Summer, Here at Last: And a Tragedy

This summer’s passed us by they sulked.
We’ve been cursed by a season of miserable Mondays,
because someone’s accidentally
locked the sun in a cupboard,
and somebody’s forgotten to put the twelve pack of beer in the fridge.

They speak as though the weather is like central heating,
and there’s someone you can shake a finger at
when it all goes pear shaped,
a dodgy plumber, a senile electrician.

And I hear they now sell summer pre-packaged
in certain upscale supermarkets.

But boy did the sun put on a big comeback show for us today.
Still soaked in the pungent aroma of her
extended stay in tropical Rarotonga,
she wrapped us all in a big scorching, sticky sun-hug,
and caught the popsicle venders totally unprepared.

The mercury licked the stratosphere,
by noon it reached a wobbly thirty,
and the streets had that languid yellow equatorial quality
that feels like the onset of a hangover, sunstroke,
when even the fat, black flies don’t move
for the half-finished melted cones.

At noon the trees tilted to swipe their brows,
and a crowd gathered round a fallen man,
mouth open gasping heat,
a woman frantically fanning the life back into his cracked face,
and wail of sirens like the opening of hell.
Too late the sun winked behind a cloud.

You can’t beat Wellington on a good day,
goes the unofficial slogan.
Summer brings oiled up crowds off the cruise ships,
bums on the beaches, booty in the souvenir shop coffers.

And the sun’s supposed to dutifully play its part,
court jester to the pickled pedestrians.
But today she showed us who’s boss,
under her bright and fierce tongue we all sweat like popsicles,
and when she wants, she can suck a life down to the flimsy stick.

Kids pulled their tricks down at the skate park
high into the woozy air,
a crowd watched a few brave souls doing bombs into the greasy harbour,
judging the height of their spray with raucous cheers,
life and joy and death crackled on the skillet of the summer.

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In a Chinese Garden

Finally, the erasing hour of the rain.
The garden lost behind a paper screen,
and what returns is never the same.
I have known a vast, bright, burning summer,
reduced to the silence of the listening stones.
The rain thrusts me
into these corners of solitude with a grey palm.
But see how the hydrangeas remain,
and rise like a rebellion of scent and colour,
from the darkened pond.
Blue, through folds of purple, to breathless pink,
they climb, until there is no colour at all,
only this defiant song of insects
that not even the rain could wash away.
For there is nothing in these flowers that
grows despondent, as we sometimes do,
and accepts the finality of water.
Like a breath of infinite pigment,
they leap and dive
in circles of unquenchable joy
without decay,
to the very edge of the garden wall.

VIII

In the lungs of the girl,
the summer is a grove of shadow,
a song that is a bird,
a distance of guitars,
and the cicada’s trembling silence.
In the lungs of the girl,
the summer is a barb of joy,
a collapse of leaves in the burning roots,
love in the dark feet of children,
and translucent carp
streaming from the sun’s despair.
In the lung of the summer,
the girl is a voice of embers
dancing over my closed eyes.

Cat in the Long Grass

This country of the untrammelled grass,
that weaves into fingertips playing songs on the luxuriant breeze,
is your kingdom.
From this oak to the splintered fence, you hold a vast realm of the moment,
perched atop that old stone staircase that leads us
deeper into the idle days you keep here.

If you need it, this grass is like a cape you can pull over yourself,
absorbed in the verdant pleasures of your prowling dreams.
If you need them, these towering branches
are places to test the lightness of a soul.

When you linger here, everything, at last, has its place,
the trees bedazzled with coy ivy, the birds forever out of reach,
teasing your claws,
the cicadas’ bright cotton rolling down to you like a carpet.

And you lean into the hours bestowing a feline order,
a flush world humming with life spending itself.
Brief king of the afternoon, how you spend us,
who dare to approach and pay homage,

spend our lives like doubloons, like a plummeting sun.
What circumstance do we presumptuous ones have to rival you?

Summer Rains

Under this bulging sky,

full of summer life,

a broken-bodied man

clasping a shakey trundler,

frowns through one last summer.

Children, baked brown

as the gasping earth,

cool off with sodas,

and toss used-up cans

at the crackling pavement.

Sand, grit, human hair,

the dust and ash of some

dead Indian Yogi,

a bird carcass

with a plastic ring

round its neck,

all piled

one on the other

in this baking parking lot:

accumulated tragedies.

And the kids,  

with stubbed toes,

lark over all this wreckage.

Even the summer rains

can’t cleanse the

stench and decay

of budding life.