The Long Road to Teatime: Part 2
5 I wake up amongst the lustful gluttons
I wake up and at first I think I am back on Ponsonby Road.
A greasy cheesy smell of food thickens the air
till I lift my feet. Then another smell stirs
and rises from the ground, a smell of rotting meat
and fruit scraps turning slimily to earth.
The slime seems bottomless underfoot
but is so thick with its own stench it supports my weight.
The restaurants all spill onto the footpath,
drunken customers lurch out and lie in the gutter
pressing their lips slackly on each other’s mouths.
They eat in the gutter where they lie as if it doesn’t matter
when they vomit over each other
between bites. Their mindless moans and shouts
clash with the discordant music all about.
Seeing me some look up from their brawling
and copulation. Jade wants to know
if Greg is still alive. As more rubbish falls
on our sodden spattered clothes
she begs me to speak of her to all
those left living, then lurches from her stool
to heave her guts out in the road.
6 Pain hosts the party the romantics cannot leave
Pain offers me a glass of wine
but I still feel sick from the level above.
Someone takes my arm, pulls me down
to a sofa. ‘I have so much to tell you,’
she whispers in a breathy voice.
‘Lisa? Is it you?’
It is too dark to see.
‘What are you doing here? Why is it so dark?’
I ask. The guests are crammed into the smallest
kitchen of any party I’ve been to
and there is no door out.
Such a small kitchen
to hold such large anguish.
Everyone is sobbing
I become aware of Nik melded to Lisa’s side.
I can’t hear what Lisa is saying, she is sobbing
so loud. Something about reading
romances together till they were
crammed into the narrowest one and
their vision shrank to its size
and all went black.
Then pain returns to my side, bringing pity,
who comes between me and Lisa,
offering salted peanuts
7 So far the sinners have merely been incontinent
and it takes a boat ride to the big city
to reach the usurers in their slime.
Here they are with the murderers and homicides.
The usurers too are in for violence,
they have violated nature and art
by investing their hopes in roads and commerce.
There are too many names to name.
Gloss this canto with the stockbrokers of your time.
8 I am reaquainted with the furry fish of fraud
I remember my surprise eight years ago
when I looked under the downy fluff of Micky’s sweet talk
and saw the scales of fraud beneath.
It is this furry fish Dante urges me onto now.
I climb on and off it flies, out into thin air.
I look down and hastily shut my eyes
but I can’t shut out the screaming
from those below me in the flames.
I feel like Icarus must have felt, feeling his sides unfeathering
as the wax began to melt and nothing,
nothing held him up.
Remembering the freefall from my romance,
I cling on tightly now to the fishy fur.
9 The flatterers still teem with language
in the maze of stinking ditches where we land.
They can’t see each other over the putrid walls
and though they reach out with their voices
their sugared words stick to them like glue.
I won’t look for Micky, his hair like candyfloss.
I bury my face in my furry fish.
To hear and read the rest of this poem, see "The Long Road to Teatime: Part 3" on Anna Jackson's Poetry Archive page.
‘The Long Road to Teatime’, from The Long Road to Teatime (Auckland University Press, 2000), © Anna Jackson 2000, used by permission of the author.
Recording from the Aotearoa New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive 2004.