Skinny Dipping in the Heaphy River

Wading out of the irk of endless chatter
Escaping nutrition advice and gear talk into the salty air
I step down white bookshelves of sand,
grainy as parchment – creamy as snow

I pass driftwood scarecrows and gnomes,
the pre-historic beak of a dinosaur bird
and taniwha with following eyes.
In the soft moth-light of late summer dusk
I walk into the sea-change
There’s a subversive prickle of risk,
illicit delight and fear of discovery –
Beware the fearsome nipping sandflies and the clothes collecting swoop of current…
No hesitation – gasp

Oh but it’s delicious! like cold whipped cream
pillow slip soft and pure as a magic flute
I’m dissolving!
The candour of clear water!
How far down into Earth does the river seep?
breathing as the pale earth breathes –
She sends the mist of the day’s end
from mountains out to sea –
cool calm resurges and peace
singing the lunacy of tides in witch-light
and turning the birds egg stones –
I share the space with a solitary shag,
dipping like a teapot –

Memories surface of other swims and swoosh together,
imagination sinks through sand to other swimmers
in other times and seas and waves
Solitary solace wells into togetherness
sliding into the universe
Surrendering weight, surrendering separation,
like a temporary death,
brimming with the fulness of the tide –
and then to bed!

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…