The Hut

The hut was made by a child
Who wove storm-broken branches,
And made an open-fronted, one room shelter,
A place safe from which to watch out
And to guard her back.

A place with no shower, mail or electricity,
A place to be animal again, ruled by the here and now,
To feel individual hairs prick the back of her neck,
A place to crouch.

In her life she will cross many thresholds,
Reach out to many coffee tables,
Slouch on many couches,
But nowhere will she have everything she needs
Except in her forest hut.

Kawau hut


Thinning carrots

“We do this,” I told him, “to give the bigger ones
More space to grow even stronger.”
“They are the warrior carrots of space,” he said.

We pulled the smaller ones straight upwards,
Feeling their desperate resistance.
There they were, thin as Tane’s little finger.

A foot long, some of them, they glowed gold
In the slow burning air. “We’ve found it,”
He said. “Tutankhamen’s treasure.”

Had we outwitted the natural cycles
Of give and take, build and break,
And out of chaos pulled perfection?

“Are these what they call baby carrots?”
I nodded. “Just right for your school lunch.”
I don’t eat babies. So there. ”

He turned the longest one upside down.
A rocket, with green frond flames flowing behind.
“This one is going to the Moon.”

T carrot 1T carrot 2

Downtown Reflections

The tide swells and ripples through the reflected city

Making skyscrapers arch their backs towards us

At our table outside a waterfront bar.


We talk of cheap travel in luxury coaches in Peru,

Backpacking in the Galapagos,

And anywhere else we will never go.


The waiter snaps us, our faces.

“Get the reflection in the shot!”

We Viber it to friends in other places.


Two old wooden boats bob beside us.

We drink too many cocktails,

Arch our backs and bob our heads.


A ferry wake shatters the floating skyscrapers.

People eye our table. Time to go.

‘Hold my hand. The world’s jiggling.”


Now drunk in charge of a bus pass,

10 pm on a Friday night,

Two moon-crater faces reflect in the bus window.


The bus stops at the university where

Dour students hunch aboard,

Bags full of gear and future expectations.


Old, we expect no future. We travel light.

Soon we wobble from the bus.

The pavement rises to meet us.


I fumble the front door key.

My hand, spotlit by the moon,

Looks like still water over white rocks.


Auckland Summer

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 hoover the poppy flowers.

I have watered the seedlings and swept the courtyard.


To my right are terraces of flowers,

and silver beet, mint, parsley, sage.

To my left is a parking bay for

One red dump truck full of blocks,

One tricycle with no pedals

And a silver BMW pedal car which is full of sand.


Soon the sandpit lid will be raised

And the day will begin.

But right now it’s just me,

The birds, and the neighbour, two doors down,

Having a noisy shower

With his small giggling daughter

In a bathroom with all the windows open.


I send this poem to all those friends in Wellington who don’t seem to have had any summer at all.

Walk to the Estuary

Kuia bends in slack lagoon to show her moko

How to plunge elbow-deep for pipi.

Two black shags on bleached driftwood watch.


Godwits group to sew river’s hem of shot silk.

Two pied stilts shriek and dart, glare and stare. There!

Oystercatchers chug to and fro in pairs.


By myself. The rub of grit, squelch of grey silt,

Gleam and glug of sluggish river-bend water.

Deeper? I dare not cross.


Toes stuck in mud, ankles awash, I slouch,

Inelegant, inappropriate, immobile

As a beached, discarded couch.


A heron flies low and lazy, downbeat wings

Hanging like two beach towels –

Two wet beach towels, our bach verandah. Back then.


I bend and arm-plunge, collect chattering shells.

In my bag they will be convivial friends

And at the dinner table my quiet companions.



A Wooden Villa Speaks

The house talks to us when the sun comes out from behind clouds.

It stretches and creaks and breathes.

My creaking bones talk back, agreeing.


In an earthquake it shakes gracefully from side to side,

Taking its shelved books and bowls with it,

Cradled in its arms.


When I tell my grandson a story the house gathers round,  listening,

Especially if we sit  in that corner of the dining room

Where balls and marbles always end up –


except when the story is the Three Little Pigs.


The sash windows tremble when I mention the Big Bad Wolf.

And the house’s fear isn’t assuaged when I mention

The pot of boiling water on the stove in the brick house.


I know it fears those prim brick houses,

with their straights concrete paths,

Squat, square and now and increasingly  our neighbours.


Two poems for Bill who died 3 October, 2015

Bill' 70thDriving to Bill’s

I drive, farm after farm.

As I round the corner on a ridge

The land below reveals itself, an open palm.

We live so far apart.

I gear down and steer along the life line.

I am getting closer to your heart.


All On The Same Road

Coming towards me: a campervan, a young couple,

The driver turning to smile at his girlfriend.

Then a shiny sedan, an old couple on their dream holiday,

Chins jutting forward like figureheads,

Anxious to be round the next corner.

And me holding up traffic, clutching the wheel

So tightly the insides of my elbows ache,

Driving slowly and feeling very alone,

Even though headlights pierce my mirror,

Pleading to pass.

You’ll have to wait, mate. I’m in no hurry to get back

From the hospital, not with Bill left there

Having jabs in his stomach and tubes up his nose,

Dumbed by the chuckles of nurses,

And too many people phoning.

I’ll just take this corner nice and slow,

Going back to a house with no lights on,

no opera playing,

No salvo of questions when I open the door.