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This article is taken from PN Review 58, Volume 14 Number 2, November - December 1987.

Ponies Bill Manhire
 
It was just after the assassination of Indira Gandhi that I came into the employ of Jason Michael Stretch. Wellington is a city of hidden steps and narrow passages, dark tributary corridors which are rapidly being translated, courtesy of the new earthquake codings, into glittering malls and arcades, whole worlds of space-age glass and silver. Inside these places, on their several levels, there is a curious calm, which is now beginning to extend out on to the footpaths. No one points excitedly; people drift along, pale, ice-cold, gazing into windows in a way which is almost tranquil, or ride escalators which take them up and down but not quite anywhere. A few years ago - as, say, a first-year student - I think I might well have scorned these aimless citizens, or felt sorry for them: a bit superior, anyway. Now they strike me as somehow being beyond distress or temptation or anyone's genuine concern - as if they are busy at something which the city itself expects of them, and which they do rather well merely by moving from one place to the next.

A few people behave as if they know their way around. They lack the general air of glazed serenity. They don't quite merge into the crowd. They move marginally faster, like swimmers going downstream, outpacing the current; then they duck clear and vanish into a doorway or make a sudden dash across the road into the downtown traffic. For a few weeks ...


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