When you announced from the backdoor
it was dinnertime, I was in translation,
holed up in the no man's land, a coffin's length wide,
between the garage and the fence,
drinking the kind of drink that improves
with a glass or two and (more to the point,
being a 'non-smoker') smoking a rollie.
My other ear was getting an earbashing
from the milkman's inane jingle Greensleeves
which was holding to ransom the whole suburb.
In the incidental silence which overlapped
like tiny estuarine waves, I was tuning in
to the song of snails, the murmur of air
like a river / river like air, the rattle of dog collar
as through the fence Marshall scratched his side;
sounds in other cultures of air.
When the clatter of choppingboard-on-bench
arrived from the kitchen, I was lost inside
the pulse inside my temple, everything erased
by the smooth undersides of the walnut tree,
the pittosporum leaves, which only recently
had found a place in my heart – There's always
been a place in our heart for you, they chorused
in a soundless whisper that seemed to echo
from the origin of the universe, lifting their skirts,
so to speak, and cha-cha-cha-ing sideways,
just as there's always been a place in yours for us.
Where the sun's grace fell through a chink
in the palings, the retinas of rainwater on young
honeysuckle leaves and I eyed each other.
The next moment, not surprisingly, was altogether
different from the one that had gone before
and which had promised so much, confronting me
with obsolete folding doors, surplus spouting,
tannalised offcuts, cannibalised bikes, a forsaken
homebrew barrel, the distance of neighbours.
If only I'd played my cards right, I whimpered,
and snuggled up to opportunities, rather than
shrugging them off – the story of my life, etc. etc.
Hard on the heels of which line of thought came this,
namely, that in the cold hard world of contingency
perhaps Judas is the real hero, caught as he was
between the rock and hard place of the question
whether to believe. After all, some days you can't
understand how anybody could think otherwise;
other days, how you could have thought that yourself.
Having determined to let whatever came to pass
play its hand, I glimpsed my father's face
sizing me up from the bottom of the glass.
From Lazy Wind Poems (Auckland: AUP, 2003)
© Graham Lindsay