The Wrong Address index
Heart of the Revolution
Central Terrace, Wellington, NZ 1968
This is a winter city of steps and earthquakes;
We perch with gulls against the southerlies,
Claim perilous ledges of habitation
On the surging rim of hills;
Men dwell here in damp timber,
Their houses rock like battered lifeboats
Cresting the unquiet earth.
If you ask where I live, it is somewhere,
Yes certainly behind a door somewhere
Straight onto the stone path;
A facade green with mildew
And the rain like rivets without and within;
Weak daylight, worn carpets, dishes to wash,
Pungent fumes from a kerosene heater, someone
Trying to stay awake at a writing desk.
The year is 1968 and we are the brave,
Contemptuous of closet sexuality and immoral wars;
Knowing our fathers to be flawed men,
Our mothers servants to their whim,
Honour is on our banner :
We will march under the tank tracks;
While they carpet-bomb Vietnam to save democracy
We will put their lies on public display
And sing the Internationale with luscious irony,
For the Russians are liars too.
They, those Others, don't like our haircuts,
Find blue jeans subversive,
But we are about to inherit the earth.
Actually, making the rent is tougher
Than aping the proletariate;
For seventy-five cents an hour
I pick the chewing gum off fetid pub floors
And polish dirty windows : waiting for the Revolution
Has its drawbacks in godzone .
We are already outlanders, remote from favour;
Servants of the Evil Empire are harrying our flanks
While in the tasteful suites of downtown business houses
Callow youths with blameless eyes
Are respectfully at ease
On the ornate stairways of ambition.
Dave Crumm, my flatmate, is at home with rats;
Cementing wires into their brains
He tortures half of them for the Psychology Department
And waits to see if the unwarped survivors
Are grateful for their peace of mind.
Odd how victims always shape God
In the image of self; Dave has this droopy way
Of waving his forepaws, and squeaking
As he extolls the duplicities of experimental science..
Mice, forgive us our after-dinner mammal jokes.
But there is no drowning
The memory of Chau Ngan, who came amongst us
Then went to hell in 1968.
A gaze too droll for stepping across,
Wrists unusually flexible in worn white cuffs,
He played a wan tune on a bamboo flute
While the sun went down like thunder.
In a front room Chau Ngan learned English
And wept for his wife in Takeoville,
Learned the tongues of death, learned to float
For a moment above a gorging dark tide
As Lyndon Johnson swore an oath in a rose garden
That his Valkeries rode to no murder
Through the Khmer heartlands,
And hidden from the ancient eye of Tonl Sap
Pol Pot's crazed vengeance gathered shape.
Beneath the pain of Chau Ngan's flute
Our banners held no karma. Lost,
Unrecovered, my heart is like a butterfly
Amid the ashes of a forest fire.
It has no trust,
And decides to be born out of love,
Skeptical of Time herself.
So my purpose scents loss at charm's edge
When Margaret Svenson comes close by
In this year of passionate contradictions,
Arrives to make history, armed with Rem's Zen poems
Which persuade us of cleverness and eternal truth
According to our mind's ambition :
Square moon, square sun, blue eyes waiting.
And the bloom passes; rememberance has left
Faintly, two distant figures,
Rain streaming down our cheeks
As we perch with gulls, cresting the unquiet earth.
© copyright Thorold May 1995 All Rights Reserved
published by The Plain & Fancy Language Company ACN 1116240S Sydney, Australia
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