Forest and sea have had their way
with memory. A few houses — silent,
locked — remain. Between car and beach,
a field of Shetland ponies, already
calling her by name. But I’m
facing inland, bush not far beyond,
mountains piled like thunderheads
across the morning light. Was this
our house, or this, or this now empty field?
For eighteen months, we lived here
while they built the road. I was two, then four.
What I have are barely memories:
my mother at the washing line. My father’s
longed-for homeward stride. Grader drivers
lifting me onto their knees to ride.
Work done, we drove away, the new highway
bearing our fortunes south, over spilling streams,
across the Main Divide. Now I’m back, reclaiming
what may be reclaimed. The forest
has no answers. The sea lies past the ponies.
“Look,” she says, “they’re eating from my hand.”
Credit note: “Shetland Ponies, Haast Beach” was first published in my latest poetry collection, Men Briefly Explained (IP, 2011) – available in lots of places online, through bookshops, and from me!
Tim says: After Tim Upperton’s broadly positive review of Men Briefly Explained in Landfall, I thought it would be a good idea to post another poem from MBE. This one is taken directly from personal experience. I lived at Haast (now called Haast Beach) on the West Coast between the ages of two and four, when the Haast Highway was being built – Dad was the pay clerk for the project, and once married quarters were built, Mum and I moved across from Christchurch to join him.
In due course we shifted to Invercargill. I didn’t return to Haast for many years, and when I did, it was in a hired car with a female friend who had never been there before.
The Tuesday Poem: You can read all this week’s Tuesday Poems at the Tuesday Poem site: the hard-hitting hub poem selected by Helen Lowe in the centre, and the other poets’ poems linked from the left.