new zealand electronic poetry centre


Rob Jackaman

Fugacity 05
Online Poetry Anthology




The ungodly are as chaff the wind
drives away in the nor’-west        bluster
but has God
                     forgotten his own          country
empty scree you might read    full of skulls?
After I stopped             moving
                                                    I looked
at photos instead               and watched the tsunami
on TV.   See, Lord— the coffins are for
tourists: the local dead
                                        left to the mercy
of the elements.   The calendar showed me high
mountain tussock converted to a paper
transaction: the snow lying knee deep at Cass
scarcely chilled at all while Lake Sarah
brooded             prettily
                                         on my shelf where even icy
rain was newsprint dribbling tenuously under
control down the slopes.

                                          If the scene is set
cold and unforgiving
                                    —so be it: the psalms a code
hardly to be
                                    broken in this lifetime
(Higgaion.   Selah.) no faithfulness in the mouth the
throat               an open
                                      sepulchre trying to make
music of sorts: killing          indiscriminately after all
not the conduct             of a civilised people
(or deity).   I read of green pastures
                                                             green pastures but
the harp makes an empty twang when you
                                                                           throw it down.  


                 “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy water-spouts:
            all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.”  
                                    —David, Psalm 42.

Such (it appears) are the uses               of adversity.   I
note that flies settle on me more often now: the good
book advises Remove yourself                from the occasion
of sin — sound thinking, true (though red wine
and porno movies
                               remain                        a temptation in an
otherwise saintly milieu of retirement and
contemplation).   The flies buzz their
heady as the horns               of unicorns while David ploughs
through Psalm 22 regardless
                                                   scattering lute music as if
there were no tomorrow              other than a bad case
of the dry horrors.
                                Read          your Old Testament
and discover the Lord is the rock and the sheep
come over the ridge to be                    slaughtered. Good
Friday (always
                          rain) and as the lightning                  breaks
I hear God             rampaging through the attic
looking for his missing son grumbling what a time
to go AWOL.   My spirit               comes from St. Rémy
and my brother broods over his cider preparing
to go back to the other side of the world.   With earthquake-
swept oceans usually between us             or gaping airport
lounges                to negotiate no wonder we seldom
meet.   Mainly we rehearse             our parents’
idiosyncrasies             observed over the years and enhanced
by anecdote and memory— the way my mother stored bread
in the oven and only sometimes remembered to take it out;
or my father’s habit of singing Dah Dee Dah under his breath
to fill chance silences: and bigger issues—how Dad
(ill in bed) started bonking his visiting secretary
while Mum was downstairs making them tea.

The house                  creaks
                                                as the last warmth of the season
goes out of it.


                 “I will incline mine ear to a parable; I will open
            my dark saying upon the harp.”
                                    —David, Psalm 49.

These are the dark                interstices of the church—
a pope dead with a new one
                                                  not yet found; Christ
crucified but not risen.   In King’s chapel the fan vaults  
spread bony fingers towards the rose window which
lurks in shadow.   My brother tells me of bloodclots
on his lungs                brought on by the air trip across
the world.   David hums to himself, trying out
a new tune about human suffering: this should do it
he thinks
                imagining groupies and the top of the charts.
But God isn’t             so easily deflected: write me
a psalm he demands
                                     one of those catchy ones—
you know— cleansing from sin always goes down
well               purging with hyssop
                                                        something like that.
A shower sweeps over Deans Bush; desultory
traffic clogs its way downtown; and all the old
              come back                  damply to haunt
as the suburb               creaks
                                                  in pain an unwitting
instrument clamouring
                                       sing your way out of that one, squire.

IV:Flymo Descant (Lament)

                 “And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then
            would I fly away, and be at rest.”  
                                    —David, Psalm 55.

Mid-April and monarchs               still in the air; but
it’s time to hide         from the tide
                                                               of failures
the old man drooling into his pillow           the way
the world is
                   shaken                        to the root. In my lounge
I climb             Everest
                                     one more time and engage
in the moral dilemma of which leather armchair
to invest in.   End of the butterfly                   season
and the dark overlord broods                  over me
a shadow              on a wall made of vacant
space: he instructs me        Choose
                                                                   the size
of the mountain you want to die on.   The oxygen
cylinder reads   Empty
                                                and even           if we had
wings the air might be too thin for flight.   Riccarton
scarcely looks the part (the roof
                                                       of the world)
as autumn steams along the fenceline in
benign morning sun                but the cards are marked
and the tricks             played out. David’s angelic
voice echoes down the footpath but the lawns
are all turning into funeral parlour forecourts.
More high pitched than the real men’s mowers
my electric model hums shrilly to itself; when
I look down I see            grass makes green
bloodstains on my hands as if the grim
reaper had made his mark on me
of death.   In Suffolk I remember my parents
(long dead) talking about giving a green gown
a local euphemism for premarital               rolls
in the hedgerows           but I think my days
of giving
               may be over.   The monarchs begin
to fall out of the sky                        but like the old song
says                Fly me Flymo
                                                (Volare; Cantare).


                 “Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat;
            and hast scattered us among the heathen.
                  Thou sellest thy people for nought . . . “
                                David, Psalm 44.  

At Cass they’re building new fences over
the tussock and flax but the sky                   escapes
strung out above with the blues and the fencing
wire taut as the strings of an instrument you might
play until the barbs             engage
                                                             with your flesh.
Too old to be sensible
                                       I fell under love (again)
as always              a sitting target leading with
my chin (or points south) — but better I guess than
inertia that presses us down
                                                            to the ground.
In the abattoir dead unicorns are being                           forklifted
onto a conveyor belt redolent with the aroma of
artificial lavender but their teeth are bad their mouths
gaping and the worms          ready
                                                              all over the floor
potsherds dried debris cloven jaws deaths grin Christ
this is real after all.   The lamb of God waits to be
processed (green pastures green pastures plain as
                        well, who’s kidding who?)

Last updated 9 June, 2005