Chris Holdaway

Rogue Waves or Inventing Terra Nullius

Discovery is always political down to the roots

Of all rumours in nature such as wild animals

Lost slaves and abandoned buildings. No science

But the science of empire building that drains

Marshlands as a form of shipbuilding. How many

Latter-day plagues from economic miracles?

Waves occur in media other than water not

Caused by land even as we are in the end all

Confirmed by the sea floor. Do not pose a threat 

To shipping or compose new folklore from 

Theoretical analysis: roll up preventable sleeves

As the seasons change with thermonuclear pace

And accept combat for breakfast; rethink what

It means to be late when a lighthouse is found

Way offshore in the cliffs of salt breaking

Lit by fires that can only come from deep water


There is serious debate as to whether the mere

Institutions of language and family constitute

Mixing labour with the earth in a permanent way

As if the most technical advance to hope for is

Settling on conquered or settled as truth of term.

These your options on sovereign shoals: submit

With fiduciary duty to legal fiction or seizure

For the straw man has always been the basis

Of statehood. Given that we’re all descendants

Of company towns cinched in the historic centre

Probably don’t speak of the wealth of material

Giving evidence for dispossession. But I am

Familiar with nuclear dollars and confident in

Their decay. . . A poor return on open-ended

History⏤a humanism within an inch of its life.


Few know what it means to be delimited with

The precision of ocean⏤infinity in never being

Able to decide the precise moment something

Becomes abandoned for to walk is desolation.

Chemically white sands like icons of design

Always on the move in our abortive hourglass of

Individual waves merged at their peaks like telco

Giants;⏤are we not all permanent witnesses to 

The breaking point of industrialised comedy?

I appeal for a non-participation trophy but

Whaling is still whaling even if for no master.

Our high-octane sailor stories crash to shore

With apocalyptic care; the heavy metals in our

Solar footprints erode as a bonus; a lifeboat hangs

Like the moon alone in the havens. Build only

On doctrine that has been forever overturned.

Chris is a poet and bookmaker from Aotearoa New Zealand. He directs Compound Press, and his first collection Gorse Poems is forthcoming with Atuanui Press in 2021.

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