On First Looking into James K. Baxter's Collected Letters

World within world within world,
fallen out of a storybook
years ago, yet confined within
my cranium, below which
crooked bones creak and limp,
awkward as could be,
religiously cycling, tilted
electric Limes glide along the line,
turning roads that skein
to tangle round the town's
traffic jam, going home for tea.

Carefree, I'm no more chastised
by the hangman's beautiful daughter
who lived in a gypsy house-bus
that toured from fair to fair,
and who became vampiric,
a warted soak weaving her way
to the anaesthetist's cabinet,
her ear cocked for the intricate makers,
at their ticking altar of dictionaries,
at their stage-crafted priestly business,
Aleister Crowley, Rosaleen Norton,
two parts glory, three parts damnation.

That was a time when
in Faustian splendour we dawdled
out the daylight moonshine,
waiting for the coffins to open
and begin their after dark service,
fiddling at the door to the vault.

Under the weight of those days,
bent nearly double, ghosts stumble on,
the Remmers bank managers,
bald as the pavement they tripped along,
the untouchable Epsom girls
who strode reciting grammar,
the stern matrons who chaperoned weakly,
the boneshaker postal truck that puttered,
me with my skeleton key limbs
who disported ironically,
spun seaward, landward, windward,
who finally tottered to heart's ease,
and ancient whispered hymns,
all that never was and never again.

The cloud appreciation society
in a state of bliss at cumulus,
poured like foamed milk from a pitcher,
arthritic boomers bent round in koru spirals.

Those who rattled their keys, going ballistic,
garbling their words daily, hypocoristic,
appealing the length of the sentence as un-Kiwi,
all fully present at the wave, wave, wave,
now an emoji, an acid, pot, peyote hashtag,

The psychedelic moment meant
the perfume of feijoas ripening
on the overloaded tree in the abandoned backyard,
whiff of Sunlight soap fragment
on the white basin's seamy craquelure,
Stretch and Ratso in dead march in October,
bringing up the rear of Hemi's funeral,
processional, though themselves 400
kilometres north of Wanganui
in Auckland at the time, asleep,
dead drunk at the kitchen table
of a crash pad that crashed long ago.

David Eggleton is a poet and writer based in Ōtepoti/Dunedin. His  The Wilder Years: Selected Poems, is published in March 2021 by Otago University Press. He is the Poet Laureate of Aotearoa New Zealand 2019 - 2022.