Poems, by Nicholas Messenger.
Nicholas Messenger says: I have been a poet all my life, and a painter on and off. I won the Glover Poetry award in New Zealand in the 1970's, and have had a few small one-man shows of my paintings. For much of my life I have made my living as a teacher, of science, art, and languages in High Schools in New Zealand, and for the last nine years, of English in Japan.
Please write to Nicholas Messenger in care of Offcourse@albany.edu
In Zhaoyang girls poured perfume in the spring
to make it fragrant. That is the wind tinkling
in the trees so softly that you only think you hear it.
Life now and life long ago, half lost in history
is ached away in exile or a struggle after merit
in the capital; and on the way, reiteratively travelling
from inn to inn. Friends' verses found on walls, wisteria
in doorways: seasons as meticulously sadly
counted as if all the years were autumns, their unravelling
a long strand of farewells as gradually
the water widens. Po Chu'i made poetry of the fear
that listening to the melancholy tunes would grey his hair.
Now it has come back to me: a string of coral
beads carved into rounds in Arabic floral
patterns; it is the odour of an oval wicker basket
reawakens me. The clutter of a jewel box holds the charm
of the bazaar: the brass and pewter of an Arab market
burnishing its sunlight. But, there was an Egypt then :
the fountains of its date and Alexandria palms
that framed the flunkies of the grand hotels have ruffled
the tropic of my imagination; I begin to wonder when
I dwelled in such a memory; or how my mother's
youth has turned into my own, because her beads
of coral ripen in my pockets like remarkable seeds.
IT’S ALL IN PLACE.
To know your place is everything,
so when the slave was going to cut the King’s
head off, he asked politely first. His Majesty
was probably averse to this
but was expected to reply with equal courtesy.
He noted it was inauspicious for a monarch
to be slain by someone from the lesser services.
Which item answered, as he had been coached,
that creatures from the brink of anarchy
like him, were better-placed than others, who approached
the royal magnitude, to sink to infamy. Which reckoned
sensible, the monarch decorously stretched his neck.
TALKING TO TIGERS.
While mountain wardens even now advise you earnestly
to grab hold of a bear’s tongue if it has you in its clutch,
I learn that seizing tigers by the tongue goes back through history
to ancient chronicles. So, if you ever need to try it on
you have to look to precedent, and that goes in for speeches, such
as: “I, who have taken up the relics of my tribe, and borne
without complaining the responsibilities of generation; I who fight on
over sand and wave with weary resignation and a stoic mien,
the breeze my hairbrush, cloth of weeds to keep me warm,
the rain to wash my face, a bracken mattress, meat it hurts
my teeth to chew, a cabbage wick to read with; having been
in every sort of trouble, look as if I found my way into this mess
on purpose. And that’s not a situation I consider my deserts.
Forgive me if I treat this as a chance to get revenge for all the rest.”
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