Between Shingle Creek and Fruitlands
Cast your mind back to the first time you came this way,
the road windy, corrugated, dusty,
the surface mostly the colour of yellow clay, cuttings
stained with the leer of water seeping.
On the left the ever-ascending slopes,
the Old Man Range, white flecks
in blue gullies near the summit,
and your young old man wondering when
we’d ever get to Alexandra, your mum complaining
about ‘the blessed dust’, both of them
cursing the ‘wash-board surface’ and you thinking
about the number of times she told your father
that ‘it didn’t matter’ when it clearly did. And that
was the way it always was with them,
it is with you, it is, period. Until, you might say,
something happens that’s never happened before.
Like love came back and sent hate packing
never to return, and peace of mind arrived
like a dove from afar, decided to stay, and you
no longer dreamed of what might have been.
Brian Turner was born in Dunedin in 1944. His debut collection Ladders of Rain (1978) won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize. He has published a number of collections including Just This which won the NZ Post Book Award for Poetry in 2010. He has received the Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry (2009) and was NZ Poet Laureate (2003-5). He lives in Central Otago.
In April 2019 Victoria University Press published Brian’s Selected Poems, a hardback treasury of poetry that gains life from southern skies and soil, and so much more. When I am longing to retreat to the beauty of the south, I find refuge in one of Brian’s poems. The economy on the line, the exquisite images, the braided rhythms. Read a poem and your feet are in the current of a gleaming river, your eyes fixed on a purple gold horizon line. His poetry presents his beloved home in shifting lights, but the range of his work offers so much more.
Brian became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to poetry and literature in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours. He was to be the honoured writer at the Auckland Writers Festival year – he would have been on stage with John Campbell so am very sad to miss this event.
Another beautiful poem by Brian. He knows the intricacies of this place better than anyone.