Breaker (2005)



a progress of the sea

Leicester Kyle
John Crawford



Breaker was suggested by the Catalogue of Armed Forces in the second book of the Iliad. I read it in Pope's translation, and was fascinated by the whole idea and the poetry of it. The fascination led to a desire to do something of the kind myself and, casting about for a local battle, I hit on the idea of our self-defence against our eroding coast.

There is, of course, not the slightest attempt to emulate Homer; I have just wished to experience the enjoyment of applying an Homeric concept to our own domestic situation here in Buller. As the situation is real, there is an underlying seriousness throughout the work which does, I hope, make it more readable. The characters who figure in it are all composite beings - though I have placed them in real communities, I know none of them personally.

The eight~line rhyming stanzas which open each portrait are meant to give a light and slightly archaic touch; the 'Legends' are a very distinct element of Buller culture - they deserve a book of their own.

The illustrations, by John Crawford, enhance the text most considerably; they reveal a depth I didn't know was in it, and add both wit and beauty.

Leicester Kyle
Millerton, August 2005



The Bay

Sometimes there’s a vision lit
on an empty afternoon perhaps
or at night
when there’s nothing to see

lacustrine and lovely
of a violet ocean
that beats a violent shore

Dawn rises
shadows are cast from the east
the sun shines down the gorges
birds sing of a day easily lost
rivers run endlessly

It’s a scented land
there’s fern
flowering trees
and some farms

There are mountains to the north
a town at the south
and all along the glistening curve
are breakers
sounding bass upon the beach

The land pushes into the sea
the breakers beat at the land

The land defends
by stone & wood
by riverwash & fault

The sea attacks
with constancy

From time to time the earth extends
at other times it’s eaten



The Life

Out of the struggle this world’s made
of animal and plant
and in topography

capes of limestone
granitic gneiss
and stacks of volcanic breccia

tumbled rocks
blue with mussels shadowing

sand and gravel beaches
at rivermouth

The small bush left at the beach
is trimmed by salt wind

Some nikau poles still stand

The littoral’s mostly left to flax
(with blackberry on the inward side)
to stand against the highest tide
and turn the breakers back

Where there’s rock
pepper grows
and whitey-wood
here and there a karaka

dolphins use the bay

seals bask
where dogs and people are less likely

but generally
for the violence of the sea
little that’s of life
is left upon the beach


it’s broken by surf
or taken by gulls
to their colonies on the hill
from where they watch this ancient war
of land and sea
on the narrow battle ground
that brings them profit

Its noise is carried to them
and is their comfort

Its existence is our necessity



The People

we wonder
why we’re here —

a question they don’t ask
over the hill
where they had a planned coming

We came in a rush
out of coal gold and timber

we’re of the earth
at no particular place
and aren’t on the way
to anywhere

They’re there
over the hill
for a reason
to do go or be
for a particular

We have no particular
we’re of this space
so we do as we please
it’s us

if we cut
we leave healing
to time and weather

if we dig
we leave the rain
to fill it

There’s time
there’s season
and no need to question


though sometimes
we wonder - - -
our little flat land
is washing away
What would happen
if the water stopped running
the sea stopped eating?

Over the hill they ask:
What will happen if it doesn’t rain?

it doesn’t

Their unease is from the weather
Ours is from the sea







At Gentle Annie Paul o’ersees the coast.
He comes from Karamea, and knows the most
Of anyone around, of rivers, lakes,
Of how the sea can give, and how it takes.
He lives a life alone, and every day
Notes all the sea leaves here and takes away.
Beneath the Gentle Annie and in its lee
Where driftwood’s left, the waves return to sea.

Rata is amongst the best
it keeps the fire in all night
Cedar and Yellow Pine have scented gum
so does Matai
Kamahi’s good in the stove
Broadleaf’s slow and sparks a bit
Ngaio never goes out
Totara sparks

You leave it in the sun
for the rain to wash out the salt
then stack it to dry
and you won’t have soot in the chimney

it’s hard on the saw
if there’s sand in the wood

it’s best from a shingle beach


Paul fights with fact
reads ‘Lives of the Explorers
and books of the early times
before gold and coal

he knows the plants and birds
how things should be

studies the sea
and notes the weather daily

When his father died
he built himself a house
at the rise at the end of the road
where he grows tamarillos

Being given to truth
he can’t belong
and has no politics

but where there’s offence he fights
to keep the sea untroubled
penguins from dogs
driftwood on the beach
cars off it
with a show of assumed authority

sometimes he goes public

and he takes away trash

it’s said
Paul dries driftwood
under his bed

but in March when the
ground’s still warm and before the rains begin we get out the trailer and take our 4x4 with the kids and go for a buzz on the beach and load all we can before they can stop us small stuff for the range and big for the open fire because if we don’t we’ll be beaten by---------




Raewyn keeps the Backpack at the beach;
She aims to bring costs down, to stay in reach
Of tourists, and of those who like to camp.
She cleans the rooms, takes bookings for the ramp
That lets the boats have access to the sea
On quiet days, by way of the estuary
Which storms eat at, reducing bar and mouth
Especially when the weather’s from the south.

She’s made a breakwater of rocks and tyres
And who complains of it? She calls them liars.

‘a beach must be trained
educated to use

if it goes wild
with rocks and tyres and piles and wrecks
until it breaks water
as a man does wind

a natural resource is for use

if it gets knocked about a bit
it’ll recover

you can always hide the evidence
in the bush

and all’ll be right in a year or two

nature looks after itself’


Raewyn intends to survive
she doesn’t understand very much
and doesn’t think she ought

the Backpack is her necessity
her farm her park her beach her barn
over it she’s queen
out of it she’s myth

the camp meets her appetites
it’s made for this
they’re huge
have damaged many a family
exhausted many a man

she barely connects with the world
is separate like a state

here there’s no check
she can do as she likes
at the bar at the beach at the breakwater
to make sure that
the whitebait runs
flounders breed
the toilets flush
and it doesn’t often rain
she’s a character
and people come
lots of them
to see her

Raewyn’s tough
she drinks beer from her gumboot
and is rough

she thinks she might start up a pub and is sure she can bring it off as all authority’s over the hill
or further south but she’s cautious because things are getting tougher and it might make her
vulnerable to compliance officers and people like------




Gary lives at Seddonville, and he
In every cause is Raewyn’s enemy;
He thinks of earth as Gaia, and is said
To wish that every human being was dead.
He loves his world of nature––we’re exempt,
And our polluting ways he must pre-empt
By prowling daily up and down the beach,
And bagging all the rubbish that’s in reach.

[it’s exposed by the sea
as it eats at the sand -
iron plastic fragments glass
and old machinery
his hut is built on it ––
a century of cinders oozing
after rain
and rubbish concrete wire
in the scrub refrigerators
three and two tubs
down the bank a boiler
two coal trolleys
and some rails
a patch where nothing grows

a seepage of oil

something grey that flows slowly

nothing’s left untouched
they’ve all had her before
despite appearances
she’s no virgin]


Gary grows pot in Chasm Creek
and wages war on possums.
The crop brings in a grand or two
and a bad back brings the benefit.

He does a correspondence course––
environmental science
to exercise the brain

Nature he sees
as part of himself––
she doesn’t work
and needs defending
She’s plotted at by corporates––
poisonous intricacies
to bring desired ends
species failures
climate changes
new land forms
Pot helps him see this
illuminates and joins loose ends
enables him to see what others miss ––
the unlikely
which is more likely
He scoffs at the obvious
and sees in earthquake wind and fire
precursors of the Cleansing
when only his kind will be left
to defend the defenceless
from the last upwelling of the sea

Gary tries
to run his truck on methane
but it dies

sadly, for he works to be clear of ‘the System’ and to stand upon his own
two uncertain feet so he can have a relationship with a kindred spirit and kids he can bring up
naturally like himself free of this world’s ills and to this end be has his eye on-------




A little further south are Mussel Rocks,
Where time and tide and algae lower the stocks
Of shellfish, and where Jane
Observes most days in sorrow and in pain
That seals steal, and human beings a ton,
Though entitlement may only be to one.
She puts up notices along the track
Which tell the thieves to turn, and put them back.

Says Jane:
‘they take the lot:,
they don’t think.

there was enough for all
even at half tide
but now they’re at the breaker line.

The Americans came
the Germans the Asians
and from expensive Nelson,

who build for the view
push up prices
are only here for half the year
and take away the tucker.

They must be told
and have it explained to them’
says Jane.
‘I’m sure they’ll stop
when they understand.’


Jane’s from the city
and has a famous view,

it makes her feel superior
as views do,

as if she owns
all she can see
of the glittering coast

(it’s the sun that glitters
on the sea
that charms her most).

Nothing may change ––
it’s her mission
she stares through binoculars
and darts at picnic parties

She works
in the office
at the mine
and likes a miner
they debate Open Cast Extraction
and Acid Mine Drainage

they go together to the pub

she fears for her philosophy

Jane’s trick
is to cook a dish of algaed ones and
make them sick

though she knows this
isn’t the answer that
it’s mean that she’ll have to stop being like this and open up and get a mate for soon she’ll be
too old unable to change her ways and get odd and blinkered like-----




Moltz calls it Buller Bay, and he
At Hector guards the Dolphins’ destiny;
Up and down the coast he makes us mind
That human beings and dolphins are entwined.
The sea eats at the coast and makes attack
Because of all we take and won’t give back.
Repent, he cries, and change your ways and then
The sea will turn and give it back again.

[Tolkien sent Moltz here.

He saw the film
bought a map
and took the next plane from Cologne

This is the last frontier
he says
the last green place,
and never talks of Germany

He lives down here
at the end of the world
and looks through Tolkien’s eyes
He makes epics out of daily walks
heroes of his neighbours
he demonises industry
turns caves to sacred grottoes
puts trolls under bridges
smells evil in the wind
gives mystic traits to simple things
andanimates the bush

The wekas
he says
make conversation

and won’t tell what they say]


This, says Moltz,
is the perfect state ––
on a littoral shelf,
the ocean on one side
the wild on the other,

and he reads Ursula le Guin.

It’s like starring from scratch,
he says,
it’s all fresh;
turn your back
and the bush is in your garden
look away
and a weka does a runner
with your lunch.
(He talks our way already
and likes fush and chups.)

An earthquake
could sweep us away,
says Moltz,
as if he wouldn’t mind.
Even a storm could wipe us.
I like it here,
you can’t fool yourself
says Moltz,
and is content.

He’s just discovered Dunsany.

His premise
is that he’ll come back as a Peripatus
when he dies

He thinks the primitive is good, the complex bad, and that civilisation’s ultimate goal must be a
return to the woods to live like Hansel and Gretel in isolated cabins eating nuts so he gets very
annoyed at the sophisticated politics of-------




Olwyn lives next door to Moltz, and they
Don’t share a single view, nor ever obey
The dictum that to win they must unite
In every aim of each to put things right.
She’s hard and fast, and if it could be done
Would dodge the law and even use a gun
To make all Buller practise conservation––
so at least it is our observation.

It’s said:
that Olwyn has a doctorate
in conservation science

She’s little general knowledge
and when Moltz talks of home
has no interest

but she’s familiar with the mudfish
in the ditches
out the back
and protects them from the farmer
like they’re family

Conservation is her norm
like sight touch and speech––
anyone without it is disabled
and must be put right

Above all else
Conservation is her law
her right
her enabling
She wins her way in life with it
and her society


Olwyn has an inconvenient environment

She’s planted nettles at the letter-box
for the butterflies

She’s made Moltz put a bell on his cat

Her compost heap is maggoty

Her pet pukeko chases people

She shifts her toilet round the back
so she can grow organic potatoes

She’s forever on patrol
against despoilers exploiters
lazy bastards
the ignorant
and confident people with money
and she won’t join groups

She sees herself as Guardian Mother
some say she’s silly
others she’s a saint

In truth she’s both
but veers about
with a cutting wind

Olwyn drinks
then sits in the middle of the
road and thinks

of nature wrapped round her like a blanket, and how with one sharp thrust it could change her
forever---like a tornado or even an illness as she sometimes wishes she could be changed by
some initiative not her own and be noticed by the object of her worship as other people were,
and be a victim like –––




Across the river Larry still resides
Beach at his back, and at the highest tides
The sea invades the yard and flows around
Across the road and onto the football ground.
He’s hired a digger, made some gravel banks––
For these and other acts he gets no thanks;
Disturbance of the beach makes no protection,
But needs, they say, immediate correction.

I can’t be blamed, he says, if I have damaged
An ocean that won’t let itself he managed.

[In these quiet times
nothing’s brought to the beach
No quake nor flood
brings gravel
No storms
to bring the trees
to pile along the bank and break the breakers

It’s a hungry sea
now ––
it eats the land
digests the stones
expels the sand
says Larry
whose garden is mostly gone
whose house stands precarious

It won’t stop with me
he says
soon it’ll be at the road]


A man’s gotta survive
Says Larry
This is my land
I’ve paid for it
I’ve paid the mortgage

I can’t just let it happen

There used to be houses all along
and now there’s only mine

Look at it —
from Mokihinui to Carter’s Beach
the sea eats in
and no-one does a thing!
soon it’ll be into town
and then what will happen?

April’s the worst

The ground shakes
when the sea comes

I think
it knows me

Larry saw
a penguin in the passage as he waded
out the door

then a couple of years go by quiet and without a flooding tide the beach builds up with flax
boxthorn grass and stuff and everyone begins to think the danger’s past security restored
though there’s another threat nearby which is being met by ----


In Parenthesis:

The Ngakawau

The Ngakawau carves a gorge to the sea
Deep, and brown from the pakihi;
The course is long and it travels fast
From the Glasgows and the Open Cast,
Through chasm rock and fall and tree
With Charming Creek a tributary,
Though dark, it’s clear and clean when fine,
But when it rains it’s fouled from the Mine,




At Ngakawau the beach is made of banks
Of granite stones, for which the rich give thanks,
And order from afar this granite gravel;
In ponds and yards and paths it’s quite a marvel.
A man is taking orders from abroad.
When Grant observes: ‘we first should have restored
Our only buffer left against the tide’,
He hurries to deny Grant and deride.

[from Karamea to the Cape
and from nearer streams
quartz from Chasm Creek
and gneiss
ground by the sea
and some translucent
some black
and some orbicular
patched with brick
dotted with white mica

dragged by the sea
and thrown up again
they expect to be exhibited
in jars on window-sills
on front porch steps
made mystic in rock shops
or drifted in dead corners
on the dark side of the house

they hint
of old holiday]


Whatever it is you need
to take away a beach
they’ve got it—
permit or nod—
in trucks
the tide fills in
the holes they leave

they bring nothing
in return

as the beach gets lower
the sea gets over

says Grant
in his best Buller voice
‘They’re making a mint out of us’
and goes to the pub
for a drink and a talk
to plot
to stop
the damage

they fire for a time

Grant smokes
gets stoned himself on Friday nights
like other blokes

then takes a day or two to recover and think again of what he ought to be doing to make a
living and of his self-respect so he organises a working bee to cover up the damage and writes
a letter to the paper about the danger to-----



The School

For years the school has had its grounds diminished,
Has built a bank (but never had it finished)
To keep the sea from taking out the rest
Of shed and lawn, to try to keep suppressed
This tendency of ocean to arise
And sweep away by might and by surprise.
They say the sea’s already took a field
And what it has it won’t be made to yield.

[The school
under the state
expects exemption from
private sector loss
the sea erodes or
a creek might flood the neighbours
such are acts of God
if they befall the school
they’re an impertinence
an unkind cut
at Government
at the dignity of being official
which has consequence —

to the neighbours
we show sorrow at the rubble

to the school
we have a duty in its trouble]


As the school belongs to all
it’s everyone’s duty to keep out the sea
by some sort of dike,

which will stand countless surges
king tides queen tides
and vigorous depressions which
by low barometric pressure
equip the sea with power
to storm the wall
invade the ground
and scatter it with stones.

If the school can be kept
so can the bowling green
the pub the pensioners’
the op-shop church and fire shed,

and then this rope of a town
which has stood against a century
of chronic loss and tidal rip,
might be saved.

there used to be
a field between the play-ground
and the sea




She has
in her eyes
the look of one
whose short life is over
and the remnant left
is a luxury hard to enjoy

She is a town of small stresses
for example––
the house-church
with the misspelt table
is next to the masons
with whom it is at war

there are two pubs
not enough publicans
and one accompanied by bowls

the pensioners
are not as old
as they should be

the nearly-vanished Ngakawau
shares its name

and there’s Millerton
on the hill behind
where the unexpected is out of control

It’s a quiet life in Granity
for the sea drowns every other noise
and nearly the town

which is mostly on its side of the road
strung out
for the Americans


who are here
for only half the year
and don’t much help

and for wealthy city couples
who add years to their lives
by being local

A fine day
and a quiet tide
is Granity’s joy




Near Jones’s Creek young Neville has a hut
Illegal on some: road reserve there but
Unwanted by the public, so he sits
And works a plan, refines until it fits.
He wants to run himself a sea-side racket
By which he hopes to make himself a packet.
Resource consent is hard to get for it,
So he must think and juggle yet a bit.

There must be ways of making all this pay
An income large enough to let him stay.

[A place may be protected
by enlightened self-interest
which makes it a necessity
to one’s own
or the public’s
as sand to a beach
grass to a lawn

the sea’s too rough
for anyone’s use
and the sand blows
something could be grown
he thinks
or flax

there might be coal
deep to tunnel to
or gold in the creek

But what is there to look at?]


Nev admires
big guys in big boots
who fondle big dogs

who live where things can
get out of hand

at the edge of the bush
by a creek
by the sea

where you don’t know
what will come
washed down
or washed up
or pecking out of the shadows

who like the thrill of the raw
a threat of catastrophe

who need the Coast
to be
over the hill
at the end of the road
and nowhere

Neville lives on
bread butter and watercress
and damper scone

saving to get ahead a bit though he doesn’t really have the means for this and thinks that
life’s in charge of him and will some day change its structure for his benefit and he will effort-
lessly find himself wiser moneyed and married living in a house of his own like ---



Henry and Nan

At the back of Birchfield there’s a house
Owned by Henry Logan and his spouse.
A neighbouring fanner’s asked that he
Might drain the swamp; he won’t agree,
For Henry’s anxious that the usual state
Of nature be retained, will make him wait.
The boon will be denied, the answer sent by fax,
The swamp stay habitated by Phormium tenax.

(Do not their coupled solitude disparage,
they each have several kids by earlier marriage.)

You can’t see the sea
from the Logans’ house
there are dunes in the way
and manuka

hut you can hear it ––
very close
They listen
They’re used
and can interpret every message

There’s bush
ill scattered patches round about them
old stuff
rimu rata kahikatea
with some nikau
it’s dark in the bush
with ferns

There are bitterns in the swamp
herons and ducks

It’s not made for houses
not at all
there are other places for those


There should always be places
for people like us
say Henry and Nan
who don’t care for leisure
and work to survive

We’re not snooty
say Henry and Nan
but we like to have our space
to chop wood
and grow vegetables
and a dog
and have room for trees

we like
to be able to hear things
to get to know them

though we’re legal
it’s nice to be out of rhe way of the law

there need to be places like this
say Henry and Nan
if it were all filled with houses
it’d be empty

to surprise
they’ll find a Maori Site in the swamp
and publicise

though living in opposition has its drawbacks and they find it’s a bit like being besieged and too
easy to be bitter and ungenerous so they have joined a conservation group for company and
support and very now and then meet up with ---




The Waimang River voids upon the sea
Directly, and gives itself no estuary.
The currents switch, and carry off the sand,
Eat into the scrub and cut at the land.
Katherine hears it breaking near her fence––
On windy nights and wild it’s most intense.
In last month’s storm the sea broke in the bush,
But she intends to stay and won’t be pushed.

Katherine knows
the birds and small animals
trees ferns and flowers
the fungi mosses lichens

She’s a library
knows by name
and the distribution

She’s a diary
of what she sees
how it grows
and protects it

and in those parts of herself
that are most conscious
she feels
that her love
is returned
her patronage
She walks the bush
to start and end her day
and grieves at the threat
that it might soon
be washed away


If nature’s the norm
and is good

If anything not natural
isn’t good

when she poisons
turns on herself ––
what then?

As god
nature sets a cruel] rite
though beautiful
and with a soft pretence

to love her
is to take a wild ride

Katherine thinks
(though not thinking)
that her patronage
will earn reward

She overlooks the evidence––
like all gods
nature grinds to finest dust
those who love her most

botany means
so much to Katherine that she
doesn’t eat greens

and lives instead as well as she can on fruit and grains and nuts pretending that these are
differently botanical and are fair prey and eating lots of vitamins to supplement deficiencies and
to keep scurvy at bay though sometimes she feels a bit slow ---




At Snodgrass you survey a placid bay
That’s gently in and out each twice a day;
Serene and by the water Snodgrass is,
A place to while time away in bliss
Where no storms are, no rough nor greedy sea,
But little waitress waves for company,
That lap against the shoreline of your life
To soothe and ease its past of pain and strife.

Retire you may, to read the ‘Pickwick Papers,’
To settle down—no adolescent capers.



The Port

The beach curves now to the Westport Port.
The sand builds up; here’s where it’s caught
By the tip-head reaching out to sea
To keep the Buller deep and free
Of mud and rock, so it flows faster
And all goes well for the Harbour Master.
It’s washed to and fro by the grinding motion
Of the ceaseless restless ruthless ocean.

engagement here
of fish cement and coal

beach on either side
with dead cars and flotsam
small ships
and the small town
that arose
to service
then coal and wood

on this delta
where you turn left
to go down
and right to go up
to nowhere

by hills
and a sea that’s out of hand

between these two port walls
there’s shelter of a kind

even this must be repaired
for everything material
is slowly ground to sand


The Port’s a metaphor––
a meeting of two waters
and the land

It’s a comfortable place where
nothing exceeds or subdues

Activity traffics with the tides
and wealth flows into the town

except in storms
when all hangs still
and the ships ride high
with the river

from the shops
you can judge the flood
by the height of the vessel
against the roofs

and you know
that you’ll be swept away
one day

Westport goes to marsh and fen
when the Buller flows north again




There are wekas in Westport
and pukeko;
the sand-flies have taken a running jump (mostly)
so it’s not so bad to live in.
The streets are wide,
to let out the wind,
and in the CBD
there are some fine old shops
and several public buildings.

If you’re doing a job in Westport
go by Brougham St.,
cross Palmerston
and park at the railway end
in Adderley St.,
where there’s plenty of space
and a bush for the dog to piss in.

It’s the town’s back end.
The front’s in Palmerston
where all the windows are,
the doors are in Adderley
where they sit
at smoko.

The big sheds are in Adderley,
and a lot of business starts here
at building and truck,
where you ask the question
‘Do you reckon you could get me’ ---
and are quickly told
‘We’ll have it here in the morning’,

which everyone knows is a lie,
that it’ll take weeks
even months,
but this is how to start—
you fire the rite


and on it goes
eventually producing.

Westport’s not a wealthy town
and doesn’t hold much stock;
we don’t have clout,
so businesses over the hill
aren’t keen to oblige;
at this end we’re held up
by paperwork that doesn’t
get done,

But you give it a go
you have to
and come in every week
to nurse it along.
‘Has it come?’ you ask
‘Have we got it yet?’
‘We rang last night
and it’s on its way,’ they say.
‘You’ll have it tomorrow.’

If you keep on
and are polite
one tomorrow you will,
your fireplace
alkathene tank
car accessory
new PC
will come,
and you’ll feel briefly at one
with the wider world
which can get what it wants
when it wants it.

Or else
if too long denied
we give up waiting
and do what we oughtn’t
without Consent—
like diverting a stream


building a house
or clearing.

We call it ‘Coast Spirit’
But it’s frustration.

It can do a lot of harm
to bush beach and river.



At Carter’s Beach there’s bright and busy Marg,
Who never shrinks from setting up an arg­
Ument, as with the residents who, bent
On levelling the beach without Consent,
Removed the trees and flax and more
While knowing they were breaking the by-law.
But now the sea’s advanced and done yet more,
Is eating in and coming to their door.

[we skip the law
scorn the checks
and load the balances to get our way
--- so the job gets done
we say
no matter if it’s right or wrong
at least the job gets done

not like over the hill
where they fuck about
and nothing happens

Think first
says Marg
you’ve made a desert
to get a view but
a sand-dune’s not an option

it’s there
like the law for a purpose
you got your way
and now you’re paying for it]


Marg likes fun
and grows some pot
in a swamp out the back
to pay for it

She works at the check-out
and hopes to meet a man one day
to settle down with

She likes men
but can’t find one
for looking

They think she’s intelligent
because she talks clever

but all she’s saying
is that we should respect
and learn to live with
the land

She’s joined the Conservation Group
for company

Marg’s frisky
she sat on her boyfriend down at the pub
and drank whiskey

People like Marg but she’s not really popular because she’s a bit too abrupt and free with her
tongue and doesn’t stop to think that she might be giving offence there are so many ideas
buzzing round in her brain and she doesn’t want to miss them so it’s just as well that she
doesn’t ever meet up with--




And farther south, in pinnacle and rock
Lives Jeffrey, one who likes to scoff and mock
Who, lest his beach be fouled by man and pup,
Took steps himself, paid out, and bought it up.
This is, we know, a form of conservation
That keeps a piece of land in isolation.
Its safety now depends on whim and chance,
The owner’s mood, and that he knows his plants.

[He has to police
to hurry down the track
move people on

stop parties
do the rubbish
and confront

he doesn’t like the stress
and sometimes makes things worse
with bitterness

but there are fossils to preserve
orchids on the rock
a little wahlenbergia
and penguins

He tells himself
he’s strong
for the environment

some people think
he thinks
he’s god

he likes things nice]


It’s the only way he knows—
to do it himself

All other ways get lost
in politics and plot

and in his fears
bred from loneliness

of what people say
when they’ve left him
what they think

so he treads on their toes
and gets in their way

He fears despoilers
who might invade his space
and cry:
‘It’s for the people
it must be opened up!’

and start a crusade
for the prestige

which can make a lot of noise
in a small crowd of the righteous

Jeffrey told
the Mayor that he hoped he’d
not grow old

which the Mayor didn’t understand but was left with a feeling that it wasn’t very nice
which didn’t matter as he was on his way to join his mates at a meeting about the future plans




There’s Go-green next, that’s digging up the Cape,
Does rehabilitation too, while on the make.
No-one cares to look behind the dust
To see what’s necessary and what’s just.
The Cape is patched and hurt and much abused;
It has some beauties still, and we enthuse
At these, but when all’s done, the last tides turned,
We’ll wonder what’s been lost and what’s been earned.

[It’s for our good
they say
(though for their own
we know)
that they mine lime
and use it

They make employment
scatter wealth
with the dust

They plant the quarried places
make terraces and lakes

this too
employs a few

so we don’t note
that behind the gates
and noticed cautions
a landscape’s being devoured

It will be better
they say
In its rehabilitated way]


Go-green mines the stone

Its skills are destruction
its aims gain
of these it makes a virtue
of the dust a rain
of gold to pave the streets

Don’t mind the loss
They tell us
Think of the gain ––
the busy port
money for the town
the sponsorships
You can’t live without us
they say
We hold you together
make luxury and need
and better weather

We’re your friend
far more to you
than habitats and hills

or a view

Go-green dust
Is nature’s must
they tell us

Les Brett
wore work clothes in the rain
and they set


The Seals

DoC implores the seals to her aid;
They sport, while tourists promenade.
Thus, gathered harmless in one careful place
We shan’t exterminate th’amphibious race.
The seals themselves admire their humans’ feats,
Who rush the boardwalks, point, and crowd the seats,
And loudly talk (while seals affect to pose)
With certainty of things that no-one knows.

DoC intends
to calm the sea
by making friends
with amphibians

with the penguins
and seals
who put no bounds
to land or sea
and make home
of the littoral

To see a seal
on a seaweed rock
(as you in your armchair at home)
shows the sea is a house
for intelligent beings

home to populations
we can live with


It’s good to be
at ease with the sea

to ride with the dolphins
sit with the seals
and feed the fish

quite quickly it might be
that we’ll be in the sea

we’re a lacustrine race
and perhaps
we could make home
on both sides
of the shore

Make friends with our fellow mammals
then when the time comes
they will welcome us into their habitations

Andy stopped
a seal from using the cellphone
he had dropped




DoC plans to put Cape Foulwind into red
With Rata trees that must be purely bred,
With no Pohutukawa, no Pacifican nor
Impurity within its vision to restore
The Cape to its primeval verdure; then
Cook’s Scurvy Grass grew on the coast, when
Interesting animals sported on the beaches.
So DoC practices and so she teaches.

[the Southern Rata’s a brighter red
and starts life as a tree.

It’s shaped like a flame
and doesn’t need to strangle another
on the way up

like our southern culture
which is brighter
and has style

has substance
from its history

We think the Northern Rata
very Auckland]


DoC has digging days
and we honour them
by turning up to plant
the seedlings she has raised

of Metrosideros umbellata
for December

We could be subtle
and do fulgens
for the winter
parkinsonii for spring
to make it red all round

but DoC is a bureaucracy
and is easily strained

we mustn’t ask too much
and must be grateful

She’s learnt
to stand
against the tide
and is example

DoC tries
to not let North and South


You have to be
in advance of the sea
as one does with a river —
to know its usual and potential strength
its likely line of flow
its seasons
times of rest
and where it next might move

There are quiet times
and lines of coast
where the sea is at rest
and nothing’s changed in an age or two
where the littoral flax is succulent
and kawakawa grows behind the drift
and small herbs

There are no material tools at hand
no canons or tanks for defence

It’s best to be wise
as with a spouse
give plenty of room and respect

Our troubles come
when we rob the shore
or the rivers that feed it
starving the sea
which claims for its need

The shore must have weight
and substance for the grade
it must be clothed
for a naked tide will search for cover
from those who have robbed it

The shore’s an ambiguous place —
sometimes it’s sea
sometimes it’s land

the laws of either element prevail


Bridge To The Sea

The sea is the majority
there’s more

it’s our heart and lung
air light
and blood

no rebuke will do
nor violence

it’s we
who depend
and must adjust
to take the first token move
and make relations

as one does
to a cousin
not seen for years

there’s more in the sea
than other spaces give

there’s life
and room to live

it soon will be preferred
for it’s the last clean place
in its depths

we must make a bridge
and learn
to like
the food

Published by Heteropholis Press

Further copies may be obtained
from: P.O. Box 367, Westport,
Buller, NZ

ISBN 0-473-10237-4

© L. H. Kyle, 2005

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