new zealand electronic poetry centre


Ian Wedde

online works


I am unable to distinguish between the feeling 
I have for life and my way of expressing it.

                                             (Henri Matisse)


Henri Emile Benoît Matisse je vous salue! 
Let me tell you a secret.
Your work goes on.
I'd only seen your things in art books
bite sized. I dreamed there was a bright room 
in my head somewhere
which you were making real stroke

by counterpointed stroke 
& where I would some day retire 
to an armchair in the corner:

the final element of a composition
that perfectly described itself.

& three years later saw the first good
real one/             Basle Switzerland:
Still Life With Oysters. As expected

it cleared the room. I sat humming in a corner of/ 
homesick. Others came & sighed round the walls 
searching for deep truffles. Outside

nature was dead.
Civic Swiss had combed her hair for press-releases. 
Her rigour was bourgeois & precise.
Children clambered upon her in
mid-summer in knee socks.

Come away Master.
At our place we can still snap life
open like             oysters.
You were one instructor.
Matisse, Matisse.

2 'fait du premier coup'

When I first gaped my gums to receive the world

you were seventy-seven years old. 
Your age didn't show. You exhibited 
with Picasso in Brussels.

The day you died I was eight 
& I wasn't interested in you.

In 1965 you had rotted eleven years Lyndon 
Johnson was in his prime.

By 1967 humus clogged your bones utterly. 
I clasped a girl's pale hips 
among Motueka tobacco plants.
It was 105° Fahrenheit high summer. 
I wasn't much concerned about you 
though I'd quoted you to the girl.

& now you've fallen apart through 
more than a quarter century.
By that much time again I shall be getting old

& may know something perhaps 
about the fact of that first right stroke falling 
like a chopper on the block.


We get left behind thank 
god. Destruction & success 
: two sides of the same blade & 
keeping each other honed. 
Who needs that kind of death? 
When we fail or fall
we can get stoned / go fishing. 

Your eyes

twinkle like some vibrant old 
men I know whose destructions 
will lift up love & wonder from us all.


You have a lot to teach me.

& it should come easier Master:
those endless articulations          walking
eating talking to friends (silence 
& listening) & lying 
rocking & hunched with women / any-
where when mind spreads to clutch
body             when body eats mind

the way embraces of colour passed from your brush, 
rhythms flowing out of your fingers, conceived /

the upright of the shaduf rooted 
while its bucket swings down & dips
water for dry                             animals brings a
stain of rich colour to the dust where 
spring's green wash
spreads round the motionless fulcrum / 

all rhythm contained there, motionless

& I              rooted in my armchair
motionless / 

                   Can we begin please here.

5 'une harmonie d'ensemble'

The sun comes up Henri & goes down. 
In between is a long split-
legged slow-motion dancer's leap.

Did we break the sound barrier?
I saw cities / chipped stacks of dominoes. 
Hah! cried the old crookback 
players               slapping down stakes 
shaking the last coins in their vest pockets.

Beyond them was the sea moving/ 
the clonic hips of a loving woman 
& a feathered man falling into
her.                           She blinked

like a deep blue eye. His image 
disappeared in its frank distances.

So be it Henri / so
be it.

6 'The Dance / 'Music' : 1910

I whip my head              from side to side.

The dance     .     they dance /
                                  & ahead of me

musicians gape mouths

from which only groans can issue
deep in the throat/
of simple pleasures.

O Old Dead Man /

freed from age by age.


The clouds lurch down Henri / 
heavy levers. Billy & Captain America 
explode off Saint Michel.
It's all good stuff. Luxe calme et 
volupté / the townsfolk leave
for the beach                  & we

dance northward lugubriously. 
Perhaps the cold will sort out our heads. 
Perhaps I'll write a song about it all/ 
imagining the dark mouths of musicians 
open inward upon rooms 
of wit & melancholy.


Sometimes it comes down to this:
Ségal plaster people hurtling 
underground, or propped around the squares 
rigged out in swords & cocked hats. 
Watch the articulated ones move.
They do it fast, eyes shut, 
e.g. 'art' & 'music' are extras we are bound 
to feel grateful for. Rather 
thank god for friends Henri, 
for the woman who takes you in, 
for the good quality of apples, 
for untidy neighbourhoods where 
these cataleptic protocols get no grip.
I kick up autumn leaves & spend my money.


If I dreamt less & left my room more 
I would be good at figures.
My visions clock themselves in on schedule. 
I gap my mouth.
I'm lazy & well looked out for.


New place new view 
& Rose in the kitchen cooking stew. 
Traffic dances past moon comes out. 
It's cold. Like you 
I sit in a long overcoat 
looking at what I must do 
& glad to be about to do it.


Some double the odds on violence. 
Their backs are to the wall.
They become stone / they fall.
The blind explore them with white fingers 
imagining all men are scored & bitten 
& that flowers pushed up among them 
when they lay half buried.

Hearing feet clang
in & out of the museums.

London: Amphedesma Press, 1971.
© Ian Wedde 

Last updated 11 May 2001