I live in a house
of pictures.

A woman smokes -
she is wrinkled,

chiseled darkly
and reeks of history.

I stand on grass
in the rain.

She watches from behind
the lighted finger of a hand.

Sheís deep in the gold prism
of her frame. We

are both guilty of
committing crimes in the dark.

I walk through rooms,
through pictures,

walls knock and
doors slam. Whose

focus will last
the longest,

who will have the privilege
of dragging in the moon

and lying it flat
on the table.

Dangerously Close

The grass gives softly. I
listening to lorikeets, to girls
videoing Sunday offcuts. A

woman uncurls her body
in a slow rhythmical dance
around a tall stone. I
sleep with a cloud

squatting on my chest. The
hill above me is coloured in
history. Cattle tear at the earth,
at fences. They chew at scenery.

I sleep in a cloud and
faces I know pass in and out. My
eyes follow voices. The girls
video me

standing up in slow motion. Iím
like vapour, fizzing in the heat. The
dances dangerously close. I

fade into the coolness of a
flowering rhododendron. I
recede deeply, the sunlight
turning green.

The Isolation of Self

Mother Mary Joseph Aubert (1835 - 1926)

A silhouette gesticulates
against a newspapered wall. It

seems to be feeding itself
hand to mouth morsels - a glass is tipped to lips,

a moth careers onto the picture of a sportsman
wearing a black jersey and kicking a ball

which never leaves the foot. The silhouette
turns to me and her sleeve wipes out

the ball. She turns up the lamp and
proceeds to pour herbal tea. She smells

of the outdoors, the plants in the orchard,
the cannabis growing in the glasshouse.

She glides about me - a noiseless movement,
the breath of her clothes speaking of

Madonnas and rituals and aroha,
the work of compassion. She

converses in French, in Maori, in
Italian. I say thank you in English

for the bread she gives me/for her
hospitality. The nuns - for she isnĻt alone -

fuss over this intruder in dust - come in from
the cold, from the wired-up streets, the green

lungs of landscapes, the isolation of self and
self and self only. She unwraps the morning

and slowly we make our way down to the river,
our shadows flapping at flies, at

leaves falling. This is the narrow path, the well-
trodden track

where locals come to swim and bathe,
purify themselves,

to drink the water/bottle it/take it away. This woman,
black robes roped to her body,

lies down in the grass,
hardly breathing. I have this feeling I

want to touch her. Sheís like a garden,
darkened by a texture of soil and sand. She

canít be touched. Her sisters come out to
bow down to green idols.

Children eat leaves. Adults
red-eyed in the sunlight,

smoke on the verandah. This morning
she shows me how to

entangle mind and body around the
most private of thoughts, to

embrace the flesh
without fumbling through clothes. Itís

easy, she says, hardly breathing. Itís like
wanting to pray without hands.


Itís what I call a glass-eye view of Paradise,
through the cleanly
     created hole of a bullet.

     Itís not always clean but
itís usually effective.


Of course he feels nothing,
     in this case a boy
shot at close range for the sake of kissing
the book of his faith,
caught sucking on an icon and muttering to a wall
which seemed to mutter back.


On first seeing the Universal Sky City Tower
all lit up

white and luminescent

the boy tells me itís not completely what
literature claims it to be,

     has claimed for centuries,
promulgating the idea of yellow brick roads,
a city of impregnable gates and walls, a
continuous celebration of

party party party

dressing up, gender swapping, utopian trips,

ascension deals at a certain time and place,

     Mickey Mouse bacchanalia
at the glug, glug of eternal youth.


For the boy,

     getting off the grass took time.
There was no instantaneous

transformation from one thing to another. He didnít
suddenly lose his shape,
     drop his epidermis and run,
shed 17 years of muscle

     in one exquisite shake.


And the soldier who shot him,
     who dispatched him in one tickle of a trigger,
     he knew -
a brother-in-arms who enjoyed the look
of being a warrior.

     The boy
saw the fraternal smile of his killerís affection.


Itís not what I expected to happen. Itís not
how I expected his body to be treated

on a warm summerís day when bright red flowers
had opened to the touch of wild bees,


The boy says living for him isnít about
junk food, brothels and beer any more,
     sharing territories with
fish swimming amongst gardens
of coloured fruit,

     walking with animals
which slobber and lick, listening to

languages he thought were extinct

     sharing oneís most personal
privacies before the final absolution.


I hold up the glass eye to a picture of him
advertising himself as a person of

no fixed abode, a child viewing his Paradise,
a man sitting alone in the revolving
restaurant of the Universal Sky City Tower
     spooning in large mouthfuls
of cloud, seeing it

thickening, swirling, rubbing,
against windows,

     windows which on a fine day

have wrap-around panoramas of sea and hills
and islands and massive conurbations, of a
new city joined to another, joined to another ...


     He tells me

in a field where the grass has
grown over the shape of his hole-in-the-heart fall,
he much prefers the probing, long-beaked birds

which know him best, which appreciate him

for the delicacy he has obviously become.

© Iain Britton. All rights reserved.

The bottom half of an image of a flax frond.