For the Joy of Mouths

Summer days ripen
for the celebration of mouths,
for the slinging of grins in greeting.
Flat-lined features broken open
by a constellation

of kin and kai  mingling
in the wash of tongues;
warm shoals goaded
by scented earth, seething.

It’s almost religious
when they bow their heads,
watch the exhumation
with reverence and awe,

almost sexual when they peel
back the layers with a volley of vowels,
expose the hangi like a bride –
presenting her flesh, ripe,
for her king’s consumption.

Dinner serves silence
and satiation with grinding
jaws and married lips.

A spoil of chores crouches
in sun-drawn corners
waits to climb heavy on shoulders.
But even they can’t dim
the brilliance of teeth
dancing to the music of throats.

The revelry settles in circles
and day wilts to tangerine
embers and ash, nests
in the hearths of mountains and home.
The low-slung sun,
in rebellion or imitation,
spits sparks at night’s approach.

And teeth, murmuring
in hammocks, sway
to waiatas and the soft glow
of conversations, fireside.

*Maori words have be hyperlinked for meaning and pronunciation.

River Run

In smaller days and darkness
I’d rise and run away,
race Maui to the verge
of civilised life.

The feet slapping racket
roused the dogs and dozing houses
’till the grass hushed
green my tender soles.

I’d scorch a fresh wound
through the soft skinned field,
like a ball of hot skittering solder
rolling down down down
to the silver river veins
running breathless
through a palm full of trees.

The river was a rock
and a cave and a home
where I bathed
in the litter
of the sun,

and shimmied the timbre
of a nor’west sigh,
nested high in the bough
of a breeze.

Sea Legs


He could not have predicted,
by logic, stars or quivering rod,

how kissing the crescent moon rising
from her shoulder swelled

her ocean tides, breaching
the levee of her composure.

Nor, whilst tucked in the aromatic
timbers of her hull, breathlessly

gripping the ivory gunwale
of her thighs – starboard and port,

that he’d gain his sea legs
whilst on his belly.

Kill the Lights, Kiss the Night


The city throbs fluorescent arteries,
pulses a slow moving slurry of meat
and metal phased by traffic signals
dealing dime bags to junkies
queuing to snort lines on the way home.
                        (can you blame them when home is an empty advent calendar?)

Somewhere, buildings huddle,
sleep deprived witnesses
to a luminous war of words.
Lidless eyes reflecting
and absorbing the brilliance
of mad men and their billboards.
                     (all strung out on incandescent addiction)

Shop windows shatter
secret lives and peace
when they pierce dull corners
with photons ricocheted off eyes
of pedestrian lice.

The sleepless writhe in perpetual day,
eyes dry and blistered, weeping
and waiting for the cool tongue of night

Sleep, borrowed in pinches
                         (and paid back in bags)
from narrow gaps
between howls and hysteria,
furrowed away
in the creases of red-rimmed lids.

They pray for a new plague
                                       (the fools)
for a creeping tide of black ants
to devour the dreams
of their bright-eyed pestilence.
                       (kill the light! kiss the night!)

And when it comes,
when grids flounder
ground between the teeth
of the ravenous,

the sleepless will remain so,
imprisoned in whimpering closets
and under mattress ceilings
armed and waiting for the unseen
feet of intruders.
                  (kiss the night good night!)

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