Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Tuesday Poem: "On Children and Mothers"

Your fervent hopes that I write
“something about children”
is a mother’s nature revealed.
By their selfless love
they second their lives to those of their children.
To write of children is to write of mothers.

Five years of life stares down
through coal buttons of mischief and wonders,
Are these groggy, surly people
really in control of the world out there?
The world of five is bound by a desire
for no boundaries,
to be with the big people,
but there are compensations for masks
and early bedtimes: shielded
from the jags and gouges of a world
outside Transformers, morning TV, Bubble-O-Bills,
kindergarten Picassos and a mother’s love.

Six months of life
represents the investment of a lot of breast milk
as he gurgles in his bouncer
throwing a curve ball smile
through his rusk-besmirched mouth.
His perimeters are smaller than his brother’s,
wind and tears and the succour of the breast
while the faces of giants fill his vision
and huge hands lift him skyward.

And always there is mother,
balancing her day with theirs,
shepherding, nurturing, cajoling them
towards that, over which she has no control:
the future.

In 1986, I was staying for a couple of weeks with my cousin and his wife in Sydney en route to Perth. Their two sons described in this poem are now fine, young adults, forging their way in the world.

The poet wishes to acknowledge One Luv Art Promotion, the publishers of the book, Mother and Child Vibration Heart exhibition, in which this poem first appeared.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Tuesday Poem: "Orakawa Bay"

Like a world untouched
it lies below me.
sporting a pohutukawa hairstyle,
and beneath this
the angular straw-coloured features
taper to the full, aristocratic watery mouth.

Beneath an unburnished steel sky,
rolling with the punches
of a silken sea,
am I, one man,
escaping the madness for awhile.

Many years ago, I lived at Waihi Beach at the bottom of the Coromandel Peninsula. At the northern end of the beach was a walking track that led over to Orakawa Bay. At that time, Orakawa Bay could only be accessed by walking a reasonable distance through the bush and the bay lay like a reward at the end of the journey. I hope this is still the case.

The poet wishes to acknowledge The Press in whose pages this poem first appeared.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Tuesday Poem: "Strange Peace"

The wet nightmorning.
Lights of empty shops
faking impregnable security.
Occasional passing car
shiftworkers or
hidden dawn missions
going Godknowswhere in the
hissswish of tyres on
the black dappled road.
This sudden trigger swinging
open a memory door
long shut falling
like a shaft of light in the
cathedral of 4 a.m. St Kilda
open 24 hours to the
prayers of vice.
In my tram conductor uniform
a brown incongruity moving past a
flashing backdrop of sleaze
Fitzroy Street acrawl with junkies
whores and winos
cockroaches scuttling in the cruel chill of the
nether time.
That strange peace between night and day
before polite society comes out to play.

The poet wishes to acknowledge The Press in whose pages this poem first appeared.

While wandering around the interweb one day, I stumbled upon a make-your-own-movie-from-text website (what can't they do with technology these days?). Not long after, I was intrigued by one of Mary McCallum's poems where she had set it to an animation created through this same website, xtranormal. If the reader wishes to see an animation of the poem above (albeit a clumsy one) go to the link below:


Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Tuesday Poem: "Malacca Club, 6 July 1993"

“Over a century old” proclaimed the sign over the bar.
The Tamil barman's charcoal hands move with a grace
that their largeness belies
as he prepares a tray of drinks for some Chinese customers
sitting in the shade of the conical, thatched roof
which the Malays call atap.
Was this once a comfortable refuge of the Raj,
rubber planters rubbing shoulders with
East India Company office johnnies,
all pukka sahib under their pith helmets
listening to the soothing chink
of ice cubes in their Singapore Slings?
No one will give me its history. Unsure or unwilling?
History for them starts with Merdeka, independence.
A lot of pink has disappeared from the world map now
and soon Australia will have its Merdeka,
a day when we admit our ties with Asia
are stronger than the weak sunset of European empires.
I swim in the concrete-sided pool, but feel
the soft mud and sand of the Malacca Straits
ooze between my toes.
Surrounded by smiling Chinese faces, I glide
through the muddy sea water, secretly holding out hope
for harmony
in the new world we are creating.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Going (Oil) cap in hand to the predators

I heard something this morning on the radio news that got me positively apoplectic!

Grey Wolf, a Chinese-backed energy exploration company, plans to explore for oil in the waters of Golden Bay. And another Texas-based company is planning to explore for oil in the offshore waters of Taranaki and Canterbury.

What is this: New Zealand up for sale? Does the quest for money so blind the government that they don’t think it through? If we have a scenario like the Gulf oil spill, we will cripple our economy not enhance it. The Gulf oil spill had a devastating effect on the local economies of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, but America is a huge country with a large economy which could absorb this economic body blow without being KO’ed.

New Zealand would be screwed, plain and simple. We couldn’t afford to fund a recovery operation of that scale and one of our biggest earners of overseas funds, tourism, would be shattered, well and truly.

I couldn’t believe the arrogance of the CEO of Grey Wolf (predatory name, predatory nature?). He said we needed their money in order not to become an economic basket case. If the iwi and others wouldn’t play ball, they’d take their economic bat and ball and go off somewhere else in a tantrum. Well, good luck to him! I say: “Go, bugger off! We don’t want your filthy oil money. We want tourism and sustainable, renewable energy resources. You are getting desperate, dirty oil man, and you need to drill deeper and more dangerously.”

Well, hello, we live in a country of seismic instability. Did Grey Wolf and Hekia (Aunty Tom) Parata think about that one?

It makes my blood boil! Let Hekia know, we won’t be “royalty” screwed by Big Oil!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Tuesday Poem: "Friday Night Babel"

like a felled tree
I am showing my age
but counting the rings
is a different game when
you are long past the innocence

my fingers wrapped around a cold stem
when they would rather be tangled
in the forest of tresses that
bounce and swish and shimmy past
in a plethora of cocktail dresses

Friday night Babel
stallions and mares
growing hoarse in conversation
pressing like a perfumed wave
against the glittering bar
where many a hope has been dashed

strip away the comedy of manners
to its raw and primal engine
the seething sexual search of pheromones
looking for a home

if we were honest with ourselves
we'd rather be home with our feet up
and a nice cup of Earl Grey

I wrote this poem after separating from my first wife and returning to my homeland after an absence of nine years. I was 38 and I had not been on the dating/courting scene since my early twenties so it was all very strange and discombobulating. I very soon re-discovered something I had known all along: for a large number of reasons, bars are not good places to try and establish a relationship.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Work fascinates me, I'd could watch it for hours

There has been rather a torrid exchange of letters in the New Zealand Listener around the issue of NZ Super and eligibility. We have had self-employed letter writers moaning and being righteous and employed people kicking back against that high-mindedness.

Which got me thinking about work and its place in our Western, developed, industrialised societies.

I am currently a house parent (stay-at-home parent...fill in appropriate title here) with some self-employment as an actor and writer thrown in. When people ask me what I do and I tell them that I am, in the main, the parent with the main childcare responsibilities, they often look at me aghast. As you would probably expect, I usually have more understanding responses from women.

Work has come to define us. When did this happen? Are you any better a person if you are a lawyer as opposed to a road worker? Right now, I'm pretty enamoured of road-workers. They are putting our streets back the way they were and they are working long hours to do it. But that is by the by because you could be a wife-beating lawyer or you could be a Proust-reading plumber or anything in between.

I like what Martin Luther King said in his famous "I have a dream" speech. He wanted his children judged, not by the colour of their skin, but by the nature of their characters.

Many of us, less enlightened than Martin Luther King, do judge. We judge by race, we judge by cars and houses and we judge by occupation. If I drive a truck, I'm pretty stupid and I drink beer and watch crap TV. If I'm a lawyer or accountant, I drink fine wines, have a high IQ and watch arthouse movies. NOT!!!

I've met truck drivers who read poetry at truckstops and lawyers who like to unwind in front of Wipeout, either the US, UK or Australian versions. So don't buy into stereotypes, folks.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not down on work, per se. I'm not advocating some massive shift to a global slacker culture, but work has to be meaningful to people I think. People who are lucky enough to find that passion that drives their career path are lucky indeed. I think it was Confucius who said: "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."

But how do we address a society shaped by the Industrial Revolution that demands consumerism, that demands goods and services to whiz around the globe? In turn, that demands that many people all around the world work in menial, low-paid jobs which offer only drudgery not personal satisfaction, tedium not advancement, inertia not aspiration. Think of the workers in foreign call centres, or all the Nike workers in Malaysia and Indonesia that made less money when all their incomes were combined than Michael Jordan got paid to advertise Nike Air Jordans. To me, this does not represent the dignity of labour.

So the next time you are at a party or some other social function, drinking your FairTrade espresso and nibbling on FairTrade chocolate (it gives you a warm glow, knowing your consumerism is not driving Third World workers into abject poverty), don't ask that man or woman that you are introduced to by the host or hostess: "So, what do you do?" Instead perhaps ask them: "Have you read any interesting books lately or seen any inspiring films?" or "What are your thoughts on Libya?" or even, "So, what is it that gets you out of bed in the morning?"