Best New Zealand Poems 2001


Alan Brunton



I like dinner music.
I like water in a clay jug.
I like it when the water rains on me.

I was just a tourist in those mountains. I drove wildly down steep
slopes through gorges and cascades. After the brutal descent, I
arrived at a belvedere with a breath-taking view.

I will tell you something: In 1897, three fragments of broken jug
were discovered in Egypt. They were 3000 years old. Poems were
painted on the fragments. One of them is
                    the poet smells his lovers shirt . . .
In 1951, French Egyptologists found twenty-eight more pieces of
the same jug and the rest of the poem was restored
                    that sniff of sweetness instantly
                                        transports him to the South Seas

O Rio dos Poetas

I met a sage in a state of bliss
who subsisted on a glass of milk each day.
Below him stretched a great emptiness
carved out of existence, the head-waters
of the Mondego River.
A short distance away was
the birthplace of the ‘discoverer’ of Brazil.

My father died in December.
With my brothers I carried him
to the low house reserved
for dead soldiers.
When it was my turn to speak
I recalled driving though green paddocks
in his Chevrolet,
the road driving into my eyes.
It was the first day of the holidays.
We got lost in the traffic
and separated from the cortege
so we stopped for sandwiches and beer
and played billiards in a club.
A band was set up to play
but after a dispute with the management
they took their gear away.
I hope I never
I hope I never
see that part of Auckland again.

Language is my neighbourhood.
I live in Alphabet City.
The people who live here open their hearts to the sun.

Today was the birthday of Louis Braille, the inventor of a reading
system for the blind,
the day the sputnik fell back to Earth.

My horoscope says:
‘Writing frequently will help you sustain a relationship with
someone at a distance.’

At night I watch the moon and imagine exciting places
over the horizon. Only a fool does not see that the vast
industrial economies are temporary. I say too much. My
throat is infected with words. At the country hospital, I am
treated by a beautiful doctor. That evening we drink wine
from the valley on the balcony of the hotel. Look, she says,
the moon is moving into the distance, three centimetres
each year, which is the speed at which fingernails grow!
We sing revolutionary songs until all hours, drinking to
friendship between our two countries. In her language, the
word for ‘Sunday’ is ‘resurrection’. I leave the following

This existence is not original.
          Like love itself,
the universe is mostly smoke and mirrors,
          I am I,
the beginning of illusion.
          You are you,
the centre of confusion.
          I write to you alone at night,
speaking into the silence.


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