Inclusiveness, Dunedin

By | 1 July 1997

for Ivan Klima

They tell you: all the seasons in a day

Mist overnight: in early morning like a silver lid.
To someone unused to it mist seems to pass
right through the body, by which I mean
the mind.
By night I’ll stand by the scenic
lookout and mist will climb up from the ground.
Now the air is shiny and soon clear,
across at the point the albatross are circling
and seals roll in the kelp like workers
at belts and pulleys under water, the shadows
shifting, evanescent machines.
The seals are free
and yet are not, the underwater holds them
anthropomorphised: I see and so does Klima
the charm we put there, the sensuous rolling
but the water closing over …
Samisdat is
unforgettable, his books were typed out one
by one and passed around. Passed on
in secret makes them intimate, the words
like shadows, on paper so thin under the finger
-tips they seem to enter you all that is
Klima wants to take
a photo but the seals have moved off
the rockface and the light is fading fast
into the mid-day rain. In ten more minutes
it is sleet.
Yes, what they say, is happening.
In the city I walk alone in sudden warmth
the streets are grey and piecemeal
the slopes as dull as England. Two men lean out
an upper level of an incomplete building
and hammer away at tin. It’s high, dangerous,
surreal above the shopfronts like a great box
of lollies wrapped in cellophane.
I am walking past
the church when the rain is sudden, heavy,
and I rush in, imagining the gloomy day-pews.
But an organist is hidden head-down in Bach’s
A Minor fugue, the earth is being thrown about.
And starts, stops, hesitates in practising what
Bach knew. The pipes are full, unstopped, the chords
shake me then go silent, the air like dry land,
all life gone. Then huge, again, unrushed, the
growling bass and the high keys like everyworld
at once.
If only Klima were here, but he is
speaking to another group remembering
the past, his country’s ‘counter revolution’
and passing hand to hand like touching echoes
his ironic first editions and soon
everyone asking what he’ll write about
now the communists have gone… and only
some will see how such presumption
angers him.
At the scenic lookout
the stillness moves right in. The bay is losing
brush-strokes, blue and green: Toss Woolaston/
loose and rough Cezanne. I stare at the swell,
wanting it to surge against me like the Bach.
But it fades. Everything is changing. The mist
climbs up from the valley, sealing off
the open ground. The night. The dark

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