Tuesday Poem: Riverine Elements, by Robin Fry

Riverine elements
(water, wind, earth, fire)

Led deeper inland
by the sinuous body of the river
civilisation followed the contours of this valley
named for a man no one remembers –

a river that gathers its waters from the depths
of the green land and from the sky.
In flood it swells over its stone floor
pushing great logs down to its delta
where storms return them
for children to ride like beached
whales along the sands of Petone.

The walls of hills are giant handrails
defining the valley, guarding its settlements
from the ferocious appetite of the ocean
earth’s rocks folded and faulted
through slow millenia
tamed and carpeted now to foothills
“where sheep may safely graze.”

Rail and roads followed the river
opened the folds of the hills
where houses perch like eagles’ nests
their windows gazing south to
an eternity of snow and water.

It is winter now
and Tararua’s icy breath
fogs the river flats
wreaths the goblin trees of Rivendell
the bush-clad terraces of Kaitoke.

Bare willows march their torches of flame
along the river banks
and soon, this clear, cold evening
the day will die around us in the colours of fire.

Credit note: This poem is from Robin Fry’s 2010 collection Time Traveller, published by Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop and available from the publisher.

Tim says: Time Traveller contains a number of Robin’s best-known poems, such as the superb Hurry, which won the open division of the New Zealand Poetry Society’s International Poetry Competition in 2008, but when I read this collection I was especially drawn to this lovely poem about the Hutt Valley.

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