Chris Stewart
New Zealand

Karakia Precari - Penny Howard 2016
Chris Stewart is from Christchurch. In 2015 he completed the course at The Hagley Writers' Institute and won The Margaret Mahy Prize. His poems have been published recently in Snorkel, Aotearotica, Catalyst, Sweet Mammalian, and Takahe.
iceberg songs

the moment migrants hear slow leaks
in blue-hulled boats they notice

the moon wears quiet shoes
to walk the rippled sleep of oceans

they drift off the coast
frozen in their own juices

frost-eyed fathers of sapphire
jagged mothers diamond-hard

their children are still
the chipped angles of glaciers

when the birth of an iceberg cleaves
cold migrants from frozen nations

more songs are memories in those bellies of ice
than whims of currents float dead water

hollows in iceberg hearts melt into cathedrals
voices crackle in the stain of their glass

and a crystal weight thaws into the blue blood of us
to shape a safe hope in the cup of our hands

I took the sea in a cup
poured it back into the tide

allowed time to mix it
when I drew a different cup

from a beach on the other side of the world
I traced the salt of that first water

heard iceberg songs settle caverns
in the chill of my core

The autonomy of lines

On the way to the door I used to brush
past my mother. She was always
asleep, not quite dry, a free-formed splatter
of oil paint, open hands dripped
over the couch.

One autumn morning an abstract design
intrigued me. It mattered –
like hand prints blown in red ochre on the wall
of a dark cave. I was not baffled by the art of it
got in close, felt the texture
couldn’t find a place to start my eyes.

Jackson Pollock was an alcoholic.
He, too, spread his paint on the floor.
All his figures were blurred. He never touched
his works. They wore the skin of his enamel
over their eyes. In the process
he followed, he lost himself. No wonder
his paintings had no borders.

I never wanted to paint my mother.
I found the key when my lines became autonomous.
I drew around her and coloured her in until
I saw a shimmering substance.