Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Poem: Allen

he treasures this
even above
his stomach

tenderly grazes it
on books
teaching tapes
and ancient hi-fis

holds it like a flag
before his daughters

tells them they must
go to university
so they can care for him when he’s old.


he has made his name
by mastering
the weaknesses
of human breath

knows each rhonchi
by its sound
feels the depression
of young ribs

sits behind
his rosewood desk

knows sometimes
he can give back
the lightness of air
sometimes not.

it was a chair
so fine
it did not need
any embellishment

he touched its curves
added a cushion
for comfort
it became his throne

on long days
it called to him

when he sat down
he smelt incense
and dumplings cooking
in ancestral halls.

he left the towers
of Hong Kong
their 1970s beehives
of people

asked his lady
to trust him
found himself
with a flat tyre

on a backroad
to Pukekohe

some Maoris stopped
he was worried at first
he still hates the thought
of force-fed pavlova.

in his daily life
he strives
for balance
and regulation

tells his three daughters
to walk every day
always to breathe
and stay happy

at night he checks email
for news of his mother

keeps his passport
knows he could leave
at any time.

he tells his siblings
that bowels
and urine
become more important

as you age
he likes to think
they still listen
to their older brother

once a year they return
home like birds

fight like tigers
eat like pigs
kiss their mother
hope for another year.

More of my Human Archeology series, this time in honour of my dad. It was at times difficult, renegotiating the relationship between us as I gradually claimed my adulthood. But it's beeen worth it, and as I get older I realise more and more what my dad had to give up (and still deals with) to give us a life in NZ. This is posted in honour of my dad, and of the Metonymy exhibition, which has just finished with a memorable performance night.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday Poem: An open letter to Mr Peter Brown of New Zealand First

Dear Mr. P. Brown,

I agree absolutely the matter of Asian immigration
Demands serious attention. After all, Mr P Brown, the true definition
Of a true blue Kiwi, like yourself, is, firstly,
A love of the All Blacks. Not in the literal sense
Unless you’re down the Loaded Hog on Friday night,
But I mean, really love the All Blacks, who were robbed
Of their right to the World Cup.

Secondly Mr P Brown, I know you can sing
The national anthem in both English and Maori
After all, true blue Kiwis like yourself, Mr P Brown,
Can. Maori is, of course -
the language of those poor bottom dwelling bastards
soon to be displaced by 'mini societies of Asians'.

And we all know the Asians rob people.
It was probably them that robbed the All Blacks.
And now they’ll rob
Those poor brown people of their rightful place to be
At the bottom of New Zealand society.
I feel your pain, I really do, Mr P Brown. I feel it here.
Better, far better, to have a flood of brown people here
than yellow.

With a name like Mr Brown, Mr P Brown, who can blame you
For being a defender of the poor oppressed in our society.
Like Winston Peters, who’s never played the race card, ever.
He’s brown. And you work with other brown people too.
They clean your office toilet, flush your shit down the loo.
An Asian cleaning your loo just wouldn’t be patriotic, would it,
Mr P Brown?

There’s no telling what the Asians would do if they became
Substantial. The greater the number,
The greater the risk.
Sell substandard goods from China?
Our Prime Minister’s only a woman,
She couldn’t tell the difference.
Real quality is Kiwi-made. Macpac packs, Pumpkin Patch.

Those Asians will never integrate.
All they’re interested in are the A’s and
Sending their kids to our best schools.
Their kids won’t ever be Kiwis.
Having them here would only cause
Division, resentment and friction. And not the kind
Of friction you get, Mr P Brown,
By putting your hands down your pants.

Oh and – you can always tell an Asian by the way they look.
They’re yellow, you see. Squinty eyes, and
always in the library. None of them can drive.
And none of them speak
English properly. That brings me to my third point –
All true blue kiwis speak English, don’t they,
Mr P Brown? Even the brown people.
They signed the Treaty in English, after all.

And my last point, the most important. A true blue
Kiwi is born here, Mr P Brown, right here on this soil,
Part of the whenua, they say. So people
Not from this land have no chance
Of integrating into our just, free, and above all,
Tolerant society. No chance at all, Mr P Brown.
I mean, we wouldn’t want a mini-London
On our hands, would we, Mr Brown?

You’re right.
There’s no telling what they’d do,
These immigrants. They should never have been allowed in.
There’s no telling what they’ll say next.

I'm obviously not done with political poetry. So I found this recently.... a poem I wrote and posted in 2008 after the (now happily silent) Peter Brown of NZ First let loose some flatulent comments regarding Asian immigration. Unlike the current limp-wristed response, his comments immediately and deservedly drew a retort from media and National party members. I ended up performing this poem a lot - always to a delighted and sympathetic response.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Don't get mad, get writing

Have to say something for Paul Henry. He's done a great job of getting me riled up and off my arse to write. Here's a blog just posted for The Big Idea - in which I discuss what role artists and poets have in responding to current events. And that last poem was fun, but not nearly as cathartic as I'd like. I feel a rant slam poem coming on.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A conversation with a man at an avocado stall in Coffs Harbour Australia

Me: Those look nice.

Man (interrupting excitedly): Mandarin!

ME: huh? No. The avocados...

Man: (pointing) No? No. Cantonese.

Me: I just want one avo...

Man: (stabbing with one finger) Fujian!


Me: Er.

Why would you think I was from Fujian?

Man: Oh, well there's this guy at work, see. Mr Lee. He's from Fujian. He doesn't speak Cantonese or Mandarin, he speaks Fujian...nese.

Strained pause.

Er right, fifty cents.

Me: Thanks.

Man: Shie-shie.

Me: Um, I can't remember the right response...

Man: Never mind, jie jen, see you again.

Me: Er, um ok, see you again.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tuesday Poem - It’s just a laugh

Paul’s such a dag, he’s such a lark

He’s never serious, never thinks

Why get so mad it’s just a laugh

You PC types are all so daft

It’s light relief – no call to think

Paul’s such a dag, he’s such a lark

Don’t blame it on the TV staff

They don’t like audiences to think

Why get so mad it’s just a laugh

Don’t let those cheeky darkies start

Their claims that Kiwis need to think

Paul’s such a dag, he’s such a lark

Immigrants like him? Pure class

It’s guys like him who make us think

But don’t be mad it’s just a laugh

The world’s a place that’s far too hard

I’d like to teach my kids to think

Paul’s such a dag, he’s such a lark

Why get so mad it’s just a laugh

Ironic that one of my first attempts at a villanelle (one of the more intellectual and difficult forms) would be prompted by Paul Henry, but that's what indignant anger will do! I thought the villanelle would be a good form because of its repetition. It also gives me an excuse to post a (hand covers mouth) rhyming poem, something which seems oddly appropriate for a poem about TV.

In case you haven't been following, English immigrant Paul Henry, host of TVNZ's Breakfast programme, asked John Key yesterday on live TV whether our Governor General, NZ-born Sir Anand Satanyand, was "even a New Zealander". Our valiant PM's only response was a weak laugh. Apart from a villanelle, my response is a strangled Gaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!