Sunday, May 27, 2012

Trees bring People Together

In the photocopying marvel shop that is Warehouse Stationery St Lukes, (honestly they do the best job), I'd rushed in with my laptop late on Friday, to see if they could help me get more copies of our Family of Artists book printed.

A lovely woman got talking with me after I mentioned my trip to America and Trees for Travel. Barbara Drake is building an off-the-grid house and planting many native trees on their property. 'My partner and I have no children, we're leaving trees behind us instead. It's easier.' She laughed.

I was writing the poem below, a rough first draft while I waited; few people were about. A glance at the screen and she murmured, 'Poetry.' Asked me if I knew some people she knew, turns out I did, (somewhat, anyway).

What a pleasant way to spend time in a queue. How very New Zealand of us, striking up such a conversation impromptu and swapping emails.

It was trees, they brought us together.

May trees also inspire you to grow and extend, I could say. We branch out, turn over a new leaf, we're sometimes a bit green about things if we do not understand, and we may put down roots. But we are not trees. We certainly need trees however, now we've removed half of the world's trees since homo sapiens first appeared on Earth.

Trees absorb carbon, if we plant more trees we could help save the ocean from extinction by 2030, (and ourselves).

Please go and plant at least one tree this week or plan where one shall be placed, soon. Make sure it is the best time of year for tree-planting, and choose a spot where the tree can readily flourish for decades, even centuries.

The oldest living things on the planet are trees.  The first tree on this link, the Jhomon Sugi tree, of Yakushima in Japan is believed to be over 7,000 years old.

People may also be old. In New York I met a man who told me he was 377 years old and a vampire. Perhaps he is, but I'm at least 30% garlic at any one time and have the protection of many great goodnesses upon me, so I think I was relatively safe.

The iMovie film I made to go with this recorded poem includes images from New York and places near there but is mainly NZ photographs, (my NYC pix were stolen with my laptop at LAX, during security check). I chose some photos I thought went with this NYC poem. We always bring our own experiences and memories to any place we visit. 

Images include some from my 'I Guess I Just Don't Know' 2011 exhibition, named after a Lou Reed song, (those fine pictures are by Genevieve McClean), and other images which I've taken such as some from the temperate house, Auckland Domain Wintergardens.  The iMovie starts with a drawing I did over a Victorian photo of a family, for our Family of Artists book and CD. The sequinned artwork, (pinks and golds) is by Julie Tersigni, NYC. Here are pictures of her recent exhibition opening in the Lower East Side, NYC.


I read this poem below on a video of an iMovie here

New York City's the Place where

a vampire dressed as a ten year old

drank cider in a blue neon bar

this corporate pilot used jet pix for bait

while the barmaid once from Waitomo

pogoed the length of 100 + years

streets roar all evening with unknown names

leave your origin at the train station

the crowd may call you anything

yellow taxis swarm for money

faces float by with such geography

the hotel front desk guy in lavender

pedestrians with one eye on the trash bins

Soho red pistol earring boutique

bookshop cafe with the smallest tables

my accent provoked socialising

this city swallows every morsel offered

digested NYC condoms and pistachio pastry

Chinese restaurant pushing drunks out the door

a Lower East Side lawn caged fear

cafe doors the yawns of monsters

(he warned me I'd be eaten alive)

post office queue woman chewed gum

black sass in all-white stretch dazzle

over a hillock in a sidewalk garden to eat

I mailed creatures to my friends
bulged the cardboard box a little
perspex shields opened and closed
outside the blue post-box and graffiti
homeless people draped in utensils

taxi driver with his tongue between his teeth

MOMA fed me revolutionary paint
sculpture of a woman falling into water
'I kissed a man
during Andy Warhol's Kissing film,'
someone wrote with felt-tip pen

a cafe couple fired soft questions at each other

bright pink cattle pasted up the stairs
nine statements chalked by people
from a country at war - on video
the dark room besides full of screens
nonchalant walls as ready as not knowing

hunker down banks with wrap-around dark windows

a rabbit-man met by Grand Central's clock
made me a local with a subway ride
punk rock history unreeled behind us
deli food and a discussion about guns
lost then found our way to Strawberry Fields

the rickshaw driver bargained with using silence

glitter paintings appeared holy
in an artist's 72nd St railway apartment
lantern flames outside the Dakota
overlooking Imagine Circle and guitars
Central Park a mecca of walking

moved the hydrangea to see a brass plaque

Isaac Newton's portrait in Pete's Tavern
the oldest NY bar black and white
poetry luncheon sat beside a geneticist
cried later to hear the Brownings
recorded by Broadway stars with music

the cold counter plastered in curved posters

discovered a Jack Kerouac school
disembodied poetics on yellow and red
in the Bowery Poetry Club
thought about Miles in France emailing
'everyone's insane there as far as I know'

cab drivers dither as if they're the strangers

a Russian manicurist didn't take cards
one taxi nearly drove off with my bag
I smacked his boot and swore murder
people across the way in cafe sunshine
bundled the street into our pockets

ATM machine shuffles money into a stack

hailing a ride from the roadside
discovered a spiked leather creature
kindly nodded - back seat of a cab
while Chinatown held slower directions
then a golden bank foyer on Park Avenue

a pizza box can get some people in anywhere

tall New York Times bought on the corner
took home sections to give away
left a bag of change and lilies in the room
dollar notes strewn on the bed
air conditioner's rattle silent

carpeted hotel corridors lit out

when departure descended like a bat
so many said to stay with them
I was offered a job in a city garden
then cave walk and wheel to the bus
cellphone died on the ride to Newark

pooled places wide with railings and windows

leaving NYC the finish and a start
contradictions in the way of the view
enormous grey bridges and stretched water
a roll of knowing too much to say
kept in the dark of my skull camera

wake a talk while the sighs play shoo ba doo honey

                                                 - title a line from the Lou Reed song, Walk on the Wild Side

drawing by Raewyn Alexander 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New York and a Spell of Belonging

I tr
The NZ dollar may have changed as payment was en route to this Australian organisation. Originally I purchased 70  trees. Have also grown and given away nine other trees, and planted two I bought in a friend's and my garden. Six other seedlings are growing to give as time goes on. Seventy trees absorb carbon produced from one return flight to Europe (for one person), which I believe equals my one-way flight home from the States, plus my cruise and the trains and two short domestic flights I took in the USA. I'm also now vegetarian which covers carbon from car travel there and my car here.


I've paid for trees for my travel, so the carbon produced by planes, trains, boats and cars I travelled in can go into trees and not destroy where we live. It only cost me just over $NZ200- My vegetarianism also assists with producing less greenhouse gases.


The travel itself was a joy.

Strange and unusual too.

People have been swapping stories with me about their encounters, inevitably.

Someone told me they had an affair in New York and while they were wildly enjoying themselves one evening, as lovers do, her male friend started chanting in another language like Celtic or Latin as if casting a spell, a magical incantation to perhaps protect himself, or enchant her, or...?  She wasn't sure.

Another friend present for this story, (who'd written home one time about NY drag-queens festooned with light-bulbs - Bain Divine, you know it), said, 'O well, you certainly did have a New York experience then.'

Later, my adventurous friend told me she thought her lover's chanting meant she belonged there now, in New York and elsewhere in Amer i ca. 'It was a spell of belonging. He wanted me to feel at home, connected, and I think I do. It's as if I belong in both countries, my own land where I was born and also, in Am eric a where I had such an exciting, revealing time. A lot of love.'

She, like me, also found that every day or so after her return home something reminded her of where she'd just been, like the universe was trying to make sure she didn't forget the States, or more importantly her friends there.

Myself, I keep seeing or hearing things which point me back to where I've recently and sadly departed. (I sobbed when the plane took off from LAX  finally across the Pacific Ocean, surprised myself, such a wrench to leave).

Yes, those uncanny or just sweet reminders - A woman with an American accent speaks to me at a poetry reading my first week back here, at some length and then comes over to see the room I had for rent. (She was brought up overseas as an ex-pat NZ child in Papua New Guinea, but learnt English from Americans so the accent stuck). Then, an overheard conversation I joined on Saturday, at our local market when a woman discussed trains - she told me after Canada she is '...catching the train to Seattle.' No one's ever mentioned that city to me before, just by the way in conversation. Or I simply pick up a book and it falls open at a page and a line, a word, a phrase, something takes me back, (too many of these random selections to mention). There was also a store I never usually go into, but something drew me to wander the shelves of gaudy knicknacks and cheap kitchen utensils, yesterday. A bright blue and green tail, pinkish flesh tones, long pale hair and reaching up for something out of sight, the mermaid definitely stood out. I had to smile, it was ridiculous. The mermaid hunter I'd read about in poetry collection, mean confession, he doesn't seek out frozen, confected creatures like her, does he? 

I realise those 'signs' are co-incidences, some of them slight.

My friend and I agree, we do not seriously entertain the idea we're getting some kind of message from the universe in fact, but it's obvious our everyday lives will never be the same. We count and treasure these random references to another land, to various wonderful people there and the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the Yoo Es Aye, because we've altered. We fit into the world differently now and possibly forever.

When we recognise references to someone or somewhere in our everyday life, tiny clues in the chaos appear to form a pattern which we make familiar. Associations evoke emotional responses, we feel more comfortable to admit them within, to include ideas and feelings around certain newly acquainted people and places in our ordinary experiences, our day-to-day scenarios have expanded or shifted and bonds of friendship are even stronger than they were before.

I'm vitally interested in love of people and loving where we live, actively making the world a better place wherever possible.

When I checked out the other youtube views now offered after my last video poem, which is about memories and how they mix in together I noticed a Tupac video. Well, and this surf life-saver last night, a fine young woman, sat down beside me after I'd been asked to read aloud one of the poems I wrote for a customer at Lucy*Mae. (I was commissioned to work in fashion with poetry last evening). She stated, 'I have a poem, do you want to hear it?'

'Sure, go ahead.' I smiled.

She went through the words, a dynamic rap.

I asked who wrote it.

'Tupac Shakur,' she said and rather looked like I wouldn't know who he was, at all.

'Thought it could be,' I said, 'I've heard a lot of his work.' Agreed too that I did think it was poetry, since she asked if I thought so, and I explained many of the young people I worked with for years in education did send me a great deal of Tupac, to listen to. I admire him.

So I write this and listen to Tupac, (his name means Shining Serpent, which is a symbol of knowledge, I believe). gotta keep ya head up - and it feels like another one of those messages from the universe,

All those musings may seem foolish to others, I simply have to make some kind of sense of this and ensure I'm still connected in some way, so I can live with things as they are rather than wish for impossibilities.

So, surely, then there was New York.

Has any city ever evoked craziness, excitement and wonder in the same way that NYC does as soon as its name is mentioned?  Do those three words I used even get close to the insane beauty and fascination of the place?

And can the series of short movies I shot inexpertly, in a state of culture shock at the time help me relive the experience of visiting New York City, or will I always long to go back there to check if in fact it is as fascinating as it appeared to be, every moment, even when I was asleep? I slept in a state of amazement while I was there.

My friend Dean texted me when I pulled into New York train station, 'New York is a monster.' He was right. Glad someone warned me before I realised I'd been swallowed alive. His many texts across the U S A helped me stay on some kind of even keel, as much as I ever do and I've thanked him before but I must do so again, his messages were deeply appreciated.

Today, I received on a disk from the photo-shop a few precious minutes of footage from New York, (as I mentioned) taken during my week there at the end of my trip of a month across the top of North America. The many still photographs I took were stolen with my laptop. I hold some memories as well, naturally, but they're inevitably a random series of highlights and change with each re-run. Human beings reform our recall to suit wherever we are at the time, but this writing could help me to keep those glimpses of the past in mind alive with more alacrity and real definition, perhaps.

New York was on my list of places I had to see, since I was much younger. One other place was the Swiss Alps just by the way which I did drive through on a Magic Bus, en route to Greece once upon my 20s with a boyfriend who planned the trip for ages. (We travelled Europe, Britain and Eire for about 18 months). After recent disasters however I decided the New York I wanted to see wouldn't be there, but someone or a few people really, convinced me to go anyway and so, I did.

Nothing could've prepared me for the cacophony outside New York Train Station on arrival. Thank goodness I had a Red Cap to assist or I could still be standing there lost and bewildered in the teeming, diverse and strenuous crowd.

I recall so much but the movies I just received back on a disk, do not do the experiences I had in New York justice at all. The link is at the end of this blog, nevertheless.

Nothing like being there.

I'm homesick for America, ooo that could be a country song I suppose.


O I'm homesick for America
while home has my heart for now,
I'm missin' train station alarming moments
while the rain here gets me down.
 O I'm homesick for America
though I was born on islands far from there,
please someone tell me how to make the ocean smaller
so this heartache I can bear.


Nothing I can do to change anyone but myself. I did sit in the sun today for such a long time, some of the sun's brilliance and warmth affected me, I feel livelier. Exercise also a fine way to beat the blues and I strode round the Auckland Wintergardens, loving those jungle plants, their apparently painted leaves, banks of orchids purple, white and lime green like a child's fauvist picture. Since all the walking and weight loss on holiday, (along with avoiding tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and capsicum) I can stride again, my knee seems almost entirely free of arthritis and I love the sensation of freedom.

That road though. O I love travel. I could be on a train or a boat, walking or cycling my whole life and happy about it in the bitter-sweet way I almost always feel good about anything, usually. It's rare I am absolutely delighted or wholeheartedly in favour, my doubts hang about like dark cats and they twine through my every step most days. The pathos of existence, such a persuasive element to me, as soon as I feel something about any experience I know where I stand. 

I won't be travelling anywhere much again.

Travel, especially in aeroplanes, is destroying where we live. If we do not buy trees to cover the carbon cost of our flying, our car emissions, our burning coal, we are each responsible for ocean-life extinction by 2030 as much as anyone else. Carbon sinking into the seas is creating carbonic acid.

This while we are faced with deliberate moves to ruin democratic systems and replace them with tyranny, world-wide. Resistance is vital.

About my astounding poetic trip to america I feel delighted and also, deeply sad.


"...nothing here but my own tragic hands that once were guarded by a world of sweet attention that now are left to guide and disappear into the common dark of all our debt...and all that road going and all the people dreaming and the immensity of it..."
           Jack Kerouac On the Road

New York May 2012 my videos -

Sunday, May 20, 2012

How to Fill in Time while Age Whittles and Laughs

Birds of Space display for my Tiny Titles available this Sunday at Kraftbomb

     This iMovie on youtube illustrates a poem shown on the youtube site and also, below.

blacked photos and our kept meet to hold fast

where my slow places of think thunk swirl their chocolate
blue background for hermit shells and play pearls
the deal colours of a hope I had or could clasp
dancing Pasifika by the neighbourhood lake for wings
arrived home to winter lost photographs and silence
a troll under a Seattle bridge almost forewarned me
that look I give you acknowledges delightful (gratis)
birds of space protect me from ever losing this game

broken glass confetti Tamaki Makaurau Auckland city
married to a frontier and various renegade positions
but we stepped through a time by a passionate map
changing form sigh-seeing lovers beside and oblivious
messages from a need for distance where I'm unlocking
bundles of debris turned entertainment or charm
an Easter box sent to me in Chicago by a lovely woman
kinder gestures open the fist of us to wave

late sunshine drenches Grey Lynn from the Waitakeries
Zeitgeist cafe where I once loitered with sense and blurt
the distraction of retro wallpaper could cause love affairs
remind some to fly-travel-manifest (she stamps her foot)
and a bookshop indian could speak at an angle wary
photographs and covers where otter minds submerge
o this boost I dally with as if I have an answer
when nothing saved me at the same time something struck

a gothic house shot from the train on the way to New York
they hold spare gloom for your darker costumes or seeds
those big old ships in the news with childhood attachments
we've sailed on them to pass every time a promise threatens
off in different directions to maintain dignity like exiled royals
or someone shabby who still wears excellent shoes
fancy dressing tables convince people of evening and elevation
scenery could write you into this mirror if I played the song

while waterlily gardens provide a kindness of rolling grass
swish ponds and tip tap bridges refuse to permit desperation
the net curtains of the motel before my mother's funeral
memories do this they're beyond anything easy and build
where textured glass could've featured any glowment for privacy
but a painted concrete block wall in sunlight has true beauty
as lovely as smiles you couldn't hide and those mixed-up words
the town hall stairs remind me I'd prefer something traditional

some days when I forget who we are and where we've been
since my heart balloons celebrations instead of life preservers
a blur road to where my mother used to live smudges meaning
going to discover if we're able to welcome decency like a story
fit into it as easily as any writing once we know the language
my open books show two pages at a time or illustrations of vehicles
your reactions hidden to seduce Lady Luck then keep her wishing
we're the magical children of darkness with these rushes of light

when I believe I may draw you onto this page a warmth bulges
then birds tell inclinations with attentions as if they're servants
using my memory every evening I place you beside me to sleep
old friends and battlers in the trench of a campaign to hold territory
recognition of cleverness as instant as a fashionista's cataloguing
we've always loved each others daring and material understanding
is that it? have I found the key? could we be someone good now?
this paper love affair and our beat-up messages bouncing off satellites

Huia Beach - Aotearoa New Zealand May 2012

Thursday, May 17, 2012


The pol ice report arrived today about my stolen laptop, which they insisted on reporting as lost. The part on the report where it says I believe the woman wheeling my chair along, (supposedly assisting me), took the computer, since she packed up all my things when they came out of security check and there was no other opportunity to take it, is illegible. They appear to have deliberately made it look hard to read.

When I made the report and said I was a writer, the po lice in Los Angeles checked that fact on the phone three times. It appeared to cause them some concern. I believe that's because a writer is generally considered to be observant, and also, I could make this a media issue.

Now I simply hope the report is sufficient for my travel insurance to cover the exorbitant cost of the laptop I had to get to replace the one that disappeared. See, insidious, I'm starting to use language which is ambiguous, now. It vanished. The laptop dissolved. O it was magicked away by gremlins. I think I may've imagined I ever had one.... Yeah, right. Luckily, I had someone to help me get a replacement or I would not be here now typing this.

The mess of travelling, we up sticks and leave places familiar to us to find out what's over there, to visit friends and family, to see a place we've often dreamt about or imagined, we fly away to make it easier for business or politics to work. We take grandchildren to see relatives who have only til then seen photos and videos, we bring gifts from home....

O yes, travelling, we trek in to a new country with dirt and microbes on our shoes, or illicit foodstuffs and seeds hidden in luggage which are not welcome in many places, we bring and have brought things which have changed entire landscapes, cultures and localities forever. Imagine what happened the first time a boat arrived somewhere they'd never seen one. Our own Auckland city has the idea of cafe tables so patrons may be seated outdoors, imported from Europe, which is a relatively recent custom here. Then there are countless engineering plans, foodstuffs, furnishings, medicines and other necessities we've taken with us on our travels, globally, which positively improved lives.

Some are more dangerous exports. Sir John Hawkins in the mid-16th century brought tobacco back from the New World to England where the drug has since ruined people's health and dampened their emotions for centuries, (Sir Walter Raleigh popularised it in Elizabethan times but did not originally bring tobacco in to England); some bright spark brought possums and rabbits to New Zealand, where there'd never been such a devastating pair of animals let loose on local vegetation ever; unwittingly sailors in 1918 spread influenza to the wide world including Pacific Islands and the resulting epidemic killed tens of thousands.

People have smuggled in books to communist countries like Bibles, they've smuggled people out of some places too for their well being or for money, or both.

We've seen too many instances of travel damaging ecosystems however, and this practise has recently been curbed to some extent. Recently though, a ship called the Rena, a badly run vessel allowed into a NZ port by foolhardy deregulation, ran aground on a reef and spilt oil into our lovely waters, killing wild-life and damaging the shoreline, forcing countless local and out-of-town volunteers to clean up the mess. Ridiculous amounts of money to pay for it all was found, somehow. Innumerable work-hours were lost, people had to clean the enormous amount of crude oil up, they did so in their droves.

Travel broadens the mind and lightens the purse. It's a way of refreshing creativity and discovering new ideas to use later on, too. When we step out of our usual zone we immediately have to think in fresh ways, may find challenges we never knew existed and our problem-solving abilities require often rapid employment or deployment. We may bond with others we meet or visit in stronger ways since we've made this grand effort and time too, is limited.

Lovely to go away for a while.

Papeete where I visited on my way across the Pacfic Ocean

We do however disturb ourselves somewhat and others in the process of travelling, we create more waste and pollution than we would if we stayed put, (arguably) and the cost, o yes, the money, along with emotional and social costs, cultural costs, the price of our entertainment and self-indulgment.  There could be ways to satisfy those urges without such diabolical side-effects.

Freedom is the reason we travel, perhaps? Leaving town makes us believe we are free? Frank Zappa said - "The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater."

Time for me to see that brick wall. And I could see living beings slamming into it.

The only way I could take the trip I just did with a clear conscience was to buy trees in Australia, ( I receive my certificate of proof soon, and they really need trees). Also, I grew some seedlings myself for others to plant. I bought two trees as well, one for Adam in San Francisco and another for myself here at home, (planted a Ballerina Apple for Jimi Hendrix, to kiss the sky), then I chose to go vegetarian, to help cover the carbon cost. Every time I see a jet plane, I think, 'O look at that aeroplane how beautiful and terrible it is.'

Australian Flora from website selling trees

I believe choosing to eat vegetarian saves more carbon than giving up your car, by the way, and the  food is sublime. I just enjoyed celery, parsley, sorrel, lettuce salad with dry roasted sunflower seeds and a vinaigrette dressing with ratatouille, followed by some home-baked rhubarb cakes topped with two almonds, (about a third of this deliciousness from the garden). The cakes were made with gluten-free flour, free range egg, oil, baking powder, vanilla essence, rice milk and pieces of chopped rhubarb, some brown sugar, pinch of salt, beat all together, bake in medium oven 20 minutes or til cakes spring back when touched lightly.

O yes, and we travel to eat authentic local food, a change for the taste-buds.  Our palates, we believe we need a change at the table.

Then too, I took a boat over there and trains mainly across America itself, these vehicles emit less carbon per passenger. If I'd sailed the Pacific Ocean in a vessel without an engine and cycled across America it would've been even better.

Intriguing how many people find my discussing these world-saving things annoying, boring or just stupid. Instead of simply allowing an idea they do not agree with some space in their minds, while still thinking otherwise, and discussing this issue as an exercise, to discover more, or seeing they could take on some new improved behaviour and make Earth a better place, these people are closed-minded and often openly hostile. We can talk about things we do not like or understand, without them taking over our lives, or some of us can. People do not have to agree to have a conversation.

Okay, mentioning carbon footprint, sure, people may feel guilty and defensive, or even with my bringing up global warming, well, some could find that overwhelming and too hard to think about, but I never thought my simply discussing planting trees could produce anger or negativity from somebody else with any sense.

Sense. Perhaps I am too charitable? Maybe not as many people have abilities of reason as I supposed?

I usually discuss the idea mildly too, and I know some of you could scoff at that, but truly no foaming at the mouth about this when I talk about trees for travel. It's just discussed as something I've done lately, with a smile.

"To be courageous does not mean closing your eyes to risks. Being courageous is acknowledging risks but having eyes only for what you have decided upon."  -Amir Zoghi-

A few people ask knowingly if I will have a brass plaque by the trees I'm planting, with my name on it. 'No,' I answer, smiling.

Others insist the air pollution now is the same as it ever was, and volcanoes make more pollution than jet planes. I guess I should go talk to volcanoes about planting trees and becoming vegetarian, then?

Seriously, we have to change our ways. This isn't for a better life, it's for any life at all.


This minute.

The more of us plant trees, go vegetarian or vegan, (even one or two days a week vegetarian is good for your health and the planet), refuse to get involved with wasteful and pollution-producing activities as much as possible, then choose ways to balance things out, well then, the more of us there'll be who look after where we live. Our positive eco-friendly actions now shall make it more likely we human beings will survive, the other animals on the planet shall also survive, the plant life and microscopic life as well, and we'll live decently, too.

Our children and grand-children need to be cared for, we need to make the effort.

It is also money-saving to be green.

And it makes people feel better.

Much better than being dead, that's certain.

Yes, you're correct, that is not a light-hearted approach but I guess I've grown tired of those conversations where I'm happy to talk trees, but stand there faced with people frowning, sliding cellphones out of their bag to check messages, or just telling me it doesn't matter what I do, it's companies' fault, not people and....   'Excuses, defenses and diversions, that's how the world was lost,' we can tell our children. If we ever get time between the food riots, the violent storms and rising sea levels swamping our homes, of course.

Websites like this offer a way to calculate what your carbon footprint is and also, offer ways to offset your carbon so it balances out.


Now, I have been asked to read for NZ National Poetry Day at Takapuna Library, by Stu Bagby which was kind of them. I shall be reading many of my American poems there and hope you can make it along. It's a way ahead, but please note the date - 27 July, a Friday and starts at 6pm. I shall bring a tree along too and will give it away to someone, not sure who yet, it could be you.

I'm also writing a poem to order, especially for everyone who purchases a piece of Lucy*Mae wonder at her Ladi's night, 21st May 2012, Monday - 600 Great North Road. A fabulous jazz singer is performing and there's a free glass of wine if you'd care to pop in and see what's going on.

Then the next morning, 22 May 2012 at 9.30am I am on Good Morning, TV1 nationwide I suppose it is, talking about how to run a Book Club.  I take classes in suchlike, (mainly to do with writing ).


Also, this link was sent to me about corn syrup which is in so much A m er i can food and there is a finding it makes people less able to think clearly.


Since I returned I've found my poetry-writing is perhaps not as prolific as it was, on my wondrous holiday. It was suggested I could take it easy but I seem to have thrown myself into working again. There is this piece however, which I think suits the theme of this post. Shworrygo

lightning storms at sea all by themselves

arc weld flashes on my cabin wall
'leave your curtains open' the Australians told me
'furious weather can wake you any hour
stunning what you can see at night from a cruise ship'
out the window across the endless Pacific Ocean swell
a deep grey bundle of furious crackle and noise
spitting in the place between water and heaven

a churning column - kilometeres of reaction
when one air mass meets another of different temperature
and o yes, it'd be simple to make this a metaphor
something about passion and evening rendevous
the way lovers often fight with each other first
long before they kiss or admit a little softness
their momentum bigger than either and fated

we're not a figure of speech however but flesh and history
our fragility obvious in how we package our words
some tough or startle and o so artful tangles
the manner each attempts to dust off distance
while between us a mystery so at sea it's flagged
sparks and roars with roiling dark masses
a light-and-soundshow for mermaids and mermen

wise to burn this into a fantasy
(pull those drapes and watch the DVD instead)
we could wreck the real float and lose the treasure
after all feelings what are they?
as valuable as the comfort of what we already know?
or fuel for imaginations' flex and build?
the resulting blank port wall then so invites graffiti

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Crows, Bears & Wondrous Creatures  This crow is from one of the sites on that link, my photographs were stolen with my laptop from LAX during security check there.

This, below is a link to a video of a 1960s convent in Seattle. Amy took me there. It's by Puget Sound.  It's one of Amy's favourite places and so beautiful.
Seattle seems as far away as the moon and as close as a walk round the corner to the dairy, a corner shop in our neighbourhood here, Tamaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand where I spent the first week home thinking everything was far too strange in my homeland and I'd never adjust to living here ever again. But even if Seattle is weeks away by boat and days away by plane, it's here in my mind as clearly as if I could look out the window and see mountains there against the sky. Every, (much smaller) black bird in my garden I see reminds me of a crow and some look at me as if they know it. We don't have crows here but Seattle has as many crows as we have sparrows or pigeons, it seemed to me.

In Seattle, I loved Amy's Chicken Marsala, butter, garlic, sweet marsala (sherry), chicken stock and even though I'm now vegetarian, to help cover the carbon for this trip and save the world, I think I could adapt this for a sauce with something else like chickpeas, (yes, the pun is intended). Amy's lovely house also an inspiration, so romantic and mainly created by her with some family assistance, I love painting murals at my own place indoors however she's not only painted friezes and embellishments, but also moulded grapes in her kitchen onto the wall with plaster, and created 'Victorian' furniture from various pieces of everyday wooden this and that. Loved the tall cabinet hiding the TV, an artist's touch with all she embellishes. This is a wooden chest Amy painted with those golden letters, hand-painted. 

Loved the bear story Amy told me too, when Dean was driving us round the city. This swing towards such a narrative, because I wanted to know about snakes, coyotes and scary creatures, any I needed to be aware of in case they attacked me or I stepped on them and they bit, with venom too then my swift demise could've appeared as the worst end to a holiday ever. Snakes I needed to know about especially, I do like snakes but prefer to see them in a pet shop, 'Seriously, tell me if you have snakes here, poisonous ones.'

Amy and Dean laughed at me. They have no poisonous snakes in Seattle. All the scary snakes nearby they insisted were waaay over the mountains in the lower, warmer territories there. Seattle too high up for those dangerous slitherers, too cold, they couldn't survive. They do have some harmless-to-humans-snakes, which Amy mentioned, 'I see them in the garden with a slug in their mouth. I hate them.'

'What say the rattlenakes wriggled over the mountains?' I asked, while hopefully believing no snake lives in extra-cold weather and mountains are usually chilly, even if there's no snow. The air is thinner the higher we go so it traps less and less of the sun's heat.

We all laughed at this point if I recall. The days I was there were mainly spent in smiling and laughing around lengthy conversations, except a few times when I asked too many questions or made comments about things it was presumed I knew nothing about. Being from a small place at the edge of the world, I noticed my novelty value far exceeded anything I could've imagined, while my credibility waned somewhat or a lot, rather often. That we have an excellent education system in New Zealand especially when I was growing up, (less so now possibly, but that's a world-wide malaise), that I've a recent degree in International Communication, have travelled the world and worked with people overseas for years online too in education, plus all the books et cetera I've had published, this seemed at times to fade away into somewhere called, 'unknown and probably not that important'. Now and then I realised with dismay and some strange amusement that I simply had to accept the role of woman-from-nowhere, but then I am fond of nothingness, I find it saves me.  Levelling too, humbling I think, good for someone as ebullient and noisy as I tend to be, usually.

After all the alarming talk of snakes and coyotes in any case, Amy piped up from the back seat, 'O but there was a bear though.' We were still cruising along the freeway, these roads go on like an engineer's dream.

I glanced round the edges of the road where we glided along with all the carefree abandon of people who believe cars will do this forever. The road itself a fantastic arrangement of beautifully engineered solid tarmac, concrete and occasional steel grey fences flashed past beside us when we coursed above another freeway, or over a stream or river. Seattle has many lakes too; sheets of shining water floated by occasionally, edged with deep green forest. Enormous dark trees grew close to the berm and back into hills, they filled dips; trees like spruce, fir and so on spiked the greyish sky. 'O yeess? A bear?' 

I hoped we weren't going to stop and maybe go looking for one of those, I wasn't sure I would know what to do if I found one. I believe there's no point in running. I'd read that no person can ever outrun a bear. I think getting up a tree was best or making oneself look enormous, standing tall like you could fight if you had to and also, talking softly, being non-threatening which seemed an oxymoron. I wasn't going on any forested hikes in any case, no matter what these two dear friends of mine suggested.

Now, this is not from a tape recording you understanding, I am recalling Amy, my friend telling this story. But it went something like this - 'Yes, a bear appeared on the roads around here, on the freeway. It was a lost bear,' Amy said in Dean's car, seated behind me.

'O no, a lost bear?' I felt so sorry for the creature. In a massive city, (Seattle's extremely urban but also seems like something out of Grimm Fairytales with dark spiky trees, crows, enormous mountains all around and shaggy creatures inhabiting thoroughfares), I too felt rather lost but would never have admitted it at the time. The bear and I, we'd wandered in from somewhere else and now, how could we ever get back to where we were? 

(I wasn't to know then that I would never ever get back to anywhere near where I was before, that this path I'd taken would eventuate in so many changes I'd often find myself thinking I'd entered a new body and personality, a whole new future too, later on. It's been a revelation, a shock and impossible to ignore).

Amy went on, 'Yes, it was a lost bear. The bear found itself on the freeway and lived round here for some time. People would see the lost bear and report it to the local news. They'd have stories on TV, saying where the lost bear was that day. Once, the bear was seen on this bridge like the one coming up now, it was leaning on the railing and staring off into the forest as if wishing it could find a way back there. But it didn't know how to navigate the way.' I loved the way Amy told this story. Her accent is charming and she has a slightly husky voice too, with a great deal of humour just behind the words which lifts them.

I grew more and more distressed, (to myself), about this enormous hairy black bear alone on the spectacular Seattle freeway with traffic zooming by, a wild creature without much to eat or a quiet place to sleep. Although I supposed it could pick up edibles people threw from their cars. Motorways, (as we call them) have lots of rubbish along their edges. Careless people toss out half-eaten fast food, crusts off sandwiches, packets with traces of chips and that kind of thing, apple cores... in NZ wild apple trees grow here and there in lush native greenery, (sprouted from apple cores tossed from cars) which cause problems in indigenous bushland. Those wild apples, I'd heard, feed too many possums, (a pest here). (Never throw anything from a car. But I could see a bear would like finding these tasty treats, humanity's discards, even if I imagined too the animal would not flourish on the processed stuff. 
I think at this point I made some worried remarks.

'O eventually they caught the bear and took it back to the forest,' Amy explained, laughing pleasantly.

I still think of that dark, shaggy bear on the well-made road at a grey railing on a freeway bridge, the animal gazing off into the dark evergreen trees of Seattle, as if it wished it could get back there simply by wanting to be home. Cars whooshing past at great speed behind it and some people using their cellphones to alert the media about what this lost animal was doing, that moment.

Then I see the creature hit with a tranquiliser dart perhaps and lifted on a canvas swing into a sturdy wooden box, with airholes. Soon, transported to be let out of the box, how it must've gratefully sniffed the air as it lumbered away and felt at home again. Would a bear feel grateful? I think so.

Now, here I am in a wild forest of thought back home. There may be something like bears in here with me along with other creatures I'm not sure of, or whose purpose I do not know. 

Lately, since my American trip I believe I receive messages from birds. My friend on this blog, j commented - 'My Cherokee connection tells me to inform you the eagle is a messenger between the earth and spirit world. When an eagle swoons you in peace he is letting you know your spirit guides are guarding you in your journey and is willing to deliver a message in return. '

I'd pointed to the eagle circling where we could clearly see it making a circle against the sky, apparently just for us at Galesburg Railway Station. This occurred at a later time, (after Seattle). I sat there with another Cherokee friend of mine, (who's an amazing photographer by the way) and said the eagle was someone I know really well. I believed they were thinking of me and wishing me the best.

Briefly in an aside I'd like to say, I consider the spirit world or the unseen includes my imagination, emotions, my mysterious connection to people and places far from here or near and much more, and I'm heartened to think birds, (my favourite animal) now assist me to feel at home in the magical place the world has become since my poetic journey to America as it was but now, there's more. 

The trip has not ended and probably never will, I journey back there constantly through my strong emotional attachment to the people I know and love so much there, through reading my notebooks, looking at photographs and films, corresponding with my American friends online and through every time I experience something of their culture while I am here, at home. While the extraordinary bond I've developed for over 12 years now with one friend in particular appears to be taking me into the realms of self-development in ways I never realised I needed, nor knew I was capable of, not quite. 

I'd considered I had to accept I was hopeless at relationships and could never learn better, but now I see that was but is not now the case. It could be tough, frightening and a challenge but I may discover decent abilities with developing more trust, better attitudes, I could create wise and useful behaviours, find myself at home in an intimate situation without harm and further, work together with like-minded others along with those who may not always understand me, to discover results are realistic, exemplary and rewarding for those concerned. The first step has to be accepting this fine possibility and I certainly do. Yes. I do. Indeed, deed, do.

This education, this life, this is.



Monday, May 7, 2012

Screaming and Running into the Rain

'you would move
on the horizon     You, the person, you
the particle    fierce and furthering'
                                         - from Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth - Adrienne Rich

Discombobulation was a word a friend of mine used often once upon a time ago, (they frequently felt bewildered and liked how the word, spoken made people laugh) now it's my word du jour on this strange menu I'm regarding with something like deja vu, even if it's as new as the day. Choose a mood, choose sad, bewildered, desirous, or discombobulated, the list goes on but those are the main emotions I'm fraught with now and the last one encompasses them all, so that's me. I'm officially rather messed up and there's nothing for it but to accept this state then gradually start to reorder myself to suit an entirely new attitude. Hopefully I can eat those moods and digest them, then revive myself.

I caught some extra open-heartedness in Amer i ca, from the wonderful friends I have there. I believe I'll never be the same again in other ways either. I like to be generous since it is after all the last thing we need to pay heed to, if we're to live a happy life, (one of these blog posts of mine has the recipe for happiness at the end of it, you may recall), and now I want to be even more generous in new ways. I'm more willing to be kind to myself I think.

Recalling fond memories has to be a part of that decency.

The day this April when I met Laura Lee and we walked down from my grand retro hotel which over-looked the park in Chicago, she took this photo below of the fountain outside the Art Institute. I'm so grateful she sent me some pictures since many of mine were stolen, with my laptop. (The Los Angeles Airport police told me today they would not report it as a theft since I did not see anyone actually take it. Since I have not had it returned however, it is not at lost and found after more than two weeks, to me it is stolen).

The photo below is lovely in any case and Chicago's art museum, 'the art institute' is a vast building with bronze lions outside, they're green with age and gaze out over the pedestrians and traffic as if a tundra rolls on by full of antelope and zebra for their lionesses to hunt. Laura and I were hunting for beauty, or rather for proof that other people could see beauty everywhere like we can. Art is our talisman against the ugly-mongers you see, those who try to tell us the world is a mean, narrow place full of dreck and ruin. Once we'd feasted on paintings and sculptures, on conversation and commentaries, we went into the members lounge and talked further.

If you are a member of the Art Institute in Chicago you get various privileges.

photo by Laura Lee - Chicago Art Institute fountain  April 2012

Now, I think about walking past trees there surrounded with forget-me-nots and sending a shot to someone else by cellphone, the ease I could do that with and I'm drawn into myself like I've been bitten or stung.  I miss my friends so much.

Laura took this snap of me when we were inside the building. How happy I appear. I felt some days there like I could burst with joy, so delighted to have planned and made the trip after so many years talking about it. Seeing these people I'd learnt so much about online and whose work I'd admired and discussed for all those many 12 or so years was a pleasure like nothing else, especially. I like to chant their names to myself, Dean Strom, Amy Tucker, Julie Payne, Laura Lee, Stephen Larson, James Browning Kepple, they're the writers I've known from writethis http://www.writethis and Creative Writers. There was also Anne Kennedy in Hawaii who I've got to know more lately, we share a NZ publisher (Auckland University Press),
Adam who I've only known for a couple of years but got to know well playing Scrabble online of all things, he also designed the book, Shamfeign for my small press, BF Publishing (named after my son and his best friend in all the universe - friendship's quite a theme here) and Nigel who was my first-ever publisher Martian Way Press, he's from NZ but now lives in Chicago and is an architecture buff, so I was treated to a personal, highly informed tour of the city.

Laura is a fine poet, here is one of hers  -

I Cannot Pass

I stumble along sides of roads,


out of time--

Mother, are those your bones?

I did not seek them

but thought

ashes are what I sought

in dust- bath time.

You taught me to stop and pray with bones 

then move on, pass. Listen, the birds must be wrong;

it is not morning,

fireflies flash while birds sing

during this day-night time.  

They light the path:

how white your bones 

in the blink-blink gold.

Mother, I cannot pass.

I think this indicates something of what I am trying to write my way towards here, how there are some things which are so important they cannot be dismissed easily or sometimes, at all.

We friends met in any case and I travelled for a month and half, in circumstances purely for love. I went to see these fine people in Amer ica because I love them and we all love writing, books and work published so others may see what we love, too. 

We were all equally pleased and at ease with each other in various individual ways, as if we had certainly known each other well before and were only meeting again, except we had this extra cloud of delightedness about us since we'd only known each other on the internet, all were people scattered across the world and really, it was a supreme effort and extraordinarily expensive to see them all. Not to mention taxing on my emotional state, which is often not that erm...shall we say, easy to live with, (ha). It was a magical circumstance and still affects me as if I'm under a spell.

I keep dreaming they are here visiting me, some of them. Occasionally I have conversations with them as if they are here, (long discussions in my head. I can imagine what they'd say to just about anything, correctly or not, I do).

It was as Amy in Seattle said, like Christmas, (in April). 

Katherine Mansfield said, 'I always felt that the great high privilege, relief and comfort of friendship was that one had to explain nothing.' Yes, we could just be ourselves and enjoy the company of another with some ease and much excitement.

Now, memory is serving me something I'm not sure I want to contemplate. Our memories are never the actual experience precisely over again, we adapt and change what we recall constantly to suit whoever we are at the time when we draw the thoughts back to ourselves, sometimes for comfort, or otherwise to inspire, to be reminded of a detail we need to relate to current events or suchlike. But my memories are fading and many of the photos I took were stolen with my laptop, even if I do have some more on other devices, so now what am I left with? The desire to go back there and to have friends visit me certainly, I am left with those great ideas but there is something else here in mind which is not at all welcome. I must rid myself of it as fast as I can, or it could take over and dark places are hardly a good place for anyone to dwell, are they. (No question mark, gloomy circumstances not good for people, especially this one, full-stop).

Poetry and art are the answer, I often say.


Laura Lee took this in the Chicago Art Institute - a Renoir painting

Coloured Fragments and the Rain

Those family gifts arrived all at once and late,
delivered in a haphazard pile by a depressed postie,
(lost their job that day, snapping at their supervisor).
Then the woman found the boxes torn apart by dogs.
Aged steaks in an insulated carton the cause for teeth,
her neighbour an eager amateur Sherlock
poked the parcel with a stick and read the label.

Vegetarian by then she could only stand back,
as if the rain-splattered paper would explode,
a volcano of missed anniversaries and parties.
She'd forgotten until she'd been away, the cruelty;
how some wit once sent her a kit-set cage
complete with a sign to hang on it about vermin,
(when she did the decent thing and self-imprisoned).

Later, she told a cat who visited the sunny concrete,
'I don't remember rain and wind crashing so before.'
Vast weather the previous evening from enormous oceans
shouted to her about deserts of ice and empty months,
while she lit candles and kept the bathwater;
poured grey stuff over intense plants - they leapt
each tend to find more sun and space.

'Safety and plenty have a price,' the magician said
when asked for another reading, in the booth.
Surrounded with tassels and an incense soak,
she saw the symbols flipped then laid to carpet
an empty mind-room with guests' photographs.
Cracks and creaks from her house settling to winter
on an old gravel swamp bed near a spring.

A lake close to the harbour - watery refuge;
the woman watched the rain, broke out of thought
raced into the deluge as if washed in light.
Her tuned voice split the sky and pierced
many stone hearts in the land with a ringing slice.
'You shall not place me in your tick tick boxes,
I curl here for another page, my truly own.'

Mornings the larger windows give towards up
while pebble glass captures and plays elsewhere.
'Here it is, the place I've turned myself around in,'
she laughed and soon fetched the better china.
While they wondered what bird called then,
someone built up a pile of unwanted thoughts
a good fire set with their talk and touch.