new zealand electronic poetry centre

Michael Harlow

online works


Operation Identification’

When he arrives
the fine scent of almonds;
on his lips a small tattoo of sound
The plumes of his pocket handkerchief
are almost a wonder
I can see he has signed on
for the trip, but has something else
in mind : a buff-coloured ticket
with a number, and a name,
2 eye-size coins

Peeling off his gloves
he tells me it is a fine evening;
and look, the first moon a nail of light
What a fetish he makes of the mirror
where, after all, he discovers
himself : rearranging the snap-brim
of his hat. Such habits of attention
are a swarm; he hums into my ear
warns me to say goodbye,
and quietly

And yes, there is something
he would like to show me, he says
brushing my sleeve inside the mirror;
something quick like the hard-talking
blade of an axe we can hear
driving chips of flesh-coloured wood
high into the air. Of course
he has a plan for the century;
he understands the subtleties
of surrender : with one long glance
he clears the mirror.

From Vlaminck’s Tie (Auckland/Oxford UP, 1985)
Michael Harlow

Last updated 24 March, 2005