SOME RECENT POEMS

The following poems stem from some of Gregory O'Brien's encounters when, over the past five years, he has found him self ferried ashore, dropped off, flown in or washed up on a number of islands in the Southern Pacific - with Waiheke Island, Fiji, Raoul Island and Easter Island/Rapa Nui.
(The first three poems appeared in his collection, Beauties of the Octagonal Pool, AUP 2012.)

Little Oneroa

In the seaward room, all windows
they had accomplished something
with peas

a light green paste on which
a fine percussive seasoning
had fallen.

Islands of summery bread were
summoned and an explanation
offered concerning

the use of lemon peel as a
navigational aid.
So began

my apprenticeship
in such matters.
Of the rain

only footnotes remained: a
ceramic fountain, a drink
knocked over

by a pukeko. And to close formalities
the chef's final offering--
a running rabbit.

A guide to the frogs of Fiji

 
We were five days into
the month of fragile things

or so the ukulele kept reminding
us. A casual strum.

The village rooster out pecking
on the far reef.

What we didn't know we read
in a guide to the frogs

of Fiji: that, in late winter,
a soft, low-pitched trilling

crosses the moonlit golf course;
that males of a certain age

lack spines. What to look or
listen for:

‘a soft coo-coo-coo like the sound
of a two-stroke

generator', ‘a rising moan
repeated, softly',

a croaking to drown
the waterfront vows

of the newly-weds; the males
of the species ready and

available, but only in early spring or
following heavy rain.

 

Coral


The bamboo pavilion is remembered
but only for its lawn
of yabbering frogs. The lagoon

has already forgotten us, the smallest
brightest fishes disappearing
back inside the brain.

 

Raoul Island

 
By frigate and bird
we came ashore

fresh-footed on the swaying
headland, by balloon boat

and a piece of yellow string
dangling over a wet rock. Here we were

set down, buffered in
moss and lichen, riding

the undulations of the seaward lawn-and this
was our unrest. We walked

the edible path, an orchard of oranges
underfoot, mushrooms

like satellite dishes tilted
at the sky. We followed

the flight paths of petrel and red-tailed
tropic bird, of grey ternlet

and masked booby-and theirs was
the song the island sang.
 

Weather balloon, Raoul Island

We sent him up, never to come
back down:
                        the god of this island
is a hot air balloon

pale, inscrutable, rising above
green lake and cloud forest.

We let him go
            on the seaward lawn
trailing his coral-white laboratory
from whence

to transmit back to us
            immensities, unimaginable
altitudes, the intelligence

 of ages. Mid-morning, the god
of each new day
                        is raised
like bread on a baker's table
and set adrift above

             the lonely islands
continuing upwards until
his ever-increasing god-head
            explodes and he rejoins

the older gods-frigate bird
reef shark and flying fish-

in the aloneness
of the crowded sea.

 

From Easter / Sunday-a poem sequence


Del Pacifico Sudeste

Tangler of twine and fishing wire, we
have grown accustomed

to you-salt-eyed, krill-enriched
turtle-hungry-launched

our boats across your scarred
back, thrown our quivering lines

beyond your curving horizon.
It is emptiness that fills
this earth
            hollowness this sky, but
when I think of you
I think of Neruda's swaying captains
on their swaying hill. Following sea
            running sea
                        great sea of the unmade mind

you are always between
islands,  you, like this song
            are always entangled
in your own lines--

            one part water, two parts
                        sky--my distant head
your unfathomable body.

~

South East Pacific

A hurried sky, quickening sea, a voice

Curved planks of the sea turtle, a voice

The cemetery dogs, a voice

A fishingboat called M. Jesus Joe, a voice

A baked chicken plucked from a lawn, a voice

And another voice, always another voice

in reply.

~

Tending the names, Hanga Roa cemetery

Monthly, the gravestones
are replenished, overwritten
            in felt pen or chalk

the occasional daub
of white paint; at times
a name will change
            or be contested, overwritten. No matter

we are all in this
together--on this seaward incline
            overlooking

the afterlife. But all we can see
from here
            lights of incoming
                        fishing boats.

~

On Easter Island

The great voyages of Polynesian history, of Cook
and La Perouse and Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki
            as nothing compared

to the everyday transit, by Southern Pacific Gyre
of one bucket, a left-footed jandal and two plastic containers
marked 'Property of Sanfords, South Island, New Zealand'.

~

Hanga Roa

The first night awoke
to a lizard crowing

like a rooster, a card game
that sounded

like rain on a tin roof...
a dog had fallen

from a tree, a house was
built upon a horse.

~

Headstone lamps, Hanga Roa Cemetery

Midnight's luminessence, solar-powered bulbs
speckle the hilltop graveyard
            glowing jellyfish, beacons
for the renavigation of
moonlit depths. Here on the seafloor
of the slender-fingered ones
            we swim upwards
the deep sea creatures we once were
we are again.

~

My stone
head

your earthly
body

our ocean.