Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Writing Wellington: Twenty Years of Victoria University Writing Fellows

1981 Vincent O'Sullivan

page 15

1981 Vincent O'Sullivan

page 16

Three Pieces for Academe

Setting it right

Dr W.C. Williams couldn't think less
of those high-falutin' cherubs
slopped across human sky—space,
mafiosi with the monikers

of classic hoods elbowing
every bar minute a book's
mentioned. Cut loose, the doctor
said. How Columbus, C. (capitano)

didn't plot out West for a propped
Louis Quatorze mirror. It was black
plug, cowboy movies, that's what
he was after, 'poetry for cats and dogs',

wasn't that New Jersey?
The zebras, the gazelles, who's got
them out back? Dr Williams
couldn't bandage a finger without

thinking, say it simpler, it's not
vaticano brushwork makes
it a joint worth saving, worth
setting right. Contented, he leaned

on his icebox and wrote a note
and walked out on the stoop
to watch a late sky burl in
from the Atlantic, god-damned

sure things were on the mend.
To let puss know for one thing
fat drops like flattened dimes
fell for cats as far as Frisco.

page 17

No Nostalgia on This Site

The professor in retirement constructed an aviary
which he filled with birds of diverse
plumage, cordant and discordant com-
municative systems, with habits, one or two,

of droll sibilant mimicry, all eager
for the palm dispensing top-quality seed
as classes once had been, their essays
fanned in his hand; each bird nomenclatured

from the classics of his hey-day, Desdemona
a canary of particular plangency, Burns
a Scots cock after more than his share,
Ezra, rifling at other avine nests.

Yet the teacher famous for capacious wells
of ready quotation declined, alas,
swiftly forgetting their names, then the birds
themselves. Within weeks the fluent

rainbows, ethereal shimmers,
mulched sloppy brilliance in random
corners—does one need to describe it?
Nurse said how he perked some days,

grinned at a quick blur high up,
was inclined to talk peculiar. To which
his wife said, 'Yes, poetry. He always has.'
Quaintly his mind closed down, like a parrot

under its hood. Well, there's nothing
nice about this story, the widow's house
razed for quick investment, the bull-
dozer grossly demolishing the lot,

so that weeks before term a disco
rises, The Shagged Phoenix, students asking
'Who? Old what's it?', even the young
S/M professor they fall for, cool as,

not a discourse he couldn't plait through
discursive octaves, semantic conundra
descanted on at the drop of whatever. Yet lo!
how a hyped dude carries in from a scrap

page 18

of surviving garden a feather the size
of a thumb so it's like his thumb's on fire.
On the beak of a stuffed toucan someone
smartly graffiting, Entropy, Right On!

Going Down for Air

Mole, who is not the brightest creature
but industrious and mildly droll, dug
and dug against the day of definitions,
worked tunnel to tunnel, stroked
a paw across honest sweat, sentimentally
thought on the odd evening, sipping
a lager, how beneath the entire city
ran another city which was his, Moles-
ville. The suave chatty professor
he sometimes drank with liked to hear
the stories of how the galleries
connected and shafts bucketed down
light and the double doors made it
impossible, virtually, to be pursued
or even discovered. Mole perfected
the city that was like a more splendid
city on the other side of a mirror laid
where the skyscrapers rose and rose
while his went down. The suave professor
let him see the bullet he laughingly
called a pellet from the orifice of Correctness.
'It's silver, you know,' he said. Then
shot the Mole. The deepest, nicest,
safest place you could imagine
ready to be moved into, spick, complete.
But a disappointment, to say the least,
when his morning coffee on the inverted
heights, even his Croix du Sud
croissant, reeked of rankest mole.

Vincent O'Sullivan (b. 1937) is Director of the Stout Research Centre and Professor of English at Victoria University. A leading New Zealand figure in poetry, fiction and drama, as well as anthologist and critic, his best known works are The Butcher Papers (1982), Palms and Minarets: Selected Stories (1992), Shuriken (1983), Let the River Stand (1993) (winner of the Montana Book Award) and the Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield (ed., with Margaret Scott, 1984—). His novel Believers to the Bright Coast was published in 1998.