Charles Simic on the last days* of the Key government
The Lights Are on Everywhere
The Emperor must not be told night is coming.
His armies are chasing shadows,
Arresting whipporwills and hermit thrushes
And setting towns and villages on fire.
In the capital, they go around confiscating
Clocks and watches, burning heretics
And painting the sunrise above rooftops
So we can wish each other good morning.
The rooster brought in chains is crowing,
The flowers in the garden have been forced to stay open,
And yet still dark stains spread over the palace floors
Which no amount of scribbling will wipe away.
*With Key's party still being favoured by about half the respondents in most opinion polls, the phrase 'last days' might seem rather hopeful. Even if we accept Mathew Hooton's argument that National's support is overestimated by the polls, it still seems very possible that Key will hold onto office by making Winston Peters deputy Prime Minister after the election on September the 20th.
But the scandals of the last year, and the last fortnight in particular, have given Key's government the frayed and frightened air of the sort of ancien regime that Simic's poem satirises. A National-New Zealand First marriage would be loveless, and would likely end with calls to lawyers. The slow unravelling of the Shipley government at the end of the '90s seems to me to anticipate the future of Key's regime.