From 'Taranaki Gate Series'


copping a feel
of the bifurcated
bulbous end
then the shaft
of my kumara
through its plastic wrap
the big blonde at the check-out
sniggers at the shape
never mind
that in due course
I have to face it
on the chopping board
& on my plate
hardly a delicacy
but boiled
& rightly accompanied
a particular
favourite of mine



wanting to tell everything
the anorexic girl’s
panic attack
breast cancer
how to get rid of oxalis
but especially her
disabled partner’s
brush with the law
who suspected
his swan plant
cultivated for butterflies
might be hallucinogenic
& sent over
a chopper
foot patrol & area car
after a jogger’s tip off
safer communities together
hang the expense



those long
valleys & climbs
out towards Oakura
dead under the wheels
of a following car
he was sixteen
still at school
working nights at the movie
theatre in town
to pay for the upkeep
of the motorbike
that slewed out under him
in the dark & rain
& I never
think of him dead
without first
thinking of him alive



the park reminds her
how when she
was five she dreamt
a swan
bit off her hand
and unable to swallow
through its long neck
left all five fingers
weeping red tears
on the ground
while sombre rowboats
roped about the gunwales
huddled in their
water-floored shed
& the pink bridges
hung reflections
upside down
in the torpid lake



the mountain is & isn’t
snow flurries
then fingernail scrapes
over slate
hard to photograph
at a satisfactory size
to enhance vistas
goal posts
it characteristically
looms beyond
the part of the dark
where you can’t see stars
perhaps it needs to be moved



but the mountain
did move once
as a consequence
of a love-quarrel
back at the time
the earth was charged
with personalities
deep enough
to leave a riverbed scar
along the land
& part of the way
the sky
wraps the horizon
never again the same
& all other ways
of talking about this tame



geological fact
that the mountain
was born here
and made this place
while being born
new west
new frontier
nowhere to fly from
or flee
crags & silences
& the slow moan
of the river dragging
a boulder
the size of a car
behind the house

Tony Beyer is currently writing and teaching in West Auckland. His most recent book is Great South Road and South Side, two longer poems (Puriri Press, Auckland 2013).

Beyer comments: ‘“Taranaki Gate Series” may not be finished yet and may eventually appear in its entirety in a book. Meanwhile, Mark Young made an expert selection for Otoliths. The title alludes to the traditionally improvisational idea of the Taranaki gate (a loosely attached, tractable section of farm fence) and to Colin McCahon’s “Gate Series” paintings. A gate is both a barrier and an entrance; the mountain is, of course, Taranaki.’

Poem source details >



New Zealand Electronic Text Collection writer file