In which Travis and I follow Charles Brasch around Dunedin


A woman smiles at me
as I come in the door of the cafe.
She knows my name
before I say it.
She tells me she had heard
there was a woman in town
who was interested in Brasch
and then last week she spotted me
in The Everyday Gourmet
talking earnestly to someone
who is very interested in Brasch.

Down at the Hocken Library,
there was a sudden rise in excitement
when Travis Van Brasch turned up from America.
As far as I know there was no karanga, no wero
and no waiata
but after they showed him all the best things
in the Brasch collection
Travis responded with news that Pope Pius VI,
born Count Giovanni Angelo Braschi,
was one of the family.
While it was a bit of a shock that Giovanni
was as Catholic as you can be,
it was generally agreed that his enthusiasm
for the Vatican Museum was not a surprise at all.

Travis stayed at a rather upmarket B&B
two doors along from what they still call
‘Charles’ house’.
He told the builders he was an architect
so they let him look inside
at the gutted shell of the house.
Travis is reported to have said
that if he had been in Dunedin
eighteen months ago
he would have bought the house
and preserved it as a memorial.

Travis also met Brasch’s Literary Executor
called in at the Brasch Library
and bought a new copy of Indirections
from Otago University Press.
After that there was only the crib
at Broad Bay to see. There
Travis is reported to have exclaimed
at the sheer beauty of the beach
and the temperature of the water.

Two weeks later, the real Travis Van Brasch
has left the building, but echoes
of his visit can still be heard.
The name Travis slips in and out of memory
because not many people in Dunedin
are called Travis, his Dutch ‘van’ sometimes appears
in conversation as the noble German ‘von’,
but the Brasch Pope is always there
blowing peoples’ minds.

Travis, you bastard, you beat me
to the second-hand bookshop too.
Enduring Legacy is a wonderful book.
I hope you really wanted it.
If I see if the Lady Engine, would you
like me to send you a picture?



Lynn Jenner lives in Raumati on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. She is the author of Dear Sweet Harry and Lost and Gone Away, both published by Auckland University Press.