Wed | Apr 1, 2020

Meeting Ground – NZ Part II

Published:Sunday | February 16, 2020 | 12:25 AM

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

brushing wet

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)

 

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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.

Muscular Christians,

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.

 

David Eggleton

 

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)

 

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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)

 

 

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Laude Ionesco

 

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)

 

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“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

 

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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.

 

David Eggleton

*Kahu is a harrier hawk in New Zealand.

 

 

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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)

 

 

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Birds

 

Flock

at sunset,

message flung skywards,

shreds

into the dark

alphabet.

 

David Eggleton (New Zealand)

 

Editors: Ann-Margaret Lim and Shane Hollands