31 January 2012

Tuesday poem: on the Tuesday Poem blog

I'm not posting a Tuesday poem here this week, because I was too caught up being the editor of the Tuesday Poem blog. I've chosen a few pieces from one of my favourite poems: 'Appointment with Sophie Calle' by Paula Green. You can read it here: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/2012/01/from-appointment-with-sophie-calle-by.html, and I hope you will. And then I hope you'll go and find the book and read the whole thing - the poem is a very long one, and as much as I wanted to, I knew it would be ridiculous to post the whole thing.

16 January 2012

Tuesday poem: 'The Stations of the Bucket Man' by Keith Westwater

The Stations of the Bucket Man


One Monday, Mr Jones walked out
of his Tinakori Hill campsite
with his birth certificate
bank statement and will
knelt in the gutter
at the intersection
of Grant and Park Streets
and died.


He was an urban Man Alone
before he went bush in the city.
His mother said his downfall
was his (bleeding) sensitivity.


The artist who painted him
with a halo and cross
was asking us to reflect
on what we would say
if we met on the street.


He stopped daily
at the Golden Arches
buying coffee and a bite to eat
in lieu of loaves and fishes.


The stockbroker’s assistant
nearly threw him out
of the counting-house
seeing he was not a Pharisee.


From his portrait
he looks over the shoulder
of the businessman
who wanted to buy his burial.
Who does he think he is?


One Christmas
there was room for him at the table
but he declined
stopping instead on the porch
to chat about the garden.


When he gave Wellington’s poor
money and clothes given him
they were, for a while
rich beyond relief.


In church he placed in the plate
twenty dollars just given him
then said to his benefactor
two would do.


One cold night
not long before he left us
he rested in a bus shelter
and told a passing Samaritan
he was alright
and thank you for asking.


At his funeral it was said
how useful a bucket was
living on the street –
for washing at the public fountain
for carrying things in
for using as a hat
when God wept on you.


Blessed are Wellington’s homeless
for they shall inherit the earth
on Tinakori Hill.

I love this poem. Every time I read it gives me shivers. I loved it from the first time I read it in JAAM 26 (or, actually, when I read it while typesetting JAAM 26). I most recently read it in Keith's debut poetry collection, Tongues of Ash. I thought of it again today, because Blanket Man (Ben Hana), a sort-of-but-not-really successor to the Bucket Man (Robert Jones), died yesterday. Both of these men chose, for various reasons, to become homeless. They both became Wellington personalities in a kind of uncomfortable way - for me at least. I couldn't help but feel uncomfortable around them - aware of my own privilege, my own mental health, a desire to help them along with a desire to stay the hell away from them. They had quite different energies - Robert Jones was more plodding and humble, I guess, while Ben Hana had more of a trickster energy, hanging out on busy intersections, worshipping the sun. Without meaning to mythologise either of them, they both made people think and feel, and they have been significant in the warp and weft of my city.

I'm not sure that, in my rant above, I really expressed what it is I think I'm trying to say. I think what I'm trying to say is that I'm sad. And that while they were homeless, they kind of belonged to us, to the city. That they matter. Or something like that.

Keith Westwater began writing poetry in 2003 while taking Dinah Hawken's Writing the Landscape course, and landscape and the natural world remain primary poetic interests of Keith's. Since then he has had work published in various literary journals and short-listed in competitions. His debut poetry collection, Tongues of Ash, was published last year by Interactive Press in Brisbane (for more information visit: http://www.ipoz.biz/Titles/TOA.htm). And Keith blogs here: http://www.keithwestwater.com/.

And then, if that's whet your appetite, check out the other Tuesday poems via http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

And happy new year! I hope it turns out fabulously for you, and for me too.