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Live Encounters Aotearoa New Zealand Poets & Writers April 2023
Treasures, poems by Michael Giacon
In the big pool we’d bomb from the high board
whitewash rocking those treading tiled blue.
But touching the bottom was the true thrill.
You could pull yourself down by the ladder
but only halfway. Diving from the side
was forbidden and we were good kids, mostly.
It was all about momentum.
I was a boy of size, had ballast on my side.
Huge breath, upend and down, down for the count
– and treasures. Why anyone would swim with coins
in their pockets. We’d splurge the bounty
on frozen Buzz Bars from the lady in the shop
with the twisted left hand. I still have the plastic heitiki
I found down there weighted on a lead clasp,
its moulded whētero giving challenge
to dive deep into the present.
Now I swim just minutes and fifty years
from the pools. I glide over sand and sea grass,
holding breath for 10, 11, 12 strokes, but never 13.
I sometimes emerge with everyday portents twisting
in my pockets: plastic bag, chewed tennis ball.
Last week, mid-stroke, I headbutted a kombucha bottle
bobbing to the barefoot shore. It’s out back
in the recycling bin with all my dubious trove.
He would arrive fully framed. Flapped hat, socks sandaled
pant and sleeve length flared, shawled under cotton, the transition
from sand to sea exact, shedding to a green and white costume, red
bathing cap, goggles. She was also adorned with intent. At his merger
for immersion she might move to the far end under overlapping trees
where more sand could always be had. Below alarmed gates
to the mansions above she would marshal an art of deadly stillness.
limbs scripting air as he stroked to and from her close to shore.
An hour or two either side of a changing tide I’d toe my way barefoot
to the bay a quick hop perhaps with a sharp stone past two bikes red
and yellow tethered to the rail. The sea could float a fresh face on any day.
I’d push and pull through rise and fall, read the moving mantra with body
and breath calm in coming, tepid water under cool reaching down, mittens
of warmth swarming fingers. I’d wallow in my own wake.
Construction was always claiming place, a clamour of that time
those tides, then. A blue sun hat, a salted beard would glide conversation
beyond the billionaire boat sheds to a specific point of obscurity and back.
Their undressed dance followed organic form, limbs akimbo under towels
a cairn of helmets and panniers sculptured on sand.
Mid-bay mid-swim vision fogged, my in-breath paused our colony reflecting
on the bay almost not there. I’d splay myself to the breeze in a glaze of gold
and two heads bobbing for their beacon or steer leeward across to where
the foreshore was, and a caravan of cotton turning on the sand for the steps
past the cutty grass, two bikes disarrayed, the path up to fresh tarseal away
into dying light summer tides we couldn’t fathom flooding every day.
branches just budding I fetch
oiled secateurs to open the heart
of the plum to sun keep
the peach within reach
to blood red
to golden flesh
warmest wettest winter yet
first spring storm about
to burst I ponder the bounty
the water tank brims plastic
bags of bark on order in a haze
of fruit flies the compost bin will
be revealed netting unravelled shade
cloth trimmed back brace tight
with lupins to dig in blossoms
abloom with bees
driest I muse on
ticking trees garden mix
a bittersweet taste
of ice-packed summer
© Michael Giacon
Michael Giacon was born and raised on the central isthmus of Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland in a Pākehā/Italian family. He has an MA in creative writing from AUT University (2016) and is a founding member of Isthmus Poets, graduates of the Masters. He has been on the Board of the Samesame but Different LGBTQI+ Writers’ Festival since 2017. Michael won the 2016 Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems and was the featured poet in a fine line summer 2020/21 from the New Zealand Poetry Society. Over the last five years or so he’s been published in a wide range of journals and anthologies including Landfall and the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook.