Friday, August 27, 2010

AUCKLAND 24, 25, 26

Wharf Poems

1. Departure

At eleven, I photograph
the latest container vessel
lit up, stacked, a party venue.

At twenty past eleven I must
get up! quickly! something changes!
I see three cranes at attention together.

The wharf is bare, ship-less.
Searching the harbour, I discern
a line of porthole lights, moving east

smoothly. Into the star-less
depth-less waters, framed by
the last crane, presenting a bright

stern before turning north.
This channel worn smooth by
pakeha, maori, samoan, hawaiian.

A caterpillar of orange lights
blends the edge of a known world
with darkness, feeling its way dreamily.

2. Comparison

Maryanne, my new friend
has views of liners, yachts, ferries.

My windows frame
working boats, cargo

which leave by stealth
create no waves, head for
the edge of a flat earth.

3. Salted

A wild night.
Windows caked with saltspray.
One of the large cargo ships
releases car after car
with flashing lights.

I walked home peppered
by raindrops flung willy-nilly
by gusts and blasts of wind.
They say land slipped
on Waiheke, island of art.

In daylight, I see the dolphin
spouting painted bubbles
toward the ships for'ard windows.
Trans Future 6, Panama, she's called.
The piers fill with her spawn.

Smoky or steamy the horizon
- take your pick - recovering
from repeated wetting. Enough
cloudless sky to let sun
fall on water, drench it with dazzle.

4. Wharf Dancing

A new ship.
The beautiful ballet
of those derricks/cranes
the graceful claws.

Yellow porters, as
vigilant as vultures
scurry with containers
to far vestibules.

Their dance is also
balletic, solemn
while twinkling
with orange lights.

Everything works with purpose
in slow motion , pointing
towards a silent departure
in the depth of darkness.

5. Night

It's quiet on the docks.
Friday night.
The bars invite. The night
is dry (Get Wet! goes up
the cry). Rain has fled
elsewhere, to destroy
or delight. It's Friday night.

6. Muslin Rain

Walking to work
in Drizabone, wielding
umbrella like a baton -
fine rain, squeezed
through muslin
insisting on its right
to exist.



Now is the day to print photos
print poems on vellum
create experience another way.

One works on computer
the digital learning a new dimension
to European travels.

Another works on the fourth album
for parents' fortieth wedding anniversary
cramming pages full of family.

Our host has good advice
practical help for all of us. One daughter
cries, unwell. The other joins us.

We drink mocchachinos, munch
pizza, eat lollies, all the while
rearranging our memories.



The scream blows away
all distraction. Grab the bag
with passport, purse -
don't they tell you, leave
everything behind?
The room fills with the possibility
of entrapment, falling, death.
You leave it unlocked
wrestle heavy doors -
in case of fire, do not use lifts!

You take the steps carefully -
no sense in tripping
and falling ten flights
to certain and painful death
found later among ashes.
Luckily, there's sunshine outside
and five red trucks and men
in yellow suits, crackling
radios, unhurried yet focussed.

A typical event in the cities:
false alarm: tenants on the pavement
exchange gossip, catch up.
Some of us cross the road,
capture a building
whiter than smoke, still gleaming
from rain, the sunshine pouring
down its pristine walls.


Getting My Hair Done

This is distinct
from "having it cut"
or "getting it trimmed".
"Getting it done"
involves much arty
consideration, the mentor
advising the student:
what's the shape
of this face? what effect
do you want to create?
and see here (that bit
I can't see without eyes
in the back of my head)
the problem: what colour,
do you think?

The colours denote
roller-sizes; the hairwash
is brisk (massage later,
she assures). Painstaking
- I call it fiddly - the securing
of scraps of wet hair.
Mentor adjusts, advises.
The fixative, the heat:

I remember my mother
in a dark hot kitchen
draped in a white sheet
the eye-watering cascade
of ammonia fumes
my mum getting her hair done
by Great Aunt Ruby at the pub.

Afterwards the dryer, the combing,
the sculpture that emerges from
wayward cowlicks, un-cared-for
tresses. I see the effect:
softening my severe face.
I get her to photograph it.
Later, printing the image,
I see the grimace.

Saturday, August 21, 2010



Take the people out
of the mix. Ascend, touch
the screen, take the lift
as advised.

Put people in. Large ones
in uniforms. Have them bar
the way, search your handbag,
frisk your Drizabone.

Introduce myself. I've come
to have my say. Confirm
address, electorate, procedure.
Polling booth to box.

Take myself out of Australia
pressing a blue button to open
auto doors. Be escorted
to the lift, descend from lobby.

Colleagues and friends ask:
Julia or Tony? I say: you mean
workers or bosses? women or men?
returns for taxes, or invested wealth?

These days, what matters are
things. We've taken out
the people. Let the electorate
swing, baby, swing!


A Walk in the Park

On the way to shopping
at Countdown I walk past
Countdown, continue
east until the road crosses
railway lines, beyond
an obsolete station.
I walk into the park, noting
the many monuments
and honourable mentions
not to mention the memories
of loved ones attached
to seats, thus to earth.

I avoid other walkers.
The path is old, water-worn.
I step carefully. The tree
whose branches rest
on ground, seem to take root
newly there, expand the space
the tree has colonised,
asks me to photograph
myself against a branch
as if inviting me to imagine
there is nowhere else
for a human being to be
alive or dead.


Because the Sun Plays Hide and Seek

A patch of white dazzle
shifts across Tamaki Strait.
The Waiheke Ferry
appears to chase it.
That tricky patch
returns to occupy
water canvas between
docks and Rangitoto.
The ferry noses into Devonport
its quest seemingly forgotten
the vagaries of light
sneaking through dense cloud

Wednesday, August 18, 2010



She came to tell me
her country will be the first
to sink into the sea.

She came to tell me
she has a vision: she will
record its disappearance.

She came to tell me
she was suffering from
dislocation, drowning

she came to tell me
in her thoughts and sense
of loss, real loss of country.

She came to tell me
she now saw there was a way
to make this loss her story.

She came to tell me
"I will transform" my people's
displacement wounds.

She came to tell me
our listening for what's possible
made the difference she needed.

I said, "Thank you for being
here, and telling me. Your country
is the future of humanity. I'm inspired."

Some of the houses I've occupied
are gone, developed or gotten rid of
to destroy colonisation by alien

creatures, some of my houses
have been replaced by the swell
of unrenewable energy, the modern

substitute for hearth and home,
island and shared territory,
roots and stability, growth processes.

I ask myself: what if the Barmah Forest
vanished and  my childhood disappeared
in the waves of a future I can't recognise?

Would I really come to tell you
I'm on a mission to preserve its memory?
I think I would be too erased to speak.



To write in batches like this
is to wait while uneasiness
gives rise to inevitability.

Late nights, too-early risings
and unheeded changes on
the wharves and I'm

disconnected from the camera
my verbal brain carries, recording
patches, odd matches with reality.


Local Streets: The Lonely Dog Gallery

If you imagine you are a dog
your self-portrait has that look
dogs put on to announce
ownership. obedience,
curiosity. You paint yourself
as the curiosity. Create
bronze illusions
of gallant self-mockery.


A Change of Scene

The Kea powers through a soft sea
for twelve minutes; we disembark
in Devonport and wonder what to do.
Aha! I spy the i-site centre, pick up
map, heritage walk - self-guided -
and a sense of purpose: to explore
to make a friend of alien history.

I shock myself with a capacity to
climb a steep, muddy extinct volcano
to the top; the view is predictable
but the amanita muscaria reproductions
disguising vents to wartime bunkers
are worth a photograph. I watch the Kea
and sink into a soft sea of unclocked time.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

AUCKLAND 11, 12, 13

Taking the Right Lift

This year, my election booth is a glass house of worship,
with linen-covered couches, men in sharp suits, women
using the latest high-rise heels to clack across tiles.

My Drizabone swings, heavy with elements of a world
visible but irrelevant through the glass walls. I should
be drinking lattes, leaving lipstick to announce identity.

Escalators are suspended between lobby and mezzanine
and there is so much space I feel the need for an atlas.
I'm not going to ask; I know I'll be offered a gps.

The Information Desk is unattended and I should call
but the Security person looks bored so I ask how to find
what I'm looking for. He tells me to touch the screen.

I touch the screen; I'm informed that Lift G will take me
to the Seventh Floor. Feeling as out of place as a Yeti
in the tropical section of Botanical Gardens anywhere

I establish the location of Lift G, tucked in the corner
of a vast hall of lifts, do a twirl or three on the mezzanine
and descend hoping to look like Mary Poppins to the lobby.

Out of the corner of my eye, I notice Security eyeing me.
I could shout: Your suspicions are correct! I'm an Ozzie
Terrorist casing the joint. This coat hides kalashnikovs!

But I'm not going to sabotage my chance to vote, even if
I'm not required to, even if I have to do it in a world of glass
where finding a lift is easier than locating my self.

Watching the Wharf

None of my windows being curtained, I bring coffee
to the window ledge, question the science
of container stacking, and wonder how the captains
of these laden ships can steer them on such bumpy seas.

Rain spins and drifts from the arc lights, but the wharf
is busier today than all the days of sunnier weather.
A ship leaves. Two stay. The tall yellow porters travel
at high speed, crossing each others' paths, plucking

containers from trucks, planting them. Yet the mountain
of red, blue and yellow blocks seems undiminished.
Cars are being individually loaded onto transports.
Escorts whizz between the rows, roof-lights flashing.

Ten minutes after departure, the ship is a shadow
on the horizon, vanishes north into cloud. Yachts
and catamarans scatter like small ghosts in front of
a new cargo ship hooting and honking to harbour.

My father tallied cargo. Cranes lifted and dropped stuff
in soft bundles, bales, plywood crates. I was very young.
He was a Union Man. When he said "scabs" I learned
there were those you could pick, and those you should kick.

The new arrival bellows like a calving cow as it turns
to point into the appointed bay, tormented by tugs.
It is low-slung, neatly stacked with the white containers
I've decided must come from Scandinavia.

From this height, and through the gauzy rain, I see
my father as he was: young, curly-haired, eager to bring
a new world order into being. Before Menzies. Before
automation. Before cargo too big to manhandle,

and the value of labour could no longer count.

Two Women

Here I am in a wonderland of art.
The remnants of baches, framed
replicate all nostalgia, connection
to earth, and those tiny dark pointed
kauri leaves, the tan and larger
leaves of pohutukawa, the tree
they say allows the spirit to leave.
This is good, and the fifth floor
view is wider than mine from
the tenth.

Then at work I am treated to
a remarkable tale of a man
whose children were all born
in different countries, a family
where five of the kids share
the same mother & father,
the other four are half-sibs.
My colleague was born in
American Samoa. "We lived
in India," she says, "They were
such Hippies, my Mum and Dad."
He'd made millions on tyre
retreading, spent it on travel
home-schooling and boarding
schools. This is also good.
Without spending a cent
I'm rapt, transported.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Drama on Axis Bledisloe
Container Wharf, Waitemata
Harbour, early morning

Cars, all Toyota, come off
the Sanderling Ace, jade and white,
arrived overnight. These ships
just sneak in!

Parked, they resemble a school
of fish, all facing the water
they now leave behind, spat
from a metal whale's maw.

The tall yellow porters patrol
like inspectors; they add and subtract
building blocks, white and red
in the stack or with trucks.

As delicate as tweezers, they
lift and drop, remove, deposit
and I wonder, from this distance
why I can't see where drivers sit.

The ship, restrained by Lilliputian
ropes, barely tilts. Grey naval ships
slide across pearled water, jade
waters between the wharves.

An army helicopter hovers
like a wasp ; having seen
the mother-ship home, it
u-turns, buzzes east, out

to sea, away from the busy
platform, a hatchery
of vital exchange
mysterious journeys.


A Weight Off My Mind

Pain recedes now
the plaster weight
removed, my arm
reluctant to work.

My handbag now
an arsenal of help:
homeopathic arnica
panadol, tendonitis
cream, moisturiser,
lipstick for looking
good, redder than
blood. I can't believe

I brought so few
outfits for six weeks.
I go shopping, I

these cheeses, wines,
gluten free breads,
organic soups, butter,
beef, lamb; supermarkets

savage my senses.
Hang the expense!


Blue Sky

Sun beams happily
on my eyeball
a ferry aims for
sea's white glare -
all pretence!
As soon as I step out
clouds will swarm
to make walking
an exercise
not sun-soaked
but wet

But look up, oh
sun-blinded one -
the southern sky
is as blue and still
as a painted wall.
Walk firmly, swing out
walk tall.


Sudden Change

blue tones
blue notes
in container stack
on glass walls
the sea of course
bluer than before
Rangitoto blurs
shadows make
Devonport blue
across the bay

5:20 pm
a blue-toned city
suddenly brown
with dusk

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Walking to Work

New Zealanders love
spotty rain; the sense
of being in water
surrounded by water.
In the Viaduct waves reach
like clenched fists
absorb fresh fragments
of tired cloud while
people stride the city
with renewed vigour.



From my new a-part-ment
(two bedrooms, tenth floor
view of harbour and docks)

I watch two men meeting
over a table, paper-strewn
very little gesture, all talk
in a lighted office, tenth floor
(view of harbour and docks)

Their meeting finishes at 10:30 pm.
Lights off, another 15 minutes -
the ninth floor also darkens
(dock lights flashing, harbour
ready to launch its traffic)

I discover I think these men
will go home to wives who
suspect them of raunchy
escapades on city office desks.

But perhaps they're unmarried
child-free, late-nighters, late
risers, in a-part-ments on Quay St
just like me (lights winking
on docks, containers containing
who knows what, a loaded ship
sliding out to unknown worlds).

Friday, August 6, 2010


Transition Zone

The space smells of carbolic cleaners
humidifiers hum in the back bedroom.
I sleep in the front room; the white blinds
bring daylight to my eyelids all night.
Docklands are non-stop traffickers
the rest of us must be lazybones, trying
as we might to sleep several hours.
Beyond, Rangitoto crackles with blackness
and Waiheke hides in its attempt
to be unnoticeable, the shrinking island
you can spend money on but not a life.
(Do not say we are "part of" you, City!)
I cannot smell the solid saltwater air
but it permeates my vision; I become
anticipator of brisk walks and fine photos
along this transition zone, waterfront.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Pissed Off

For two days I have arrived
and got the job handed to me.

Today I'm "it" and the computer
plays up like any child.

It pours with rain just as I walk.
I pull my plastered wrist in.

I'm really over the wrist.



The young woman who returns me
to my one-bedroom apartment
says, "What a shame you can't see
the harbour. Knowing it's the other side
of that other block of apartments there."
I don't tell her I watched a woman
leave that block, walk purposefully
along the footpath, and twirl suddenly
to catch her front-on reflection
in its glass lobby walls. She had no idea
another watched, finding that human
distraction more interesting than yachts.
My friend is right, too. Tomorrow I move
to two bedrooms on a tenth floor
with a harbour view.


Point of View

I am here again
engaged in an inquiry
with the taxi driver
into resilience, freedom.
Sometimes his hands
fly up from the wheel
forgetting their work.
He says I am unusual
in sharing so openly
myself, my life, listening
to him intently, interested.
He studies his customers.
When he's waiting for one
he reads, debriefs with
other drivers. His accent
somewhat European,
I ask: "Where are you
from?" He says he's Iraqi
one of the 3% Christian
minority, unconflicted
therefore outside his
country even in it.
But here he is
in  New Zealand, speaking
of resilience, freedom.
"What are your languages?"
I ask. He says Arabic.
And adds: Eremaic,
which he reads, the books
sent from Iraq. And no,
I didn't know this was
Jesus Christ's language
until he said so, and suddenly
the world is richly connected
without internet.

Sunday, August 1, 2010



1.  love

we don't do too badly
considering our lack of faith
and status as novitiates

as my daughter says:
singing is not believing!
we own the singing

and give of it freely
our voices our gift
our dual harmony

2.  chat

Home-schooled, we find out
after his approach to confide:
I've been to two churches today!
The other one is way way over
the hill. Pulling up an orange
plastic chair, he further confesses:
There must be a hundred people
here, all talking at once! I find that
annoying, you can't talk, you have to
shout. I'm eating hedgehog first
then the pasties, then cake.
We munch contentedly together.
It doesn't matter whether you're
six or sixty, song, food and
a good listener make you happy.