Peter Bland, the New Zealand writer and actor, has written extensively over his long career, and has been lauded with many accolades, among them the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in 2011. He wrote two poems for The London Magazine in 1978, here transcribed in full from our archive for the first time.

First published in the February 1978 edition of The London Magazine (Vol. 17, No. 8)


I’m tired of living in old houses
with their sense of left-over lives.
I’m allergic to their dust. The stuff
suffocates me, gets in my eyes,
drifts through the open pores
of my skin. ‘It’s been
well lived in,’ 
the man said. At that

we should have turned away. Instead
we’re choking… on what?…
of what must have happened here
a thousand times before? We cough
up our own dust with this older muck. It
bloats the vacuum bag and brings us wheezing
down to our married knees. All this
from simple day to day living
ground down finer than air. Time
to be moving on. I want
what’s left of our lives to have
a planetary feel; an earth-
sway where dust won’t settle;
an undertow to every passing sneeze.



You stumble on them looking for the gents
in Stately Homes or old hotels
and it’s always the same tired faces
that look up, mildly surprised
to see you again. Only
the decor changes – an Edwardian
railway carriage, a Ruritanian lodge,
or a long Ops Room from the last war
still smelling of cigars and TNT. It’s
best to get out quick before
the gathering crowds of plainclothes men
identify themselves. (Later, at home,
the phone will ring. Refuse all calls.)
What’s worrying is when, after many years,
your own rooms begin to look like these.


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