Sport 35: Winter 2007
That night down in our valley garden
punga grew around us, primordial.
'It's so primordial,' you said, your thin
hand reaching toward mine. 'Yes,' I said, 'all
we need to do now is look above us.'
So we did. 'There's so much up there,' you said,
'you'd almost think the universe is just…'
'Just a bunch of space,' I interrupted.
Not long after that we left the garden.
I've heard you moved to the coast or some such
place. As for me? I live with the boredom
and the dog. It doesn't trouble me much
except when the smog clears and there they are,
with meaningless geometry, the stars.
It is fan-shaped. The sunlight I mean, the
way the garage window sculpts it into
triptych. Each panel illuminates a
thing: the workbench, the jack-stands, the pit. You
won't remember this but when I swapped out
the Holden's springs there was a moa bone pressed
hard into the ground. And then beneath it
worn pipi shells knitted amongst the rest
of the midden's detritus. Harwood made
his home here, planted trees, and before that
Kokomuka, now we two also stay
and empty the rainwater tank, grow fat
and know each other. And the spring storms drown
the fish and push the macrocarpas down.
The black surface rustles with an oar's draw
as you pull the boat across Monowai
which could mean single-water in some flawed
etymology. I don't have to try
too hard to know this as the monolake
when the slate sky sits so tightly on the
hostile hills around us and our small wake
is all that breaks the hermetic water.
Within a day we'll be among the thick
wet moss and violent trees. A clearing,
so to speak. Let me tell you now: that trick
of believing nothing? It's worth nothing
once the cold turns in on you and the small
birds' onyx eyes fall dumbly on it all.
Last winter the back door stuck fast, swollen
by southern rain that came day after day
until they could remember only rain.
He removed it from its hinges, he laid
it on the garage floor and, with a plane,
unfurled the wood. The pale curling pine was
his hieroglyphic, the marked door became
a palimpsest as did the state-built house;
they were etched with livings of a hundred
hundred people and their scripts. Out back
the cement path hoarded prints of long-dead
dogs and slowly groomed the lichen. Two blocks
further the streetlight touches on the park,
the pa forgotten under grazing stock.
He hasn't seen the outside of the bar
for so long he can't remember what it
looks like or what it is to watch the far
away hills. The window's cruciform sits
only against the black night, the wind shills
across the iron roof, it's nowhere near
Aeolian but his drinking mate's still
deaf to it. The juke's chatter fills his ears.
The third? Well, as you'd guess he's mute, a few
more beers will pass his lips but don't expect
a word of sense. Profundity? He's too
smart for that. The dark backroad slithers wet
along the gut and out past Taiko hall.
These three wise apes consider playing pool.
It starts with the trees. And with their knowledge
of the muddy ground, his knowledge of them,
how he uses it to drive the axe-edge
between the weakest of their stubborn grains.
A crosscut saw lies idle at his side
and its carbon steel fleam glints knowingly
to the rimu which shudder from the wind
as the sour loams disgorge a slowly
growing pedagogy of worm and bone,
an hermeticum of dirt. He ignores
it. He's become a student of his own
philosophy of wood and gnostic saw
and the gully is his athenaeum,
the dull echoes of the axe instruct him.