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Fantasia and Fugue for Pan-PipeAllen Curnow
Vol. 22 No. 13 · 6 July 2000

Fantasia and Fugue for Pan-Pipe

Allen Curnow

386 words


Engaged too long
too chastely. Was

that it? Anyway,
she broke it off,

my father wrote
‘Pan’, earliest verse

of his, to make
it into print

over his name,
the god revealed

as Tremayne M.,
Syrinx as Maud.

Twenty-odd pages
further on, more

forgotten poems
between his lines

and hers (called ‘Song’),
both plaintively

lovelorn, obscurely
set down between

Oceanian winds
and water. New

Zealand Verse. Walter
Scott Publishing.

London. New York.
1906 – Safe

distances, for
blushing unseen,

big breaths unheard,
‘O cruel nymph’ not

unwritten and
much more, his drift

of ‘low-blown music’ –
the words, the lips,

the pipes – ‘who love
thee still’ – so eaves-

dropping Nature
guessed, or his poem

supposes – Maud’s
chips in, crying over

spilt ‘joyous youth
gone in a night’.

Her feral horned
god’s hinderparts

wore clerical grey
serge, irreversibly

decent disguise.
Afterwards (not

long) that traveller
came by ... he took

her with a sigh... his?
hers? or theirs?


Had a hand groped,
grabbed, come away

with a moist fist-
ful to play black

hole tunes, the ones
Pan pistol-whips

the galaxies with?
Terrified mind

whines to itself
don’t panic, don’t –

answers the hoof-
beat. Words for things,

things back again off
the tips of tongues.

Lost names. Try not to
think about that.


One world war later.
Not any more

the slender reed,
fifty-something Syrinx

drops in on one
newly-wed son

of Pan. I see
her, to my (not

small) surprise, seat
herself heavily

down on the foot
of the bed, hands

compress the ball
of a hanky, damp

from dabbing tear-
ducts. Someone said

she tells fortunes in
tea shops, the dregs

of emptied cups,
to make ends meet. –

More tea? – quick look
at her watch – Oh,

thank you, no,

I’m running late, I
really must go.


One lizard’s wink,
two thousand years

and a bit, since
Jesus called out

with a loud voice
it was all over,

that louder voice
downloads, this Greek

seaway hears GREAT
PAN IS DEAD – what

could be figured?
Who’s being fingered?

And why’s it got
so suddenly dark?

Nothing but those
four words themselves,

nobody spoke.
Printed now, like

Tremayne’s, Maud’s, mine.
Rolled up the beach

in a bottle, rolled
back into the surf.

Hoof-prints in soft
and softening sand.

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