Five poems by New Zealand novelist, playwright and poet whose poetry collections include In Vitro, Freda Kahlo’s Cry and Other Poems
You have to be dead to be invited to this party.
As is to be expected, all the stars are here.
Janis, Marilyn, Jesus.
There are ordinary people too though.
Kevin Watson who died of a blood clot to the brain
shortly after his 40th birthday.
He’s been resurrected. Now he’s partying in the corner —
he’s put himself in charge of the music
and is playing Nirvana
as Cobain toys with a segment of his blown-off head.
Other run-of-the-mill folk present?
Jimmy Molesworth who hung himself
and is now hitting on Janis Joplin who is oblivious
to the attention, dancing wildly to Come As You Are
a whisky bottle clutched tightly in her right hand.
Jimmy’s still got rope marks around his neck.
There’s Cindy Rutherford who was hit by a car
while simultaneously cycling and listening to her iPod.
Not a good combination. She’s got splinters of glass
from the windscreen embedded in her face.
Marilyn decides to re-stage her death for our general entertainment.
She strips off and swallows a bottle of pills.
Then passes out in the bed. Nobody looks alarmed.
It’s all faked; we can’t die now that we’re dead.
The black telephone rings.
I move to answer it.
Nobody is there.
I can hear the 22nd Century heavy breathing down the line.
I am waiting patiently for you to awaken.
You are several hours behind
And half a world away.
Perhaps it’s not wise
But I do it anyway
For reasons known to my heart
But still veiled from my mind.
You say you wait for me
So we are equal
Though I do not like to keep score.
A song plays —
“You and I were almost dead”
And I think of my many close calls;
The lightning strikes, the car crash, the surgery to the brain,
To name just a few.
Yes, seven of my nine lives have been used up –
I’m down to just two now
So I offer them up to you –
Hoping you will take good care of them.
I could now be almost the living dead, zombie, vampire or ghost –
You could walk or see right through me;
See me walk through walls, not needing a door,
A humble boast, a sleek trick, some call it showing off.
Scars and schoolyard beatings haunt your past,
Making me afraid for your future.
Wanting it joined to mine.
We could help each other in mysterious ways;
Each manufacture half a skeleton key —
Push open every locked door,
Leaving nothing undone.
I could hand you a sewing kit — needle and cotton thread,
You could stitch yourself a new heart —
I could make it beat in two-four time
And we could waltz
Perfect strangers who should know better.
Man or animal?
Well what have we here —
A near perfect stranger getting kicks for free
Every night like some Cobain song while I march along in time,
No doubt just as guilty.
I’m old enough to be his mother, there’s something twisted about that,
I ask myself why I continue - nobody has an answer to this question.
It’s trauma that makes the story great,
The wider yawns the abyss, the greater shines the glory,
Think of all the medals we could hang upon our walls,
Polished and shining, public display - if you care for that sort of thing.
Gloss up your scars until they gleam — then put them up for sale,
There’s a space now where they operated,
Must be my lucky day — my mind plays tricks on me,
Not knowing which door to open,
Behind this one a candy store, behind that, a hard brick wall,
The sands of deception shift and change - as everything dissolves.
A limited life span brings everything into focus,
People they care for me,
Well, don’t tell me I’m living beneath my dignity,
As other humans serenade with songs I can no longer hear
All my circuits are cut off.
Kiss goodbye to your old way of living,
You too can dwell in cripple’s alley,
Thinking only doomed thoughts,
That back you into a corner, get you up against the wall —
Shrug and kick it off —
Song plays ‘There’s an empty space inside my heart’
The road stretches on ahead of us —
Into something that resembles infinity.
They were both prisoners of their minds.
“You don’t have to be a solo driver”, she said to him,
Hoping to lighten his heart.
He claimed it had the desired effect -
At least some of the time.
Both of them bore battle scars.
Soldiers in the field, they stood shoulder to shoulder,
Facing the same way — a cold wind blew
As they stood staring into the midday sun
Just after that last eclipse.
He reassured her fears with his constant words —
And a miniature universe was born.
The phone lines between them were clear;
No crackle, no static.
Except for on one occasion
When he was speaking and she could not hear his voice —
Which was disturbing.
She admired his tenacity —
He kept on trying to get through.
She made a map, and he stuck coloured pins on it,
Markers to mark where they had been,
And also where they were going.
They could not see the edge of the map.
He told her he wanted to be a land surveyor
So she sent him a book on topography,
Along with the latest MRI scan of her brain.
Together they explored the geography
Of their strange and unexpected new love.
I think I would like a sky burial —
No photographs allowed as the vultures take me skywards.
I’d have to live in Tibet, get friendly with the locals —
Earn somebody’s respect.
Those gigantic birds would circle overhead,
Waiting patiently, then swoop,
My body parts would be swept up in talon and beak —
The easiest way to take to the sky.
More practical than cremation
When the ground’s too hard and rocky to dig a grave —
This would be my exit strategy.
Instructions can be found in the Tibetan book of the dead
For this ceremony intended to help my spirit move on from
The uncertain plane between life and death into the next life.
Who’d want to be hanging around on planet Earth
When you could be digested by greats of the sky,
Something with a decent wingspan
And spend your after death, pre-digestion hours,
Hovering high in mid-air,
Waiting to be born again.
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