Saw a man supine on a bench
thought maybe needs help recognised your shoes
thought maybe acute grief or just resting
best left alone. Walked in the other direction.
How have I been so long out of sunlight,
how have I not known down here
there are these round yellow flowers
pushed up out of the river mud.
Or maybe I knew them and forgot.
Picked some, and daises, buttercups,
willow twigs, grass flowers, a madwoman’s posy.
So many ways to be out of one’s tree.
Walked back through the park. All year we’ve sat adjacent
in private losses individual lack of sleep
which has manifested as a shared engagement
in mutual insults and off colour jokes
Oi what are these flowers That’s no way to greet me
Like a common prostitute (Me? Or you?)
You tell me soldier’s buttons. Makes sense,
dropped at the water’s edge. I look them up.
Cotula: little cup. Bachelor’s buttons, yellow buttons,
water buttons, brass buttons, buttonweed.
Gondwanan flower that’s scattered the world.
Makes sense, strewn like indiscriminate histories
coins shining on shut eyelids, minutes, millennia.
Anyway, we should treat sex workers with respect.
But don’t lift bullshit when under it’s
more shit and under that more painful
than can be looked at. Little cup, can’t fill it.
Goes on flowering like a useless need.
Airini Beautrais is a writer and teacher based in Whanganui. She writes poetry, short fiction, essays and criticism. Her work has appeared in a range of journals and anthologies in NZ and elsewhere. Her first book Secret Heart was named Best First Book of Poetry in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2007; it was followed by Western Line (2001), Dear Neil Roberts (2013) and Flow: Whanganui River Poems (2017).