Nine for Gaia
by Tony Beyer

The estrangement

poetry is the language we all used
before the Tower of Babel scrambled it

so confident were we so proud we believed 
we could compete with our maker God

(whichever version of these events
you prefer to affiliate with)

since then we have devoted our ingenuity
to imagining reasons to hate each other

even in monoglot societies 
the appetite for distrust is so engrained

mere colour or religion or poverty 
or relative wealth can be made an excuse

and the towers keep being built tall enough
to scrape the gold foil off angels’ wings

Facing west

here day and night the wind
talks its way in from the coast
lending voice to trees
and loose roof iron

plant pots rattling
on their earthen saucers
set up a beat
clouds also move to

what we call wild rocks
are made so by the sea
fuming white around
dark straggled clusters

birds seem to delight 
in such weather
hurling themselves about
and shouting with excitement

it’s pleasant to think
they call out to the dead
who loved this place
to remind them of living


this bird skull
I found on the beach

scoured and rinsed
bone-white by the sea

once held the co-ordinates
for planetary travel

could discern via 
alternate light and night

distances between continents
locating over them

among an identical myriad
a single nesting site

and now with its purpose 
served it fits inside

the cavity of my palm
convex and smooth like an egg

out of which in time
who knows what might hatch 

Raven and the First People

Bill Reid

he must have wondered what these were
emerging bare and featherless
some of them buttocks first
from the wide-jawed clam shell

inquisitive and mischievous
he couldn’t help prying and prising
with his long curved bill
to see what else might be hidden

still less could he have predicted
all the trouble they would cause
released out on the planet
mischievous and inquisitive in their turn

Left field

this was Jack London territory
where ice tinkled in the blood
instead of in the glass

the dogs lamented at night
their diet of caribou tallow
and beds under frozen snow

men with beards arm wrestling
on a crate beside the fire
uttered appalling expletives

it would take a book of asterisks
to represent their discourse truthfully
attractive as a road sign pitted with bullets


eels at the feeding place
visibly punctuate the river

long commas with short
quotation marks at the head end

but the river still says
what it has to without pause

untranslatable too
into human language

unless by associations
only humans can fabricate

pane of green reflections
transporter of forests

the steady pour through
encroaching vegetation upstream

the underside of a bridge
between hills thirsty for rain

calm glide and shallow eddies 
where ground flattens towards the sea

opaque in places
or clear as memory

the river itself a 
human appellation after all


with the tree gone
I miss our cherry blossoms
and the loud bees attending them

there seems too much spring sky
above the garden
too unrelievedly blue

the sawn wood though
dried out over a season 
has warmed our recent months

and the fence undermined
by the thickening bole
has been restored

sound human reasons
for the change encouraging
good will among neighbours

while out of sight 
the intricate root system
equivalent we are told

to the height and scope
of the branches that hung overhead
concludes at nothing at ground level

a ghost cage
receding slowly through the earth
always enclosing darkness

A glimpse of the sea through rain

from the high point
on one of our usual walks

hoods up
jackets zipped

the distant blue
is neither hills

nor some city among them
but the frequently disrupted

unchangeable yet changing tide
abrading the coast

it so depends on 
to define itself

so easy at times like this
to forget gravity

and the nature of the ground
we tread on

slow turn of the planet
disregarding our perspectives

then the squall changes tack
and only what is near is visible

ourselves and our small
circle of attention close to the crust


in the lean forest
single strokes of an axe

clack and echo
between remaining trees

burn off and die back
and second growth

are terms used
to mitigate destruction

all flesh is breath
however many we 

have left to use while
there is time to use

Tony Beyer writes in Taranaki, New Zealand. His print titles include Dream Boat: selected poems (HeadworX) and Anchor Stone (Cold Hub Press).

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