There was a commotion outside the window.
A million people arrived overnight and moved swiftly
to assemble petrol stations, delicatessens and strip joints.
Signs point everywhere you cannot go.
I think of the past to hold myself down.
There are more products than you can imagine.
Throttled streets lined with plates of black ice.
I sift endless papers that rustle with a faded sound.
Nicotine eyes watch from doorways
and stare without relief. Houses are pulverized
by hornet-painted demons.
There have been twenty nights of inexplicable terror
and black shapes twirling fire in the avenues,
banging on walls, screaming cats and violent pauses
between days and nights and days.
Everyone wears the same inscrutable mask.
The rain allows escape when we drive onwards
down the tributaries of the Underworld.
From Ambient Terror
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.
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.
Massive week at the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival 2017. Launched Ambient Terror at Chain Reaction, a multiple book launch with fellow Dunedin Writers Peter Olds, John Gibb, Paddy Richardson and Huberta Hellendoorn, at the Athenaeum on Wednesday night, followed on directly by MCing the launch of Manifesto: 101 Political Poems at the Leviathan. Friday night was back down to the Leviathan to discuss the End of the World with Toby Manhire, Jean Balchin, Craig Cliff, Lucy Hunter and Joe Higham.
Friday 11 May 8.30–9.30pm at the Leviathan Hotel, Dunedin – entry by koha
Writers get together with host Victor Billot and share a mix of theories, essays and stories about life at the End of the World, over a beer. A recent New Yorker article titled ‘Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich’ revealed that wealthy Silicon Valley doomsdayers are looking to far-flung Aotearoa as the favoured spot in the event of a cataclysm.
Where our isolation was once considered a major flaw, it’s now one of our greatest assets. But is it – or will it really be – so safe down here at the end of the world? Join us for a close consideration of our slice of paradise and its merits … or lack thereof. Featuring English student and writer Jean Balchin; 2017 Burns Fellow Craig Cliff; Critic editors Lucy Hunter and Joe Higham; and Spinoff political editor Toby Manhire(pictured).
Please note that space is limited so admission cannot be guaranteed.
Curated by Pirate & Queen. Sponsored by the Department of English and Linguistics, University of Otago.