The Value of Art

When he feels, on his hunched shoulders, the first clasp of cold
The squirrel becomes acquisitive rather than inquisitive.
He must aggregate, accumulate, hoard then hide his gold.
He will eat it later but now he shivers and collects.

The rich fear the cold hatred from the poor at the door.
They fear hard times must come. They acquire rather than inquire.
They aggregate, accumulate, hoard and hide their wealth
In storage lockers in freeports, in Geneva or Singapore –

Exquisite art painted to display life and defy death,
Shelved in darkness, appreciating but unappreciated.
The dead painters weep , feeling cold creep to the core.

I see a damp hut,
The only light a coal fire.
A coal miner comes in, with a dog,
A faint star shine falls through the doorway,
And a draught turns the coal fire smokey.

See the coal miner,’s black eyelids
and red-veined eyeballs misty with cataracts
Bulge and overflow with grey tears.
See him stamp slush off his boots
And peer at what he found near here

When walking his dog who chased a squirrel
One cold evening up on to a rubbish heap
And together they dug up this fine picture
That no one else had cared for at all.
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Let’s Touch Earth Lightly

Because I am following you, a 6 year old, up the hill
We don’t travel on roads or gravel tracks.|
We grasp at  roots and clumps of grass
And haul ourselves up the steepest slopes
Leaving no trace.

After our passing the trail is covered over
By swaying purple seed heads taller than you.
We don’t know where we have been
But know that we have stared into the  faces
Of lions, tigers snakes leopards and cheetahs
In many a secret place. 

Climbing up and up we touch Earth lightly.
Our movement history is a mystery to others.
But like a flicking fish or the narwhal drilling,
Or the submarine -shaped whale shark,
Keeping a steady pace
We travel with grace.

The best old folk know what it was like
To slide between trees without  moving a leaf,
Run barefoot over gravel, camp in a cave,
Be travellers,  messengers,  scouts,
Moving, unnoticed from place to place
With unrecognised face.

When you are older, Tane,
An owner operator of the world,
And I no longer stumble behind you
Wondering which way you will go,
Still  travel with grace,
From place to place
And leave no trace.

But for now let us both touch Earth lightly and with love,
As a blind child caresses her mother.
And, as we are  clumsy, slow humans,
Let us, when we reach the mountain top,
Sing a hymn  to Earth, there at the crater’s rim
Using carefully chosen words of thanks. 

*

City Music

Like a wet swimsuit the cold day clung.
Outside the library, under the porch cover
An Asian teenage boy at an old upright piano
Gifted into the air endlessly chuckling Chopin
And everyone was smiling.

I followed the drifting notes across the road
Over the traffic’s wet hiss and horn,
Up rain-slick steps beside the Art Gallery.
A CD player and speaker, on the paving,
And eight formal couples dancing tango.

The mens’ legs between the women’s,
The women’s spines like spoon handles.
The couples’ eyes following their joined hands,
A boat prow through concrete seas.
Everyone walked past more seriously,
Thinking of their relationships.

The sun shone on glowing grass and paua puddles.
The Moreton Bay figs, wide apart feet in polished shoes,
Danced with raised arms joined together.
And then, across Albert Park in the university quad
Another upright piano , under a plexiglass awning.

A Polynesian woman smiled at the keys,
Repeated a phrase, all concentration,
Added more notes, then tossing her head back,
Smiled at her guy draped over her shoulder.
Raindrops beading the awning hung long.

Just me watching and listening this time,
Full to the brim with music, a jug about to pour.
With lightened heart  and  in celebration
I turned Symonds Street into a dance floor
And boogied  my library books to the bus stop.

This is how people really are,I thought.
This is how they are.
With a finger flourished  like a baton
I turned off my world news notifications. 

*

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Jif

I am on my knees on the bathmat
Scrubbing the toilet bowl
With Jif,  “with microparticles.
For maximum cleaning and minimum scrubbing.”

Modest Jif, my labour- saving  maid,
Standing in her stiff long dress.
I pay for her with cash,
And probably with all of living nature.

She can be a flirtatious lover
Playing the mixed message game:
“Unique creamy ingredients,” as well as
“If swallowed, remove from mouth.”

Then again her motherly low expectations
Protect me from exhaustion and perfectionism:
“Avoid prolonged rubbing on a single spot.”

Jif , my guru, is cleverer than I.
She “solves really tough cleaning problems.”
Was there ever a woman who  solved  problems
While kneeling, scrubbing the toilet bowl?

My problem  today is the missing sock –
Tiny, black, with skeletons on it,
Rather than the Pacific gyre,
Microparticles in albatross chicks,
Or the volcano’s increasing fire.

Oh Jif, with your teasing language
So full of possibility and care,
Responsive to the gentlest squeeze,
Solve all my problems. 

Think for me, please.

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Lost in Transmission

Although often obscured by other, larger, circling bodies 

And usually hidden  in the glare of its mother sun,

We occasionally glimpsed that singular blue green rock.

 

We saw how, after a chaotic launch party, and being knocked about,

This rock cleaned and preened itself, made a breathable atmosphere,

Made oceans, cells, plants, and learnt to hide its carbon waste. 

 

We wanted to award this planet the Universe Achievement Prize,

For its knowledge, resilience, .compassion, persistence

In the face of its imminent  annihilation .

 

Our tiny courier had plotted his ages-long course with care

But he hadn’t known the jealousy of the gas guard planets 

Whose outer orbits he’d have to cross.

 

They showed no sympathy for his loving mission, 

His gorgeous crafted finery, or even his song.

He was sucked into one of them and crushed, we think.

 

We withdrew our interest from the unreachable rock

And left it unaware that we were there

And had admired what it had wrought in vain.

*

earth

Needing To Eat

Old woman, gently rounded with no waist,
Rugged up for warmth, arms out for balance,
Shuffles down shiny white supermarket aisle,
Eyes cast down, head tilted forward,
Hesitant, hungry, needing to eat.

She bends to the bottom shelf for the cheap sardines,
Cautious, afraid of careless children
Bumping into her.  She knows just one knock
Could send her sprawling
And bones could break.

She thinks of Antarctic penguins
How they waddle fast  to the ice edge
On short legs and stare down at the sea,
Hesitant, hungry, needing to eat,
How they wait for young, stupid penguins
That they can push into the water first,
A sacrifice, to satisfy a lurking, slippery seal.

penguin