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Protected: And When You Leap from Bridges

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Protected: “Noorya’s Prophecy” from “The Stowaway’s Song”

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Ticklish Talking (or, “On Completing a Major Work of Poetry”)

1421, by Gavin Menzies

1421, by Gavin Menzies. '...books / that make one think some Chinese ships /
once sailed around this country’s hips / in 1421'

Ticklish Talking (or, “On Completing a Major Work of Poetry”)
by
Zireaux

 

“And then?”

               “Then what?”

                                   “Well why this stifling
of your story? What muzzles you?
You’ve served some meat; we want to chew
it –- Arcady! This foolish, trifling
rhyme of yours. How dare you set
the scheme my tongue must follow!”

                                                        “And yet
in life, my dear, aren’t we required
to speak a certain way? Our words
are chosen for us. What we desire
to say is rarely what gets heard.
Come here, my love! Just look outside.
It is that time, the eventide,
when gypsy’s belly-dancing twilight
slips her gauze across our eye-sight,

moves in sequined undulations.
Car-lights blaze like embers in
a desert’s sideways-howling wind.
Their wild and festive oscillation,
through the curtain gaps, advance
and stir our shadows into dance.
But do those drivers see the fervent
fun they fling upon our walls?
And is our reader so observant
as to see our bodies sprawl
upon this bed in just our socks,
a blanket on a pinewood box
which wasn’t built for two to mingle?
(Our ghost had friends, but slept a single).”

The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown. '...or Mona / Lisa has some trick persona / which symboligistic scholars / think denotes the holy grail'

“And so?”

               “And so, my dear, most stories
must live in constant twilight. To read
them is to nonchalantly speed
through claire-obscurist territories,
our eyes fixed more upon the red
oscelar brake-lights up ahead
than on the angels lighting stellar
tapers in the night. And yet,
unknown to readers, most storytellers
— in rendering that silhouette
through which their readers, eyes ablaze,
so blindly pilot –- use those rays,
those passing rays of light, to brighten
up the starless dens they write in.”

“Your point?”

                     “My point: The reader rarely
disembarks his car to walk
(or if the writer’s rich, to stalk)
around the author’s nest! This barely
visible shack! It stands on legs
of cinderblocks — or rather, sags,
much like a creature apprehended
in a net of shadows cast
by trees (the net both torn and mended
by the car-beams speeding past).
See now, dear reader! See? I turn
my lamp on here, and you discern
through golden window what I’m doing.
View the woman I am viewing

as she lifts a hand-knit sweater
‘bove her head — ”

                      — “It’s corduroy,
a jersey” —

The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra

The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra. 'I know that Chopra / is a fraud. And so is Oprah.'

                  “ — and lets us both enjoy
those lacy, black and loosely fettered
pups beneath; the way, each yoked
to each, they both in tandem poke
their noses out through thickly rolling
waves of flesh; how each one seeks
a tasty treat, or soft, consoling
master’s stroke. O let us peek
beneath their muzzles! No? Not yet?
A symptom of the female set:
The more she feels a lover eyes her,
the more she serves up appetizers!”

“Be serious, Arcady! A merry
search is on for you, you know.
And not just in New Zealand – no,
the BBC, Fox News, Al Jerry – “

Al-Jerah

               “ — whatever. The global news
broadcasts your face without your views.”

“But of the two, my face is better.”

“Except when wearing bold-print hats
and matching collars made of letters
spelling ‘shame,’ ‘disgrace’ – and that’s
when they proclaim your death. If they
knew you were still alive here — ”

                                                  “May
I slip these off? These stanzas tingle
when my lips with yours commingle.”

“Okay, I guess, but please – I worry
these escapades just cause delay
my love! – that they postpone the day
this poem’s finished.”

                                     “One cannot hurry
the Muse. She likes it slow.”

Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki

Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki. 'My dad was neither rich nor poor /nor even my dad…'

                                   “I know.
O darling! But maybe I could show
your poem to some kind of literary
figure – the type that turns a crime
to profit. Imagine the monetary
benefits (I hate these rhymes) —
the cash! Arcady Robinson:
The Man Behind the Isle. Part One.
A True, but Incomplete Confession.

(Or should we ask for name-suppression?)

Imagine all those readers demanding
the second installment! The better half.
The judge will want your autograph
more than your neck!”

                                 “You’re misunderstanding
books. Shall I explain?”

                                  “Please yes – ”

“It’s not that books aren’t bought unless
they’re finished first (for Byron
published all his works in parts);
but publishers these days require in
books those cabbalistic arts
that make one think some Chinese ships
once sailed around this country’s hips
in 1421; or Mona
Lisa has some trick persona

which symboligistic scholars
think denotes the holy grail;
or if a woman wears a veil
then freedom either must enthrall her
or appall her (nothing betwixt).
I couldn’t care less for politics.
I’m not an Indian with spices,
snakes or mangoes to bewitch
provincial readers. No artsy vices
such as drugs or guns enrich
my bio page. I lack the style
that lets a witty pedophile
be so adored. I know that Chopra
is a fraud. And so is Oprah.

The World is Flat, by Thomas L. Friedman

The World is Flat, by Thomas L. Friedman. 'I’m not a pundit like that Thomas / of the New York Times, who sees / some universal homilies / in brief encounters abroad'

And dragons, hobbits, ghouls, boy-mages
— yes, they work to mesmerize
the kids (and Rowling gets the prize
for feeding them their veggie-pages).
but I’m like MAF, with virgin greens
in need of certain quarantines
to stop invasive breeds of fancy.
I’ve never served a King or Czar
in such a way with unzipped pants he
anoints me as a tabloid star.
My country isn’t torn by war.
My dad was neither rich nor poor
nor even my dad…”

                          “Why stop your raving?
Your lips are nicely misbehaving.”

“I’m not a pundit like that Thomas
of the New York Times, who sees
some universal homilies
in brief encounters abroad. I promise
this as well: There’s not a chance
in hell I’ll beat that racer Lance
— so tell me, then! An honest query:
What publisher will publish one
who lacks the features necessary
to be a popular writer?”

                                      “You done?”

“With what, my dear?”

                                    “Your ticklish talking.”

“This poem has sailed.  This poet is docking.”

 

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Amends to the Albatross — Episode Ten, Res Publica, Live on Radio NZ

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand Nine-to-Noon

Listen now.

You can read notes on the previous episode here.

In this Episode Ten, Arcady sets sail to his island in an old Purse-Seiner he’s packed with supplies and named Tug of War (the boat purchased with the money invested by his wife).

Upon reaching the island, however, the sea is much rougher than during either of his two previous visits. Arcady sees that it’s impossible to safely land the boat, and, frustrated by this unexpected turn of events, decides to crash the boat straight into the island.

Having crashed the boat, he awakes on the island and celebrates his survival. He thinks he hears a voice in his head uttering strange words and he wonders if he’s going mad; but he soon discovers its source.

This is where the Book One of Res Publica ends, marking half the story. The second half — about what happens on the island — is told in Book Two.

The final episode will be broadcast at 10:45am, tomorrow, on Radio NZ’s Nine-to-Noon program.

A note about the stanza form:

The verse is now structured in 14-line stanzas, with a rhyme scheme of abbaccdedeffgg. Some lines, of course — even entire stanzas here and there — were cut or altered to fit the audio segments.

An example of a stanza from Episode Ten:

The wind tried hard to hold me back; it
madly wiped my tears and filled
my ears with caution – “You’ll be killed!” –
and made a mainsail of my jacket,
which spasmed, crackled, slapped my face
with its loose collar. That airy embrace
was steady, strong, but lacked the muscular
pluck of swarthy Tug, who rammed
me through each wave in that crepuscular
spread of sparkling violet jam.
How thick a sea can seem to one
whose journey – whose life – is almost done;
how far each wave, how long each second,
when one’s demise is finally reckoned.

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Goodbye to Father — Episode Nine, Res Publica, Live on Radio NZ

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand Nine-to-Noon

Listen now.
You can read notes on the previous episode here.

In this Episode Nine, Arcady has received the $500,000 investment from his wife’s accountant and is ready to set sail to his island. The night before he departs, he decides to visit his (adopted) parents’ house on Auckland’s North Shore.

He recalls how he drove his Jaguar to the house and parked across the street. He recalls how, since the time he learned of his adoption, he’d only seen his parents once — sitting in a food court at Westfield Mall. This memory of the food court’s granite tabletops conjures another memory, a more recent memory, of a tombstone in a graveyard.

Suddenly his father emerges from the house. It begins to rain. Arcady drives away. He wonders whether or not his father ever saw him there, sitting in the car.

Episode Nine ends with Arcady’s new housemate, his voluptuous Muse, commenting on the memory, and insisting Arcady finish the episode before they can make love. He abruptly does so, choosing lovemaking over storytelling.

Episode Ten, in which Arcady sails to his island, will be broadcast tomorrow at 10:45am, Radio NZ “Nine-to-Noon”.

A note about the stanza form:

The verse is now structured in 14-line stanzas, with a rhyme scheme of abbaccdedeffgg. Some lines, of course — even entire stanzas here and there — were cut or altered to fit the audio segments.

An example of a stanza from Episode Nine:

How frail we are! How tender
is the human! Each of us
a pod of dreams we can’t discuss;
yet must, with death, these seeds surrender!
I often wonder, do they breed,
these planted dreams, in those who read
the chiseled name and numbered measure
of a life, or kneel and softly touch
the headstone’s polished granite edge, or
finding sorrow’s weight too much,
collapse upon the muddy grass
while maples shake in windy blasts
and mangrove swamp, a corpse unsheeted,
feels the chill of tides receded…

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Holding My Wife at Gunpoint — Episode Eight, Res Publica, Live on Radio NZ

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand Nine-to-Noon

Listen now.

You can read notes on the previous episode here.

In this Episode Eight, Arcady considers how his beloved island came to be. Geographers think it must have risen out of the ocean during an earthquake, and Arcady recalls a small earthquake he felt (and his wife ignored) some months before.

Now Autumn arrives and Arcady decides to confront his wife about his new discovery. He wants to ask her for some money in order to buy a boat. One day he approaches her while she’s putting on makeup in front of the bathroom mirror.

He tries to convince her she should invest in the island, that it’s a good business venture. Growing frustrated with his wife’s implacability, Arcady tries other ways to persuade her, more forceful, more domineering ways. Nothing seems to work. Finally, his wife decides she’ll give Arcady some money, but only because she recognizes in her husband a new sense of ambition — something she hasn’t seen for years — and she worries he might succeed in some venture without her owning a controlling stake in it.

Episode Eight ends with Arcady finalizing a deal with his wife’s accountant. He’s ready now to depart to his island, with no plans to return. The story continues on Monday with Episode Nine, broadcast at 10:45am, Radio NZ “Nine-to-Noon”.

It should be noted that the 12-line stanza form of previous episodes has now extended to 14 lines. The purpose behind this elongated structure is made clear in Book Two of Res Publica. The rhyme scheme has also changed. It’s now abbaccdedeffgg. Some lines, of course, were cut or altered to fit the audio segments.

An example of a stanza from Episode Eight:

“I cannot stress enough – it’s urgent.
The jewel’s ours! If we just spend
some cash,” I said, “and can defend
our land from government insurgents,
we’ll make eight figures easily.
And best of all, it’s all tax-free!”
My wife, you know, is a shrewd investor.
A loan’s her favorite charity.
To make “returns” has always obsessed her.
And though I spoke in “our” and “we,”
such neutral words I always knew
were less effective than a “you.”
(Why even her draft of our prenuptial
was less fair-minded, more
cleanuptial!).

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My New New Zealand — Episode Seven, Res Publica, Live on Radio NZ

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand Nine-to-Noon

Listen now.

You can read notes on the previous episode here.

In this Episode Seven, we return to the helicopter, caught in a storm over the ocean, with its two passengers — our narrator, Arcady, and the helicopter’s pilot, Megan. They’re searching desperately for somewhere to land, but the tiny island Arcardy discovered is nowhere to be found.

Again Arcady muses about adventurers, about finding some undiscovered land. What makes people think that being first to stand somewhere — an island, a country, a continent — makes it your own? And what constitutes discovery? Must you stand on the ground with you’re bare feet or must you be wearing expensive shoes? What if you’re wearing extremely thick boots — like the Apollo astronauts — does it count as having actually set foot on a new land?

A sudden jolt, a final thud. The helicopter touches down. Arcady looks around. He sees the same rocks where his boat had landed three nights before; he sees the footprints of the albatross in the sand and realizes they must have landed on the same tiny island. He calls it his “New New Zealand” and celebrates by claiming it as his own.

Back in his Takapuna bach, as he’s writing these verses in the present time, Arcady suddenly hears the knocking sound again. He thinks it’s the ghost at first, but this time he hears a voice as well. He rushes to the door. The episode ends with Arcady welcoming a woman into his writing chamber and kissing away her tears.

The story continues tomorrow with Episode Eight, broadcast at 10:45am, Radio NZ “Nine-to-Noon”.

A note about the verse structure:

Twelve-line tetrameter stanzas, with a mostly iambic cadence (although the rhythm is varied), and a rhyme scheme of abbaccddeeff. Some lines, of course, were cut or altered to fit the audio segments.

An example of a stanza from Episode Seven:

My land! My promised land! A Zion
of designs my own! A place
of dignified and leisured grace,
a soil for me to live and die on!
A rock I found amidst a sea
of wandering dreams – or it found me —
a Hermitage to live withdrawn;
my private summer Yiheyuan.
A solid place in pitching life.
A refuge from one’s bitching wife!
An ocean gem, a rich and free-land;
my country home, my
New New Zealand!

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The Poet’s Ghost — Episode Six, Res Publica, Live on Radio NZ

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand Nine-to-Noon

Listen now.

You can read notes on the previous episode here.

In this Episode Six, our narrator, Arcady, describes the small Takapuna bach (the former home of a deceased writer) in which he’s currently writing; and what it’s like to be a starving poet.

He wonders why New Zealand writers are so poor. Why must they be recognized by other well-known writers before their art is appreciated? He wonders if perhaps there are great poets in New Zealand who no one has ever heard of. Some brilliant uncelebrated taxi driver, perhaps, composing the most beautiful verses in the world.

He hears a knocking sound.

He muses about how much New Zealand could use a really good epic poem — something grand and beautiful to represent the country overseas and prove its literary wealth.

He hears the knocking sound again.

He talks about how he writes each day, and how the Takapuna bach is haunted by the ghost of the writer who lived there before him; how they lie in bed together; how he smells his breath and hears him rattle the keys of the Olivetti typewriter in the middle of the night.

Again the knocking sound. He laments the hard work of writing good poetry, the fate of poor New Zealand writers, and he ends this episode with a plea for money and food (a good reason, no doubt, for listeners to buy his book).

The story picks up again — with Megan and Arcady in their storm-battered helicopter — in Episode Seven, broadcast tomorrow, 10:45am, Radio NZ “Nine-to-Noon”.

A note about the verse structure:

Twelve-line tetrameter stanzas, with a mostly iambic cadence (although the rhythm is varied), and a rhyme scheme of abbaccddeeff. Some lines, of course, were cut or altered to fit the audio segments.

An example of a stanza from Episode Six:

Yet look at this – I write! I write!
I build, construct, design, reshape,
and try as best I can to scrape
the sky! Of stocky modest height,
these simple stanzas, not too wordy,
a quatrain base, austere and sturdy,
then rising up in couplet walls
on all four sides (no need of halls);
a loose iambic tetrameter rhyme
with some beats missed (is it a crime?);
dactyls and trochees thrown in for good measure;
male endings mostly, females for pleasure.

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A Helicopter Ride — Episode Five, Res Publica, Live on Radio NZ

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand Nine-to-Noon

Listen now.

You can read notes on the previous episode here.

In this Episode Five, Arcady Robinson has returned home after his discovery of a strange little island out beyond the Hauraki Gulf (at Long 175 58′.35E, Lat 36 16′.10S). When he arrived home, his wife was just departing on a business trip to East Asia.

Arcady then flies to Wellington, where he visits the Land Office to see if the island has been discovered already. He’s unable to locate the island on any maps. The clerk suggests perhaps some flotsam or a tangle of seaweed, garbage, driftwood had created something that resembled an island.

Back in Auckland, Arcady hires a helicopter to fly to the island. We meet its pilot, Megan — half Canadian, part-Eskimo — who is suffering from allergies. Arcady admires her appearance and muses about the female form in general, especially breasts, to which he admits a special fetish.

Out in the middle of the sea, the helicopter encounters a sudden storm. Hovering above the coordinates where the island should be, Megan decides they need to land immediately. The only problem is, they don’t see any land. Descending fast and buffeted by the storm, where is the tiny island Arcady had seen before?

This is where Episode Five ends.

Episode Six will be broadcast tomorrow, 10:45am, Radio NZ “Nine-to-Noon”.

A note about the verse structure:

Twelve-line tetrameter stanzas, with a mostly iambic cadence (although the rhythm is varied), and a rhyme scheme of abbaccddeeff. Some lines, of course, were cut or altered to fit the audio segments.

An example of a stanza from Episode Five:

And let me not forget her breasts!
For just as Tolstoy loved girls’ feet,
divine Nabokov the furry sheathe
of armpits, I’m more common — impressed
by that which every barman knows
can fill a house, and if he chose,
a stadium! Indeed, as Janet
showed before TV could ban it,
a breast can change a nation’s fate!
O strange America! You rate
your game a “family show” – while leering
at ads for beer and damsels cheering.

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The Wife and Her House — Episode Four, Res Publica, Live on Radio NZ

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand Nine-to-Noon

Listen now.

You can read notes on the previous episode here.

Our narrator, Arcady Robinson, has now explained (in the previous episode) how he discovered a tiny island somewhere out beyond the Hauraki Gulf. He pauses for a moment to reflect on his story. Given that he lacks the required credentials of a New Zealand writer (such as having taken the appropriate writing courses, or having been published in literary journals), he asks his listeners’ forgiveness for any flaws they find in his story-telling style.

He then describes how — the night he discovered his island — his GPS guided him home to his shrewd, unloving, career-minded wife. He describes her ruthless character, how she’ll do anything to win in business, how their enormous house serves as a kind of business center — which causes Arcady to muse about New Zealand and the country’s obsession with houses.

The episode ends with Arcady wondering about homes, about owning a place to live; and whether, perhaps, his newly discovered rock at sea would become an island for him to live on, an island to call his own. The answer, he says, will be “brought alive” in Episode Five (to be broadcast tomorrow, 10:45am, Radio NZ “Nine-to-Noon”).

A note about the verse structure:

Twelve-line tetrameter stanzas, with a mostly iambic cadence (although the rhythm is varied), and a rhyme scheme of abbaccddeeff. Some lines, of course, were cut or altered to fit the audio segments.

An example of a stanza from Episode Four:

To her a house was just the box,
like those that came with fancy shoes
or hats – to give observers clues
about the worth inside, the stocks
she trades, celebrities she knows,
cities she visits, parties she throws.
If only the halls of houses were decked
with brands, and Gucci the architect!
Cars, as well, were less for driving
than making a statement on arriving;
a status symbol for her to squash
her rivals with. For me? To wash.

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