It was the worst
kind of day
for a burial.

The poet, lashed red
by rain and booze,
said it was hard
to speak of such
a man. Instead
he’d leave us
with our thoughts,
and left.

We stood around
in rain,
with throats
as dry as death,
and thought it was
the kind of day
to lash
all poets red
and bury

Bernard Brown was born near Ipswich, England, in 1934. He moved to New Zealand in 1962 after stints in the Royal Air Force and teaching at Singapore University. A law lecturer at Auckland University, he has published widely on legal matters, but early acquaintance with English poets John Heath-Stubbs and D.J Enright encouraged him also to write verse. His four poetry collections are Up to Nowadays(1972), Victims and Traders (1980), Surprising the Slug (1996) and Unspeakable Practices: Parables of Rumbling Disgust in Verse, Stories and Sketches (2001).

Brown comments: “‘Respects’ records the early 1960s funeral of Bob Lowry, a legendary New Zealand typographer who printed the first books of many of the country’s finest writers. He was also renowned for his hospitality, which was heavier on liquids than solids. ‘The poet’ in the poem [Denis Glover], a lifelong friend and war hero, found the occasion much more harrowing than Arctic convoys and the D-Day beach-head he had commanded. He had brought verse to read, but as his rasping tones gave out he placed the pages in the grave along with a bottle of whisky.

“I have recast this piece a dozen times. Each version got edgier. The first ought to have been buried with Bob — like a lot of much better, less bleak poems were, along with the pulsating memories and that bottle of scotch.”

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Cape Catley Books