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The last word

1
in the beginning was the Word
         I prefer the quiet of water striders
                  or the stream’s formless discourse
                           the way wind scans and scales it

I admire the dandelion’s change of heart
         how it goes to ground
                  after spreading its seed
                           now the trees are in fatigues

2
Honeymoon stupid, we’d lie
spellbound by the spider’s craft:
it would hide behind a petal, sensing
the bee’s instinct was to suck
a nipple-pink rose.
                  I should settle
for wine and song: my woman
sleeps in a winding sheet
that spider might shrink at.

3
Today I need to
         retreat from literature
         but your spectre licks my lips
for an elegy.
          I imagine
poetry as the figurehead
         upon a hulk: it fronts up
         to the estuary mud
where petrel dotterel whatever

nest. Once words were the first
         petals in the Mayflower’s calyx
         and it carried me away
to a new world;
                  now the tide’s out
that flower’s dried. Butterflies suck
         mineral salts from the estuary
and pastoral conventions mend fences
no child climbs for an apple.

4
The garden swing still
misses you: it goes
over old ground
at double time. Without
our daughter I doubt
                   now if
I’d get through to you.
(But pupae of the gall midge
hatch eggs in their ovarioles;
larvae fritter the maternal
wall to this indifferent light.)
Shadow is your understudy—
an armband that gags
better than any wedding ring
a tender Yes….
                  The familiar face
in a fantastic picture,
a girl inherits the family
graveyard. She hoards
weeds for their seeds
and will never be
                   empty-handed.
Streamlined like the silverfish
I find under piles of papers
she is
the last word: she….

1982–1983, South Karori Road, Wellington

 


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