Letter to My Sister

Written for ‘Given Words’, August 2020

Suzy          
Do you remember that summer
we stayed with Grandma in York Bay
                      Aeons ago

Two cross-country children
I’m sure it was your idea to map the stream
from the bush to the sea
We were obsessed with tunnels and found at least four
zigzagged back and forth under the road
and through the neighbour’s gardens
hands and knees through stones and broken bits of concrete
Weaving around civilisation but not of it
trespassing through respectability – crouched –
with heads just below the bank
Burrowing ragamuffin maggots

Explorers and pirates we were,
greedy for fresh discoveries and booty.
We documented our finds in careful calligraphy then dipped the finished product in the teapot for the authentic look

Remember the phase of trying to write each other letters
– in code of course –
with seagull tail feathers?
It didn’t really work

Then at night we were cocooned in Grandma’s snug sheets in our red spotty nighties
dreaming of secret passageways or invisible writing in lemon juice
Pesky little flies we were,
into everything and persistently grubby
always hatching up new and potentially annoying plans


Childhood imagination
so elusive
As soon as you notice where it’s at
it’s gone – only to reappear like magic
out of reach
at the top of a curtain

The Song

It’s a potter’s wheel that’s spinning ever whirling never stopping
and the potter’s supple fingers that are gliding round the clay
It’s a spider weaving spindle threads which find the sunlight glancing
on a web of thready spirals curving up to meet the day

You can pull it out in funnels, ease it out to purring rumbles
or release a tide of silence where the singer is the song
You can spin it out in circles like those children turning cartwheels
on a shoreline rimmed with breakers that the wind has blown along

Feel the fullness now of gravity, that’s warm and strong and thrumming
like a hive of golden bees or honey dripping off a spoon
The potter sends a whoomph of pulse to a wheel that keeps on turning
for a song that’s softly humming masquerading as the moon

Oh it’s spinning on a finger wearing shoes of sparking copper
lifting off like kindling fire that’s smoking with the beat
Vision misting no resisting and the dance is moving faster
so it swaps to sloppy running shoes and tears off down the street

It’s a theme that’s full of mischief, unexpected dodging turning
and it won’t conform to anything they’re sending the police
hard hats chasing, music racing and those shoes are getting hotter
It’s a band that’s being arrested for disturbance of the peace

Now it’s heading for the mountains to a place it’s been before
escaping to a land of ice where forest parts like hair
Receiving tangled lines of harmony the moss is sifting, seeping –
the song is like a river combing through the cooling air

Gazing down the Makatote to a rusty railroad crossing
and a train that sounds like sandwiches and chocolate chunters by|
Makatote, Makatote, chuntering,   chuntering,      chuntering   by
                                                                                   
Now the song is sounding longer stronger deeping down a pathway
to a lonely glowing mountain you can see through to the sky
to that lonely glowing mountain you can see through to the sky

From polyphony and harmony we’re down to just one strand
It’s a tune that you can pick out with the fingers of one hand
The stars ping out in blinking chimes as day falls to the west
and the rhythm’s softly sinking, fading out into a guess

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Escape

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

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

1973, Jan, 16004, Darrans, Kea near Homer Tunnel, Cathy Newhook, CN 01 03

 

Hunkering Down

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

Meanwhile,
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,
stillness
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.

 

Moss Games in the Iris Burn

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.

 

Whio / Blue Duck

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
whio,     whio….
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-
in annoyance
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.

Just One Day

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 –
allowing ambivalence

A footnote day – not the main narrative
Solitude is rain sinking into soil,
into soul…
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.

 

At Mita Bay

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