Tony Beyer

Pounamu Variations


watch the long
soft yet strong
pads of her fingers

and thumbs fold
the green flax
over and over itself

first lines of a story
that won’t make sense
until the end

her conversation
is her teaching too
eliciting snippets

comparing experiences
to establish
common ground

after the workshop
everyone comes away
with something

a small girl
smiles into the open beak
of a flax flower

a man wears
a flax hat
to keep out the sun

a palm full
of glossy black seeds
can be pressed for oil

songs about rain
a comfort
in dry country


becoming rarer
in their comfortable
wet socks of skin

the ancient females
draw near their
long voyage numbed

in every habitual sense
no longer one
but one of a species

with customs
going back before humans
before planet wrack

costly strandings
leaving eighty years’ growth

still the impulse remains
to teem
to repopulate

never grudging
fair harvest
of an abundance

chopped into myriads
like the ancestor
Maui punished thus

for his misdemeanour
nosing the swamp girl’s
coir hinaki

a shape honed
by legend
and the mutual earth


the rumour here
is that fish approach the jetty
inquisitive about light

wave dancers
depth trawlers
gold-finned hoverers

on very dark nights
the sea is the ink
of unwritten narratives

the most prominent
about a girl
who offended her father

returning the glance
of a young man
passing through the district

so now she repines
forever exiled
from her family

where the tide surges
like an ache
the shore has to bear

then recedes
as if all the water
in the world

could be compressed
into a palm-sized
transparent globe

flecked with myriads
gaping mutely
to be released


too many of us
were raised
in a tough school

compulsory runs
cold showers
the cane

military drill
in sandpaper serge
and glistening boots

do unto others
the unenviable watch word
handed down

only the restrictive
freedom of the sports field
and fierce

competitive contact
one on one
reconciled us

bruise brothers
respectful of each other
to a fault

so when we arrived
at the place
via roundabout ridges

some giant hand
had squeezed into the ground
to make it awkward

our choices were confined
to bringing about an end
or to begin


her name is water
most often tranquil
but at times perturbed

as a girl’s hair
is repeatedly parted
then reunited by the wind

so it is
in the weather
of her face

when she is shy
among strangers
raucous with her kind

to look at her
is to anticipate
the promise of the species

necessary griefs
and elations
an undertow

or dark current
channelling generations
from before and after

through the smallest details
of expression
the way she touches

others’ hands
lightly but indelibly
in memory

A writer in Taranaki NZ, Tony Beyer has recent or forthcoming work in Atlanta Review, Hamilton Stone Review, Jazz Cigarette and Poetry NZ.
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