Sauntering Home from Church We Lingered

Ursula Bethell
Kiwi
1874 – 1945

 

Sauntering home from church we lingered
looking away northwards over the white gates.
I see our visitors in go-to-meeting dress.
I do not see my parents. Perhaps that day they chose
to ‘stay behind’ – mysterious phrase of those times,
meaning reserved from children, I must think.

Above that gate the downs. I see them now,
I see them gentle brown and amethyst.
Our grown-up guests the landscape viewed
and commented – Lovely! perhaps a sketch?
My eager praises added met with prompt rebuff.
Too young, too young to notice lovely views.

Wrong, Madam, wrong – dear Wordsworth was more reasonable.
Too late! the great African bishop rhetorician
cried out upon himself, too late have I sought thee,
Beauty! – His vision abides. Let us begin here
upon the downs… A few years gone
I passed them by in autumn and their fields
a basket of ripe fruit, of purple plums
and yellow apricots, ruddy pears –
but to my memory of earlier day, soft pasture.

The guardian Mt Grey still casts a spell
of greatness, majesty that does not go with measurement,
a mien of kinship with all renowned heights,
a look of having kept inviolable for a thousand years
a secret of great comfort. Who has not traced,
looking from southward hills, its noble outline?
Who has not watched the pencilled shadows deepen
upon its flanks? I do not see you there,
Mt Grey, looking down at the end of our village streets,
but I was conscious. I have found you, since,
something familiar, and I salute you now, for your significance.

Depression

07-03-22 Nicholls
Marjorie Nicholls
Kiwi
1890 – 1930

My mind is like a wretched room,
So bare, so drear;
Dull with a heavy, ugly gloom,
No light, no cheer.

My thoughts are like the beetles black
That creep the floor,
Scurry and hide in yawning crack
In wall and door.

My feelings,—like the meagre light
My candle gives,
So faint, so fearful of the night,
It scarcely lives.

My outlook through a dingy pane—
Distress and sin—
Or if I turn around again
To look within—

My room is but a sordid place—
The paper torn,
Nothing of beauty there, nor grace,
All mean, forlorn.

Madrid, Prado Museum

We present this work in honor of International Museum Day.

05-18 Joseph
M.K. Joseph
Kiwi
1914 – 1981

Two clergymen, one long, one short,
Stand before Greco’s Trinity:
The tall one twirls a single thought
Round some point in divinity;
The short one mops his heated brows
With a red handkerchief, dimly aspires
To levitate among the clouds
Upborn by incorporeal fires.

The desiccated blond inspects
The pages of her Baedeker,
Hoping that somehow culture and sex
At last will coalesce for her.
She who through Europe has pursued
Delight still missed en troisi me noce,
Beneath some vast exuberant nude
Of Rubens, knows the pain of loss.

Fading with cup and mandolin,
Goya’s country feast turns dark,
But soon the firing-squads begin
By lanternlight their bloody work.
Before that last anger and despair
At human folly, someone stands.
It is oneself that cannot bear
Those anguished eyes and famished hands.

Velazquez turns with easy stance
To the princess and the maids of honour,
Caught in a movement like a dance,
And calms the dwarf’s indignant humour.
Royalty in the looking glass
Fears its heavy image less:
The gift of water in a glass
Forgives the human ugliness.

Equal and intellectual,
Transcending flesh, transcending flame,
This passionless light that hallows all
Shall build us an eternal home.

Poets

03-27 Frame
Janet Frame
Kiwi
1924 – 2004

If poets die young

they bequeath two thirds of their life to the critics
to graze and grow fat in
visionary grass.

If poets die in old age
they live their own lives
they write their own poems
they are their own might-have-been.

Young dead poets are prized comets.
The critics queue with their empty wagons ready for hitching.

Old living poets
stay faithfully camouflaged in their own sky.
It may even be forgotten they have been shining for so long.
The reminder comes upon their falling
extinguished into the earth.
The sky is empty, the sun and moon have gone away,
there are not enough street bulbs, glow-worms, fireflies to give light

and for a time it seems there will be no more stars.

To an Unknown Poet

03-03 McQueen
Cilla McQueen
Kiwi
b. 1949

I was in the middle
of your poem on the internet
when the electricity went out.

You disappeared and left me
mid-sentence in the darkened room,
whereat I lost the gist

and wandered out to the kitchen to poke the fire.
I cannot tell whether you resolve
the unspoken thing,

or whether it will return to haunt us.
In the sudden darkness
I was leaning towards you

impossibly far, stroking
your temple and whispering
incomprehensible fragments –

Kindness on the Field

11-19 Pope
Robert J. Pope
Kiwi
1865 – 1949

 

Be kind to the hooker, or else in the scrum
Thy poor tender shins he will hack;
Or take the first chance that is offered to him
Of planting his foot in your back.
Be kind to the hooker, he’s hidden from view,
And can work his revenge in the dark,
So if you insult him, as sure as you’re born,
He’ll deprive you of some of your bark.

Be kind to the half-back, he’s nippy and sly,
And will grab you when rounding the scrum,
Or will collar you low, your heels up he’ll throw,
And bang on the ground you will come.
Be kind to the half-back, that watchful young man,
If you hurt him he’ll likely feel wild;
And if he should meet you again in the field,
You’d probably know why he smiled.

Be kind to the winger, or you he may prod
In the home of your afternoon tea;
He’s fond of a scrap, and won’t mind a rap
If your eye comes to grief on his knee.
Be kind to the winger, he’s out for a go,
And promptly pays all that he owes;
So be careful to give him no more than his due,
Or he’ll give you the change on your nose.

Be kind to three-quarters, they’re heady and strong,
And can run like their master, Old Nick;
So if you tread hard on their corns beg their pardon,
Or limp off the field with a rick.
Be kind to three-quarters again let me say,
For their hatred of roughness is such
That, if you should fend them, or neatly upend them,
You’ll travel henceforth on a crutch.

Be kind to the full-back or, when in his grip,
He’ll handle you roughly for sure.
He’s a virtuous fellow, and hates fast young men,
So take care that your language is pure.
Be kind to the full-back, ’tis kindness well spent,
Don’t approach this stern player with vim;
If to score you must try, put your collar-bone by –
A collarbone’s nothing to him.

At the End

07-03 Duggan
Eileen Duggan
Kiwi
1894 – 1972

 

Once on a dewy morning
With the blue sky blowing apart,
Each bud broke on my eyelids,
Each bird flew through my heart.

I prayed for the faith of a starling
Under the tawny trees,
child or a holy woman,
What could be greater than these?

But now on a heavy morning
With the dull sky blowing apart,
When no flower blesses my eyelids,
And no wing brushes my heart,

I, made surer by sorrow,
Beg what seems more to me,
The faith of a willow in winter,
Or a blind hound nosing the knee.

Molecular Theory

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 120th birthday.

06-13 Beaglehole
J.C. Beaglehole Kiwi 1901 – 1971

 

Noiseless, unnursed, the country rose
Is born, and quietly it goes:
The unheard bright anemone
Blooms for the eye alone to see.

Never a sigh, never a groan
Utters this unmarked casual stone,
There breaks no breath from this dull wood
To hear, I know, nor ever should.

Yet do I know that stone, wood, flower
Travail and sicken every hour—
Deep, deep about the hidden core
A thousand systems meet at war.

A thousand suns are brought to birth
And shattered in the very earth
Beneath my feet; without a sound
Pulses the long-tormented ground.

And yet, I think, could I but hear
Once, suddenly, with quickened ear,
Might I not start, as saw my eye
A petal fall, to catch a cry?

The Magpies

06-08 Glover
Denis Glover
Kiwi
1912 – 1980

 

When Tom and Elizabeth took the farm
The bracken made their bed
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

Tom’s hand was strong to the plough
and Elizabeth’s lips were red
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

Year in year out they worked
while the pines grew overhead
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

But all the beautiful crops soon went
to the mortgage man instead
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

Elizabeth is dead now (it’s long ago)
Old Tom’s gone light in the head
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

The farm’s still there. Mortgage corporations
couldn’t give it away
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies say.