new zealand electronic poetry centre


 Capital of  the minimal
K a y   M c K e n z i e   C o o k e

six days
(Journal entries)

Day One
It is cold again today - cheerless and rough. The only cheerful person I’ve seen all morning is Mike riding the bike he salvaged from the tip for $4. Perched on his black hoody, an old, scuffed bike helmet of iridescent jade.

Still the wind stirs and disturbs. Our car too misbehaves. It’s a bad, bad car. Alan the mechanic says that it is a car with a mind of its own. At the moment it’s randomly deciding when not to start and in order to get it going again we have to tap with a stone the fuel pump housed in the boot. Luckily we can reach through the back seat which folds down, leaving us free of the indignity of having to lean into the boot, our rear ends waving like flags in front of the traffic as it builds up behind.

Day Two
On the way back up our drive this morning, my biceps burning after trudging down with the rubbish - two sacks, one in each hand, demanding an effort of will and strength not to stop for a rest halfway - I hear the neighbour’s child on their porch, her piping voice singing, ‘God of Nations.’ Somehow it seemed appropriate.

On the Opoho bus yesterday an old lady wearing a turquoise, woollen hat and a fur coat and sneakers, talked with the driver about how much Dunedin’s changed over the years. Ethnic restaurants, hole-in-the-wall coffee, malls ...
"And to think kids used to sell horse manure for sixpence," she said as she disappeared down the steps.

Day Three
Last night was the Glottis poetry readings at 'Arc'. Bays of squashed-together, tight-vinyl seats - remnants from a railway carriage - as if discomfort and a dim light is a requirement - the stale, acrid, seep of smoke from an open fire that never quite seems to work. Huddles of the young, huddles of the middle-aged. The usual graffiti-like, bitter poems; male ejaculation in another guise; but then to counteract, always the small, quiet brilliance of the unexpected - like the surprise of flowering lichen on a bare, mountain-scree.

C. was there, his common sense a tonic. Being of such good value means of course that as a writer he’s highly under-rated in New Zealand - as all truly worthy ones are. M. read out a Dylan Thomas poem - deadpan - this was for me, the highlight. Thomas’ green fuse reaching through death, generations, hemispheres and sparking into life a sturdy little engine for a small, true moment in Dunedin on a wind-howly Monday night at 9.30 p.m. Let that be a lesson to our nasty little car.

Day Four
Is it cheating to ask for a long black coffee with milk on the side?

Gritty, urban feel to ‘Crusty Corner’ - the real urban as opposed to the pretentious - with teal vinyl-seated chairs with stainless-steel studs, splayed legs. Some schoolkid’s white-out ‘Yummy’ message on the door’s glass-window. Radio station tuned to harsh, number-8 wire songs. No-frills people dropping in to buy lunch; a take-away coffee.

One guy sits with his bacon-and-egg breakfast hanging happily in his stomach; cap’s brim shading his eyes, he watches people as they come in. He’ll sit there under the large mural of busy, happy fish, for a good half hour, making one-sentence comments to the guy behind the counter who looks either like a leftover from the punk era, or a stand-up comic, I can’t quite decide.

It’s a busy junction here by the Gardens where ducks cross at the lights and people head north to Uni and town, or south to schools with the sun angling in sharply through windows and covering the lower half of the faces of people in cars with bank-robber scarves of sunlight.

Day Five
This morning it’s grey with spots of rain and the coffee at ‘Crusty Corner’ tastes even more bitter than usual, stinging the back of my throat, coating the roof of my mouth and sides of my tongue with a taste I imagine to be like old cigarette ash.

The road grows darker with each raindrop that falls. Already I’m regretting my choice of footwear.

In two days we’ll be on a long weekend in Central with its difference of dry grass, a sky with clouds sheered off, skylarks and thyme; lavender hills; warm rock.

Day Six
An early start getting our car up to McLeods Motors, then walking back down the hill to the bus stop where weird, warm gusts of air freak me out; not like Dunedin at all. Across the road at the playground, seagulls walk so quickly between the swings they look as if they’re on wheels.

As I wait the customary twelve minutes until the bus looms, a giant, Kermit-frog green, I find myself thinking about the documentary last night on the brain, its confused frontal lobes.


© Kay McKenzie Cooke 2004


Last updated 11 July, 2004