(On the Tomb of) Victor Bruce

This poem was commissioned by the Red Room Project in 2004.

For Bruce Beaver 

 & the poems having been found 
 your poems radiant as manly’s 
 hi-fi stacks above & beneath us 
 all the memory of your mother 
 her house demolished & rebuilt 
 old stormwater drains’ insides 
 sewerage outfalls yearning off 
 malabar bluebottles slobber in 
 the shallows small boys build 
 beige sandcastle apartments 
 the pine trees twist & rotting 
 eggs dislodge electric memory 
 sheds its leathered skin away 
 in a chamber reserved for you 
 & francis webb just like janet 
 frame you two are gone to cry 
 is to miss the point that rilke 
 made on lamentation & its twin 
 celebration when will it end? 
 your third letter on the same 
 sky blue stationery its colour 
 of the wind above your house 
 on good days those socks you 
 dreamed there will not have 
 amnesties reunions of that 
 chain gang smoke & blisters 
 the heat’s sleepers fused in 
 blood it is difficult to think 
 of you as a radio DJ now but 
 you spoke to me in light once 
 my night in ultimo splintered 
 unwilling to drop the subject 
 of an atom bomb might have 
 looked good in my biography 
 but beneath it too your pain 
 poems huddling in ditches 
 shore the moment of literacy 
 & a poet was born out of zero 
 comes this split name & your 
 shared mania so victor bruce 
 what else did they do to you 
 in a hell the psyche flinched 
 your future autobiographies 
 like daguerreotypes etched in 
 golden lacquered hairstyles 
 matted with perspiration an 
 awkward nervousness down 
 behind a couch or lounge we 
 hear a radio’s shrill lorikeets 
 auckland’s dinosaurs lowing 
 you saw them for remainders 
 forever poetry’s noms de plume 
 rise & backfire on two-penny 
 novels a name is assumed but 
 this plotline’s fragmented & 
 blasted through a hole we’ll 

 call it time not you bruce i’m 
 certain of very little else now 
 the database has catalogued 
 every first line you pinned like 

 moths beneath glass this case 
 has now been sealed how the 
 beached wire gnashes at your 
 whitened knuckles you hear 

 the sea’s blue roar or a fist’s 
 victory bruce smashing out 
 glass it’s life & as the sharks 
 tumble out & the attendants 

 debate symptoms legionnaires 
 or avian SARS for my mind you 
 knew of cages filled with dirty 
 brown birds arthur conan doyle 

 was there & in spare moments 
 whistled what was tricked into 
 being before your eyes melted 
 paint the floors of aquariums 

 with a littoral memory wash 
 flood the animals two by two 
 global warming or literature 
 lapping at the shallow end of 

 hope stand death’s detectives 
 finding poems in drains or bea 
 miles’ mad eyes show us what 
 was in your fist bruce the tight 

 seal loosened for a page or two 
 as a drum begins its journey to 
 the bottom of some harbour & 
 simon & garfunkel testimonials 

 build a bridge over your sleep to 
 stacks of manly’s hi-fis swaying 
 the radio keeping us all awake 
 i hear the final pine signing off 

Express yourself