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.