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.
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.
FOVEAUX STRAIT, STEWART ISLAND
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
GORSE OF COURSE!
Exactly the shade of an A.A. sign,
DANGEROUS COLOUR FOR THE NEXT 10 K.
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
But outlaw gorse kicks over traces,
yellow yahoos in farmers’ faces.
Yet just sniff that dame’s knock-out perfume,
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
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!
LEAP INTO 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.
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.
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
Rainbows stirred in pearly tides
to lap the rim.
Spiral tie-dyed porcelain.
Have peacock oceans,
seeped through these portholes,
here to rest
in light-enhancing iridescence?
palm cup - held
are all the moods of sea and sky,