Thursday, July 02, 2020

Five theses on the non-existence of the present

1 Wars are fought first in the imagination. The invasion of the Waikato was planned in Auckland; the city's toponyms record its guilt. Pt Chevalier had a firing range; the suburb is named after a top marksman. On nearby Meola Reef a dummy Maori pa was built; soldiers shelled and sniped at it.

2 The photo was taken in the German port of Kiel in 1916. It shows mines being loaded onto SMS Wolf, a raider headed for the Pacific. In April 1919 Edward Whare & two friends were riding down a beach near Raglan. They spotted a strange object, stopped. The smoke column was seen miles away. The war had taken its last victims.

3 Events metastasise. In 1863 imperial troops moving through Ramarama's puriri forest were ambushed & gunned down by Waikato guerrillas. 80 years later Private Bryan Sharp fled from nearby Ravensthorpe convalescent hospital, hid in a remnant of the ancient forest, & shot himself.

4 On an autumn night in 1948 two men - one imaginary, one real - were killed at Auckland's Town Hall. Joe Burns, a professional Canadian-Hawai'ian boxer, lay still after being smashed by local fighter Tommy Downes. Burns' real name was Peni Latinidavetalevu. He was not a pro.

Latinidavetalevu was an illegal migrant from Fiji. He had stowed away on a ship to Auckland & created Joe Burns, complete with a publicity photo & stories of US fights. Fijian police saw the photo & recognised him. He would have been arrested, had he survived his fight.

5 Auckland had a blood moon last month. I don't like that phrase, nor the overproduced photos of the event. Neither can convey the peculiar sense of intimacy I felt, as I looked into the ruddy face leaning over Glen Eden's rooftops. TE Hulme died in 1917, but he saw my moon:

A touch of cold in the Autumn night—
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.


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