Walking in Beauty

When I strut Auckland’s ridges,
Treading its burnt bones
I’m like a tall lady in a crinoline.

I can’t stop my hands from fluttering,
Smoothing down the sloping  silk,
As I admire the streets and trees swirling from me
On the Glenfield, Parnell or Ponsonby ridge lines.

Best of all, I circle  the top of  Mt Eden’s crater
With all Maungawhau  tumbling from my waist band.

Mt Eden


Anzac Bugle

With two rising fifths the bugler
Breathes life into the Last Post
And we, eyes down, toes clawed
In best shoes, in the cold dawn,
Remember what we never knew:
A struggle for breath, maybe the last breath.

Afterwards, we wait for the car to warm up
And clear the windscreen tears.
We stare at the tiny bugle icon
On our steering wheel. “Hey…Why…?”
‘Didn’t you know,” the youngest groans.
It stands for ‘horn.”
We must remember something new.


Two Small Child Poems

Transformed by What He Digests

They are doing monarch butterflies at school.
The caterpillars rear, swivel and stretch,
Turning their leaf pages slowly.

After school, on the couch the boy lies long,
Black shorts and black and white top,
A big illustrated book wide open in front of him.

He has emerged from the classroom chrysalis
And morphed into a bookerfly.

Night Light

I lift his tense body, making sure
The special blanket is wrapped round him
And not caught in the ruck of bedding.

I stagger to the couch in the bay window
Half of which is bathed in street lamp light,
A soft white on the tired grey upholstery.

4 am. Quiet. No cars on the road.
I massage his plump feet and sing the cramp away.
4.15. Still no cars. Not one.

“Is that better now?” I ask my grandson.
“Sing more songs,” he smiles, eyes shut.
And I do.


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.