blackmail press 27
Jeffrey Paparoa Holman
New Zealand

untitled sculpture - Shane Eggleton
Jeffrey Paparoa Holman is a Christchurch-based poet and writer. His poetry collections include As Big as A Father (Steele Roberts, 2002), and The Late Great Blackball Bridge Sonnets (Steele Roberts, 2004). His most recent book is Best of Both Worlds: the Story of Elsdon Best and Tutakangahau (Penguin, 2010).

six poems celebrating the end of the mechanical and the dawn of the virtual

I was born the day
New Zealand was
but in England. It was
a terrible winter, but soon,


The ex-Royal Navy frigates
named after Scottish lochs
bought in 1948
we translated into
Tutira, Rotoiti, Hawea.
My father sailed for the new
world in 1949, leaving
us behind to follow. His ship
made land at Crete en route
to mihi to the dead.


Later in the New Zealand Railways
we returned to the nineteenth
century: Ngahere, old Westland, timber
laden mill lokies creaking to the railway
yards. There was no television
but imaginary worlds.


Memoir has a bunch of
issues: you half forget what
you’re making up. Coronation
Street in black and white with
static. Mum was back in a kind
of Liverpool but really it was
1968 and the Wahine Storm


Yes, that storm. I was there and remember
it from the television: black hulk, black night.
Later, in Australia, ploughing way
out in the sticks on nightshift, men
were walking on the moon. They
had computers. We did not know
about computers, kangaroos ghosting
through the tractor headlights.


Lived through three kinds of
centuries: cell phone, laptop, online families. Came
all this way from anchor chains to
Facebook. Tomorrow will shimmer
like a line gone missing.

On looking again into Heemi’s Collected Poems.
(for Roger Steele)

Jim you know the score I’m sure: 4am on the beach
in a dream, it’s dark and he shines a light in your

face, this stranger you still can’t see in the black
that’s as thick and as wild as octopus ink, the arm

on the throat and he says, “Do you cut?” Waking afloat
in the paranoid state of a day before that was honed

in the light, media beat-ups of rugby coaches, rapes by
the line that went unreported – man, you must feel at

home in the clouds, wise as an angel predicting my lines.
Like a drunk to the Bar with a hound on my heels, I sat

on a stool and I opened your book: life jumped out with
a curse on her lips, pursued by death full of glee, like

a fan, high as a kite when the whistle blows and
fifteen men hang their heads over mud. Pages of

anarchy tooled into lines that mimic the heartbeat
pumping the nation: the sound and smell of a priest

caught farting, hearing confession from an alkie
barman and over the radio, racing voices, the saw-tooth

judges who ruled the Fifties. Under the bed the springs
go creaking, a Glenn Colquhuon, a freak in the making

and after the joy or the pain – whatever – the Weetbix
rule at Sanitarium. Poets sprawl on a cracked old breadboard

cut to the quick by the wounds of a friend, and Māori voices
in translation spit on the pages and vanish again. Fuck my days

you sing in praise of the twisted ones with their nerves
of steel, who ride to the factory comatose for another

day at the same old wheel. You prophesy walls that tumble
and fall and still we feel the machinery grinding, mincing

the lame with the halt and the blind, while Zambuks mass
to remove the wounded. Seagulls wheel and crawlers

squeal on mates who struggle to feed the whānau, freighters
leave and the masses heave from sonnet to ode in

epic mode. Meanwhile the teachers talk of strike while nurses
ratchet up their claim, and if to you, it’s all the same, no pain

no gain, or turn it off – Jim, you were grim, but you knew how
to laugh, and if I was still that young romantic crying your loss

back God knows when (if I could be that kid again, chip on
my shoulder, locks of gold), with you and the rest of the restless

nation, I’d do it all again. So I close the book and we walk away,
out over Wellington Harbour, where the Māori Jesus sings.