after Apollinaire 


“To have a vision, you must leave home”
– Alan Brunton


open this door where I knock while weeping

the dunes of Kanaka the deserts of Niger
the desalination plants of Kuwait
the fish-markets of Dakar

Life is variable
as is also the tidal rip at Whaainga-roa

the billboard read
and I looked for you there
standing among long grass
and discarded plastic
as if you were in a piece of street theatre
but you were not there

you pay your regards to a bank of clouds which drops
low to the horizon
along with an orphaned tramp steamer heading out into
overheated futures

the reefs of Australia the villages of Mali
the 2000 islands of the city of Stockholm

and all of these regrets and all of these repentances
can you remember
the waves the flying fish the flowers on the water

across the night water candles in small tents fire
flies and crackle of frogs
on the sound system
hidden in the bulrushes
but you were not there

the bird-carvings of Peru the rivers of France the
icebergs of Tierra del Fuego
the gypsies of Venice
the refugee camp near Tirana
the patchwork of carpets at Marakech

one night it was the sea
and the rivers spread themselves out

I remember it I remember it always

in the park in the summer evening a pianist played
what had been once revolutionary dances
by the famous composer
but it was not you

those girls from the Ukraine
or was it Belarus
in the old town square
who stood so poorly and were dressed like shopgirls
and sang as though they would tear open the fabric of the night
the tears of things and the things of tears
was this something you had organised

one evening I came to a sad hotel
in the vicinity of Luxembourg
in the depths of my room a Christ was flying
someone had a ferret
someone else had a porcupine
we played cards together
and you had forgotten me

the flooded plains of Bengal the algae farms of Bali
the uranium mines of Kakadu National Park the
sandbanks of Bolivar
the log rafts of the Amazon

here’s a question
do you remember the long orphanage of trains
the towns we crossed which all day went spinning round
and at night they vomited the sun
o sailors o sombre women and you comrades of mine
do you remember any of it

for a moment I thought the beggar on crutches in the tram
a real piece of Peachum fancy dress
who was such a good actor must have been
but he wasn’t

the vats of the dyers of Fez
the wheatfields of Rajasthan
the fjords of Norway the volcanoes
and the mineral forests of Madagascar
and the bales of cotton of the Ivory Coast
where the worker is lying back and taking his rest

two sailors who never quit each other
two sailors who never spoke
that young one died
the body washed up on the shore

beloved comrades
sound of electric trains song of generators
the butcher’s van going from door to door
in the streets of Leningrad
the regiment in the numberless streets
the cavalcade of bridges
shining drunken nights
the cities I have seen live the lives of crazy women

the bus reeked of alcohol I opened the bag of photos
and looked inside
but no no
not there

the place where wild strawberries grow
one of the heart-breaking accumulations of landscape
the cypresses projected their shadows under the moon
listening to the night at the end of summer
a langorous bird and one in a constant state of irritation
and the sound of the broad black river running by
despite the dead carried on the flood towards the estuary
every look every look of every eye
the banks were silent grassy deserts
and in the other direction the mountain was shining

greenhouses north of the Arctic Circle alight day and night
plastic tents for strawberries on the Costa Brava
the Tiergarten in Berlin the rows of discarded B52s
in the David Montham Air Force Base near Tucson Arizona
lying asleep waiting to be stripped of their parts

there was a crowd around the clown
who held a yellow skeleton
dangling from a stick
on the Ramblas
and I looked among the faces of the crowd
and one there stood with an ironic lean
and I thought for a moment it was

against the mountainside
with no other sight or sound
of any living thing
shadows slipped across the mountainside
vivacious shadows
some in profile
some turned their faces to stare
they carried their weapons
held out in front like scripts

scrolled down through paragraphs of text
the messages
the vocabulary was stentorian and elliptical
so that it could have been
but no

the shadows came and went in size
pulsing smaller pulsing larger
shapes of men with beards who wept humanly
step by step they crossed the shining mountain
a puppet play

the graveyard of tanks in the desert near Al-Jahrah
the abandoned city of Pripiat near Chernobyl
the bagel shops of Manhattan
the expanding shores and shrinking waters of the Aral Sea
splintered corals of Mururoa
water hyacinths on the Nile
where a boat is trapped in their foliage
the Boat of a Million Years
clouds of flamingos over Lake Nukuru
the red earth of Siena
the piazza at carnival

look at the photographs
the day the bee fell in the fire
you were there
at the end of summer

two sailors who never quit each other
the older one carried a chain around the neck
the younger was braiding blond hair into dreads

open this door where I knock while weeping

as is the rip tide at Whaainga-roa

– Warsaw, July 2002

Murray Edmond was born in 1949 in Hamilton, New Zealand. He has written nine books of poetry, the latest two being Laminations (Auckland University Press, 2000) and A Piece of Work (Kane’ohe, Hawai’i: TinFish Press, 2002), and edited three anthologies, the latest being Big Smoke: New Zealand Poems 1960-1975 (Auckland University Press, 2000), which was co-edited with Alan Brunton and Michele Leggott. Edmond currently teaches theatre, drama and poetry at the University of Auckland.

Edmond comments: ‘“Voyager” was written in Warsaw in July 2002. I had been going to meet Alan Brunton and his partner and longtime theatre collaborator Sally Rodwell in Warsaw at the beginning of July 2002 to take in the Street Arts Festival in that city. But Alan died suddenly of a heart attack in Amsterdam three days before he was due to arrive. Just before his death, Alan had been performing with Sally at a festival in Norway under the banner of Red Mole, the company they started in 1974. For 27 years Red Mole had toured and performed in New Zealand, New York, New Mexico, Amsterdam and many other places. “Voyager” is an elegy for Alan and incorporates a more-or-less complete translation of Apollinaire’s poem “Voyageur.”’

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