an Aotearoa poetry journal | ISSN 2744-3248

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Tarot #01

Reading John Allison in the Manners Street Pop-Up Library

Outside, commuters in their scarves and gloves
stare into the distance, slowly turning grey.
Under these bright lights all is quiet
until the steady snoring starts behind me.
Across from me a man, fine Māori features
tieless in a suit, completes the Guardian Sudoku
returns with another, bends over it, his skull
gleaming through his thinning hair.
…I try to look out through that window.
In the frame myself the polished sheen
of a black mirror always looking back at me.

The snores have stopped; I will them to resume
—I want no Cheyne-Stokes breathing here
to complicate my day. I linger over each poem
seeking to arrive on John’s wavelength.
He holds me as the realisation looms
of his impending loss until I pull away
from a distressing page. His wife is dying.
In the window corner a young man
handsome as any Grecian god, sleeping bag
across his knees, talks to himself incessantly
laughs at some interior joke.
Suppose we live just a part of our lives, fulfilling
only some of its possibilities, what happens to the unlived
substance of those lives?…

Everywhere I look all heads are bent in supplication
to laptops and to cellphones, some to both.

Reading’s a key to unlock the future
this is a library where nobody
reads a book.

Nobody will realise their potential.

Notes: Quoted lines are from poems in John Allison’s collection ‘A Place to Return to’ (Cold Hub Press).