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Sport 26: Autumn 2001

Geoff Cochrane

Geoff Cochrane

page 60


When cloud hides the sun,
these wholesome civic trees
cease to groom themselves.

Here, flax once clattered,
a pa smoked brownly,
palisades and boardwalks described
the beginnings of streets, of commerce.
In time, a zoo was started
with brass bands and teas.

There's city enough today.
While Mercedes and Toyota flutter bunting
above the yards and showrooms,
a cop with a dud swipe-card
fails to access the police garage.

page 61


All whiskers and scurf,
he brings King Lear to Newtown.
His voice has been ruined
by too much cigarette smoke,
too much smoke and grief.

In London long ago
he worked with the best.
Guinness himself was priestly, suave, exact.

The iron streets are puddled
with scraps of turquoise silk.
His beat takes in The Ballroom—
is he even aware that all these bright young things
are students of the drama?

page 62

November Notes

The big white jet glides in,
a buoyant citadel
rich in articulated flaps
clusters of wheels
doors as flush as paint.

Banned dogs gallop
up and down the beach,
leap like cougars
snap at pink Frisbees.

The city today
is a cauldron of winds.
Circular vents
on the roof of a van
spin like roulette wheels.

The poet writes
of being in love
with a famous bitch.
I like this bald, bespectacled lover.

page 63

A Eulogy for Brian Rodney Bell, 1929-2000

(Penned for delivery at Brian's funeral. In the event, my nerve failed me.)

I went to the library yesterday. Brian once wrote a piece on James K. Baxter for a book published by Alister Taylor. He sat on the floor in Jonathan Hunt's flat and typed up the essay on Debbie Tait's portable.

On two rare and sobering occasions, I saw tears in Brain's eyes. Once was when he told me that he'd just heard the news of Baxter's death. The second time was one afternoon in the old Grand Hotel. We were drinking whiskies and Waikato chasers (amazingly, Brian was flush). ‘I know I'm hated,’ he said. What could I answer?

I went to the library yesterday, but there was no Book of Brian on the shelves. That Baxter piece I mentioned somehow or other evolved into a startling television event, The Burnt Ones. For once, Brian was trusted; for once, he was given his head. The results were scintillating. Colleen Hodge remarked on how quickly he won the technicians over, inventing his own little bits of technical jargon. When it came to working ‘to camera’, he was better than Jacob Bronowski or Kenneth Clark.

The last time I saw Brian, he regaled me with a barely credible tale. Every time he emptied his bath, the Somalis in the flat below copped his tepid grey effluent. According to Bell, he'd opened his door to a sodden delegation, the spokesman of which was a bemused black lawyer with pince-nez and a furled umbrella. Like a character out of Evelyn Waugh, the lawyer spoke a lofty sort of English he'd learned from a phrase-book purchased in Brighton in 1932.

We didn't hate you, Brian. Not all of us. Not all the time.