Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday Poem: February 22nd, 2011

The earth roared, jack-hammered
bucked like a brahma bull
at a rodeo.

After, we waded through a field of shards
found open space, moved the glass-grazed car
away from the bruised and broken building.

During that afternoon of terra not-so-firmer
we stood around, shivered, hugged the ground
comforted those from the third floor

whose sky had fallen on their heads.
We remarked on a distant tower, three sheets
to no wind, shedding bricks each new tremor

saw plate glass bow and flex, lights oscillate
in a luxury-car showroom, watched would-be
CBD traffic becalm itself in a sea of sirens.

I remember now a grey sky
the absence of cell phone sounds
how no birds sang.

Poems from my Canterbury quakes experiences are starting to insist on air-time. This one was written last month.

Visit Tuesday Poem for more poems this week.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tuesday Poem: The Head of Department's Prayer on a change of Government

Our Minister, who art in cabinet,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy party won,
thy will be done,
in fact as it is in fiction.
Give us this day your empty signifiers,
And cover our stuff-ups,
as we cover yours when you pot us.
And lead us not into the glare of scrutiny,
but deliver us from scarce resources.
For thine is the government,
the power and the spin,
at least until the next election.


I have always been a great admirer of Whim Wham, which was the pen-name the great New Zealand poet Allen Curnow used when he wrote his weekly and extremely long-running satirical poetry column in the Christchurch Press and then the New Zealand Herald. Unfortunately, satire is not the current flavour of the poetic month but I'm sure it will make a return one day.

The Head of Department's Prayer is one of my attempts in the genre and pokes some fun at our Mandarins.

Visit Tuesday Poem for more poems this week.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Stellar Science Fiction

Sometimes when
the paddock gate has closed on day
and dusk’s fence
has culled the colours from the sun

I watch the mother of all musters
graze the night.
My childhood questions long ago
re the stars

and their what and why and when
are answered now
with quasars, crabs, quarks and holes.
But these don’t hold a candle

to the stories told me then
of angels tending flocks
of fireflies
across the fields of heaven.

When the priest who married my wife and me heard I wrote poetry, he asked me for a poem to put in his parish newsletter. I sent him this.

Visit Tuesday Poem for more poems this week.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Chance Meeting

You walked into the café
flanked by ghosts
from my past.
We chatted for a bit.

You left. They stayed.
One wore our school uniform
and a prefect’s badge
another opened a kit bag

of shared Army time.
The third was your sister.
I was holding her hand
on my first ever date.

I wrote this after meeting someone whose life and mine kept intersecting over the decades. I hadn't seen him in quite a while. The rest is in the poem.

Visit Tuesday Poem for more poems this week.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Canterbury Oblations

Great God Ruamoko
we humbly beseech
you accept these
our offerings –

    30 billion dollars
    7.8 billion litres of spilled
        untreated wastewater
    535,000 tonnes of silt
    181,000 damaged homes
    40,000 chemical toilets
    8,900 Christchurch emigrants
    1,200 demolished
        city centre buildings
    546 rest home evacuees
    2 cathedrals
    185 lives

This poem is a further in my Ruamoko series. Hopefully, explanations are not needed.

Visit Tuesday Poem for more poems this week.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Now on at a court/house near you

Act I

After the man moved into the home
the boy’s toilet behaviour regressed.

The man was twenty-five years old.
He flushed the boy’s head in a toilet

carpet-burned his face
bruised his ears by twisting them

stuck a drawing pin in his penis
inserted a pen in his anus.

The man was sentenced to
six years nine months’ in jail.

When the offending took place
the boy was three and a half.

Act II

She had a call from school to say her son
had kicked a hole in a toilet door and sworn.
When they got home she bent him over the table
and gave him six whacks with a bamboo cane.
She said he apologised for his behaviour
said he wouldn’t behave like that again.

Later, when the boy was asked to help
he swung a baseball bat at her husband’s head.
This time she gave him a sharp lesson
hitting him with a small riding crop.
She denies she assaulted the boy.
He’s been removed from her care.


The couple went for a drive
to Titahi Bay Beach where
he stabbed her to death.

The pathologist said
stab wounds to her front
punctured her heart.

Stabs dotted her back.
Her hands were crossed with
defence-type cuts.

A defence of provocation
would be put forward
said his lawyer.

She had thrown down
the bunch of flowers
he had given her.

This poem was published in Landfall 214 in Nov 2007 and relate to actual events reported in the media that year.

Visit Tuesday Poem for more poems this week.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Return trip to the Hawkes Bay, St. Valentines Day Weekend, 2004

The first cicadas broke through
the earth’s crust
as we left home
dopey, green, flying badly.

Near Otane, on a low hill
the bungalow bent time
with its sentinel
of phoenix palms.

North of Dannevirke
cabbage trees still lined
the railway track
presenting arms.

The Bay was a basket
of apple trees
trailing wine-lovers
naked ladies in the fields.

They’re all lotus-eaters
up there you know
a friend warned us
a decade ago.

The storm broke coming back.
When we got home
cicadas chain-sawed
the wind.

Remember the Manawatu floods of February 2004? I got home from a long weekend trip to the Hawkes Bay with friends the day the rain started. The poem I subsequently wrote appears in Tongues of Ash.

Visit Tuesday Poem for more poems this week.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Let us kneel and pray for the Belsen twin

Let us kneel and pray for the Belsen twin
From age five we trained her inner critic
We good as killed her saying good was slim

She could not stand to see her mirror-skin
You are obese and ugly answered back
Let us kneel and pray for the Belsen twin

Being fat we said’s a deadly sin
Slender body image is the ticket
We good as killed her saying good was slim

Fashion, ads, and media all weighed in
Next the Food Police helped to make her sick
Let us kneel and pray for the Belsen twin

Our culture says size zero is not thin
A minus BMI is just the trick
We good as killed her saying good was slim

Triumph over fat was a pyrrhic win
It was being thin which she could not lick
Let us kneel and pray for the Belsen twin
We good as killed her saying good was slim

I saw a clip on TV the other night which said that Vogue magazine was not going to use models who were too thin, although what this actually meant was a little vague. This new rule was optional for the other magazines published in the same stable as Vogue. This sorry little story reminded me of this villanelle I wrote a few years ago.  

Visit Tuesday Poem for more poems this week. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A different hat

Have just changed my blog title  to 'Some place else', having figured out that blog titles are meant to be not quite as loud as my previous ('Keith Westwater's writing' – still there as a byline and indicator of content).

The new one is more suggestive of major themes in my poetry, which takes you to...???

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Dear Ruamoko

I want you to know how much I admire you.
You have to be a male God, right?
All that tectonic testosterone. Looks like
you’ve done some great bad things
but I’m sure you were provoked and besides,
I ain’t lily-white myself. Check out my photo –
how cool are those fangs and the hair style
with the writhing snakes. You might have heard of
our sisters gang, the Gorgons. We did some
neat bad shit before Medusa got her head cut off.
Anyway, maybe when you get out
we could hang and do some stuff –
I’m ace at turning men into stone
which you could use in your rock and roll thing.

Yours immortally


Here is another of the Ruamoko (Earthquake God) poems I am writing. Keep an eye out for future Ruamoko poems on this blog and visit Tuesday Poem for more poems this week.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday Poem: I want to write a poem like Billy Collins does

I’d start with an incident
or observation about ants
angels, a wet dog, hats
or note an object in my life
in the kitchen, on my desk
its relativities to writer’s block
woods, or kings.

I’d quiz its antecedents
linking odd things
with poetic velcro
fixing the words
on leaves just so
juxtaposed to score a grin
or make you think –

I would never
have thought about
the man in the moon
marginal notes
or undressing
Emily Dickinson
like that.

I'm a great fan of Billy Collins poetry and find it very accessible, funny, and a great motivation source (particularly when I, or someone I know, have writer's block').

Visit Tuesday Poem  to view the special Birthday Poem,  a poem in progress (Tuesday Poem is two year's old this month).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Misinterpretations of two sessions at Writers and Readers Week, 2008

Bill introduced Paul. He said Paul is possibly the planet’s pre-eminent poet
Princeton poetry professor, a prodigy, prolific.  Paul didn’t demur.
I don’t think Paul is a morning person.  He brought about four of his
published works on stage with him.  He hadn’t used post-its to mark
the poems he was going to read.  Bill said Paul said poets try to re-write
the work of past poets when writing new poetry.  Or something like that.
(Harold once said something similar in a different way – didn’t he?)
Paul thought a nine-thirty in the morning reading was a bit different.
He waffled a bit while trying to find the poems he was going to read.
I don’t think Bill is a morning person either.  He didn’t ask questions
when Paul left him gaps to do so.  So Paul waffled a bit more.  It was
a little disconcerting.  Perhaps there had been a welcome party the night
before.  Paul was disconcerted by the jackhammers behind the stage.
Paul’s poems were good.  Bill thought we should hear some songs written
by Paul and played by the guitar band he’s in.  I’m not sure who was singing.
Some people got up and left then.  Paul finished with a witty comment
about poetry.  I suspect he’s used it at other readings.  Everybody clapped.
Bill said to stay seated while Paul and he exited.  More got up and left then.

Christian said he is a ‘sound’ poet.  He read several poems very loudly.
Some people put their fingers in their ears.  A few got up and left.
Most of the poems he read didn’t have intelligible words in them. Christian won
a very big award and lots of money for writing some long prose poems.
All the words in each poem have only the same one vowel in them.  Christian said
he doesn’t write conventional poetry because he doesn’t want to inflict his ego
on anyone.  ‘Chapter i’ was the single-vowel prose poem he chose to read to us.
He said it was his favourite chapter.  Christian is conducting a GE project
in which he will alter the genetic structure of a microbe by implanting a
mirror cipher on its genome.  The cipher will write a poem.  When the microbe
regenerates, new poems will get written on the genomes of the offspring.
He thinks this will be a nearly foolproof way of communicating the high points of
human culture to ET beings who find our planet.  Christian doesn’t seem to be into
GE ethics, unintended biosphere-experiment consequences, or planetary safety.
I mean, what if all the poems the mutant microbes write are really, really bad?

I went to my first 2012 Wellington Festival Writers and Readers Week event today. It was really good then I remembered the 2008 Festival and a poem I had written after attending a couple of the readings.  Visit Tuesday Poem for more poems this week. 


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Grounds for a Protection Order

I don’t unpack
my bags anymore
Ruamoko. I know
how volatile you are.
All day, all night
you devise
your next violation
your next vicious act.
Each night I lie awake
waiting your hammer
feeling your vice
tighten my heart
tracing the scars
you've carved on my life.

This is another in a sequence of Ruamoko (Earthquake God) poems I am writing. Keep an eye out for future Ruamoko poems on this blog and visit Tuesday Poem for more poems this week.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dance lessons

I didn’t join the blue-dressed, barefoot girl
as she pranced alone upon her toes
at the after-wedding dance last Saturday
her male and female partners coming, going.
Neither did I sidle up beside the five men coalesced
each dancing self-obsessed with Saint Vitus
nor crib some space among the solo swayers
nor nudge aside the twos and threesomes.
But this odd menagerie of motion
led me to a dance floor long ago
where matrons with a record player
showed spotty boys and girls with sweaty palms
where to place their feet and hands
should a waltz be struck up by the band.

Funny how memories are triggered – anyone else experience the dance lessons of a previous age? I seem to remember they were pretty excruciating all round.

Visit Tuesday Poem for more poems.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday Poem: The ordinance of clowns

I heard a man on the radio say
there’s more to clowning than

oversize bow ties, banana skins
bandanas, braces, and

button hole flowers that spray.
No, the Whiteface, the Hobo

the Character, the Auguste
(the one with the big nose)

have slapstick codes to uphold.
Unruly tomfoolery

gives clowns a bad name.
True clowns, he said

hose down each other
not the crowd.

How funnily sad, I thought
how comically ironic.

You can’t just bend the rules
when clowning around.

Sometimes I write poems after listening to interviews on Radio New Zealand (usually while driving into town – the listening, not the writing). Visit Tuesday Poem for more poems this week.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday Poem: A wing and a prayer

The fundamentalists boarded the flight
bearing crosses. Grim-faced, grey-haired women
scarved, not one low decolletage in sight
eyes averted, deferring to their men
the way old handmaidens do. The men got
through security somehow, clay tablets
taped to their chests, bags full of brimstone pots
stones for casting clicking in their pockets.
Silently, on drop-down video screens
Goldenhorse’s female lead was singing.
The clip zoomed in to pink lip-glossed lips, green
long-lashed eyes shadowed black, hair flaming.
I prayed they’d not ask God to smite her down
after our plane unshackled from the ground.

Happy 2012 to all and may your year overflow with poems.

I wrote this sonnet a few years ago after a plane trip. Probably no further explanation is needed. Visit Tuesday Poem for more poems this week.

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