Robert James Berry



Among the remoter facts of geography
a footprint is most moving.
When our landmark rose from sea
the kid stopped his grizzle

the dog forgot its mange

chiefs thought of their canoes
and paddling like hell.

When the pelicans left, we said
nothing. Curs yelped all night
making us curse them.

When earth shook
slung fizzling rocks into the gulf
sun was smeared out
clouds became soot.

Ash snowed on us
cold, wet, snowing for days and weeks
our irises exclamation marks.

When fogs cleared, looking
over land that wasn’t there

a war season ago, our toes
dug into the ash.

Among all fire deities
this new land demanded place.
Sea monsters swam for it

channels were blur, sea-routes
lost. For a decade it belched
smoke, like the mouths of the beasts.

I’ve read it all in the ash-block footprints

of this man, child and his dog.
My biro retraces their steps.



Time is fog
having no chemistry
to move

crawls upon skirting boards
where shadows are

If the folded laundry’s neatness
angers my framed ancestors
furiously dead

I’ll drag a veined hand
across my stubbled face
and sneer back at them.

Insomnia has worn
trenches round my eyes,
from staring at

bleak hills of dark
fat weepy moons that crawl
across the drapes

to tangle
in frigid trees
at dawn.



Robert James Berry lives and writes in Auckland, New Zealand. His work has been published widely. His first collection Smoke appeared in 2000 (UPM Press, Serdang, Malaysia: 2000). Since 2000 he has published Stone (Ginninderra Press, Canberra, Australia: 2004) and Seamark (Ginninderra Press, Canberra, Australia: 2005). His fourth collection, Sky Writing, has just been published by Ginninderra Press. Robert is married to Ahila and they have three sons.