You have been playing musical buildings while I
have been away, visiting the world. And you have
been laying landmines, subtle, fragrant explosions
hoisting me, as I walk your streets, into an original
thought - it is a cunning city. Not what it was, yet
nothing is forgotten. As a tree dies, another grows.
My library in Lyall Bay is given over to private use
but the magic door up to the free books is still there.
The Bank of New Zealand, opposite James Smiths,
is now a Burger King. James Smiths has absconded.
Wellington Central Library is the City Gallery, ok?
It's the Botanic Garden, not the Botanical Gardens.
It never has been the Botanical Gardens. That's just
what the locals like to call it in their whimsical way.
The National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum
are part of the Massey campus, I would swear they
had kept the linoleum if it wasn't so patently new.
It squeaks underfoot with an eerie Proustian effect.
Wellington District Ambulance is now a wine bar.
The Public Trust houses Creative New Zealand.
Athletic Park has gone. So have the dangerous
playgrounds with their battering rams with which
we tried to kill each other and, mostly, didn't succeed.
There was always one kid who would throw up though
if you kept on pushing higher while he screamed - Stop!
And there is the building still decked out as E. Morris Jnr
where I viewed my father's bedizened body in his coffin
which now trades in coffee and cake as Strawberry Fare.
I wouldn't normally post one of my own poems but I am just about to fly home to Wellington for the launch of my book – This City – which won the Kathleen Grattan Award judged by Vincent O'Sullivan, and is being published by Otago University Press, which is a very welcome part of the prize. So here is a poem about Wellington, the city where I was born. When I returned, after so many years away, to spend six months in residence at Randell Cottage, I found that we had not forgotten one another.
This City is being launched by Mary McCallum at the Thistle Inn on Monday July 18th at 6pm - and in Palmerston North by Johanna Aitchison at the Bruce McKenzie Bookshop on Tuesday July 19th at 6pm.