The Minor Transient Documents of Everyday Life


The environmental artist
is giving a lecture.

He explains the transient
nature of nature.

The impermanence
of clouds, icicles and leaf mould.

He draws an ephemeral
snow circle on his white-board.

Infinity, we learn, is a feathered
fringe of toi-toi, circling a lake.


The environmental artist
is a rock climber.

He constructs stone pyramids
at the cutting edge of cliffs
on bluffs high above raging seas.

He teeters above the tide
photographing his environmental
sculptures for posterity.

He has witnessed sunsets
that defy description.

The environmental artist
used to work in advertising
but he saw the light.


The environmental artist
has product for sale.

Tonight, at a discounted rate,
he offers environmental calligraphy.

Elements of nature are creatively
re-interpreted on recycled paper
made from harakeke.

He re-arranges feathers and shells,
bones, leaves and dried sea horses.

love    laugh    heal    joy    life


The environmental artist
is a specialist.

He reminds us that above all
he is a photographer.

“His photographs are the only part of the works
that survive as a record of the working process
which, like nature, is cyclical.”

He is deeply committed
to environmental awareness.

A portion of his profits
is donated to the cause.


A tourist sitting at the back
of the hall stands up and bows
to the environmental artist.

He takes a photograph
with his disposable camera.

The artist is holding up a print
framed in recycled rimu.

It is a tawa tree bole circled
with ferns strewn with red berries.

The berries are bitter, but edible,
if we ever have to survive in the forest.


At home, in another country,
surviving in a busy city,
the tourist will wait at an intersection.

He will count the red traffic lights
and remember the berries
and the environmental artist.

That night he will find the photograph
and show it to his children.

Nothing lasts, he will say.

It will take time, but everything
you see will fade away.



Note: This poem has a “found title.” It describes a book, ‘The Encyclopaedia of Ephemera’, published by The British Library. The author, Maurice Rickards, spent thirty years compiling a definitive reference work of 500 entries, which include penal transportation papers, king’s evil certificates, half-duty stamps and turnpike tickets.


Louise Wrightson is a writer and bookseller living in Wellington. Her company, New Zealand Books Abroad, promotes and sells New Zealand publications overseas.