Writing in Whangarei

Michelle Elvy

Take Flight 4 out now

Click on image to download PDF of Take Flight 4 featuring poems by Michelle Elvy, Piet Nieuwland, Aaron Robertson, Arthur Fairley, Jac Jenkins, Martin Porter and Vaughan Gunson.


Block Party

Voices call me out of sleep
groggy, curious, I creep
toward the kitchen,
where the drinks are mixin’
This ain’t my scene, but I think
I’ll stay, like this song,
won’t you come out to play…
You, Cheshire-grin, know-it-all:
d’you like the party so far?
and you, boy in the spelling bee:
how’d’you get from A to Z?
butcher, baker, candlestickmaker:
you don’t belong here, take your
childish rhymes off my page!                                                     (sigh)
This is better: I spy
shitgreen Staasi-shirts marching by
but wait, what’s that? why are they drinking
with Wolf and Biermann,– what’re they thinking?
that ain’t right: they’re not fighting the fight
but everything’s topsy turvy:
Hagen’s singing cabaret,
Liza’s communing with Krishna
and Johnny’s rotting in the corner with scurvy
Tamara sings Bye-bye my love and we dance
real slow, build walls, turn west
This Wall’s my Wall — gotta mount it
go under over maybe around it
build it, climb it, Christo-bind it
find a way to nevermind it
My catch-22: I want to keep you,
but I’ve got to show some the door
there’s a major cast, a major twist,
with a major ending, a major fist
fight in the toilet
But I can’t sustain this frantic pace,
I’ve got to trim, cut, paste,
shut some of you up lest you go and
spoil it
(And who let in that orangutan?
he jumped stories, he ain’t part of this plan!)
Gotta sleep, pull up the cover,
Let me know when the party’s over 


-Michelle Elvy

sea song

by Michelle Elvy

you’ll be gone forever
and a day

naw. just three oceans. once
around the world

you’ll meet mermaids
and sirens

yes. but my journey
ends here, with you

you’ll forget

i’ll see you in the sea

how do you know?
because your eyes are in the sun

your hips on every wave
your breath the wind

will you remember this?

this i’ll remember most of all
the space between your belly button and rib
distance from your shoulder to wrist
the miles from knee down to toe

ok then

now shhhhh
let me dive into your southern ocean


This poem first appeared at 52|250: A Year of Flash

Language and Place on the Edge: Six Poems

Aaron Robertson

Vers au Vert

From centre to circumference
we drift, crossing this great expanse
to speak in tongues considered pure
by uninitiated ears.

Old words, once tentatively used
then fashioned thin as life imposed,
become an enigmatic code
charged with the trace of others’ deeds.

Deprived by empire of a waiting
embrace, language devolves, begetting
forms like those strange conventions now
spoken in parliaments of two.

Vaughan Gunson

Big Love Song #17

the golden night has locked down
the unreal day gone, thank you, for now.
the persistent thud of a million feet
stamping the ancient cobblestones.

I laughed, the outrageous image of you
seated next to a fat satyr from Hellene,
your thigh raised to the sky
tapering to a desirable end.

the threatening cataclysm
is more than a grim tattoo.
the responsible hordes hold in their hands,
for the first time, the battering-ram.

Martin Porter

The Tree at the Edge of the World

Clawing onto the cliff

Face into a salty purge



It has given up flowering


On exhausted soil

Rooted in the underworld

Grasping at the air

Where the dead

Leave the living.

This is the tree

That clings to the edge

Of the Earth.

Piet Nieuwland

the altar of wind

 my country is an idea born on the altar of wind

 earths deep blues carried on galloping horses

 lizards names etched into knotted stone archways

 we drink cups of obsidian Columbian coffee laughing

 in blood drenched gardens candles melt tanekaha perfumes

 nikau palms dance cities of moonlight frenzies

 WairoaRiverveins nourished by children throwing petals

 a thousand tui chant dawn prayers

 from puriri groves kneeling on aging hills

 the skies cloud mask pours nipples of rain

 voices of birds name the deserts language of maps

 flocks of black coated women expand covering all distances

 matuku moana call from blue fired clay minarets

 on your breasts whole kukupa sheens breathe in

 what you breathe out

 you are venus bathing like an orchid

 in loves memory of the moment

 kahawai inhabiting a river mouth

 hear pebbles hiss in your depths

 your hands move in cascades of feathered leaves

 mottled oyster skin a pale silk of ice trembling

 your name is a gift of lavender in luxuries of passion

 my heart a burial ground in the mutilated colour of dunes

 as drops in the tide we evaporate into manuka fires

 flying on humid rituals under tents of mirrors

Michelle Elvy

The Other Side of Better 

Running up a hill
tripping upwards
falling downwards
making deals with the devil
or God — whichever works better

Radio’s on
Bush is burning
I turn it up and feel me yearning
for your devil grin and thunder heart
or God — whichever is better

As I listen and wait
I soon find myself
in a song
it’s you and me…
in tune
It’s you and me who won’t be unhappy…

in love and singing
this is better

Bernard Heise


Sleep. I can’t.
Alcohol – much too much.
Drinking began yesterday.
Crashed car and burned house.
You left.
I destroyed
everything. Everything
destroyed. I
left you.
House burned and car crashed
yesterday. Began drinking
much too much alcohol.
can’t I sleep?

NOTE: The Other Side of Better by Michelle Elvy and Cause–Effect–Cause by Bernard Heise were originally written for 52|250: A Year of Flash

Tell me what you think

by Michelle Elvy

“Dites moi ce que vous en pensez,” said the old woman. “Tell me what you think.”

The girl had been gazing at the canvas, an astonishing explosion of color amidst a grey background of tattered cardboard and greasy clothing and tired plastic bags, and she now sensed the woman’s gaze on her. What could she say? That she wanted to press her cheek into the cool ocean purples, put her lips to the milky sky and drink? That the sweep of greens and browns rising up with the sun’s golden fingers parting the trees just so hinted at the home she’d left and nearly forgotten? That the feathery texture of the grasses down low reminded her of the brush of her lover’s hand on her neck, that she was sure that the depression in those tall wildflowers was made by him and her, right there. And that the line of black birds off in the distance placed a thin, cold emptiness in her chest which had nothing to do with the November Parisian morning?

For a moment, she wondered if she could take this woman around the corner and buy her a hot tea, sit with her and talk about the color of warmth and love and home, of sorrow and loneliness and fear. She wanted to know how an old woman could capture everything that was in a girl’s heart in such a small square. Instead, she tossed a coin into the woman’s worn grey cap and muttered: “Oui, c’est bon.”

A Knobby Thing

She reclines in her window seat, sees the starboard prop whirring superfast, looking slo-mo. She closes her eyes and drifts back to yesterday, the last day of everything, 80-hour work-weeks, devoted dull boyfriend, pet cat (a gift) whom she secretly hates. She brings her thumb to teeth, gnaws where there’s nothing left to gnaw, sorrowful nails bitten down to nothing. She feels ugly but ready for anything.

The wheels touch down and she gathers her things, spits cuticle out the side of her mouth, thp. She steps out into air so hot she’s sure she’ll never be able to breathe here. Then she inhales deeply and instead of feeling oxygen hitting lungs, she tastes it — floral and citrus, sweaty and sweet. The first breath is as miraculous and jarring as the one she took some thirty-three years back. She almost cries out, too: the punch of this new world hits her hard.

She wanders along Main Street, spots the trademarked arches garish and gold against this landscape, jutting up amongst dusty buildings and peeling paint — an echo of her old world. She longs for its familiar cool, then spies a small market across the street. Locals laugh, handle fruits she’s never seen or heard of. She goes to the first long table, eyeballs a knobby thing, large and green, asks a dark woman with droopy breasts and happy eyes, “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” The woman answers, “Breadfruit, love.” She picks it up, smiles, thinks she’ll give it a try.

-Michelle Elvy

Published in LikeBirdsLit, June 2010.