new zealand electronic poetry centre


 Capital of  the minimal
I a i n   L o n i e

(for Bill Sewell)

The air will do something to our skin: burn it
and make us young again. We have arrived
and deployed along the lakeshore a variety of things
each with its special use. The slender children
with special needs poise on the edge of boredom
like archaic statues, inscribing with one toe
a question in the sand. How blue the sky
how green the forest! The light of paradise
makes every leaf particular: the number of things
in the world is finite, and each one of us
has his god-given talent. The great cliffs smile down
and guarantee our happiness.

                                                Guidebooks describe
the water here as ‘pristine’: that means free
from imported sludges, but the headland hides
a burial ground where dark roots twist among bones
assembled from three continents. Anyone who arrives
may claim this as his own: two women
who got here first now furiously repack
their rusted Campavan, but the waves
of immigration beating upon the shore
can’t be stopped: already an armada
of powerboats is drawn up along the beach
sharp prows in the air. The air is loud
with transistorized warcries: before the day is out
a head will be bloodied on black obsidian.

Noon shimmers, and a smoke of cooking curls
along the shore. The Brownian motion
of human particles is stilled by an artist
recording it at her easel. We shall be viewed
in the halls of some mid-century exhibition
picturesque and anonymous at our point of passage.

Someone calls for sausages. Grasping a spear
a sharkskinned diver lectures his gaping audience
on the typology of tits. This is exile –
being among people one will never understand
however smooth the trunks of trees, renewed
endlessly in the green water, however blue the sky.

Over there on the sand that pale-skinned couple
regard us attentively, as if we might have met
in another country, and exchanged words
heavy with the silt of meaning. But look:
the sun dips and the lake is waiting for us:
where are the thorns on which we must hang our skins?

[WWAM, VUP, 1991]


© The Estate of Iain Lonie 2004


Last updated 13 August, 2004