Tony Beyer

Black cerulean 1999

the Cross is present
in its absence

cut into
the lacquered iron

scrolls of the underside
suggest hidden light

rough cast
embryonic rivets

soon the day
and all else will clear

Ghost dance

in the lodges
of the Hunkpapa
the Oglala and Minneconjou

buffalo fat thrown on the fire
in a good year
flared as high as the smoke vent

so the fine cow skin
glowed on the outside
like a tall conical lantern

emitting last glimpses
of a dying world
over the empty prairie night

as do our small
truncated grimaces
travelling out through space

interrupted signs
that the word has been lost
between mouth and ear

the drunken captain
and his vessel are foundering
lights on/ full steam ahead

Winging it

                the Hollywood remake
of Julien Duvivier’s Pépé le Moko

replaced rugged Jean Gabin
with sleek Charles Boyer

and wheeled in (any foreign
accent would do) the not so frosty

Austrian Hedy Lamarr
who married six men

between 1933 and 1963
and incidentally invented

a radio guidance system for torpedoes
later adapted to early drone flight control

but meanwhile back in the Casbah
long before it was rocked by the Clash

Charles B as Pépé winced his distaste
at being surrounded

by so many uncouth gangster types
and might have preferred

the company and conversation
of the suave gendarmes ostensibly on his tail

still the film then as now
became a reasonable success

played mostly for laughs
though the dark truth

of the inescapable self
is its undertone

a different proposition altogether
Pontecorvo’s 1966 Battle of Algiers

was a truly terrifying movie to watch
if someone left their bag

as people used to back then
on the seat next to you during an interval



alone on the ice he hears
the celestial telephone ringing
but doesn’t answer

a blue vent between falls
reminds him
of his last woman

under him the beating earth
liquid in format
teems with creatures

he knows he’s been dead for years
but those are the ones
that don’t count

now the brown mammals at rest
in the distance ahead
are his  foster children

the crisp prints of predators
around his sleeping place at dawn
his only scripture

call me up he says
to the reluctant heavens
or equally down into the depths

each luminous breath
each snow-booted step after step
an anomaly

no one else belongs in this
or else he has forgotten
his characters his journey

the pulped unreadable log book
tucked into his armpit
scribbled over with star signs

the rocks he wrote on
appealing for succour
lie far behind him

likewise his language
other than the mute cry
like a sea-dweller’s he offers the cold

its inscrutable reply
enjoining patience
promises the nothing he already knows

white silence
pure and remorseless yet unremarkable
given the blunt trail his travel has blazed 


in the mother’s chamber
they are gathered for the feast

they stab it with their steely knives
but they just can’t kill the beast

     others approached much closer
     to the mark

     females better equipped
     to tolerate adversity

     or simply to identify it
     accurately when it arrived

     unfussed and undemonstrative
     though not always unheard

     words interspersed between 
     parturitions and as welcome

     the living voice
     once spoken unalterable

     except by an editor’s quibble
     or a discovered later draft

    but it’s the length of time
    utterance lasts we rejoice

    corralled out of a given day
    to become eternal

    still yet still moving glide
    of dust in light 
                               light on dust
    time when we move out
    of time is a comfort

    when descendants
    not necessarily of our blood

    will tend the spark
    coax the flame

    draw water for every
    function of existence

    all those durable nomadic
    metaphors we love

    culminating in our innocent hope
    the river will still be there


somewhere on the shelf
between Nostromo
and Eyeless in Gaza
the book is a summation
compact but satisfactory

the attendant biography
offers facts but no flavour
out of a lifetime of acquaintances 
each of whom
requires a footnote

the problem always
that one life stands out
as if others didn’t matter
and the ending’s always
more or less the same

there are articles and reviews
to agree or disagree with
and the jury of private opinion
so elusive and exact
though usually hung

better by far (as the
jingle goes) to stand apart
from hyperbole and illusion
facing the one in the mirror

only thus the full story
infant to incontinent
visions rendered 
commonplace by repetition
among the general run

what must be let go
is any sense of privilege
of purpose that cuts above the ruck
who need you only in so far
as you need or speak them

whatever honours can be
given can be taken away
medals and prizes
appointments and regalia
paper wreaths

the order of white
silence again
first class with knobs on
where all sound ceases
all sensation numbs

no one here and now
or then and there
can lighten the load or lift the lid
on what is to follow
great darkness or great light

Tony Beyer lives and writes in Taranaki, NZ.

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