The Pikemen

There are dogs baying along the creek that chitters 
at the bottom of the orchard and men shouting 
Away, away. It’s a fox hunt, a sharp whistle, 
the tinny blare of the horn, a cupped hand 
over the mouth so it’s yow yow yow, the men yelping 
like the dogs and Artemis in her short tunic 
running with her bow and arrows on her back. 
Clouds fall like lovers onto the neck 
of the peninsula, the harbours gleam and shirr. 
There are stone bungs in the walls of the ruined tower 
where there used to be a dancing floor. 
And broken up plaster on the walls that speaks 
of the refinement of the court of France. 
When the pikemen came, 
perhaps two hundred of them, they crossed 
the dark lawn quietly, only the chink and rustle 
of their passing, and they shut the gate behind them 
and they did no harm, 
the servants of the house among them 
and the steward, a man most trusted for years. 
When they crossed the lawn, 
they crossed the border between the usual 
and the rare, between the still and the embroiling, 
between the individual and the communal pain, 
the foulness that can flower there 
along with gracious mercy and kindness, 
the Quaker standing under the stars, his head bare, 
his arms outstretched without a weapon. 
In the name of the Virgin 
they left him alone, nor did they harm his daughters. 
                                                           Vinegar Hill, Enniscorthy 

Your Pope’s Man

his advice to his confrères regarding Pleasure

Take the custard apple, for example, 
its warty green and purply black 
thick skin, its body shaped 
like a potato. You break into it 
as you’d break into a ripe fig, 
just a little pressure on its fat belly 
with both your thumbs. 
The white flakes inside look 
like steamed fish. You prise them 
off with the tip of a knife. 
You suck them, apple 
and cinnamon, sugar and cream, 
Coca-Cola and Bundaberg rum. 
The tastes flow like music 
over the different pleasure parts 
of your tongue. The conversations 
you will have with her, about closeness, 
will keep you a pinion apart. 
You’ll have to be as still 
as a crocodile, your eyes especially, 
unmoving in the billabong. 


for Geoff Cochrane

Dear Geoff, I’m sorry I gave you 
the wrong instructions. 
Sometimes I just get like that 
all flustered, crazy Jane, 
can’t tell my arse from my elbow. 
Go down Hereford as in the cow 
Street, is that what I said? 
On to the corner with Colombo, 
then left into the Boulevard Saint Michel. 
Cross the road on the diagonal, 
that’s Hradebni. 
Then toddle past the Castello di Diavolo, 
where most of the poets hang out 
(you don’t have to go in if you don’t want to).
Whatever, I was wrong. 
I’m sorry it took you three hours 
to get to the reading. 
Do you remember that time 
when we were all sitting in Fidels 
in Cuba Street, out the back 
inside the hessian tent with the smokers 
(it was the middle of winter). 
There was Gerry Melling and Lindsay 
Rabbitt and you and me. 
I was getting my weekly fix of nicotine. 
The talk rang high and wild, 
you drank a small bottle of Coke 
but you wouldn’t eat anything 
and after a while you started whining 
like a puppy, 
‘my feet are fuckin’ freezing’ 
and we all looked down 
and there were these huge hairy holes 
in your old sneakers. 
‘What the hell are you wearing?’ 
I dragged the edge 
of your left trouser leg up and 
there was the strip of a blue nylon sock. 
‘For god’s sake, 
haven’t you got any other shoes?’ 
‘I saw some I quite liked in the Farmers.’ 
‘And did you buy them?’ 
‘Does brown go with black and white?’ 
‘They were brown and white and black 
and I didn’t know if the colours matched.’ 
I’ll go with you to the Farmers, 
and we’ll buy the bloody shoes 
and I’ll buy you a pair of merino socks too 
as long as you promise to wear them.’ 
That’s how it goes some days, 
don’t you reckon. 
You wander the streets of a city 
that’s no longer your own. 
You look at a map 
and all the words are in German. 
You ask a stranger 
where the hills have gone 
and he bursts out laughing. 
You know I’m always happy 
to meet you on the flooded steps 
n gr8 2 gt yr txt: 
‘loved LOVED Christchurch’ 


Starting in July 2007, Bernadette Hall held the Rathcoola Fellowship which gave her six months living and writing in Donoughmore, Co. Cork, Ireland. A new collection of poems, The Lustre Jug, based on her Irish experience, will be published next year. In 2006 while Writer in Residence at Victoria University, she completed The Ponies which was published by VUP in 2007. ‘Sastrugi’, from that collection, was turned into a choral work by Christchurch composer Chris Archer this year. Bernadette lives at Amberley Beach, North Canterbury, and is currently a tutor at the newly established Hagley Writers’ Institute in Christchurch.