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Philip Temple: Berlin poems from the past

Previously published in takahē



January 1990

A swell of tourists breaks
against the largest electronic
billboard in the world

drawn by the Mercedes star,
its heavenly influence
over the hollow church
tiding them down 
the immaculate way.

They surge on, unaware
that under their crisp heels
the earth is still
gelatinous with blood.
At the corner, 
vaporous fingers 
reach through the gutter grilles
and touch their nostrils,
exciting them to be here.



October 1988

The rabbit was sudden
dead in the beam
too fast for more than a reflex jerk of the wheel.
The usual bump, pang of regret
rear vision glance to check
gravel dust smoking the screen,
a strobe of poles across the Mackenzie.
The still white tail reflected
orange sodium, 
signs for Schultheiss beer.
Next day it was scavenged clean  
by the bristled claws
of Turkish sanitaries.
Or had it been an imaginary death
a fracture in translating expectations?
Outside the studio that night
Wild pigs came from the forest.

Philip Temple is an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction for adults and children. His anthropomorphic novels, such as Beak of the Moon, are unique in NZ literature. His biography of the Wakefield family, A Sort of Conscience, was awarded the Melbourne University’s Ernest Scott History Prize. Philip has held the Creative NZ Berlin Writers’ Residency, Menton Katherine Mansfield Fellowship, Robert Burns Fellowship and National Library Fellowship. He received a Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in 2005 and has been appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature. In 2007, he graduated from the University of Otago as a Doctor of Literature. The second volume of his biography of Maurice Shadbolt, Life As a Novel, is due out in 2020.

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