The Prince of Darkness attends a Work and Income interview


Welcome, Mr Lucifer. Come up.

Mind the carpet, if you could.

I’m sorry the security guard had to ask you to step outside:

but no smoking is allowed on premises

and brimstone is prescribed

under Health and Safety legislation.

I see you have not been able to supply

either a clean resume, or evidence of actively seeking work.

A pile of ashes doesn’t make the cut.

I don’t make the rules – and it would make things a lot quicker

if you could prepare your job seeking resources

prior to these meetings. Yes, it is time consuming –

you don’t know the meaning of eternity, believe me.

You may well have led a war in heaven,

but in the current market, employers are looking for people skills.

I note a lack of IT literacy, and the failure

to provide references from a previous employer

is a problem. I understand you were cast into outer darkness,

which may explain the gaps in your employment history.

Slumping in your chair is not advised:

any positions in despair are already taken

by the Noonday Demon.

With the new incentive process,

we had to cut a certain jobseeker’s allowance by 50%.

I can’t name names, to maintain client confidentiality,

but I suspect you know the individual.

Mr Abaddon? (You said it, not me.)

Sloth is no longer acceptable under new directives

from the Minister. It may be a revelation to you, Mr Lucifer:

but times have changed.

I recommend taking up a retraining opportunity.

There are openings for those prepared to upskill,

human resources and marketing

are two growth areas which may appeal.

With your experience in middle management,

and a renewed focus, the future is brighter than you may think.

We look forward to some good news,

and if you could,

please mind the carpet on the way back down.



Photo by V.Billot

“Her great orbit is full, and then her beams shine brightest as she increases.
So she is a sure token and a sign to mortal men.”
(‘To Selene’, The Homeric Hymns)

On the silken mud of the estuary floor
the sea is drawn from the channel’s branching veins,
creeping semidiurnal under her spell.
In this ragged rainy corner of the planet,
stranded amongst white sand and clouds,
I listened to the dialect of waves long ago
as a child lying in bed, my window ajar.
Then perhaps in late evening’s cool,
I saw the sprinkled motes of our galaxy
circle in infinitude above, a dust of faint luminance.
On high, Helios’ cool sister stared down
upon me, as I felt a shiver of recognition
of time’s impenetrable magnitude,
an intimation of the transience of my kind.


Port Chalmers

Port Chalmers

Photo by V.Billot

Port, Dogtown, Koputai, names good and ill,
you look outward to oceans, waiting for the world.

Cruise liners and log boats snuggle your wharves.
A thousand trunks of Pinus Radiata are matchsticks

piled before your crow’s nest lookout,
the channel a blue stripe down ruffled green fur.

Ships glide through the throat of the harbour,
models inserted into the glass bottle of summer.

Nudged under the crook of cliffs, a camel hump
scattered with draughty villas and stone churches,

where wharfies in orange overalls pop in
for a flash coffee, or pie from the dairy.

From ships we live, proclaims your bronze plaque:
and now in place of wool and frozen mutton

are megacubits of golden butter,
and the determined tramp of tracksuited pensioners

embarking from the Princess of the Seas.
Steam curls in fluffy ventings from the flanks

of your looming woodchip mountains,
while the permanent hum of industry pervades you,

wasp yellow diggers growling across yards,
lanky straddles speed-looping the terminal with boxes

to stack and stow in perpendicular precision.
When I was twenty, buzzed on magic mushrooms,

we walked around the fence to Back Beach,
watching giant machines in shadowless glare,

feeling the subterranean drumming
of a goods train clambering through your tunnel.

Now a bark and a cough as monster trucks change down
on George Street, where crusty old hands

mix with tryhard metropolitan newbies, and cultural tourists
wandering the retro boutiques and studios

where bohemians assemble in creative endeavour.
The grey page of evening is inscribed

by the querulous drone of free noise guitar improv,
the demented squawk of a feral rooster,

and the clink of beer bottles from the rugby clubrooms.
The channel lights wink the way home

in a cheery salute of green and red.

Ancestral Chant of the Sea People

Photo by V. Billot. Port Chalmers and Sawyers Bay from Otago Peninsula.

Many steps brought us here.
We wandered, we strode,
we contained purpose within ourselves.
We halted, stopped at fen and bog,
fumid clouds hazing crooked walls
and coarse sea language spoken.
Northern islands clamped in thighs of fog
that grasped and held our septs
beneath umber cast of hills, soft ancient fields,
hard-tempered crust and crag.
Patched boards of grubbery, pale loam and stone
scratched and combed by our bent figures.
The wheels of time switched to straight lines,
the dewed moor surrendered to metal hammers.
On cavernous floors, capital swelled like fruit
as a sullen mass fought and bred, skin tanned by sweat.
We fled, were exiled, we left.
Trimming azure fields, deadly, distant coasts,
tracking the rim of silent lands.
A dotted line on a cartographer’s mirage,
we swung through storm and trenched in slough.
Our women sweltered in modesty. Our men’s beards itched
and we wondered of what our senses revealed.
We considered silently “where will we come to?
We are in the Lord’s hands.”