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Iain Britton

Three poems



Spent half last night
listening to Sylvia Plath
Ted Berrigan
the voice of Frank O’Hara
Charles Olson too
reciting his poetry —
breathy stuff
from the otherside —
electronically speaking.


Spent the other half
reading abstract poems
by living writers
who wallow in the coolness
of mud up to their necks
in estuarial water
like sun umbrellas
shading them from
bubbling into a
miasmic blackness.


This dirt
bought for the price
of an axe a blanket
a keg of whisky
a fucking song.


This city
crawling on its belly
into my mouth
I chew on...


Like chicken bones
I suck off the flesh
and pile up the streets
and buildings
for disposal.


Kneeling across you
fitting myself
into your open spaces
helps to remind me
of where I belong
meditating on the
of a flower

about 2 millimetres
from your breathing.

Iconic Man


He’s too brown in the shade
to recognise.
His halo — gold-leafed — has
slid off his head
like a large dinner plate.

He leans — bruised but
not marked — painted
against a green hill

while a small plane
over Hobson Bay

drags a banner across the sky
advertising spiritual remedies
available in the new
Catholic Church Potaka Street

ask for Brothers James
or Peter

whoever bleeds the most
from too much praying.


Tears run from the eyes
of this picture.

I have no hesitation
in announcing Brother
Andre says a voice
speaking from the relative
safety of a cloud
above Mt Eden

as winner of
the most painful-look-of-the-year

growing up — as he had to
in the hands of some shits
who were older bigger

because they knew
how to stick words into him

and more

without breaking the skin
without making him bleed.

Unsugared Stripes

The door flaps
like the broken wing
of some big bird.

The dog snaps off
my top lip. I talk
through blood

of kissing my mother
good-bye. Holding up
a flag

with wet stars
and unsugared

I tell myself
this is the face of a

I want to take part
in a march
but admit my dog

has left me no choice
but to pick up
the lip. If my country

wants me to smile
by numbers
I’ll have to stitch on

the flap of flesh myself
load my mouth
with enough muscular

to convince others
that shooting

is now restricted
to ducks and rabbits
and a bullet

in the head of my dog
that shooting neighbours
is not an issue.

Iain Britton’s poetry has been published widely in New Zealand in such magazines as Poetry NZ, JAAM (Just Another Art Movement), TAKAHE, Spin, Southern Ocean Review, Turbine, Trout, Auckland Poetry and Blackmail Press. Other literary publications include Manifold, Links, Iota and Orbis (UK) and Slope and The Drunken Boat (USA). Poems are forthcoming in Tinfish and Conspire very soon. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand where he is Director of Maori Studies at King’s School. At present he is working on putting together his first collection of poems.

Jacket 22 — May 2003  Contents page
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