts of my friend (my enemy) fade to grey,
The slur of the windshield wiper
reminds me that winter is near.

A group of Maori girls
huddle for shelter outside the movie theatre
a wet Saturday afternoon
waiting for the two o’clocks to start

Two blue
eye shadow ladies
cross at the lights
Tight pair of jeans and a mini skirt
(fuck she must be cold, eh)
make a bee line for the ‘Old Boy’s Bar’

The road to the beach is slick
the wind blowing foamy from the sea
buffets my car.
Nestled between my knees
is a cold bottle of DB,
a drink to the Kaiti Leopards
rattling down the Coaster Sports – Line.

Later at a friend’s place we watch the sea
the Autumn sun struggles to our table,
glasses raised to toast an empty beach.
A decision must be made
on who drives to the pub

Keys are passed in a moment of silence
The fire hisses
a wave crashes…

This then is my new home                              This then is my new home
somewhere, to someone                                the warmth spreads in my veins
these people belong                                       and with it the thought
alone in the warmth of my car                       that at last to this place
I feel like that forgotten lover                          and these people I belong

So much has been lost
so much regained…
This, then, is my new home.

March – 1980

When boy meets girl … and boy gets what he deserves

Black and White (A shorty history of betrayal) 

  1.  Dreams.

Dreams, sometimes,

of flickering farewell airport scenes

and you turning

to say you’ll stay

and that you love me

anyway…

2.         A Premonition.                                                            3.         Black and White.

Pale as death in the shop window                                          Death is like love
my head aches from the dirty air,                                          a friend writes to me.
I imagine your legs wrapped                                                  Death and love rise,
around another man                                                                portentous,
and my stomach knots with fear                                            from the sea.

I am preparing.

This is nothing like death

for me.