Nicholas Messenger has been a poet all his life, and a painter on and off. He won the Glover Poetry award in New Zealand in the 1970’s, and has had a few small one-man shows of his paintings. This year he has had poems published in Blackmail, Boloji, High Altitude Poetry, Off Course, Pulsar, Web Poetry Corner and WOW.
He was born in 1945, and after completing a degree at Auckland University, travelled extensively in South America, and lived in Europe for several years. For a long time he made his living as a teacher, of science, art, and languages, in High Schools in New Zealand, where he was a long-standing member of mountain Search and Rescue organisation. Now, after nine years in Japan teaching English, he is running a small home-stay business in Hokitika, New Zealand, with his Japanese wife. He has two grown-up children from a previous marriage.
Terra cotta terra incognita,
time's brick-coloured country where the water
creeps on an interminable escape.
Enormous insects, one half leaf,
half-clay, with the ridiculous shape
of something thought up, and peculiar birds
all knees and neck, their cries like grief,
infest her drouth; while corpulent things
churn drowsily, becoming blurred
in last resorts of moisture. The explorer flings
his compass off into the sand
and enters on the last imaginable land.
It seems to have been the last despairing howl
of Sarah Green that Easedale people commonly recalled :
the voice dehumanised by blizzard, floating from the night
on Langdale Fells. The orphans in the cottage only heard
its mockery : their hearing was the prey of every cry
the wind feigned, but the eaves were muffed with snow
and they heard nothing really. Indeed, whatever word
of mouth conveyed from outposts all round Langdale head
of the shout that came out of the storm, we will never know
the poor soul cried at all when she knew her husband dead
and finally lost in whiter dark, or if the voice was else
a proxy in the straining ears of rumour; and both true and false.
A message left for us at the unguarded gate.
The first dark in the clutches of the peaks of slate.
The thread of pathway disappearing down. The far
far, faint, faint chiming of a water fall.
The sea behind us fading as ahead a star
winks open. Meanwhile the inordinately old
recluse by the dilapidated wall
forgetting and forgetting, smokes and gazes.
No good asking what you won't be told,
like who has passed, and paused to scratch these phrases
and went on, like all the others so long gone
that no-one thinks to watch for their return ...
The battle ship lay off the island all one night,
the palm-domed turtle softening its shanty lights
and voices in a fringe of star-kissed breakers, breeze just carrying
the throbbing of the engines in; her pistons, cams and dynamos
revolving in a shroud of grease and vapour, tarrying
in their rhythm of unhastened power, their fury muffled
under darkened waterlines. The schools of tiny fish below
the slick lagoon, who felt it, wheeled this way and that
in flights of panic, their erratic searches making little ruffles
in the salty dark. The islanders, in their kind skeins of chatter
and of play, the toys of virtue, rarely glanced that way, to where
her blank guns just gleamed, nuzzling in the air.