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The last word

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

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.

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.

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
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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