Water’s Path

Pine scent rises on this high dry knoll, below

water captured from the river eases its way north.

It is lured north by a stone groyne and the water

tamed by a gorge runs into concrete chambers to flow

around hills, under rivers, to come out here,

where the ground swells and dips and the water

in little surges gurgles as it passes bridge piles.

There are sand traps and eddies and fish,

and a concrete structure that lets the water

from another river drop into that from the first:

blended, they head for yet another river, to escape.

It is a journey in a journey, a walk along dry grass,

through glade, past rusting hulks of once-great

machines, whose innards are bleached by the sun.

Beyond the concrete sluices are cambered high

walls to deflect a river’s fury, and the water

is forced over low spillways to absorb its force,

and there is a great hole created by water’s flow

where salmon used to circle in slack water,

gathering strength for one last leap to death.

All along its languid length is the work of man:

neat fields, shining stock, belted galloways,

herefords and corriedales, and they stamp

and shy then put their heads down to graze until

they sag at the knees, crumple with a thud

and then the ground shakes and ducks rise in a skein

 

 

[This after a walk to the siphon on the South Ashburton River, under which the flows the Rangitata Diversion Race. It takes water from the Rangitata to the Rakaia and is topped up, if flows allow, by water from the South Ashburton]

A third voice

I

I don’t mean to blaspheme,

say silly things, swear.

You don’t believe, and I

would not care,

 

behind the wheel

all night; I heard

the 1st bell ring

Sunday last; the cock crew

once and who knew!

where I was.

 

It suits me not

to think, to lie with my

windows down. I came

down, fell

like the morning rain.

 

II

Another way to live is to love,

give, to spite yourself.

 

Some god reveals itself,

not at the pinnacle

of suffering, perhaps;

but during an interlude,

the pause between 2 sips

of a drink. It hits you – then,

amid the festive din

or the cool solitude

of your sitting room.

 

The mind might strike

some mine, on the road;

here inside. Not-know how,

why. The soul

is dry. Give

 

in; you might try

not to care by all means

but love.

dawn parade

dawn service

In memory of my maternal grandfather for ANZAC day. He would not take part in any ANZAC dawn parade or other such ceremony, or even step foot in an RSA club. From what my mother told me, it seemed he refused to take part in any of these activities that might have a hint of mutual back-slapping or lead on to drunken revellry, since they had their origin in something that was so unspeakably awful for him. There was no glory, as he saw it, for anyone.

granddad
i went
because
you wouldn’t
never did as long
as i knew you
you would have said
they got the setting
right at least
a new moon
on the east in a
clearing sky
it had rained a
last night’s sorrow
bagpipe weeping
on the hill and
the morning star
like a fruit
of clustered
shining petal
about to fall
you would have
bristled when they
had us sing
‘god save the queen’
how far prayer and
mercies fell short
of what you saw
what you heard
in the rotten
rotting
mud
of
Passchendale
you would have
winced at the young
men here with rifles
held proud
in young hands
yet i saw
something else
the coming together
in one familiar place
to witness the light
of dawn
good enough
reason to be here
a drum beat as
much ritual as
we ever needed
in this land
shorn bare
of such
the old
men women
marching out
shoulder to shoulder
were any of us
whether standing
in full flight
or laid already on
sheets waiting to
be changed
ready to march
out as men
as women
whither
the dawn
of death
shall
take
us.

morning, 25 april 2014
stockade hill, howick

two voices

1st

 

Let them go, won’t you! Listen, must you suffer,

poor devil, worm; trampled on! The madmen

pound your door. Open the door.

 

You uncluttered your room on the top floor,

all but bare – a bed, a few simple things; violets

on the window sill; and the hollow notes you sang

to the paltry strum of six golden strings.

 

Here, it’s possible to think and think not,

of nothing, to the hum of the first fly

in spring; the mind’s eye beholds light

wings, the palm of trees and leaves. We

 

recover, companions in a room

of beautiful things; the river green

in summer, we swim; and gather

pebbles, slipped in the pastel

bowl that adorns your little room.

 

Boy, those wounds hurt still like real

cuts, not deep enough. To hell with it,

and them: nothing they have done

can discredit you. True, the devil

in your blood’s in ruins. Let him

off; cut, and fear not

other-worldly consequences.

 

Man has invented morals – for good,

for better living. To banish the darkness.

 

2nd

 

Was your soul, then,

not pierced? True,

 

you’re what you do;

but what others

have done to you…

that too.

 

My way is

straight, hard; one

takes it to heart, not

forget, forgive!

no matter what,

because. One can’t.

 

Could you take the wide

path eyes shut, strut,

or shrug, hum, meditate,

man why not!

 

flop.

But all your life

is light

and shadow,

 

John.

Hold on

 

to the goodness

by which we live,

 

no mere

convenience;

 

and bear the cross

of all the hurts

that were given unto thee.

 

Remember.

 

april snow

[ebook_store ebook_id=”471″]     april snow     
               to Prince R.I.P

the pirouette
of voice
the cock-flash
of guitar
the preen
of melody
your smile
that times
went back
into the
sorrow
brother
it’s snowing
here in the
clear morning
sun those
april flakes*
you wrote of
a beautiful
ache before
gone
you were
our ‘Tracy’
no-one cried
like you
you were
that ‘kind
of car that
doesn’t
pass you
everyday’
fly on
sweet bird
flown of
april
snowflake
bird

22, 23 april 2016
*the imagery in the next flew lines is from Prince’s ‘Sometimes it snows in April’

Poroporoaki

she whispers
from the black depths of our Whanganui
her face visible below the surface of the waters
the Pā tuna and her voice
creating eddies contrary to the sacred flow
that is te ao-mārama
she promises to embrace and protect me
just as the Hīnaki embraces the eel
haere mai, haere mai ki toku ngakau
at times I want to look directly in her the eyes


hands perform the wiri
waiting in the shadow i listen
dew and my sweat fall to the wet bush floor
the haka its very sound, tapu
taiaha and patu cut through the mist
crouching or am i bowing
i await the whitiapu

i will become like the turehu

resting, watching, waiting forever
under the shaggy tirawa

magic four

[ebook_store ebook_id=”471″]       magic four

starlings
looking for stars
on the lawn

thrush
falling in a hush
on the wing

blackbird
heard in the
bottled sweetness
of dusk

magpie
swaggering
ambling
gamboling
rather than fly

the white
dealt out on
the black.

nelson st, howick domain
26 september, 2012

The Woodworker

 

The fine soft white wood comes away clean, 
rolls into scented coils sweet with resin 
as the wide drawknife is pulled 
fine and strong up the timber's length.
This is a man of another time in this time; 
a freckled cloth cap, a waistcoat,
open and with fastenings that shine, 
leaning into his work, and as his fine thin arms
flex with effort, he sees saplings 
bow and twirl and hears the wind flick at the 
pale green leaves, 
and then he leans in again, 
arms at full stretch, and his fingers 
are drawn to the wood's slickness 
and his cap dips over a bearded face.
Serge trousers, stout leather boots, 
the workings and things of the land, and 
he sets off a rhythm 
in himself and in nature's gift, 
so that each stroke is a caress
and the sigh he hears is his own 
and he does not mind that he is alone and laughing

The joy of incontinence

I had fantasized old age.

 

I’m giving up that old hat

and cane; the leisurely stroll

in the park; the impotence

at last; the fanatic heart of the man

who stares at the young bloods

making love on the grass. I’m done

with all that, and I shall rage

as that mad old man did once,

and screw the lot – the shrill birds,

and those arrogant cocks, stiff

in their office blocks – behind

their backs. And I shall call that

incontinence; of bone and flesh

and mind, which is a fine thing

sometimes.

 

22/12/15

Step Lightly

Step lightly on this coastal strip, and watch

for the sucking, shifting salt-and-pepper sand.

Watch, too, for the rising, curling breaker,

the cliff’s overburden, twitching in space on a rusting wire.

This beach reaches in a frown for a town’s light

and its majesty is its plainness and its wheeling birds.

It was here, dug deep in grey driftwood, I etched

a name: a declaration by the licking water, and

where the salted grass hangs low.

I fancy now it’s gone;

set free by circumstance and time

the river

The river stirs and birds

sing among the sun-lit

branches after rain.

 

The trees and flowers

wave across the bank.

 

A solitary duck

nears the bank. A man stands

there who has no bread.

 

There’s a splash, and girls

lapping the water.

 

16/`12/15

Flames of the Moon

The flames of the moon,
Dance before it swallows them,
When we will be left in darkness,
Unsheltered of want,
Dissolving our heart’s path,
Devoid of any consequences,
One by one,
The flames and embers go out,
Tracing back the steps of light,
Blindness cast upon us.