Expert

The low, swept shrubs below a billboard
show a snowy mountain in cloudless
sky; orange light, uncertain, reflects upon
a lake, source propped up by dull wooden
posts and all around the gravel road recedes
in desolate land, the only sign shown
for miles.

The distance that is not real or unreal
takes the blunt exposure out of it.
The clay hacked by tent, sponged yellow
gorse rise enough to display against
withering brush, the faint figures. The litter
of the camp. I walk back some and see
the slant shadows of fir trees on slope,
varying boughs cast across clearing.

I wonder,
how they prime their own walls, shear
the imperfect square where we sleep
under stars. Walk back further and it
all opens up like a moor pocked with
water, small pools only reflecting the
cloud’s white today, the lightest green
cutting the snow—
the orange fire has
us in its universe. But

I am here in the sweet valley—
do you stare into your camera
as you stare into my eyes, can you
see just under my suit, you lean back
just so, brow cocked just so
in clip of my own shadow.
If the metal nicks my lip on the
way down, I know you’ll press
the blood clean, hand leaving
marks.

I traded cell phone lights in a place
much like this. Dizzy with the
risky rocks in highland-like hills, I finally
steadied up close to an upright tree
the bark tangent, rough, almost as
if black and white, not planted
but found. There all along. I sent
a postcard of what I thought looked
most like this, a building on west 4th.

I will outline a light switch
in black so you won’t miss it. How
the pendulum swings with the
sun in your eyes. The hung crystal
in the window refracts faint greys,
blues, yellows. They rip and shine
across the room, across the water-
damaged rug.

Both hard and wet—
I pinned the limbic strands to the
floor like pegs in the dirt
to no avail. I stand in the sun’s
diminishing returns, hands open,
such expanse
cares nothing for me.

I find ways to heat with smoke
swinging from sight to sight
how the self looks to blur the self
in hard times. Like the photo of
him on the back of his book,
blurred, black and white, his left
hand bent to chest in oversized
t-shirt

a bottle of something in
the other hand, raised, his hair
long then and head tilted as if
surprised. It’s funny. Free as
the crack in the window, the
tree taller than hill, a woman
swimming the length of a lit
pool naked, coal

smudged around her eyes,
that mimetic smut, saner cubes
of shadow loose in water,
the loose frame in which
she surfaces
and resurfaces.

The land it
burns slow at first
then fast in the end.

 

 

Nikki-Lee Birdsey was born in Piha. Her first book Night as Day was published in 2019 by Victoria University Press.