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The Spike [: or, Victoria University College Review 1957]

Peter Bland

Peter Bland


The human voice can pitch a note to shatter the craftsman's
Glass and, lovingly fingered, the liquid guitar
Moves through the blood like a wind through grass.

Sphinx and Buddha squeezed of time may freeze
The stranger's restive eye, but Manolete in his prime
Made a myth from the way a bull can die.


A Memorandum for Antigone

Further to our meeting, my wish to brood
upon its memory queries your name,
whose vowels run like fingers over places
on a map. Reviving the legendary fame

of that blind beggar's daughter wandering
self-exiled, far from the towers
of her birth. A Mecca now for tourists
breeding postcards in her wake, like flowers

page 66

that advertise a heroine's grave. Forsaking
a land of sleeping gods, your generation
seek their future in strange waters, like Jasons
dreaming of a multi-coloured fleece. In veneration

of their country's myths the old remain
bound by the legacy of age. Here, you are not
alone Antigone; I too am from an old house,
leaving the residue of twenty years to rot

in its crowded soil. Carefully, then. I trace
the echoes of your face and finding room
there for compassion, play at Hercules, lamenting
your half-forgotten father in his foreign tomb.


New Settler's Seasonal

It almost passed unnoticed until I discovered
Them nursing flowers in their own back-yards.
Then the year took root in the calendar
Of my sight and sped among the spades
And hoes wounding the garrulous gardens.
Each generation feels habitual fevers, the heart's
Extension of the blackbird's song, gossips along
The fences, gallops green-fingered in the gardens
Or tickles the coiling lovers to the neutral wood.
All this is understood and yet comparisons, like germs
From an old desire, grow delirious in my blood,
Fermenting sorrow; not an exile's grief but a traveller's
Despair, who seeing these signs as broken promises
Finds no common cause in which to share.

The marrow-making sun, now south in its vampire's
season, unwinds me from my corregated chrysalis
to where the crowds lie crucified upon the beach.
greeting the year's full flower. This is the hour
of forgetfulness, the ocean like a Jungian couch
swells buoyantly beneath us, a collective cure
for fibrous nerves laid bare on a weekend pilgrimage.

page 67

The sea is transport to the summers fruitfulness;
textiles, tourists, motor-cars, apples and immigrants,
released from the tethered boats' big bellies,
either chase their own or satisfy another's appetite.
"The bright day is done""—dinghies with pleated
sails hemmed in before the needling dark, return
their native cargoes, each to his separate night.

Murmuring through museums of the mind, this beached
Autumn evening picks and probes like an old Antiquary
At memory's buried bone, sending the heart's ease
Scuttling home to castles, cathedrals and galleries
Of stone, plunged to the towers in the waters of Lethe.
No signposts here to finger a sermon on the permanence
Of man, only the billboards' pale cosmetic smile
And the bulldozed land, ditching a pipe to the city.

Over the sand the burnt Pacific litters sea-petals
Of broken bottles, picnic scraps and shells; a fish-
Nibbled newsprint rediscovers a body in a naked cove.
The lovers blinded by each other's eyes, the lonely mothers
And their dark undreaming children have gone home and the day
Dissolves like a piece of ice, melting on a red hot stove.

Walking the wired street, while a stain of clouds
Blotted night's blackboard clean of stars, we watched
The winking houses fold their wings over the drenched
Home-hurrying faces nailed to the creaking scheme of things
Gone groaning to the dark end of the day and year.
Likewise wearing the stamp of winter, all our fears
Migrated to the firelight's magic circle. So denied,
The splintered night slapped like a tide against our loves'
Abandoned tower and hissed upon the cauldron of your sighs.
Caged in your eyes, a wake of child-bed tears, weaned
On the remembering wind, awoke a season's grief in me.
Prophetic in my terror and tuned to the tapping dark,
I heard the scream of children, sucked from the sea,
Go rattling down the void between our cooling hands.

page 68

Letter to John Boyd "— Varsity 1957

One misses the loudspeaker usual in such
A terminus; a sense of direction would set
The seal on this, our Jason's journey
For a paper fleece, framed by the mind's utility
And won on nightly wanderings through pencil
Charted seas. (No fears of tempests to disturb the peace.)

Too many certainties prevent our changing course.
Some government or aspiring merchant prince
Has marked us down already, as high-grade
Pennies for the public slot. Belly and backside
Regulate the trained mind, and habit like a scurvy
Consumes us till our senses rot.

Yet I remain disciple to the scholars' fact;
You well may ask what trick has served
To disengage belief from action. I think
The rank and file a franker crew but find
In exile here, a few, whose suffering
Spills over into nightmare, poem, or prayer.

The rest grind on, I fear their tutored
Fingers tampering with mind, machine and bomb.
Their reward is mental comfort, while the vacuum
Of the heart demands a soap-box opera,
Life, a well adjusted chart, where kisses
And statistics mix like apples in a cart.

Pardon that my mood's disquiet can shape
No tram-car sonnet or infest with flowers
The bulk of our Endeavour. My puffing
Intellect has long since ceased to strive
Beneath the pressure of a middle-class drive
To fill the empty hours with buried treasure.

Our voyage's final product is a trained mechanic
Who, armed with a master's ticket, cannot hope
To save more than himself from an early grave;
Though he wire the fuses in our box of flesh
Till kingdom come"—as indeed it will,
Complete with fire, thunder, sword and gun.