There You Go

Seven days
to straighten
out. Away

you go, no
divine smile
bird beast flower

along, not
a glimmer
or birth-star

just ashes
and that speech
‘dust to dust’
dumbing down

the hour. Now
you look, look
how ‘it’ falls

through & through-
out the house;
peel apples,
boil your meat –

mist over
those eyelids
long before

the haunting

Once uttered
the sentence
makes ‘it’ so

and water
turns to wine,
to balsam.

The sentence

dead. You hang
on serif
hooks: you

space, sizing
the paper

tiger here
there and then.
silk sunset,

arch: neither
takes you in;

you cross this
line – it’s you
to a T

Born in Christchurch (1959), David Howard co-founded both the literary quarterly Takahe and the Canterbury Poets Collective. A past winner of the New Zealand Poetry Society Competition (1987) and a finalist in Ireland’s Davoren Hanna Poetry Competition (2001), three years ago David retired from a career as SFX supervisor for acts such as Metallica and Janet Jackson in order to write from his isolated studio at Purakaunui. His books include Shebang: Collected Poems 1980-2000 (Steele Roberts, 2000) and How To Occupy Our Selves [with Fiona Pardington] (HeadworX, 2003).

Howard comments: At forty, after touring with bands, I thought I was past it and imagined myself midway up a spiral staircase that linked two illusory rooms: the past and the future. I felt a tension between the need to attend and the need to be attended to; in order to explore this I started to draft ‘There You Go’. I did so knowing that the process of reasoning is the process whereby we extend our ego and try to justify our desires. As we argue sooner or later we hear inside ourselves the condescending motto: ‘I was trying to protect you’, and it’s then we recognise our failure of faith, that our knowledge is lapsarian. The Greek poet George Seferis understood this: ‘But to say what you want to say you must create another language and nourish it for years and years with what you have loved, with what you have lost, with what you will never find again.’

‘There You Go’ acknowledges that memory, amplified by language, is a listening device – or is it the other way around, does memory amplify language? Whatever, the poem mocks the kind of anecdote that has dominated local poetry of late. In most anecdotal poems ‘lived’ experience is reconstituted then served up as somehow inspirational, even aspirational; highly digestible, like baby food, such poems acquiesce to readers’ (projected) expectations. I try not to do this so, while ‘There You Go’ illustrates a theological fall from grace by positing an off-the-page funeral and the ordering of the departed’s estate, its wording offers the redemptive artifice of wit against the unsteady pressure of the personal. That’s why the close summons up (the spectre of) Christ:

          you cross this
          line – it’s you
          to a T

Poem source details >



New Zealand Book Council writer file
Deep South  David Howard interview
Deep South – David Howard Poetry
Jacket 16
Bowen Galleries