The Old Forest

Sunlight glows under mist on primeval forest – a pale dawn gleams on Hauhangatahi
Long lucent ridges lean down like tawny yawning arms,
touched by a scatter of gold dust on tussock and glitter of snow
Brooding clouds crouch in the south
O – that cutting south wind that swirls out of myth and story –

Who are you Hauhangatahi? Unknowable oldest one, with your air of haunted sentience?
You’ve seen it all come along – from charred bits of Taupo eruption
to first people
to puffing steam trains
What do you make of it all?

Your weather is supple as a fish – a spectral fin catches the light and then it’s gone!
The tail pulls in reverberate rain, thrumming like an organ symphony –
timpani and freight trains
the rhythmic folding metre of it!
I hold out my hands, I feel it vibrating in my belly
A lull comes, like a sigh of vast lungs
– dropping deep –

Then it’s all on again,
Humdinger, surf-slosher,
wind-winger, bell-ringer, tree-singer,
tintinnabulating tarn filler –
The marriage of Earth and Sky is somewhat fractious in these parts.

Boggart, you could be – a great, bog-humped lumpen beast unearthing yourself out of the flax swamp
Pulling free from a million knitted eely roots; out of cold black pools and the cradling earth.
A slouching sulky creature with no care for Bethlehem or any human concern
Just biding your time…
Enduring in muddy obdurate fashion, ringed by a forest of henchmen –
Grey-green old wild folk with licheny whiskers
Waiting out the long siege until we all go away and you can recross the line –
back across the railway,
to reconquer what was your own.

I have trespassed over that line occasionally –
Ventured across with my family, when the fit takes us, when we want to go off and be wilderpeople.
If you find yourself in sympathy with this quest, well then
squeeze through a cutty grass door
go on…

Calendar time has no power here,
(all those little squares)
Only the tug of the moon and the tilted earth against the sun.

Soul-wandering wayfarer!
Join us in this murky kingdom of drupes, racemes, panicles and involucres.
From here on in, the map is blank;
Here there be monsters

Mournful eyes peer at us as we pass…
Those trees are passing cryptic notes about us.
The only guide for our passage is the occasional dab of paint mostly worn off
Or a flax blade tied in a loop – the work of hunters.
The strange scrub circle on Hauhangatahi hints at aliens landing, and a suspended cup of cloud confirms this feeling –
Run down, run down as the moon
rises over the edge of the world!
Escape, escape, through the scrub
as the darkness deepens
and the sunset dims on distant Taranaki.

The cozy red tent just fits in a dry clearing at the bushline, circled by pahautea and an earthy stream
Dip the billy carefully if you want clean tea.
As we sit quietly, and push the last twigs into the middle of the fire – shivering a little on our old log,
“Kreeeoo!       Kreeeoo!”
I think that’s kiwi crying, out in the dark…

 

(Original painting by Nicolette Brodnax)

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