Return to 4th Floor Contents 2012

Mercedes Webb-Pullman

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Excerpt from
Waiata of waiting


we forget the beds where we were smacked to life
we sleep with a velvet body beneath our feet
to energise our knees, and we know to fold them up
rising out of the real; as we entered
all spirits separated; it should have been easy
to unite them again

we sniff at the nose – both closed and open
we listen to ears that stopped listening,
speak to the chin, which burrows down into flesh –
that’s not all we can do

our feet appear, moving away,


tekau mā waru

off the rails, each time, off the rails –
how few paces across, how few bone-broken stations
how few white squares; the machines measure me
who measured me from the cradle
when I dropped my bottle, empty, and they noted

cinders from the furnace fly over me –
when will the fire rage? the spindle shrieks,
the spindle turns, how can the spindle
be extinguished? when will the thread fray,
when will the shears move
crooked on the tapestry? the trees still stand
where in autumn you planted a lily
they were frightening, your lips,
but they knew what to say
and so did I, I who was a city,
I who stopped resisting here, for ever
and I hear how my elbows lock, under the lever
under the levels, under the overpass
elbows engaged to devil desire –
everyone is free, weakness rules, you can
embrace the air that aged you, that you found
before this verdict, with the trains purring
with the drums that beat in summer;
the air you cannot lose, wherever you hide
however you dart at a tangent past the dark
still body, unbaptised


rua tekau mā rua

we who complete this expedition
ignore the perfect images
become focused, refined, realise
death isn’t easily gained
that life wants new motorways
and cranes

that while we, flat on our backs,
still live, counting sand
alienated from tenderness and strength,
the newly born submit to the angles
and fall for the first time


and moan in our voices



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