new zealand electronic poetry centre
Jan Kemp
3rd Birthday


Learn to pronounce it
like a Spaniard
(without the ts
with ys before the lls
& practice two lls
to write it with)

purr it
& it strokes you with its sound

& the cordillera
all the rocks in Cap de Creus
rise in barnacled pride
like yachts on the hard

the mountains stepping down in rangy schist
with all the heliotrope of wild geography
to the sea

a shoe
stepped out
as a hat
on a head

& the floodlit Milky Way
led two hooded stilt walkers
through the olive grove of young mad love
to its stars.


A plumed feather
a sail
on the waves of thought ―

a clinkered boat
the Gala Dalí
putters past ―
its Catalan flag
striped orange and yellow.


An oval room
he made for her
to be
al /l /one in

in the middle
when a voice
cracks the room’s
the white
the yolk of speech.

a pitched roof
two elliptical heads
nod together
above the olive grove.

Here he knows himself, Salvador
saviour, genius
& that she’s his gala. 

The cheek to do it   ―
place a mirror
place a bed
send reflected sunrise
into your head.


Their laughter re-echoes round the bay at
where we’ve come driving from
his Teatre-Museu Dalí at Figuerés
across the moonscape of the Ampardán Plain
past the poplars blazed with sunset

like elongated sleep walkers
stalking over it to Roses
& vaulting over the hill to Cadaqués
and over the hill to Portlligat.


They found it here
in all the co(s) mic haze ―
this silence
& this light
too quiet
too bright
to take it
just anywhere.
They worked it here.


Two doors down
from Dalí’s fishermen’s huts
at Port Lligat
saying it over and over
I write this
during a thunderstorm
so dark
I can’t see the paper―

The sun rose
into his mirror
& his head
echoed back.

Port Lligat, Spain
September 2003


Published in Poetry NZ (September 2004): 48-51

Silence / speech

Michael King 15.12.1945 – 29.03.2004
Maria Jungowska 28.04.1949 – 29.03.2004

Silence is the real follower of death
the vivid emptiness―
where before a voice spoke
into a definite space & you heard it

it’s inscribed now
on remembered sound
familiar as their handwriting
a person’s face.

You realise they won’t see a star again
or the lights of that plane  
quite near the full moon
you just now thought was a star
coming clustered bright and unbelievably
straight towards you, soundlessly.

Once you see & hear the plane
you name it for them, as the day
names what the night holds.

We carry the dead
and we must now be
what the lives stood for.

Published in Trout 11 (2004)
Forthcoming in Poetry NZ (March 2005)

© Jan Kemp 2004


Last updated 18 October, 2018