Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Kay McKenzie Cooke ‘below the 45th’

below the 45th

Among the dark brood
of hills, I spot a landed square of kakapo-green,
a paddock’s grab of sunlight on grass
caught in one glance
just as noon strikes Dunedin’s western hills.

No matter where you go in Dunedin
there’s bound to be some hill’s flanks
to fix an eye on — a rock-shrouded cliff,
the bones of a quarry, the harbour’s overcoat-navy
smudge of peninsula, a slouching Mount Cargill

parked at the end of George Street.
Beyond this café’s window, hills loom
as the conversation moves and sways:
someone pointing out that here,
below the 45th parallel,

it’ll soon be time to plant courgettes,
celery and tomatoes. For today though,
under this present soar of clouds
in full sail, winter hills
are magma-heavy, slumped

into their own eternal weight
until by some quick trick,
a piece of trapped sunlight breaks free 
to mark land from sea-light,
bend rock from mist.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Kay McKenzie Cooke (Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe) lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin. Her most recent collection of poetry is titled Upturned published in 2020 by Cuba Press. She is presently working on a manuscript for her second novel, as well as writing poems for her fifth collection of poetry. 

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