H  O  M  E    &    A   W   A   Y      2  0  1  0
   n z e p c
Jack Ross  

All Together Now: A Digital Bridge for Auckland and Sydney             



Reading these letters doubled with poems is also to delimit the space where Celan habitually deployed his language, and which he referred to – not entirely seriously – as his “Celanie”: the Rue des Ecoles, the Rue de Lota, the Rue de Montevideo, the Rue de Longchamp, the Rue d’Ulm, the Rue Cabanis (Faculty Clinic, Saint-Anne), the Rue Tournefort and Avenue Émile Zola …

– Bertrand Badiou, “Notice Editoriale”. In Paul Celan & Gisèle Celan-Lestrange. Correspondance (1951-1970). 2 vols. Librairie du XXIe siècle (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2001): 2: 10.


  1. Lunch
  2. Three fits
  3. Mr Lennon
  4. Substitutes only need apply
  5. Maggie’s farm
  6. “The archaeologist of the present day”
  7. Badlands
  8. April Fool’s Day
  9. Leave


[After Lady Daibu & Lydia Ginzburg]


Such was the upheaval in our world at the time of Juei and Genryaku that whatever I may call it – dream, illusion, tragedy – no words can possibly describe it: the lull of the siege day.

What can I say, what am I to feel about that autumn when I heard that those whom I knew were soon to be leaving the capital? Lunch was always a break.

None of us had known when it might happen, and faced with the actual event, we were all stunned, those of us who saw it with our own eyes and those who heard about it from afar. The earlier lunches cut across the day.

At that time, when all was in uproar and such disquieting rumours were reaching us, Sukemori was a First Secretary to the Emperor and seemed to have little time away from his duties. Lunch brings with it not only indolence and drowsiness, but also a sense of the onset of decrepitude, old age, exhaustion, the dying of the day.

On these occasions he would tell me, just as though it were a normal thing to say: "These troubles have now reached the point where there can be no doubt that I, too, shall number among the dead." Now that people were in primitive dependence on time, the feeling of the dying day was especially concrete.

In the post-lunch depression the sense of over-satiety was now replaced by disappointment, and an exasperation brought on by the swiftness of lunch. Tears were my only reply.


Three fits


My mother called us
over to the house
because my father
was having a fit
& she couldn’t
lift him
off the couch

When we came in
he was lying
half-off the floor
so we heaved him
into bed

A few hours later
another fit
(my mother thought
he’d gone to sleep)
this time he fell
& hit his

black eye
lying on the
the wirewove mattress

Later in hospital
another fit
no-one was watching
except my mother
& possibly
they’d never have

Later they said
the medication
to stop his mind
was blocking out
the medication
to stop his fits

You don’t have to be
a Solomon
to work out
that one

the far-off gain

Mr Lennon
[After Charles Darwin]


Started at midday for Mr Lennon's estate
the road passed through
a vast extent of forest
on the road we saw many beautiful birds

The slaves here appeared miserably over-worked
& badly clothed
we were obliged to have a black man
clear the way with a sword

On arriving at the estate
there was a most violent & disagreeable quarrel
between Mr Lennon & his agent
which quite prevented us from wishing to remain there

(In the evening it rained very hard
I suffered from the cold)
During Mr. Lennon's quarrel with his agent
he threatened to sell at public auction

an illegitimate mulatto child
to whom Mr Cowper was much attached
There's a more sinister way of looking at it
yet I will pledge myself that in humanity

Mr Lennon is above the common run of men


Substitutes only need apply


Lying in an early morning fug
in that old house at Lyttelton
I heard the footsteps
creak up to the room
that I was in
(door open to the hall)
& look inside

There was nothing there
She scoffed at me
next morning
lying in the same room
in the same bed

at the same time
she heard the selfsame thing
Old houses
lots of noises
unexplained subsidences
switches going on & off

Is that all that it is?
The fish-smell
perceptible only
at a certain height
in various locations
Grant Road, Wellington
Now again

in Mairangi Bay
A sense of mystery?
Of forces
our workaday
Fear (above all)

of the real thing?


Maggie’s Farm
[After Ian McEwan & Margaret Thatcher]


How can a novelist achieve atonement when, with her absolute power
of deciding outcomes, she is also God?
          I have a problem, it is the Government's job to cope with it!

In her imagination she has set the limits and the terms
          I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!

There is no one, no entity or higher form
that she can appeal to, or be reconciled with, or that can forgive her
          I am homeless, the Government must house me!

There is nothing outside
          Who is society? There is no such thing!

No atonement for God, or novelists, even if they are atheist
          People look to themselves first

It was always an impossible task, and that was precisely the point
Life is a reciprocal business
          & people have got the entitlements too much in mind

without the obligations


“The archaeologist of the present day”


When you can say anything
     it’s hard
          to think of anything to say

In poetry, for instance
          the sky’s the limit

You can curse, blaspheme
     pile scatologies
          on all your enemies

So what?
     The form exacts its tribute
          we demand our

     Today, for instance
          three movies back to back

a drive through Autumn country
     out to Bethells Beach
          Chomsky to read

“Don’t you feel discouraged
           “Every evening”

Noam replied


[After Jonathan Raban]


Aged 47
he chucked up everything
& just cleared off

Lacking a past of his own
he hoped to find
a history that would fit

A dead woodpecker
on the floor
mud-igloos on the walls


The letters B L M
Bureau of Land Management
are recorded several times

On page 3 of the ledger
a ringed figure shows up
like a Homeric epithet

How do you turn
2.54 debit
into five thousand, six hundred & eighty-eight dollars ninety?


To lay a floor like that
was the work
of a true believer

These houses
prairie schooners
lonely derelicts

awash in grass
a nest
for the neighbourhood birds


April Fool’s Day

“Dure plus que fer à mâcher”
– François Villon


Dure plus que fer à mâcher
harder than iron to chew
the nine o’clock start
on the road by five to eight
– You’re sillier than I am
No, you’re sillier
Farewell to the great kitten of time

She knows she’ll get disturbed
every quarter of an hour
while I’m around
Even though she sleeps
for four hours at a time
when we’re not here?
She’s pining

Security barrier down
reverse to try the other one
A truck in front of it
Drake Security Services
& then the pen / this pen
I keep by the dashboard
in case I have a thought

whilst driving
slips out of my hand
A sign? It’s dangerous enough
to scribble stuff
when the traffic lights are red
but groping for a ballpoint
under the seat

must rate way over that
The certainty of aggravation
To be up & moving, good
The simultaneous lure
of ten more minutes in bed
combined with the cud
of problems to be chewed

& brooded over
Free-floating anxiety
seizing on what’s to hand
Dure plus que fer à mâcher
The day
awaits its – what?
Its spark?

The day awaits its dark


[After Paul Celan]


the maid’s key on the
chest-of drawers!
Pack the big tartan suitcase
& the big brown suitcase
Leave the coffee & pastries for Harriet
in the kitchen
a bottle of grape juice
Fix the typewriter!
Pack a ream of paper +
1 lined notebook
1 packet of carbon-paper
1 plain notebook

My Basque beret
My summer gloves
please return

the list of people
who’ve telephoned

my leather briefcase
my summer scarf

If you’re going to Moisville, could you please bring back all the
Emily Dickinson collections (especially the French translations)
and the big selection of poems by Supervielle?



©Jack Ross