new zealand electronic poetry centre
  

David Howard

3rd Birthday
 
 


Video: Real Media (Dial-Up / Broadband)


The Held Air  

             in memory of Reginald William Howard 1928-2003

 

1              

                                                           Spin
                                             through the hour
                              where everything knows
               everything: the Pacific
plied by definitions you let loose
like shells thrown by a boy (well hello)
               who’ll sleep ‘the sleep of the dead’
                              beneath a creased coat
                                             that won’t fit
                                                           now.

                                                           How
                                             your body’s
                              a reminiscence:
               you’re a deckhand untwisting
until your sheets slip that dream, language -
or, a poor sailor, you soil your bunk
               on T.S. Vindicatrix
                              and miss the gull’s call,
                                             the mainsail’s
                                                           pull.


2

Youth: a greasy keel
stuck in the mud-flats as the sun
sets late on a late Curnow poem. Dad,

you never read it. Instead you
missed the bloody spinnaker
unfurling in front of the world,

the curt breeze picking up
those has-beens who were best friends
when, one more pretty boy

chancing a tattoed arm, you
stroked the moon home in a row-boat
‘borrowed’ from the girlfriend’s parents’ shed.

By losing her you would lose
your hope, your tenderness towards women,
your desire for fatherhood.

You add: ‘And the tide. And the sky.’

3

While it rains the tiles remain dry.
Nothing will nourish this terrain, nothing
compensate day for night’s hostile takeover.

Even my lover, Kim, drinks dark beer -
the ring of her glass marks your tabletop, Father.
I can’t feel your initials underneath.

Your memory is a splinter working itself
out of wherever ‘under’ is; I guess
neither surface nor depth are measurable

without you. Your carpenter’s tape extended
the length of my childhood. Read, then
retracted, it wore out the pocket of your jacket.


4               Dear Dad

Happy birthday. I hope
you’re OK. There’s snow
expected yet, like your smile,
it’s otherwise occupied.
Your gumboots are heavy
with yesterday’s mud, when
I measured the boundary
in order to buy more wire –

that fence is for tomorrow.
It would be good  
to have your hands
correcting the tension
then. But I must be
going on, like this, alone.

(‘ Dear Dad’was part of Glenn Heenan's exhibition 'More Than Looking' at Te Tuhi Gallery in Pakuranga, August 2004)

 

 

© David Howard 2004


 
   

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Last updated 15 December, 2004