cigarette smoke in the rain
We were together two months; May,
June ‘73. He was funny, could be
tender, boyish, but felt the misfit
of islands, culture, climate; and his eyes
after drinking became bloodshot pokers,
his guitar-picking hands, hard fists
to fling a kitten against a wall, bash
taxi drivers, me. Even now, just the smell
of cigarette smoke in the rain is enough
to jolt me back to that bus-ride one wet day
out to St Clair beach for him to find some familiarity
in the sea’s lap. As always, people looking at us
as we got on the bus, this Maori boy from Auckland
with the Southland blonde. He hated it,
the surf’s cold spittle, its frosty haze.
And even as he said he loved me, hated
my advantages of freckled skin, of place,
of peace. He wore a light-blue, woollen hat
pulled hard down, jeans tucked tight
into rugby socks and black, laced-up bovver boots.
We caught the next bus back. Hardly said a word.
Kay McKenzie Cooke