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 white duvet 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.
Because I am following you, a 6 year old, up the hill
We don’t travel on roads or gravel tracks.|
We grasp at roots 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 the faces
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 without moving 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,
Still travel 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 are clumsy, slow humans,
Let us, when we reach the mountain top,
Sing a hymn to Earth, there at the crater’s rim
Using carefully chosen words of thanks.
The only people who position themselves to watch
A view all day are pensioners and bosses.
The boss in his 20 storey tower,
His swivel chair and plate glass.
The old man on the sagging verandah.
They both sit. They both stare.
How far can your stare take you from your cares?
Whether it be the city traffic,
The desert sand, or the blank ocean,
The watchers wait to see change beyond their causing.
It’s the view’s stretch that matters.
The boss wants to be surprised
Away from the routine of his day,
From the predictable exercise of power,
The way his people slide away.
Today it’s maybe a wave’s rubbery slope,
The whale’s tail folding then gone,
Like the flap of a damp envelope.
The pensioner sees through his telescope
Straddle carriers loading container ships,
And the eagle circling its kill as twilight slips.
He waits and watches through cloudy eyes
For what will come from far skies, soon.
He looks because he doesn’t want surprise.
He says that’s all he hopes.
Discrete clouds, long and low, pose as though for an art class.
We are sitting on a sea wall, at the end of a winter day,
Admiring brave teens swimming at Mission Bay
We shiver in our bulky clothes and see
Babies wheeled along in a blanket-piled pram
And a girl in sequinned shorts pose for Instagram.
We promise to not argue anymore.
Slow dogs, heavy eyed with responsibility,
Guide their couples round the bole of a pohutukawa tree.
You smile up at Rangitoto. I prepare to take a photo
Just as a cloud skylight opens and throws its glow cone
On those teen swimmers in the golden sea below.
We now hope the volcano ‘s arms are wide enough
For us to be embraced, hugged snug,
Inside his warm green polar fleece.
We have made out peace.
Parents bunched at the start/finish line
All leaning in one direction,
Eyes on a corner of a classroom
Across the playing field
Where tall trees cast dark shadows
On such a sunny day.
They had temporarily lost all knowledge
Of the whereabouts of their five year olds
Who had run away from them
Around a much nearer corner
And gone, who knows how far away.
Some grandparents among those waiting
Remembered Apollo 8, Christmas 1968
Disappearing behind the moon
And we on Earth waiting in the dark,
Not knowing what to say
Or even how to pray.
Three crosses in the trees,
Three small white tee shirts,
The first children out of gloom into glory.
And the parents not knowing
Till this moment -Who ? Who? –
How their five year old had measured up.
The three front runners raced past, waving, winners.
Back then the astronauts had quoted Genesis,
Mission Control jumped up and down,
And Earthlings squared their shoulders and knew
Three of their own had come out in front.
In June it is not only the last leaves that fall.
Everywhere in every garden grapefruit, oranges, mandarins, lemons, limes,
Hang on thin stalks, dangling memories of summer sun,
And we are ungrateful.
They thud on the shed roof, roll in the sagging gutter,
Plash to the lawns, the berms, the courtyards, the decks, the pavements,
Their generosity too profuse, too prolific,
And we are ungrateful.
Six perfect mandarins, at the supermarket, in a plastic box,
Each one with a label to make it real.
The fruit is dry in the centre,
Segment divisions like furry polar fleece.
We say you can’t get good oranges these days,
And we are ungrateful.
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.