new zealand electronic poetry centre

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How do your get out of here?

The place has changed
you'd hardly recognise it
even the locals don't know how much.
Only the hills at the end of the street
look the same, sunbathing
in the decaying pixels, masts eaten by the inscrutable stonewashed blue.
Sleepy village in the sun's trap 'criminals' and 'heroes' fetched up in
to have children to forget themselves
to scratch a living, to bow out
in a blaze of invisibility--
falling stars nobody sees.
The stories the trees and paths told
have lost their colour and detail
for want of our audience.
Even the changes made after we left look old.
What used to be the hub, simple
as a bicycle wheel, the spokes
radiating to the four winds--
which Rewi Starnes's three-quarter draught
carried him home from the pub across
divots loose as dung waking
from the green as much mayhem
as the wheelies of the all-night revellers--
has become the kind of maze any self-respecting ratepayer
would be proud to lose themselves in.
There are roundabouts everywhere.
The people who live in your old house
have put a high-pitched garage on the front lawn under the blue atlas
a rusty rock wall along the boundary.
You wouldn't recognise the place
and yet you would. You'd be amazed
then you'd thank your lucky stars you didn't have to put up with it anymore.
A few spots of rain curve out of the clouds
just as on the day we buried you--
they loved you, your parents, the sky father and the earth mother--
and it feels like cherrio.
We look down the beautiful slope
we're about to turn our backs on when home's
almost become
unrecognisable enough to consider exploring
all over again.
The lichens on the stone
look like they could do with a drop
look like the cancers on your ninety-four-year old sister's
tortoise-shell skin
where she lies
under a white cotton blanket in the secure wing
talking nineteen to the dozen as ever
though mostly gibberish now
or maybe not:
And we'll go that way and we'll go that way and we'll go that way . . .
We had to go we had to go we had to go . . .
We can take it back we can take it back we can take it back . . .
And he can go and he can go and he can go . . .
You didn't know who you were.
We didn't need a heather.
We didn't go all the way.
She doesn't want them, not the way they are.
But we'll go alright we'll go alright we'll go alright . . .
You're the ones who'll be going and serve you right.
To hell with it.
We weren't going to have it.
And we stayed away and we stayed away and we stayed away . . .
We'll wait we'll wait we'll wait we'll wait we'll wait . . .
Go on, get home!
Her neighbour, a religious nutter
when we were kids, pushes her walker past the door
banging on, God has the mercy
and God has the way
only now it seems prophetic.
When it's time to go, we find
the doors all have keypad locks. We try catching
the charge-nurse's eye, but it's like we're
part of the flock flapping at the windows
which has us wondering for a while
till we ask a couple of old birds how you get out of there.
They shrug their shoulders
and flap their hands. Fly? they suggest
and grin hopelessly.

Last updated 27 April, 2006