Writing in Whangarei

inside the museum

by Vaughan Gunson

at one of end of the room a grinning idiot,
at the other a dying man, trying to hold
himself to the wall, his struggle alone.
a slave brings in a bowl of red wine

which she pours into each of our cups.
on the ceiling an aristocratic dandy
lifts an arm towards God, the angels recoil
& the artist says how much he knows.

the revolution of reason is talked about,
Socrates says it comes, reaching for his cup.
someone has spilt yellow paint on the floor;
outside, people cross a bridge in the rain.

a woman in agony holds her dead child,
a picture of terror that won’t go away.
not even when you see the joker, standing
with his legs apart in multicolored tights.

in walks the leader, smoking a pipe
& wearing a full length silk gown.
he takes a look at the poster on the wall
& says he doesn’t understand why

some armies must be defeated, wars won.
he doesn’t notice the bags of coal above his head,
or the black dust on his shoulders & in his hair.
he ambles over to the pious monks

sitting in deckchairs, contemplating their own.
they don’t hear the noise of soup cans
being stacked up high on the shelves, or
the tower being built, only to fall down

on its shadow—or the bulldozers being used
to make something that will last.
beside the spilt paint a sign has finally
been placed which says “WET PAINT”

& through a window in the prison wall
children fly their kites up into the sky.

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