Lifeblood: A Book of Poems

by Professor Joel Hayward

Joel Hayward Poems 7

 

 

The Intruder on Grey Street

 

Secured to an iron perch

by same-colour

painted bolts and welding,

― looking like a washing machine,

I heard children say you tell us

that freedom is not absolute.

Sanctioned paparazzi, your flashbulb

intrudes, but we can't

lash out with Sean Penn's anger

and smash you in the face

(Christ cleansing the temple).

You impose

from the safety of loftiness.

Whose conscience whispered?

The city’s?

Whose mind decided?

The mayor’s?

When? Why were we not asked?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boy Racers

 

Pallid fighter aces

in arrogant beanies

and baggy jeans

fly faster than their tattoos

through irreplaceable youth

and around their square.

A white cross quivers, high,

without Christ’s sagging body

in heavy air that echoes snarls

of savage gear changes.

 

Suburban eyes see only

melanoma spots

on an old man’s ears.

Danger and noise

in lowered seats and

fat exhausts conceal the joy

and triumph of power

with few limits. Teenage girls

with piercings notice. Admiring,

they masquerade. Cool and lethal

they drink and join.

 

Thumping bass beats inflict

stress fractures on welding,

eardrums and upholstery.

Without mercy they torment

others idling at lights.

 

Heroes of their mirrors,

they zigzag through Fitzherbert's

lanes and traffic

like slalom skiers,

breaking hard for the camera,

then not.

 

They swerve left

well before the university

to snake up to a car park

where true life is taught.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The View from Anzac Park

 

Who cares about the golden orange panorama

of night-time street lights that separate

lines and squares of ink black where houses

with curtained windows are?

Ask the moths.

They ignore houses to love street lights.

No-one at Anzac Park sees any lights for

more than ten minutes ― except, maybe,

a glimmer of agreement

reflecting from lovers’ eyes.

 

Cursed by heavy fogs that dampen

only the inside of car windows, this sacred site

of flat asphalt and infinite view pulsates

to more racing heartbeats

than ever found on a basketball court.

But dead seriousness pervades Pork Chop Hill

like the spirit of a UCOL exam room.

This is a solemn business.

 

Elbows become constrained

by door handles and window winders,

and knees by gear sticks

and other knees.

 

Discomfort surrenders

momentarily

to delirium for many,

disappointment for some

and the start of

life-time regrets for others.

 

Discomfort returns

a night later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cathedral of the Holy Spirit

 

The Mother of God

sings lullabies to no-one but

everyone as birds and car fumes

slowly corrupt the glory of her paint.

Gazing down on a dull stretch of Broadway

away from the commotion of Downtown, She

presides over masses

with unblinking focus

and whispers of delicious reassurance.

 

Sundays bring a smile. A throng

equal to that of a hazy pub the night before

walk through doors she can’t bend to see.

Songs float up, mixed with the smells

of perfume, after-shave and carbon dioxide.

 

She savours life and raises a delicate eyebrow.

Above her a spire stretches to the height

of Jack’s beanstalk. White for forty kilometres

it beacons and beckons. A lighthouse

for voyagers seeking a point of reference,

it guides them ― home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morris Street

 

Pizza and

Tui beer boxes

add warm-smelling colour

to Morris Street’s peeling verandas.

Spring-spilling couches laze.

Cars held together by faded stickers collapse

everywhere, dead and dying,

on grass that grows around their rust.

Mud also grows,

spreading from tyre tracks

as quickly as it can

before summer turns it

into arid desert.

Narrowed by parking, often crooked,

the street has shrunk to a single lane

flanked by crumpled, decaying letter boxes

broken off their poles.

The street burps with alcohol and

fish’n’chip breath

and babbles

with never-ending rugby idolatry.

Old residents, living like dissidents,

emerge, stretch and relax in summers.

The young wander as nomads

to other hunting grounds,

returning,

with pizza and beer,

when semester starts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Massey Bridge

 

Scarfies and boys

accelerate with adrenal pleasure.

All others claim normality.

They touch breaks and slow,

distrusting the narrow lanes

squeezed on by a council

that gulped at the cost of a brother bridge.

Wincing claustrophobia

confounds efforts to steer perfectly straight.

Drivers make a vibrantly conscious

left-right-left-right series

of tiny steering corrections

that keep them from cars alongside,

all suffering the same flu shivers

and trucking close enough

for hairy, wind-blown spiders to step

from one car’s side mirror to another’s.

Spiders and drivers seldom weep for

lost lovers, but now and then they do ―

Evening Standard pages blotting their tears ―

for those with cut-down seats and cigar exhausts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Heart of the Place

 

Hail, Te Peeti Te Awe Awe.

What has become of your legacy?

 

You have stood guard

over duck ponds for a century

 

since your great heart ceased

and Italians cast you in marble

 

as cold as winter sleet and placed you

lamppost high above a new domain:

 

seventeen pretty acres of manicured European pomp

that now reeks with dread of night violence and

 

public toilets that few without a quest dare visit.

Alphabet flowers and Lewis Carroll lawns

 

give work to gardeners and pleasure to those

who buy postcards at Bennets. Who else?

 

A few children taking their mothers for walks

throw bread at The Square’s residents.

 

Retail workers venture in as far as the food caravans

and the brave or hurried cut across.

 

Great Rangitane prince, when did we forget,

or cease to learn

 

that Te Marae O Hine, the Daughter of Peace,

came as a gift, intended as a meeting place

 

vibrant with humanity? Prescience abounding,

you wanted Maori and Pakeha together. You birthed a city.

 

Your unblinking gaze is seldom mirrored and your name

now means little to most. Yet some, prince,

 

see your vision and share and smile. They know

you watch over ducks – and far more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love

 

I breathe in perfect darkness without a clue,

but I feel your throat

with my thumb and fingers

and notice you swallow.

Your heart beats, and I copy.

 

I hear nothing in the black,

and your soft lips meet mine and I know

your eyes are closed. Gently.

I smell your shampoo and guess the fragrance.

 

Long lashes blink unseen in the vacuum

of that gift. You cannot know you possess

it until you have given it away.

Yearning I wake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terrace End Cemetery

 

Green gates open

as a silent, yawning mouth

to a world of old cracked concrete

and weedy shingle paths

and a council sign that brightly proclaims

― with rusting indelicacy ―

that our forebears’ sacred site of sleep

is part of the city’s clomping Heritage Trail.

 

Headstones once as white as the bones they name

grow intolerant of their grey-green lichen life

and the stains of weather-washed lettering paint.

Humiliated by grubbiness,

many stones have chosen to end it all.

Their broken remains lie as a testament to their shame.

 

Mary’s gorgeous legs of marble

stand next to her separated torso

and a pretty head that rolled a pace away.

Baby Christ never woke within her cradling arms.

He smiles asleep.

O Mother, blessed be, you kept him safe.

 

In street-side lawns

evergreen trees glorify the immortality of souls.

Yet inside the cemetery’s low-slung mossy boundary

all trees weep.

Their skeletal limbs and decomposed leaves

sigh “we are sorry”.

Sparrows pecking worms hear their whispers and ask

who it was that planted deciduous trees in a graveyard.

 

An eight-sided chapel, too small for human use,

stands glum and locked with a giant’s padlock.

Spiders’ webs, birds’ nests

and fresh white paint hold together

this café for lonely spectres. It’s far cosier than the two or

three rotting concrete crypts

with doors of paint-peeling steel and scratched graffiti

that look like bank vaults

or solitary confinement cells.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baghdad Downpour

 

My house is a hole

 

I hold a photograph

and cry for you

 

How can I live

alone?

 

My house is a hole

 

I climb in to search

and find fragments

 

I hold your hand

which seeps

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ellan Vannin Veg Veen, 839 AD

 

I was straying on the beach as warships glided in

but no-one took notice of a no-one like me;

a knot-haired ragged girl with a dirty face,

a wild daughter of winds that rage free.

 

The strangers waded through feet-freezing shallows,

bent, stretched their backs and laughed with great bellows.

 

Those large hairy men with swords, axes and spears

threw nothing worse than cruel eyes my way

as I slipped out of sight, then raced home to warn

my gentle people of the brutes in the bay.

 

Sprinting, heart pounding, feet tripping I fell,

terrified of them who by ships came from hell.

 

I shouted with strong curse-filled cries

to make the village heed my frightened warning

but my thirteen-year-old voice made no noise

in the market hubbub of that bright winter morning.

 

Bleeding sore-footed I hopped in torn shoes

to my family who’d listen to a scared daughter’s news.

 

Father jumped up from repairing his nets

and, studying my expression, believed.

He pulled me to tell the old ones and headman

of the death threat that he grimly perceived.

 

Heart beating swiftly I talked tongue-tripping

of the giants who strode from the sea, evil dripping.

 

Our headman had us all flee to the stronghold

that served green-mossed as our sanctuary;

ancient beyond knowledge and often repaired,

doors barred, it would offer at least some safety.

 

Praying we all cowered inside the stone walls

awaiting the attackers’ frightening horn calls.

 

Soon we saw them pass by in the distance.

They took little notice of wealth-less fisher-folk,

who hid safe in a thick-walled squat tower.

They mocked us, baring arses, as a humiliating joke.

 

After two days of silence we dared to go out

to no sign of them who’d have killed us no doubt.

 

Yet father lamented several days later,

While standing forlorn with tears beside me,

that the next over village, far richer, had suffered,

all men cut down without a shadow of mercy.

 

And our safe, grieving village will never forget

what they owe to a girl who outran a death threat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winning First

 

Can you swing temptation

like a priest’s gold incense burner

with wafts of pungent purity?

 

Can you stitch the martyr’s hole I tore

in my grey shirt above my heart

with cotton of the same hue?

 

Can you flick a penny from your thumb

so that it casts sunbeams in my eyes

before landing head-up in triumph?

 

Will you lie down on train tracks

and rest with eyes shut

while I drop pebbles from a bridge?

 

Will you hold your breath in the bath

while you wash off shampoo

and think of tomorrow?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Algiers

 

Heaven here

and happiness

 

Faces like coffee

Hearts of chocolate

 

I remember and hum

 

Sleeping on pillows

not walking through fire

 

You remember and sing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joel Hayward Poetry, Joel Hayward Poet, Joel Hayward Poems