Philip Armstrong


Lyttelton, February 2013

Amazing as it seems, in those days you (and I
and all of us) drove down the streets as fluently
as if they were fixed firmly to the ground.

In all those years you never thought (nobody did)
about our city hanging in mid-air, moving through space,
skyscrapers mullioned in the sunfilled atmosphere,

the crowds of people upon galleries and stairs,
the plains beneath us flattened roofs of cloud,
the alps of cumulus accumulated in the West.

You never thought that you and I (and all of us)
were starting our descent. You never guessed
how rough that landing would turn out to be.



An ocean beach, midnight. Above
the glassy breathing of the stars, below

collapsing water kept at bay by sand,
fingers taking the day’s residues in hand.

That was east one seven five point eight
and thirty-seven south, five months ago.

Now, west three point two, north fifty-one,
it’s drizzling rain, bald street, blank day.

Morose, I wait to post a card to you,
before I join another line, morose.

My afternoon’s a queue of queues
while winter dark fades into evening dark

- unless the planet scrolls up like a chart
and my co-ordinates slide onto yours,

the rainy night rolls back and I
step onto High Street in the sun,

we sip our coffee, leaf through bookshops,
while the street lifts from its moorings,

tilts and steadies, rises, bends
at each end like an overcrowded shelf,

pedestrians slip off, and cars
and sparrows, till just you and I remain,

housed by sunlight’s architecture,
beams and flights of stairs, sheer draftsmanship,

floorless loft apartments with
no ceilings and no walls, just views.

I wake. It’s night. I hear the rain
like someone moving round the room.



Philip Armstrong lives in Lyttelton, New Zealand, and teaches at the University of Canterbury. His short fiction and poetry have appeared in the literary journals Sport, Landfall and JAAM, in Snorkel #14, and in various anthologies. In November 2013 Auckland University Press will publish A New Zealand Book of Beasts, a cultural history of human–animal relations in NZ, co-authored by Annie Potts, Philip Armstrong and Deidre Brown.