Pukapuka Books


Friday, July 30, 2010

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

2-Poem #17 Auckland Revisited iii&iv - Michael O'Leary


Travelling towards
The past of Ponsonby
No longer on a big, yellow, bendy
Banana, wending through
the Queen’s grand canyon

Spread-eagled, inviting all comers
But on a Link
Bus as it slinks
Like a silvery shadow
. . . I think

Upon safe-sex allegations


K’Rd, looking at O’Malley’s Corner
Listening to the talking bus
‘Next Stop . . .’ and thinking
About the time I’m remembering
the Naval and Family

Which still looks beautiful, decrepit
And I’m remembering also
The song we sang, although
About another Samoan woman
. . . we sang slow

In perfect harmony of reggae off-beat

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

2-Poem #16 Auckland Revisited i&ii - Michael O'Leary

Auckland Revisited


Britomart, steel and glass
Huge flow of water above
Nestled in the ceiling
And a feeling that
its not just me that has arrived

The city is also now focused
Large nikau palms
Offer internal calm
I feel like singing
. . . a psalm

In this new transport cathedral


Outside the station
The buses wait
The heavy stone of the once CPO
Now seems light
almost ethereal

And across the way
The ferries bob and rhyme
To the Poet of the Harbour’s time
Who dreams of Jeanie: Rising Sun
. . . and shine

Or in lite-brown ale and air

Monday, July 26, 2010

2-Poem #15 Into Britomart - Michael O'Leary

Into Britomart
Past Parnell Pool and into
the mesh of rails
At Mechanics Bay the train
begins its descent

Into Britomart underground
terminal. Shiny
Steel and glass with giant
ponga ferns

Water fountains above
the skylight roof
Trains, buses and ferries
within reach of

Each other outside the
old Post Office:

who said there’s no such thing as progress?

Sunday, July 25, 2010


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2-Poem #14 Papakura&Middlemore - Michael O'Leary

People walking over the footbridge
A raised platform, as though
Papakura were an antipodean Venice
Where drowning or sinking into
Red earth were a real possibility
The township closed for the night
But the courtroom and cop-shop
Are still open for business as our
train glides further into Tamaki-makau-rau

More in the middle of south central Auckland now
Than the old heart of Otahuhu, bustling, busy
Mothers and children leaving hospital for home
New station shelters and workers from Mangere
- not lazy, just tired and homeward bound as
Our train turns off into the Orakei deviation at
Westfield. Through G.I. and into the Meadowbank
Tunnel with the strength of the homeward stretch
zooming along the Orakei Basin causeway at speed

Saturday, July 24, 2010


2-Poem #13 Huntly&Pukekohe - Michael O'Leary

Over the Ngaruawahia Bridge
The river flows beside the rails
A marae on the other side, shining
Into old Huntly town
Bleak, wind swept platform
No shelter anymore
One person gets down
Piles of coal and
old world machinery, technology, appear like ghosts

Under the hill
Of the once
Kohekohe tree
The train enters
The outskirts
Of the great city
Auckland . . .
a commuter train stands waiting at the end of the line

Friday, July 23, 2010

2-Poem #12 Te Awamutu&Hamilton - Michael O'Leary

Te Awamutu
An eccentric, high
Yellow signpost with
A cryptic message
Held up by two
Thin poles, stands
Where the station
Once did. An earthen
Embankment behind
the split ends of the township

The train wends its way through farm land and southern suburbs
Towards Frankton Junction
Pulling into Hamilton Station where many people get off
And the electric engine is uncoupled
The line to Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty branches off as
The diesel replacement chugs away into the industrial areas
Heading north, its palpable power adding excitement and anticipation
An immediacy
not noticeable with the smooth, steady electric motive

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

2-Poem #11 - Te Kuiti&Otorohanga - Michael O'Leary

Te Kuiti
Between Taumarunui and
Te Kuiti
The land
Back into deep no-road bush valley
And the rain comes in hard on the train
Te Kuiti Station is now
the community Medical Centre, pai ora

At Otorohanga, near the dilapidated but beautiful old station
the overhead wires of the electric engine
were struck by lightning and they had to
wait for three hours for a replacement diesel
to arrive . . .
It was a good thing
There was ample
Food on board for
the journey had become ‘torohanga’ indeed

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

2-Poem #10 National Park&Taumarunui - Michael O'Leary

National Park
From the viaduct just out of Ohakune, see the old viaduct
This is real, wild railway country, surrounded by dense bush
Deep valleys where no roadway is seen . . .
Toetoe line the track
The North-South train crews cross over in the middle of nowhere
Back beside the road, the town looks broken up
But the old National Park sign still stands in good repair – 807m above sea-level
too cloudy to see Ruapehu!

Back into deep no-road bush valley
Raurimu Spiral – Pukerimu (half-way
down the spiral) and
Raurimu township
An interesting little town – who lives there?
Down the Whanganui River valley
Curving around to
Taumarunui town!
the train circled into the station

Monday, July 19, 2010

2-Poem #9 Waiouru&Ohakune - Michael O'Leary

Mataroa jigger garage sits alone, the train crosses an old steel-framed girdered bridge Church spires reach skyward and plunging into tunneled darkness, ferns and Blackberry grab at the carriage. Hihitahi, a one house town, and a beautiful, fast-Flowing river. Down brown valleys where no roads roam
Suddenly bursting onto the plain where the army lives. The Army Museum stands Grey and fortress-like, both in design and in intent. No soldier-boy waiting to catch a Ride today. A tee-pee tent is the only colourful event.
An American tourist wanders around the carriage with a digital camera
and a string of trashy medals

Dead gorse hangs towards the tracks
A dead sheep rots in a bog
Two horses canter comically away
as our train approaches
A large power sub-station and geo-thermal plant
Can be seen as we cross another steel-framed bridge at Tangiwai
A real railway town, rows of old railway houses
A ZP wagon with NY-style graffiti on a siding.
the station burned by vandals

Sunday, July 18, 2010

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2-Poem #8 - To Mangaweka - Michael O'Leary

To Mangaweka
Signposts to the unknown . . .
A marae covered with a blue tarpaulin
And a fence made of lawnmower sculptures
The Space Runner goods express waits in the loop for us to pass
Derelict farm machinery, cars and ruins of old houses, skeletal and broken
Viaducts and deep ravened rivers, white cliffs and small, unnamed towns
Through the cutting the land is rugged and wet
Browns, greens, and the milky-grey sky
where the sun tries to make a break-through

Two magpies attacking a hawk, and pukekos
Standing nonchalantly by the track
Another hawk circling the train in the rain . . .
(where once I, futuristically, held you in my arms, you wearing your beautiful black dress – tonight I hold you in my memory) . . . and inland seagulls play
Corrugated gumboot kicks out
and the train travels high above the township
Logs, fenceposts and planks of wood stacked high at the local timber yards
a stand of yellow willows and rock outcrops

Saturday, July 17, 2010

2-Poem #7 - Palmerston Nth&Marton - Michael O'Leary

Palmerston North
The rain arrives, the clouds have been steadily
building since leaving Kapiti
Rolled up hay bales transported by a lone truck or
decaying in a paddock
Bridge over a river as the sun returns, the scenes of
farm industry dots the land
Blue smoke goes drifting by from a track-side fire,
its smell enters the carriage
Deer runs, suburban backyards, industrial sidings
still active. Changing cars
As a group of rail-enthusiasts get on after a trip
to Gisborne –
I’m now in the low-Paying peasants part of the train
being, of course, a low-paying peasant.
Children Screeching and this carriage doesn’t
have a table to write on.
The seedy, loud-speaker Stalinist architecture
of the station, its isolation

Whence I jumped a goods train at 3am in 1973
To Whanganui on my pilgrimage to Jerusalem
Its funny now, nearly thirty years later
Baxter’s family have entered my life
As friends at Paekakariki. Murals and memories
At Fielding, beforehand, box-cars standing
Like relics from a pre-container past
The dark, lush vegetation and steady hill climbs
of the central North Island

Friday, July 16, 2010

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2-Poem #6 - Levin&Shannon - Michael O'Leary

Contented cattle graze on the outskirts
Of Manakau, standing still
Like the row of Antique shops (in both senses of the word)
Pre-fabricated houses and stockyards
A wasteland of old rail goods yards
Two Phoenix palms wave goodbye
We are leavin’ Levin
Heading inland
away from the road.

To Shannon
A flock of birds crosses the expansive inland sky
The distant ranges are bathed
In a long, diffuse ray of light.
The autumn colours are noticeable
By their exotic, virtual non-existence
A farm house elevated
Isolated atop a plateauxed hillock
Trees and flax bushes block out
the picturesque township

Thursday, July 15, 2010

2 Poem #5 - Waikanae&Otaki

A house with the word
Written on a fence
(reminiscent of another ‘trip’
Once taken on LSD, the main hallucination
Involved a boat which had the word
Written where the boat’s name usually is!)
Waikanae: eccentric middle-class ghetto

Derelict rail lines
Leading . . .
To a stone-crushing
Outdoor factory
The train slows
Waiting . . .
At the restored
But unstopped-at
Otaki Station

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

2 Poem #4 Rail Stations NIMT - Michael O'Leary

Waves pound the shore as the storm
Builds from the south. Walking to the station
To catch the early morning train.
A minor fright occurs as the local connection
To Paraparaumu is late, but Pat reassures me
Pointing out that the Auckland train
Has to pass the unit which leaves Wellington
Fifteen minutes before it …
a highly unlikely scenario!

The statue of the Virgin rises up
Through the hillside vegetation
Like an ethereal vision –
The local train waits in the second platform
For the Auckland train to pass
Power pylons cross the landscape
The lurid blue house
On the way to Waikanae . . .
stands with cabbage trees

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

2 Poem #3 Disappearing Railroad Blues Sonnet - Michael O'Leary

Disappearing Railroad Blues Sonnet
(thanks to Arlo and Woody)

We caught the last 'Northerner' overnight train service
between Auckland and Wellington in response to

that particular piece of corporate vandalism. It was
appropriate that me and my friend Paddy, who

worked on the railway with me in Otago, should
take the final ticket to ride (Yes, its true, all those

old Irish songs about Paddy and Mick working on
the railway!!!). During the trip I showed my novel

'Unlevel Crossings' to the train crew, and they really
loved it, as part of it describes the overnight journey

from Auckland to Wellington. All the train crew
including the engine drivers, signed it for me

so I have a lasting memento of the event and another
cross-over between working class and literary realities

Monday, July 12, 2010

2 Poem #2 - Tsunami Sonnet - Michael O'Leary

Tsunami Sonnet

Such devastation on such an enormous scale
Is almost too difficult to comprehend: almost

But we have seen it all before. The piles of corpses
The twisted, gnarled limbs reaching heavenward

Hands and feet and half rotted heads, eyes bulging
In the tropical-paradiso sunshine, the light

And the heat makes even disaster sparkle
And shine across the Asian playgrounds

My friend, whose name is the sea, sits crying at
Television images bursting through the safety of the lounge

While I sit unanimated and stony-faced, stunned
And stunted before the spectre of human tragedy

But, whether by the random acts of nature, or
Premeditated human deeds, we have seen it all before

Sunday, July 11, 2010

2 Poem #1 On the tip of my tongue - Michael O'Leary

On the tip of my tongue

Another attempt at love
Has left me far away
Away from her
And away from myself
The melancholy of failure
Lies like an aftertaste . . .

Just beyond the reaches
Of my taste buds and tongue
The smell of peaches
Bursting open in the sun

The surge and scent so strong
Beginning as a ripple
The milk and honey song
Springing from her nipple

The hope and then the loss
Ideal then reality
Love is like a cross
To carry for eternity

On that crucifix is offered
The false water of life
For that which is proffered
Is like a liquid knife

Which rather than quenching
The thirst of the dying person
Only succeeds in wrenching
Moisture from the mouth and worsen

The craving . . . Oh well, what the fuck!
Next time it will be better . . .

‘She’s funny
Wants my money
Calls me honey
Her name is . . .’ – the rhyme, its on the tip of my tongue, and
She laughs when I sing that song to her with a sparkle in my eye . . .

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Poem #50 - Literary Warfare - Michael O'Leary

Literary Warfare
(a reply to a letter)

. . . the monolithic insult
of unintelligible language
mis-spelt, and misunderstanding
the situation and the people
as completely
as is humanly possible . . .

I am an artist!

. . . not a pigeon
for you to stick
the appropriate
in its hole . . .

I am a writer!

. . . not a pig
whose fat drips
the nearer the flames
from the cold fire
of the soul-less, udder-less
corporate sow gets . . .

I am of the people!

. . . and if
you think you can
buy us off with
then look behind you
every step you take . . .

Friday, July 9, 2010

Poem #49 'Dedikation to Graeme Collins' - Michael O'Leary

Dedikation to Graeme Collins – a man of our times

Seeing you there, lying in the bed of a hospice
Each breath struggling to become your last
The bones of your body sticking through your skin
You looked like one of those terrible survivors
From Auschwitz or Belsen, condemned to living
Death, by your own internal cancer-nazi killer

So full of life, knowledge and aroha were you
Only a few short months ago. Your life had
Spanned and eclipsed all our lives – you were at
The forefront, leading and living your life through
Philosophy and ideas embodied in the Chinese
Word for music, which translates as enthusiasm

Riding into town from suburban obscurity
Long before Upper Hutt Posse had been heard of
Or were even born! That photo of you holding
The first brought Beatles ticket in Wellington
Later you were the first, with the cleaning lady,
To hear the Sergeant Pepper’s album in New Zealand

Dedikation was the name of the band you played in
It was also the word you lived your life by
Whatever you believed in became your passion
Whether it was saving the Clutha or the Coromandel
With your Irish-rebel sounding name and demeanour
Living on the edge, and open drug-doors of perception

Such a life is often not easy to live with, either
By the one who lives it, or those who share it
But even those lovers who left still loved you deeply
Never stopped caring for you, nor you for them
The true artist you were in many manifestations
Was always infused by love, as true art always is

The opera we worked on together remains unfinished
Hinemoa and Tütänekai frozen, like Keat’s urn, in time
At least in our interpretation, but as with all love stories
The words and music we were writing will be continued
By the next generation riding into town from the suburban
Wilds, inspired by the underdogs and outlaws of their art

Brother, Graeme Collins, in a mixture of our understanding and indignation
Your death, like your life, echoes the high times and tides of our generation

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Poem #48 - Waiheke Ferry - Michael O'Leary

6.15 Waiheke Ferry to Auckland, Wednesday 20 July, 1983

The line of the low hill undulates
As I keep my head still
And let the boat do all the . . .

Darkness shrouds my journey but
There is light
In the sky the stars and the moon shine like pearls
Waves break along the bow
White foam almost frozen by the cold
I am in tune with the natural melancholy
I move like an iceberg from shore to shore

For me this is the end of journey and beginning
Dressed in black, I resign
For years I have traveled in pursuit
You made sure I was always one step behind
Covered your trail whenever I got close

From the safety and calm of the bay
The ferry now sails into open waters

Rangitoto reminds me of you
Looks the same from any angle
Except close-up
But the sky is not on fire tonight
And, if I am alight it is with the fire of ice

Two lovers come on deck
They feel the chill in the night air
When they turn and see me, dark and still
Perhaps they feel another chill . . .
they leave for the cabin
This evening takes on a rare quality
This boat could be anywhere
if it weren’t so cold
We might be travelling from
one Greek Isle to another
And I might be anyone
instead of thinking of you
I could be in the warm arms of a lover . . .
But I wouldn’t have it any other way
Austerity has a beauty all its own

I try to imagine from which position
North Head was named
Why not South Head etc
You are fading from me
I am being engulfed by the lights
and distractions of the city
I try to think of why I love you
But things are moving too fast
the boat is making up lost time
the boat is making up lost time
With Auckland upon us people emerge from inside
I find I am talking to someone
he has been chopping trees at his section

My friend who waits for me on the wharf
Greets me with a jovial “Hello sailor!”
Immediately I get ashore we go to a pub
Where I down a double whiskey to break the ice

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Poem #47 - Michael O'Leary

Okahu Bay

Dark night, wind off the harbour
Once you approach the sand
The pohutukawa trees surround you
The moon, cut in half and half-hidden by clouds
Provides the only natural light
Each wave that laps at your feet
Has reached you from eternity
The darkness of self - of unremembered soul
The night within embraces my vision
The sadness of each memory
Is like each wave of water
Together they make a flood of tears
Which drown the cries of the heart
This evening you were the moon to me
The only pure light in a life of shadows
Like the moon you too hid behind a veil
Showing light enough for life, but not for love
After a time we left for Okahu Bay
Broke through the line of pohutukawa
I let you walk ahead so you would not see me
Kneel, then kiss the ground,
The ground of my childhood, the ground of my life

(as translated by Jean Wikiriwhi)

Kua pouri, ka pupuhi te hau
Mai i te moana,
Hurihuri nga pohutukawa,
Te Marama hangere, kua ahua ngaro i te kapua
Ko tenei anake te maramatanga,
Ke ata papakihia mai e nga ngaru a wae
Ka te pouri au, kua wareware te ngakau,
Ko te po kei te awhi i taku kitenga,
Te aroha ki tena ki tena,
Pera ki ia ngaru o te wai,
Hui katoa, ka heke te manawa,
I tenei ahiahi ko koe
Te marama ki ahau
Ko kou te maramatanga, i tenei ao pouri,
Pera i te marama kahuna kou i
Ko te maramatanga hei oranga, kaore mo te aroha
A, ka wehe mai i Okahu
Ka mahue nga pohutukawa,
Ko koe i mua, kia kore koe e kite i ahau
Ka tuturi, ka kihi i te one,
Ko te one o taku tamarikitanga,
                        to one o taku oranga ...


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pukapuka Books

Pukapuka Poem #46 'Pakuranga Lemonade' - Michael O'Leary

Pakuranga Lemonade

(Winter 1986)

put two lemons in a paper bag
add some brown sugar to taste and then …
fill the bag up with water
quickly, before the bag gets soggy, lie it on the ground
and stamp on it as hard as possible with one foot,
this recipe is guaranteed to give you at least one wet leg
and is quite undrinkable
a tree which loved lemons gave it to me
lemons had been the fruit
now this tree had been sacrificed
so that people could have a swimming pool
thick lumps of heavy, dead clay
had clogged its roots and killed its will
death came gradually –
the Polynesian labourer was the only one to see it
because people of Pakuranga had walked by him
as though he was a dead tree in their suburb
and in their white fright they saw him
as a leafless, ugly vision of wild threat
but he looked at the lemon tree and its outstretched branches
and saw that his brown skin matched the brown bark
so that as he lifted shovel load after shovel load
his dreams were of coconut trees and bright flowers
and catching fish in the sea of his island home of light
and colourful birds,
meanwhile, the other people
kept an eye on the progress of the hole in the ground

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pukapuka Poem #45 'Remuera Dreamtime' - Michael O'Leary

Remuera Dreamtime
(for Maria)

Its walking down the road
Where the hedges and the fences
Loom tall, the trees are tall
Beautiful and stilted

The light is the evening
Colours in the unmoving silence
It’s the dream and it’s the time
Of day and of life

Mercedes and copulating dogs
Are the only people on the street
It doesn’t go near them
Because they get angry

And then at night the
Sharp sound of husband
And wife fighting, baying
Like dingoes in the dark

It rained in the morning
And the bus could be heard
Moving and shifting further down
Somebody’s disturbed the Rainbow Serpent . . .

from its sleep in the deep waterhole

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Pukapuka Poem #44 Russian Roulette - Michael O'Leary

Russian Roulette

привет tovarisch
‘Hello comrade,’ I reply
as she greets me off the train at Ellerslie station
It is not the stiff, formal handshake
but rather the playful shake of her head
that I notice . . .
sending her hair running after the wind
as we walk together
from the platform
                           towards our usual meeting place

I order two cups of black, strong coffee -
We sit silent for a short time
Then, leaning forward, she asks softly
‘The tapes. Have you got the tapes, Comrade?’
‘As always,’ I reply
хороший she seems relieved
as I hand her a small package
                        wrapped like a lover’s gift

We talk quietly with easy familiarity
until her eye catches the clock
and she rises and there is tension in the air
                        as there is each week when we part

‘The factory, I’m late for the factory!’
she cries …
we gather our things and walk fast around
around and around the circular walk-way
which leads from the road to the rail overbridge
the motorway sounds drown our goodbyes

‘Mission completed’ I think to myself
- as I board the train I glimpse her
standing on the foot bridge waving and calling out . . .

прощание, I’ve just fired
another shot -
your turn comrade’

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pukapuka Poem #43 Otara - Michael O'Leary

Otara – have a Banana

coming back from the Papatoetoe pub
towards Otara in a Japanese car made for two
I am lolling like a sea-lion in the back

the little car turns the corner too quickly and as
I put my hand out instinctively to stop the roll, it moves into outer-space as the window shatters on the road

laughing from shock as we cross the motorway overbridge
I see the clouds and sky more clearly with no window
and the fresh breeze quickens my slight hysteria

we pull into the large asphalt covered carpark
which on weekends transforms into a busy market place
but now is only populated by tin ghosts on wheels

leaving my friends I head towards the town-centre
where people shop and smile and talk, listen to music
and the aiitu of you is around every corner

sitting in a cafe I order coffee and a roll
in a gravel-syrup voice, thinking Tom Waits for no-one
as another mother joins the endless Post Office queue

Friday, July 2, 2010

Pukapuka Poem #42 - A Penrose Pineapple Michael O'Leary

A Penrose Pineapple
(for David Eggleton)

industrial grey
backgrounds this
red-blue bordered
painting as though
some punk Gaugin
gotta hold of
the notion that
the Pacific Ocean
needed some
sorta expression
for its time and place
and a real
Penrose high is
resultant, subject to
flecked fruit
red – yellow – green
zig-zag jagged
edges behind which
lies Christmas Island
Happy New Year
on Mururoa
and the pineapple
is number one fruit
on the menu at
Atomic Café, Tokyo
branch-line to
Onehunga via Te Papapa
bullet train, bomb train
no time (fragmented)
like the present
shunted reality
nuclear free, unclear future
“Bravo! Bravo!” its
the U.S. Marshall Islands
playing in the Pacific basin
and the Penrose pineapple
says enjoy your
full half-life

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pukapuka Poem #41 Untitled - Michael O'Leary


looking from the train window
towards Mangere Bridge
between a redundant Southdown
                        freezing works
and long ago re-aligned Otahuhu Station
                                                                                    at sundown
see the beauty of the natural cliffs
                                                                                    of the harbour heads
reflected in the stillness
of the Manukau Harbour
as shades of purple
enhance the land and water
the train pulls southward out of Westfield