Note on John Dickson’s poems

Ian Wedde

John Dickson
John Dickson

John and I talk on the phone about every second week. Invariably, he’s got suggestions for what I would enjoy reading and sometimes for what I might like listening to. I’ve benefitted from these amicable suggestions for years and have never repaid the favour. This is because I can’t match John’s capacity to read, let alone his appetite for very long books. I should add that his appetite for reading at length is matched by his love of conversation, including conversations he reports on and decants into other conversations; for example, accounts of talks with his cancer surgeon whose West Coast miner family history he finds compelling. This juncture of conversation, reading, congeniality, and a longue dureé approach to social knowledge and even gossip may be the best point of entry to John’s poems. It parries (John is a longtime ‘tourist’ — his word — of the martial arts) both the deconstructive dichotomy of intention versus text, and the soupy ‘new narrative’ traps of reflexivity.

Having now made an entry, I’ll suggest that a good way to go on is with John’s reported conversations and the immediate ones we have together. These are characterised on his part by relish for transgressive narrative grain — an information surface that slows and roughs up the progress of predictable social and intellectual conventions of the literary canon readily defined by varieties of Bourdieuian ‘distinction.’ His cheerfully mordant scepticism extends also to the received wisdoms of liberal politics, the daft anxieties of cultural vanguardism, and other discourse zones where conversation can all too often languish under the comfortable weight of tribal conformity. Back in the day of the ‘Young New Zealand Poets,’ when most of the poets of our 1960s generation had decided by group osmosis rather than by reading that Robert Frost was old hat, folksy, and ‘traditional,’ John read the work and discovered its laminations of speech and prosody, and a persistent dark undertone of pessimism and fear. What mattered wasn’t that he found these qualities compelling and even congenial; what mattered was that he’d actually found them by reading the poems most of his peers had passed by on the road uncritically taken. Similarly, when many of us had decided that the eminent New Zealand poet Allen Curnow stood for provincial nationalism, John parried with his admiration for the bracing formal and intellectual qualities of the work. You will find those subtle laminations and that bracing attention to detail in John’s own poems.

The critical path continues. Thanks to John I read A.R. Ammons at length when his Collected Poems came out from Norton in 1972, and discovered the kind of loosely unspooling narrative poetics that John himself deploys often as a poet but also as a talker. Thanks to John I rediscovered the substance of Brecht’s poems in the collected Eyre Methuen volume of English translations of 1976, having backed myself into a corner with those who believed Brecht’s poetry to be inferior to the theatre work (it’s not). Goaded into rethinking this judgment, I also noticed a persistent substitution of the lyrical with the political in John’s poems.

We both like the crazy, unstoppable extent of John Ashbery’s oeuvre, which we find by turns witty and excessive. What makes the excess ok is that you can just go on reading across and past it: your experience of reading will spill beyond its immediate moment. This liking for excess and spillage also characterises not just how John may on occasions approach writing (for example his long verse-letters), but also how he prefers to approach life. Hearing that I was about to spend a year in Germany, John lent me his copy of the Norton edition of Albrecht Haushofer’s Moabit Sonnets, English translations, which was the prompt I needed to visit the Moabit Prison memorial site and read the poems in German once I got to Berlin. Without John’s introduction I wouldn’t have caught the train across the city to the prison site, and I wouldn’t have known to get the German texts. For that matter, after paying my respects to Haushofer at Moabit, I wouldn’t have walked the short distance to the Hamburger Bahnhof museum of contemporary art and spent time with the artist Hanne Darboven’s great installation in which the words Patriotismus, Nationalismus, Kosmopolitismus, Dekadenz are repeated over and over — like the nearby Moabit Prison Memorial reducing what she knew to the minimal utterances, the obsessive reductions, the repetitions that anticipate the ghosts of themselves in the silence of the archive. This, too, was a conversation whose extent I couldn’t have known how to measure, let alone predict or set limits to. Unpredictable impact is what I’ve come to appreciate and be grateful for in John’s congenial and also critical interventions. Cooking, undertaking, and the comedic aptitudes of cats are among the topics that might crop up in conversation — or in poems — along with the hopeless venality and cynicism of insurance companies in earthquake-shattered Christchurch where John and Jen live; and, despite the fact that I’m vegetarian, the best way to butcher and cook a wild pig.

My short list of reading recommendations from John has recently come to include:

The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s sequence of nine books under the series title Homo Sacer, beginning with (in English) Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1998) and proceeding to the ninth and final volume, The Use of Bodies (2016). I’ve yet to make a start. John finds compelling (he told me in an uncharacteristically brief phone call — my fault) Agamben’s distinction between ownership and use, which he explores in the fourth volume, The Highest Poverty: Monastic Rules and Form-of-Life (2013). The cover of the Stanford University Press translation has on it a picture of Saint Francis feeding birds, which suggests rather strongly that the book’s polemic weighting will be in favour of ‘use’ over ‘ownership.’ That John’s own body is the site of a contest along those lines (he has cancer) may or may not explain his desire to read these books, but I suspect that reading as an embodied practice is a given in my friend’s case. We ‘take it in,’ as we say of comprehension mediated by reading, or listening, or looking. In any case, speculation aside, the experience of reading John’s poems is always, to a greater or lesser extent, one of entering a space of embodiment in which presence or character, language, consciousness and its processes such as thought, seem not to have a border or limit where abjection starts — where we encounter a loss of self or, worse, its reduction to a brand or style. This comprehensive subjectivity doesn’t flaunt ‘ownership’ of the encompassing body, the person; it doesn’t demand individual property rights over the person’s identity and capacities. Rather, we’re in the dynamic company of capacities in use, an energy that comes from exercising what were once called talents, and from the enjoyment of that exercise or use shared through poems or conversations; or, often, through jokes.

John recently suggested another addition to the reading list when I said I was looking for long-form contemporary fiction that busted out of the constraining narrative paradigms of ‘history.’ I told him I was bored by reenactment, bored by authenticity, equally bored by literary defense stratagems to render authenticity ironic, and bored by the speech of characters historicised by voice coaches. Where to turn? John didn’t hesitate. Try the Buru Quartet, an interlinked tetralogy of novels published between 1980 and 1988 by the Indonesian author Pramoedya Ananta Toer, who died in 2001 at the age of eighty-one. I haven’t started to read these books yet, either, but what excites me about the prospect of doing so is the circumstance of their getting written. According to John, they were ‘written’ while Pramoedya, a freedom fighter against, first, the Dutch and next against the repressive Suharto government, was imprisoned in the penal colony on the island of Buru from 1969–79. Over these ten years of extreme hardship, Pramoedya told stories to fellow inmates — writing materials were mostly unavailable — who subsequently collaborated with him to reconstitute his complex oral saga of colonial repression in the early twentieth century, told through the interconnected stories of a Dutch and an Indonesian family. Several things about the Buru Quartet astonish me in advance. Firstly, it promises a radical derangement of the distinction between fiction and documentary, mediated — if ‘mediated’ is the appropriate word here — by an extreme personal experience of research — if ‘research’ is the appropriate word for being incarcerated in a prison camp. Evidently, Pramoedya has been compared to Solzhenitsyn, but the crucial difference that excites me is that the Indonesian gulag prisoner told stories as an act of social and political solidarity. Secondly, the quartet was the product of a radical derangement of authorial ownership: the books are products of yarn sessions and a subsequent, no doubt conversational, collaboration to reconstitute the oral work. Use trumped ownership.

These are my general thoughts about John’s poems and his approach to the idea of a self that must, inevitably, be where and how the matter of the poem is embodied. Of course, the particulars of the poems are always specific, however much they may conform to certain general rules. And so, some specific particulars.

The term ‘poet’s poet’ is often used to describe a writer whose finesse borders on the arcane, whose work is seeded with expert signals to initiates, whose poetics promise rewards for the expert (and probably envious) reader. The ‘poet’s poet’ is also likely to be a merciless self-critic, sceptical of easy effects (and affects), a comprehensive reader who will however flinch from ostentatious (‘try-hard’) citation.

John Dickson is a poet’s poet (and I am envious), but his poems also consistently subvert the exclusivity implied by the term ‘poet’s poet.’ They do this by pushing a sardonic but compassionate vernacular narrative across the grain of his linguistic and craft finesse; by deploying a consistently recognisable voice, laconic and disenchanted, even aphoristic, but also capable of enjoying and relaxing into ‘slow’ reflections — the kind that imply the presence of a companion, and a habit of conversation:

For many years I lived in Southland.
In fact, I am from Southland.
Some people say my speech is slow
I say it’s deliberate, just.


Here, the ‘poet’s poet’ inserts a comma after ‘fact’ and denies the apostrophe to ‘I am,’ making the line’s key emphasis fall on ‘am from.’ But then in the next line he misses out the comma after ‘slow,’ letting the word elide into ‘I say,’ before deploying another carefully chosen, indeed ‘deliberate’ comma before ‘just.’ This kind of attention to detail involves finesse — but it also scores the careful notation of a storytelling voice and reflective, conversational thought.

The poem also sources the poet in Southland, an unfashionably provincial — or at least not cosmopolitan — location, and does so early in John’s latest book, Mr Hamilton (Auckland University Press, 2016), pretty deliberately I’d guess; and just as deliberately closes by situating the poet in an office where the window faces a concrete wall, where the poet reflects that, ‘I used to have a place, somewhere called home.’ Adding:

Southland’s now nothing but a thinning of words.
Yet how it smoulders still
burning in my soul like swamp fire.

The country-music-like hyberbole of the poem’s plangent last line, with its lamination of grief and irony, is perfectly pitched to return us to the ‘deliberate, just’ slow speech of the ‘am from Southland’ poet.

Another example from the same manuscript:

In ‘Doubtful Sound 1,’ the first of two unrhymed sonnets, a busload of tourists enters the claustrophobic tunnel leading to the splendour of the Manapouri Hydro Machine Room, aware that pressing down above their doubt-filled heads is a three-thousand-metre vertical weight of granite rock. 

                        The bus
drove on; we settled down, thirty-five humans
balancing awkward beneath our thought.

Most readers will experience a slight jolt when they miss the expected ‘-ly’ after ‘awkward,’ which also clips a syllable from a pattern of ten-syllable lines. The effect, though — surely deliberate, again — is to slow the line’s rhythm, to give ‘awkward’ more weight, and also to stress the assonance or internal rhyme of ‘awkward’ and ‘thought.’

Of the few poems sampled here, ‘John Wayne’ (the name of a rooster) from the 1980s has the laconic edge of Brecht’s late poems of the 1950s, for example the Buckow Elegies — but the clipped, elegant three-line verses of John’s poem probably decant music he’s listened to as much as they include Brecht in the conversation. ‘Piano Time With Monk,’ for example, remembering a concert by the Thelonious Monk Quartet with saxophonist Charlie Rouse in Dunedin (I heard them in Auckland) remarks that:

I had no idea of how
to represent simple figures
while displacing them
with rhythmic values

Later in the poem, the offhand precision of Monk walking around the piano to play a single note (‘plink’) keying in the saxophonist Charlie Rouse and then walking around again and playing another single note (‘plung’) is an effect found often in John’s poems — unostentatious virtuosity. In ‘Sleeper,’ a poem about death among other things, we read an astonishing image of cyclic de- and re-materialisation that is uttered so easily, with so little drama, that we have to double back and read it again: 

Every night, after I close the blinds
the bush splits open the wooden houses
and plank by plank takes them back;
and every morning, the houses are there again
waiting for you to raise the dead.

(Note: ‘Bush’ in New Zealand — and Australia — is ‘forest’ in most other places.)

The poem ‘A Verse Letter Requesting More Olive Oil,’ one of many letters John has written to various friends, recalls at first the long, talky, pastoral, meditative poems of A.R. Ammons — ‘Extremes and Moderations’ or ‘Hibernaculum,’ for example. But then we also encounter a very un-pastoral satiric bite and indeed anger — a rant — that is an important aspect of John’s purpose in writing poems. The background to the ‘Verse Letter Requesting More Olive Oil’ is John’s agreement to recommend for me obscure writers on the Sublime — which he did, such as the forgettable Ernest Tuveson — in return for a bottle of very good olive oil. The oil, though appreciated when delivered, was hardly emollient, though it may have lubricated the interface between the poem’s lovely celebrations of what makes life good, and its bitter denunciation of what wrecks life — this paradoxical axis represented by the image of a slaughtered pig, at once a celebration of hunger and appetite (like Brecht’s ‘To eat of meat joyously’) and a horror. — Ian Wedde

Ian Wedde
 Ian Wedde


as I step from the hut,
full of pomp,
the rooster runs to greet me.

Ruffling his feathers
he turns side
on to my legs, eyes them

then tramples the ground. Since
he should move first
I pause

and while so pausing
I gaze upwards
at a patch of blue sky, its

strange clear brightness
like death.
The rooster crows, once, twice

He’s saying, Oh henshit John
round here
I’m in charge, not death

[from What happened on the way to Oamaru, Christchurch, Untold Books, 1986]


on my birthday, the Angel had questions
your performance to date, your career path.
And when he’d finished, I said, Angel
we’ve been through all this before.
I have everything I need, a desk, a chair
paper and pens. And though I sometimes
hear voices murmuring in the next room
like old people who have lost their past
it’s no problem; there’s no discrepancy
between what’s said and what I hear.
And the view is simply splendid.
Every night, after I close the blinds
the bush splits open the wooden houses
and plank by plank takes them back;
and every morning, the houses are there again
waiting for you to raise the dead.
As for my work, it’s obvious to me
you haven’t read the job description
you yourself wrote. Must I remind you?
And since you asked, I know nothing now
about life in history, whether it goes round
and round in a great returning circle
(better rise above it friend
otherwise you will drop right through)
or whether like some vast machine
it moves towards a predetermined end
(better join it friend, otherwise
you will get left behind), for all I know
maybe everything that happens
happened in a present time so vast
it’s the size of the universe and twice as fast
walk past a Gallipoli veteran
and Troy burns once more, a storm
may be blowing from paradise
piling wreckage upon wreckage
before your feet, and with such force
you can never close your wings
Thermopylae, Rwanda, My Lae
Yellow Tiger, Hitler, Pol Pot
I know nothing about such things
or what could be done for human good
but if I’ve heard you right, I should go back
and help bring meaning to their carnage.
Angel, who are you kidding?
I’m not an unsuspecting tenor from Oklahoma
singing, Oh what a beautiful morning.
When I wake in my room, I’m nothing
but a shadow on a wooden wall
a minor bureaucrat amongst the angelic orders.
I write reports. I follow instructions
here and there correcting a comma.
I’ve no need to change eternity
for a place full of colour and life
but where word and thing are not the same.
Leave them to it, they have your gift
the structural unreliability of freedom.
And as for having answers.
Such debauchery of the soul!
Mountains are mountains, rivers are rivers
and my face is just my face.
Your choice, he said, and I went back
to my small room and fell fast
into a deep and wakeful sleep

[from Sleeper, Auckland, Auckland University Press, 1998]


For many years I lived in Southland.
In fact, I am from Southland.
Some people say my speech is slow
I say it’s deliberate, just.
And my soul runs dark
like Southland’s slow intestinal rivers
laden with manuka dust.
And my detachment from anything plain.

The yearning for love (even now)
I put down to watching the Southern Lights on still freezing nights
my heart abandoned only to itself
like a song heard outside a dance hall.
And this habit of accepting things
until too late.

I have mementoes
signed certificates proving attendance:
my father’s waistcoat when he tended the farm
washed utterly of sweat and the warm smell of cattle
and the score of Beethoven’s Appassionata
that belonged to my mother once.
And look here, this Box Brownie photo
my parents, I think.

I used to have place, somewhere called home.
Today, I write
my office facing a concrete wall.
Southland’s now nothing but a thinning of words.
Yet how it smoulders still
burning in my soul like swamp fire.

[from Mr Hamilton, Auckland, Auckland University Press, forthcoming]


whatever the year
I was walking home from the Monk concert
and this guy
who knew everything anyone could know
about playing tenor sax
was telling me and his girlfriend
with her beautiful slow eyes
what was wrong
with Charlie Rouse’s solo
on Round Midnight.

Far too long
too many repeated phrases
too little invention
his mouth full
of flatted fifths
diatonic scales
complete variations
on his own intervals.
And for all I knew
maybe the guy
who knew everything anyone could know
about playing tenor sax
maybe the guy was right
maybe he breathed
such tone scales of big words
such complex variations
so as to scare off
no talent guys like me
who wouldn’t know
a dissonant second
from the beautiful slow eyes
of his girl friend.

You see
in sixty-three
in sixty-four
whatever the year
my love was simple
I had no idea of how
to represent simple figures
while displacing them
with rhythmic values
with touch
I’d spend Saturday afternoons
listening to Lee Morgan
or Clifford Brown
or the Adderley brothers
Cannonball and Nat
and drinking quart bottles
of Waikato Four Star
straight no chaser
but I knew
that the guy who knew everything
that anyone could possibly know about playing sax
wasn’t Charlie Rouse blowing solo
because Mister Monk’s gone shambled
to have a piss offstage
or maybe another slug of cognac
after fifteen minutes
even the guy who knew everything
would blow too many notes
and for far too long.

And Rouse
soaked in sweat
breathing out his lungs
and shaking all over
and stumbling in
from behind his black curtain
here’s Mister Monk
carrying in his touch
a simple tonal idea
he helps Rouse out
by touching the keyboard
and then walking around the piano
to come back
he may as well have said
Don’t worry
we’ve got the rest
of our lives to play.

whatever the year
when I was there in George Street
and floating from the Monk concert
and this guy
who knew with all his words
how to play tenor sax
was telling me and his girlfriend
what was wrong
with Charlie Rouse’s solo
on Round Midnight
when he turned up London Street
homewards to his flat
taking with him
his flatted fifths
his diatonic scales
and his girlfriend too
with those beautiful eyes
I was somewhere else
and loving it
in the chord of PLINK.

And a year later
round midnight
here’s the girlfriend
with her steady slow eyes
suggesting her call and response
and my voice
its usual nervous light baritone
going far too deep
with far too little invention
with too many flat fives
like the guy who knew
everything anybody could ever know
about playing tenor sax,
and she touched my lips
slowing my mouth down
We've all night to play
she said.

[from Mr Hamilton, Auckland, Auckland University Press, forthcoming]


Dear Ian,

                 This Saturday afternoon, after I’d installed myself on my papal throne
(a plastic chair from Taiwan), I was listening to Bola

Sete, a Brazilian guitarist who begins slow, then goes some place else, playing so
fast so many unheard harmonics I was listening to

three guitarists improvising Bola Sete; and from an old ladies waist glass I’d
found in a wall I’d demolished I was drinking a dry red

wine — The Vicar’s Mistress by name — that from first looking forward to the next
sip, massed upon my accepting tongue all the tall summer

days Jen and I have spent rowing our small dingy so far out we belong to the
ocean (we, the two legged, vestigially finned amphibians,

whose arteries, whose veins, after millions upon millions of years, still aren't
glutted with enough dopamine), and afterwards, salt

drying out on our naked tanning skins, feasting on kumara, and shell fish, and a
pottle of strawberries picked out from some roadside

stall, and as the driftwood burns to blue green ember flashed with gold, listening
to her sleeping breath, aware, always, of how all

living things shall vanish, WHEN — long before I got pissed, and my word
guzzling, super-sized tank of superlatives in praise of finely

grained North Canterbury tannins, ripe strawberry, and some dryer taste, so
muntered my celebrating mouth, I began to claim at the top

of my best slurring, high-diggery-doo-doo, mousey tongue, that I, the grand
undertaker of everything goes, while high on my Baverian-

thrown-forwardness-into-my-being-privileged-throne, having inserted glop,
squish, my theory driven, late postmodern, you don’t under-

stand, do you Mister Jones kind of museum prosthesis art into the Czar of
Dialectics gob, and then word processed my rapidly installing

research outcomes while the Marsden Fund cash mandelstammed through his
mustachioed chinny chin chin, I was thus entitled to sermonize on

how to live during these times of the doomed Pax Americano, when that
imperial deckchair, the titanic Up-Tutai-Creek-Without-an-Umpire-to-

Blame that keeps on happening into port after yet another overnight spin job,
was carrying somewhere amongst its four thousand or so

containers, one hundred thousand, three hundred and twenty point four
nickelised Iraqis all sufficiently distressed to be the center body

bits of General Coup d’Etat Bush’s antique road show, a Barmy Army of Blairite
fleas so laagerized their mad cow gotcha prions caused a

Britz Camper Van riot in Osama Bin Had’s mouldy yeehad soul, ten oinks of third
way socialist pork barrel muldooning themselves on

Helen Spotted Tongue’s tongue, three sheets of Semtex carrying a payload of
Cesium-137, two Key smirks, and zillions of plastic

chairs, and zillions of PC’s, and zillions of whatever it takes, all
shoddily made, all intended for export (like so many abandoned

stockpiles of neolithic flint), and the ballast — one pristine copy of Mulla
Nasruddin’s great book On how to train clouds, last

published by Espinola and Sons, in Amsterdam, in 1642, and one squat green
bottle of thick green, almost sweet, Spanish olive oil, while

still possessing what’s left of my Pakeha she’ll-be-right-eh mind in my more or
less sound body, but luckily for this deliberately

delaying, slouching out of Milton sentence, I remembered that some thirty lines
ago, I’d written WHEN. So rather than waking up round

midnight, my teeth shivering themselves together like so many pissed off
maroons caste up on some long wintery beach amongst a Wellys of

King Kongs (who’d only wanted in their first place to rock along to
Link Wray’s great rockabilly guitar), and dreaming Jen had fucked off

to some new fangled feminist on how to run with the wolves and weave through
an All Black pack like Jo Maso course, with Billy the Kid and

the El Hombre Sports busy scrumming through Pine Tree’s tiny white cat door
wanting to watch the World Cup footy after another one

hundred dozen jugs and a feed, I assumed my latest birthright, my wreath of
bush fire pumpkin leaves, and going back inside, I laid out

on the kitchen table one strong cutting board (a slice of kauri three inches
thick), one green handled boning knife,and one Sanelli cleaver.


Of what it takes to approach a seven hundred and fifty kilo chosen for slaughter
Tuscan pig that’s looking at you with snouty blue eyes,

as if, o faithful servant you were carrying to my Paradiso yet another plateful of
walnuts, and ripe apples and fresh cream: and

then, Maestro, once you’ve opened its throat out to gargle into a steel bucket, to
go back home, whistling a tune from Verdi, because

you, knowing how to wash your hands, you’ve assumed yet another invisible pig
skin, and you’ve left your blood guilt back there on a

killing room floor; of such craft, of knowing how to point cut, say, to ever so so
slightly tear apart, the almost liquid film that holds

all muscle together, or how to slip the blade beneath that silvery coating, not fat,
not tendon, you know, the white stuff your teeth

spit out, so as to reveal in the kitchen light there on the kauri cutting board, the
lean lines of the meat, of such craft, I know jack

all. So when I laid out the headless and gutted half corpse of a young boar that
had been hunted uphill through bracken and manuka and

gorse, and given to me by a man who neither reads nor writes but who knows far
more than most what sudden, precisely calibrated body fear

changed the consistency and colour of that animal shit, or why, having nosed
along with his dogs the faintest of faint scents, he

should become right now, when I picked the cleaver up, though I know that in
each year in New Zealand one hundred and thirty million

creatures become meat, I hadn’t the foggiest of what to do; I’d rather drive to the
super-market and changing the word into words buy

the value added product, Moroccan lamb, Porterhouse steak, Sweet and Sour
fish, as if I believed that the makings, say, of that the glossy

Sunday Times recipe for pork bones on poached Bantam tripe I was so eager to
cook in four dollops of Virgin olive oil, meant in fact,

that piggy, looking directly at the dogs had not only grunted, Go fuck yourselves,
but also escaped their drooling teeth by somer-

saulting up a tree I could hug. And that colour? That bright red? Was that unease,
an overdose of adrenaline because a butcher stuffed up?

Or just one of those petty Nuremberg light shows supermarkets use to make us
believe brown is red, heart ticks, and that kind of thing?

And as I hesitated, I swear the pig’s half corpse said to me: Those lines about your
veins still not being glutted with life. Were they

for real? I accepted the question. I was hungry. Oranges and lemons, the bells of
Saint Clemens. Hey there pig, here comes my chopper.


Earlier today, Jen and I played a small trick on Cueba, by hiding amongst the
leaves of a strawberry plant, three ripe strawberries

we’d purchased from Pak ’n Save and which she found and ate, tonight, like her
staring at the last red strawberry still growing on the

plant, and which she, alone, had found, Bibi! Babu! More? More strawberry!, and
which was quickly enough so much red juice on her

chinny chin chin, tonight, when I, the El Presidente of our small kitchen, strode
across it's Baltic Pine floor, my bush fire pumpkin

wreath happily askew to the undressed word salad of two hundred million
galaxies, and began preparing the salad (Black Seeded

Simpson, Red and Green Salad Bowl, zucchini, spring onions, and
Russian Reds, all produced from my garden of plastic bags), tonight,

when I unwrapped the squat bottle you’d sent of thick green, almost sweet
Spanish olive oil, and began drizzling the salad, like a child

innocently cutting through the granite meniscus of words, I
did something else: I held fullness. So as we continue our absolute like

it or not swims to the ocean’s third bank, hoping like most ex- amphibians to
peacefully enjoy a place in the world, as I finish off

the Vicar’s Mistress while listening to Ken Smith’s fabulous brass band cornet
playing, as the Pax Americano war continues on something

else (for the moment blunder-bussed on Bagdad’s Twin Towers), and the
Captain Cooker pig roasts in the oven, in my by now famously super-

sized laconic Southland speech (I wasn’t born in Ossian Street, Milton, to write
boasting pig verse for nothing), Thank you. Ian, The

olive oil’s great. But in case that ship does sail into port, send another bottle soon,
eh, mate. Like now.

[Previously unpublished]