I hung out one night with a one-legged poet
in a campsite at Windjana Gorge, in Western Australia.
I’d seen him the day before, in Tunnel Creek,
where he was worrying about keeping his stump dry,
and leaning on his girlfriend. He was much more at ease
on the mattress in the back of their Combi
rolling joints and dispensing beer from the bar fridge.
I can’t remember how we got talking,
or his name or his face, but I remember his motorbike accident —
and all the compensation money going on speed and pizza.
I didn’t read poetry then, but his stuff sounded
good to me, the Leonard Cohen poems
even better. The one that really stuck, though,
was a poem by a mate of his about two guys in a truck
tearing along some lonely road at night, speeding off
their nuts. The full moon was described as ‘the original Aspirin’.
I thought that was great, a revelation, and all his mate’s poems were great,
and Leonard Cohen’s were great, and some of his were . . . good.
He got pissed off as the night went on — felt my enthusiasm
was misdirected, so I stumbled off to my car.
I was about to leave next morning when he hopped over
in his black Y-fronts. He was covered in bright tattoos:
parrots, budgies and macaws. ‘Is that a budgie?’
I asked, pointing at one. He said it was a budgerigar.
I almost said, ‘Wrong kind of birds, mate, there’s no tits.’ But something
stopped me. I just said, ‘Makes a nice change,’ and he said ‘Yeah,’
and we shook hands.
James McNaughton was born in Sydney in 1968 but raised and educated in Wellington, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and a masters degree in creative writing from Victoria University of Wellington. Previously published in Sport, The Listener and Poetry New Zealand, he also featured in Spectacular Babies — a collection of the best writing from Victoria’s 2000 masters course. His first collection of poetry, The Stepmother Tree, was published by Darius Press in 2001. Recently he has been living and working in Japan.
Of “Moon Poem”, he says: “This was an attempt at a Lavinia Greenlaw-style poem.”
The Stepmother Tree (launch flyer only)