And Was Jerusalem Buildeth Here?

There was a time when I thought that love and lost were opposites. Now I would say that they follow on, one from the other. Part of a continuum that begins with hope and ends in despair. I can picture a deep verandah in the fading light. We sip iced drinks surrounded by the scent and colour of bougainvillea. But this is my mind’s own reality and I could never afford to live in a house like that. And if the truth were known, I’d prefer a cold beer to a cocktail or a G and T. There’s been a war in Bougainville but we still associate the name with such a beautiful flower. Death and beauty are never far removed.

I used to think that Bogan-ville was another name for West Auckland and I could never bring myself to drive another Chevy. Anyway, back then I would get ideas above my station. These days I prefer the calculated void of that ultimate oxymoron, Japanese styling. For those of us, mouse like creatures all, who commute from suburb to town and town to suburb, twice a day, every day for forty years, homogeneity is part of the game and we are not allowed to change the rules. Don’t be seen to be different, to have ideas, to question or complain. In fact, don’t be seen at all.

I married when I was twenty three. My wife was twenty one and she didn’t love me any more or any less than I loved her. It was a good match. She’ll stay at home and raise the kids. I’ll be the breadwinner, the man, the head of the family who brings home the bacon; the money so that she can go out and buy the bacon.

All boys have dreams, dreams which are slowly and systematically beaten out of us by reality and the ethics of our colonial past. Dreaming is the domain of the idle, hard work and loyalty the mark of a man. It’s a long time since I believed in the motives of other men.

I have two sons. One is dead. He watched good New Zealand blokes like his Dad telling him to drink the beer they drank. So he did and then he drove home and killed himself. A good Kiwi bloke to the end. My other son calls himself “gay”. It used to mean something else. He drinks wine and lives with another man in a suburb that used to be poor, that once echoed to the joy of families and children and church services. Now it’s sterile, full of cars and too expensive for the likes of us. Cafés fight for every square foot; the new places of worship in this queer old spot.

I was driving through town the other day following a woman in a red car with a chihuahua on her lap. She was behind a bus, any closer and they would have made her pay the fare. When she eventually crashes, collides with the real world, the Herald will report the miraculous escape of a small, brown dog, thrown clear at the point of impact. Bad news sells newspapers but animal stories sell more. Where else in the world can you go to a place you paid to build, to listen to a concert in a room with acoustics like your own in-filled back yard. A building with all the glamour of a nuclear winter. The Les Mills Memorial Car Park, acres of shops, bus and rail stations, car parks. that no one wants. And the Business Roundtable sing a new anthem for their nation.

god defend our right to be right
to control your right to be grateful
for what little we let you have
god defend our right to choose
and your right not to
our right to private healthcare
and your right to the remains
of a public system
that we don’t use
and you cannot afford

Smoky cars and buses that operate on principles unknown to science or mathematics, there are few trains, fewer bus lanes and no light rail. A city where it is impossible to get around without a car and lots of time. Clean and green but without electricity. Beautiful beaches where you can’t swim because bureaucrats let the sewage spill over and make you ill. The Gluepot and other special places, gone. The magic in the view of Rangitoto and the shimmering sea I see at every turn. The hills to the west and the black beaches on the Tasman’s edge beyond.

There’s a politician who has read and thought and maybe what they say is true. How far your faith in politics would have to fall were you alive today, Mr Yeats, for the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

god defend our right
to accumulate and speculate
and your right to live
on the street
in cardboard boxes
god defend our right to mission bay
and the milford mile
and your right to free market rents
bay of plenty shanties and
user pay
s


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