the inside story
What's poetry about? ask the poets, chancing their arms,
sidling up to the question as to a pickup at a bar,
positioning themselves (conduits, siphons) side-on
to distance themselves from their enquiry – for,
having dispensed with themselves, the words when they come
will be the nearest things to the things themselves,
or so they suppose. The words have other ideas,
being as indifferent to meaning as matter to black holes.
They regard the rails, risk going off them.
Air drops into their lungs and retires to the world.
Looking tips into seeing, much as a pair of scales tips
when sufficient material has been poured into one pan
to overbalance the weight in the other. Meanwhile,
out front in the lead canoe, bearing down upon rapids –
sharp air off dimpled water, sand-terraced, algae-discoloured –
the lead poet turns to read in his pursuers' faces
what lies ahead. Sees there a glow where light
touches their brows with divine madness.
Looks then north into sunny air, out over the dirty green surface,
the body of his biro, to where a black ship floats,
its multi-coloured lobes backgrounded by the black of space.
In group formation then they paddle through waist-high sun,
seedheads popping all about (image, the magic image),
knowing they have only to turn and look back up to see
where they’re from. They peer into the hole,
enter and become immobilised in the act of reversing
the cursive at the bottom of a descender. They dissolve,
resolve, float to the surface, emerge from the cavity
under their overturned boats to feel the sun
on their thinning scalps and the backs of their hands.
The bronze tongue of a waterlilly also comes up for air.
Gazing toward the south-east horizon at the sparsely
vegetated slopes of the extinct volcano, it finally
dawns on them where they are: on a plain hemmed in
by roads and playing fields and the carbon dumps of parks,
under a sky cut off by rooves and tree lines.
Here they consolidate their downcast empires.
Alone in the lonely dark rooms of their heads
they consider their options. One is to say:
nice to have some. Another: it’s been nice knowing you.
They bid farewell to the flowers, whereupon,
the flowers startle to life (is that really the time?)
They stare down the barrel, guts clenched, at the mercy
of rain and night winds, in two islands,
with nowhere to go, no place to hide, no option but to
persist, to give up and carry on; to face the slow
ball, the yorker, the quicker ball, the bouncer.
In the letterbox is a shaft of sunlight.
From Lazy Wind Poems (Auckland: AUP, 2003)
© Graham Lindsay