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FLYING TO PALMERSTON
'his air/of lost connections . . . '
                              Robert Lowell
1
Queen Street, horror
of what is altogether
bearable, where have I seen
that girl’s face, that face, before?
Flight 523 departs twelve forty-five.
Potplants in the Airways lounge
do not breathe. Immobile, they flower
in an air of being suspended.
A quarter after one you will take
one pill to keep away a certain situation.
Do not be nervous, I write to myself.
The flowers have not fallen however
pallid are stalks of the lily.
2
The lily is marked. The Indian woman
wears a caste mark on her forehead.
She sits dead centre of the lounge, poised
for flight. She is equidistant from
all points here of calculated reason.
The entrance doors (one knows how
the trick is worked) open as you approach.
Look, Mum, no hands will
do you quite nicely. Thank you, m’am.
Courtesy anticipates your burden.
3
Beyond the door which no hands open
a moonface Chinese wanders.
His reason is calculated. On his forehead
a blue tattoo like a star. Bullet wound?
Stigmata? At the centre. Not dead.
Not likely.
4
Queen Street, horror
of what is altogether
bearable, where have I seen
that girl’s face before?
5
The girl, I mean, is on display
in a store window, tranquillized
perhaps, which is why she can
sit so long so still. But why
was her throat cut? And why
does she not bleed – this is
how horror accrues to us who want
to pass by on another side
calculating our reasons, we see
that her head probably never sat
very comfortably on her shoulders
yet it was bearable, tolerated.
Below her jawline, the moral
thread is revealed, a gap continuous
around the further side. Out of sight.
6
Issues from darkness within
no blood. The not even dead
pallid in an air of absence
suspended, displayed, comment
on Queen Street. But where
have I seen before me that face?
7
Twelve forty-two. A bus is at the door.
No longer a person. You are now
in flight. A flight.
                                                                  30. 6. 66
Editor's note
Flying to Palmerston: first published in Dispute (July-August 1966), 18; also in Flying to Palmerstonand Selected Poems; the Lowell quotation is from ‘Memories of West Street and Lepke’, Life Studies, 1959: Palmerston North: city in Manawatu; Queen Street, main street of Auckland, site of airport bus terminal
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