The Millerton Sequences (2014)


by Leicester Kyle

Edited with an Introduction
by Jack Ross

& the Poem "Instead Of, In Memory"
by David Howard

Atuanui Press


Note on the Text

These poetry sequences, previously uncollected, represent some of the best work from the second half of Leicester Kyle’s writing career: the Millerton period, dating roughly from his departure from Auckland in April 1998, after the death of his first wife Miriel, to his own death in Christchurch Hospital in July 2006.

Winnowing them out from the numerous short poems written over the same time-span also seemed the best way to do justice to his wide range of interests and subject-matter. We begin here with a short sequence grounded in Leicester’s expert professional knowledge of Botany (“Five Flowers at Millerton Mine”); move on to “Picnic In The Mangatini,” which is probably as close as Leicester ever got to a straightforward set of “nature” poems; thence to a meditative evocation of place (“Rain”); then to a work of ecological protest against the proposed strip-mining of the Millerton plateau (“Death of a Landscape”); then a searching personal confession, written towards the very end of his life (“The Catheter Club”); and lastly to “Rain Poems,” which, in aggregate, sound like a bittersweet farewell to the West Coast and its weather.

As an entry-point to the collection, I’ve included the poem “One Hundred Steps to Millerton Mine,” written shortly after his return to the Coast. The “Hundred Steps” are a crucial part of the Millerton landscape, leading to the bathhouse used by the Miners after their long shifts underground. There’s also an official list there of those who lost their lives in this endeavour, commemorated by Leicester in another of these early poems from his new home, “An Incomplete List” (dated 3/6/98).

Finally, as a coda, I’ve put in the text of the last of his annual Christmas books, the delightful story of the dog Red, and how he managed to find acceptance in the local community.

The texts have been copied from Leicester’s original computer files, with minimal adjustment and alteration. Font, sizing, accidentals – all are his. The one exception to this practice is “Death of a Landscape.” In this case there are two competing texts: the original handwritten manuscript, dated February 2004 (and published - in this form - in brief 31 (2004): 83-92), and a later, slightly longer, print version, dated March 2004. It seems dangerous to assume that either of these texts entirely superseded the other, so I've therefore chosen, here on this website, to present the handwritten manuscript in exact facsimile, with a transcript of each page, while reprinting the later version in its entirety in the print edition of the book. This seemed the most convenient way for the reader to sample their continuities and divergences.

Thanks to my fellow-executor David Howard, for his constant encouragement and for kick-starting this project in the first place; thanks also to my wife Bronwyn Lloyd, for her wise counsel and artistic flair.

– Jack Ross, Mairangi Bay, November 2013



One Hundred Steps To Millerton Mine

Come, my dear
come now and see
the paradise prepared

Access by each step to gain
the back road
and places where
rails once ran
and business

Wonder how they counted out
the topography
with level runs

each step up
through a quiet green world
the sun in pattern
like a stencil
a shadow brocade

and at this time of the day
no birds

They knew what lay before
had worked it out
for the steep parts
and the gentler

so they could reach
the perfection of
a good round number

so we do
by stepping up to say
(as we ease our backs at the last)
“I’ve climbed the Hundred Steps”
and boast


Come then
let small goals still drive us

and besides
we never know
what we might see
an orchid
a dragon-fly
a green bush gecko
on a twig

in such things

Leicester Kyle
1 . 9 . 98







Caladenia catenata

a slow curve
and as faint

a pulled thread against the moss
all edge

we go past

even the flower might be
one piece of a petal
from the tree

a speck
that’s floated in
from an alien source
on an insect silk

best left
half seen

and turned to later
when there’s time to find



Pterostylis montana var.

not in kauri
(see the book)

but here
far from there
in cold bush
on the way
to bath-house
and offices dead
before this bush
took life
like ghosts
for a walk among
the ruins
in stance
and almost
in disposal of the
lined fabric of the
troop for space
and permanence
beside the hundred


Calochilus robertsonii

to you
in the rushes
that you show
your orchid face
and tinsel beard
in a sour spot

more usual
in a voluptuous place
with richness

but you
like saints before
make a solitary choice
take mud

on the pakihi
to the sun
(when it shines)

and flower
and fade
where none compete

nor envy

your gaudiness


Thelymitra venosa

taste honey in the tree
myrtle in the manuka
and in your eye
the sky
crouch before your blue

have no modesty

make your space
in a water world
of rush and moss

reach greedy
like the flesh
held firm

and no-one sustains you

a double dip
to be
are you
with me
the disguise of a life

to keep
in your short self
a brief for brilliance


Corybas oblongus

round here
the first
show of
the glitter
of spring

bright tips
in the bush
by the stream
road edge
on rocks
along the steps
jeweleries of light
like this —
one patterned leaf beneath
a brow of moss
one flower
with tentacles
carved from the thought
of a mind against utility

look in:
a hole in the world
pass to another sphere
you won’t want this flower

stay without

Leicester Kyle
13 . 1 . 99


Picnic In The Mangatini

We could only find glimpses
because of the trees,

But the canyon filled the forest
with rumblings from the depths,

And made a sort of silence.
Nothing moved.

We crackled on the Draco leaves
and whispered in the ferns.

The Autumn Orchid draped and glistened
and dripped its scent.


Only the more curious birds
stopped by to look.

The others were elsewhere,
singing of their own affairs
on some other tree,

Except for the weka,
which came by
while we were having lunch,
picked at my boot for grubs,
and wandered off.

Your peace soothed me
into a sun-warmed sleep,

soft on the moss.

I could almost sense
what love is.


Thanks for coming.

The sun outshone the shadows,
and there was innocence again
under the trees.

The clouds that came in from the sea
gathered with the vigour
of a wholesome change in the weather.

I’m sorry that I tired you,
but that’s the usual consequence
of kindness.

Leicester Kyle
21 . 3 . 2000




There’s time just time
to do a poem
between bringing in the wood
and starting dinner

Curry tonight
chicken with rice
and sprouts

Rain keeps me in
from a planed sky of grey

cold air and no wind

that’s pattered all day
and made these hours

though warm with books




Each new dawn has a promise and threat
so I try to work out which and how
as I lie in bed

Before I test my sensitivity
these tender nerves this shivering skin
my body
to the day

As I lie in warmth and listen

Across the lawn and down to the creek
through the bush to the rocks
to other parts of the house

And out to sea

To judge by the feel of it
the taste and the smell of it
what it will be

There’s a quiet
of withheld breath

Then one drop
another near the summit of the roof
a pause
then more
solid and substantial scattered over
bearing down
a rush a roar
and spouting thunders out
an answer to my doubt and anxiety —

a cloistered day it says
of fed fire
and things to do on paper


Some dawns whisper in
a suspicion at the edge of the mind

I separate the sounds
take out the creek the birds
the night wind from the sea
that sighs so heavily

Then test the day’s weight
from rustle on the roof

There’s a soft presence seeping
a damp unannounced and of unstated stay

Days like these are days for memory —

You’re already on my mind
at this time of the year
when you left

there’s nothing else to think of
nothing to distract
on this day of fog and small rain
drizzling in an anonymous world


Ice makes a ring on the roof
that cuts through the accustomed sound
or rain on the roof

Small shock
a knock at the door
ring on the phone

It tingles on the nerves and breaks the dream
with consequence

of cold
the draughts and labour
and is the chimney clean

of squalls and probable thunder
damage to the cabbages
perspex parts of the roof
the size of the stones

I listen for the silence that comes with snow
when the pattering stops
and the roof is stroked with feathers
it might snow

in the sound
of a breath breathed out slowly


There may be silence
a waiting silence
that saps other sounds
and wakes me

The house flinches:

A taughtening before a quake
a still intruder muffled at the door

There’s heaviness above —
all breathing swept up in

But there’s no signal
nothing in advance
of the torrent that crashes
the oppression

of the weight of it
and the roar
that I must wait out
and cower before

Lest it be winter
that’s come upon me
and the perpetual storm


At the foot of my bed
there’s a window

So I can tell
if the sky is clear
— by the stars

Which at first light fade
until there is a time
not day nor night
when a cloud might grow
and with a shower
damp the dawn

I lie until more light predicts
the cloud the wind the mass
to show the day as settled
or unrested
forever changing nature
or continuous


From the first tone of a voice
the first sight at the door
it’s so with this rain

whose drops tell of inclination
mood strength set of it
and continuation

the height of the cloud
potential for time
and degree

In bed I analyse
the sounds from above

And over them the clouds
stacked stratified and precipitating

Whose influences manage
this green world


I twist in my bed at insect sounds
house settlement
and sparks on the fire

It hasn’t rained for weeks

Soon it comes
and by dawn
will have done

the creeks are down
sandflies out
and the fleas

Our water-pipes are running low
greens limp lawns brown
fern fronds hang tattered

There’s dust most unaccustomed dust
in this place where there’s rain
each week when the world’s right

Soon there will be the comfortable sound
impartial upon us like justice

And we’ll sleep


Suddenly and all at once

Not big —
a rush on the roof
then done
for a time

It’s dawn
and the weather’s begun
its cycle of attendance
on us in our single houses
with no duties
who’s day is as free as the rain lets it be

A white day from the north
where the wind breaks the sky
sends its rain out to sea
and gives us no sun but a shower or two
thick soft warm

For a day or two
when it will go to the west
with thunder


I don’t know why I’ve woken then
it sounds
without a flash before
which means
the centre of the storm’s behind the rain
the squall
which means
it has consequence

I lie and listen
to plot the course
from where the thunder sounds
to right or left
to will it veer
or move across

Then should I turn the power off
unplug the phone
the stereo the microwave
my desk

Or take a risk
and stay in bed
and cover my head
at the worst of it


Some rain’s from the south
over the hills to the east
where there’s arid land

in burnt-up scents
of straw dust
and a grey sea

It bangs the wall
by my bed

rises to wind

is then gone
flattened in mud
and dissolved

Everything still standing
will lean to the north

The sun will shine
on clean hills

And on us as we stand
to warm at the door



Birds won’t sing
no-one’s out walking
for fear there’s no air

It’s thick as a lake
with algae
water-weed suspended
in drizzle drops
white as light

A steaming soundless broth and brew
a factory of rain

made here
to send abroad


from an evaporated land

It sucks up the sourness
of oozing places
bleeds bloated leaves

Eases surfeit at the roots
dries shoes and sheets

It ushers in a crisp regime

Lines wetlands

Makes this again a habitable town
of credit and dry blankets

Leicester Kyle
11 . 1 . 02






What can we say?

There are no words for this,
none that tell the story.

These are what they use:
the receiving landscape
the outcome for the area
the best landscape fit
the final landform —

to make death no matter.

Stammer, if we must, for
crime against a landscape
has no sentence of detention
nor definition;
the victim leaves no testament.
The offence is titled progress
and the offender praised.
There’s no support for mourners,
no monument nor relic,
only grief for the displaced,
a grave in the air,
with the scent of the vanished —
fern, and
beech, moss, &
bog-pine cedar, and
the birds.
They replace it with the alien;
almost as good, they say.

When a partner dies
And you take another —
no replacement
but another —
you never forget.

It’s the gap that’s left,
they say,
and it’s in all the books that it’s true,
but it’s more than that:
it’s the idea and the ideal
that over a life
has made its own form.


though it might be
‘a receiving form’
and though
‘the final form’
has been designed,
all else will be inferior
and this that you have will stay
— a ghost
of what was never made
but what was meant to be.

They told me of the pain.
There’s no hope, they said,
and you’ll find it hard.
Be supportive,
do the best you can,
involve the family
and turn to your friends.

But it was more than pain.

So much love,
Polished practised honed,
lost dead buried,
then blown like pollen
from trees in the wind.

The pain is with violence
and you wonder at the necessity —
can’t the soul be gone in peace
as some do by injection?
Must there be this wrack rape and scouring?
Spread about,
brought back again?
Need this be,
or is it that
in some obscure profundity
it’s writ inevitable,
that if this agony doesn’t occur,
in another antipodes
there will be more?

You can understand the death of the bad,
but why the beautiful?

There’s all the lamentation,
for beauty
like truth
is hard to replace,
especially when with life and grace.


We argue,
hold meetings,
write letters to the minister,
but every time we do
there’s an answer,
not of fact or consolation
nor even a promise,
but of obstacle,
some sort of it-has-to-be.

It’s best, they say,
To be resigned until the final surrender,
else too many people will lose their jobs,
shops will close,
amenities go,
schools downsize,
and families in China go short,

which makes us feel bad,
as if looking for the truth
is a betrayal of ideals,
or of the people,
which is the same really,
they say.

(Drink this
the black water
that runs in the creek
it’s good for you)

This landscape must go
to make room for another, which
must have its day
to justify the effort, then

in very due course
the flowers will come back,
the grasses the trees
the kiwi and
the other birds too,

when times get tough,
they decide to dig it up again
for what they missed.

(Love the machines
with blades and buckets
as big as the mouth of a mine
and the explosives)

Destruction on this scale
Is quite new;
we haven’t done it much,
it grows on you.


Like Dresden, where
we put it back again,
‘recreate the landscape components’
( the granite under
the Kaiata above)
unsure lest some part be missed
of this manufactured rising.

The outline’s right.
Mounds are in the right place,
and hollows too.
Water’s where it ought,
but it’s been put,
not born, and has no memory.

What has it to tell?
What did Lazarus talk about?
Being dead?
What would I say
If you came back?
You would be a model
with components made to fit.
Where would you have been —
in Beulah or the Pit?

Would you talk sleep and eat,
or lie there laminate?

Would another use your grave?

Best leave things as they are
and wait for the finale
when all griefs are healed.

There are so many —
leavings, hurts
mistakes, losses
cruel deeds
and overlookings.

Perhaps that’s what this crater’s for —
not coal,
but all the mistakes
of the world.
It's best left to time.


Nature makes mistakes,
as in making us
who make ruin,
permitting by such terms as
‘the outcome for the area’
‘managing landscape effects’,
as if we’ve beaten up and robbed
an innocent at night,
then undercover talk of what to do:
of the effects of the crime,
how to disguise it,
make it the norm, or
as if it’s not been.

You can talk something down,
you can talk it up,
but there’s still its meaning:
‘the outcome for the area’ is —
it being replaced;
‘managing landscape effects’ is —
concealing the loss;
‘the final landscape form’ is —

As if they’re Destiny,
all Power and Authority,
as if they have eternal title,
made the land,
are still making.
As if destruction is creation,
their digging and taking
part of the making.

It’s to quieten talk
and stop you asking,
as when we tame Catastrophe
we talk of ‘the deceased’
and ‘passing on’,
the terminally ill’,
but not of dying.
‘While there’s life there’s hope’
we say
and search for alternative cures
while we know.

when in life and health
I claim another
to be one with me,
but I own,
don’t think to share,
and take more than give,
don’t tend or treasure —


and then you die —
I’m left with loss
that’s ill-informed,
stark bare and desert.

So much loss …
of the not ever-known,
of love,
final and unformed.
Deep down it lives,
a sunken wreck
disturbed by storm
to send up a memorial;
a kraken lying,
sensing time;
a shade,
asleep at the door;
a continent drowned by the sea,
relaid, remade,
then raised again
to episodes of life.

You can’t be sure.
Anything past is prone to resurrection,
however still and deep it lies,
to be moulded again of earth and clay
conjured of dust, unburiable.

Death is an illusion,
a promise falsely made.
You live on still, incalculably,
ripple after ripple made by memory,
all you did and didn’t do affecting.

And the fears?
The cancer goes on,
a sore here,
a tumulus there

Words may calm anxiety,
disguise malignant threat,
but they may not change.
For the perfect and unspoilt
we must wait to the end
‘the final landscape form’
Let silence be our eloquence,
on every tongue.

It will be easier then to forgive.

Leicester Kyle24-2-04



Your beauty’s a wildflower
in my mind

Your memory a box of delights

Cool winds blow
where you once walked

The air is clear,
the sun still climbs to life

But you have died
your presence gone

I grieve for you
and weep at my neglect

at chance avoided

an acid in the gut


An Aside:

Advice to the Rehabilitator

(conditions permitting—money, staff, skills, the weather)

Be inclined

Put the granite on the bottom
sandstones above
on the top Kaiata

and get the drainage right
with nothing left dry —
north to the Patrick
south to the Waimang
with no acid

Then the plants in their groupings —
Don’t miss a thing—
it might be a key
and they all fall down

There’s the little plantain
and C. parva (?)
Put them in their places
and keep to their kinds —
  1. Rata, kamahi, and mixed beech forest
    Nothofagus solandri var. cliffortioides
    Halocarpus biformis
  2. Mountain beech and podocarp forest
    Eleocarpus hookerianus & Gahnia procera
  3. Mountain beech and podocarp scrub
    Halocarpus bidwillii and Pseudopanax linearis
  4. Manuka, wire rush, tangle fern and red tussock
    Empodisma minus, Gleichenia dicarpa
  5. Manuka shrubland and scrub
    Leptospermum scoparium & Phormium cookianum
  6. Manuka tussock shrubland
    Chionochloa rubra & Dracophyllum palustre
  7. Sandstone pavement vegetation
    scattered shrub, rush, tussock, and herbfield
  8. Disturbed or bare ground
    (vegetation almost absent)
  9. Red Tussock Grassland
    Lepidothamnus laxifolius & Myrsine divaricata
  10. Red Tussock and Mountain Flax grassland.
    Epacris pauciflora, Lycopodium fastigiatum
  11. Tussock herbfield
    Oreobolus pectinatus & Carpha alpina
You know the plan —
0nce the plants are back
the birds’ll come,
the gecko too and the snail
then those things that haven’t been discovered
Give them a place in the sun
if you will
so we might know them


© L. H. Kyle, Feb. 2004.
Millerton, Buller, N.Z.
Further copies may be obtained
at: P.O. Box 367, Westport, N.Z.
Published by Heteropholis Press



Leicester Kyle


They ring me
now they know
What’s your count
they ask
Don’s was 42
and he’s right as rain
but I don’t tell them
mine’s not that —

it’s a move to self-sufficiency
that my water be recycled

by an unlikely means
by some perpetual prosthesis
I will be made entire
and not eat
nor drink
I will be made imperishable
by tubes and plugs
and be more the man
with these bags about my loins
rallying my peers

(in such
I hide
the indignity)


It takes you in various ways

Ken lost it
at the restaurant
and left undercover

while giving a speech

I got mine
while driving through the Pass

at home

There’s not much pain
but you’re unmanned
and put in a fussy world

You hesitate at effort

It isn’t safe in bed

People wonder
what you’re doing
adjusting at your leg

You wonder if you look
the same

and you can’t drink anything
that looks like piss


The bags can be got
at Outpatients
from the district nurse

There’s the night bag
with the longer tube
so it can rest by the bed

and the day bag
that you fix to your leg
to each one alternately

They come
in sizes
with plugs and taps

the smaller ones
fill too soon
and make it tough in town

the big ones drag

You fit them
on the inner calf
or beside the knee

but not too tight

on the whole it works

you can be comfortable


It could have been good
in armoured times

in a space suit

but for us
disguise is limited
and we daren’t go thoughtless

It’s best to be strategic
to plot in advance
to map the town
and note the conveniences

in case of the bag
and for privacy

Capacity’s limited
an accident’s disaster
or a puncture

you can’t go round town
with one wet foot

nor a stain


I said to Ken
when he got his
and asked:

At night
it’s best
to put it on a table
by the bed

or in a bucket

I turn a stool upside down
and fit a bucket in the legs

It’s the height you need
so the bag doesn’t tug
when it’s full

I’m discreet
with the contraption
and wear a dressing gown
if I get up

but now and then
when I’m asleep
the dog lies on
and blocks it


When the doctor tells you
that you’re prostate
the first thought you have
is of its cause
the next is for your woman —
your husbandry

ours have stood
in sympathy
but Alan rang the other night
and said that Don’s had gone

You can’t wonder

Her man has other attachments now
with visible fluids

should he be physical
he might pop a plug

and after the op
he might leak
or be limp

he’s emptiness to think of now
as well as overflow


It oughtn’t to be
that doctors have wit
and take the piss

He’s given me Hytrin BPH
(terazosin hydrochloride)
one a day for a month
in dated foil
to relax the bladder

There are adverse effects
(they’re advised on the box)
such as syncope
and priapism

The first is rare
the last is rarer
but I ask you
how could he let a prostate
be priapic?
a man with a frontal catheter?

Imagine it —
to tease
and entirely deny —
and this
with the other miseries
The slightest chance
of such a scourge
should be enough to ban the drug
and deregister the medic

Alan Ken and Don agree


Alan is angry —
You start in life like a hot-air balloon
glowing and inflated;
and you end like a fucking condom
he says
there must be more than this
By nature he’s philosophical
but the bag on his leg
and the tube in his dick
is getting him down

Yesterday it leaked
and wet him
It’s the long slide down
It’s wretchedness now
Whatever we see
is lit by a setting sun
he said
when he rang
The grass does wither
the flowers do fade
but there are some things
that last forever
I say
to comfort
and he grunts

with a catheter
is only the beginning


Don is to have his op. next week
and he sees things
in a cancerous light.

You have to face the facts
he says
nothing else could cause it
they’re going to take my testicles

You’re better off without them
I say
to comfort
There’s nothing else to do
he moans
To him a bladder
is like a balloon
a urinary tract a drain
which gathers dirt with age

The effects are plain
and naturally negative

It’s wise
he thinks
to be down at heart
Good health’s an unexpected gift
a bonus
from an unsolicited god
and not presumed

Always be surprised at it


We’re being sorted out
each of us

Don will be right as rain
they tell him

Alan’s had his operation
and is impotent

Ken is likely to leak a bit
and I have mine tomorrow

I drive down
at 9.0
and stay one night —

depending on the damage inside

I want to be potent
and dry

We are terrified
saddened and grieved
sad that our bodies
our poor beautiful bodies
might now die
we like our bodies

We’re used to them

Age and death —
in the face of these
I should be tired

but I’m like the conductor
(whose name I forget)
who found one life
not enough

so I would like to be restored
to my home and my dog
and make that music
for which I only have the key


They stood at the foot of the bed
and grinned

You’re going to start
I said
It’s done
they replied
you’re fixed
you’re well
all that’s left is blood and bile
The trouble was sliced
while you slept

It’s gone —
no pipes and plugs
no bag by the bed

They’re smart —
by the time you wake
they’ve worked on past
found and fixed
and changed the rules that govern you

While you’re out
whole lives of pain
are dispossessed of bodies

You can live now
as you lived before
and piss
as you wish


and listening
early on Advent 3

8 great Os
Veni Veni
and Handel
as the season builds

lilies and roses and cordyline

I should delight
be abounding

I’ve had my op.
and am fit

to love lift
and sleep fearlessly

but cares weigh

and faint anxieties
dilute the celebration

Too soon
my life is average

There should be endless joy
and thankfulness
that I
long roped and bound
am free

and in my depths
in the piles and pillars of my being
there is

Leicester Kyle
20 . 12 . 04


Red Dog / Brown

by Jocelyn Maughan
(Patonea, NSW)



This book is issued in memory of
The Rev. Leicester Kyle
poet, priest, ecologist

in commemoration of his death
on July 4th, 2006

and to celebrate the publication
of his online
Collected Poems
between July 4th, 2011
& January 9th, 2013

Image: Bronwyn Lloyd

© Leicester Kyle Literary Estate, 2012

1 comment:

  1. I was moved to read the poems about Miriel again. I remember when Leicester and I went into the cafetaria at CUC (where Mir was a skivy) and their eyes met. They smiled! And when she was on her deathbed decades later her wry comment that she couldn't even die properly.