James Norcliffe

James Norcliffe

James Norcliffe has published eight collections of poetry, most recently Shadow Play (2013). Recent work has appeared in Spillway, Salamander, The Southeast Review and Flash Fiction International (Norton, 2015). This year, with Joanna Preston, he edited Leaving the Red Zone: poems from the Canterbury Earthquakes (Clerestory Press). A new collection, Dark Days at the Oxygen Café (VUP), will be launched in August this year.

“Piña para was written for Julia Guarin-Kappaz, who told me this little Latin American tag.”


In Hokitika

There is a famous deli
with easy chairs, cheese
and really good hoppy beer.

The very air, you note is filled
with coal and gold, and milk
tumbles from a bright

sky in such heavy white
drops you might be drawn
to believe that Nature has

been overly kind to Revington
and the other streets and squares
nearby. And if you were a slight

sentimentalist you might
of course be right, but then
you may not have quite

noticed the carnivorous rust
you had been wading through, the
reach of moss, the remorseless

yet insidious stretch of long
supplejack fingers through
the windows of your brain

or even the trembling care
with which the deli-man
locks his door again

against the rain
the white
relentless rain

Piña para la niña / mora para la señora

sweet and cold
golden eyes
to grip hold
and tenderise

soft grenade
in love’s battle
for a maid
the pineapple

sweet serene
shadow play
yester green
black today

mantilla
deep shady
blackberry
for the lady

On the hill

On evenings like this when the sky is
tomato-juice red and the sea stretches
towards a horizon that hides America,
the world is full of marvellous women.

They are not solid but slender rather;
as cocksfoot bends to the wind, they
bend to gather armloads of green ixias
from terraced gardens for the market.

They do not shape stone, they knead
dough for the future, a future with a crisp
crust, glazed with sweetness and currants.
They are armed with secateurs and they snip

at all that is unnecessary, peripheral. I know
them well, I know them still: the softness
of their breasts, their strong arms holding me,
wrapping me as the sky purples into black.

First published takahe 87
August 2016