Tony Beyer

from Outside of a dog


I often dream about
looking through books on a shelf
in a shop that no longer exists

the sort of small
private lending library
plus stationery that no longer exists

I remember
being sent to choose reading
for my parents

anything recent without 84
(our number)
pencilled in the back

some of the melodramatic
titles of that generation
and authors’ names

John Masters
Joy Packer
Hammond Innes

reappear now
on speckled paperbacks
in the Hospice Shop

witnesses to the reliability
of linear narrative
without flourish

at home
there were shelves weighted down
with memories of war

and Shakespeare and Keats
like sudden ribbons of light
flung through it all


sometimes books are too sad
to pass on to others to read

Uwe Timm’s beautiful memoir
of his Waffen SS brother killed in Russia

and the lifelong presence
of this absence from the family

though we can understand the father’s
guilty generation better

having known our father
who served by accident of inheritance

on the opposite side and in Africa
with similar injunctions about

honour strength unity
love of country above all else

including common humanity
and the means of fostering it


my library unpacked and shelved
and cartons flattened in the garage

and now the joyful perplexity
of deciding what to read next

or re-read among so many friends
that give a double density to being

the first time through the rest of Henry James
or gaps in Proust or start again

Murnane and Frame and Patrick White
for this end of the world

anything about deserts or the Arctic
or histories of Victoria’s wars

the Russians I’ve neglected but my son admires
or poems I’m on first line terms with

acerbic midnight sips of Cheever
(every time I draft this poem

my tastes have changed again)
but fiction from the Japanese

and Conan Doyle I loved when young
Lord leave me here until I’ve done with these


my two left-handed granddaughters
write and draw their lives
on ruled refill
at the table

the colour scheme
and complete vocabulary
of a recently encountered cockatoo
with phonetic spelling

a day at the zoo
where the most interesting exhibit
among lemurs and meerkats
was their brother

in a photograph on my desk
the girls stand together dressed as pirates
in cross-boned hats and eye patches
each with a different coloured cardboard parrot on her shoulder

when they reach from behind me
to play guess-who with their hands over my eyes
the last thing I read before darkness
is the future curved into their palms

spring sonnets

today I found
                for 50c
in the Waiwhakaiho
                hospice shop
Anna Livesey’s
                2003 collection
Good Luck
                still fresh

and accurate
                after 14 yrs
and by no
                means a small
                at 96pp

                in bleak
Bell Block
and a power-point
by the familiar
                Lord’s Prayer

the children
                saying their piece
daffodils and
                wisteria on the bier
there will be
                more of these

war clouds
                trumped up
above the
                North Pacific
with loss
                the only gain
to be had
                on either side

a lifetime’s
bare legs
                on a plinth
                barren sands

my wife tells
                her 100
yr old mother
as you might
                whisper into
the hollow of a
                favourite tree

or the wind
                which pays
no attention
                and spreads
all of it

news today
                John Ashbery’s
dead at 90
                the greatest
American poet
                of the last
50 yrs
                the New Yorker

but I thought
                that was supposed
to be Bob Dylan
                or that greatness
itself was in

forced home
                by spring rain
the dog and I
                wait to dry out
on the warm
                back porch
a rainbow
                still in attendance

then like someone
                parking a car
who revs the engine
                before switching off
the shower
                surges and stops

Tony Beyer has recent or forthcoming work in Hamilton Stone Review, Otoliths, Poetry NZ and Poetry Pacific. His new collection Anchor Stone is published this November by Cold Hub Press, Lyttelton, New Zealand. (www.coldhubpress.co.nz.)
previous page     contents     next page


Post a Comment

<< Home