A Poem with Mr Walt Whitman in mind…

I

Salt my song…

In the shallow of a valley that would come to pass,

with the smell of the far away coast lifting my nostrils to the horizon,

traveling birds

…I am no longer here,

The clouds, the milk of my young eyes,

at the table chewing gum,

fostering my backyard of mental junk,

the soul, & loose bicycle chains,

the rubber tires & inner tubes, endless loops of thinking,


I saw a man, a farmer carved from marble,

his hands shaped so fine,

through mud & an eel laden stream he stepped,

carrying the hardware of his engine,

blinking eyes, like a tap running & a verse undivided, yet to be sung,

the fences, penning boundaries & clenching teeth to

warn off the others,

‘others’ their memories strapped to their backs,

onward into the deeper valley,

their noses to the clouds, scenting the waves & the redemption of the sea.


Perched on the fence post, where it plateaued,

like the forehead of the hill lying down,

I imagined, then I saw a owl in daylight,

I shuddered…


On the opposite slope the winds ripped through,

picking up loose hitchhikers & skidding through grass tops,

I heard the song of a 10,000 piece orchestra with no sheet music or conductor,

with molecules for instruments and voices,

Salt of my song…


I centered myself, approximately in the middle of the paddock,

Opened my mouth & expunged my lungs of all anxiety,

the grass momentarily engulfed me, then receded to tickle my feet,

the mud giggling through my toes,


I asked for the reasons of hardship, for me & my brother & sisters,

the river running a steady pulse, 200 yards from the origin of my inquiry,

the river rose from it’s back & the sky stepped down from it’s ladder.

They shuffled in on either side of me & placed their finger tips upon

the temples of my head, one finger on either side,

I wept at the depth of their love, & they smiled.


At the edge of the property was an old abandoned shack,

the wood eaten by age,

but within was a palace adorned with every jewel & known mastery of craftsmanship,

I traveled to the edge of the farm, 34 years it took me to arrive,

forever departing, departing, day after day,


On my arrival I was welcomed with acute silence,

an unprecedented celebration with no band, people or sentiment,

Just clarity…

Salt of my song…


How would the sea look? Dressed in cloaks & fine jewelery,

Pin stripped red trousers & yellow-ed diamonds hanging form its limbs,

I’m not sure if the creatures within would stand for it,

Mocking and murmuring for the old clothes to be worn again,

“bring the ancestors back!” They would shout I’m sure,

…blue-nothing she wore,


At the west side, where winter is,

the snow is translucent & sweet to taste,

I journeyed there at the age of 11 and found the nicest old man, & a little old woman,

bent over backwards like the ‘U’ at the bottom of a drain pipe,

they were carrying snow from one side of the field to the other,

smoothing out the creases, ensuring the brightness & air within remained,

I understand the purpose of their work,

‘Purpose’ is just one grain of sand…surrender,


the river is so beautiful,

embroided with willow trees & intricately shaped banks, like pottery,

the craftsman gently pressing fingers into the side, just above the hip bone,

the water, each atom with knapsack slung over shoulder,

filled with books & millions of songs, poems & anecdotes of wisdom,

I wish I could step inside & press shoulders,

I am waiting to be a river,


I yearn sometimes…

I am drawn, stretched out like leather over a drum,

trying to remove my feet from this soil,

The clouds overhead like canopies of gloom, & real restriction,

There is no tributary to carry me,

no root stock or trunk to feed the leaves, & my branches,

Whispering below the decibels, were purity is not here or there,

but ‘nothingness in me, brother’


Underground are the ancestors lined up in single file,

feathers in their hair, with paintbrushes for fingers & flutes for mouths,

In the darkness, that is there light they are whole,

Yet the line they form is for me,

carrying the burden of my impatience, they vent it.

I often pierce my hands through the earth, arms dug deep,

Softer in the tractor tracks, we touch hands.

The movements in hand, saying we love each other…


The north-eastern tip is the desert,

I hitched a ride on that wind blowing orchestra,

& I found a well,

My consciousness, & perfect white sunlight on a vast bed of sand…

The well was filled with embers, breathing smoke,

I sat for days contemplating its meaning to me,

these loose & odd snippets,

Why burn? Why burn?


Covering the entire property, just 1 inch from its surface is a clear film unseen to the eye,

I have speculated its presence,

For a matter of seconds only when light are darkness are side by side,

elongated shadows & settling birds,

I have glimpsed it, peering backstage through the burgundy curtain,

The seam & the supporting beam of…

And who I have passed on my travels?

A teacher,

A man thrashing himself with guilt,

1 soul who pulled entire landscapes from his lips, & the darkness between,

A businessman and a blond haired school boy,

A traveler with 13 typewriters, 3 working and the rest…well just sentimentality really,

A sports person pushing his walls out,

An aging young man who sat me down, plastered me with words, labels and posters,

then left,

A baby,

A clerk with every instrument of art strapped to his body,

A walking shell,

& Someone, like a ghost that I have never seen but always felt.


Salt my song…

I have to love you,


& this farm land upon which I live,

I evolve here,

One day I will journey to the sea,

become that river & dissolve into the essence of I.





Ju-ni Gatsu

Japan is delicate,
& in December when snow settles
upon the branches,
it feels like a Buddhist prayer…


Walking to work,
a stonewall shoulders my path…
it was built 700 years ago
by monks who tendered the gardens with
tiny scissors & a clear mind…


Walking to work,
my fingertips hang out from under the
sleeves of my jacket…
tickled by a morning sun &
a frost,
fragile, like the ribs of a leaf…


Walking to work,
the peddlers in steaming noodle
carts have faces like nourished hide…


If you get close,
their foreheads are old photos,
with grandfathers, mothers,
brothers & uncles, resting over their brow.


Walking to work,
from Yoyogi-Uehera, where I live…
it’s saintly…


for when the sun hits…
the orange tile roofs
knelt down through the night…


they rise to their feet.


& in Shinjuku, where I work…
the People have
the temperament of porcelain,
with cheek bones
like ZEN…


& Kurosawa


& in the canal,
the carp bask under muddy glass…
sometimes twelve or thirteen at a time,
trading their safety for
the sun,


& over the bridge,
with wide hips & feet resting in a puddle…


I enter the arteries of Tokyo…
With ears open…


listening for you
for Manutuke…
the Te Arai…
& the sound of oranges growing.





Ranginui No Ohaka



1. Ranginui broke down into pieces,
Wandering through the
Narrow streets of Gotoku-ji,
He held the wounded sky in his hand,
Muttering words of no language…
Autumn, winter, summer, spring had no shape bundled together like knotted string within his closed fist,


2. His feet upon the abdomen of Papatuanuku,
Laying warm fingers upon stiff flesh,
“She felt not like this” locked in his volts of bracken & seawater…
“They never bothered to look under their feet, did they?”


3. Through scattered crowds of priests, carpenters, factory workers & rusted cans,
He squeezed the seasons in his hand,
Then laid them out on the tarseal and tried to unravel them,
His brow as heavy as concrete,
Concrete laid by the construction workers passing by,
Precise dots and long canals of steel they built, without memory,


4. The crowds parted for him,
Like Moses without his God, he would have drowned,
Ranginui was no Maori god, not then…


A beggar and a paper cup, looking for the ends of the string he’d lost,
4 seasons, 8 ends & toxic clouds,


5. Ranginui was the name given to him by his father,
Behind the shroud of the sky…
Listening with ears to the thin walls of the sky,
Like Shoji doors that pierce when the planes scatter like needles through silk,


6. Ranginui was never a boy,
The weight of the sky would have been too great for growing shoulders,
So he was conceived with limbs like a Totara tree, his eyes unfolding the colours like origami as they entered, passing through the gate,


7. The same fingers that now fumbled through the dirty string,
Eroded like river stones on the curbs of the bank,


8. The woman at the butcher’s shop perished at the sight of Ranginui’s despair,
She fell through the cracks of the street,
Into the hole that opened up for her when she realised her sky father had fallen like a pigeon,


9. When she looked up, the sky was not there,
Of constructs and bones,
The decorative silks pulled down to the earth,
Like tugging the cloth from the kitchen table,


10. Ranginui lay his body over the string of the seasons that he could not untangle,
His arms outstretched, his left cheek flush to the white line, his feet foraging for cover like a crab in the sand,
He held tight to the mid rib of Papatuanuku digging his fingers into the curve of her lowered back,
& There he stayed,


11. No-one ever noticed him & never did they realise the sky was empty,
The clothes torn down,
Only the beams and naked nails above that weaken little by little,
Until finally they will fall,
The branches will split at the trunk of the tree…


12. The tree that grows in someone else’s garden.






“Opoutere”



The sound of a piano is ringing through this ocean,

4 simple notes along side,

They are tied together by the fisherman’s knot,

With the ends neatly clipped,


The tide is low, shallow in this sink,

The shoulder of the coast is no longer submerged,

My belly rested on the seabed,

I have not the strength to ask, but I am listening…


The piece of music is biological,

An algorithm with an end,

4 primary colours on a palette that is the arm of the painter,

I am your brush…


The bed upon which my belly rests is warm,

Finer than feathers…

A casket around my body, but no dark hole…

“Opoutere”


Gentle hands & a rocking chair,

& From their palms the same 4 notes,

But not a piano…

A gut string guitar…

Handed down through 4 generations,

“Infant, girl, woman & grandmother”

The branches of my whakapapa are being clipped,

With secateurs,

& Musical instruments, unfretted,

My carcass is made up of leaves that fall in spring

“Opoutere”


How far have I travelled?

The miles have collapsed, but the seawater is made up of tuku tuku panels,

Navigating our way through the whare,

I am inside…


She is wailing, weaving freshly picked flax between the 4 notes,

My ears tell me she is beautiful…

For there is no seam in her voice…

I drink… But my vessel is almost dry,


We are one tree, one body…

Fed by the same root & connected by the same fisherman’s knot,

I am my brothers & sisters & they are me…

“Opoutere”


My skin is growing cold, dry,

Spilling a glass of clear oil that is swallowed up by the sand,

The oil is the mystery of consciousness,

An undefined quantity that now runs through their fingers,

I did not ask, but I am grateful for their help…


I have never seen without the lens of seawater,

The undulation of the ocean is like a pulse,

I have fallen… but the music has not died for the instrument is now a bamboo flute,

& a child…


My mother is near me, but she is dead now,

dissolving into the tuku tuku panels,

They are crying for what has been spilt,

& they will cry for me too…


Gentle hands, & the rocking chair, carved from the finest tree,

Crafted by the most gifted of makers…

I did not ask… & you came…

“Opoutere”




 

Listen Frangipani, Papatu Road (2007)

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