Calendar (with homage to Giacomo Leopardi, 1798–1837)

24 March 2022 by Hinemoana Baker in Poetry

“It is difficult/to get the news from poems/yet men die miserably every day/for lack/of what is found there,” wrote the American poet William Carlos Williams. Each month, Sirens offers a poem or short story to bring further understanding to the news we report. Last month we had Los Angelina Melissa Chadburn’s “Fever Outbreak at Omelas” — this month it’s New Zealand’s Hinemoana Baker.

On the sunny street I pass someone selling calendars.

He has the expression of a man in the rain.

Would you like a calendar, sir?

I stop and turn to him, taking one from his hand.

Who is the firefighter’s best friend? I ask.

Rain, says the vendor and I pass him my money.

The year runs ahead of me like a train track.

Beside the track is a coastline, in the sea an island.

Orange flowers grow from the retaining wall.

Inside me the orientation of my organs is roughly

the same as it was seven calendar years ago.

The water, like the lahar, is moving away from me.

The women are leaving — off to be tattooed.

I put the palm of my hand on the pain.

I put the palm of my hand on the siren.

Some stay behind and throw nets over meaning,

drop ladders for the dead, read the steam

from the underground ovens.

When the violinist plays Lilburn, the slow

voice of it becomes two characters in conversation.

Myself and the salesman and the turbine of our transaction.

Whatever you want to say about the future

says the violin

it’s not the report card we thought it would be.


Hinemoana Baker is a poet, arts mentor, philanthropist and film-maker from Aotearoa, New Zealand. She lives in Viareggio with her partner and seventeen border collies.

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