Richard von Sturmer – Harun Abu-Khalil

Sturmer LE Aotearoa NZ P&W April 2023

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Live Encounters Aotearoa New Zealand Poets & Writers April 2023

Harun Abu-Khalil, poems by Richard von Sturmer

Harun Abu-Khalil

Harun Abu-Khalil
among the oystercatchers
his overcoat embroidered
with the eyes of gazelles.

He travelled with Ibn Battuta
to the far ends of the earth
and learnt not to discriminate
between non-believers
and adherents of the faith.

Harun Abu-Khalil
his scimitar now used
for slicing cheese.
To demonstrate he unveils
a large block of parmesan.

I wonder if we’ll ever see
the likes of him again.
His overcoat remains on display
in a small museum in Istanbul.
The entrance fee—
a peacock’s feather.

Harun Abu-Khalil
loved to observe
how everything corresponds.
The pebbles on a distant beach
still click beneath his heels.

Storm in the Hills

Rain, rain
eternal rain.
I tramp
down the rutted path
with milky water
flowing over white clay.
An hour later
stretched out
on a pebbled beach
I remember
what you once said.
How in a dream
when the last bird
has vanished
and fish no longer swim
in the grey sea
we will still find beauty
in the rock strata,
in those ancient upheavals
of the earth
offered to us
over millions of years.

Little Demons

Little demons need no incentive
to burn down the grain silos.
Afterwards they cool their feet in the snow.

Little demons compose scurrilous poetry
when they should be meditating
back in their demon cave.

I once lured them out
with a shrivelled radish
and shut them inside
a lead lined box.

Little demons recognize themselves
in the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch
and Matthias Grünewald.
They clap their hands and cry out
“Our ancestors were so formidable!”

For some reason
they adopt French accents
and wear tiny fur coats
(made from mouse fur).
One one-eyed one sports a monocle.
They call him “Mon oncle”.
Little demons love to play with words.

I could write their histories in red ink
across the pages of medieval manuscripts
obliterating all those pious saints and virgins.

Little demons are the sworn enemies
of any insight or epiphany.
When they slide down my shoulder blades
I shiver with delight.

© Richard von Sturmer

Richard von Sturmer is a New Zealand writer. He was born on Auckland’s North Shore in 1957. His recent books are the acclaimed memoir, This Explains Everything (Atuanui Press, 2016), Postcard Stories (Titus Books, 2019) and Resonating Distances (Titus Books 2022). In 2020 he was the University of Waikato’s writer-in-residence. He is currently working with filmmaker and musician Gabriel White as the Floral Clocks. They have recorded three albums: Desert Fire (2014), A Beautiful Shade of Blue (2017) and Gas Giant (2019).

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