new zealand electronic poetry centre


 Capital of  the minimal
P e t e r   O l d s

Small Pictures of Dunedin

               (for Eion Stevens)


How fast summer comes.
How magnificent the gorse
and yellow flower.
Hills three miles thick, light

as a feather, soft
with light.
Spiders crawl into my room.
Outside, thick rose bushes
and rust-red petals.
Dark hidden things
thick with dark.

As quickly as summer comes
it goes, with a sudden southerly,
like a cricket ball
straight through the sticks.


A sun –licked day –
God’s warm tongue…

Outside a grocer shop
a dog tied to a post
barks two-tone.

In the browning park,
girls in dark glasses
warming in the thinning trees –
summer fading from their eyes.

Orange-thin haze.
Not a pine in sight.
Not one waterhole.


This afternoon I took a walk
to Halfway Bush;
low cloud and mist moved in
flattening Flagstaff, blocking
from view its tussock-rock crown
and the old fat pines
that on brighter days
look like smudged eyes –
searching, yearning,
I cannot tell.

Sometimes when the sun sets
the earth swims in a pink universe.


The moon sits in the middle of the window.
Autumn trees rattle in the warm wind.
Twilight sky already full of purple frost.
Three months of the year gone.

Last night I heard a possum scream;
louder now
as each night grows longer.


In Dunedin
there are no afternoon newspapers
for insomniacs.


Tonight, walking home
hunched and greasy from chips and beer,
old dreams rose and grumbled behind me.
I ran the lost block in fear.

Pausing on the steps near home
I saw the victorious moon rise beyond
dark North East Valley;
sky cool and pale
from long afternoon rains.

Above the house, gusts of wind
rip through the town-belt trees.
Spouting by the window bangs
like an unbolted gate.

Inside the house I find my flatmate
beside the hot coalrange eating stew.
He belches some New Zealand Brewery fumes
over a hot spud…

In my room I wade through rubbish
three feet deep looking for pen and paper
to write this drivel.


Lunch in the park.
The sun moves quietly among bathing bodies
like a photographer, catching each
falling leaf.
This small group of bathing people
grabbing the last warm offering
from a tired, half-shuttered sun.


A huge hand, it seems, with
fingers spread wide, has scratched
blood-like shapes
across the sky.

For a few moments I think
the sun is going to die,
and that tonight the wind
will not gust from the trees
and rattle my door,
and I will not be able to find
what it is that I am looking for:

one specific pine tree,
a melting snow-flake,
a funny window,
the yellow eye of a possum,
coalsmoke drifting from dark-wedged
North East Valley,
singing powerlines.

[BG, Caveman, 1980]


© Peter Olds 2004




©Eion Stevens: A Yearning for Specific Pine Trees (1996),
Oil On board, 46 x 40cm


Last updated 11 July, 2004