Best New Zealand Poems 2001


James McNaughton


Moon Poem

I hung out one night with a one-legged poet
in a campsite at Windjana Gorge, in Western Australia.
I’d seen him the day before, in Tunnel Creek,
where he was worrying about keeping his stump dry,
and leaning on his girlfriend. He was much more at ease
on the mattress in the back of their Combi
rolling joints and dispensing beer from the bar fridge.
I can’t remember how we got talking,
or his name or his face, but I remember his motorbike accident —
and all the compensation money going on speed and pizza.
I didn’t read poetry then, but his stuff sounded
good to me, the Leonard Cohen poems
even better. The one that really stuck, though,
was a poem by a mate of his about two guys in a truck
tearing along some lonely road at night, speeding off
their nuts. The full moon was described as ‘the original Aspirin’.
I thought that was great, a revelation, and all his mate’s poems were great,
and Leonard Cohen’s were great, and some of his were . . . good.
He got pissed off as the night went on — felt my enthusiasm
was misdirected, so I stumbled off to my car.
I was about to leave next morning when he hopped over
in his black Y-fronts. He was covered in bright tattoos:
parrots, budgies and macaws. ‘Is that a budgie?’
I asked, pointing at one. He said it was a budgerigar.
I almost said, ‘Wrong kind of birds, mate, there’s no tits.’ But something
stopped me. I just said, ‘Makes a nice change,’ and he said ‘Yeah,’
and we shook hands.


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