Monday, August 19, 2013

David Gregory

David Gregory is an editor for Sudden Vallery Press and a member of the Canterbury Poets Collective. He has published three collections of poetry, most recently Push (Black Doris Press, 2008). With Coral Atkinson he edited the anthology Land Very Fertile: Banks Peninsula in poetry and prose (Canterbury University Press, 2008). David lives in Governors Bay, New Zealand.

Those Things You Name

At my age, he said,
each day is a gift.
Well, thanks to that
anonymous donor who
ties up each morning
with the pain
of stiffened limbs.

But, not to be ungrateful,
some evenings he
walks us back down
the feebly lit pathways
of old nerves, to those clean
rooms of recollections,
dusted of doubt; the
intricate models of memory,
where the old stories
run to schedule
in perfect landscapes.

He does not need
to wake to the strange
crowds of words
that fill the language
he used to know;
the buildings demolished
and names attached
to unfamiliarities.
The maps on the backs
of his hands
are complete.


He thought he could carry
all his needs, tent, sleeping bag,
some dehydrated words
needing a litre of experience
to swell their meaning.
A small portable love;
caring for yourself when others
release you with a half goodbye,
an easy turning away
in cities where the walls
are made of sound,
humming to themselves to stave off
the slithering night, a sucking silence.

He passed the last house days ago,
the poverty of its garden
patched against the golden hills.
Now walks like prey
in a thunder of nothing,
leaving no trail
as he sheds the weight of description
before those wordless vistas
that can become the names of god,
become a paranoia of such emptiness
all the eyes of no one are upon you;
where his name blows away
days before the search begins.

from Frame of Mind (Sudden Valley Press, 1997)

Ash Street Afternoon

There was a tree here
sucking the asthma air
where the coughing miners went
deeper than the prising roots,
white worm fingers
grasping the darkness.

There was a tree here
drinking the vinegar rain
where the steelworks storm
drummed the day, lensing the sun
as the day shift
clicked cobbles home.

There was a tree here.
Now, in the clear light
stepping the day in shadows
from the air harp of the chimneys,
the quiet pit head,
it is ash.

The Terrible Truth, The Beautiful Lies

Put your spine to the
grass and tell me a sky
make it an eye for an eye
blind blue in a socket of
hills it cries a river where
fish rise to kiss reflections
of lovers by the white town
in green fields a church at
its centre doors open where
prayers exhale a bride and
people throw shapes from
bags of wishes in the alley
where you have put the beggars
they are beating a mule
burdened stubborn and sterile

nothing will come of this

The Final Europe

It is stuffed with things
dead before the birth of memory;
a soil of people in fine gardens,
the sky stolen from a gallery
during one of  the wars
they had like bad weather
and the holy days of blood.
And some came home
with all their arms, but dreams
broken in both eyes.

All holidays must end
or they would cease to be.
Like that lake that is only now
the shock of diving
and a spool of undeveloped film.
And this plane on trajectory
to this unexplored innocence,
finding that hands have touched
all the secret places.


Gladly To Church

In gods weak light I stand
remembering the childhood miracle;
chilblains from the iron cold floor.
Alive, though gripped
with graveyard chill
as memories hymns float up.
Within these limestone walls,
this shell of souls,
the blessed certainties compress.
No doubts beneath benevolent glass grin,
wan winter apostolic smile,
eastward above unaltered cross,
those arms embracing agony,
painstakng for an effortless faith,
floating on certainty.
Green underwater windows
sink me without trace.
Kneeling, the prayers a swimming stroke
back to boyhood,
where I had joy in that old hymn
"Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear."


Open Only In A Disaster

there will be
instructions on reassembling
the world
my mother
a shrink wrapped
packets of disposable
a light opera
inflatable ego
repair kit
with adhesive smiles
for my father
for stillborn babies
a first aid
pieces of the view
from your window
boxes of clouds
lined with silver
plastic bags of euthanasia
a collapsible stairway
to heaven
tiny tablets of famine
and a list
of what I should have said to you
before removing the lid.


Inside Your Short Stories 
for Margaret Atwood

It is cold in here,
inspite of fur coats,
erratic central heating
and South America.
Swimming in the English sea,
skin shrinking scramble,
stinging towel and tea.
fumbling car keys, conversations.
Thoughts as breath;
odd pairs
of warm gloves.
When did your first snow fall,
and will there be flowers in my Spring?

Domino Dogs

It is so quiet here
that when the wind picks the moment
to hold its peace,
you can hear the relay of the dogs
tumbling voices answering
the stones rumble
from the approaching car.

The first shouts from a
farm at the turn-off,
and the baying passes
down the dirt road
to the finish line
a white house,
its back against the valley wall,
cornered by the climate.

Now something in this glaucoma darkness,
where the rooms blindness waits for touch,
wakens me to stand,
by the meniscus window,
judging the second dogs voice,
known by its throttling chain.
But no grind or motor mutter
drifts along the road.
Only the domino dogs,
toppling towards my door.

Upon the Revision of Opinion Concerning Thomas Hardy

I saw your country
under a winter of your own description;
the caste marks of the churches
upon the rigid land;
an apology of sun
denying a later harvest.

All this was as it should be.

But bad for business.
So I sold the swings
in the trade gazette,
the roundabouts at auction
fetched a tidy profit
breaking the bane of your quotation.

Now I find other climates,
maybe not worth a hundred pages;
a smile
and the children
asking to go
down to the fair.


from Always Arriving (Sudden Valley Press, 1999)

In many ways the sea lies

He loved the sea

Past tense
you see wreckage

The sea did not love
does not

Is guilty
of family violence
even when drugged
by the sun

The trials of the sea
are without verdict

The jury
are not convinced
by the family snapshots
by the poetry
the dead albatross
the warnings given
by the lighthouse.

Previously unpublished

He has found the green door at last,
in a faded, jaded street.
And, slightly askew, it reflects
the slant of his memories.

Behind it, there might be a childhood,
if he could only reach the handle,
and against the glass
(the sunlit blood of stained glass roses)
there is the shadow of his father.

And the hallway builds back
into those small rooms.
In that one the faces turned
like flowers to the sun of her entrance.

That beautiful woman who spilt his love
easily as tea, and he only 
the second best china.

But listen, there is his mother singing,
and a chorus of relatives rehearsing
their relatively small disagreements.

How much? He asks the scrap-yard dealer.
Well, the man says,
these things don’t come cheap.

No Pictures

Only a short stretch of the imagination,
some frayed rope of road tying the house
down in the landscape, where the mountains
peer through curtained rain.
Give up on the day. After all nothing is happening,
You looking up at them looking out.
Some days these hills are like a crowd to a child,
with not much space between their huge approach
and the mad sea, chewing the land,
discarding the sucked bones of trees.
So, no pictures please, nothing quite captures
what you want to remember;
the sun pushing holes in the clouds
to let the light walk free across the hills.

from Push (Black Doris Press, 2008)

The Akwizgran Discrepancy

Only the finest penmanship
brought us here,
among the trees of Akwizgran.

They signed the Treaty;
all the arrangements of the world:
the fine teak table, top hats, uniforms,
unbending spines and us,
splintered between borders.
Our only state, that of being:
Our reason for existence:
that we did not exist at all.

It brings us so much:
comfort, money,
the complete security
of being nowhere,
Akwizgran’s summer beauty,
devoid of forecasts,
all the café tables filled with those
who, for a few short hours
drink in our amikejo,
are free of wars and taxes;
the benefits of nations.

The area, also known as Neutral Moresnet or ‘the Akwizgran Discrepancy’ was a separate territory between 1816 and 1920. It came into existence after the demise of the Napoleonic empire, and was sandwiched between the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Kingdom of Prussia. When in 1830 Belgium gained independence from the Netherlands, a four-country point (Vierländerpunkt) came into being .  Today it is part of Belgium, but the position of its borders are marked on a paved area around the present day three-border point (Drielandenpunt). The residents themselves, who became the first citizens to adopt Esperanto as their national language, preferred to call their enclave ‘Amikejo’ (‘Friendship’ in Esperanto).

Previously unpublished

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