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Sport 24: Summer 2000

Gregory O'Brien — For Victor Meertens

page 11

Gregory O'Brien

For Victor Meertens

The bird is a cage in which the song is sung

Stitch bird, stocking bird,
song bird by which

across the evening dunes
wind-surfers take their bearings—

it is you I listen for and why
I listen.

Right bird, wrong
song, sweet bird you are

briefer than the falling stars
of Taranaki
sweet nectar of mosses, moons,

nothing in particular. Song bird singing
its upside down song, flittering

next bird, night bird, your nesting song
a blanket of crumbs

a music exhumed from a cloud
of restless feathers.

page 12

The song is a cage in which the bird is sung

Desperate thing, desirable
thing, where ‘man's mounting spirit

in his bone house, mean house
dwells’, the song or soul a wooden skiff

rowed back up
the sky, or one of those
mechanical exactnesses:

Taranaki Lovebirds above a New Plymouth
lawn. All wire and fluorescent

paint. Beyond the cloud-high cages
a dawn chorus of cottages—

visiting hour on the orderly
hospital lawn

where, like clockwork, the gulls
would appear

each afternoon. ‘The visitors’,
the superintendent called them

as each day at closing time they flew
to his daughters

there on the calm lawn, the quick
lawn, a green handkerchief

on which, if only, tears might awaken
and take flight.

page 13

The cage is a song in which the bird is sung

Sweet bird, swift bird
on your hectic bough

falling from song to song
as far as the distant earth

the long arm of the sleeping
city laid beside

the sleeping sea. Oh
slow-footed one

on my kowhai, you are
my Messiaen, and those

once resplendent on my
cool, vacated lawn—

Scelsi, Byrd, Cage, Nancarrow,
Luigi Nono—

fare well, fly well unflappable
ones, beyond the long

loaves of clouds, the great
feathered sun.

For Victor Meertens’ was commissioned for the exhibition Experimental Budgerigar Workshop at the Sarjeant Art Gallery, Wanganui, in October 1999. The exhibition, by Australian artist Victor Meertens, featured a scale replica of the Sarjeant Gallery made out of tin and wire, and measuring approximately three metres across. A number of live budgerigars flew freely inside the structure during the two months of the show. Another aspect of Victor's workshop-project involved the construction of baking tins the shape of the Sarjeant which members of the community would take home and bake bread in. A roster of townsfolk insured there was always fresh bread in the gallery. ‘For Victor Meertens’ was read out at the exhibition opening on October 2, 1999.