Three Cranes in a Dock

At dawn the tide throws its hush 
over the sandy shoulders of the harbour, 
drains the slope of shells, 
dropping dregs for the gulls to inspect. 
In the dock, by a stack of crates, 
three cranes bow their girdered necks east 
as if in prayer. They have been folded all night, 
a nest of dinosaurs awaiting the extinction 
of their vital urge. The fuel fattens in their tubes, 
their batteries corrode and their skins tatter 
in the cluttered yard. Under a vinyl lean-to a clutch of white hardhats 
might hatch their legs in the lengthening day. The cranes are wired 
for wakefulness, for the sudden surge into sky — 
the hydraulic heave of unrelenting unquestioned purpose. 
Everything is organised through a ritual of gravity and cable. 
They are devoted to the lever 
and hopeful, having heard the bang of the perimeter fence, 
the clang of its chain, and a kettle being boiled in the hut. 

A Visit

for Stephen Cox

‘The Bird in Hand’ was not our favourite bar 
but you know how things are. I met you outside 
and it had been a while so I dropped everything 
into the opportunity to catch up. Behind the frosted windows 
a wood-panelled corridor split the premises 
into two large rooms; in one, old men shoved dominoes 
over a scuffed table, and in the other 
a man in his twenties looked into a cloudy glass 
waiting for something to happen. 
I lent you fifty quid — the first time you had ever asked 
to borrow from me, and I would struggle until pay day. 
You were ‘gasping for a beer’ and I had to laugh 
at your urgency. I don’t remember what else was said, 
only the situation, your familiar form 
carrying some burden to the bar. 
Then you slipped behind frosted glass, 
and I awoke in the dark of night, 
feeling short-changed, in another country, 
another currency, and you, a year dead, 
with the money I never lent you. 


Andy Armitage is from Leeds, England, and came to New Zealand in 2000. He lives in Wellington and is completing a PhD on Ted Hughes’ Birthday Letters at Victoria University where he lectures on the Modern Poetry paper.