Bach with gulls & gums
(for David Guerin who played 'The Goldberg Variations' at 241 Broomfields Road, Whitford, 24 April, 2004)
Between the first and the last Aria
the tide has come in
and covered the sandbanks.
Boats have turned their sterns
to the house the better to hear
those allusive anticipations
illuminating the darkening flow of hill.
Even the gulls are spellbound.
Their outstretched wings holding them
afloat in meditation.
Zephyrs wander through trees
held in sway by the dapple of notes
falling like light from the keyboard.
Stars appear, faintly. A breeze
ascends. A pine points
to god in a Panini sky. *
The sea swells in applause.
* ['Procession of carriages across the water']
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Schierbeek boven Howick
previously published in Talking Pictures: Selected Poems (HeadworX, 2000)
Nu zijn alle drie dood.
De vader, de moeder en Bert Schierbeek. Allen
op hun manier heengegaan
naar de lucht, de hemel, de sterren.
Ik zie ze elke avond. Stevig
arm in arm als schaatsers over 't Dampsterdiep naar 't Oosten.
Klaar, helder, fonkelend wit als ijs in een schilder's landschap.
Soms zweven ze even alleen
maar toch samen, gemoedelijk naast mekaar in de avond
als punten van de Driehoek, de sterren in de Phoenix
die vrede, schoonheid en kalmte brengen.
De rijkdommen van Zen
de streling van vlammen
die weer vorm geven. De lucht ruist
met namen, flakkert met herinneringen.
Ik herken ze als ouwe vrienden. All drie
lange verhalen man, en moar proat'n.
Zij schateren in het pronkjuweel van woorden.
Nemen het serieus. Kijk hoe aandachtig
ze elkaar verstaan. In de hoge
tempels van licht
zingen de dichters. Drie van 't Noorden
in de zuuider nacht.
Als je luistert,
heur je grunings.
Note: When the Dutch poet Bert Schierbeek died, I was devastated. He was from the same province where I was born and I had read most of his work in New Zealand. When we finally met in Amsterdam, we were immediately at home with each other, speaking, as it were, the same language.
In the poem I imagine my parents (also from Goningen and therefore'gruningers') skating together arm in arm in the sky, in animated ocnversation with the poet with whom they make a reassuring and richly reminiscing threesome. As music of the spheres, the 'northern' dialect enticing as a 'jewel'.
(Actually, the work 'pronkjuweel' (a jewel to show off and exhibit) is also how the city of Groningen is described in its reginal anthem, so there are plays on words in the Dutch version of the poem which are impossible to caputre in translation.
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The poet is seen flying across the Manukau
(For Bernard Gadd)
Winner of the inaugural Bernard Gadd Memorial Poetry Prize, 2008
Now in this season of stars
and new beginnings, I've fashioned you
as if for some marvellous bird
soaring in glorious exultation of wind
above the wide waters of the Manukau.
Your great white plumes thrill in jubilation
as you swoop to the gold tipped dazzle of waves.
From your vantage points you see old lava flows
and quarried-out remains of ancient cones no longer
letting off steam or fireworks to thrill on a winter's night.
Nothing here is a flat surface.
Even stones rise out of earth to make enclosures
and walls against whatever might disturb.
I see you soar upward and out towards the entrance of the harbour.
A latter-day Daedalus on your way to a fertile shore.
As your wings beat, flax-seed pods are loosened by the wind.
They tumble then right themselves on the water, small waka
sturdy with treasure. Shoals of shining fish push them up-stream
against the tide and beach them in the inner reaches of your local creek -
Waokauri. Here they will open and grow
and once again become
a forest of poems.
[manuka, flax, toetoe]
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(for Bernard Gadd - 1935-2007)
A friend from another country
planted a tree every time one of her friends died.
She chose carefully, each tree representing her friends' background.
At first she planted pines. So many came from Europe
in those dark days. Their grateful shadows now make light of summer
when stories are passed round the table and shade shields against
the memory of loss.
Now there's a forest and everyone present still and talking.
Also a cedar, a banyan and a beech.
In the orchard are olives and figs, trees for life and living.
Ash spreads its golden leaves in autumn and oaks make riots with reds.
Gradually local trees were added. Kowhai and totara, rata and mamaku.
Birds live abundant, singing psalms all day.
Clematis blossoms high and bees feast content.
I think of this paradise now, in Matariki, when we look back and remember.
I read your poems and watch the bright stars. They signal promise
and look, already poets coming to celebrate.
Outside the local library, I gather seeds from the puriri trees. These I will sow
in my garden in friendship and memory of you and the many felled in our past.
No axe will bite here but as evening falls, a shivery breeze
tastes like salt off the sea.
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