Our friend the novelist seventy –
eight next week and he says he’s
written his last book can’t
think any more can’t write

connected sentences can’t remember
the plots of his favourite Dickens
he used to rehearse scene after scene
not even sometimes the names

of his own novels can’t answer
letters put down among cups pills
other letters where forgotten one
moment means the next draws

a total blank in a room full of
books piled up to be knocked
at a giddy turn across his
unswept floor. But cats are

fed there’s cheese in the fridge
tea in the caddy he cooks
himself vegetables and fish a
corner of the garden’s good for

tomatoes the best anecdotes
still surface and whatever
the losses they don’t include a
wicked eye nor a good loud laugh.

Tonight the wind’s in the east
the warm wet edge of a tropical
cyclone driving waves and seaweed up
on Takapuna Beach and I walked

there remembering the same wind
twenty-five years ago when his garden
was the other side of those green
pages he wrote on daily and if

you went for a walk over the
rocks to Thorne’s Bay you might
come back to lettuce peppers fruit
in a bursting bag even a pumpkin

just inside your door and a note
saying come for a meal. Well that’s
over and everything like a novel
has a beginning a middle and an

end except that novels like
life go on repeating themselves
long after the garden’s gone back
to wilderness the house to ruin

the old man to dust and his last
green sheet has flown off into
the sagging hedge on the broad back
of a wind that blows from the east.

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