The Intruder on Grey Street
Secured to an iron perch
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).
from the safety of loftiness.
Whose conscience whispered?
Whose mind decided?
When? Why were we not asked?
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
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,
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.
to delirium for many,
disappointment for some
and the start of
life-time regrets for others.
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.
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
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,
with pizza and beer,
when semester starts.
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.
confounds efforts to steer perfectly straight.
Drivers make a vibrantly conscious
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.
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.
My house is a hole
I hold a photograph
and cry for you
How can I live
My house is a hole
I climb in to search
and find fragments
I hold your hand
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.
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?
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
Joel Hayward Poetry, Joel Hayward Poet, Joel Hayward Poems