Stony this, stony that. They are cold
today, these stones on the desk.
Stone cold. Stone blind. Stone deaf.
Heart, reception, stare, silence.
They remember the slingshot.
It is said he is a man to reckon with.
He hasn’t spoken to his son for years.
It is said that words will never hurt you.
‘To be hard in hard times,’ he announces,
‘we must build an expressway like an arrow
through the quiet heart
of your coastal town.’ Cold facts
say one thing, cold politics another.
We remember the ballistic missile.
The falling debris and the striking edge.
© Dinah Hawken Ocean and Stone Victoria University Press, 2015
Author bio: Dinah Hawken is one of New Zealand’s most critically acclaimed poets. Born in Hawera in 1943, she trained as a physiotherapist, psychotherapist and social worker in New Zealand and the United States. Most of the poems in her award-winning first collection It Has No Sound and Is Blue (1987) were written in New York in the mid-1980s while she was studying at Brooklyn College and working with the homeless and mentally ill. Her two most recent books, One Shapely Thing: Poems and Journals (2006) and The Leaf-Ride (2011), were both shortlisted for the New Zealand Book Awards. Dinah was named the 2007 winner of the biennial Lauris Edmond Award for Distinguished Contribution to Poetry in New Zealand. She lives in Paekakariki.
Note from Paula: This poem is in Dinah’s new collection just out from Victoria University Press. It is an utterly beautiful book in every detail (the feel of the pages, the choice of font, the simplicity of the cover and of course the billowing beauty of the poems themselves. I have been a Dinah-Hawken fan for a long time. I remember the pleasure of writing a long essay on Small Stories of Devotion as part of my Masters degree. There has been a sustaining chord between Dinah’s work and my writing since those far-off days. In part it is to do with the grace, the elegance, the economy, the lyricism. In part it is to do with the sumptuous view that settles as you open the window of the poem. In part it is the curious self that questions the world and the way we do things.
This poem is a thing of beauty, and it draws upon all the things I have detailed above. There is the lyricism that builds out of stress, meter and repetition (‘Stone cold. Stone blind. Stone deaf.’) There is the way a thing (stone) shakes with life and possibility. There is the way, with that small frame of the window ajar, we fall upon the beauty of an object (a stone) and then fall away to the hurt we inflict upon each other — at the level of the individual, the level of a town, the level of a nation. It really is the kind of poem that needs to speak for itself, to shimmer on the page in its own marvelous way. Its window catches any number of lights.
Victoria University Press page
NZ Book Council page