Next door when I was thirteen
Stan was the blind man in his shed
weaving baskets on his own.
Suntanned back and chest, wiry arms,
he did his best for rows of beans,
potatoes, tomatoes - Look at these!
turning them in horny fingers,
feeling for blight. Ripe! juicy!
Those damn white butterflies!
He’d tap tap his way to the bus
twice a week maybe, visiting
mates at the Blind Institute;
on the way back drank beer
in some dim pub or other -
everywhere was dim, he told me -
fuelling a two-voice barney that night
with his sharp-eyed sharp-tongued wife.
He’d back off, to his dark shed, its roof
strewn with spread sheaves of wicker-canes
delivered for him to moisten
and soften up there till weaving-time.
The same van took away good baskets,
sources of pride but not much income.
His little brown bakelite radio
wired to a shed-top aerial
was tuned loud to Parliament
in Wellington, good for him
to abuse the Tories, grumble
at Labour’s ineffectiveness.
Don’t they remember the Thirties?!
How can they trust the banks?!
Don’t they dare touch Social
Security! The Pacific’s just
a pond now for the U.S. Navy.
They’ll want the Antarctic next.
Untravelled, unread, un-sighted,
Stan had wide horizons, taught me
a thing or two - offered me weaving
lessons. Thanks, Stan, no thanks -
his swearing (‘bloody bitch’) irked Mum.
I didn’t fancy horny work hands
or all the Parliamentary barneys.
I’d go back to my books, Latin
for Today, New Zealand Our Country -
nothing there about banks.
- Max Richards
[Owairaka 1950; Seattle 2015]