new zealand electronic poetry centre


Alan Brunton


The man with the silver flute

in memory -- Alan Brunton
Two years ago you told me how you’d stalled
While flying
Came hurtling
Winded, flat
Smack against an empty stage
In Island Bay
Fractured in the skull
I did not know how to speak to you
Because I no longer wrote poetry
And you could have been on something
Strong enough to choke your engine
Or you might have made a literal slip
And ended up in traction.
Our son Ian remembers when
You once soft-footed
Over to the house we rented
Lee Street
Nineteen seventy-five
Hefting a silver flute
Loaded to the lip with
Green music, hieroglyphics, sage.
You wore a navy pinstripe coat
Black jeans, a Herald-coloured shirt
Gear that Clockwork Burgess claimed
You had to check in for a suit and tie.
Then this Heylen guy turned up
Nodded Yes and No to all our questions
Tossed in his poll opinions as
Malt-voiced  you and Wedde
Recited twenty different brands of whisky
Jamesons, John Stroller’s Dew,  Glen Campbell
Laughing Ague, Great Bells of Eden, 
Dusky Wren.

And now you’ve slid again without our knowing
Through summer’s gaping air in Holland
Broken in the heart
Unutterably stilled.
I do not
Say these things 
Without stumbling --  

In Morgan Street,
Past midnight more than thirty years ago
You asked a favour:

Take me to Hamilton, Harry

While you were eating peaches from a can.
I stayed in bed with Jean.
You quick red 
Old friend, foxy mole
Sleek with burning life --  

Jumped over
And beyond.

Russell Haley
Oamaru, August 2002

Craccum 43.8 (1969): 1. 'Nude Theatre Comes to Auckland? Almost, but not quite.
Alan Brunton (left) and Russell Haley perform to Francis Pongé's "An extract of Soap",
read impromptu by a member of the audience. The venue was a full University Hall, 
Sunday night, for Homage to Dada, the conclusion of a successful Mini-Arts Festival.'
Photo Philip Laird


He walked in on me
at half-past three. 
I was living in an attic.
I'd never seen him before.
Later, he was a friend.
He threw his hands at the wall,
two green hands.
After a few minutes of ventilation,
he demanded a cup, & then:
‘Words! Give me words!’
The moon that shone on us 
shone also on Viet Nam.
He talked about his cat 
‘It's quite a cat.’
It was an English cat,
a diapasonic cat.
It covered the whole range of catness.
We arranged to meet outside the library
at 4.30 the next day.
I missed the gig.
‘Too bad,’ he said.
He was a friend by then.
That night I walked in on him,
I climbed in through the window.
He knelt on the floor
holding chalks & writing;
his wife was reading a book
& he was writing the words 
that appealed to him.
He said his favourite word was 'theriac'. 
I offered him 'delict'.
When he stood up,
I saw he was 
wearing his cat like a shirt,
tucked into his pants.
‘Ahem’ he apologised.
I said ‘Christ
I'm sorry I came in your window.’
He invited me to share an apple
which he cut, as usual, beautifully,
into thirteen equal parts.
I asked him why his hands were green.
‘An old war wound,’ he snapped,
snapping a piece of chalk between his fingers
with a powerful thrust,
making moon dust.
Beneath that same moon in Viet Nam
soldiers threw rice grains on to a table
then slapped down their hands.
The number of grains that stuck
to their palms was  
they'd say tomorrow
the number of gooks they'd killed.
We looked back over
the miraculous year.
‘Jack Kerouac died,’ I said.
‘Jack,’ he moaned.
‘Sam Beckett won the Nobel Prize.’
We were going nowhere.
‘How tall was Jesus?’
‘Jesus was not a tall man,
a shade under 5 feet 4 inches.’
‘How many times was he scourged?’
‘Jesus was beaten 98 times 
while bent over
a low pillar by 2 soldiers
using 3-pronged whips
tipped with lamb's & dog's bones.’
His coat was hanging
with his wife's coat on one nail
next to a reproduction
of Rousseau's cat.
We arranged to meet downtown
at the matinee of Belle de Jour.
Yuri Gagarin was dead too, aged 34.
Lurber's age. I was younger than that then.

from: NOTEBOOK: 1970 (unpublished)


Alan Brunton, Years Ago Today: Language & Performance, 1969 (Bumper Books, 1997), 51.



Last updated 05 December, 2002