Saturday, February 24, 2018

Learning to ride

Not long after my complaints
about the long walk to school

how everyone had one
so why couldn't I

you came home one night
with a two-wheeler bike -

a Monarch (boy's, second-hand)
front handbrake, rear pedal -

no bell, chain-guard or gears.
You bought it, no doubt

off a 'for sale' ad in the local rag
painted it fire-engine red

showed me how to use the pump
oil the chain, crank and hubs

told me to level the pedals
before I stood on one

straddled the cross bar
sat on the black saddle seat

while you palmed my back
steadied the handle bars

said to push with my feet -
one then the other - coaxed me

to steer straight, keep upright
as we practised setting off.

When I came a cropper
skinned my arms or knees

you painted them orange
set me up for another go

until I was able to wobble solo
up and down life's street.

If only that were so.

This is another boyhood memoir poem from No One Home (which went to the printers late last week, so birth is imminent). I will keep you up to date with when the book is available and when and where it will be launched.

I previously posted on this blog versions of two other poems which are in the collection. They are Three Memoir Haiku and Sticks, trees.

Sunday, February 18, 2018


What do you seek?
asks Waipū Cove.
What's not in this
beach-outing snap –
rock pools
a plastic ship
wind in our hair.

What brought you here?
asks Martins Bay.
The picnics we had
on your shore –
races in sacks
three legs made from four.

What do you recall?
asks Mangawhai.
A badjelly sand dune
that ate kids alive –
the pipis we dug at low tide
a Tilley lamp, Primus
and tent.

Why do you still dig?
they all inquire.
To find what I lost
when I had –
     a mother and father,
a bucket
and spade.

This poem forms part of my next collection, No One Home (Mākaro Press), a boyhood memoir in poems and letters. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The new Minister's brief to the Head of Department

No leaping out
from behind hidden agendas,
no lining lame ducks up
for media pot shots,
no scaring the crap out of me
with revelations or defamations
and definitely no defecations
in my corner.

Hire the best spin doctor going -
one that will guild
your OIA gnome droppings
so they look like
unvarnished truth lollies.

Send your top policy wonk
to work in my office -
they can rewrite
your dreary drivel
to better reflect
what I told you to say
in the first place.

Absolutely NO surprises
or I will make sure you slide down
the gnome stud book
faster than Jack abseiled
the beanstalk when the giant
started fee-fi-fo-ing.

That's all for now -
drop by next week
and brief me on the cock-ups
you've had to cover up.

My apologies to anyone who has visited this blog during the last 18 months in the hope of finding a new post. I took a long break that was neither planned nor caused by physical ailment, nor did it result from anything as mundane as writer’s block – in fact, I have put together another collection of writing over that time. More about that in the next post (which I promise will follow soon after this one).

During the ‘between posts’ interregnum, I also had a poem published in an anthology of political poetry, ‘Manifesto Aotearoa: 101political poems’ (Otago University Press, Edited by Philip Temple and Emma Neale, 2017). The poem was ‘The Head of Department’s Prayer on a change of Government’. I wrote it several years ago and only sent it to the anthology to make up my submission’s numbers. The poem is a parody on the Lord’s Prayer and my thinking was that such writing is a bit naff these days, but what did I know. I had also previously posted it on this blog here, but if you like political poetry, I strongly recommend you take a look at Manifesto Aotearoa, available online at Unity Books and other good booksellers.

The reception the Head of Department poem received was very positive, so I have decided to develop a series of poems based on the departmental and political context that the Head of Department works in. The poem above is one of these. I will post more as they take shape. (An 'OIA' is an Official Information Act request, which anybody can submit to a department in order to gain access to specific information.)

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