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The Spike [or Victoria University College Review 1961]

Elegy for Bob Crusoe

Elegy for Bob Crusoe

At nine your parents go to bed,
The cobwebs which your mother sews
Still lie festooned about the room
And slowly out the fire goes.

There is no other way to take
And there is nowhere else to go
But toss for sleep in a cold bed
Or walk the streets — as you must do.

Apprentice on five quid a week
Too broke and lonely to get tight
Your eyes are sealed with Cook Strait mud
You dream of girls like gelignite.

You do not see the hall — now dark —
Of church run clubs where jazzmen play
Heaven hired trumpets for the just
Who are quite anxious to be saved.

O some late lady'd cross the street
Quick to avoid a loitering lout,
A child has smudged the moon with soot
And one by one the stars go out.

page 82

Beyond this street the black sea boils
Round rocks like cookies which your mother made,
An all-night petrol station's the one light
Now that the ghostly picture theatre's empty
And milk bars in their shutters go to bed.

If even one was open you might find
Someone to offer what you'd dare not ask for
And wear your linked hand like a wedding ring,
But walk till morning now and you'll find no one
Either to love you or to ask you in.

I do not know what special picture floats
Upon your restless mind's sargasso seas
What real or hoped for girl waits there to send your
Eyes into copper coins, your footsteps ringing
Down streets which lead to nowhere but the sea.

The hopeless thing is, all the club is doomed,
Your savage death runs silent through the years
To catch you like a tiger;
In twenty, thirty, fifty years you must lie
Lost in a junk heap of cheap masonry
Which is more permanent than anyone;

These words for you are written in the sun
In this land, the minority club of the living,
Of those with all their skin, and hands and feet
Who dare not look
To see mortality spread like a stain,

For you who walk alone in midnight streets
And hope for something which won't make the difference
It has to make, finger the change of truth
When windows darken and the trams are still.

Watched by the hordes of resentful dead
And by your own angry ghost you stare
At the blank where your reflection should show
Hell-deep at midnight, in your twentieth year.

page 83

House windows seemed a certain
Exit from that no-place where you go,
Their brightness leaks beneath venetian blinds,
The solid union of bungalow.

Yet still behind the window wait
Bored wife and tired and silent man
Made separate by the paper like a dyke,
And children in curtained bedrooms wake to listen
For the lunatic goblin without a name
Who moves occasionally behind the door.

Behind the warm and lucky windows both
Woman and child whisper private charms
Waiting for morning and the picnic sun —
Nothing has changed since your first memory, look
Elsewhere for saving symbol, wanderer,
Bob Crusoe upright in the wind's heart.

If you must stay lonely as Abaddon,
My faceless brother Crusoe, then avoid
All the wrong sorts of pity, don't remember
The time you first found grass can cut the hand
Or solid stones fall from an empty sky.

Learn to ignore the murmur in the breast
Which grows to thunder in the night's confessional
And threads through any morning's business —
Some girl perhaps who gave you loving arms
For prestige of a lover, a seat at the pictures,

And left you when she found a better bargain.
I say ignore — I'm not the one to tell you
The way to live, and know, and not remember,
That there are always stains on the full moon,
That self sufficiency's confined to tramcars

With their own nationals, and a place to go.

Elizabeth Allo