Selected Shorter Poems 7 (2004-2006)

Shorter Poems: 7


  1. A Person, Two; if not the Sun [22/1/04]
  2. ‘To Father Huc’s tree of Tartary / on which we are each leaves’ poetry.’ [26/1/04]
  3. Ev [30/1/04]
  4. If the words say silence suffers less / They suffer silence [26/3/04]
  5. Portent [7/5/04]
  6. The Tinder Box [7/5/04]
  7. Mother [7/5/04]
  8. View From the Roundabout [16/5/04]
  9. Home [16/5/04]
  10. Native At Midnight [16/5/04]
  11. Diary Of A Country Cop [17/6/04]
  12. To a Daughter Who Has Taken Her Life [11/8/04]
  13. For A Lost Longdrop [16/12/04]
  14. Tell Me [6/1/05]
  15. Water Talk [6/1/05]
  16. The Little Mermaid [6/1/05]
  17. Useless Love [6/1/05]
  18. Educating The Stream [6/1/05]
  19. Opus [6/1/05]
  20. The Four Comforts [4/2/05]
  21. Scar [8/2/05]
  22. The Toro Tree [8/2/05]
  23. Gloomy Friday [15/3/05]
  24. When The Bus Stops [4/7/05]
  25. The Rain-Callers [4/7/05]
  26. Herodotus [7/7/05]
  27. Paris [8/7/05]
  28. The New Mayor at the Old Mine [11/10/05]
  29. time out [17/10/05]
  30. Pre-Loved Days [16/1/06]
  31. Rain Poems:
  32. Quiet Rain [19/1/06]
  33. The Southerly [19/1/06]
  34. Welcome [2/2/06]
  35. Yesterday [2/2/06]
  36. Flood [2/2/06]
  37. From The East [2/2/06]
  38. Night Rain [2/2/06]
  39. With Ice [2/2/06]
  40. Of Earth and Sky [2/2/06]
  41. The Botanist and his Dog [15/2/06]
  42. The Tree [15/2/06]
  43. The Sky Must Fall [15/2/06]
  44. We Were Talking [15/2/06]
  45. Nematoceras triloba [n.d.]
  46. The Creeping Sky Lily [n.d.]
  47. Actinotus suffocta [n.d.]


A Person, Two; if not the Sun

Loss has sent them all
to bed

no gain to rise
if not the sun

a car
a person, two
with the sun

but loss
and sorrow

and rain

if not the sun
in the rain

but no sun


(Southern Ocean Review 33 (2004))


To Father Huc’s tree of Tartary
on which we are each leaves’ poetry

Each one of us
leaves’ or leave’s
on or of

or sung in the wind
listened lounging
or read
in the shade

at the top of the steppes

a totem

the Monsignor
a prince of the church
a shaman
carried on a palanquin
from Tibet
to the edge of the sea

the tree of Tartary
who’s leaves are the words of the world

we each ever

for you and me
for Louis and Loraine
who found the book
and have since never




You can’t say she’s lost her mind
because it’s there,
but she doesn’t see things through any more.

She starts
but doesn’t end
her sentences,

or anything for that matter,

which is fair enough
when you think of it –
there’s a lot begun that shouldn’t be,
but it just doesn’t do
and it’s hard on the others.

She’ll have to go;
so she won’t be coming here,
not any more.

Think what change that will bring:
who’ll do the raffles?
And the pickles at the sale?
There’ll be no more pavlovas,
and those trifles she did
with streaks in them!

She never said much
and she didn’t do anything else,
but it’s a sign, isn’t it?

It’s getting to be near the end of the line.



If the words saysilence suffers less
They suffer silence

you have to know
or you suffer
more or less
what they mean

what they suffer

say –
silence –
itself a word
which is the trick
when you say it

which is the point
and is the whole

of the pain




since she died
it’s rained all the time

drizzling mist
in fog

now and then
some sun
a distant blue

but nothing
to dry the lawn

soon enough it’s on again
from over the hill



The Tinder Box

My dog’s eyes are big as plates
he guards my boughs my bole
in which I store the treasure
in the box
on which he sits
in patience

He growls at my desires –
for the princess in her copper cot
for clothes that flame at night
and for God
in the box
on which he sits

When I am done
he lies at the door
to the tunnel of my soul
and watches me

with eyes as big as cups as plates

big brown eyes

and rolls them




In this the leisure of my age
days mill behind
like sheep on the hills,
and I think of you

that you endured
his infidelities drunken-ness
the poverties and scandal
that he made.

Of him I think with anger,
of you with love
and I work to envisage
you both.

For him I need no effort –
it’s myself I see,
but for you
whom I adored
I find no face.



View From the Roundabout

To check me
a friend sometimes says:
It all depends
on your point of view.

If you take a photo
looking down the line
the world lies equally
on either side.

A view from the bridge
is expansive,
but from the river
the bridge is inconsequent.

The historian sees sequentially,
the botanist in particular.

Physicists hold
that the real is in the atom
and your chair
is a phenomenon
So that makes the smaller
The nearer to reality?
I ask.

We see what we select,
he says.




This town has infirmities

She’s old
and she’s poor

She hasn’t the will for treatment
nor the wealth

She doesn’t know what’s wrong with her
and doesn’t like the pain
so she palliates
and hides in the bush

Her past is not a proud one
and she’s never been a looker
but she’s lived
and still lives
at one hundred and ten
gazing out dreamily over the sea

Her past she’s hidden in the trees
in case there’s something to hide

It’s a tale of small heroics
and she’s unconfident

If you find her
you might not like what you see
for age is only noticed
when it’s painted –

but her story is one to be heard
and her relics are rich



Native At Midnight

We stay up late,
crowded in the house,
talking of those things
that silence brings to mind –
sombre late-life things,
with laughter to cover.

I leave before the hour
to have midnight at home

I know the track
and can find my way
by the sounds of the stream.

All’s in its place,
each black silhouette
mud moss manuka scent
each over-reaching bush
and the piping of a relict frog.

Tonight there’s more:
it’s in the silence
about to move,
in the air,
at my feet:
an amiable love
behind the familiar,

made from my mind
and now running free,
as new as the year
and endemic.



Diary Of A Country Cop

(Extracted from the Mataki Community Newsletter, May 2004)

Hello to all you locals out there.

Senior Constable Dave Gilthorpe from Mataki police here again.

It’s been a while (once again) since I last wrote this page, and although it will be a long one I guarrantee that it won’t take you as long to read this as it will take me to type it. Just as well there’s no motor racing on the Telly otherwise I would be otherwise unavoidably detained.

And yes, I found my notebook so here goes.


24.02.2004I was working with the other staff on the annual drug recovery operation with the Hellicopter*. It was a good day.

24.02.20042315hrsI attended an address on the Spit* where a man had visited his wife. She did not want him there so I took him back to his car and he was Tresspassed from the address.

25.02.20040030hrsOn the way home from the above I saw a suspicious vehicle parked near the statue*.I stopped and spoke to them and they said they had run out of petrol. When the driver started the car it fired up so I followed them. They did a runner at the river.

25.02.20041030hrsA search warrant was executed at a Spit address and Cannabis plants and cookies were found. A rifle was also seized as none of the occupants was licensed.

25.02.20041130hrsAnother search warrant at a Riverside* address for Cultivation and Possession. He has appeared in Court and been convicted of both.

25.02.20041230hrsAnother search warrant at a Mataki address. Same thing. He will be appearing in Court in June.

25.02.2004I spent the rest of the day in the Hellicopter and it was a great day and a lot of hard work. The best thing was that it was a typical Mataki day no wind no clouds and you could see for miles.

27.02.20042309hrsI was working a Nightshift (2100hrs-0500hrs) and stopped a car being driven by a Forbidden driver. He was not a happy camper* when I impounded his car, as I am required to do because he is Forbidden.

28.02.20040415hrsI attended a Domestic where a partner had arrived home drunk after being kicked out of the house and had gone to sleep in the garage. He was taken home to his parents. There have been no problems.

29.02.20040400-0450hrsWorking in town again and I attended to noisy party complaints but there was nothing in it.

03.03.20041330hrsI attended a Verbal Only* between a couple at the Spit. There were no problems. They just needed someone to talk to and I came in.

*1.‘Drug Recovery’: i.e. the destruction of the Cannabis plantations in the bush. This operation is enjoyed by the Police and marked by the locals with derisory picnics.
*2.‘the Spit’: a beach community at the river mouth.
*3.‘the Statue’: a sculpture of intertwining dolphins standing near the jetty.
*4.‘Riverside’: a dairy farming community 13ks upstream from Mataki.
*5.’Verbal Only’: police jargon for a dispute not involving violence.


05.03.20042045hrsI attended an incident where a 15yr old driver decided he wasn’t going to stop and then he decided to leg it. He did not have a licence. That cost him a $400 ticket as well as being Forbidden*.

08.03.20041745hrsI attended a burglary at Riverside where some sheds had been entered and property stolen. The owner got it back. A suspect will be spoken to. Burglaries in our area should not be tolerated. The victims of these offences are left feeling anxious and unsafe, and no person should feel like that because of the crimes of lazy and dishonest people. Each victim is different and I know what I’m talking about because I’ve been burgled twice and both times I was living where I am now at this place the Police Station. You may Laugh. I got the people who broke in here*.

11.03.2004I worked in town as the Court Orderly.

19.03.20042135hrsI stopped a Toyota car on the Main rd. and processed the driver for drink driving. This guy was over twice the legal limit and was suspended for 28 days. He is appearing in Court.

23.03.20040830hrsAs a result of enquiries I charged a milk tanker driver with Careless Use.

23.03.20041945hrsI attended an address at the Spit (once again!) where a drunk male had phoned police making stupid threats. He had got thrown out and had nowhere to go. I took him to town. End of story.

30-31.03.04I spent two days in the City doing baton pepper spray and firarms training. Both were interesting and good days*.

01.04.2004Court Orderly again.

03.04.20040730hrsI attended at Riverside where it was reported that a horse had been shot. The horse was still up and mobile but it had a hole in its head where there shouldn’t have been one. It had been hit by the train. The horse is doing fine.

03.04.20041930hrsAs a result of 3 phone calls to the Police Comms centre and 3 to my wife* I stopped a white Familia car that was hooning in High St. I impounded the car for 28 days.

*1.‘Being Forbidden’ i.e. by law being denied the right to drive a vehicle.
*2.There is opinion in Mataki that the burglaries were light-hearted.
*3.‘did a runner’: police jargon for ‘legging it’.
*4.S/Constable Gilthorpe would have enjoyed the break from police routine.
*5.S/Constable Gilthorpe then lived in the police house at the back of the police station.


05.04.20040100hrsI attended a Domestic at the Spit where a person allegedly breached a Protection Order and assaulted another occupant in the same house. Neither victim wanted the matter to go any further.

06.07.2004I attended a 2-day 4wheel drive course and had a great time. I learnt a few things about 4wheel driving that I did not know and took the Rodeo Patrol in places that I would not have ordinarily gone. For a ‘Holden’ it didn’t go to bad.

09.04.20041300hrsI went along to a vacant section and located 2 cannabis plants.

11.04.20040730hrsI attended a town address for another Verbal Only. More spleen venting. I then went home.

16.04.20041035hrsI spoke with an 8yr old who I saw playing chicken with the train. Not a good thing. Please know where your kids are and what they are doing as I don’t want to have to tell you that they won’t be doing anything again ever. It’s bad for the train driver too.

16.04.20041930hrsI was called out to Riverside where it was reported that there was someone lying on the road outside the cemetary. Was where he was lying a sign I don’t know. By the time I got there he was wandering along the road. I took him to his home.

18.04.20041000hrsI was flagged down while in town and ended up with a mother and daughter from Australia who were having a major Verbal in High St. They both sure knew how to swear and didn’t hold back even when I was with them*.

22.04.20042130hrsThree hunters were reported missing after failing to return from the Blackwood where they went to recover a deer. We organised the search but they walked out.

25.04.20041300hrsThis really shows the intelligence of some people out there. The public toilets had foaeces scattered around the floors and walls. This was cleaned up by a volunteer, and when that person went back to check it, some toe rag* had tried to set fire to the toilet paper.

As you can see it has been a little busy and for every job reported in this article there has been the associated paperwork that goes with it. So if you think that I haven’t been busy based on what’s written above bear in mind the associated paperwork. If incidents have been reported that are not recorded here, don’t be offended or upset it probably means they have been recorded directly on to the computer. As always there has been traffic work and patrolling to be done as well, so I am kept very busy out here, with the family too*.

If you have any issues or any information feel free to ring on (06)5758 103 or e-mail to davegilthorpe @

*1.This incident is also noted in the Mataki News 19.4.04 as ‘Fracas in High St.’
*2.‘Toe Rag’: down-and-outer; a term of affectionate abuse.
*3.At this time S/Constable Gilthorpe had four children at home, all of them attending the local school.


(brief 46 (2012): 78-83.)


To a Daughter Who Has Taken
Her Life

You opened the door
before the knock
and when you saw
who waited there
you left us

You might have stayed
until we came –
we brought refreshment

but it was a thing
you had to do

a privilege
you claimed

Your friend
had the key –

your familiar

who had no use for words
and who presumed

We heard you depart
and called you –

poor company
you had

there’s better



For A Lost Longdrop

It’s off the back porch
of white plastic purity
religious on the floor
with water

It was out the door
up twelve brick steps
in a box on a rock
with door enough to hide
up to the knees

all else exposed
to the wind
the rain

I would drape a coat about me
and mind the ice on the steps

and I came to know the night
to tell the stars
to hear the first bird at dawn
and listen to the last
to see if Nev was up
and Carol in her kitchen
by the creek

Now I’m warm dry
and purpose-set
kept from risk
and clean

but I know nothing



Tell Me

The very fierce wolf of Agobio
offended neither man nor beast
and walked amongst the people

Reminding them
of years
before the sword

when wolves had food enough
and lions would lie with lambs

They mourned the wolf
when he died
and then began to forget

to forget the man in the beast
who could love and mind and comfort

and the hope
that the wild
might provide



Water Talk

my creek
has the sound
of people talking

it roars
like a crowd in a park

it talks
in a small meeting

of success
at having come so far

of happenings
in its course

it chatters
quite seriously

as if profound

in vowels
of no significance



The Little Mermaid

There was a time when I could sing –
now I am dumb

There was a time when I had no feet –
now I dance

I dance with my love
in the overwater world –
I may not speak

Each step I take
is a tearing in two –
I don’t talk of it

He is my feet
my voice
and my soul

each step with him
each step in the world
is incision



Useless Love

cutting trees to make a view
only drinking water
refusing to worry the children

biographical Christmas cards
and happy e-mails

herbs and homeopathy
thinking your instinct’s a spirit

returning to nature
seeking salvation in diet

when all the time the facts are there
and you only see what’s moving



Educating The Stream

We didn’t know it
when it was young
and now it’s set in its ways

has dug itself deep down into the rock
from source to sea
and is useless
does nothing for us
gets in the way

It needs to be diverted
round the south side of town
to irrigate
and dammed
to generate

We could leave some of the bush
for looks
and car-park the bit near the hall
put shops under the bridge!

Think how that would look
with the cliffs behind

The gorge will make a landfill site –
it could do for years

and the rest of the stream
that’s left from the dam
will make a settling pond.

Some might think we interfere
but a thing should have a use




I worry
about repairing the roof

It’s steep
and high

The spouting has gone
and there’s nothing to hold to

iron’s perished
barge-board’s decayed
the header-tank rests on rotten wood
to be renewed
in parts
which I will do

but first I must stand sound
on something
to be devised
laid upon the iron
and attached
at the ridge
of the roof

to which I will secure myself
to clamber
in safety
to paint
and repair

It’s been made by many hands
and is a house worth respect

but not life



The Four Comforts

A ghost came to me
in my dreams
as one who died
eight years ago and said:

This is the end of the year my dear,
what would you like for the next?

And I said:
My woman –
I would like to love her
not as I love you
but differently,
for her.

And it said – Done.

The ghost came again
as one who died this year
and said:

This is the end of the year, Dad,
what would you like for the next?

And I said:
My dog Red –
whose love has no limit
and knows me,
that he not go.

And it said – Done.

It came again
as my mother
whom I’d forgot
and said:

This is the end of the year, my dear,
what would you like for the next?

And I said:
Space –
bush and streams
and no next door.

And it said – Done.

Lastly it came as my father,
and said:

This is the end of the year, boy,
What would you like for the next?

And I said:
Freedom –
I’ve done as you asked,
let me do as I want.

And it said – Done.




You were playing
with your brother
in the pungas
by the creek
and you fell

A dead stem
pierced your palm
as you fell
and lodged there

It festered
and left a scar
with stretched skin
like tendons

An ugly thing
you said
and closed your hand

I found it
something to love

And now
long after death and sorrow
when I hold another’s hand
my finger finds your scar there
and touches



The Toro Tree

We slept in the shade
of the toro tree
with our feet in the sun

We had leaves and sounds
and the wind

(the sound of the earth
is the spin of the wind)

Red smelt the wind

To smell the wind
you put yourself in other parts
to tell what sets it

I smelt the green things
at our feet
the sun on them



Gloomy Friday

It’s hard to say goodbye

I like John Campbell
and I wish him well in his
‘Fight For 7pm’

This cover’s been with me
for a week –
at the top right corner there’s
at the bottom there’s
Paul and Susan
and some soldiers
with explosions behind them

John looms impressively
his eyes have something to tell me
but it’s Friday night
the end of the NZ Listener week

My viewing and my listening
are done and
as I put the house to bed
I must fold the Listener
flatten it
and force it into the rubbish

It’s significant
and I press the book
with heavy feet

Flat are the joys of 59
the desperate news of 3
the fatuous realities of 1
and the delicate Concert aesthetics

One week of a good life

I wish it ended Saturday night

And Friday wasn’t like this



When The Bus Stops

There aren’t enough paintings of chaos’ – Jeffrey Harris

There aren’t enough pictures of chaos
for these apocalyptic times,
when a city could go in an instant,
a people be laid low.

It needs to be imagined
in its immanence.

A film may pretend
or a video,
but we know the media
and it’s not the crack of doom we fear
but the disintegration,

when all the people
in the cinema here
have no reason to leave,

and no-one gets off
at the bus stop,

when there’s nothing at work
nor need to go home
and nobody wants to cook dinner,

when it seems there’s no reason for reason –
this is the end that looms.

It needs to be in pictures and books
envisaged, with faces,
so we can talk about it.



The Rain-Callers

It’s got so
that rain is our normal condition –
if it doesn’t come
for several days
we want it

an empty sky
and a crackling turf
seem offensive

Though sunlight is warm
and a clear night is encouraging
though a dry lawn is best to mow
and we need to rest the fire

the place won’t work
unless there’s more
than two metres of rain in a year
and is best near three

without that
we shrink and shrivel
our ferns tire
mosses close
fungi crack
the swamps resign
and our creeks expose their beds
to grow green

Then we start to encourage the clouds
to thicken those out to sea
and call them down from the tops

We cheer them as we watch them grow
we stand out the front and lead them on
and thrill at the fog’s first wisp on the hill

and listen above the radio
the neighbour’s saw
the impatient dog
for the first hint of patter
on the roof


(The Press)



which is of the following description –

the city stands in a spacious plain
and is quadrangular,
and shows a front on every side of one hundred & twenty stades;
such is the size of the city of Babylon.

A violent storm arose, broke the bridge in pieces, and scattered the whole work

It is adorned in a manner surpassing any city.
A moat deep wide and full runs entirely round it;
next, there is a wall fifty royal cubits in breadth
and in height two hundred.

When Xerxes heard of this he commanded that the Hellespont should be scourged with 300 lashes

Here I think I ought to explain in what manner the wall was built.
As they dug the moat they made bricks of the earth that was taken out;
and when they had moulded a sufficient number
they baked them in kilns.
Then making use of hot asphalt for cement
and laying wattled reeds between the thirty bottom courses of bricks,
they first built up the sides of the moat
and afterwards the wall itself in the same manner.
The bitumen is from the River Is.

and that a pair of fetters should be let down into the sea

On the top of the wall,
at the edges,
they built dwellings of one story
fronting each other,
and they left a space between these dwellings sufficient for turning a chariot with four
In the circumference of the wall there are a hundred gates,
all of brass,
as also are the posts and lintels.
In this manner Babylon is encompassed with a wall.

He likewise sent instruments to brand the Hellespont

The city consists of two divisions
For a river called the Euphrates separates it in the middle;
this river, which is broad deep and rapid
flows from Armenia and falls into the Red Sea;
the wall therefore on either bank has an elbow carried down to the river

and charged those who flogged the waters to utter these words:
Thou bitter water!
Thy master inflicts this punishment upon
thee because thou hast injured him although
thou hast not suffered harm from him.
King Xerxes will cross over thee whether
thou wilt or not.
Thou art a deceitful and briny river.

Another wall runs round, though narrower.
The city itself
which is full of houses three and four stories high
is cut up into straight streets
as well as the transverse ones that lead to the river.
At the end of each street a little gate is formed in the wall along the river side,
and they are all made of brass.

He commanded them to chastise the sea in this manner

In the middle of each division of the city fortified buildings are erected;
in one, the royal palace,
with a spacious and strong enclosure,
and in the other the precinct of Jupiter Belus,
a square building of two stades on every side.

and to cut off the heads of those who had joined the Hellespont

In the midst of this precinct is built a solid tower of one stadt
both in length and breadth.
On this tower rises another and another upon that,
to the number of eight.
An ascent to these is outside,
running spirally round the towers.

About the middle of the ascent there is a landing-place and seats to rest on;
and in the uppermost tower stands a spacious temple,
and in this temple is placed a large couch,
and by its side a table of gold.

This is the tower of Babylon.




When I last saw Paris
He was off with that girl,
Nellie was her name, I think.
She was the most successful of his abductions.

Later there were a number of others.

The success of the first impressed him.
Being young,
he loved the notoriety,
And being an aristocrat
he was spared consequences.

We were friends since childhood,
And it seems to me now
That he liked to be seen to be manly –
He couldn’t just seduce
He had to exhibit.

You and I are content
With private delights and rewards,
But with Paris –
When he made love
The rest of the world must too.

From that
The legends grew,
And from being an aristocrat.



The New Mayor
At the Old Mine

The Mayor doesn’t know
where he is

No-one asks him
what’s on the agenda
nor are there minutes

He hasn’t spent a cent
so there’s no balance

There’s no report to give
nor anything to vote upon
so he sits

and looks at
the Glasgows over the rise
the sea to the west
lots of pakihi in between
sunlit people around the ruins

and a blue blank page
for the sky

To one who scarce can
clear the books
this is reward

if only it
could hang about his neck
as insignia –
some small weight
of the value of infinity
some small emblem
of perfection

This little parade
had not seemed worth
the attendance –
and in a disreputable place

Now he wonders
if he must leave
if he might get this sun
to last forever
if he
on his knees
should petition for exemption
from the natural state of office

with his secular arm
might order it

give respite
from the politics
that push his power
the pressing of those
who want his influence
the quick eye of the curious
for evidence of fault

Should he go now

He stands
in his uncomfortable bulk

The world’s
at the foot
of the hill

The western curve of the sea
gives evidence of the ball
he stands upon

His spirit lifts –
it’s a feat to stand
on immensity

small worlds confuse him

Perhaps there’s a guide
a map of paths
something written long ago
from experience
as a key

The air’s scented
like a clean room
a soft primal spacious smell

He must move around
greet people
and be strong

After all
(he reflects)
the job’s quite good of its kind
the trouble is
that its kind isn’t good



time out

the dog’s asleep
the creek runs low
the ferns stand still

nothing’s at work on the road

this peace could last

let no-one knock at the door
nor ring
get up
walk by
or think of me

let all the world trick time
and quiet its aged anxieties

for an hour
let me be
until I come substantial

when edged again
and boundaried

call me forth



Pre-Loved Days

While she went shopping
I sat in the car
and listened

He was leaning against the wall
big-muscled and easy-boned
in summer gear
talking on the phone:

‘You said it was bran-new
but I had a look
and the shoulder-strap’s missing’

he said
and then –

‘Please stop calling me Dave
Dave went months ago
I’m Mark.’

I was appalled
There were people passing
I thought they would stop in their tracks
and stare
I called out –
‘Gee Mister
you sure got the raw prawn there’

He looked at me
seated as a passenger
in my new woman’s car

He came over
put his face close to mine
and stared at me hard
with short-focussed eyes

‘I’ll refrain from comment on your situation’
he said
and went

I’m sad he got me wrong
but it could have been worse




Quiet Rain

There’s a night rain
that whispers on the roof

You hear the spouting running full

It’s good to sleep to
because it’s unvarying
and falls all night with intensity
in fog
and windless

It’s been dry
for a week or two

the creeks are low
there’s dust on the ferns
the mosses are closed

water’s running out
and you’re worried about fire

This rain comes at dusk
and it goes at dawn

leaving 16mm in the gauge



The Southerly

This came into a clear sky

It had rained for a week
mostly of the thick sort
one step up from drizzle
and when it cleared
to the north
in a rising sun
we thought it gone

so we opened the house
and put it out to air

then this came over the hill
from the south
a white-topped bank
but black at the base
with a wedge
that slid its cutting edge
over the tops towards us

I shut up the garage
and covered the wood
brought in the tools
and waited

It lasted forty minutes
7mm @ 8deg.
with a rumble or two
but no hail

and went on its way
without a following cloud





In the kowhai
at the gate
there are four tuis
and two more
flitting about
from tree to tree

There’s a bellbird in the broadleaf
and another
in the lichened-over beech

Other species join too

It hasn’t rained for a couple of weeks
and now rain’s on its way

from the north
where this weather starts
sending its intent ahead
in clouds
which build from the dry
and gather to a cover

Sparrows chaffinches blackbirds
and the thrush know
(with their indigenous mates)
that normal life
is about to resume
and they sing
as if it’s sunrise

from all over the town




It rained
in fog
all day

spurts that stung
because you couldn’t see them coming
and surprised

with drizzle in between
or other light stuff

a bit before lunch
it grew darker
and the rain set in

After lunch
there’s usually time
to chop the wood
and gather coal
but this kept on
filled the tank
scoured the path
muddied the lawn

and washed through the bush
taking with it
dead leaves and green
to the river

to the falls
which it roared at
shaking and thundering
the town

At sunset
the fog floated off
the rain eased away
and the cloud was cleared
by the moon




Rain stalks on precipitate legs
charcoaled on the sky

you can’t hear it come
for the noise of the creek
and the farther sea

Its clouds a marvellous edifice
billow on white billow
And brown within

then all the quarter’s black

A lightning strikes the moor
the crack of it hurts

Some big drops fall
then a rain of hail
banging on the roof
to split wood
and splinter glass

A gull is beaten to the road
where it cowers until
the hail’s overwhelmed by rain
a downpour at first
then a torrent a burst
still mounting to
a river on the path
a flood on the lawn
to the creek raging
down the hill to the road
flooding through the houses
out to a muddied sea



From the East

If the wind is from the east
rain comes in a golden light
from an arch at the lee of the range

made by the wind as it pours over
pushing the cloud high and thin
and clearing the air

you can see the Tasman Mountains
the rocks on the Glasgow Peaks
the cut in the hill that the Ngakawau’s made

But as the wind turns to the north
cloud thickens out to sea
where rain begins and eases in

the yellow greys
the mountains fade
and all the world’s monotonous

dripping and drumming

then fog



Night Rain

Night rain
sends a shadow
into late afternoon

the sun doesn’t set

a veil spreads eastwards
white at the edge
but darkening
over a steel sea

lower clouds bank
at the horizon

there’s no wind and
a few drops of rain fall
as darkness sets

we bring in the wood
and pull the blinds
to make refuge

to pretend
at security



With Ice

A winter wind
and wet from the south
has ice in it

small grit
sliding down the glass
metallic on the roof
and rustling in the leaves

colder still
and solid stuff

a small white sand
that builds against
the doors and sills
and in the grass

Into this the white flakes fall
a few at first then
more until the only sound
is their whispering
into a trance of white



Of Earth and Sky

and prophetic rain
that has from the first few drops
a sense of purpose

It doesn’t waver on the roof
or if it pauses
has a roar in reserve
waiting in the hills

that indicates resolve
to return in strength
and endure day
after day in darkness

until every hearth is flooded
every room holds damp
and the creek rattles
clamps and bangs
like old machinery

until all is beaten down
impregnated and subdued
in this cold copulation
of earth and sky



The Botanist and his Dog

Out on the moors
he goes under
I go over

I see what grows up
he sees ground
the root of things
where it starts
the smells and the greenery
where small life hides

I see the consequence
the lovely and the disparate
the flower
the fruitfulness
the browning off to die

It’s a dog’s life
in the undergrowth
of mystery and surprise
not so changeable a darkness there

as in my world
which is seasonable
in quarters of growth
and memory



The Tree

They say you block the view
that you stand in the way
of the sea

that you spoil things
with arms outflung

that you don’t know your place

and do damage to the prospect
which is too immense for a vegetable

They say you’re all very well but - - -
should grow in a gorge
or at a mountain’s foot
so we could look down on you

not at or through

but the sea is encompassing
and goes right round the world

a tree is unique

you are the view



The Sky Must Fall

My floor is mould
my sky is of leaves
and must fall
for the tree is a weed
spreading trailers
that multiply to smother

It’s an old tree
its branches spread in canopy

Out of its reach a mamaku
makes rightful claim
a holly struggles
and an azalea in the kamahi
for this was a household once,
this mound on which I prime my saw
was where the kitchen chimney stood
and the other a bedroom fire

the flat below
scrub-covered now
was road
for the butcher grocer and confectioner
fish-and-chips and shoes

cellars are still there
water tanks
and asphalt under fern
but no people –

they went years ago

My tree will fall
the light flood in
the vegetation change
and history continue to decay
to something new

then another tree will fall
light will come again
and another road perhaps
to perfection



We Were Talking

We were talking
and when you come to think
of all we were talking about
it’s as you said –
it’s all been done before

fasting, solitary prayer
decades of celibacy
levitation miracles and martyrdom

none of it’s stuck
if you take my meaning

it’s as if God died a long time ago
and all we remember are the bits –
we’re no nearer the whole
and we’re mired in ourselves

our powers decay –
miracles to bending spoons
an ethic to a con

As you said –
there’s nothing new for venture
it’s all evasion now


(The Press)


Nematoceras triloba

Beech Spider

Sometimes male
And other times not
See the Latin

Changed names
And fudged identities

With the inner surface
Of your lamina
Retrorsly papillose
With your median apiculate lobe
You manage a presence
That can be immense

And then you vanish
Leaving a few plants behind
On the edge of the bush

You don’t flower much
And you’re not a great looker
But you can spread yourself about
At home in higher places



(brief 34 (2007): 27)


The Creeping Sky Lily

in a sward
or a diffuse patch

the bllom pale within
blue at the tips
or the sky

small grassy green leaves
at the lip of a bank
at the edge of a bog
in other stuff



(brief 34 (2007): 28)


Actinotus suffocta

The Patch-Plant

Low herb
With creeping branching stems
Forming compact patches

Stylopodium stout
And ill-defined

So small
You could be the young
Of any green thing

Of a moss

A slime mould
On a bank

They should have let you go
Without a name


Patching up the pakihi
With humility



(brief 34 (2007): 29)

Found in Filebox 2

© Leicester Kyle Literary Estate, 2012

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