Jack Ross – Stormy Weather

Ross LE Aotearoa NZ P&W April 2023

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Live Encounters Aotearoa New Zealand Poets & Writers April 2023

Stormy Weather, poems by Jack Ross

Stormy Weather

Do I have your permission to dress you?
After you lose the weight?

I suppose it comes down to the choice
between Derek Jarman and Peter Greenaway

those were the stakes in Edinburgh
some thirty years ago

when I went to the Filmhouse daily
On the one hand Jarman’s Tempest

I wanted to hear them sing Stormy Weather
that’s why I made the film

On the other Prospero’s Books
a torrent of images books being drowned

in the sea legions of nude extras
playing chess with their bodies

On one side The Last of England
an old ripped t-shirt

and a boy choking down raw cabbage
on the other The Draughtman’s Contract

inexplicable alphabets of symbolism
a mind-numbing tour-de-force

it’s what got me here
(wherever here is)

I’m very excited about the brooches
I like to see you in that peacock shirt

Bus lanes

are fucking brilliant
slipping you past
all the stalled traffic
out in Otherworld

likewise that looming
skyline hypodermic
poised to vaccinate
a queasy sky

is it wrong
this ease of access
V.I.P. entry?
better than

the half-hour in the café
knowing we’d ordered lunch
not knowing they’d forgotten

the kitchen printer had run dry

Emotionally labile

that was the phrase they used
for my father
after his stroke

he’d tear up
at the slightest mention
of wartime sacrifice

or heroic deeds
it improved him
said my mother

he’d been too buttoned up
stiff upper lip
as he counselled patients

in their darkest hour
but now it’s me
I just have to hear

Churchill’s gravelly voice
or a burst
of patriotic music

and I’m awash
embarrassing yes
but if you can’t cry sometimes

what good are you?

© Jack Ross

Jack Ross is the author of four novels, four books of short fiction, and six poetry collections, most recently The Oceanic Feeling (2021). He was the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand from 2014-2020, and has edited numerous other books, anthologies, and literary journals. He recently retired from his job teaching Creative Writing at Massey University. He lives with his wife, crafter and art-writer Bronwyn Lloyd, in Mairangi Bay, on Auckland’s North Shore, and blogs at https://mairangibay.blogspot.com/

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