The Vanishing House

 There is a house on Grange Road, near the bottom on the south side.
Number 100.
I think that’s a clue that herein lies a secret…
one hundred what?
A hundred-year-old witch?
A princess asleep for one hundred years?
one hundred years of solitude?

Meanwhile, a forest is growing
A tall frangipani is tangled to the top
in wisteria, jasmine and rose.
A great dark puriri leers
The brown wooden gate has been pulled off it’s hinges by ivy
and mixed vines half smother the peeling garage.
The hedge is so weedy and overgrown that I’d need to be riding a horse to see over it.

The garden path forks as you step down round a corner.
One way is clearly more travelled –
the other, houses the bins, but used to go round the back.
Once tidy hydrangeas and lasiandras, now wild and wonderful,
almost obscure everything.
but peering through like a wondering prince
I can still see sturdy brown posts
and much mildewed cream weatherboards, fret work and finials splotched by lichen.

Two rough brick chimneys tower like turrets
on either side, the other houses carefully pretend nothing is going on
Their hedges are trimmed ship-shape,
Their stone walls are chiselled to weedless perfection:
“We don’t hold with that sort of thing”, they say.
“Not in this demographic!”
So of course, princess and all, it simply doesn’t exist.

 

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.

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Bugs in our garden at Mt Ruapehu

Bellbirds echo each other from the swamp across the road where the red red flax heads shoot tall and thick.
Slowing down, I become aware of a low hum of flies, and a drone of bees a tone and a half higher. They love rasberry and hebe.

I’m contained and sheltered in my tree-ish circle among the dandelion shoots which sneak up illegally in the bark.
Sparrows slip in stealthily to slip off with bits of vogels crust.

The ti-tree overhead is alive with flying insects – A brass band! Bagpipes! Tinnitus!

A piece of leaf swings on a single long cobweb. My old eyes see it double.

A sparrow lands on an “ancient ruin” recently created by Nicolette from local pumice. Her fat pottery bird, under the real bird, has cracked in the weather.
This is nice enough to be worth bringing out a cup of tea and a cushion.

A small fly drowns in my tea while I’m eating chocolate.

Sunshine between clouds encourages them all to crescendo.
I shut my eyes and I could be in the eye of a hurricane,
a squeezebox of buzz,
a somnolent chainsaw
translating patterns of buzz.