Tag Archives: Poetry Shelf Monday poems

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Emma Neale’s ‘Indicator’

Indicator

All through thin winter

a single yellow-lipped flower

hangs like honeydrip

from the tip of a twig

on the kowhai outside our window.

Now and then a wax-eye

or an eerily silent tūī slips by,

suckles there, each visit so swift

we soon guess the teat’s run dry:

no languid glug of nectar

like those summer-dusty kids,

canter-and-cartwheel parched

at the schoolyard drinking fountain,

when their every mouthful sounds

a grateful, gulping hum

like the rev of a warming engine.

Through ice, hail and fog

this blossom that grips the brink

seems bitter, withered emblem

of what is not; of tense lockdown;

of what cost; futures lost,

the tired earth’s toxin-clogged, wild demise

I even cuss some fossicking birds

as if they’re mad deniers —

boom-times are gone.

Can’t you just goddamn leave

that last poor scrap alone?

Then one cold but blueing morning

I lift the kitchen blind

wait for coffee to send its sun

through the hoar-frost of sleep

to see the whole tree

buckets with its own bright rain

a thousand beak-mouthed flowers

sing the aria of themselves

as if that one yellow blossom

in its winter death clench

was the stoic pilot light

that set the whole tree ablaze

a Kali-armed candelabra

peacocking with gold —

yet this silken dart and glitter

of unbidden happiness —

now grown so unfamiliar —

is it dangerous?

What have I turned my back on

for that moment

it takes a small child

to rush before a speeding van,

slip into an unfenced pool,

for some link in the web to fray

by the time night flows over the tree

as dark as the inside of a body?

Emma Neale

Emma Neale is a Dunedin based writer and editor. The author of 6 novels and 6 collections of poetry, Emma is the current editor of Landfall.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Cilla McQueen’s ‘Gossamer’

Gossamer

 

1

 

It’s muttonbird time, oyster time –

tītī      tio

autumn, amber sun, long shadows

 

Gazing for ever down the long main street

towards the Club Hotel, Sir Joseph Ward in white marble

whose mother, Mrs Hannah Ward Barron,

arrived from Melbourne in 1863.

Her business was shelter – she had a family to support –

first a store for gold miners at Greenhills,

then when the railway came through in 1867

to ‘the southernmost railway station in the British Empire’,

the Railway Hotel,

which after fires, rebuilds and renovations

became The Club.

 

What was your life in Bluff like, Mrs Ward Barron?

In your warm hotel of welcoming shelter

comfort and laughter

you were at the heart of the town.

 

2

 

It seems that History is full of holes –

flaws – moths’ jaws –

gaps

 

in the ruined building

might we find

a HOLE to let us in?

 

Not pretty – that’s neglect, but the old bones are there.

Additions and alterations, a united front.

 

Across the road the skate park, green space

where the Railway Station used to be – end of the line –

still is, but for the oysterbeds.

 

Demolition will leave a mighty gap, a gummy length, a tooth on either side,

new Post Shop at one end, old Post Office at the other

 

What of the authentic? What is it?

What has been lost,            is being lost               so easily

 

or do those      very Holes       Protect us?

 

3

 

Same place, a later time

1997

a wedding breakfast at the Club Hotel

where Mr Flynn the publican regales

Bluffies and bemused Dunedin guests

with oysters, crayfish, muttonbirds, paua,

alcohol of all varieties

alcohol of all varieties

a large pork roast on the festive table

seen legging it up Gore Street

before the speeches were over

music, dancing, shouting, laughter

alcohol of all varieties

all

night

long

 

4

 

Grey plaster, ornaments, architraves deep ochre.

Two-storeyed, across the top: CLUB HOTEL.

Sixteen arched windows, columns, balustrades,

(a seagull perching on the roof)

Behind the façade, an accommodation

of four old buildings joined by corridors and archways,

refurbished, renewed, enlarged

in all or in part –

 

four times up in flames – wrecked, blackened

empty window arches, sky

in 1903, among the losses, valuable manuscripts

in the possession of Mr Joostens;

in 1914, three fatalities,

a ship’s carpenter, found ‘in the tangled wreckage of his bedstead’

a hotel porter ‘who saw service against the slave traders of Madagascar’

a railway employee who hailed from Lumsden.

 

5

 

Layers of pearl inside a paua shell,

the past within the past.

 

Back and back in the timescale of Motupohue,

Time’s long warp              holds strands together

history going into holes         memories lost

naturally         it rots, frays       flaws in the weft

of language

heard and spoken.

Time stops, changes, wraps around

a cloak of old names, old blessings, curses,

for there would have been curses.

 

Silent now the ancient

voices

 

6

 

A force-field shimmers around the Club Hotel,

a lizards’ nest of histories,

tales still telling

in the empty building.

 

Spirits from the past still in the place.

(old gold light in the west)

 

All the years of language and laughter

still tucked behind cornices, wallboards,

in flakes and grains of dust.

A spectral sign in empty windows,

on dusty doors,

please do not disturb

 

*

 

 

Cilla McQueen

Motupōhue, Bluff

 

 

Cilla McQueen MNZM has lived in Bluff since 1996. During her life as a poet and artist she has published fifteen poetry collections, three of which have won the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry. She was the second National Library of New Zealand Poet Laureate, from 2009-2011. In 2010 she was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry. Her latest book is Poeta (OUP 2018).

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Brian Turner’s ‘Between Shingle Creek and Fruitlands’

 

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

 

 

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.