A recent trip to my birth-place in Southland has resulted in thoughts about place. This poem is from my first book, 'Feeding the Dogs,' and was written after another such pilgrimage 'back home' about ten years ago.
Time, distance (same thing actually) homesickness, a sense of place, identity, ancestry - it's all here as I've tried to convey the effects of the passage of time on both the concrete and the physical. As well, I wanted to allude to the more intangible aspects of taking such a journey back in time, while still vitally connected to a present that by its very nature, relentlessly forges ahead into the future, minute by minute, nano second by nano second ....
A funeral's brought us back
to Orepuki, walking past
what used to be the Garage
now just an empty walk-through
that nobody bothers to walk through
weeds scrabble walls,
paint licked off by rain.
Grease-smudged, overalled, old Mr
and young Mr Mac. filled cars with Boron.
My brothers say: There
was where the old picture theatre
was. Flip-back seats that squeaked,
a funnel of light; Ma and Pa Kettle.
Looking down empty streets
at time-scrubbed buildings,
what was here is still
in the air; memory
forms the shapes.
In the pub it's just the same
as any country pub,
the only character found
in whoever is there to argue the point.
The Turnbulls had a half-timbered van.
Once, on the way back with them
from the Teretaunga Races,
we bumped into another car.
I remember the feeling of all not as it should be
... like this feeling now
holding a dripping, ice-cold,
chiselled mug of beer,
an uncle just buried - the last
to die of a family of twelve.
There's talk of $100 burial plots
(I think I should be in
- that's a bargain.)
Then it's time to head back home - 300 ks.
But this is home. This place,
where every stone counts
and under our feet,
Terry drives us away and over
what used to be the railway station
now spare ground with a ditch right round.
He's trying to find us a way out.
We may be here
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