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.



The office worker runs across the rush-hour intersection

after the green man has stopped flashing.

We do not follow. We wait as cars churn past.

He runs as though he is still sitting in his swivel chair;

bottom out, knees bent. One hand clutches his bag,

the other his tie, or maybe it is his heart.

Grandma, why is that man running funny?

Because his tie is strangling him.

Because his tummy hurts.

Because he sits so much he can’t straighten;

like your plastic digger driver who is always getting lost

and Grandma finds him when she treads on him

lying on the carpet with both legs in the air,

as though he’s the first man ever to have a gynecological examination.

Why, Grandma, truly?

Because an invisible monster is chasing him.

Because he is a hunter hunting a bus.

Because he doesn’t know the rules or

Because he knows the rules, has played by them all day,

and now wants just one tiny thrill of breaking them.

Because he wants to get home, fast, to see the children

he hasn’t seen all day, only their photos on his phone.


Just because.



Sometimes I feel as battered as the moon
And as cold, as alone, and as old.
Always in orbit, turning, yearning
My face towards yours,
You the Earth, core of my gravity.

Sometimes I am Saturn
And you run rings round me.
Sometimes you are angry red Mars
And I take so long to reach you
And stumble when I get there.

Mostly you are the sun
And when we build towers or hunt tigers
For hours and hours, or roll gingerbread,
I warm my cold, old, battered self
In your burning, burning brightness.

Please, when it’s bedtime, don’t howl at me.
I am doing my best, pretending to be
A Sea of Tranquillity.
Goodnight, sleep tight, my little star.
How I wonder what you are to be.
sleeping rough

New World

New world

How can we ever today be brave as Columbus’ men
westward rushing through the ocean on a mysterious, reliable wind
so fast they worried not how they would arrive
but how they would ever return home?

Today in an old world we face into unreliable winds
With return trip tickets, accommodation included, passports, shots,
We worry not about whether we will return home
but about what it will be like when we do.

We look down and see drowning coasts, melting glaciers, black cities,
and wish we were Columbus’ lookout, clinging high above the tiny boat,
looking down and seeing the folding wake, wave on wave,
closing off the past.