Blowflies at the Bottom of a Fiordland Toilet

We are there, thus, absolute. Bloated, frowzy, slub-somnolent, perhaps a little neglected
in your watery theologies of rock sheer and crumpled as bashed glass, the violin forest
that whines under the autumn wind, we are there nonetheless, worshipping in the dark waft

of your reticence, fattened on the finest half of you, yes, awaiting your instructions.
Bzz. Who is us? we have sense of little else. When the toilet opens, sunlight burns
lime through our naked umber; you push, you imperate our ontology of think-stink

with the chalice of your buttocks, for us it is certainty, our brief afflatus, the message
and requisition of our minor independence, O how we are eternally grateful to you
for the surety you pass, gulp and sump that we are in the hollows of this deep darkness.

Swart fizzle of disused wings, its proboscis scavenging one more corner of the world,
a nether-parson baptising the slow ebb of the meat, puke-painter with his borrowed lunch—
you find phrases, thoughts for us, Demiurge, but there are things, there are thinks

and things more even than you, hearing the wind smutter through the roof of the hut,
can casually gauge: yes, we find shelter in death, shovel the ingress of digested biome
with the shallow face of our progeny, existing in the raw of all that lours and snots

between form and formlessness, soil’s limbo, the pucked, clumped, air-corroborated mass
of former incidences and co-incidences lining this putrid cask impounded in the earth—
you insinuate a world of clear margins and pleasant memories, but for us it is the leftovers

of this dream, the earthing dregs and glar and crust and crud and scum and forgotten
that are meaning, fly-faith, form and memory. We subsist at the point where nothing
is near, the evanescence of poo, making do. O Father forgive us, for we like to eat shit.

In disgust is the ambiguity, the this-that of whether bad can be bad, when bad is us,
bzz, why should Fly be sorry for his diet? Between nothing and something he has little.
Bad is his succour, his final concept, mammon and eucharist, manna, life, love, we

grow pregnant with crapulence, too puffed to move, our frail skeletons plumped fat
with your boundless refuse, our legs squat on the mound of sublime decay that is your work;
we rave, rationalize your absence, unmoved mover, but the smell, the sense, the taste,

the word of you, Lord, persists, endures in the stench like pentecostal flame, yes, flim-flame
smouldering in the skull of this skunk and squashed world, the pale lingua of incidence
quivering from the bold crowns of our philosophizing saints and their obedient maggots—

bzz, where are they now? Buried in the depths of this ramshackle, putrefying casement.
Night is their silence, a bird echoing through the dark. Fattened on them, too cramped to leave
our plush hump, we listen, interrogate the wind droning through the trees, a light rain

scattering on the roof—and know you, Your Thingness, by the clomp of your hooves,
the arcane rattle of your hooks, as you make your way amid the root-rot and unbucklings
of the forest; O we are here, pus, dissolute, supposing your will and method, routine

plip-pumps that we are in the eye of your most senior, unmitigated and inviolate recta:
when you flatulence it is music, when you rake the jagged ridge of the door with your shins,
Lord, we tremble, for you are near, and in your nearness, yes, we become something.

Richard Reeve is the author of two books of poetry, Dialectic of Mud (2001) and The Life and the Dark (2004), both published by Auckland University Press. He has also written a doctorate partly on New Zealand poetry. Until November 2004, he was editor of Glottis: New Writing.

Reeve comments: ‘The toilet mentioned is likely to be a composting long-drop, common throughout New Zealand’s backcountry as a manageable, biodegradable alternative to the flush system. In the poem, I attempted to fuse together my sense of the historical contingency of human thought and religious activity with the marginal existence of the flies that padded about on the waste below.’

Poem source details >



Auckland University Press author profile
New Zealand Book Council writer file
‘Ranfurly’ in Best New Zealand Poems 2001