Michael O'Leary
country: New Zealand

Kia ora.  All the poems are taken from my forth coming book of selected poems TOKU TINIHANGA, to be published early in 2003 by HeadworX. The long poem He Waiatanui kia Aroha, which is in TOKU TINIHANGA, will appear simultaneously on a CD put to music by Christchurch musician, Trevor Bycroft.
In 1998 Michael received recognition for his work in both the Oxford History of New Zealand Literature and the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature.
The Mind of My Lai Revisited
(for David Mitchell)

So this is what happens to our poets
Soft-shoe shuffling along Oriental Parade
The internal massacre about complete
As a handshake equals a kind of recognition

“David” I say, and then repeat my own name
Over and over in an attempt to get through
But your semi-toothless grin and grimace
Tell me you are not here at all

Like a sad combination reminiscent of Groucho
And Harpo without the humour, your spirit
Seems to have deserted you - but I know
Donna Awatere has become yr Remuera Hsfrau -

Achtung, Baby, Babi Yr an’ all!

p.s. the ships look beautiful as they glide . . .

Kia Aroha

Listening to a poet reading poetry
Was the small flicker of flame
Which lit this poem in my heart

When he, with another woman in mind,
Mentioned a furcoat-wrapped woman
Your image leapt at me, is now here to stay

I have carried you all day with me
Through the hard-nosed life of a labouring man
Your beauty is so strong that I weep inward

Yet, like your Master’s kingdom,
Our love cannot be of this world
You exist for me as He does for you

And your husband and your children
Stand between us like trees against the horizon
At the point of sundown and the rising darkness
I see you

Three Paekakariki Fragments

as dusk darkened
the surrounding hills
looked like they were
folding towards the beach
the sky, thick-clouded,
mirrored the choppy
waves which quietly rolled
onto the black sand
and something alien
caught my vision
a large, black, pointed fin
beyond the white breakers
but near enough to
the shore to hear me
talking to it. Later,
I told people that 
I took my pet shark
for a walk tonight . . .


a large piece of driftwood, whose eyes followed us, pale,
as we walked along the night-falling sand,
was a seal so tired after surviving, and
being chased through the deep, deep sea by a killer whale


moonlight shimmered brightly, dancing lightly
on the nightdark water
outside the cliff-descending train window
Muri and the taonga-filled memories of the 
historic, present-day Paekakariki Station
the railway could be travelling through any
exotic, romantic, love-enhanced landscape
in the world . . . – and it is!

Excerpts from - 

He Waiatanui kia Aroha


twilight falls
among the large stone buildings
grey monoliths – but undemanding
to the modern eye
as we walked towards the taxi
I stopped and wanted to kiss you
And you said maybe
-then we did kiss
holding our mouths together like beaks
-but sweet, ambiguous even
and I shuddered with emotion
-my whole being shook
-with the physical knowledge
-of our parting . . .


twilight brings
its gradual descent of the night
on Seacliff
and the sea and
the clouds touch 
merge into one blue-grey hue . . .
as with the sky
and the land
the trees turn ever darkening
shades of green
the last remaining residue
of crimson
is stretched, elongated
diffuse across the horizon
and these seen things
are mirrored within
as my thoughts of you
are repeated over and over
ever changing
ever increasing with the days
the same subtle blend as landscape
of colours and shapes
sometimes clearly defined
sometimes barely discernible
and sometimes
the darkness is complete


the light beyond the horizon
is te Marama
who, when she shines
touches the silent, sleeping
soul of the earth
it is this unseen world
alive with the light
of the unknown
where my love for you
lies waiting -
beyond those tall trees
that rising darkness
and sensuous sundown
of strange, stark colours
te po, te po, te po aroha
the moonlight world
of our understanding
the Polynesian darkness
of light . . .


a picture of you 
looks up, smiling
and connects me
to the world of feelings
the deep questions of life and 
love and eternity
which have had their evocation so often
through you 
you are my point 
of contact with life, yet    
you are so distant and yet again
that distance is
as the fine fibre of love you weave around me
   tightens – it is
the dynamics of something set in motion
rather than necessarily an act of consciousness
-the earth is sleeping
dreams are walking around, entering
each heart, each body –
each soul is enchanted either by dreams
or nightmares haunting the darkness
with ever greater darkness
te ua, te ua, nga roimata ahau
te haunui o te wairua
te ariki o te ao
and in the beginning was the word . . .


wrapped in a blanket
I sit and listen
to the wind blow
hard out along the coast
whipping up the water
scraping and shaping the land –
sending chunks of sure cliffs
crashing to the sea below . . .
cold wind was always
the worst to work in
sapping energy from my body
even before the first shovel-load
had been lifted from the earth
taurite nga moehewa o Aroha . . .
but now the wind has dropped
perhaps it will wait –
then picking up my words
Te Hau will carry them
soaring southwards
over the dark hills
taking them gently
kia Aroha, down the valley
where they will reach you
as a whisper . . .