Beneath Australia

Our flight across the world goes well,
dismissed for nought beneath our Boeing’s paper skin –
we’ve reached our third and final continent.
A map displays the parts we’ve occupied
with printless feet, and now beneath, Australia.

Begins a traverse of a land, as swift
as any disregarded thought. Beneath Australia.
How much depends upon that comma – a nation
of 4 syllables, we are not promised underneath
your skin. Turbulence disturbs the flight.
Most, disregarding, sleep or tighten belts,
a city’s breath, a desert, burns dyspeptic – down.

Comes now the Tasman Sea, and on into the
fast advancing sun. Also below, drowned
unrecorded names, lost windborn
hopes of those unticketed, whose gods
had given them no leave to leave a trail
of empty breath through starlit parallels of air.

The courage of economy, of business class,
holds up – a matchless wealth controlling
destiny, the slow decay of ice and fire.

Otago Gold

Take the train. This one departs
for nowhere in particular promising
to return. It’s a matter of time
keeping to this schedule we’re in
for plunging rocklines, rails that
etch themselves round grasping
verticals big as countries, tunnels that
thread would struggle through.
The carriages have those platforms
each end lovers meet on, or villains
exit backwards to their deserts.
We hang on with cameras, safe
from either, taking in the loco’s
chirping diesel, the clicking wheels,
the squealing track. A widescreen
journey, made each day since
men cut the line. The river ripped
the gorge, exposed the fleckered
ore, brought fever – greed exposed
the land to eyes hungry for wealth
now gone we now inherit. And
scale returns, the townships
fallen, consumed by poverty and dust.
Only the train persists, a final
artifact of life in photographs,
a journey through a gorge where
water fast conceals imported trout,
where glittered sunlight in the
pools, on littered eager flecks.
No longer need – the line stops,
brinking the edge of land that
only giants could have made.
Massed grasses whisper on hills
that rise and fall forever. Wherever
looked it spells Otago gold.

Norma’s Enigma

The organist reads a paperback
As Elgar marches through the orchestra
Labelling his friends, giving them their subtleties:
Their inner calm, their petulance, their
Braggadocio at twilight. It’s about
Distances – the percussionist at his
Timpani, bruising the air – while violins cry
And bases purr like cats. It’s a workout
Of connections, of masks behind faces
Bringing everyone the edge of tears.
In this Hall, twelve thousand miles
From England, the imperial voice has cleared
Its throat. The paperback has disappeared
And deeper than a vault she sounds.

It’s Your Duty, Lad

The airside Smiths gives up a book of verse –
Poems of the First World War, and half
a dozen volumes labelled “Cats”.
They’re in a corner, hiding for their lives.

This side security – checked-in, case-free;
belts off and back; we stuff the junk
of travel safe in pockets, the threat of terror calmed.
No chance for stanzas, rhymes and iambs

to have dodged the scanner’s eye.
Or place for metaphysics or neologism
along the traipse and transport to the gate.
But halt! Ignore the final calls,

departure boards, the reasons to airborne
somewhere else. Don’t search for ironies
amongst the savage threat of duty free,
for assonance amongst pelucid stacks

of gin, for similes that tick from watches
big as moons. Go buy that book of poems
from the Somme, and just be thankful that
the shop’s computer chose it for the shelf.

27 Dollars

Selina Tusitala Marsh
Pasifika poetry warrior


in a city
a hotel
a book of black
black tiles mirroring
for minutes after reading
i am disturbed
breaks up into
I am blank
but i have
no pen to write
back cover stretch the
images that try to
the world
one phrase i cannot read
a sticker’s there
it is the price of verse