blackmail press 28
Robert Phelps                 
Unites States of America

Kitchen - Charles Olsen
In 1991 I had the opportunity to visit your gorgeous country. I stayed a month, and am submitting a few poems that I wrote while traveling on both North and South islands.

I am a 70 year old Franciscan Catholic priest. I am an American and live presently in the New York City area.
The Shearing  

In the shearing shed we sat
backs straight as a cat pawing for yarn.
Pensive, we heard in the
cavernous barn the
host farmer's mumbled remarks,
the interesting tidbits about
care for sheep. We were there.
We were there, looking too much like
witnesses to the electric chair.

The lumpy farmer with back bent
into a rear pen
and dragged onto the shearing stage
a giant flamboyant ewe
clothed in a hurricane of wild fleece;
He pulled her across the wood floor,
hooves sliding,
this huge wool thing,
Her deep mascara'd eyes shone with
incongruous peace as
in silence,
she submitted,
eyes up
against his slightly bent knees.
He her father-shepherd.

Sharp, quick thrusts, he cut
her glory down to
raw red flesh.
Those eyes.
Those beautiful eyes,
Those in prayer eyes
never darted away.
She was one with that farmer;
The shearer and the shorn,
The cutter and the bleeder.

I kept repeating for a reason
I could not fathom:
Dona nobis pacem.

Palmerston North, New Zealand

Wide and sunny Broadway
in silence lay,  reserved
for dreams.
On both sides the commerce of deep memory.
Canopied shops with
careful windowed presentation;
Well-scrubbed elegance,
to invite a chat
as much as make a sale.

Under wide-brimmed floppy hats,
red-cheeked mothers
in long cotton skirts and
stockingless brown shoes
cajole and corral
their frowning blond muchkins
with the silent stare and flanking
of the shepherd's collie.

This idyllic street in Palmerston North,
An arousal
in the opaque corner of my memory,
To remember my little boy self

at ten or eleven,
when my world looked like
Broadway at Palmerston North.
Like the street in Tarrytown, New York, where
I took my thirty cents to buy my mom
a birthday card, and did not see
in a card which proclaimed:
"You've been just like a mother to me."

Air New Zealand, Flight 19, Honolulu to Auckland

"Ooooooh," the giant moans
as we former strangers confined
in her belly
are now intimate in our obedience
to upright tray tables and seatbelts; and in liturgical order
strapped to our pews facing forward
trusting self and soul
to the disembodied baritone on the intercom.

"Aaaaaah," the giant sighs;
She's now learned how far she must carry
us poor souls,
and the life this will steal from her
magnificent metallic bosom.

Now a gentleness sets in,
the reciprocity of pilgrim colleagues who
seat by seat journey together.

The Cave at Waitomo

We race by as poplars stand at attention,
guarding swollen sun fields of corn, past
green meadows bordered by hedgerow fencing
and somnolent sheep both wooly and shorn.

We cross narrow rivulets tortured in shine, and
silvered, snake in North Island sun past
Hampshire-like cottages that gingerbread line
the road to Waitomo and her subterranean night.

The cave at Waitomo is a wondrous dark place,
An opaque cathedral to praise you below for
the beauteous show of your North Island face
and for cupping out earth so your glowworms could glow.

Denny's at Manurewa

This night we are unknown and honored guests
of the kiwis
at Denny's at Manurewa.

The women,
rosy as their cheeks,
no make-up. Formless elegance, with
dowdy Walton dress and
sensible brown flats. No socks.

The men, tall as the trees
planted on barren hills by their fathers
and their fathers' fathers,
even in khaki shorts and Reeboks,

They smile quickly and know polite
as well as they know their Lion Red beer.

On the Road to Taupo

If the car had nostrils
they'd be flaring as
she dipped and climbed
in turns brave and unexpected
through a whole world of hills
as far as my eyes
could gather them in;

Each haired
in marching band rows of pine
planted by hands in years gone,
fingered in the hope of forest;
And every hill
inexplicably mirroring
the same order and proportionality
as each piney tree.