Song to Milarepa
Across a suburb not yet ancient
I gaze out from the balcony of Radarz Bar
at the tin plateaux and peaks
of Surrey Crescent’s slanted roofscape
In the shape of certain chimney pots
I recognise Tibetan stupas
and with the prayer flag of this poem
I start off on a pilgrimage without a passport
even as I feel these streets begin to vibrate with blue ice.
Like a compass needle a construction crane
above the building site of an incomplete song
traverses an arc of 360 degrees
to tremble just above the true magnetic of my heart.
in the paddocks of old pages
I demolish the towers of half written poems
words without meaning located in the wind
unknown constructions of the self
those stone compositions ephemeral as breath
I have given my life to building them
while a child chasing butterflies
beneath the wide eyed blossom
of an apple tree
tells me that a wind rising in Tibet
will soon cut to the centre of the solitude of diamonds.
In what rooms of emphysema
did I study tattered curtains of boarding house windows.
Those hours as desolate
as supermarket car parks on public holidays can be.
In any of those rooms the wallpaper would be
at least as interesting as Proust.
My breakfast of old coins
that had slept in countless pockets.
To alleviate that horror
I gnawed the grimy head of some old queen
the cold thigh bone of a flightless bird.
As it never is it was no one’s fault in particular.
Once I saw on television
two crescent birds
dive into the heart of America.
Today from Radarz Bar
I watch a seagull tow a sign across the sky –
have there ever been so many signs in the sky.
Tomorrow I will be a helix flying to the gates of paradise.
To write a poem is to hijack a star.
Outside on a news stand
the poster advertises an out of date disaster.
Louise walks in beautiful in black
and tells me that this time next week
she will be living in Australia. Her red lips when she laughs
form a tiny sunset on the horizon of my heart.
Yesterday my brother set sail into the ocean
with my father it is now impossible to have a conversation
my mother is dead and gone in a well trimmed plot in Morrinsville
as dead as the mouse that I came across this morning
a small grey casket of tiny bones
incinerated in a toaster.
When I phone my sister someone else is always on the line.
From one side of a dream to the other
I am thankful for the kindness of my wife.
Once I made my way up Queen Street
from the plains of downtown Auckland
to the foothills of the Aotea Centre
to hear the Dalai Lama speak.
Today I sit in Radarz Bar
where so little and so much has taken place so far.
I watch pigeons fly across the street –
like pilgrims they flock down to the pavement
outside Angor Bakery.
Across the street
then back again
to the dusty window ledges of their not yet ancient mountain.
They leave their shadows far below
the pigeons and their shadows
as a bus arrives and then departs
up that dark meandering river sometimes known as Great North Road.
It vanishes out west into the red wall of a sunset –
there the smallest fact of life can assume significance.
I dream of construction cranes that search for new religions.
In the patina of a pigeon’s head
are myriad existences.
out of blue sky
have caught this lightening.
I stand at the checkout counter
my karma in a trolley –
in a polystyrene tray the red slice of a muscle
of some nameless beast –
the severed legs of birds
whose harmless cluckings will never now be heard.
In six plastic bags
I place at the counter
the stoicism of potatoes
the nervousness of celery
tomatoes that each contain a sunrise
the subterfuge of mushrooms
and the weird wisdom of capsicums
to be chopped
in the last rites of olive oil.
And as I pass across a small tin of sardines
the futility of appetite
hits home to me.
It’s for you especially
little sleek unseen sardine
specific as a star
a pea pod who learnt to swim
to whom I’ve decided to dedicate this poem.
In these days of our existence
when fish are raised on farms
and birds in factories
don’t you think how strange it is
this 21st century.
Now ‘New World’ means supermarket only.
To a civilization almost unsung
this tribute I now sing.
Irridescence down the ocean
cloud shadow searching sea shadow
what true magnetic spoke to you.
Alert to the vibrations of cool fathoms
you carried your own destiny
through vast continents of blue mystery.
As if each star had decided to migrate
The Milky Way of your passage
each night you formed new nebulae
galaxies exploding in your wake
giant corollas beneath a salty sun
and you took no notice that God came along for the ride.
By the coasts of broken Africas
fishing boats at night floated out like quarter moons
leviathans devoured you
formations of seagulls dive bombed your glittering city
fishermen dreaming of Spanish galleons plundered your deep silver.
in your coffin
in your coffin of tin
at the checkout counter
I stand before you in silent requiem.
in your millions
oh citizen of the seas
tough little matelot
gypsy with a silver body
you must also surely know
that in our time beheadings are very much in vogue.