Trucks, Traffic and Numberplates

On the way down to Mt Ruapehu we play the numberplate game – just glance at the three letters and say the first thing that comes into your head. It keeps us amused in the motorway traffic. 

10:30am and the traffic’s moving smoothly south on the motorway
kindersplinder, canticle, doorknob 
Trucks cruising and lane changing nonchalantly
toting trailers of mysterious machinery
Main Freight, NZ Post, Transit Fast, Toll
Heavy metal Haulage, PB Tech
Toll … Maersk … Toll

Pacific Concrete chunters along a chink behind Majestic Horse and Brave New World
Kafka, Carlene, Gypsy
Silver tankers sleek like tombs as we merge at Mercer and sweep past a combine harvester prickly as a Christmas Tree.

We have our entrances and our exits
Off goes Pacific Concrete and a ute with a bike.
On come Fibula, Jabberwock and Blitzkreig 3 
An orange road man leans easily on his broom
– SHOULDER CLOSED –

The radio starts farting at Pokeno, spirting Bachus Interruptus,
and an alien antenna on a digger swooshes round to ladle up rocks
like a beef casserole.
Caesar Slipstream, KFC, Demon Bird
A mini pick-up truck jounces along on the raw
Bouncy bouncy bounce and dumps a load of gravel – whew!

Abracadabra man who sells Previas rides ahead with a hairy arm hanging out….
And – we slow to a crawl past Huntly, Yankee hamburgers selling from a van with stars and stripes.
An unfortunate possum and hawk have melded together in death, with the wings still lifted –
That’s one fantasy creature removed from the gene pool
Palimpsest, Has-been, Secret Agent, SAM
We hug the even camber of roundabouts and Hi 5 Bro takes the Ngaruawahia exit.
Off goes the radio, on goes Les Mis:
We’re headed for the King Country.

 

A Myna for Maree

Indigenous birds are our most treasured, but this Ponsonby identity has won a few hearts. My friend Maree raised an orphaned myna bird from a chick, and now it’s part of the family, when it chooses to be.

Peeking puppetwise over the guttering, a street urchin myna joins us for coffee one Sunday afternoon.
I think her name is Clementine, for the miner 49er, and his light-footed daughter.
She’s hilariously trusting – which is a bit of a worry,
even though the cat has no less than seven bells.

Maybe, if she turns out to be he,
he can be Gavroche – the Paris street-kid from Les Mis!
He certainly employs all that one’s cockney charm –
feet planted wide, tilted hat,
cheeky grin – a tiny David, undaunted by we tall Goliaths.

He hops after the car like a dog and right on into the house where he takes refreshing baths in the kitchen sink,
fluffing up the grey and white feathers on his breast and dipping his beak (or her one)
yellow as a traffic light pole
spatter, spatter, spatter! Oh dear, more cleaning!

Tilting her head like she’s totting up a shopping bill, she follows our conversation – drinking in voice tone
and tugging at my shoelaces in case they’re tasty.
She deigns to accept bits of jammy scone
but is too sensible to actually sit on hand –
oh, but then she jumps on Maree’s knee after all.
A loveable rogue – eyeing us up shrewdly –
curious as a crook.

I think of Ping on the Yangtze River –
or that robin that visited by my tent once to sit on my sleeping bag as I read my book, near Flora hut.
She dances and struts in front of a mirror and poses for a blurry photo
almost squashed up against the phone;
the beak appears as a slash of yellow paint.
A cocky, fragile opportunist,
of somewhat short life expectancy I fear –
All cockney rhyming slang and rude words;
she haunts the cafe on Richmond Rd
stealing the froth off cappucinos
hen hiding among legs when expelled in disgrace
(for numerous sins – especially pooping).

Already the odd feather short from a brisk feline encounter,
She’d better keep her wits about her or she’ll lose the lot.
She has her own lodgings in Bird City,
which is the phoenix palm in the garden, along with the sparrows and pigeons.
It’s such a privilege to hobnob with this little alien person;
to be trusted seems like a miracle.

She’s just young and gets tired quickly;
soon she falls asleep on my foot – and makes my day.

20180829_122059.jpg

Mountain Boulder on Ruapehu

I thought, if a river can be a person, why not an old boulder? And if so, what kind of person would it be? Perhaps, like us, that depends on the weather…

The fogged up ice lies moulded to the old boulder,
clinging to the grey cracks
and sliding in silver circles over the pebbles beneath like eyes of a bird

That stoic old gargoyle; what a great gnarly toad,
carved out by a cudgelling time
I feel him shivering a bit as he squats; he’s holding up the mountain,
whatever the weather
as duty requires, doesn’t have to like it,
A cold soldier.
Could be he’s remembering warmer days from long ago
Hugging his family, all nestled in close like bear cubs in the hot, pot-belly of the earth
Nice and snuggly and melty
Till that catastrophic, tectonic day when they all bust through the crust – pow!

Now, meltwater runs under his chilly icecoat
it pools erratically and wiggles down tickly
like swish-tail tadpoles and weird amoeba from before the invention of DNA
Mercurially merging and splitting between ice and rockface.

Cold stone stands his ground.
Enduring floodwater and searing wind
Avalanche and ice fracture
Burrowing roots, hail

Dour old troll with drips off your nose – you’re a craggy old Atlas!
On a nicer day, I’ll come back and cook up some hot soup on one of your flat bits.

 

River – Am I

Rivers have huge spiritual significance for Maori, and in March of 2017 the Whanganui river was given the legal status of a person. This poem celebrates this beautiful river, right from his or her beginning, running down inside a trampers raincoat high up in Tongariro National Park.

River – am I… in winter
like a loose thread from a jersey
slowly unravelling and weaving its helix tickle down a leg
I finger twist a curvaceous cutting
in the rock       mud       silt
time – I have

I am a skier on a slalom run, easing my knees into each arc,
sculpting with gravity and molecular sweep
I am a navigator swinging a compass
pivoting on an imaginary point as I dance in radial swirls and moons down my mountain.

A child am I, running at my leisure and humming as I trace a stick
In Sses down a windy beach
deep into the outer curves and lightly pulling through the diagonals  –

A lilting flute is my voice, tangled in polyphony
with oboe, fiddle and korimako –
My jewellery shall be the sparkle of ice
hanging in ghostly pendants and crystallising out over eddies
like maps of crinkly fiords –

But soon, away from glitter of sun and moon,
far from snowfall and silver alpine grass,
I am digging
peeling away like a gong
deep into shadow –
deep under black boulder and tangled root
Heavy fall of damp leaf and moss
The journey of the pit lies before me –
The cleft gorge so deep that the vein of sky, thousands of meters above
Is always sapphire dark –

I am just a painterly thread, but I know how to wait…
Other voices, songs and melodies will fall in with my theme
Wellsprings of floodwater and ooze,
seeping marshlands and spitting cataract
The spill off dying branches
and plink…

From layered veils of leaf –
All feed my song

Snowflake and hail, sleet and slurry – all join my liquid road,
sloping down to the great river – The Whanganui
And silty soft and fishy full,
we sing our songs and meander in coils through the folded valley,
through the crushy green of swaily forest,
pouring down brown into the sea itself.
My mountain was an island
on the continental shelf

Whanganui-Stories-Pic-Template-Upper-River-02.jpg

A Drindle – Mountain Stream

Water is as impassive as mathematics
And yet – it carries the sound of voices
in wordless melody
Like children’s laughter
echoing from out of another time-
Listen

Tiny giggles, squeals and yelps mingle with excited plinks of discovery and clear gurgles of delight.
There! the tuneless hum of a child totally absorbed in some little game-
Deep pools of contented stillness lead to murmurous purring and plotting
Some kind of mischief is hatching!
The tiny fall speaks in conspiratorial lilts and bubbly chuckles
then tussles and teases
as tributaries join arms to eddy in a spinning dance.

Flickering sparkles glint as small fires are lit to cook little fish on sticks,
tickled  by practised fingers
We flow on, deepening with satisfied guzzles, sucks and slurps
then spill round into clear lums, like guileless faces
curling together in sweet sleep under a shady bank
Ribbed ripples of light pass through and over like breath

I pause, crouch, drink my fill…

Pilgrim

Any long walk undertaken in solitude becomes a pilgrimage, whether or not you intended it to be one.
That which you seek, or do not seek, cannot be named.
Labels are like boxes – they acquire packaging and prejudice, tinsel and hypocrisy,
and immediately sound like self-help columns.
So shush – no names
No gurus or manuals – just go

There will be no ceremony except the sensible packing of jacket, raincoat, hat, mittens, walking pole and food.
No anointing of oil – save careful application of sunscreen.
No hymns or chants are necessary, although you may find yourself whistling old Beatles songs under your breath as you puff along.

And you certainly won’t need holy water because the wild, rain-delivered kind is everywhere
River, tarn, bog, drindle, running clear and cool under the stones wherever you walk.
No incense, unless you count the southerly gusts carrying snow flurries in lilting tumbles.
No miracles can be expected – only rounded rocks like worn bones
or sharp treacherous shards like old swords

Place your feet securely – there is no forgiveness for carelessness.
Wholly arbitrary, this land has no divine commandments
You and the mountain abide only and utterly, by the laws of physics.
There is innocence in this
There is no need to try – in fact it’s probably better not to
what is your aim anyway?
remember – no names
Simply plodding along in a beautiful place for long enough, is sufficient.

Nonetheless softly, like a change in the weather
something like grace steals in, circles,
and settles into nooks and crevices of your soul –
like the delicate blue harebells,
the mountain hebes
Or the ice-white everlasting daisies that nestle in the cracks between boulder and creek

Something – something of quiet – takes root and flowers for a season
Like a snow-laden spur half-lit and numinous through mist
Dimly perceived, like a wild bird that we must only look at sideways
else it will fly off, frightened

Something that is part of you now, even if it fades
as evanescent things do –
and it will leave behind spores and seeds
The same pathways will always be there
like rivers and tarns
ferns and lichens
glowing coral,  red,  amber,  green
Pilgrim, just go