L o v e ,  W a r   a n d   L a s t   T h i n g s
   n z e p c


Robert Sullivan   (b. 1967)



Robert Sullivan



Five poems from ‘City of Martyrs / Citta Martire’


Waiata VIII. Abbey River

I hear her sniffing back tears
Cassino's river.


Waiata X

The bible in Maori translates the word 'psalm' as 'waiata';
while it is not advisable to do this, when one splits the word
into its components (the late Dr. Miria Simpson did this with place names
while we drove to Hastings together) then it means 'slow water'.


Waiata XXIV

So now in deference to the Psalmist, old Rawiri,
I call but there can be no response

I call to my relations whose blood is in the soil here

I call to their wairua and praise them

I sing and greet them in singing as they would have sung
in return

I sing to my grandfather and his brothers

I sing to the Allied bombs and the German gunners

I sing to the city of martyrs

I sing of Kupe at the train station
and his children dragging themselves to safety
along the railway tracks, self-tourniqueted legs
to the safety of the padre’s benedictions

I sing of the children and mothers and fathers of Cassino

and the children and mothers and fathers of Germany

I sing of crying that never releases the ache
for no words come to explain the ache here

I sing to Italians Germans Poles French Canadians Americans
British Gurkhas Indians New Zealanders and the finally broken Gustav line

and I name them as Kupe named me

Recorded 2008 by Robert Sullivan in Honolulu.


XXXIV. Rawiri/David 

for the late Hone Tuwhare

I returned to Florence still on my own.
Sunday morning at the Accademia seated
next to David, writing into the tapa:

amazing or as Tuwhare said of Hotere:
speechless/euchred/eclipsed. David’s enlarged
hand which killed a giant holds the stone by his right

thigh. I cannot believe in the hair up top
or down below, but veins in his arms,
creases in his belly button, nipples and strength

I believe in. Even his testicles wield
believable sacks—like rocks ready to be thrown.
Pow! He stands next to a phallic stump. His belly

juts with mana: Michelangelo’s strut post-haka.
The thighs fetch slightly chubby hints
of a boy whose knees wear youthful caps.

Yet visitors play with the digital David next to
the real one. His ribs are visible on his left—
I count five—but don’t see any on his right

except muscle. Adam? After moving I see one
on the right. His face shows intent but also
a reflected fear cut there facing Goliath.

The forehead slightly creases, eyebrows furrow.
Again the cheeks get chubby. He holds
the sling strap like a microphone to his closed

mouth. Sinews in that hand ridge like
a scallop shell for a Venus. The veins
from his stone holding hand run all

the way up his right arm to
the neck. From here the strap looks
like a regal sash—his only clothing

which slips down his back. From the right
there’s no fear in the face—just rugged
courage. I can only admire him.


Waiata VII

Like many tourists I have drunk San Gimignano's famous vino bianco
(the name begins with “v”)--it's lovely, beginning with a sweetness
that ends surprisingly like drinking the flight of the bee.


Recorded 2008 by Robert Sullivan in Honolulu.




Last updated 12 June, 2008