Owen Bullock

New Zealand

Owen Bullock has published poetry, haiku, stories, reviews and articles in many New Zealand journals and in Australia, Britain, Japan and the U.S. He was the featured poet in Poetry NZ 27 and produced a couple of chapbooks last year: summer, Hauraki Plains and after the buddhist comes to call (Hen Enterprises). 'He has been poetry editor of both Bravado and Spin and is now co-editing Kokako – NZ’s sole haiku magazine. He lives in Tauranga.


in your face is the mother who takes a lover
to her eyes, covers him with her hair

in your hand the delicacy of finger poised
for some unnecessary stroke

your neck is memory of the baby held
its milky clammy sweetness, its folds

your offing is the sailor’s imagination
a vague recall in the eye sockets -

he’s seen someone very like you before,
wished for the peace she couldn’t give him

left behind an infant’s blanket
still folded around the time

when he first thought “I’ll be a magician”
you’re there, throwing back your head

turning so slightly to the person nearest
as a hand passes across theory

into a storm of voices with a seagull calling.
you say “I read poems, a lot”

you’re in mind because he wants you to be
& in love with punctuating sighs

he wonders about the depth of you
the waist and parting, you walk

away from the quay, back to your life,
to his dream, into late morning

through horoscopes, over the road
& below the bridge where the water flows

& bubbles free

heart in the night
- a pantoum

his heart is too loud in the night
one one thousand two one thousand
how many times has he loved her?
the night close, he removes clothing

one one thousand two one thousand
numbers are but words
the night close, he removes clothing
sometimes the sky isn’t big enough

numbers are but words
fluoro stars on the ceiling
sometimes the sky isn’t big enough
a child must have lived here

fluoro stars on  the ceiling
the window is open wide
a child must have lived here
sometimes he feels like Superman

the window is open wide
he could escape, sleep around
sometimes he feels like Superman
this is a simple story

he could escape, sleep around
how many times has he loved her?
this is a simple story
his heart is too loud in the night

3 part portrait, subject & context

1. to the ancestor:

be free
in the time you had
freer than you were

if we can change the future
why not change
the past

to your quietest moment
under the tree
beside the exhausted swing

2. to the people:

that sparrows dance on chair backs
for many hours
that the vine extends, tree to tree
in a lifetime
that conversation will not die
that friends shuffle in
out of paradigms
that you will listen to me
& not my words

3. to the land:

of red reflections in water
of leaves
of the shattered gaze of a woman
of a man beside her, driving
of a posture from a distance
of a relaxed moment
of the movement
from the corner of an eye
of a bird’s branch in great number
of the poi, one to a hand
of the bark, lit in stripes

water spreads without moving


we drive across the estuary
the engine is clear
one white sail proceeds
in the paradise that’s today

a voice
washes in & out
children are asleep at home –
advantage of teen biology

you give the sea a lesson
in how to be poetry
it comes when you call
a well-trained monster

you teach the park to play
show the bridge how to hold cars
I once lassoed a restaurant
and put it on an aeroplane

the ground beneath our feet is shocked
you’re at peace in bed
or standing at the easel
with pastels in your hair

I’m at home in the world
when the estuary’s emptied out
and write about a memory
because I can do little else

turn the page . . .

the poem says it doesn’t matter
who the ‘they’ you allude to
are. the poem wants you to know
who it’s speaking of and not to puzzle
unless it means to

the poem doesn’t mind if you meet
however illicitly, in the lines themselves
as long as your meeting doesn’t wreck the aesthetic

it’s prepared to do without sanity,
coherence, but not to stagnate

the poem wants to go on & on making
you feel loved

usually not

the poem seduces with allusions
with a look, with an ‘until next time’

between one stanza & another
it strokes ears & hair

slowly its meaning is sure
it talks of sustenance & tables

it feeds in the moments between words
voiced by a voice for a voice

the poem’s car follows, for good or for bad
suddenly it’s amazing how many blue poems are out there
pressing the streets with their tyres
hiding love in folders, romances in script

touch the flyleaf
& find out if there can be
a sequel that’s as good


a certain mind does not inhabit
this space. someone enters and wants to say
‘are you as beautiful as you look?’

remembering then all the places he put
his foot and the positions from which
one can taste the body. his flatmate said

sex is better in the head,
he strongly disagreed.
there’s something

odd about him - can you feel it?
he has a job. his job is to sing.
do you think that’s a strange job?

why is everyone so beautiful?
he’s a body, relaxing there.
was there anything you wanted him to say?

bring on the night

empty of old sensations
enjoy the new

enough chairs & tables
to serve the world

bitter grapes in shadows
under a heated out-of-doors

“it’s never just one person
it takes two to fuck it up”


“it’s up to each individual
to do what he wants to do”

“I’ll start living my own life
in a few years time
when they leave school”


airs of all the
places left

of personality

is light now
they play a tune

“he’ll break his fingers”
if he doesn’t
he might as well

her eyes open
when she sings
to her child

it’s a weary life
being a drinking man’s wife
passed down through the ages

if you’re bored
you can always
go back to family