Poems

A working kitchen, Villefranche

Dishes were being washed and plates cleared
in the restaurant beneath

the road. The waiter stared up at us
as though we were balloonists—

as we ourselves were always staring
upwards, to an underworld we imagined

high above. All of us caught in
the same perpetual updraft.

From the depths of the kitchen, the chef reached
skywards to serve the diners

overhead. And this way, his finest recipes took flight—
in summer the most transparent

of meals propelled by the lightest
of breezes. In winter, the menus advancing

into the snow, knowing that
the dishes

will follow them.


Ceiling fan, Villefranche

In whose well-rounded company you might sleep
as soundly—pigeons, dervishes
            a turbine or waterwheel

installed on the ceiling.
The most perfect circles the ear
recognizes—flawless sigh

of a lettuce drying
in a wire basket
            at the end of one long, swinging

                        arm. Or the rotating
daughters of the Italian Navy, each morning
on the training ship Berlusconi

jogging in circles on the aft deck. Other
equally rehearsed details keep coming around—
            the ceremonial cutlasses, sprightly

                        footwear and gelati,
uniformity of their nut-brown
bikinis. The eye returns to them

what is theirs; just as it keeps returning
to the ceiling fan above us—
            a spool

                        around which
you and I, sleeping or awake,
are slowly unwound.


Tangi, Parihaka

i.m. Te Miringa Hohaia

Everywhere a voice
is heard—
            not this voice, but

the hollow back-bone
of a dog, or a volcano
breathing inwards.

Somewhere a sprig,
stem or root, a wreath
worn in the hair
and the river
which is only as deep
            as the sky

and the eel
its foundation stone.

Elsewhere a voice
not this one
a beaten drum
in a flax basket—the heart
in its retiring place.

Around the head of each
an encircling greenness—
karaka, karakia, these
expertly woven branches
            and leaves
that cannot hold him
                        to us—

            but neither will they
            let him go.

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