Sport 35: Winter 2007
Airini Beautrais — Twenty-three Love Poems
Twenty-three Love Poems
Transfixed by a tui.
The song strung through
your awkward body
hands in pockets
When I smiled at you
you looked at me
as though my smile
was an apelike threat.
Which is always found when you aren't looking for it.
Doing the garden when you are grown up.
Or visiting a friend and seeing it neatly placed
on an overgrown path where it has been sitting
for some time.
Outside my garden is sounding
with the voices of children hunting tennis balls.
'We've lost them,' they sing
as a charm to force them out.
At the hospital bus stop.
Your breath smelled like fruitcake
—drunks and fruitcakes are soaked
in similar flavours.
'I am a poet,' you said
'that's what I do. I'll tell you a poem.'
The lines poured out
in bizarre lucidity
like a speaking baby.
A passerby said 'Are you alright?'
'Yes,' I said, 'he's just telling me a poem.'
And she blinked.
And walked on.
My first day of work
I went in the wrong direction.
Your horror when I asked to go
to the previous station.
I got off at the next
and you didn't charge me.
It was summer
in the middle of nowhere
suburbs on either side.
Grass crackled along the tracks
mixed with birds, sun and cicadas.
Every morning you'd take my ticket
and I'd feel my cheeks turn pink.
Who came in late
in a coat of bright olive green.
Squirmed her way
to the back of the lecture
and I was the only one
who moved over a seat.
The boy at school loves washing machines.
'I'm seventeen,' he says to himself.
He churns his way around the room, chanting
'Let's get some agitator action in here.'
The younger kids don't know what faces to pull.
They have never met a man
in love with a machine like that.
Sometimes they say 'Come over here.'
Sometimes they say 'Go away,'
and screw up in laughter when he is gone.
In a brown jacket.
I have only ever seen you in a park.
This has happened many more times than once.
Once I talked to you about nothing.
Once or twice we smiled at each other.
Once I smiled and you ignored me.
What I see in you is fallen leaves
and one-toed pigeons.
We can never be together.
Although I have seen you staring at my legs
in summer as I walked up steps.
Staring and steps are things that remind me legs exist.
I have seen you eating dinner
out of a plastic container.
I have seen you with a woman
who found your love difficult.
She was tiny and it was a cool evening.
Her legs were hunched against her chest.
You have never seen the short tailed bat
because it comes out at night
when your curtains are closed
and the TV is on.
It can walk as well as fly.
It has sturdy legs to help it balance
along branches as it sniffs for insects.
I have never seen the short tailed bat.
Except dead in a museum case
and in photographs that made me stare
Val, lately you are resplendent
in your ideology.
I see you cycling across an intersection
with an orange basket
the sun brightly on your hair.
Val, lately you wear black
a lot and laugh through your nose.
Words march out of your mouth
in tight formation.
Your tummy hangs out of hot pants.
A new freedom propels
you around the room.
May you be lucky tonight.
May you be happy tomorrow.
May your tummy rest
in the small of a beautiful back.
Pete said 'I love felt tip pens.
I want to marry a felt tip pen.'
And then there was a smudgy drawing
of him beside his smiling bride.
Who knows he is beautiful.
Because he has matched
the T-shirt carefully
to a few shades paler than his eyes.
The woman beside him fizzes
in a sea of pheromones
her eyebrows aloft.
Nippy, some mornings you are silent!
Is it the rain or the fact
that you never get answers?
Nippy your territoriality is the topic
of party conversations. A dawn chorus
of the deeply wonderful.
This was in the days of Jane Austen
and floral pyjamas. In the days of
'far across a sea of … '
Ladies, only think:
the man with a strange haircut
in the half-lit hallway
could have been the boy
you picked daisies over.
She carried the war
Around with her everywhere.
When she walked under the feijoa trees
The war brushed lightly against their leaves.
She had been a young teacher.
Jews hid in her family's barn.
When a man came and married her
The children asked
'Why are you stealing our teacher?'
She tells this story
With wet eye corners
A laugh between her lips.
I have never tasted your lemons.
I have watched them from green to yellow.
I caught three boys filling plastic bags
with fruit for ammo
and told them to go away.
The nuns want to make marmalade.
But every year the tree gets stripped.
Mark follow your heart.
Over seas to the girl
who hung all your doors.
A floating dream
is better than sinking awake.
It is time the great apes
reconsidered the trees.
A world of wood is waiting
in bins and garages.
To be fastened by nail and trunk.
To be three sided.
To move in the muscle of the wind.
To love a volcano is to love
shapes at dusk.
To love largeness.
It is a love seldom spoken of
but I have known men
to write furtively of sulphur dioxide
and utter words like 'phreatomagmatic'.
Hands on pack straps.
Eyes into the craters.
When in nature
would the dingo and the jackal meet?
Never but they both get with dogs.
People will shoot
for the species concept
birds that are loving on the wrong island.
All the tiny brown spider knows
is the big black spider
is his one and only.
Twenty times his size
she ushers him in.
You are staring out the mountains
reflected in the lake with a look of hardness.
Southern man touching his hat.
You are cooking on a fire-for-one
taking photos of your own face
in place of conversation.
Don't worry man.
One day your hat-touch will grace the world wide web.
One day you will meet a woman
and your lonelinesses will grasp together.
I don't know where you start
or even end
I have only been to your middle.
It is always me and one other.
Along your banks we eat kawakawa berries
mouthfuls of grit and pepper.
We slide naked into the same sunfilled hole
our splashes blur the clearness of your water.
We move stones and you move them back
and move them on again, the hushed current
follows its course.
Not just the grapes but this time of year.
You could say it was the dryness of the grass.
Bees are passing away
in the arms of flowers.
Ride towards the hills
and they are oxidising copper,
the air is very still.
Fruit sighs out of orchards and vineyards
musking under leaves.
You could say it was lying in wait
in baubles of abundance.
The next year
the quiet death