Tim Jones is a poet and author of both science fiction and literary fiction who was awarded the New Zealand Society of Authors Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature in 2010. He lives in Wellington, New Zealand.
Among his recent books are fantasy novel Anarya's Secret (RedBrick, 2007), short story collection Transported (Vintage, 2008), and poetry anthology Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand (Interactive Press, 2009), co-edited with Mark Pirie. Voyagers won the "Best Collected Work" category in the 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Awards.
Impertinent to Sailors
Curved over islands, the world
dragged me south in a talkative year
as the band played a distant farewell.
It was better than steerage,
that assisted passage: ten pound Poms
at sixpence the dozen, promenading
in sun frocks, gathering for quoits,
angling, in an understated way,
for a seat at the Captain’s table —
while I, a child, roamed decks, became
impertinent to sailors.
And the heat! My dear, there never were
such days — rum, romance,
the rudiments of ska. Panama beckoned,
locks pulsing like the birth canal.
We passed through, to be rocked
on the swells of the quiet ocean,
its long unshaded days
of trade winds, doldrums, Equator —
then a cold shore,
a bureaucratic harbour,
and the half of a world
it would take to say goodbye.
A good question
here in the living room
at quarter to three.
All the others
are in bed.
They’re drawn in pairs
& yet again we’ve drawn the bye.
Have a coffee — Thanks.
What’s on the telly? Static.
A penny for your thoughts;
I’ve wrung the last
thin juices out of mine.
Have another orange, go on,
be a devil.
Stuff a chilli up your nose,
see a doctor, read a book,
save the world in fifteen minutes.
Put on your hat & coat & gloves
then take them off again.
My double relishes his freedom to move
through narrative and time. You’ll find him
in the trunks of burned-out cars,
in the cat seat of history, riding pillion
as the motorcade fails to take the bend.
On the red carpet, just behind the stars,
he whispers poison in each lovely ear.
He’s the sine qua non, the ne plus ultra,
the hand chained to the plague ship’s tiller,
the indispensable figure of the fifth act.
But now he’s taken to hanging round the house,
not picking up, showing the boy amusing tricks
and games to play with string. I’m bored,
my double tells me, and:- how can you stand
to live this way? I look into his empty face.
You’re the one who chose to fall in love, I say.
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