Tuesday Poem: Forest: Banks Peninsula, by Jan Hutchison

Forest:  Banks Peninsula

(i) Valley

The kanuka was here before the felling.
When flowers weigh it down,
I feel the lowest branch drag along the ground.

All through the day, I overhear what the stumps
say to one another.  Each passes on
the same tale – how the first tall tree was formed
from feathers of a giant bird.

Last year a huddle of gorse settled on a bluff.
Its moths bring gossip but nothing consoles me.

(ii)  Labourers

We take turns sifting dirt and grit. Sometimes
dust whirls around us
but the land at the edge of the coast
cocks its thumb at the sea.

(iii) Trowels

We scratch layers and layers of loam away.
How many more until we touch the sand
in history’s lining?
It’s said that Tane’s feet are printed there.

Even the claws of birds have not
our patience.

(iv) Seeds

Here is the gorse, our winter shelter.
And here is the kanuka
that remembers the sky as we do.

One spring the kokako may return – the kokako
we heard as we slept.

(v)  Botanist

I open my notebook
and catch a faint scent of pine.



climbs up the page.

Credit note: “Forest: Banks Peninsula” is from Jan Hutchison’s collection The Happiness of Rain, published by and available from Steele Roberts, and is reproduced here by permission of the author.

Tim says: I interviewed Jan Hutchison in 2012 and ran the title poem of her collection as a Tuesday Poem at that time. Over the holidays, my reading backlog melted away, and I was finally able to read and enjoy Jan’s fine collection. This poem appealed for me both for its beautifully controlled language and as a tribute to those – some in Christchurch, others no longer there – who have been working so hard for so long to restore the forest on Banks Peninsula and the birdlife that rightly goes with it.

The Tuesday Poem: I’m pleased to see Joe Dolce make an appearance with his poem Bogong Moth. Joe is one of the poets included in the forthcoming anthology The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry, co-edited by myself and P.S. Cottier.

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