It’s difficult not to be curious
about this bone-man under the skin:
to think how he’s carried me over the years
without malice or contempt. In return
I’ve fed and clothed him of course,
shared the same bed, been shaped by his will,
but even after a lifetime together
I can’t say I know him, not for real . . .
apart, that is, from a broken wrist
when he once came peeping through.
And now there’s this inner-map of his ills,
that ageing stoop, those honeycombed hips,
the thinning tail-end bits. But what
really appals is his Model-T look.
He’s indistinguishable — except to the nurse —
From the millions like him who’ve come and gone
since one of us first stood up. Perhaps
it’s time to applaud his ancestral support
and keep this negative by the bed. Even then
it’ll be tough to view that crumbling master-plan
without a more personal sense of loss.
LISTEN to ‘X-Ray’ by Peter Bland
Peter Bland was born in Yorkshire in 1934. He emigrated from the UK to New Zealand in 1954 and began work with the NZBC to establish some of New Zealand’s first arts and social commentary programmes. He was a co-founder of Wellington’s Downstage Theatre and its artistic director from 1964-68. He was associated with the Wellington group of poets and a close friend of James K Baxter, Louis Johnson and Alistair Campbell and his first substantial collection of verse, My Side of the Story,was published in 1964.
Since the early 70s, Peter has divided his time between England and New Zealand and travelled widely as an international jobbing actor for stage and screen. In the 70s and 80s Peter appeared in numerous West End comedies, as a guest artist on many UK television programmes, and at the Bristol Old Vic, the Chichester Festival Theatre and The Palladium. His books of verse have appeared regularly and his Selected Poems was published by Carcanet in the UK in 1998. Last year two volumes came from Steele Roberts, Wellington: Let’s Meet, Poems 1985-2000 and Ports of Call. Recently, he has been poetry reviewer for the New Zealand Listener.
Bland comments: ‘ “X-Ray” was written following a medical check-up, which included a full-body X-Ray. Studying the picture of this other person I felt as if I’d been playing host to some secret self who had uncomplainingly supported me for years. I sensed both an intimate relationship and a design-structure that I shared with the whole of humanity. The poem sprang from the ambiguities and insight of these feelings. I was delighted to discover, following publication in the New Zealand Listener, that someone had pinned it to the hospital notice-board. It’s rare for a poem to find such an appropriate place in the “real” world.’