Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Last Line

'She gathers from where they tremble among stalks of green grass,
black, grey and white feathers that never rest but fly again from out of her pockets like clouds

or cold flames'.

Kay McKenzie Cooke


swallow, Sinclair Wetlands, Otago, New Zealand


heron, Kyoto, Japan


crow, Kyoto, Japan


gull, Rostock, Germany


two black-backed gulls and one red-billed gull, Wellington, New Zealand


gulls, Dunedin, New Zealand


resting gull, Dunedin, New Zealand

Below is the complete poem:

disparate

I walk over the veins of a lawn and sink into the green that flies into every night when darkness turns to frost.

I remember. Through a gate, down a path to a door I will never forget.

The clock has been silenced so that I can sleep undisturbed by any charge of bells into a darkness
as deep as a mad eye.

The flowers bow their ponderous heads. I can see where the rain has fallen.

In the morning I consider the tenacity of the sun,
its bitter light.

I observe an empty chair, straight-backed and wooden in the middle of the room,
how it sits in judgement.

She has nothing in her hands.

I hear a mother who speaks to her baby in a language she does not understand. I know
the mother waits for the baby to grow old. The baby is my mother. This is a dream.

The trees in the garden have no doubts. I regard their umpire stance, the way they study
the sky.
The way they close like great gates.

In the shade of a wall, I have found a broken stone.

Sudden with shadows, the corner of my eye cannot see
where the light begins
its sad cycling.

She gathers from where they tremble among stalks of green grass,
black, grey and white feathers that never rest but fly again from out of her pockets like clouds
or cold flames.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Fair Light

'Sudden with shadows, the corner of my eye cannot see
where the light begins

its sad cycling'. 

Kay McKenzie Cooke


(The line of poetry is the second-last line of the 12-line poem I have been featuring.)


Some photos taken a little over a year ago on a trip to Te Anau from Queenstown.  

















Monday, 27 July 2015

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Home Truths

'The trees in the garden have no doubts. I regard their umpire stance, the way they study
the sky.

The way they close like great gates'.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

(line 9 of a 12-line poem)




... dark willows of Lake Waihola, shambolic guardians staggering against the light of a western sky





I had occasion to head south a few days ago. Whenever the compass points south, I am like a cantering horse with the smell of home in my nostrils. I still consider Murihiku / Southland as home, even though I haven't actually resided there for nearly forty-five years now.

Home is of course not just a single definition. I have more than one home.My feet are firmly planted in my home country of Aotearoa, New Zealand. However, there are countries where as soon as my feet touch down on their soil, I feel very much 'at home'. Scotland and Japan, are two examples. Maybe there would be more if I ever explore that idea. 

Within these islands I call home, I'd define TeWai Pounamu / South Island as my home island. And yet, I also have a strong affinity with the isle of glowing skies; Rakiura / Stewart Island. Some of my ancestors were Tangata whenua and Europeans settlers, there.

My husband's turangawaewae (place where he stands) is Queenstown (Tahuna) and Central Otago (Manuherekia). After nearly forty years of marriage, it has also become a place (a district) I call home as well.

For some reason, even though it is on the 'wrong island', I feel a strong bond with the city of Poneke / Wellington in Te Ika-a-Maui / North Island. Maybe because we lived for five years there in the Lower Hutt / Awakairangi (and our three sons were born there). Whenever I visit Wellington / Poneke, I feel at home. This is no doubt helped by the fact that it belongs to all of New Zealand / Aotearoa really, being our capital city.

And then there is Otepoti / Dunedin where I have lived for thirty years; nearly half of my life. It is this city that has truly become my home. My ancestors embarked here from Yorkshire, Derry, Edinburgh and London. One of my grandmothers was born here before her family moved to Murihiku / Southland's south-west coast.  

***

Today my granddaughter and I walked over the hill from where we live, to the beach-side suburb of Tomo-haka / Tomahawk. 


... 15 minutes by car from the inner city and there are horses by the seaside to engender a feeling of freedom from city constraints, limits and stresses ... 


 ... these pacers were being put through their paces, getting towed behind a car.




... granddaughter didn't want to go down on to the sand after reading notices about being aware of the danger of sea lions . She was happy just to keep a wary eye from a safe spot  ... 


... behind us, the hills of the peninsula ...


... a glinting Tomo-haka / Tomahawk lagoon with peninsula hills behind





... taken from Andersons Bay / Puketahi cemetery - surely one of the most picturesque cemeteries in the world?


.. and home we go ...

***

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Dream

'I hear a mother who speaks to her baby in a language she does not understand. I know
the mother waits for the baby to grow old. The baby is my mother. This is a dream'.

Kay McKenzie Cooke



Dreams are weird, but I do like the way they mess with time. 

The above lines from a longer poem try to convey the elasticity of dreams - the unique way they can seamlessly flow backwards and forwards between what in real life is fixed. 

The dreamer wakes to a world that has not shifted, but knowing what it would feel like if it had. 

It is only a few hours before the dream is forgotten. Unless of course the dreamer has written down the dream in an attempt - usually vain - to try and capture the feeling of discombobulation that it has caused.  

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Snow

'She has nothing in her hands.'

Kay McKenzie Cooke


granddaughter in the snow

Taken on one of our trips to Japan to visit our son and his wife and family. 
They are now living in New Zealand. Which is fantastic. I just hope that it doesn't mean there won't be any more trips back to Japan for us.  

***

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Line 6 of 12

'I observe an empty chair, straight-backed and wooden in the middle of the room,
how it sits in judgement.'

Kay McKenzie Cooke




Halfway through the 12-line poem I have been highlighting / illustrating, line by line, in the last few posts.





Saturday, 18 July 2015

Crabapple Jelly & An Aversion to Dawn

'In the morning I consider the tenacity of light,
its bitter taste of sun.'

Kay McKenzie Cooke


crabapples - how I love that word! It appears to me that it is wasted as a description of a grumpy person. It'd be far more suitable as a description for a happy happenstance, or a cheerful deed. As in, "That was such a lovely, crabapple thing to do". Maybe it could replace the word 'gold' in the saying, 'Good as gold'? 'Good as crabapple jelly' has a certain ring to it. No?   

I am not a morning person. I can perhaps pinpoint the exact time when this aversion started. When I was 16 years old, a trip over to Stewart Island meant a 5.00 a.m. start to the day in order to catch the bus. I'd set the alarm, but it was my friend's urgent knocking on my bedroom window that actually woke me, filling me with something akin to raw terror. I'd slept through the alarm! A frantic scramble to get dressed and out the door ensued. 
It was still dark as my friend Barbara and I trudged to the bus-stop through empty and unfriendly streets, our echoing footsteps mocking our haste and panic at the thought that we may have missed the bus.  
My rude awakening seemed to set up some craziness in my brain so that as the sky began to break into light, it was as if the world was in the grip of something cruel. In the pit of my empty gut, lay a sick feeling of cold grey. 
Most likely my sense of dawning horror (or horror of dawn) was simply due to the fact that I hadn't eaten breakfast. Maybe it's more primal than that, dating back to my ancestors' terror of Viking dawn raids. Whatever the reason, since that time I have not not found any dawn I've experienced to be a particularly friendly occurrence. 

Friday, 17 July 2015

After Rain

'The flowers bow their ponderous heads. I can see where the rain has fallen'.

Kay McKenzie Cooke


taken in October in Rhododendron Dell, Dunedin Botanical Gardens.


 flax blades


taken at home one day after rain



winter-faded hydrangeas (taken today in Dunedin's Gardens).




the closest that green comes to being blue





not great photos by any means, but the best I could do to capture these two


I often notice them sitting by themselves after the rest of the flock has flown off

.

feather-fluffed and cuddling close, they spend time preening each other's feathers before flying off to (I presume) join the rest of their flock. 



like two high-school kids in love, wagging class

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Keeping Watch

'The clock has been silenced so that I can sleep undisturbed by any charge of bells into a darkness
as deep as a mad eye'.

Kay McKenzie Cooke


Aunty Phyllis' clock that thunders out the time at the top of the hour and then issues a one-chime clang at the half hour. We are so used to it now we hardly notice it.

The bells next to it are from Kyoto, Japan, Larnach Castle here in Dunedin, Munich and one that was given to me by my Aunty.



The lurid digi clock on the microwave displays time in 24-hour clock-mode. 

When I look at the shells I think of my low-tide beach walks over the years and of my son who sent me some over from Thailand ( or maybe Bali?). There's my mother's wooden fruit bowl , my sister's blue-glass vase, Robert's grandparents toast rack. 


On a significant birthday, Robert and our three sons gave me this tidal clock - it informs me when it's high tide and when it's low tide. Five hours apart. Inscribed on the back is a plaque that says, 'To you after 54, 750 tides'. But who's counting?

The pink cloth under it is an embroidery sample sewn by my mother when she was seven years old. The white cotton-cloth is from my daughter-in-law's mother who made it for me one birthday. It's a beautiful piece of work and has my initials worked into it. The seashell box was always on my mother's dressing table for as long as I can remember (I was the one who decorated it with shells). The white dish says 'Happy' and reminds me of the book launch for my third book. (The person who gave it to me will know who she is).
The photo is one my brother took of my parents circa 1966. 


My watch watching me as I write. 

Included among the knick-knacks, a paper weight made by a well-known Wellington glass-maker, and given to me by my friend Rose. A knight-bookmark from the City of Lichfield (from my friend Chrissie) a drinking flask (that I've yet to try out) with the inscription, 'Great Kiwi Poet - THIRD - 2001'. And a tiny spoon that says, 'Gore. N.Z.' (Which I either got from my mother, or from Pauline who when she found out I collected spoons, kindly sent me her spoon collection).


Time for tea?



This little watch doesn't work any more, the grooves in its wind-up button have been rubbed off and it needs a strap. But it is very precious to me with its mother-of-pearl face. It belonged to my Nana. It was constantly on her wrist and I used to admire the way the colours on its face caught the light. 

You may, or may not, have noticed that I have been using a line of my poetry as an introduction for the last three posts. 
I am quoting, line-by-line, a poem of mine and using it to inspire ideas for the post. It's quite a long poem, so I'm thinking now that it's going take some time to get through it. Bear with!

*** 

Monday, 13 July 2015

Learnt by Heart

I remember. Through a gate, down a path to a door I will never forget.

Kay McKenzie Cooke




Just down the road and around a corner from where I live, is a memorial stone (called 'Rongo') to honour the memory of two lots of Maori prisoners who in the late 1800's were taken from their home in Taranaki and brought to Otago where they were forced to work on such schemes as the Andersons Bay over-bridge-road and stone walls in Dunedin's botanical gardens. 




Close to this memorial stone is a door leading to a cave that is believed to be where some of the prisoners were held. (There is however some debate between local historians about whether this cave was actually used for this purpose or not).



Whatever the facts about the small door and cave, the fact that Maori were taken away from their homes and made prisoner, simply for guarding their land, is a blight on New Zealand's history. It should not have happened.

It is good to remember and to respect the memories that Taranaki people have of their family members being torn from them. Many of these Maori prisoners died far away from their home and whanau. There are regular pilgrimages made from whanau in Taranaki to visit this memorial.


In small hollows and clefts in these cliffs near to where Rongo memorial stone stands, doves and pigeons have made their homes. This is particularly poignant because white (albatross) feathers are an important symbol for the followers of Te Whiti, Taranaki prophet, priest and peace-maker. I have seen visitors to the stone wearing white feathers in their hair. 

Part of the inscriptions on the stone, mention birds of peace. 


roosting pigeon on cliff-face above Rongo ...


At the foot of Rongo, I spotted these black toadstools. For me right then, they seemed to symbolise the black mark; dark memory; that surrounds this memorial. 


silver-eyes


The Maori name for these little birds is tauhou, which means 'stranger' or 'new arrival'. They introduced themselves in the 1800's (around the time the Europeans were also 'introducing themselves' to this land).

They have become my favourite birds this winter.  Flocks of them arrive to feed on the sugar water I put out for them each day, and then leave as suddenly as they arrived.

I enjoy their friendly, chatty zooming in and out. Someone I was speaking to over the weekend, who also feeds silvereyes at his property, said that their bouncy nature and the habit the flock has of suddenly 'exploding' away from the bird table, reminds him of popcorn popping. 



Along the road a bit from the stone memorial, Rongo, is the Anderson Bay inlet's bird-roost. When I took this photo, black-backed gulls, red-billed gulls (currently low in numbers and described as 'nationally vulnerable') pied stilts and cormorants, were making good use of the custom-built roost.





mallards 


At the time I took these photos I did note that these were two disconsolate-looking drakes, rather than the chummy duck-and-drake pair more commonly seen. I wondered if they were widowers taking shelter from duck-shooter guns. (The photo was taken in May; duck-shooting season in New Zealand ... )


The poem below by Walter de la Mare was a favourite of mine when I was small. It was a poem my whole class learnt by heart when I was six years old. We'd all sit on the mat and chant it in our sing-song-y voices. I loved it for its rhythm and its mystery then, and I still do now.

Some One

'Some one came knocking
At my wee, small door,
Some one came knocking,
I'm sure, sure, sure.
I listened, I opened,
I looked from left to right,
But nought there was a stirring
In the still, dark night;
Only the busy beetle
Tap-tap-tapping in the wall,
Only from the forest
The screech owl's call,
Only the cricket whistling
While the dewdrops fall,
So I know not who came knocking
At all, at all, at all.'

Walter de la Mare


PS Unbeknown to me, a friend of mine also had the Taranaki episode (also known as Parihaka) on her mind after attending a Tim Finn (NZ music artist) concert in London. This alerted me to the Tim Finn song 'Parihaka'. Look it up! (Unfortunately I couldn't get the link to work here). 



Harbour

Harbour
'how this all harbours light'