Vanilla Wine

Above discoloured seas,
the potters and the painters are at work
in furbished gun-emplacements.


My uvula’s been mangled,
my gums adroitly darned
with bristly twine:

the periodontists call it
a full clearance.


Could this be a new beginning,
an end to thoughts
of waning and stagnation,

of gulls, decrepit junks
and orange suns?



My flat becomes a speech laboratory:
‘*?$!%!&_ . . .’


The shunted clouds pile up
in livid scoops,
podgy helpings garishly backlit.

I cleave to the delights
of custard and marshmallow
and dunked biscuit.

Geoff Cochrane was born in 1951. As well as books of verse (including Into India and Acetylene), Cochrane has published novels (Tin Nimbus and Blood) and a collection of short fictions (Brindle Embers). He lives in Wellington, New Zealand.

Cochrane provided the following comments on ‘Vanilla Wine’:

The Language of Extraction

“Give it to me straight, Darnel,” I like to think I said.

My dentist at the hospital was young and handsome and interested in teeth. “Oh my. Oh Holy Mother. We’re looking down the barrel of a full clearance here.”

A full clearance has to be done (or had to be done in my case) by a maxillo-facial surgeon. In terms of language, what came first was the fluffy, mint-fresh euphemism of full clearance, only to be followed by the slicing glint and hurty hurt of maxillo-facial surgeon. (I thought of a movie I saw in my boyhood. It featured a lurid Atlantis, dig? And on this crappy Italian sand-and-sandals Atlantis, maxillo-facial surgeons were busy grafting pigs’ heads to the shoulders of human beings!)

The Eastern Foodstuffs Van

With regard to my gulls and junks and orange suns. They are of course the visual clichés of poster and comic, but also of the side of the Eastern Foodstuffs van. And thus does art continue to imitate art. (It has been said of Joseph Cornell that he preferred the ticket to the trip, the postcard to the place. “He didn’t long to go to France; he longed to build memorials to the feeling of wanting to go to France while riding the Third Avenue El.”)

Poem source details >



New Zealand Book Council writer file
Victoria University Press author page