It would be sacrilege to seek
A clean place on the world map,
For you’d be walking forever
From death to your birth and back.
Sex is the great public secret
Which no-one can believe in -
What’s bargained for in pubs and clubs
Is no more nor less than skin.
Television is our hearth-fire
(A memory it is said)
And cars like wolves sneaky at night
Are visitors from the dead.
Every image that you’ve thought
Lived before you thought it through,
Freud is the sun and Jung the moon
Yet the reverse may be true.
Let me tell an odd tale
About Miss Eliza Lily,
She came from the western suburbs
Of a harbour-side city.
Miss Lily, Dear Lady -
And Wacky, the cockatoo!
Shared a drab, rickety mansion,
(Walled garden and outdoor loo).
By most considered short
At fifteen hands from head to floor,
She measured in the order of:-
Let’s say about five-foot-four.
One thing deserves mention
Like the ancient Irish Elk long dead
Earned Miss Lily notoriety: -
A pair of hands grew on her head.
A dab hand on the harpsichord
She played the Bandicoot Serenade,
Wacky on the breadboard beat time
And danced the harlequinade.
She’d pose as the shaggy moose
That ambled round mountain lakes,
She hid out back in Huon-pine
By the garden-shed and rakes.
Her fame grew increasingly,
You might say by public pranks -
She’d take off to the oddest spots
Via bus-stops and taxi ranks.
In the Hilton Hotel foyer
She’d often pose as a hatstand
Freaking out the maître d’hôtel,
Next to the baby white grand.
She’d hike to the domain
If the sky whipped up a storm,
She’d catch lightning bolts in her hand
them about the lawn.
On Sundays she liked best
To play ball on the Oval Green -
She used those hands to good effect
As backstop to a baseball team.
The bus to Maggie’s Market
Ran to time but the time ran slow;
Miss Lily counted red-brick villas
By liver-brick row upon row.
Melons and muffins she picked
Enough to fill a wicker-basket,
Wacky meanwhile hissed and spat
On cats at Maggie’s Market.
Late at night she loved to jump
And flap her hands as birds in flight,
Under the lilac moon would sing
Delirious with delight.
Alert as a satellite dish
The hands sprouting on her head;
The dolphin and the dugong sang
Lullabies to her in bed.
O Miss Lily’s golden hair
Glowed fiery in the setting sun,
She shared the secrets of the forests
With boys and girls just for fun.
She told them of medicines
In rainforests under a curse,
She told them of bark and berries
That cured Asian flu or worse.
She told them of rivers
That flowed to a silver lagoon,
She told them of the far away seas
That rolled to the lilac moon.
One night the sky grew dark
Then black and even blacker still,
Miss Lily sent the children home
As the wind blew loud and shrill.
It howled on into the night
And the steeple-bells rang madly,
It knocked chimney-pots into streets
And behaved very badly.
High up on Mt Wellington
Pylon cables came crashing down;
The one sole source of energy
In that storm-tossed harbour town.
They called out civil defence
Who thought themselves the best,
They even called out the bowling club
Who woefully proved a pest.
The town mayor threw a fit
And the councillors heaved a sob,
The townsfolk had enough and cried:
PUT MISS LILY ON THE JOB!
She took the broken cables -
Clenched them in both her hands,
She fused the cable-ends together
Where the lonely pylon stands.
She lit up like some beacon
Much brighter than a movie star,
Household lights came streaming on
And the mayor shouted the bar.
So by public vote all agreed:
ERECT A STATUE OF MISS LILY.
If she considered this déclassé
Wacky didn’t think it silly.
In the gallery she now stands,
A sandstone slab in the Great Hall:
Her hands clasped above her head
Next to the wombat Big as a Bull.
© 2002 Stephen Oliver
Stephen Oliver was born in Wellington,
New Zealand and has lived in
Paris, Vienna, London, San Francisco, Greece and Israel. He signed on with
the radio ship,
‘The Voice of Peace’ broadcasting in the Mediterranean out of Jaffa and
has free lanced as
production voice, newsreader, announcer, journalist, copy and features
writer. His books
include: Henwise (1975), & Interviews (1978), Autumn
Letter To James. K. Baxter (1980), Earthbound Mirrors
Not Angels (1993), Islands of Wilderness - A Romance (1996),
Blues (1999), Unmanned (1999). Night of Warehouses: Poems
HeadworX www.headworX.eyes.co.nz (2001), covers five collections of
poetry and spans
two decades. Stephen's poems are widely represented in New Zealand,
Australia, Ireland, USA,
UK, South Africa, Canada, etc. His recent prose work has been featured in:
[Contempt: A Survey] and Thylazine www.thylazine.org
[One Day In The Life of Vicki Viidikas]. Stephen Oliver is a
based in Sydney, Australia.