Of all seabirds
I would wage
that the shag
is a philosopher.

He can spend
considerable hours

mounted on an old spar
sunk in the harbour

immovable as a Rodin sculpture.

He will fan a wing
to dry, or with considerable
refinement, hang out both.

An imperative fisherman,
it is not his diving skills
which bewitch me.

It is his aristocratic elan
his incredible imperturbability

which places him above
all other seabirds.


Not a single line
crowds your eyes

or dints the perfect suppleness
of your face.

Time has overlooked you
not made you her plaything

the ailments of mortals
have never besieged you.

You’ve the athleticism
of a gymnast
the sparkle of a kitten

are slender beyond compare.


He wrote with a soft pencil.

He kept dozens at hand
all of them
impeccably sharpened.

It would be inconceivable
to chew at their ends

or roll them around
in his soap-scented palms.

I can see him now
hunched over his specially
designed tray table

a ream of creamy paper
beside him.

He never wrote much
preferring to edit

until the sentences rang
so beautifully.

After precisely four hours
he ceased. And stowed his
compositional magic

in a bland writing desk.
I should like to be inspired
as he.


at the intricacy of a snowflake

be moved
by wobbly puddles
which reflect a full moon.

as fat blackberries
stain your fingertips

cry with delight
when fox cubs frolic
and rough-play.

Never forget the incredible
bluebell meadows

or the hoar frost
immaculate as angels.

They are the raw poetry
in a perplexing world.

Te Waewae

Te Waewae Bay,
long broad scoop in a shale coast

province of the infinite
breeding grounds for whales and orcas, whispering
sanctuary to sea lions.

The bay can brew
astonishing gales

reinvent sand dunes,
remake wild southern marshes.

Where the great river
empties into the bay

stand, listen to the enormous shoal of gravel

observe the disquieting curve
of the Earth

disappear in smokiness
toward Antarctica.


There is everything to love
about potted shrubs and hedgerows.

They are an expression
of supreme beauty.

Or the tracery of lines on your ageing hands
which are divine masterstrokes
no random creation could ever

Or indeed the astonishing stars
and infinite noble gases
astronomers could never dream to chart.

They are all insuperable proof.
Broaden your vision, be amazed.


Our inlet has been exploited
for centuries.

It is where fishing vessels
battle the inevitable squall

towing a flag of wrathful
wheeling gulls behind.

They scramble for the ends
of a disappointing catch.

There is a salty majesty here
where I mark off my years

dangle my worn-through sea boots
from the pier end
which is as barnacled as history.

Behind my rheumy eyes
I go to sea, inhale the bilge
feel the swell roll.

This time I shall net
a haul of stars
run with otherworldly
gales, go home.


A great stump
of driftwood
has rolled onto these
gemstone sands.

Like the chiselled femur
of some ancient predator
from another hemisphere

it’s been pickled by the ocean
to an ineffable whiteness.

If you run your palm
over this sea sculpture

there are no knots
to tear your skin.

It is a masterpiece
installed beside the tides
which shall trace

fine lines like indecipherable
only mermen can read.


He has a scraggy beard
like he’s a bona-fide saint
and an ugly, pronounced

He breezes around our city
conversing with himself

since nobody else
will stop for him.

I have seen how he
clings to his fabric bag

he never begs
or terrorises the young.

I would regale him with coins
ask for some private divination

because I think he is like
one of those Slavic idiots

uniquely shabby, speaking gibberish
touched by the hand of God.