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Nicholas Messenger
New Zealand

Nicholas Messenger had his first poems published in New Zealand as a schoolboy. He won the Glover Poetry award in New Zealand in the 1970’s. In recent years his poems have appeared in a number of on-line publications. He has written in all forms, and is currently trailing three children’s novels around the publishers while working on the fourth as if it wasn’t aware of the sufferings of the others, but if you are still writing by the time you are sixty it is either because you have got people’s attention, or been hardened to their indifference. He has also had a few small one-man shows of his paintings.

He completed a degree at Auckland University in the 1960’s, and then travelled for several years, giving recitals where anyone would have him, and writing a passionate poetry that Philip Pullman has described as “oceanic”. For a long time he made his living as a teacher, of science, art, and languages, in High Schools in New Zealand, where he was a long-standing member of mountain Search and Rescue organisation. He had another stay in France during this period, with his young family, and developed a more formal approach to poetry that he has followed since, starting from experiments with linked verse which he had made in his schooldays. In the nineties he moved to Japan to teach English, where he met his wife. A little of the intimacy, or hesitance, of the Japanese may have rubbed off on his poetry there, but he hopes only a little. He is now running a small home-stay business back in Hokitika.
                                                                  February, 2007


I love to see the lions in the cities.  When the dreaded
anarchists have come and all the great men stand beheaded
on their pedestals, they'll still be lounging round, presiding
over stones and that particular disorder of collected withered leaves;
they will still snarl at urchins, or repay with cool deriding
the surprise of men who find them there, on streets
they thought they walked through everyday - for hardly anyone believes
in them, they keep such placid fixity.   Old empires gathered them
with dust from continents that measure men; they bring the heat
of conquered plains and stretch their prides around the lathered rims
of fountains.   Maybe only when there are no memories to prey
on any more, will they get up and loaf away.


Are not the chronicles of animals’ and plants’
five thousand million year advances
dwarfed by the biographies of individual pines
or the adventures of one salmon or the building patience
of one mason bee one summer ?   In the times
of people, the meticulous amassing of their years
by far exceeds the history of their nations.
Each in his study searches for what others sought
of law or revelation, and though only few are seers
and fewer stumble on their own Galapagos of thought,
the ages of their learning bring the mullahs to the white
laboratories, and the scientists to the shelters of the eremites.


In the hadal deeps of the ocean an impossible fish
is caught in its instant by the camera's flash
of inconceivable light, and comes up hours later
in the black and silver compounds of its photograph.  Its lightless
spirit is still dangling in the limitlessness of the water,
and its piece of time, its whole existence, lost :
picked out just once by random brightness
from whatever start there was until where-ever it will finish.
Time without its passages or benchmarks, at the last
and least-intelligible point in space.  The most diminished
of all lives.  What sense is it to give that single burst
of dazzling being, far down in the chasm of its universe ?


They took the whole top of the mountain off
in recent years.  The coal so full of props
some days, and other stuff we left behind
they called it dirty coal and made a heap
of it uneconomical to separate.  Forgotten mines
laid open in the beds, as black as they were always
when we found them.  They appeared to creep
around each other, as if they were both seeking and avoiding
one-another, burrowing inward an enormous way
considering we sought what we were buried in,
each man pressed up to the primordial
material; unless in fact, the fossil plants
were all we wanted : something to be queried
in the pub that night – a pebble made by lightning,
roasted clay around a core of glass;
the sudden longing for the taste of pawpaws;
or the stair-head of a burning building sighted
through the gaping wall where, pendulum still rocking,
wrapped in flames as creepers lick a door-
way, counting undissuaded, a grandfather clock.
Such things as we can find no reason
for, and so take out of darkness into keeping.