Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Plum Job


This photo of the plum tree at the bottom of our driveway was taken a couple of years ago when we got a good haul of plums from the branches that lean over into our property from the neighbour's tree. (I have no idea if we have a 'right' to help ourselves to the trespassing fruit, though I'm sure the neighbours don't mind or care).

I'm sure my sister would approve of this example of urban foraging.

Last year the birds got to the plums before I could. I wonder what will happen this year? I am already eyeing up the blossom as it gathers into a white cloud over our boundary.

Plum trees remind me of our early years of marriage, in Manor Park, Lower Hutt, where we lived for four years in a small, wooden house shaped like a shoe-box; houses rented from the Government Dept. Robert worked for, called Ministry of Works (not to be confused with 'Ministry of Silly Walks').

The backyard had an established plum tree with strong branches for stringing a hammock to. Each year we'd gather plums for stewing and jam, but there were always too many plums for just us to consume. The neighbours would arrive with baskets, plastic bags and tins, but even then, heaps of un-gathered red plums were left to ferment on the ground beneath the tree.

These days I'm happy to just make a batch of plum sauce - but it all hinges on the birds not getting to the plums first.


'starting over'

When we moved north
to Wellington, we felt like
we'd absconded, replacing mountains
and blond grass
with nikau palms and fennel
on stop-banks,

our four years there
living next to a railway line,
measured by the clatter
and arrival of trains and babies,
the ting-ting-ting of the barrier arms
coming down,

near where we happily bunkered
right on a fault line
running through
a backyard with a plum tree
we'd anchored a hammock to
for swinging in

with our young sons,
over a lawn
so strewn with the burgundy skins
of last season's
fermenting plums,
the very air smelt like wine.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

(The title to this poem is also the title of a John Lennon song. Using it  in this way, it serves as background music to the era and mood of the poem ... whenever I hear this song, even though I don't particularly like it all that much - it has the capacity to instantly transport me back to the time it was popular on the radio - early 80's. In other words, it provides a portal into the past).

5 comments:

Agnes said...

I really like the poem :-)

Paul Halpern said...

Very evocative poem. I particularly liked the railway imagery, as I have lived near trains most of my life. During the brief time I was in Wellington many years ago I enjoyed it very much, but it also seemed like the most 'serious' businesslike city in NZ, perhaps because of all the government offices.

Kay McKenzie Cooke said...

Agnes _ I'm glad!

Paul - Wellington is an industrious city - a lot of talk about money & business in the streets. I think you're right about it being the most 'serious' o our cities.

Clare Dudman said...

"Evocative" just the word that sprang to my mind too - but Paul beat me to it!

The idea of a house shaped like a shoe box is evocative too. I immediately started imagining such a place - with its young family inside.

Kay McKenzie Cooke said...

Clare - Thanks, I'm glad I can describe it in a way you can picture - it's what I write for!

Harbour

Harbour
'how this all harbours light'