Stephen Oliver


for Warren Dibble

You gave me back my words. A reminder.
Your voice I knew immediately. My words gave me
pause, half recalled, how could it be otherwise?

                          I heard them in a different register,
as if for the first time, remade. They had all gathered,
those words, in spontaneous,

mass demonstration, shoulder-to-shoulder,
to make a rendezvous. Whether this was expectation or
conclusion, greeting, or decisive farewell,

in a town square, down highway, for one moment,
I could not tell, those words, disowned, independent.

Given back to me within the single minded
character of your voice, tremulous, through the cable
beneath the Tasman Sea.

The phone call reversed its charge and two poems
informed me newly. Then you hung up.
                          Nothing more needed saying. A gift.



All night, the footpads of those ghosts
amongst the walls, harried as waiters between the
mortal, and some unseen command centre.

              Orders taken and given,
the silent traffic of night coming and going …

As though one half of me had not emerged
from the marble block, the live side, perfectly formed,
held there by that dead weight.

              The dream, and the waking.

The mind a sinkhole. Jumbled cinematic frames
forming and reforming. Taut silences.
              Nocturne for the soul’s restive tossing.

              And the breath that in dead earnest
wakes the body in those early hours of the false dawn.

              That form lowering to my bedside
whose thought caused the body to kick wide awake.

              There is nothing but grainy silence.
A hissing sound, and the darkened objects of the room
surrounding me.

              The ghostly thought evaporated.



Stephen Oliver is the author of seventeen volumes of poetry. Travelled extensively. Signed on with the radio ship The Voice of Peace broadcasting in the Mediterranean out of Jaffa, Israel. Freelanced in Australia/New Zealand as production voice, narrator, newsreader, radio producer, columnist, copy and feature writer, etc. Lived in Australia for the last two decades. Currently resides in NZ. His latest volume, Intercolonial , a long narrative poem to be published by John Denny of Puriri Press, NZ (2013) is as much about Australia as it is New Zealand. A transtasman creation. Oliver writes: “Warren Dibble—playwright, poet, Burns Fellow, University of Otago 1969—has lived in Sydney for over four decades. Warren removed himself from the literary circus years ago. Comfortably into his early 80s, he continues to write but does not publish. Warren is one of the wittiest men I have ever met. His poetry and other writings are as good as any writer who has achieved genuine acclaim in NZ letters, past or present.”