The Stranding

Past things lie about like fallen leaves from some long ago summer, rustle underfoot in later years and random recollections. Why, sitting in my chair early this morning did I suddenly remember this uninvited trifle? These light-hearted lines are not serious, no , just the rustling of a few tiny leaves from a far off time when whales and we – a companion and I – all crossed paths, sadly, on an east coast beach...

    When you were nineteen
    You smoked Gauloises
    And dressed up for rebellion.
    Apostasies flowered on your tattooed skin.

    Travellers, at Mahia we stopped awhile
    From rambling's discontent,
    Waited out the rains in a cottage by the sea.
    All day long I dug fence posts
    On that high-up wind-swept ridge
    A far-off pencil sketch against the winter sky
    While you put in a garden.
    Everything flourished where you touched.

    All night the tide murmured in our sleep.

    We floated there sometimes
    On that uneasy frontier, face down
    Where the reef fell away
    Into inky depths and darkness.
    Whales sang from the deep
    Such mystic, mournful songs
    And a pod of calves one night beached.
    The Maori wailed and brought tractors, buckets, ropes...
    Oh how we toiled and heaved in that freezing sea.
    You knelt by a huge round eye, prayed and wept.
    Our hands, heedless, were bloodied from barnacle welts.
    The listless tide rose at our beckoning,
    Then pitiless, withdrew.

    Gulls and mongrels connived
    With the indifferent falling swells.

    You bought a straw hat, noticed
    Other kinds of strandings, lamented our own.
    I joined Greenpeace, tried yoga, dreamed of whales
    With pleading eyes in my restless sleep.

       – Jogyata.