Tony Beyer

The Characters

a comfort to think
that in Nagano where

typewriters used to be made
they still remember

Bashō’s visit and the long-
expired snow he came to view

each snow flake
then as now unique each

fluent stroke of the brush
comprehensible but singular

Five Sonnets from Erewhon

of the Romans I prefer
Ovid in exile to Horace
though Horace had good things to say

also Juvenal to Virgil
so usually those on the outer
or constitutionally grouchy

but you have to appreciate
Virgil’s profound grasp
of the as yet unsuspected zeitgeist

in the era of the human God
divine Augustus issued the decree
that determined the future of the world

in a cow shed in a small town
on the disputed frontier of the known


out of everywhere we have created nowhere
places of departure places of arrival
indistinguishable from each other

the eye of the traveller is scanned
for ulterior intent or accidentally
misplaced fidelity

my deaf grandfather tall but stooped
born at the end of the immemorial
horse-drawn and lamp-lit aeon

would set all the detectors clanging
with his watch chain
and the tags on the ends of his shoelaces

he always said the man who made time made plenty
but time seems to be running out


in the perpetual present tense of cinema
John Wayne aims his gun at the beautiful
sixteen year old face of Natalie Wood
who’d minutes before shocked staid Navajo
women by sunning herself in a bathing suit
though this was the 1950s
so not a lot would have been revealed
apart from the 1860s’ dust and destruction

it is a new kind of time our entertainments
and their preservation have invented
in which people who have left this life
not only appear in the dreams of their loved ones
but eternally in the collective dreaming
condemned to arrive at the same outcomes


it is a given of incarnation
among those religions that favour it
that the embodied one shall be beautiful
above other men and women
so all eyes are drawn to the faultless
skin of the Buddha or the bound stranger
who stands accused before the Procurator

similarly Rua Kenana whose gaze absorbed
the five thousand kilometre trail of a comet
and whose motionless silence
on the third day of his tangi
elicited an aue audible in heaven
because the living god has to live as a god
something human celebrity has yet to encompass


in places the mangrove inlets
are tainted with rust-orange leachate
and slow bubbles released
like unstrung beads through the water

eels never venture near
these shallows and no birds
perch among the dark branches
under iron leaves

no one knows how long it will take
for the sorely tried ecosystem
to recover itself or if its condition
is irreversible and fatal

even in poetry the vocabulary
to describe these situations is debased

Tony Beyer has recently returned to Taranaki, NZ to concentrate on poetry and subsistence.
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