top of page

This page will be devoted to poems from my former newspaper column Scanning the South.  Some have been published in my books Reach for a Poem  and The Catlins Collection. 

I wrote this poem soon after the Erebus tragedy, having stood outside in Invercargill gazing at the night sky in the vain hope the overdue plane might have come to us.


                EREBUS, the ICE DRAGON


South to where journeys can have no return.

South to Scott, blinding blizzard, ice clench

where snow can reveal then conceal

what it did,

what it hid.


South was their wonder, converging direction,

longitudinal longing of so many lives.

South was their fate in the callous deception

of snow that was sky

and sky that was snow;

where white blinded sight,

where above was below.


We wanted them back, scanned the sky

on that night for the sight

of a plane overdue  - blazed runway car lights

in the desperate vain hope of guiding them home.


But by then, all together, by then, quite alone

they were waiting for us

to gaze down where they were, 

find their ‘plane,

see that stain. 


Erebus, Ice Dragon, volcanic heat

hidden crouched in the ice,

in their path, in their flight,

thought to snatch them and keep them.


But each one came home

to the hearts and the minds

of the Family of Love.


Erebus, warm in a lost world of snow.

Memory, warm as the empty years flow.


photo: lovecraftianscience

We live on the edge of Foveaux Strait between the South Island of NZ and Stewart Island.  This is often an inspiration to me.  This photo shows Foveaux Strait and Stewart Island from Oreti Beach where we regularly walk. 




Tiwai chimney smudges clouds

as we enter ocean  -  

 -  heaving slate with sky sheen gleam.


Unknown to Cook was this slash of storm

between the south and outpost edge.

A fishing boat ploughs past us, heavy,

swallowed by the waves in wake,

regurgitated, masthead first

from folds of swollen striving sea.


Cape pigeon, mollymawk skim the troughs

til spray-soaked updraughts fling them back

to soar and swoop on tilted wings.


Approach the island . . .

rocks awash, like seals emerging

kelp-festooned to reach the air.

Near the bays are crested penguins

swimming, fishing, calling shrill,

and broad-loomed bullkelp leather-lolling

on the heavy breathing tide.


Bush-shouldered bays, a steepled church,

landfall boatsheds wade the calm.




photo: Lynley Dear



Exactly the shade of an A.A. sign,




Boisterous horn-blowing plant,

flagrant amber rambles over

its own orange line.


But gorse takes over - 

paddocks, hills;   flaunts its colour.

Springtime’s hard-case relative

in hussy hues, it scorns 

the prim of primrose, pallid daffodil

and revs away to break the rules.


This clockwork orange ticks; a time bomb,

seed pods explode in midday heat,

ignore the signs, park out of bounds.


Scottish heather swoons all over

purple hillsides, praised and sung,

respectable and staid

as shortbread, 


But outlaw gorse kicks over traces,

yellow yahoos in farmers’ faces.


Yet just sniff that dame’s knock-out perfume,

like broom

but much more in your face . . .


That’s gorse of course,


out of control

and all over the place!                                           


This poem was written years ago when sons were coming home together from overseas for Christmas.  Many New Zealand parents will relate to these emotions I think.




Wings lift at midnight (same time as the sleigh)

and fly through the eve and straight across Christmas 

as sunsets slide down and slide down yet again

on repeated horizons,


The world is gift wrapped, criss-crossed like a parcel

by air routes converging to New World from Old 

to bring summer of presence 

where absence was cold.


The tree waits all decked with their presents beneath

and the hands that tapped e mails

this year will unwrap them, pull crackers

and reach for the turkey and wine

and the feel of together.


My Pied Piper sons followed him far

but unlike the fable

return by the star that points south,

that is here, that is home,

that is Christmas.


So now feel the same rain and feel the same sun.

No telephones, postage

to seasons reversed and to landfalls apart.

Be home with the tui and bellbird

and summer.


But the year must spin out on the same potter’s wheel

that shapes memories and moments.

So over the glow of these sun-heavy days,

at the mind’s edge there waits

the grey bird of goodbye.


But for now, gifts and candles and hands within reach.

A smile, the brief distance

between one another as brothers make memories

to polish this Christmas

to shine through the year.


I don't apologise for the fact that this is doggerel. Just some light-hearted fun to celebrate the fact that 2020 is a Leap Year!



So, why a Leap Year every four?  There has to be a reason.

We really need that extra day to synchronise the seasons. 

Way back in 46 B.C., that Julius known as Caesar

removed a month and added days, that tampering Roman teaser.


He named July after himself, but this was no solution.

So Pope Gregory then found a way to sort out the confusion.

He feared a future Christmas Day would end up on Good Friday,

so tweaked and jigged his calendar until it looked more tidy.

An extra day on every year divisible by four,

that day to finish February - too clever to ignore.


If you’re born on February twenty-ninth and think you’re hitting forty,

the fact is you are only ten.  No wonder you’re so sporty!

Now girls, in Leap Year it’s your turn to kneel down and propose

so you won’t fade a spinster maid - (but there are no more of those).

But best beware if you were born on twenty-ninth of Feb,

you’ll have to wait to walk that aisle . . . you’re much too young to wed.


But anyway we have a day, an extra day’s timetable.

So leap right in, don’t waste a mo’, enjoy it while you’re able.


Lynley Dear


There will be a full moon on January 10.  This reminded me of a poem I once wrote about moonlight on the ocean at Papatowai.

MOON  BEACH (Papatowai)


A light beyond our little light,

once beyond our little minds

marvelled at before we counted

months or years.

And still can force our upward gaze

to see it mask the sun’s hot face.


The other night it hung so huge

and heavy gold,

could barely crest the coastal hills;

then later changed its currency

from gold to silver . . .

and then we wandered on the beach

where white-bright moonlight mimicked day,

deceiving estuary birds to fly

and cry, and shrill.


A satellite dawdled through the stars

and I thought how now, we’ve touched the moon,

unattainable no more.

Three days, three nights of journeying

across unfathomed depths of space

to land on sand

where no surf roars

and no birds call . . .


the chill, still beaches of the moon.

Lynley Dear

I thought the beauty of a paua shell is a reminder of summery experiences like walking on a beach.




fingerprints of oceans

whorls and whirls

of colours



Rainbows stirred in pearly tides

to lap the rim.


Spiral tie-dyed porcelain.


Have peacock oceans,

roseate dusks

seeped through these portholes,

here to rest

in light-enhancing iridescence?



palm cup - held

are all the moods of sea and sky,

captured here,



bottom of page