January 2002
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Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?
--Corinthians II


every day you break is different: dark artlessly

disappears into the gutter that is a child's cry

into the eyes of a stranger on a skateboard

the stars (the stars!) are hiding in his pockets


there's too many stars and not enough sky

tenacious trash heaped against the luminous

drainpipe: the gull which is also your hand

flutters beside the white thigh of a passer-by


a woman with lice in her hair and a faithless lover

with a ramshackle bicycle and too many destinations

talks by avoiding the words she knows for certain

you most want to hear


however hard she rubs her clothes stay sweat-stained

however hard she wrings they stay sopping

the boys are the opposite of what she wants

her measured step scares the rabbit and attracts the chicken


measure your desire for distance

her distance from desire

by lifting her dress to reveal

the marble of a cathedral


your mouth is looser than an old woman's sex

the passer-by plumps her hair

in a puddle one eye doesn't see another

this is the testimony of a far-sighted man



Keep in
touch. If she is beautiful still
she wont say
hello: she fell
into the world without
a tongue to confess as much
or more. Call it her original sin: silence
winding up your day. But its how she keeps
faith with the non-place she came from: surely
a man can understand, a man can
weigh her heart against a feather
teasing air
northerly southerly easterly westerly


The knowledge of your origins consecrates her
body: your desire for her is
nostalgia for what's beyond. When she
opens her lips the Four Winds
enter, charging her belly until she
splits like a mussel
dropped on the rocks by a black-backed gull:
one half is darker than Medea's laugh, the other
shines like Beatrice's eyes before the altar.


When she is dark she is beyond
comprehension: better to swear on water
or the sand it rearranges,
better to embrace a thorn-bush than to push
further into her confusion.
Exiled from irony (which exiles)
she does not want to choose
sea from sky, blood from seed: she believes
one belongs with the other, here with the beyond
she comes from. Touching nothing
she is keeping the quiet.


This pomegranate is still ripening. That pomegranate has gone rotten.

It is about how what happens changes the space you write while the snail  leaves a trail on the finger of your glove.

in her split skirt she felt so essential shed bear children men could  mourn this cowgirl carrying a sour tune in her bucket.

- The writing is meticulous but twisted in on itself, just like your love for  one another.

Your pen will not leaven bread if the sun refuses to; its nib wont  pick the lock on the door of a widows bedroom.

When the light makes off what can you do but  follow?



Seven days

to straighten

out. Away

you go, no

divine smile


bird beast flower

along, not

a glimmer

or birth-star

just ashes

and that speech

'dust to dust'

dumbing down

the hour. Now

you look, look

how 'it' falls

through & through-

out the house;

peel apples,

boil your meat -

mist over

those eyelids

long before


the haunting




Once uttered

the sentence

makes 'it' so

and water

turns to wine,


to balsam.

The sentence



dead. You hang


on serif

hooks: you


space, sizing

the paper

tiger here

there and then.


silk sunset,


arch: neither

takes you in;

you cross this


line - it's you

to a T


And caritas?

First the hermit

crab scuttles off

with the sun, then

your girl goes west.

The gap between

hermit and crab -

that's where she waves

to the air you

outstare for her.

See me here. No,

only those words

in memory:

the real is real

difficult, see?

Because. God is

length, height, width, depth -

hard math as you

queue for her kiss

or His blessing.

Your tadpole mouth

bubbles with if

but and maybe;


you wear one cross,

bear another

the way vagrants

carry carry-

alls for nothing

special. That's all.

Snouting the dark

man can only

poke his lantern

at random, sure

he'll get the girl.

But why see her

again? Your door

closed like shadows

on a body

no body wants;

your words tersely

fitted around

and about her


turn away now

the hour turns down

another sun.

Suspend subject-

object for pure


abolish there

and then. Forget


her step, her scent

and all the rest

when she was all

your rest. Rest now.


A conversation with no one, the wind;

a conversation with no one, the rain.

Macrocarpa rooting the irrigation ditch;

the pug on his grandfather's ploughshare.

And his calloused hands, and his companion

magpie picking the eyes out of that scarecrow

in the next field. And twelve hours of sunset..

The colour of foreign birdsong in the nor'westerly

playing with dust the way a boy plays with the priest

who hears his confession. 'Yes, my child.'

Tenderly, with the chrysanthemum's pink,

he was born to the vernal world

as his father nailed the sky-light

shut. Innocent, disenchanted,

he paces out the vegetable garden

where a makeshift cross honours the tomcat

and father never ventures. Chamomile

fragile as the wall of the cemetery

next door, where there are no doors; thistle

faithful as a dog and dogged

around his ankles, scratching

thin-skinned Paradise: 'Angelo..'


With one word she strips sinew from bone..

Hardly - if an arbitrary past arbitrates our future

my lover stutters over a cracked teacup.

It takes her forever to get dressed,

each button and hook resists the way

she resists the day. She is bitter as the tobacco leaf

between these lips. Her prolonged maybe

a tangental no I find time to talk with her sister

but never with her. So what if that 'never' is theatre?

I want our bodies to generate

the light neither of us feel - but she wanders

off, thunder in the wild blue


for Olivier Messiaen


The bird perches on these words

six feet above sea-level. Now night

shelters in the bones of passers-by -

the bird's eyes burn. Like this observer

the bird thirsts for more than air.


A bird that does not believe

in trees can never rest. And yet

this reticent shell, this spiral on the shore

rests without sense or belief. Dispirited,

it waits for the gull's beak. I'm free.


A blonde whose skin blinds the sun

winds back the clock: the thirteenth hour

the first, she is introduced to this man

she has already loved. I feel like a new man.

For him this shop-girl misappropriates

the mysteries: her eyes divine

whatever the established church

avoids. If he was to offer her

their wedding album, she'd leave it

for scavenging plovers and the tide.

Is there anything more mysterious

than clarity? Her taut breast almost

offers itself to his lips before

he withdraws: I saw myself

seeing myself , smelling her

sex valerian and sulphur.


The roadside apple, the arbour's pear

ignore the condensate from a horse's nostrils -

what are blood and sweat to them? All the same

I'll tether my mare, collect windfalls.

Or I'll rest where riverbanks loosen to an estuary

a boy fishes at dawn, his father calling

to the heavens mackerel clouds swim.

Plenty of time to tell stories

now, bulging like summer plums, my eyes size up

the tractor on that hill, the overalled tomboy

swaying through the swaying grass

towards me. Hi, I'm Eve.

(c)  David Howard.  All Rights Reserved.

HOWARD, David (1959 - ) is a poet and founding editor of Takahe, a small literary magazine which has been the first to publish many well-known New Zealand writers. He describes his writing as "gnarled, metaphysical poety which fosters rather than forbids tenderness."

Reviewing Howard's first collection, In the First Place (1991), Kendrick Smithyman writes of "[a] sense of shock, and uncommon astonishment at the extraordinary poise which is part and parcel of these usually quite short pieces." The volume features photographs by Paul Swadel.

David Eggleton writes of Howard's second collection, Holding Company (1995): "Poetry itself is treated as a form of prayer, both sacred and profane, but rife with little idiosyncracies, sudden switches of pace, tone and meaning so as to create an ambiguous haze, almost at times an erotic reverie...".

A third volume Shebang: Collected Poems 1980 - 2000, is due to be published by Steele Roberts in 2000. Kapka Kassabova describes it as "'A most welcome return by one of New Zealand's finest and most idiosyncratic poets... As always, his poems provoke and delight with their perfect lightness of touch... Howard's poems dwell in that elusive zone between the terrible and the sublime."

The author of poems described as "technically dazzling" and teeming with "glittering figures of speech", it is perhaps fitting that Howard has worked as a pyrotechnic and special effects supervisor for acts including Metallica and Janet Jackson. He is currently living in Los Angeles.