Meeting Ground – NZ Part II
In June 2019 Meeting Ground had its first outing, featuring poems from Jamaica and New Zealand. The theme then centred on fatherhood. This time around, our theme is birds from New Zealand and Jamaica. We present Part II of this exciting collaboration.
A Song for My Father
Against the yam-vine stillness of the garden
a nightingale stirred with my father:
the lift and fall of the pickaxe, the heaving throat
of the hidden bird, in unison
pulsed with the subtleties of song.
This would become
the memory of high grass
against his black waterboots, when
as to an altar he knelt
to a sudden digging with bare hands
till the head of yam surfaced
like an offering from the earth.
The nightingale’s song hovered over
the awakened senses,
then chirped in flight
brushed past the dewy pimento leaves
and, like a sweet windblown scent, was gone.
Delores Gauntlett (Jamaica)
Haast Amongst the Moa
Mountains are your eagle claws,
your aquiline beak.
Maverick feathery prey in tussock,
swamp or sandhill,
they were dug from a bog.
Now home is a hollow log
in a museum diorama,
while the billy boils.
The taxidermied crowd regards you
with glass eyes.
whole mustering gangs,
have gone the way of all flesh.
A kea’s scream rattles down scree
and up hawk spurs;
a greenstone mere thrills to the marrow.
Wrestling with a taniwha
on a turbulent riverbed;
eels of water welling from a bore,
as rata bloom maps the province in red.
Aquila moorei (Haast, 1872) (extinct) This giant endemic eagle was the largest predator among New Zealand’s prehistoric fauna. It is the largest, heaviest eagle species yet described, weighing up to 17.8kg and had a wingspan up to 3 metres. (source:wikepedia)
The Unknown Bird
From a leafless limb
above the untombed bed of earth
an unknown bird shook free from the dew
briskly combed the air
as if for something else to do.
Listening perhaps to the unspoken answer
of some guarded secret of the woods
it lifted its head and swallows
as in a moment of acceptance.
Though the breeze conspires to conceal
still, it hears
perhaps the script for the unknown world
where time is staged on every page
and where the plot follows like a shadow
that mimics the mime of every move.
From a leafless limb the bird lifted
with the habitual song in its craw
and the wind on its wings
up to the white shine of the sky.
Delores Gauntlett (Jamaica)
is it, as rumoured, death that is
always tapping at the obverse of the corner,
the edge of up, or the dislocations of down?
We could drown in down in a foreign town
is a sentence to be consumed. Such delight
in life regenerates the Blue Duck
with its especially largesome feet.
Here survival as the chicks dart about.
Here life: here we are contemplative
and something rojo bubbles insistently.
What great and perilous blue
where things are busy with what they are:
“Trembling with fear, lest it should all vanish
into nothingness, and myself with it.”
Richard Taylor (New Zealand)
“Requiem For A Bird”
The hummingbird came down
With quick deft poses,
And sucked the flower
Of the ram-goat roses.
I knew nothing
Of its pollinating power,
And the fertile link
Between beak and flower.
I do not know what came into my head
But with my switch I struck him dead.
He was hurting the flower
That I believe
Was the reason I felt
He should no longer live.
Or perhaps it was some destructive force
That makes us smash the beauty in front of us.
But when I saw him limp
And the nectar leaking out
A change in my attitude
Was brought about.
I dug a hole, buried, and tombed him,
And these belated lines are his requiem.
Earl McKenzie (Jamaica): Caribbean Quarterly: December 2012
Hawk and Butterfly
As the kāhu*, a hairline, coasts in clear blue,
yellow gorse stretches under big rock’s face,
and barbed wire’s strung, enclosing our place.
So we pace at the gates of Te Papa,
made a paradise from haka to haka,
for kiwi by kiwi just passing through,
each carrying a piece of thin silver fern,
cut while you wait from corrugated tin.
Billy’s boiling away, back of beyond;
planed kauri frames a fret-sawn view.
We’re listening to the rugby in lemon light,
with a longing for victory, with a dog’s sigh.
Rain flutters from horses, skips off a frond,
and forms a sheen on roads in the wet,
till the sun comes out to weakly and yet
steadily illuminate the monarch butterfly.
*Kahu is a harrier hawk in New Zealand.
The arrow of God (not by Chinua Achebe)
-inspired by Jodi Watley’s “The Secret of Life”
Lady, I agree, a bird soaring the sun’s
early morning skyline is the arrow
of God shooting through the heart of the world
to picture a presence of the divine.
“There is a divinity that shapes our ends”
and, again, lady, I agree:
the mountains know this and bow to the flash
of God and the mighty sound of his Voice
breaking the heavens like the hammer of Thor …
Pierce my heart, arrow of God, tear the flesh
and enter its secret places; purge its
insipid parts and crack its flimsy wall
of resistance with your mighty hammer-
so your presence can pour in like a stream.
Nicholas Alexander (Jamaica)
message flung skywards,
into the dark
David Eggleton (New Zealand)
Editors: Ann-Margaret Lim and Shane Hollands