A breath of country air

01e2f073fe3b2a408cad0344d145e2ee3e02005da8 As I sat down to wait for my coffee and delicious homemade Florentine I browsed the books left for customers read. I picked up an older NZ poetry book and spent a delicious half hour reading it. I don’t think I have ever been to a cafe where there were poetry books. It is such a great idea as there isn’t time to read a novel or even a short story but poetry is the perfect pick and dip option. 01c4639c386c32070049ede3488676485e0dfb4cb6 One of the poems was a James K Baxter that I hadn’t read before called

‘A Small Ode on Mixed Flatting’, by James K. Baxter

As I was brought up in Dunedin, and flatted there and my mother questioned my morality when I told her I was going “mixed flatting” it made me laugh. Elicited by the decision of the Otago University authorities to forbid this practice among students Dunedin nights are often cold (I notice it as I grow old); The south wind scourging from the Pole Drives every rat to his own hole, Lashing the drunks who wear thin shirts And little girls in mini-skirts. Leander, that Greek lad, was bold To swim the Hellespont raging cold To visit Hero in her tower Just for an amorous half-hour. And lay his wet brine-tangled head Upon her pillow – Hush! The dead Can get good housing – Thomas Bracken, Smellie, McLeod, McColl, McCracken, A thousand founding fathers lie Well roofed against the howling sky In mixed accommodation – Hush! It is the living make us blush Because the young have wicked hearts And blood to swell their private parts. To think of corpses pleases me; They keep such perfect chastity. O Dr Williams, you were right To shove the lovers out of sight; Now they can wander half the night Through coffee house and street and park And fidget in the dripping dark, While we play Mozart and applaud The angel with the flaming sword! King Calvin in his grave will smile To know we know that man is vile; But Robert Burns, that sad old rip From whom I got my Fellowship Will grunt upon his rain-washed stone Above the empty Octagon, And say – ‘O that I had the strength To slip yon lassie half a length! Apollo! Venus! Bless my ballocks! Where are the games, the hugs, the frolics? Are all you bastards melancholics? Have you forgotten that your city Was founded well in bastardry And half your elders (God be thankit) Were born the wrong side of the blanket? You scholars, throw away your books And learn your songs from lasse’s looks As I did once – ‘Ah, well; it’s grim; But I will have to censor him. He liked to call a spade a spade And toss among the glum and staid A poem like a hand grenade – And I remember clearly how (Truth is the only poet’s vow) When my spare tyre was half this size, With drumming veins and bloodshot eyes I blundered through the rain and sleet To dip my wick in Castle street. Not on the footpath – no, in a flat, With a sofa where I often sat, Smoked, drank, cursed, in the company Of a female student who unwisely Did not mind but would pull the curtain Over the window – And did a certain Act occur? It did. It did. As Byron wrote of Sennacherib – ‘The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold’ – But now, at nearly forty-two, An inmate of the social zoo, Married, baptized, well heeled, well shod, Almost on speaking terms with God, I intend to save my moral bacon By fencing the young from fornication! Ah, Dr Williams, I agree We need more walls at the Varsity; The students who go double-flatting With their she-catting and tom-catting Won’t ever get a pass in Latin; The moral mainstay of the nation Is careful, private masturbation; A vaseline jar or a candle Will drive away the stink of scandal! The Golden Age will come again – Those tall asthenic bird-like men With spectacles and lecture notes, Those girls with wool around their throats Studying till their eyes are yellow A new corrupt text of Othello, Vaguely agnostic, rationalist, A green banana in each fist To signify the purity Of educational ecstasy – And, if they marry, they will live By the Cardinal Imperative: A car, a fridge, a radiogram, A clean well-fitted diaphragm, Two-and-a-half children per Family; to keep out thunder Insurance policies for each; A sad glad fortnight at the beach Each year, when Mum and Dad will bitch From some half-forgotten itch – Turn on the lights! – or else the gas! If I kneel down like a stone at Mass And wake my good wife with bad dreams, And scribble verse on sordid themes, At least I know man was not made On the style of a slot-machine arcade – Almost, it seems, the other day, When Francis threw his coat away And stood under the palace light Naked in the Bishop’s sight To marry Lady Poverty In folly and virginity, The angels laughed – do they then weep Tears of blood if two should sleep Together and keep the cradle warm? Each night of earth , though the wind storm Black land behind, white sea in front, Leander swims the Hellespont; To Hero’s bed he enters cold; And he will drown; and she grow old – But what they tell each other there You’ll not find in a book anywhere. 1967 James K. Baxter, ‘A Small Ode on Mixed Flatting’ in Collected Poems (ed. John Edward Weir; Wellington: Oxford University Press, 1979), 396–99. As I drove over the Brynderwyns, the east coast came into view and the panoramic views were simply stunning. i am now ensconced in my little cabin up in the Waipu hills and this is the view I have as I type this. 01577066bf358f04baf8e78b1c8a5ea1236b621e3b Unfortunately I am also simultaneously torturing myself with watching mad Trump and Clinton debate. My stomach formerly relaxed, is now clenched in a knot as I watch that bullying moron shouting over the other candidate. Earlier I walked up the track to check on the chickens and to collect the rural mail. What a simple pleasure to admire the camellias, smell the woody scent of the bush and be so glad that I live in New Zealand. 01eb165ba767db57a995dbb65779dfcfef48efc589 01f926741d10b625aa353d5d9d64b5b380643a4c93 015a92e1cd1438fde4a3adcbcb0a9f5130d57c44ec Listening to that pratt talking about nuclear weapons is chilling. “We got ’em why don’t we use ’em”, I feel very helpless listening to him. Is it possible that this moron could be running America?? 01c8787608bd2d42032f585306b0376fe0d013f641 I cannot end my blog on this man. So, I am doing another MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) at the University of Iowa and it is a joy. https://iwp.uiowa.edu/fiction-2016 There are literally thousands of people from all over the world participating, On that note I’m off to do my homework. FG https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpbwO2JfFdI      ]]>