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.

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