Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas at Frank's place

I've just done a dozen very slow circumnavigations of my parents' swimming pool, dragging my son under my arm like a flotation device, in the hope of burning off a little of the fat that my brother-in-law's ham put on my stomach at lunchtime. With that token ritual of obeisance to the cruel gods of health out of the way, I'm now preparing to tuck into a cheesecake. How's your Christmas going, dear reader?

I've tended to post Christmas poems on this blog over the years, because it seems to me that even the worst bit of doggerel is preferable to a Youtube clip of Bing Crosby or John Rowles crooning. Back in 2008 there was a protracted and very interesting debate here after I reproduced Kendrick Smithyman's poem 'A Riddle at Christmas' alongside a page from an eighteenth century Muggletonian treatise on astronomy. In 2010 I posted a poem which described, in perhaps unnecessary detail, a dream I had after consuming an immoral amount of turkey and ham at my brother and sister-in-law's place.

Here's something that might just possibly count as another Christmas dream-poem. I know that the lean and sometimes mean Frank Sargeson does poor service for Santas Claus, but, for me at least, his famous garden, with its shapely courgettes and blazing tomatoes, somehow symbolises the lushness and oppression of Auckland in summer, a season that really begins here at Christmas. I've had a couple of minor deadlines to meet lately, but I'm sparing a thought or two  for Alex Wild, who is not only trying to polish off a PhD on the sex lives of twentieth century Germans but also attempting to construct the next issue of the long-running, frequently chaotic literary journal brief out of a mass of submissions. I hope Alex made it out of her study for some ham today...

 The Hole that Frank Dug

The night before the deadline
I took the books to bed,
arranging them around me
the way a scared boy arrays his teddy bears
to guard against ghosts.

Each time I turned a page I yawned,
devouring the moths
that had lain there like typos.
At three or four o'clock I fell asleep
over a copy of the Collected Short Stories.

In the stippled light of a fifties summer
Frank was carrying a sack of chickenshit
on his back, whistling
as he went. He might have been hauling a boar
out of the bush block
on his uncle's farm.

Frank staggered around a minefield
of spuds and onions,
then emptied his sack
beside the half-finished hole.
He found his spade lying under the beanstalks
like a drunk. He dug.

 Half-forgetting my deadline
I crouched behind the beans,
crouched and listened
to the slow phrases
of that gravel-voiced spade.

[Posted by Scott Hamilton]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again this doesn't rhyme!

2:45 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I recall reading Sargeson's autobiography a few years before I started writing again (about 1986 or so I think). It was a great read and quite inspiring. And his stories are great also. I also like Mansfield, Wilkins and Owen Marshall.

The story you "reference" is 'The Hole that Jack Dug'? 'Deadline' and 'half-finished'? His lush garden, like his / your writing is being well-prepared? A glance a Seamus Heaney's poem about his father digging spuds?

But it doesn't rhyme!

Who is the woman in the photo? A young Janet Frame?

6:48 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I didn't submit as I didn't think I had anything satisfactorily finished or in a sufficient form.

6:50 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol who says philosophy changes nothing

2:07 am  
Anonymous American poetry patriot said...

Here is one of my Pro America Poems


They found him in a spider hole,
Just like we knew they would.
Though we are glad I'm sure the Dems,
Feel this is not too good.
I'm sure they all are saddened now,
For Saddam's in our hand.
The French, the Germans, chant along,
The Russians lead the band.
They want the contracts to rebuild,
The Dems want Bush to fail.
Death for Saddam is too swift,
Let’s let him rot in jail.
Congratulations to our troops,
And to our leader here.
George Bush is still the man to lead.

7:46 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Wonderful, but rather simplistic and old-fashioned poem. The trouble is it rhymes.

And Saddam Hussein was put into power by the US. So they probably knew where he was all the time. And under Hussein things were very good overall. Sine the invasion by the US God knows how many people have been killed by the US Army.

In any case they got the wrong people - the one's who committed war crimes included President Bush and PM Blair.

(Just as no one really believes that it was really Osama bin Laden they killed and not some poor old Arab guy the US picked as a patzy. The "original" was probably simply some "voice recording" and other electronic crap they had sitting in the Pentagon.)

3:15 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That poem is a real piece of shit.

Fucking Americans like that should stick their heads down bazookas.

6:53 pm  
Blogger John Hilston said...

In love with this monochrome caption.
compare airport parking

8:36 pm  

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