It’s over. Christmas shopping and over -eating. Ham, and cake and chocolate. All gone. But where was the baby, gift-wrapped in hay, Watched by shepherds and sheep? Gone. Why did the kings from the East Become a red man from the North, And the manger become a sleigh?
Boxing Day kerbside; rubbish bins gape, Like seagull beaks above us shrieking More! More! Sun-softened plastic bags slump, streth ,and split Spewing polystyrene avalanches, almost snow. Flies gather, gorging on glut. Insects, birds: will anyone ever clean this up? Anyone? No. We still crave the glory of glut.
Days later. What day is it? No one knows. Sweep round comatose Uncle Jack. Mind his drink. The lawn cracks. No time to water. Shops are no longer shut. Join the brawl at the mall. Sales! Credit! Bargains galore! Glut and glory. More. Caw! What for?
Back at home the-parched lawns crack. Stained deck chairs are slack, the courtyard a mess. The pohutukawa’s red shedding its Christmas dress Or is it bleeding out, Showing us its bruised distress?
On Auckland’s summer streets I seek the shady side
Under chattering clattering palms.
I tread on crisp puka leaves
That shatter like toast.
How long have those old people been slumped
On rattan chairs on that verandah
Under black karaka trees speckled with orange berries?
Those young fluoro people with flossy floppy hair,
How can they leap about, batting yellow tennis balls Into the damp whiteduvet air?
It is a long way between driveways–
Like a swim up river– to pick up a child from kindy
Who will want to walk home bare foot,
Even though the pavement burns.
On a concrete step in the shade
In my nightdress I sip tea.
It is 7 am. There is no wind.
The birds are singing.
Bees bulldoze the borage.
To my right shine chillies, basil, tomatoes,
To my left one red plastic dump truck
With a yellow tip tray,
And a silver pedal car which is full of sand.
Soon the day will begin.
But right now it’s just me and the birds,
Ad there’s the neighbour, two doors down, Having a noisy shower With his small giggling daughter
In a bathroom with all the windows open.
When he feels, on his hunched shoulders, the first clasp of cold
The squirrel becomes acquisitive rather than inquisitive.
He must aggregate, accumulate, hoard then hide his gold.
He will eat it later but now he shivers and collects.
The rich fear the cold hatred from the poor at the door.
They fear hard times must come. They acquire rather than inquire.
They aggregate, accumulate, hoard and hide their wealth
In storage lockers in freeports, in Geneva or Singapore –
Exquisite art painted to display life and defy death,
Shelved in darkness, appreciating but unappreciated.
The dead painters weep , feeling cold creep to the core.
I see a damp hut,
The only light a coal fire.
A coal miner comes in, with a dog,
A faint star shine falls through the doorway,
And a draught turns the coal fire smokey.
See the coal miner,’s black eyelids
and red-veined eyeballs misty with cataracts
Bulge and overflow with grey tears.
See him stamp slush off his boots
And peer at what he found near here
When walking his dog who chased a squirrel
One cold evening up on to a rubbish heap
And together they dug up this fine picture
That no one else had cared for at all.
Because I am following you, a 6 year old, up the hill
We don’t travel on roads or gravel tracks.|
We grasp atroots and clumps of grass
And haul ourselves up the steepest slopes
Leaving no trace.
After our passing the trail is covered over
By swaying purple seed heads taller than you.
We don’t know where we have been
But know that we have stared into thefaces
Of lions, tigers snakes leopards and cheetahs
In many a secret place.
Climbing up and up we touch Earth lightly.
Our movement history is a mystery to others.
But like a flicking fish or the narwhal drilling,
Or the submarine -shaped whale shark,
Keeping a steady pace
We travel with grace.
The best old folk know what it was like
To slide between trees withoutmoving a leaf,
Run barefoot over gravel, camp in a cave,
Be travellers,messengers,scouts, Moving, unnoticed from place to place With unrecognised face.
When you are older, Tane,
An owner operator of the world,
And I no longer stumble behind you Wondering which way you will go,
Stilltravel with grace, From place to place And leave no trace.
But for now let us both touch Earth lightly and with love,
As a blind child caresses her mother.
And, as we areclumsy, slow humans, Let us, when we reach the mountain top,
Sing a hymnto Earth, there at the crater’s rim
Using carefully chosen words of thanks.
Like a wet swimsuit the cold day clung.
Outside the library, under the porch cover
An Asian teenage boy at an old upright piano
Gifted into the air endlessly chuckling Chopin
And everyone was smiling.
I followed the drifting notes across the road
Over the traffic’s wet hiss and horn,
Up rain-slick steps beside the Art Gallery.
A CD player and speaker, on the paving,
And eight formal couples dancing tango.
The mens’ legs between the women’s, The women’s spines like spoon handles.
The couples’ eyes following their joined hands,
A boat prow through concrete seas.
Everyone walked past more seriously,
Thinking of their relationships.
The sun shone on glowing grass and paua puddles.
The Moreton Bay figs, wide apart feet in polished shoes,
Danced with raised arms joined together.
And then, across Albert Park in the university quad
Another upright piano , under a plexiglass awning.
A Polynesian woman smiled at the keys,
Repeated a phrase, all concentration,
Added more notes, then tossing her head back,
Smiled at her guy draped over her shoulder.
Raindrops beading the awning hung long.
Just me watching and listening this time,
Full to the brim with music, a jug about to pour.
With lightened heartandin celebration
I turned Symonds Street into a dance floor
And boogiedmy library books to the bus stop.
This is how people really are,I thought.
This is how they are.
With a finger flourishedlike a baton
I turned off my world news notifications.
Old woman, gently rounded with no waist, Rugged up for warmth, arms out for balance,
Shuffles down shiny white supermarket aisle,
Eyes cast down, head tilted forward,
Hesitant, hungry, needing to eat.
She bends to the bottom shelf for the cheap sardines,
Cautious, afraid of careless children
Bumping into her.She knows just one knock Could send her sprawling And bones could break.
She thinks of Antarctic penguins How they waddle fastto the ice edge
On short legs and stare down at the sea,
Hesitant, hungry, needing to eat,
How they wait for young, stupid penguins That they can push into the water first, A sacrifice, to satisfy a lurking, slippery seal.