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Andrew M Bell May 2022
Mischief light fills his eyes
and he can’t believe his ears.
His father is giving him permission
to smash a plate on the concrete driveway.

Mum’s picked up a nice line in Crown Lynn retro plates
in a second-hand shop in Timaru
and she’s culling hard.
Tiny chip on the underside of the rim, felt but unseen,
and it’s unsentimentally consigned
to the dustbin of history
or at least some anonymous landfill.

Dad sees an opportunity for secret boy business,
sanctioned vandalism. “Don’t tell Mum. She wouldn’t approve.”

That boy’s blue eyes are
charged with adrenalin
when that white innocence shatters
in a porcelain explosion.

“Do you feel a little bit Greek?” Dad asks
and is met with incomprehension.

 Andrew M. Bell
The poet wishes to acknowledge Catalyst, the literary magazine in which this poem first appeared.
Andrew M Bell May 2022
Radio news bulletin in the car
the last item read in those mellifluous tones
is about a seven-year-old boy
struck and killed by a car
in a poor suburb of Wellington.

The protocol around the legal and privacy issues
means it’s “no name, no pack drill”,
but he was someone,
someone’s son, grandson
perhaps even great-grandson.
He had probably had siblings,
definitely friends and playmates.

Somewhere in a house with
inadequate winter heating,
where the household income is
constantly under siege
and life never rises above a struggle,
there is a mother and a father
who bear this greatest grief.

 Andrew M. Bell
The poet acknowledges "The Typewriter", the online literary journal in which this poem was first published.
Andrew M Bell May 2022
(In memory of Norris Hickey 1935-2014)

Love of family and fly-fishing: twin tributaries flowed
into your heart like a braided river.
Paradoxically, a sociable man who preferred to be alone
on some braided river,
basking in the peace of the wilderness,
hearing only birdsong and the gentle whirr of the fly line,
its nylon whipping to where you hoped the fish would rise.
Patience comes easily in peaceful surroundings,
unlike waiting for the blessing of grandchildren.
Eventually rewarded with five blessings.
You always said what a lucky man you were.
I’m glad your luck held because you would weep to see
your precious braided rivers drying up down here,
****** dry by the farmers’ greed for white gold
and the threatened tarāpunga (Black-billed gulls)
getting their nests crushed by callous four-wheel drives.
It would be enough to make your big, generous heart burst.

© Andrew M. Bell
Andrew M Bell Feb 2015
This is not you that lies before us,

beloved Aunt, for you live on

in our hearts, our souls, our minds

as the with racquet and a ready smile,

as the doting older sister

with eyes shining like a proud spotlight

on two little girls on a crowded stage,

singled out and made special by your love.

You do not lie here cold and lifeless,

beloved Aunt, for you live on

in the warmth of your laughter

and your bright shining lively dancing eyes

and your girlish peaches-and-cream complexion

and in the memories

of two small nephews

in the endless summer of childhood

conquering the diving tower at Jellicoe Baths

or frolicking at Mission Bay

and you capturing all our shared and happy memories

with your trusty Box Brownie.
Copyright Andrew M. Bell. I wrote this poem as my eulogy to be read at the funeral of my Aunt Gladys who died on Christmas Eve, 1997, aged 90. My mother's two older sisters never married and lived in their original home built from kauri in Epsom, Auckland with my grandmother until, one by one, they died. Gladys was the eldest of four children and was aged 16 when my mother was born. The other sister, Gwendolene, was only two years my mother's senior. My Mum was the baby of the family.

Gwen was working when we would visit Grandma's as children, but Glad had retired and she would give Mum a break by taking us on all sorts of outings. My parents never owned a camera when we were growing up, but, thanks to Glad, many of our growing moments were captured in black and white on her trusty Kodak Box Brownie. My brothers and I loved our Aunty Glad with all our hearts and she loved us very much too.
Andrew M Bell Feb 2015
In my luxury there is shame,

using my thin, Western excuses

to hide from my art.

When I read your story

I heard a trumpet of glory

and a stern rebuke

from a creativity so compelled

that, denied the tools of your craft,

you carved your daily poem in soap

and committed it to memory

before washing your words away.

When the days pass me

with the pen's call unheeded

and my reluctance comes

from seeing the word as a foe

then I'll remember you, Irina,

and how the word set you free

from the darkest confinement.
Copyright Andrew M. Bell. I wrote this poem in 1987 when I read an article by PEN about the release from a gulag of the dissident Russian poet, Irina Borisovna Ratushinskaya.
Andrew M Bell Feb 2015
Forgive me if I seemed brusque at the airport,

these churches to farewell

are not where I choose to worship

and saying goodbye is like sheathing a sword,

the danger is not over until it’s out of sight.

You’re an introspective man, covert with your passion,

but I suspect you were as glad to see us

as we were to see you.

It’s been said that you are a perfect foil

to my extroversion,

we are a sort of Laurel and Hardy of the emotional spectrum.

One of the perils of transience

is the absence of solid friendship

so that we sometimes become

like wings without a body.

Having a friend arrive on our doorstep

is to find something we did not realise

we had lost.

A holidaymaker is as bright in the workaday world

as a mint coin on sunlit concrete

so that our biggest concern

was to polish your days

to the consistency of your previous excitement.

We are rusty entertainers at best.

One of life’s more pleasant surprises

is that we never know how or where

we will forge a friendship.

Friendships forged in the workplace

can be the most enduring

because there is no mandate to like our workmates.

For a few, too short days

you brought back for me all that was good

about my life in Auckland

and I can ask a friend for no greater gift

than to reflect a little sunlight.
Copyright Andrew M. Bell
Andrew M Bell Feb 2015
It was the type of day Wellington is infamous for:

rain slanting into the pursed and puckered faces

of harried pedestrians

and I, out and about with my secret

that in the tall towers where the wheels

grind slowly

a thing not made of commerce

a growing not spurred by market forces

an investment not subject to whims and crises,

but a spark ignited by two people

laying themselves open to love

and hope and dreams and

schemes sometimes lost sight of,

was fanning the flame,

the head, heart, flesh, bone and wairua

of a life

taking root in my beloved's belly,

a life long longed for

a life

whose existence sweeps before it all petty irritations

and affixes itself on my face

as a big stupid grin
Copyright Andrew M. Bell. The poet wishes to acknowledge Valley Micropress in whose pages this poem first appeared.

For international readers, "wairua" is Maori for "spirit".
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