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Photography: Sarah Reed
Jenny Argante

Jenny Argante is a Tauranga freelance writer and editor, who is secretary of Tauranga Writers ( and co-ordinating editor of Bravado, a literary arts magazine from the Bay of Plenty. She tutors online for the Waiariki Institute of Technology's Certificate in Creative Writing. She describes herself not as a poet, but as someone who writes poetry, and thinks this is an important distinction.

absence of angels

A basking shark.
  Contradictions here:
high intensities of light,
an infinite sea
swindled of restlessness,
brooding layers forced to absorb
the sharp-toothed truculence.

Closer to hand, red buses trundle by.
Ordinary people. A white tape flutters
and the rain
washes out blood.

Framing the image
will make it real.
News heavy on the air.
We discover the stone,
absence of angels.

Was this the conflict Stendhal failed to resolve
in the Uffizi? Something to trust, Art:
blanking out these other metaphors,
and there are different consolations,
mostly internal, not meant to last.

The rock is hurled
and cannot know its circles

To paint, you must stand close:
on what's before you,
at the eye's dark corner,
sight of devils dancing

Today a man was stabbed
with a knife newly-purchased
tissue falling
lightly to the ground

Out of the black and twisting waters
a nudging snout
angles forward, briskly disposes;
and human will chooses
what's razor-sharp,
and moves in for the kill.


She is the early news
that brings report
of some disaster in a far-off land,
a car abandoned on a country road.
The dollar weakens, and the horse
you backed falls at the fifth.

She is a storm forecast.
A cyclone building over western hills,
rough winds and rain foretold
rattling boldly at your door.

She is the sports result,
always this close to bringing home
the shield, this near to being
first across the line.

She is a book review. Opinion split.
‘A beginner’s piece’ that shows
‘some brilliance’. The best advice is
borrow it, don’t buy.

She is the soap, whose episodes
include some drama and some tragic flaws,
both character and plot.

She is the Talkathon,
her froth and fribble deftly teasing gold.
from your back pocket.
In a good cause, my friend:
in a good cause.

She is The Final Word
before the box falls silent
and she sleeps. She sleeps
without conviction.

Domestic Jungle

In my domestic jungle, vines abound
and tangle in abandon with a spread
of tradescantia. Palms absorb the sound
of cat-feet tracking on the corded tread
of sand-ribbed carpets. Passionflowers suck up
the steamy air, expanding to the light
that dimly filters through the rounded cup
of bottle windows, masked to half their height
by devil's ivy, that, with spear-leafed fern,
threaten the cactus on the window ledge.
Orange and plum beneath flame nettles burn.

The hall's dark length breathes aromatic peat
that roots Bengali figs and dragon trees.
From kitchen pots and pans a tom-tom beat
recalls wild children. Like a reverie
hints out the scent of rosemary and sage.

Up on the landing, philodendrons gape
at the low grumble, from his study-cage,
of that prize specimen, my shabby ape:
the Tarzan to my Jane.
A frantic dash
- dry rustle now of mondo grass and flags -
'til, trapped at last, the piccaninnies splash
among rosette and red-stained bromeliads
that mark the limits of the water-hole.
They trek the short safari into bed,
huddle down safely in their blanket roll.

The night creeps closer, ominous and dread.
Replete, the chattel tigers stalk away.
Within our bedroom, shrimp plants languid swing
each flushed and curving bud, and, silver-grey,
there's speckled sonerila. Cissus clings
around the bedposts. Barricades of net
screen out the garden, orderly to view.

With feral grunts we couple, warm with sweat,
inside our jungle paradise for two.

remembering ancient circles
“ ... and the priestess of Brigantia who married a Roman soldier ...”

Kya, her tribal name:
the Roman softened it,
changing a wild bird’s cry
into conformity

Now, where the harbour-fort
winds a strong wall about the slackening town
she finds in the spangled dusk
space for communion with the Mother-God:
counts up again the number of her dead,
smoke-black rings and blood upon the stones

Beneath, the wolf-grey tide
with heaving sighs
lopes towards stubborn rock,
that same endless sea
which, long ago,
romped on the exiled shore

Once more she hears the murderous battle-roar,
watches the strong men fall.
She falters down
to where the menhirs crowd,
buries her anguish in the beaten ground

A cold fog curls inland,
sleek as old deceptions,
those arts of hand and eye
that brought survival,
sealed a kind of freedom
with three tall sons

The last gold swoons
into the hollow sea.
On high she lifts the girl-child to the moon.
Her long hair streams out banners to the wind

And lilac silence holds,
is absolute

Then sea-birds plunge and shock the troubled air
like late returning ghosts.
  Harsh, barbaric cries
curdle the milky night.
“Kee-yaah! Kee-yaah! Kee-yaah!”

The great wings spread out,
making circles,
scatter the shadows from
her wounded line.

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