Matador Review

A Quarterly Missive of Alternative Concern

robyn maree pickens

urban planning

Before we came to this country
           there would've been another name
for the Spectacled Flying Fox
(an endangered bat).

I never understood how she could
           disparage the indigenous people
yet work long nights giving out free food & bibles
(to the Aboriginal homeless & street children).

Some groups, she says, have taken
           the rainbow as their symbol
without knowing its true meaning.
           Instantly I want to cover myself with Pride tat
loll in the refracted light where the rainbow meets the mangroves
           & hold my girlfriend
(the speed of coloured light).

After a day with her
           hordes of yellow crested white cockatoos
descend cawing to roost in the crowns of brittle ribbonwoods
(their guano is killing the trees).

Aboriginal people were sleeping amongst the tropical vegetation
           outside her hotel, she tells me. The council raked between the dense weave
collecting bedding & feces which were left to dry before removal
(the maintenance of urban planning).

The plaque in the hotel acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land
           pays respect to the elders throughout the ages
but does not name the people, the mob, the community
(a sea-swimming turtle angles towards the milky way).

It is 5:30pm at the bus stop, a drunk man attempts to attack
           two women. No one bats an eyelid. Outside my hotel
it is a person I discover, not a machine, breaking down, rupturing
(I remember that under blue light veins are not visible).

The tiny ants come into my hotel room
           appearing first on the white bathroom tiles
to run over my bathroom toe & later my bedroom ear lobe
(you and I were kissing but some countries cut that out).


The sea when I look at it is blue
                                                  and reassuringly endless. I do not need it to bridge

loss or gap or hollow. The sea is something smooth and free. I eat salmon. Pile the small
bones on the side of the white plate.

The poet said the refugee was torn between waiting to feed the sea pink bones
                                                                                  to stay buried under collapsed stone
                                                                                  to fill the cages of Europe.

I cannot speak for the refugee, for the refugees.

The TV when it speaks
                                    shows the dust of collapsed stone. Bodies are piled into the back
of pick-up trucks. There are no ambulances
                                                                     or not enough
                                                                     or they would take too long.

My new passport arrived today. It is black and can take me almost anywhere.

Would that I could offer you the sea reassuringly endless
                                          a black Open Sesame passport
                                          plates of salmon, crab fat, guava
                                          honey-sweetened tea
                                          sufficient earth.

Robyn Maree Pickens is a PhD candidate in the field of eco-poetics at the University of Otago, Dunedin, Aotearoa/New Zealand. Her writing has appeared in Jacket 2, Art + Australia Online, Turbine|Kapohau, The Pantograph Punch, Queen Mob's Teahouse, Art New Zealand, and Art News.