for my mother
I will put up the red tent under my apple tree
and imagine a new world:
Here I am in wild Fiordland again
where the kea cry out their songs of fire and anarchy
ringing from mountain to mountain –
Where the whio coo and clack their haunting love duets
and korimako chime like bells in the misty forest
Where robins sit pertly on my boots
kiwi scream in the night
and owls echo
While here in this world we wait for the daily count of new infections
We queue like sagging puppets for food
Spaced out around the Countdown carpark
passive obedient confined
I will put up the red tent and steal away
The wildlands are still out there
The rivers still run clear
Morning mist still rises
and mountains do battle with the sky
Even the weather must do their bidding
The gin is running out at the liquor store
flour, pasta, rice and vogels bread fly from shelves
We must pickle our lives to see out the storm
like bottles of wine on endless revolving racks
brewing notes of boredom and bickering, potentially,
sweetened by patience and kindness, hopefully.
subtle hints of blueberry muffin
After the last suppers
After the last coffees
Students arrange last night trysts with lovers
before homing back to packs of their own kind.
A great toad lurks over the planet – spreading its slime
nudging victims imperceptibly, leaving traces of slimy poison to ripen – slowly
Each wolf pack must cosy down into its own burrow
birds into nests, hobbits into holes and badgers into setts
hunkering down till the coast is clear.
Capitalism might be munted by the time it is.
We prepare for a winter hibernation even as the sun shines
like Robbie Burns’ wee sleekit timorous creature
or moomintrolls in November
We try to be sensible ants when grasshoppers are more our style
The dog thinks it’s wonderful; we all stop going away the whole time,
The cat stretches a soft paw up to my chin
We can talk to other burrowers.
What are you doing in your burrow?
Are you fighting yet?
The lawns will grow and our hair!
We are the glassed in cells of one vast body turning in space
a whole world of shining orbs like street lamps
Uncountable neurons shoot off uncountable signals and messages
Mercury is busy in this year of the toad
flying on electrical wings
watch the sunrise
watch the sun set
hear the tui gorge on fruit up in the kahikatea –
croaking and whistling
rain, sun , cloud, stars
the Earth is still doing its thing
Observe closely for comfort,
This is a restful apocalypse
sunshine and birdsong within a storm of death
The earth heaves a sigh of relief
pleased to have some respite from our relentless busyness.
Thick moose moss grows in Fiordland
in the probable absence of any moose
Waterfalls of moss,
Oceans of it (how can there be so much)
Pungent groves of seaweed in the air
A heavy matrix catching water droplets
Like treeish stars
– Look, you’re floating in it –
Wafting in green light, breathing green mer-light
in half-mixed paint pot underworld hues
An inside out pond tentacled with spongy fingers
holding water for the mountain.
Do participate in the activities on offer:
try swamp dancing – balancing on a sinky waterlogged raft – hold those soggy boots upright or whoops – capsized again.
Flop on about the comfy mattress if you like waterbeds
(not so good for finding dropped tent pegs or hair ties ever again)
The moss goes down forever –
reach an entire arm into billowing waves
Will there indeed ever be firm ground?
Dark watery pools and caves hide, depth uncertain,
Snuggled into coves of beech tree bole or craggy bays of roof plate – all gloomed with strange faces and forms
Welcome to Spookers
Dive into the clear cold Iris Burn as it dances puckishly through the story…
but not for long….
Fumble through the layers of fur coat like a Narnia wardrobe
– outcome iffy –
will it be rough granite, slithery root or entish armpit?
Mostly your weight settles on something like mattress springs and you’re on your way just fine…
Ghosts of trees and bits thereof
shoulder in under the minty duvet like piles of dirty washing or a cat.
Half dying or losing arms and legs doesn’t matter much in tree land.
You’re still part of the family, part of the game
no need to feel left out!
But footfall is unpredictable
Lean just there, and it’s into the pit for you!
The seat of my overtrou needs blister tape now – they’ll never be the same.
Oh it’s all a bit tiring by the end of the day –
but here’s a nice sandy river bank for the red tent.
Better hope it doesn’t rain.
There be angel visitations, here,
in the silence,
in the upland wilds
As I wash socks by night, all seated by the burn,
Sleek little porpoises – beaks thrust forward like drink bottle spouts
dipping their heads
What do they eat in this pristine water?
The pairs keep touch with a sweet lisping whistle
Answered by a quick
– Clack clack clack clack –
from the percussion section-
They scare an anachronistic shag up onto a branch
Snaking it’s long beaked head on its long neck-
Their universe is not mine – these angels
They barely notice my presence
focussed solely on clear water
and each other
sliding by my world … and vanishing.
Light from the east
Falls mysteriously in interlocking circles –
others pale distant planets…
across the dragonfly cushion
up the moulding on the window
spilling across the wall –
My physicists might tell me why
but before they have
– the light changes
In just one day we can create a world
A hidden cove on the Island of O
An egg inside a tempest, bounded by walls of sleep
A castle of rain warmed by fire –
my mountain hut
Comfy as a round teapot
or a hot bowl of coffee
The O of a curly cat
unharassed and quite at peace
not bothering to please anybody
A day for story and tangential oddities –
dreaming up moomins, momeraths and the moon
A solo day for song notes and noticing –
A footnote day – not the main narrative
Solitude is rain sinking into soil,
Slipping like stories into the substrata
Go away sun – you mean duty and being sensible
I think we can do without you
for just one day.
Let’s be harum scarum hillbillies
forever and a day
We’ll be runaway hippies hiding out by the shore
We’ll surface in the morning
in the glow of a watermelon tent
beside the silken sea
Chuckly choclatey ducks will putter in and out, stealing our chips
and icecream kereru will loom on leafy branches –
French vanilla and blueberry
Peter will rattle about after runs
making cups of tea in bed
and when we feel like it
we’ll sleep like mars bars under stars
Kids can tear around yelling
and waving their sticks
Or nesting like birds and wetas
in the crooks of old trees
Our chairs will be logs
and our table a stump
but lollipop lilos we’ll have for our beds
so our dreams will be soft and loftily luscious
Lullabies we’ll have of ruru echoing
and wake up to tui and magpie chortling
When the sun hits the tent and we’ve dozily read a chapter or two
We’ll run straight from our sleeping bags and dive like dusky dolphins
into the silken sea
Hairy whiskers grew inside my tent last night
There they are – sprouting all furry from my orange balloon
and shedding like dog hair onto my sleeping bag
as I shift to find my water bottle
Mmm – it’s frozen too.
Spiky air prickles my nose like nettles but it’s warm in bed.
Unzip the world –
A line drawing develops in the first light
twiggy bracken and twisted webs sketch discrete silver outlines
Parabola tussocks draw random spirally doodles
while birds talk quietly about cold.
The old matai filters the first glints of lacquered dawn
and I squeeze on cold-stiffened boots.
Sudden hints of colour spark into existence and my fingers freeze –
a dragonfly lightshow; fireworks of shattered light
I think the swamp is talking in light-code
playful grasslands glittering with chromatic chatter
green red orange argent and gold
My swamp is exploding into spherical diction
precise as insect wings
Can you decrypt ice-speak?
Soon the grasses are nodding and shrugging
as the sun warms them
Rainbow marbles wheel down arcs of grass blades
some roll in
some roll out
Some will seep into little ponds and streams
and some will rise as mist
frost gone –
Christine and I take the Tawa line –
This weekend we are rat trappers in a hidden valley
Lovely Tunawaea, nestled behind the folds of back blocks King Country
and guardian to an elusive bird…
We pursue a wiggly web of markers and bait stations
the pair of us at sea on waves of ridges,
like Pericles setting out from the island of Tyre –
Off we go trustingly following from point
to numbered point
and matching them up with our chart
Christine does the odds and I’m the evens –
Where on Earth is north in all this waggle?
I can tell when the sun comes out
We stop for sandwiches, Christine and I,
in a tawa cathedral
We pause to gaze up the dim columns
ethereal and vanishingly tall,
hazed with a fresco of leaves against light
Dripping banks of kidney fern glow green in candlelight
like a cloak of blown glass fragments
wrapping the soft logginess of the damp sponge floor
But this place has an extra gift for us;
This cathedral has a choir:
Ghostly divas in an invisible circle
weaving gentle magic
It feels like eavesdropping on mellow love songs from a lost world
It sounds like the haunting creak of an old swing
Strangely resonant, languid and drooping out of key
Sighing wine glass harmonics heavy and full
Low modal voices leaning into each other
to sing in otherworldly harmony,
the plangently intimate conversations of forest beings
who are utterly indifferent to us on the ground –
beguiling bells that would taste, if they could,
of dark plums on the edge of overripe.
Perhaps they are like gleams of sunlight concentrated into sound –
Energy escaping from one form to another –
Light fall distilled into eerie oboe antiphony
Pooling light, pooling water unspool in sound –
Who can spin the golden sunlight into song?
Who? Who? Who?
And who can gather the loose skeins of silver rain and give them form again?
Kokako can, kokako can!
The richness of the trees
and the fullness of the earth
combing out the mist and weaving matter into music
teasing out strands of energy into soft waves
Days later, I’m still open-eared for reedy tubish sounds but there’s really nothing like it.
For me there was a sense of grace but also of loss.
Our kokako choir was an evocation of a past I was born too late for –
remade in imagination as if through curtains of mist,
from fossils, stories and bones –
a dream of an ancient untouched Aotearoa
like a great beached waka,
Alive with vast forests and giant eagles
loud with bird song,
Once were moa
Once were huia
Please don’t leave us, kokako
Photograph: Jacqui Geux