No Disposals


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Stephen Oliver

Digital Ghosts

The sparrow and the bumble bee—the pea-green boat is the mandarin tree. Bumble bee with a full hull, drops down, turns starboard. One sparrow. A shadow. One sparrow, singing ‘threepence’ repeatedly, hammering a piano key, flashing inside its head. On to the next branch. Closer. Not a tweet.

You look as if from a cherry picker right inside that tree. The song remains the same. You think about that for a bit by which time it’s gone. ‘Minutiae’ calls the blackbird announcing dusk. I agree, the whole thing shut down. Rain, steady as a slow train passing. ‘She wants to be pretty, she wants to be liked’ you surmise of the couple passing by the other side of the wooden fence.

Can an incident avoided yet be an introduction or is it nothing other than the crossing of boundaries? The truck and trailer units arrive under cover of dark. Shadowy figures lifting crates of books off the landing bay into the containers to be shipped out like overstayers. Scanned, then dumped into a mass graveyard of second hand shops or remote warehouses in the Mojave Desert under lock & key.

Hear the muffled voices subside into dusty silence. First editions become coffins for the voices of long dead authors. Two dimensional entities wailing round forlorn mesas and through the empty shelves of the country’s National Library. Digital ghosts extracted from the printed page, reduced to the muted babble of tongues, as if memory were the last fading note of the songbird dissolving in the twilight at the end of an era.

October 31, 2021

Stephen Oliver NZ  poet

Stephen Oliver is an Australasian poet/voice artist and author of 21 volumes of poetry. He signed on with the radio ship The Voice of Peace 1540 kHz broadcasting in the Mediterranean out of Jaffa, Israel in the late 70s. Poems translated into German, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian, and he is present in many anthologies. Heroides / 15 Sonnets, Puriri Press, Auckland 2020; The Song Of Globule / 80 Sonnets, Greywacke Press, Canberra, 2020; and Unposted, Autumn Leaves / A Memoir In Essays, Greywacke Press, Canberra, 2021.