A Walk Upstream
Trout and White are walking up a stream. Sounds of rubber boots,
White You could say it trembles.
Trout With anticipation?
White On the brink. Eggshell.
Trout Of hope? Falling?
White Grace? Hovering?
Trout A dragonfly.
Trout I debate the advantages of the one over the other, so that
when I leap –
White Look out – too bad. Here, give me your hand.
Trout Thanks. Up to the knee.
White Occupational hazard.
Crackling branches, sounds of effort.
White Who’s this on the bank?
Trout Neck! Well met!
Neck Trout of Fish and Game, old boy. Good condition!
Trout White, Egg Board.
White Pleased to meet you.
Trout Neck, of the racing fraternity.
Neck Checking the watercourse.
Trout Ensuring an even flow.
Neck Mind if I join you?
Neck climbs down the bank. They continue upstream, occasionally
jumping stones and wading through small rapids.
Trout Until I was joined by my friend White, who has
distracted me with semantics.
White Head of a pin. At a molecular –
Neck Now you see it, now you don’t?
White In terms of the benzene molecule for instance –
Trout There! Over there!
They stop. Water flowing over stones, into pools. Birdsong.
Neck Ripples? Under the water?
White Quivering. It trembles.
Trout Give me lampreys. A surfeit. In butter.
Neck You might find one under these banks.
Trout Turning to bite its tail in the frying pan. Delicious.
Neck A coiling, a succulent morsel, head to tail in a golden
White Exactly. Molecular, neither here nor there.
Neck A delicacy.
Trout Certainly. A taste that trembles on the brink of
They continue, with effort.
Neck Heard of the Crusader, Trout.
Neck Rabbit, my friend. Very good to stir-fry. Breed them in
White Are we going much further?
Trout Public release at Oreti Beach 1863. Speeches and songs,
toasts to the ardent new citizens of our verdant land,
gambolling off into the sandhills.
White Gathered here together on the occasion of the
unconditional release of the binary tree –
Neck Procreation, eh, Fish and Game? No telling how far it’ll go.
Trout Nature only needs one pair of bunnies.
Fade out sounds of them going on. Somebody slips, is rescued, they
continue. Birdsong and the sound of water take over.
from Firepenny (Otago University Press 2005) and Poeta: selected and new poems (Otago University Press 2018)
Note on ‘A Walk Upstream’
Scooped from the stream of consciousness, in a bush setting, the poem imagined itself as a radio play. The part of my mind which loves to listen to and revel in the resonances of language produced three eccentric characters, complete with names, whose desultory talk as they continue upstream, engaged in ‘checking the watercourse’, ranges from quantum physics to rabbits.
Poet, teacher and artist CILLA McQUEEN has published 15 collections, three of which have won the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry. Her most recent work is Poeta: selected and new poems (Otago University Press 2018). She has also published a poetic memoir, In a Slant Light (Otago UP, 2016). Other titles from OUP are Markings, Axis, Soundings, Fire-penny, The Radio Room and Edwin’s Egg. In 2008 Cilla received an Hon. Litt.D. from the University of Otago, and was the New Zealand National Library Poet Laureate 2009–11. In 2010 she received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry. Cilla lives and works in the southern port of Motupohue, Bluff.