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