Saturday, 17 January 2009

Tī kōuka – cabbage tree

Cabbage trees are a type of tree lily, like agave, yucca, and dracaena. Their tufted heads are familiar beacons in New Zealand landscapes.
The many cabbage trees now growing in paddocks and on bare hillsides are survivors from earlier land clearances and the creation of drainage for farming.
(Thanks to the Te Ara Encyclopedia of NZ for this information.)

It's hard to say how old this stand of cabbage trees is. They are growing on the farm my father was brought up on in Orepuki, Western Southland. I like to think they are the ones that I remember growing outside Granny and Grandpa's house when I was a child ... the ones clumped together in a squat bundle, a friendly, rustling skirt of old, dry fronds covering their trunks. They look big enough to be fifty years old, so it could well be the same stand. As nothing is left of the house, I found it hard to pinpoint where exactly it would have been. And you know how memory plays its tricks. I can only hope that they are the same ones and that I was lucky enough to get a photo of them; for the record.

cabbage trees

as a shelter, the pleasure
is more in the symmetry
of ink-splash spokes,
the clack of rays
against blue air.
Of green slaps in rain
from tousled manes.

Their crumpled trunks,
their solitary stand.
Their rough guard
of windy outcrops.
Their punctuation
of horizons. In the way
these lilies
do not lean, but weather.


rel said...

Whether it is the exact same tree or not, it evokes the images and feelings as if it were.
Your poetry continues to remind me of Ted Kooser!

Love the granny-Kay photos.
What a wonderful time for you and your family. You must be full to bursting with pride.

Dental chair poetry. I think your on to something there Kay. ;-)

Claire Beynon said...

Aaah, Kay - you are a Maestro when it comes to stunning opening and closing lines (not to mention those in between!). (sic) 'In the way these lilies do not lean, but weather. Beautiful. I'm just dropping in to say hi, your is gorgeous! Also, I've named you for an Inspiration Award on my latest blog entry. Please pop in to Ice Lines for a quick look-see. L, C X

Catherine said...

Lovely to see you posting poems again, are you doing the same job this year as last year?

kj said...

the pleasure is more in the symentry...and perhaps i also do not lean but weather...

wonderful poem, chief.

Sabine said...

Hi Kay, sorry this reply comes late and unappropriately in a post with lovely poetry. Happy new year to you too! Sabine

Becky Willis Motew said...

I love seeing those, Kay. I didn't even know there was such a thing as a cabbage tree. So I'm educated and entertained and moved. Wonderful poem.


apprentice said...

Yes a wonderful poem about some pretty unique vegetation. I learned a lot from those few lines, and as ever you get all the senses in the there.

Kay Cooke said...

rel - You are too kind!

Claire - Thanks so much for the endorsement. Encouraging and bolstering!

Catherine - Yes I am still full-time early childhood teaching ... writing in between

kj - Thanks! :)

Sabine - You are welcome to pop in anytime anywhere! Lovely to see you :)

Becky - Now your education is complete? Maybe not until you pay our shores a visit ...

Apprentice - Thank you! :)

paris parfait said...

Beautiful trees, whether or not they are the same you remember from childhood. And beautiful poem!

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