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

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