In the Purple Mists of Last Evening

1 August 2015

in the city things were going well
I knew I’d be home again soon
standing outside my own front door listening
for any sound inside –
to see if anyone might be home, you see –
but there never was

the blue car takes the right hand turn
at the intersection
striking the same precision of movement
as a singer can produce with sound
a long falling note for instance
uncanny in the way it recalls
the never to be found body of Federico Garcia Lorca
the way water falls back in a fountain
after it has jetted upwards

and that’s when the opera began to form itself
as it were
around ghosts of the twentieth century
a mother of seven children who took them fishing
every weekend to keep them off the streets
and to feed their hungry mouths
and here’s the operatic bit
when they each grew up at a certain age
each turned into a kind of fish
so that one was a cod another a bass another a snapper
a flounder a shark
(which really isn’t a fish but which brims with oil)
a sprat and a terakihi

in her senility demented she wanders
the lonely shore
and her lament opens the story
this same shore was where two old chiefs
sat by a fire many years earlier
debating who had been the better warrior
in their youth and they sing the song
old warriors sing:
I might have skewered you through the heart
and cooked your bones for breakfast
but I chose to spare your life
and for that reason you sit beside me here today

as the tide runs out
connections connections I hear you say
to which I could reply
it’s all part of a dream
but no, sadly, it’s true
no dream only the heart

the days are new
as they always are
and the times are easy
which they always aren’t
the blue car is just ahead of me
as I drive west
I notice there are seven children wedged inside
and a little old lady is hunched over the wheel
speeding along I see her wind down the window
and she throws something out
splat
it smacks into my windscreen and bounces onto the bonnet
a trembling flounder flipping its tail
I’m forced to pull over because
the fish has exuded such a slimy substance
I cannot see the way ahead
and in cleaning the windscreen
and standing bewildered with the dying flounder
in my arms I lose track of the blue car

this would be science fiction if
two chiefs in full war regalia had not
walked on by
so to speak
as I was cleaning the thick glutinous substance
from the glass on which it left behind a tarnishing
as a soul touched or crippled by the power of the divine

that might have been my own description of myself
as I stood scribbling at my front door
a voice inside was pouring out dictation
as I filled the pages of my notebook
hastily scrawled and awkwardly formed words
the nature of which I found hard to connect
with the evening itself

the purplish air was almost black
the day was departing like a chief
stepping into his canoe on a lake edge
and heading out across the big water
as I fumbled for my key and opened
and crossed the threshold into the
colonial opera which turns out to be
a modus operandi for inveigling mediocrity
in a once-heroic people

call it progress call it success
call it the pasteurization of infinity
leave your long hair at the gate
we are expecting uncomplicated guests tonight
who will congratulate us on our achievements
since settlement
after the dinner the lawyer went on and on
like nobody’s business
he clammed his fork into the three-tiered sponge
which was already on the wobble
the pandemonium began to wail of better days
the harmonium bellowed out old lays
men slimmed their wallets towards sentimentality
women donned masks of old disgusts

this was the big scene in the marquee
before darkness crept across and under wanton trees
life sketched out figures of apotheosis
and flagrante
summer lawns wet but not with dew
and grass on which crumpled combs abandoned dawn
miscegenation begins at home
the shirt and tie mother nailed to the ironing board
becomes a new design for a national flag
we learn how to say hallelujah in all the languages
of the Empire
it turns out the father of the baby was a hats-off kind of guy
who departed last year to be a missionary
in Africa
his face is on the donation box as it is passed around
at church
your cousin tells you he knows a hole
you can slip through to take a short cut
it’s a portal to the thing you cannot imagine but know is there
and the very idea of “short cut”
causes you to burst into tears for the relief it promises
you don’t care it there’s a bull in the paddock
or a beehive under the macrocarpas
nothing will be able to catch you as you sprint
oh you are and oh you have
a certain flounce that never was seen before
in this universe

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