Iain Britton

Iain Britton is the author of six collections of poetry, published mainly in the UK. Recent poems have been published or are forthcoming in Landfall, Brief, Takahe, Cordite, Southerly Journal, Harvard Review, POETRY (Chicago), JACKET2, The New York Times, the New Humanist, Stand, Agenda, Long Poem Magazine and the NZ Review of Books.



The fontlings


the tree fern is not for hire      it’s not there for the privilege of cloaking my body
or for decoration     shift workers stick their heads into tall night clouds
into silvered silhouettes      i’m happy just inhaling the Esplanade’s green freshness
the bush-sprung foliage the wild flowers sucking in the town’s powdered air


old army coats are readily available for the scrabbling hungry      wind turbines power
the hills      stone statues have dug in along the beach      expecting a delivery
of a shipped-in container & a free demonstration on how to worship in a glass chapel

it’s the sensation of feeling exposed     that fascinates
who’s the stranger then     squatting on the roof
pulling faces      ticking off names     what
tribal affiliations does he represent      which family
is being checked for missing their handouts of daily bread

these statues thrive on twisted facts      the murky elaborations of one man’s uncut
dream against another      i’m happy to share night’s rampages through the black &
white stars confined to their quadrants      i baulk at the true worshipper of idols
at the hermit mentality of hiding inside someone’s shrunken head

eyes stitched
lips skewered
the breath of a prayer
turned soggy
from misuse

the town isn’t dead yet


celebratory drinks are being poured      i slide between the high vaults of glass
fool myself into invisibility      distribute leaflets of dogma on who has learnt to raise
who from the dead woodwork      from the ornate slabs of laid-to-rest poetry
now’s the time to open the carved box      polish the heirlooms fondle the adzed
stones & uncover the font the huge glass lips endlessly talking from the front
of the chapel from one end to the other      the glass font & all the sharing of water
the cold & the not so cold      the soft & clear & yes images lots of images of fish
baby fish twin fish human fish endlessly talking      blowing bubbles words in
bubbles saying Jesus things to the dunking of heads small wee heads kumara
size gherkin size the size of small lemons      the good & the not so good fresh for
the dunking the sprinkling the total immersion 


but the lips want more      the font can’t get enough   enough babies little dots in
shawls     the curly haired straight haired the downy domed the font gurgles gargles
spits to clear its throat & kisses a god     an infant god the lips are always opening
& closing      the tongue always talking swirling      the tongue protruding licking
cold gums      hot gums yes      the font’s got a lot to be thankful for     the boom
the baby boom the baby boomers      & still the celebratory drinks are being poured                


the font’s transparent     too transparent from the unknitted bones to the fused
& soft the cartilaginous to the brittle the bruised      from the uncracked to the cracked
the first dive into being like a goldfish in a bowl is a cleansing of sorts     the future
looks back the future reflects is reflected is a reflection of what’s to come of where
to now where to crawl      run where to fly hopefully taking off to piscatorial
wonders the font has a lot to be thankful for not everyone can fly say sweet
things do honourable things      speak louder than words than actions & exercise
holy blessings


now’s the time for the plunge for the amniotic floatabout     the soaking of body &
soul in an ocean a blue ocean red at sunset      black at night the moon
gobbing out saliva      body fluids white luminous tiddlers coming separately
or altogether     coming at once   the moon spills its silver/gold light into our eyes
it paints a flat white path not always flat sometimes rough sometimes choppy
cantankerous      not a path to play on or walk on or to have a picnic in the middle of
the lips of the ocean can’t get enough of the falling angels     of the good & the not so
good     falling

for the sake of sustenance      what the ocean takes in it doesn’t easily puke out
no need then to rush the process to sustain the numbers or keep it satisfied      

the world isn’t dead yet      its heart still beats in a clock locked up in the Chapel of the
Holy Child      so who’s the stranger squatting on the roof pulling faces
ticking off names      what tribe which family is being checked for missing their
handouts of daily bread on the beach the statues continue to stare at the horizon
at sunflowers parading against the jagged hills