new zealand electronic poetry centre

I A I N    B R I T T O N   


Self Portrait Floating

On my back I stare at a seagull.
My eyeballs are whiter, bluer.
I tread calm water,
the sea slaps my ears,
rinses out my nose. I’m a body
floating, returning        surfacing.
The seagull swoops down
clipping its shadow across my face. This
diver dived too far
too deep        went for too long
following the legends of lost ships, lost planes,
the buried at sea
riding the swells like dolphins, surfers,
the great whites. I rise to meet
the fat-lipped sun,
feel its kisses burning. On
the beach a child runs at a heron
ankle-deep in reflections of itself. A
man and woman appear
holding hands. The child runs at them. But
they don’t scare, don’t fly        split or
divide. He closes in and there I am listening
to the music of Igor Stravinsky in the
comfort of a shell. I
have in my possession memories of
living in the sea        a notorious collector of
how others see me        how I see them. In the
monastery I’ve built for myself, I hoard ghosts,
lovers, demons, the angelically precious. I
dwell in this religious place and each night
I make love to a different image and each image
must be like me
warm-blooded        accessible
a life force of my imprisoned household. There’s
no going out for them, no coming in, no
freedom for

manoeuvring. They are what I am. Together
we share winter blasts, the
summer heat, the nightmare, the
ecstasy of being a face crumpling in
water, an upright body that
sprints with the tides, that
falls breathless on itself. I hear the
seagull’s cry        feel the hand
of someone
pressing on my back. I see no one.
Firebirds dance on the beach. I’m being pushed
towards this spectacle of myself burning.


Ourselves Written in Wood

Hoofing up this hill with you
to this house of carvings, my
mind becomes a Namatjira
brainstorm of golden shimmers. Landscapes
turn over in their beds of fire,
bronze sculptures
grow upwards instead of trees. A
black man stands in solar spillage,
his body shining,
while green islands move like turtles
about his feet. The air
is packed with the stirred-up orbits
of people’s faces. I feel them
crowd in. You kiss and
embrace them. Shake hands. The
air’s heavy like water and our chests
heave in the stillness. You speak of
distances, the hard dried-out veins
of roads … the bones, like piles of clothing,
left neatly in deserts, men and women
chasing their afterlives. The house is
full of born-again hills and rivers and reusable
islands, it’s full of languages  
written in wood, animals rushing to
lusher pastures. In
this house, the night’s a blind man.
Gradually, we lose sight of him, we
lose sight of objects, we lose sight
of ourselves.

Auckland, April 2006







Last updated 23 April, 2006