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.

 

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…

Mist Stories

Mist in the mountains is beautiful but you can all too easily get lost in it as any who has tramped in the Tararuas will know. Sometimes I think I spend half my life in a different kind of fog. I’m flying blind, popping out every now and then and being surprised, when I finally see clearly, at where I turn out to be this time.

Morning mist demons are puffing up off the swamp
Colluding with moonfire and tendrils of solar flare – the breath of dragons!
Upwelling from valley trees and river, the helicoidal ghosts are seeing off the last shades of dying night.
Lambent coils coolly levitate into evanescent haze and milky hag-lite spills over layered ridges under a seashell dawn.

I watch as I brush my teeth near an alpine tarn
The earth is a great bird with ruffled feathers.
Eddies of rib and muscle wrinkle into the flow of the hills and dreamy folded wings settle over dewy grasslands
Changing as fast as I change my clothes
The cloud turns sullen, lugubrious –
Mist is a story that can send you topsy turvy and chill
It can spin your compass and flummox your bearings
White out
no landmarks
no poles
East might be west or north, south –

Do I wake or sleep? Which way is up?
Fog is a mystery novel with a choice of endings
Schrodinger has lost that damn cat completely this time round
(though I daresay it’s surviving perfectly well…)
And who knows which spur we should take to get to the hut?
When the weather tears open like an old threadbare blanket,
The windrush, inaka and hebe glitter
in orbs of silver and rainbow –
A tiny mountain spider crouches in the centre of it’s beaded windmill web
Is the hillside awash in tears?
or shining with gems beyond price?
It all depends on how warm your jacket is –

Do you like this new world your mist book has opened onto?
Or not?
Have you finished up where you expected to be?

olivines 078

– Photos by Peter Jenkins

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)