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POETRYETC  March 2011

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Subject:

Memory snap - Signals 1956

From:

Max Richards <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Poetryetc: poetry and poetics

Date:

Wed, 9 Mar 2011 10:41:36 +1100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (93 lines)

{from Ephemera: a sequence for Graham Percy (1938-2008)
[after Micronaut in the Wider World: The Imaginative Life and Times of
Graham Percy, by Gregory O'Brien (Auckland Univ Press, 2011)]}


       Signals 

Iım typing at the keyboard
of an old army teleprinter.
Itıs summer ı55-ı6,
and we are conscripts.

New Zealandıs brought in CMT
placating our heavyweight allies
in the so-called Cold War.
In the UK you serve two years,

in New Zealand a few months.
My khaki uniform hangs loose
on my thin frame, slack trousers expose
ankles; head shorn short, sticky-out ears.

my polished boots are like black ships.
Unsoldierly? - if Iıd thought it through
Iıd be a conchy. Iıd merely
said make me a nurse or cook.

Theyıve sent me to Signals.
Touch typing is my training,
when not at drill, the rifle range,
or - the pool, for non-swimmers, learning.

The summer will pass tolerably.
Meals rough but plentiful.
Beds on straw-filled palliasses
in the long hut wonıt spoil our rest.

Our instructor is a Regular,
bored overweight chain-smoker.
If heıs served in Korea
like some of the tough others

he never lets on. We even
get to choose our own texts
for typing. I prop up the Penguin
Book of English Verse.

John Milton: Lycidas:

Yet once more, O ye laurels, and once more,
Ye myrtles brown, with ivy never sere,
I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude,
    And with forced fingers rude
Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year.

Lordy, so poetical. With all
due respect to the classics,
no-one will want to write like
that in our century.

Graham, youıre in another hut,
or out with your rifle or waiting
your turn in the sun to practice
on the Bren, discussing Paul Klee

with our mutual friend Alan.
Evenings maybe weıd enjoy a stroll,
watch other conscripts playing pool
or knocking back several shillingsı worth

of soft drink and potato crisps.
Weıre eighteen, unlicensed to drink.
New boots march us one Saturday
to the Ardmore Auckland Grand Prix -

loud bright cars, crowds, pies and ices,
the walk back to camp, sunburn and blisters.
Some time soon, weıd convoy in slow
trucks past Taupo to Waiouru,

camp in the cold desert for war games.
Back to Œvarsityı, a few days late -
Youıd carry on at art school,
I with Milton, Shakespeare and their ilk.
 
[as you can sense, once the tap is turned on, the flow is -
esp if little care is taken about verse form.
Well, I wrote heaps more, and small bits may be excerptible another time.

Meanwhile DO look on Youtube at

Graham Percy and Mari Mahr's House!
- In Wimbledon]

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