The Street Seller

She squats on the pavement,
her back against
the bank’s glass front,
a few bowls of vegetables
around her
on the footpath.

Crowds throng past her
and the other
stoic street sellers
scattered along the footpath
in front of modern
plate glassed windows.

The street seller
stares at the feet passing her by,
rousing herself when
a walker stops
beside her wares.

Now she is motionless again,
her eyes black agates
in dark pockets
in a weatherbeaten face
framed by limp hair.

 

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The Street Seller

The Rubbish Collector

On a dark silent Korean city street,
empty of people, cars and buses
an old woman slowly drags her sack.
Her almond eyes are dark as stones
sitting deep in her papery face
above high cheekbones.
She dare not broadcast her age
so dyes her hair black.
She spikes empty wrappers, drink cans,
hamburger boxes with her stick,
emptying it into her sack.

National law retired her at sixty
from the department store.
Her children work in department stores
to raise their own children.
City footpaths are daily crowded
with the stalls of the elderly
hawking fish, fruit, vegetables
t-shirts, bags, and shorts.

This old woman
earns her living
spiking rubbish
on silent streets
at 3 am.

The Rubbish Collector

Cathedral Square

A documentary on the fourth anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake on 22 February 2011, at 12.51 pm local time.

Cathedral Square.
The city business district.
Crowds flowing out of buildings
from crashing masonry
into the centre of the square,
injured and bloody,
talking and crying,
supporting each other.

No traffic,
roads are buckled, sunken, cracked.
No police of ambulances,
phone systems not working.
Giant jagged slabs of masonry
crash down from buildings,
from the cathedral in clouds of dust,
deafening, shattering.
The cathedral’s stone steeple
slams to the ground
rocking the square yet again.

No one comes to aid
the wounded on the square.
Their cries and groans go
unheeded while they huddle
in the centre away from
the heaving earth’s demolition.


* Much of the footage in the documentary was shot by two young staff from the local regional TV office. They happened to have stayed back during the lunch break so acted on their own initiative and went out with a camera a recorder. 

Cathedral Square

Eketahuna Earthquake

In comfortable armchairs
my friend and I enjoy
her cool shady living room
on a hot sunny afternoon,
leisurely chatting, sipping tea.

A grinding roar deafens us.
A giant foot kicks
the back of my chair.
I turn but see no one.
The furniture rocks and sway
the floor undulates
like waves at sea.
What is deafening us  ?

My friend rushes to the doorway
leans against the jamb.
I stare at her,
realise an earthquake
is rocking the house.
I run to the other jamb.

The doorway and floor move freely
as if fixed to nothing,
the roaring grinds on.
It lasts for fifteen seconds
on an epicentre 36 kilometres away.

A builder checked my friend’s chimney,
said the old mortar was no longer
holding its bricks together.
She had it dismantled.

Eketahuna Earthquake

Railway Stations

Pudding Lane, Bow church, All Saints
Poplar. The overhead railway runs
high above long lines of commuter traffic
flashing trails of red tail lights,
white headlights in the dark morning.
Ancient names overarching modern machines.

Heron Quays, West India Quay, Canary Wharf.
We glide from small station shelters
into a vast overhead dome
to change trains amongst milling throngs
rushing to work in glass cased offices.

West India Dock, Crossharbour, Mudchute
appear as daylight grows.
another day, off to work again
in futuristic transport
yet a little out of this world
as I pass names established
so long ago, recurring still
in history books
and present day news.

Railway Stations

The Way Station

A metal capsule brought me here
through the skies
to this vast way station
called Bangkok.
A vaulted glass roof
and windowed walls
reveal a surrounding blackness.

Long concourses flow of each other
occasional strangers pass me by.
With my body in three am confusion,
I drag my feet as
my cabin bag with last minute needs
drags my arms down
in relentless pain.
I must find a new capsule
with my name on its manifest.

Vast signs point east and west,
I know I am going west.
I find no sign for my journey
on the western signs. I despair.
Will I ever escape
this vast glass edifice
surrounded by endless blackness ?

A long weary tramp brings me
to a counter of computers,
I show my ticket
and am directed
to eastern departure gates.

Another weary tramp brings me
to an eastern gate
that accepts my ticket.
At last I escape these vast glass halls
for my final destination.

The Way Station

Flying Over Greenland : 1990

Engines humming endlessly
cross the vast blue Pacific
over puffs of cloud
stacked over, around each other.
We pierce wispy white mists,
cross dark grey pillows
stretching to the edge of our vision.
Rose tinted clouds give way
darkness. We land in the middle
of the night, enter a terminal,
sit for two hours, leave again,
fly on through darkness. The sky lightens,
rosy hues colour the clouds again
far below, we see another ocean
under puffs and strands of cloud.

Suddenly the seascape transforms
into a huge stark white mass
sprawling under us, blazing in the sunlight.
The screen showing the plane’s path
displays Green land.
Brilliant white mountains and plateaus
startle our eyes. Greenland’s only green
is along a few narrow coastal strips.
I blink away, then look back.
I do not want to miss this strange sight.

Now we reach the ocean
on the other side of Greenland,
once again clouds soften
the blues of sky and sea.

The brilliant unique land of ice
and snow falls behind, vanishes.

Flying Over Greenland : 1990