new zealand electronic poetry centre


Kendrick Smithyman

online works

Keeping in Touch

Whistlestop for river boats, hardly more;
business had mainly moved upstream.
The boardinghouse sectioned and barged away,
mills and the shipyard silenced, urgent then
to keep in touch. This was where
wireless came, to help us out from debate
about butterfat futures, static and all,
bringing more than the word of Major Douglas
or Krishnamurti. Mr Culford Bell
from Karangahape Road correctly spoke
district names in his news, nobody guessed
what places were meant, or meaning.
Children's Hour Aunts and Uncles hinted
where birthday presents for some lay hidden.
What, one asked, did Dunedin say, Sydney,
or (would you believe?) Los Angeles?

Our wireless was a Crosley (does that name
sound right?) with a speaker like two brown plates
pressed face to face, an oblong box
with dials, the batteries on a stand below.
Dempsey fought Tunney, we carried the fight
direct. We were in touch.

One night Father was at Lodge.
Before she gave in and went to bed Mum tuned
to Brisbane and picked up a programme
which hadn't been advertised, Melba's 
very last Farewell. "When he came home I was
still standing at the set. I hadn't thought
to sit down. It was uncanny, so clear,
like being in the same room, her voice
the way it was all those years before."
They called her Mimi, Addio she sang over
skinny pine plantations, across gum fields
into a shining night which might have been
false dawn above the raupo, through the river
presence, Addio.


Last updated 12 December, 2002