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The voices that get up

1

in summer this tree
rustles like lover’s lace
against a man’s chest

and the lover’s lace
rustles like a star
in grass skirting

the tree that leaves
the wind breathless
as an explorer

entering the only clearing
where he can measure
his shadow against

the length of the word ‘nobody’

2

Sometimes a flower becomes
a lover’s arm but a tree
doesn’t need to be anything

else. A tree never cries
for the child it overshadows,
for the mother who must die.

3

Only this sea has the bed
where a girl can stretch
into her death, closing
those ultramarine eyes
as breakers shake out

clouds. You swirl around
my ankles; you spit
light and leave
the spineless flesh
for terns to overlook. Te Kakapi,

I feel for your
brilliance but it
wavers, the pulse of
a swollen heart
under rough water.

4

Don’t say your name; don’t
         let those syllables
         follow the winter moon
         as it sows dust

over the bone. Let the night
         press your flesh
         (you know I’ll beg)
         as the moon rolls over

the horizon’s stones—
         they are harder than our mattress,
         they have the scent of shadows.
         Te Kakapi, the moon isn’t a cry

it’s a cavity worn by kisses
         which echo in your breast,
         in the clearing
         where I whisper your name.

5

You lure flowers
out with a mouth that swells
men, leaving them
wretched in the light
they dreamt of. Dying—

it’s not a name you forgot
from childhood: it isn’t
your pitch hair flaring

as the moon collides
with our campfire,
as korimako fly
through your pupils
to pick at my words.

Dying is the silence after
the silence after
I hold you.

6

We die with the wind
on a careless shoulder,
on this distant earth
footprints cannot stir.

Worms are rooted
in our hearts; they
wait on the light –
it will shrivel them.
Grass grows through us.
The stones have no eyes.

7

you are the ghost         I won’t approach
I am the phantom         you don’t notice
         in the corner of this gilt mirror
as you brush hair         the sun never caressed
hair which splits          inside the head
         which is splitting with your lips
which split                the voices that get up
to the ends                to no good

13.5.1986, Normanby, Dunedin – 10.4.1989, Church Square, Christchurch

 


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