Madrid, Prado Museum

We present this work in honor of International Museum Day.

05-18 Joseph
M.K. Joseph
Kiwi
1914 – 1981

Two clergymen, one long, one short,
Stand before Greco’s Trinity:
The tall one twirls a single thought
Round some point in divinity;
The short one mops his heated brows
With a red handkerchief, dimly aspires
To levitate among the clouds
Upborn by incorporeal fires.

The desiccated blond inspects
The pages of her Baedeker,
Hoping that somehow culture and sex
At last will coalesce for her.
She who through Europe has pursued
Delight still missed en troisi me noce,
Beneath some vast exuberant nude
Of Rubens, knows the pain of loss.

Fading with cup and mandolin,
Goya’s country feast turns dark,
But soon the firing-squads begin
By lanternlight their bloody work.
Before that last anger and despair
At human folly, someone stands.
It is oneself that cannot bear
Those anguished eyes and famished hands.

Velazquez turns with easy stance
To the princess and the maids of honour,
Caught in a movement like a dance,
And calms the dwarf’s indignant humour.
Royalty in the looking glass
Fears its heavy image less:
The gift of water in a glass
Forgives the human ugliness.

Equal and intellectual,
Transcending flesh, transcending flame,
This passionless light that hallows all
Shall build us an eternal home.

Poets

03-27 Frame
Janet Frame
Kiwi
1924 – 2004

If poets die young

they bequeath two thirds of their life to the critics
to graze and grow fat in
visionary grass.

If poets die in old age
they live their own lives
they write their own poems
they are their own might-have-been.

Young dead poets are prized comets.
The critics queue with their empty wagons ready for hitching.

Old living poets
stay faithfully camouflaged in their own sky.
It may even be forgotten they have been shining for so long.
The reminder comes upon their falling
extinguished into the earth.
The sky is empty, the sun and moon have gone away,
there are not enough street bulbs, glow-worms, fireflies to give light

and for a time it seems there will be no more stars.

To an Unknown Poet

03-03 McQueen
Cilla McQueen
Kiwi
b. 1949

I was in the middle
of your poem on the internet
when the electricity went out.

You disappeared and left me
mid-sentence in the darkened room,
whereat I lost the gist

and wandered out to the kitchen to poke the fire.
I cannot tell whether you resolve
the unspoken thing,

or whether it will return to haunt us.
In the sudden darkness
I was leaning towards you

impossibly far, stroking
your temple and whispering
incomprehensible fragments –

Kindness on the Field

11-19 Pope
Robert J. Pope
Kiwi
1865 – 1949

 

Be kind to the hooker, or else in the scrum
Thy poor tender shins he will hack;
Or take the first chance that is offered to him
Of planting his foot in your back.
Be kind to the hooker, he’s hidden from view,
And can work his revenge in the dark,
So if you insult him, as sure as you’re born,
He’ll deprive you of some of your bark.

Be kind to the half-back, he’s nippy and sly,
And will grab you when rounding the scrum,
Or will collar you low, your heels up he’ll throw,
And bang on the ground you will come.
Be kind to the half-back, that watchful young man,
If you hurt him he’ll likely feel wild;
And if he should meet you again in the field,
You’d probably know why he smiled.

Be kind to the winger, or you he may prod
In the home of your afternoon tea;
He’s fond of a scrap, and won’t mind a rap
If your eye comes to grief on his knee.
Be kind to the winger, he’s out for a go,
And promptly pays all that he owes;
So be careful to give him no more than his due,
Or he’ll give you the change on your nose.

Be kind to three-quarters, they’re heady and strong,
And can run like their master, Old Nick;
So if you tread hard on their corns beg their pardon,
Or limp off the field with a rick.
Be kind to three-quarters again let me say,
For their hatred of roughness is such
That, if you should fend them, or neatly upend them,
You’ll travel henceforth on a crutch.

Be kind to the full-back or, when in his grip,
He’ll handle you roughly for sure.
He’s a virtuous fellow, and hates fast young men,
So take care that your language is pure.
Be kind to the full-back, ’tis kindness well spent,
Don’t approach this stern player with vim;
If to score you must try, put your collar-bone by –
A collarbone’s nothing to him.

At the End

07-03 Duggan
Eileen Duggan
Kiwi
1894 – 1972

 

Once on a dewy morning
With the blue sky blowing apart,
Each bud broke on my eyelids,
Each bird flew through my heart.

I prayed for the faith of a starling
Under the tawny trees,
child or a holy woman,
What could be greater than these?

But now on a heavy morning
With the dull sky blowing apart,
When no flower blesses my eyelids,
And no wing brushes my heart,

I, made surer by sorrow,
Beg what seems more to me,
The faith of a willow in winter,
Or a blind hound nosing the knee.

Molecular Theory

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 120th birthday.

06-13 Beaglehole
J.C. Beaglehole Kiwi 1901 – 1971

 

Noiseless, unnursed, the country rose
Is born, and quietly it goes:
The unheard bright anemone
Blooms for the eye alone to see.

Never a sigh, never a groan
Utters this unmarked casual stone,
There breaks no breath from this dull wood
To hear, I know, nor ever should.

Yet do I know that stone, wood, flower
Travail and sicken every hour—
Deep, deep about the hidden core
A thousand systems meet at war.

A thousand suns are brought to birth
And shattered in the very earth
Beneath my feet; without a sound
Pulses the long-tormented ground.

And yet, I think, could I but hear
Once, suddenly, with quickened ear,
Might I not start, as saw my eye
A petal fall, to catch a cry?

The Magpies

06-08 Glover
Denis Glover
Kiwi
1912 – 1980

 

When Tom and Elizabeth took the farm
The bracken made their bed
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

Tom’s hand was strong to the plough
and Elizabeth’s lips were red
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

Year in year out they worked
while the pines grew overhead
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

But all the beautiful crops soon went
to the mortgage man instead
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

Elizabeth is dead now (it’s long ago)
Old Tom’s gone light in the head
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

The farm’s still there. Mortgage corporations
couldn’t give it away
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies say.

The Raw Men

We present this work in honor of the 5th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Rowley Habib
Kiwi
1933 – 2016

 

This is where they came from, the Raw Men.
…And from the raw men they came.
The dark men, the squat men,
the slope-shouldered, solid-built men,
neat in khaki.

This is where they came from, the brown men,
the dark-lipped, thick black-haired raw men,
born for the uniform.

Praised in the deserts of Tobruk,
hailed in the heats of Mersa Matruh,
gloried in Greece.
We salute you, sons of New Zealand, Maori Battalion.
‘Kia ora koutou. Kia ora nga tamariki o Aotearoa’.

Yes, this is where they came from, the Raw Men,
the fearless marauders of the Middle East,
the ‘hard-doers’ with hearts of lions.
collecting medals like stones on Hill 209 Tebaga Gap, Tunisia.

From the pubs they came, drunk on a Saturday afternoon,
and the neighbour’s house afterwards,
staggering, stumbling, stone-tripping homewards
through the half-light of dawn.

Yes, this is where they came from, the Raw Men.
From the crude-hewn, back-block, saw-screaming,
sweat-sapping timber mills, they came
trudging to work in the early mornings,
their breaths rising in mists with the cold.

From the bush covered hill-slopes, they came,
plodding homewards down the snigging track
with axe slung on shoulder. Only the step is quicker
now. Not the ‘Government Walk’ of the morning,
going to work. And then the voice in the evening,
loud & clear, carried on the throbbing air, now that
the mill is silent and the darkness is falling. ‘Come
round to my hut after e hoa Tai. There’s still
a couple of bottles left from last night.
We’ll clean them up’.

Yes, this is where they came from, the men in khaki,
Tigers of Tunisia, cursing in the rains of Cairo,
singing in the heats of Helwan … With a rifle
in one hand and a guitar in the other. That’s us!
…And a song ever ready on the tongue. That’s us!
…Play hard and fight hard. That’s us!
…‘Real ‘hard-doers’ those boys’, they say,
‘But I’m glad I’m on their side. Good fighters’. That’s us!
The guitars and the song. The work in the mornings
plagued by the dry horrors. That’s us! ‘Poor old Rangi’s
got the shakes. Ha! Ha! Where you been last night e hoa?’
That’s us! The ‘No thanks, I don’t drink. Just
pour it all over me, I like the smell of it’,
Ha! Ha! That’s us!

Yes, this is where they came from, those men.
From the street fights, the bar fights, the party fights.
From sleeping with another man’s wife.
From the hotel maid’s room in the morning, climbing
out the window and whistling down the street,
happy and full contented, home-bound, to fall
into a deep, dreamless sleep.
But always there is the laughter,
the white teeth flashing against the thick dark lips,
The grating spit-bubbling, carefree laughter.
The conversation, coarse and harsh.

Yes, this is where they came from, the Maori Battalion.
From the timber mill villages. deep-bushed.
From the back-block settlements fringing isolated roads
that make passers-by ask, ‘Don’t you get lonely here?’
And chilblain-footed children with bare feet
walking to school on icy roads on frosty winter mornings.

From the shearing sheds they came. The Freezing Works.
The Wool Stores. The Power Board. The bush felling.
The scrub cutting. The post splitting. Truck driving.
Bully driving. Cow spanking. Cattle mustering.
The City Council, bare-torsoed with pick and shovel
and jack-hammer, breaking up the tar-sealed pavement.
‘Gee! there was some beaut sheilas went past today’.

From the Hydro Works they came. The Construction Sites.
The coal mines. Naked muscles straining, pride
in pitting physical strength against work.
Sweat and dirt intermingled. The Public WorksDepartment,
with the children standing on the roadside, laughing
and teasing, repeating what they heard their parents say
‘P.W.D…. Poor Working Devils!’ as the truck
passed them along the road.

Yes, this is where they came from, those men.
Knights of the Middle East.
From the prisons and the borstals they came.
From country school teaching and offices
in a Government Department. In a city office. The WelfareDept.
Maori Affairs. From lonely coastal farms, with the
sound of the surf ever lapping. From sulking, slouching,
lost and lonely, sullen in the alien city.
Open-neck shirted wharfies. Wild in a dance,
noisy in the films. Cigarette drooping-mouthed,
fish and chips eating from newspaper wrappings.
Billiard room haunting. Hanging about.
Drunk on the street, annoying the passers-by.
But always there are the exceptions. The quiet ones.
The earnest ones. The deep-thinking, serious ones.
As it is with everything there are the exceptions.

Yes, this is where they came from, the Raw Men.
From singing in a bar led by a rich baritone voice,
‘ …Tomo mai e tama ma, ki roto, ki roto …‘
All around they are singing. Everywhere there are mouths
opening and closing. Feet placed firmly apart,
heads thrown back, eyes opening and shutting, enraptured
in the singing. Always there is the singing.
At the parties back home there was the singing.
In the deserts of Egypt there was the singing.
On the battlefields of Libya there was the singing.
In the streets of Rome there was the singing.
Going to the war and returning, there was the singing.
Always there is the song and the guitars.
Above it, beneath it, right through it all,
there is the singing and the dancing and the laughing.