Tuesday Poem: Rangipo Grounding, by Keith Westwater

I looked around
Ruapehu’s apron
after the subaltern

bellied the rover
in a minefield of boulders.
Waiting for the NCOs

who’d seen it all before –
a new lieutenant
green as the desert was grey

trying to impress us boys
though he’d been told
not to go that way.

Behind, Ruapehu simmering
Ngauruhoe smoking.
In front, desolation –

a few tussocks, wire weed
desecrated earth.
I didn’t know then

about rain shadow
desiccation by wind
the habitats of lahar fields

or the conditions necessary
for things to grow.
Muttering wry derision

the NCOs
with knowing grins
levered, heaved, hauled it free.

Those dry, wiry, salty men
who supplied us with
the necessary conditions.

Credit note: “Rangipo Grounding” is from Keith Westwater’s debut poetry collection Tongues of Ash.

Tim says: Since last Tuesday, Keith Westwater and I, together with publisher and poet Dr David Reiter, have been on a book tour to Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Lower Hutt, Paraparaumu and Auckland to launch our respective collections, his Tongues of Ash and my Men Briefly Explained. Our final gig is tonight in Auckland: we are reading at PoetryLive at the Thirsty Dog, 469 Karangahape Road, which starts at 8pm.

“Rangipo Grounding” is one of my favourite poems from “Tongues of Ash”. I love the way it brings together a particular landscape and the people who inhabit it, how it reaches from the particular to to the general without strain, and the aptness of its title.

The Tuesday Poems: You can check out all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem Blog – this week’s hub poem in the centre of the page, and all the other Tuesday Poems on the right.

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