Lone Kauri (reprise)

So take for starters the surge-black fissure, 
the waves which register the lunatic sense 
it is all well beyond us. Our flooded nature 
rages at the dying light, measures 
its measures down some lone goat-track, 
works up some incorrigible reprise 
on grace, etc., a tuning fork 
striking itself out of true on the table 
of the elements. But blow, burn, break 
and be done with it: baptism will 
look like this, the flailing, the flensing of waves 
and the breath knocked into you, the haul 
that finds you first-footing land, brings 
the morning. Forgive my making light of 
the glass half-empty and you weighing up the dregs; 
but I will get up like a love-cast father 
awakening to children’s voices, the night- 
time true underfoot, who hears their laughter 
and finds, at the unclosed door, the seam of light. 


Thinly yellow, and fibrous in the heat, 
fennel is legion, rank beside the lines, 
which shimmer, robing the air in a ferrous stink. 
Flowchart rampant! The stalk, and then the branchings, 
mnemonic of throughput and outcome, of progress 
and its needling filiform leaf, the scent so hard 
to shake. Do not consider the flowers, the seed 
falling across the sleepers. There, sudden 
between the tracks, a penetrative, metro- 
nomic knocking from a torso-like box, 
locked and knocking in the valley of your childhood. 
O dark kernel, o burr of ambition, 
remember the boy in his switch-flicking trance 
in love not with the light, but with the switching. 

There’s one straight out of the box

we are monads, haunted by communion—George Steiner

Stalled. I have been here before—the door 
jars, jacks brittle against the frame, 
the latch tacky with shed life; and then, before 
was indistinct, of no moment, the same 
squared-off address of flashings and vitreous bowl, 
an unfocussed grey of tiles and melamine 
strict about the flush, cyclopic control 
and confessional; so much slips my mind. 
I dangle myself absently over the flow, 
hear the shuffle and held breath behind 
the partition, and try to feel elsewhere. 
There, cramped in the grouting, the small hand 
of diminished hope: I was here. 
Up above my head there’s music in the air, 
emoting and riffs ecstatic, a levity 
of unsensing. You may not inquire 
of this; flush-mounted in the cavity, 
it gasses sweetly as a smoked hive, 
while the pressure drops and all amity 
is let go for the stacked groove, 
glottal coagulate, a geist-heist 
tendering: desire becomes us. Wave 
at the sensor. So much passes for protest, 
begs the question: wherefore fullness, and thanks— 
where is the love? We long to rest, 
loosely shackled in our downed pants. 
It’s reassuring to suppose that beyond 
this is another much the same, 
that what we have and give in common 
is a faced and floating panelling—axiom 
of our lately closed circuit, it will trump 
neighbourliness, the open, cupped palm, 
dam us in a right to do: we jump 
at the latch fumble, I’m in here! 
i.e. piss off! Ach, we do not make up 
the world, truly—your suspended enclosure 
is not the henceforth longed for! 
Sit still: feet at the door, the knock, and you’re 
caught in the one-two altogether! 
Once open, the door is beside the point, the point 
being—say it!—reconciliation, 
yes, now there’s one straight out of the box, 
a notion worth a line or two on 
grouting, say, or the Kelburn church wall— 
God does not live in boxes—amen 
to that brother, and as for us, all 
our constructs might flat-pack it off, we lose 
our thrones as the sky grows tall, forsake the cubicle 
for an opened upper room. And there’s grace: 
not to be going out or coming in 
but set in the threshold, your solar plexus rise 
and fall in step with all who are undone. 

Listen to John Dennison read ‘There’s one straight out of the box


John Dennison was born in Sydney in 1978, and grew up in Tawa, New Zealand. He has lived and studied in Dunedin and St Andrews, Scotland, and now lives with his family in Wellington, where he is a university chaplain. His poems have appeared in magazines both in the UK and in New Zealand and Australia, and were anthologised in Carcanet’s New Poetries V (2011). His first collection, Otherwise, will be published by Carcanet and Auckland University Press in 2015.