To the poet Nigel Roberts in Sydney
Dear Nigel greetings from Dogshit City
these days my favourite line from Casablanca
isn’t ‘I was misinformed’ but
‘Round up the usual suspects.’
One of these days that ponga’s
going to take off like a helicopter
from a Saigon rooftop – when America gets its arse kicked
the rest of us better look out
I’m a usual suspect these days
when I get kicked I say ‘This isn’t anger
I saw the Marlboro Cowboy
in the Castro, San Francisco
he died of lung cancer – that’s far too neat
like lots of modern life, its irony
its taste in crisp cottons
‘finer & finer & more gutless’ as Alan Maddox says.
I like most of the women I know
but several of them want appealing deadshits
for lovers, and someone who cares at home
when I try for both at once
I can feel that smile sliding clear round my head
one day the trepanned scalp will fall off
like the decapitated eggs I serve the kids for breakfast.
I think my affections may survive
these spoons that dip into my head
but who wants another Breakfast Daddy
with a smile like runny yolk?
The shelves you built are still there
they have pots & pans on them
away, I didn’t miss them but I missed the paua
the smoked eels, the gooey crayfish bodies
cheap from Pacific Fisheries in Courtenay Place.
Many Americans have bums like sofas
& too many don’t eat food, it’s a consumer economy
they shovel down for breakfast
in Denny’s, the White Spot, or some other grosserie.
Who needs ‘just another meal’?
Around Berkeley the revolution has tenure
the fraternities of middle-class Reaganites
tank up on fizzy beer & bash queers with basebeall bats
the sororities have bulimia
vomit brought up by the system, guilt, ambition
& a puritan ethic which says tits that hold pencils underneath
don’t get a job with ITT.
Dismayed by ‘the pencil test’ I crossed to the Mission
busloads of tourists cruise the Castro
hoping to photograph an AIDS victim
or better still two holding hands.
At North Beach the bards were banging their heads together
like old gongs – I had a drink with Robert Creeley
in a bar & I saw Yoko Ono’s condominium
and I saw the Golden Gate
like a dream reaching for morning.
With the kids I’m building a raft
of empty sour cream containers
we’ll call it Sour Cream: Spirit of ’84.
I wasn’t here & now I am
writing postcards from paradise
a sense of order corroded from within
where some lapdog barks at the real world
it took me years to find
& now I begin to revolve like a beacon
in the midst of dangers, to keep ‘in touch.’
A man gesticulates in a window
a grin of ‘pure’ joy slipping to ingratiation
could almost be me signalling
the endless potential of a meeting
cold beers & hangovers
and ‘round up the usual suspects.’
from Tendering (Auckland UP, 1988). 19-20.
© Ian Wedde