new zealand electronic poetry centre
Graham Lindsay
3rd Birthday



for Squirrel

When you leave your place watch
how you go
emerging from the foyer as though
on stilts
fifty feet high on top of the world
and rising

you will be headless, thought without word
no one else around
they may stuff your body in the ground
but you wouldn't know it
memory has left
speech deaf
the eye single and a hole
dark and long.


From Big Boy (Auckland UP, 1986)


from The Foyer


Back in the foyer, things went on changing. The ceiling was lower, he had to tip his head. He looked down at the carpet and could see the pattern across the whole floor. It was like looking through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars.

      The tiny woman in the ticket office had gone. In her place was a gaunt man with white sleeves gartered at the elbow, going through the pockets of the jacket he'd just hung up. He paused and gazed over his half-frames. The doors onto the street had gotten further away—unless they were getting smaller. It occurred to Tom then that his thinking this was happening might be contributing to it happening, which caused him to panic, and straightaway the foyer shut down to the size of a pillbox. There wasn't time to consider whether the man in the ticket office had been affected. He dropped to his hands and knees and scrambled flat-out down the carpeted slope. Just as the exit was about to contract to a letterbox slot, he lunged into a sort of sideways forward roll.

      And came up squatting on his heels on the footpath in bright sunshine, breathing heavily. The air had been cleansed by a passing shower and was filled with tiny jewel-like molecules. The agression of the traffic and its closeness intimidated him. He rose slowly, turning to see what had been going on with the foyer. But it had retracted like a prodded sea anemone behind the forest-green, scallop-edged awning. The sun hovered in a vee between massive white-topped clouds as if taking a last custodial look for the day into the grubby canyons of the central business district.

      He tucked his chin in to inspect his front, and had the giddy sensation his feet had gotten away on him again, that his shoes were on the ends of stilts, they seemed that far off. When he brought a hand up to brush off some bits of vomit from his lapel, it seemed to take an age to make the journey, till he realised it had had to come from about the third or fourth level of the building he was standing in front of, that he was looking in the windows of the seventh or eighth at people pushing themselves up from their desks, shrugging into coats, winding scarves round their necks. A man with a mop of yellowish-white hair and bushy eyebrows approached the window. At last, Tom thought, he'd been seen, and he felt a wave of relief, and also a tinge of disappointment, because he would have liked to have seen how this strange experience panned out. But it had gone too far already. Now the alarm would be raised. Soon he would hear the sirens—ambulance, fire, traffic, police—and know help was on its way. However, the old man merely sucked his pipe, then reached out and pulled the blinds shut.

© Graham Lindsay 2004


Last updated 18 October, 2018