Chris Price


Entangled epigram

Light writes happiness.
We bury it in earth
then set it alight.

Earth turns black
and liquefies; black sinks
condensing centuries

dwelling on dark until
its obverse hazes into
sight, then rises

into light that burns
through bone—night light
and out the other side

to draw a diagram
of white on black.
Light writes white.

(And happiness? Is
colourless, retreating,
out of sight.)


Middle Period

For those who prefer to inhabit
some bygone China of the mind,
refugees in the long digression
of Li Po and Tu Fu from whatever
it is the competent and undamaged
or even slightly less pathetic
and adverbial would master without
needing to unsheath their blades,

saying is escape - and in this alone
I am a long-boned athlete running
joyously into the thicket of the poem
hoping never to find the way out.
To each their own
avoidance strategy.
The fantasy imported
by Waley, Pound and Fenollosa Inc.
is still doled out in safely
recreational doses to part-time scribes,
anodyne exercise to keep
the poodling neurons buzzing uneclipsed
until the aneurysm bids
farewell to all that, or dementia,
valiantly delayed, at last sets in.

For myself, though, I predict the long way
through the gardens of dyspepsia - look!
I am already at the gate - where
a jaundiced moon rises over stunted pines
huddled in conversation, while ahead
my impatient elders sit propped
on their unshouldered bundles
while I labour up the hill towards them.

‘Pussy!’ one tortoise-voice mutters,
but I have not breath enough to climb
and talk back at the same time. I’m too
old for another apprenticeship,
I whine, in my head’s privacy.
‘Too young!’ they shout, but
resign themselves to a second cup
of smoky tea while they wait for Young Legs
to deliver a new bundle they can rifle
for late treats. I am becoming a distant
figure, will soon be a dot
on the horizon, then over
the hill with my grumbling great-
uncles, myself perhaps resembling some
less amiable Billy Collins or more
toothless Fred Seidel, not
enough grunt to outrun them but
coming up on the inside, a small
bald-headed satellite barely
visible, on a clear night,
beyond the grizzled planets.



Chris Price is a poet and creative non-fiction writer who teaches creative writing at Victoria University of Wellington. As recipient of the 2011 New Zealand Post Mansfield Prize, which allows a New Zealand writer to spend six months living and working in Menton, France, she has rarely been dyspeptic, and never unhappy.