Richard Langston, Poems

A Few Words on the Closing of The Cook

Goodbye to Tiger Taylor & his tattooed muscles

Guarding the door ;

Goodbye to your sweet under-aged self

In flight down the fire escape;


Goodbye to Heavenly Bodies,

& Chris Knox’s toothy snarl;

Goodbye to those fresh faces & the boy

With the purple guitar,


Goodbye to the worldliness of those old faces on the bar

Who were not so old or worldly;

Goodbye to the guy in leather calling out at midnight

For an Iggy Pop song,


Goodbye to the mindless head-butts,

The cut arms, and the smashed-glass faces.

Goodbye to the Tuesday Morning Pool Players

& the poet rolling one between shots.


Goodbye to those who never made the last round

Who saw afternoon light brilliant in a jug,

Goodbye to the wild electricity of youth

& our beginning hearts.



Going North



The land doesn’t end

so much as intensify

into a final offering

of cliffs & rises & rocks.


Cape Reinga is where

waters cross waters

beyond a lighthouse.


An unsteady woman

on a marae was

coming to a conclusion:

‘I will lay here soon’.


And travel to the wide-open bay

where the mind clicks like a turnstile,

& the locals stand in the clothes

of ghosts & spirits.


Travel as you can up there

where the sky speaks to the sea

the way hands release a bird.





Sunday in the Islands

A rooster crowed – the villagers in their black dresses

and tata, their black suits, white white shirts,

the flower of their devotion.

A pig ambled in the rain.

Then they began to open their mouths

to listen and find one another,

they began to fill up the mystery,

to waken our souls.

This blending of human voices,

low and high and humming,

and lifting.

They sang themselves out of themselves.

They summoned their dead from under garlanded mounds,

the bright sails of their embroided names.

They sang them out of the depths of their ocean –

from their watery wrecks.

They sang for our brief moment here,

offered up this,

this shattering blue cathedral of song.


'Afterwards we got drenching summer rain/a blackbird hopped out onto the backyard/all chest & pluck/we stayed inside/watched the rain slant the hills/I said it was a proper New Zealand summer/never all bloody sunshine/but blue & bloody the way a heart can be/that holiday we buried our dog with her head pointing toward the sea/I put my hand against my collarbone/while watching rain'

Please, don’t


Please, don’t, let’s not yell
such a small shattering word –
yell – I prefer yellow
which might imply surrender
or a field of flowers holding
their giant faces to the sun,
why not peace, or acceptance
which is a lovely hard-earned word,
let’s leave yell to the drunk man
who used to turn up at night next door
and yell on the front lawn, and kick
against the low front wall,
but we don’t have to now,
his lover, 
she stood up and said enough,
when enough can be a wonderful word too.


His young arm reached for plums
from the slow train.

Those low passing trees gave him a lifelong
taste for plums, and remembering plums.

We drove past a wooden building
with a strange name solitary on a hillside.

Caberfeidh, we’d heard our father say,
a place which once did exist.

We came to a station where bleached
summer grasses grew through a platform –

weather and fallen wood and birds,
the afternoon’s faint call of names -

the collapsing ticket office.
His grandfather collected him in a buggy.

They travelled up that road,
dust and horse sounds and trees.

That was what we saw the day
we went to see where our father

picked plums from that slow passing train.


What could we say mother 

that wouldn’t cause shyness,  

would allow you to be 

the centre for a minute, 

the centre of all you created,

What would we say mother

that wouldn’t cause you to say 

we’re making claims, when

we know your heart is such

a quiet one. Can we just say

Mother, for our sake,

you were there, where only 

you could be - all we want 

to claim, mother, when there

was what sustained us.

The Woman Who Loves Bars

Her grandmother gave her the last florin

in the pocket of her fur coat;
told her to spend it at The Ritz.
The woman who loves bars is seven.

Silk and oysters, the finest cut,
Madame Clicquot in the Antipodes.
Flaming russet hair, blue eyes.

She is every light of the heart burning.
She is rain, carousing on Tuesday night.
Those jazz blue eyes smoky tunes.

Penniless, the woman who loves bars
will stand this and the next round.
She waves the waiter over
as she leans in to visit every corner

of your happiness.

-from ‘Things Lay in Pieces’ 2012

The Italians

She passes Roma tomatoes
across the fence.

The way each year
we acknowledge

her husband who tended
the glasshouse.

Her voice calls with the sing-song
carried from Italy sixty years ago,

no need to mention
the name of her husband,

how they sailed
together - 

the tomatoes
red as ever.

High Winds

What is a father

other than a glorious fool

who hoists a large white flag

to mark out land,

to claim ground

for you and him.

He’s with you

you with him

when he,

poor fool,


hands the mad flapping thing 

to you -

these high winds.

-posted on father’s Day, from ‘Things lay in Pieces’ Fitzbeck (2012).