Tony Beyer

Backward glance

A man’s family found his head floating down a river in Indonesia, after he had been eaten by a crocodile.

The River

the third bank
of the river
is its bed
the fourth bank
the surface
both of them as variable
in flood or drought
as the other two banks

The Bees

almost any rotten
thing will do
a dead chook
an unscraped buffalo hide
chucked out into the bush
allowed to go off
until the bees arrive
with their secretions

honey produced
by these means
has some of the flavour
from beyond
the end of life
and soothes the sick
in their last ordeal
or reminds old people
what it will be like
to be new born
in the other world

or it is simply
that the bees die too
having stored up
a future for
humans and themselves 

The River

the fifth bank of the river
is time
and can’t be retrieved
no matter how often
you turn your head

once plurals occur
for example many times
or often
a frail and finally useless hope
has been admitted
and must be suppressed


impermanent as clouds
the Chinese poet wrote

concerning human endeavour
large or small in scale

Great Wall or great poem
impressive in detail

rendered ephemeral
by distance and time

consider what the sky sees
watching always

patient as the Christians’
absentee God

reflecting nothing
but reflected

in the victims’
immobile eyes

after the battle who can tell
which ravaged skeleton

died bravely and which
fell fleeing like a coward

after the massacre the dead
are equally dead

there are no war crimes
war and crime are the same thing

the dry watertank
serves as a landmark

halfway between
nowhere and nowhere else

goatskins rabbit tufts
a wild boar skull

arrayed along the fence
trophies of a long campaign

a beggar’s palm is soft
his fist hard

too much has passed
to reconcile them

he grieves that people
give him what he wants

without question
without asking more of him

women know a man
is a bear

with the fur removed
or something smaller

more vicious
like a wolverine

all white muscle
and sensitive hide

at the foot of the waterfall
loud wet smoke

gulls like scraps
of paper ash

death having
heard it all before

won’t grant an
exemption this time

containers of tat
imported from China

Donald Trump wigs
Santa Claus boots

empty railway wagons
squirted with graffiti

we thought we were
doing quite well

day and night
the alternating stripes

on a large
determined animal

carrying us on its back
towards one or the other

or unprecedentedly both
at the same time

cold side to the ground
warm side to the sun

windfall fruit
basks in the hand

a gift the tree
has relinquished

all the way
back to the seed

inconclusive thunder
and an indigo sky

not clouds so much
as coruscations

to the right and left
of the mountain

silhouettes running
out of sight

firelight sinks
winking among the ashes

in the stable over the fence
horses stamp and whinny

ants move into the shadows
on the deck

sipping at the edges
of spilt wine


when the power
blacked out

in our highrise
hotel in the city

a bearded man
on a street corner

with a sleeping bag
draped around

his shoulders
two blankets wrapped

around his waist
and a fistful of

multi-coloured scraps
of plastic sheathed wire

seemed to be the one
they were waiting for

Tony Beyer operates out of Taranaki, NZ.
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