back toJacket2

This piece is about 4 printed pages long. It is copyright © Iain Britton and Jacket magazine 2008.See our [»»] Copyright notice. The Internet address of this page is

Iain Britton

Two poems

The Ornamental Room

He is used to the wet creep of a hill
squeezing against his house
the green metamorphosis

the fungus gardens flourishing
on window sills.
He’s become used to the peripatetic life

of crossing and re-crossing
vast wastelands of unvacuumed carpet
of stepping around the toppled blocks of all he surveys.

From his ornaments, he meditates
on the morning sun’s heavy-breathing
the bulking up of red clouds

the tapping of twigs on his guttering.
He feels you waking like a ceramic doll.
The first yawn crinkles. Your eyes open.

The furniture straightens up
as he starts to polish his routines
put a shine on the clock, on bones

set deep in the walls.
The kettle boils.
The newspaper falls headfirst

onto the floor. You mop up
toys not fully grown.
Voices vanish in different directions.

You grab at them
and golden moths crash out of the sky.
The green hill shoulders heavily

and rattles the ornaments
footsteps kick in leaves.
The forests of this house smell

of small pungent cultivations
of hands picking oranges.
You’ve become so used to him

swooping down and sweeping you off your feet.
He plays the perfect bridegroom.
He unveils you each night

and dangles you above a collector’s harvest
of ready-made beds. He pulls you in
and you run with his emotions.

Still Fall the Clear Steel Nibs of Night

Still fall the clear steel nibs of night
perforating the lungs of hills

            accentuating the rain’s rattle

on river, suburbs, on cratered minds.
A cut-off season of fruit

            grows downwards, dissociates

and crumbles. Winter drops
its wet encumbrance

            and the new wheelbarrow shines.

I flick at pages of images that flutter
annoyingly at every step I take.

            Buildings leak. Downtown shoppers

mirror effigies of themselves.
The call to prayer

            is a long way off.

The night’s on all fours
a neon culture, a plate-glass


a sequence of photos
flashing from a phone. The night’s

            a Madonna in black rags

who talks to people who get too close.
Still the greenery hangs

            on St Patrick’s Day, on paper hats

on the new wheelbarrow in the garden.
I push it slowly. Charismatics

            and swooners of dance and song

trappers and huntsmen
don’t always hear the call to prayer.

            The child in the river swims to the sea.

The child in his spacesuit
floats effortlessly.

            Still sounds the voice

from a mushroom cloud
sweet toxicity and a falling sky.

            I shade my eyes from lightning shoot-outs

to witness the splitting hairs
on a mountain’s chin

            the morning with a child in its mouth

the voice plunging into the river’s roar.
Now’s the hour to milk the day

            of the priest’s call.

Iain Britton

Iain Britton

Iain Britton is Director of Maori Studies at King’s School, Auckland, New Zealand (Aotearoa). Cinnamon Press (UK) published his first collection of poems in February 2008, ‘Hauled Head First into a Leviathan’, which was a Forward Poetry Prize nomination in the UK. Interactive Press (Australia) will be publishing his second collection in 2009.

Copyright Notice: Please respect the fact that all material in Jacket magazine is copyright © Jacket magazine and the individual authors and copyright owners 1997–2010; it is made available here without charge for personal use only, and it may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced, or used for any other purpose.